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January 2007


Last week I started a contest to give away my copy of The Maui Millionaires by David Finkel and Diane Kennedy. I didn’t exactly give the book a glowing review, but there might be some value for someone else. (Plus, it’s free!) There were 40 entries, and the only requirement was to name someone whose company or conversation is worth $30,000, though I allowed quite a bit of freedom for those who wouldn’t pay that kind of money for anyone’s companionship. There were some great answers:

* “I’d like to sit down with Albert Einstein to discuss his thoughts on String Theory. I would not pay $30k to do it though.” (Jeremy)
* “I’d really like to meet someone like Jon Stewart.” (Matt #1)
* “I’d pay 30k to meet YOU, flexo!” (Teresa)
* “Shakespeare. The guy’s genius is unmatched, except perhaps by Cervantes or Jesus.” (Leo Babauta)
* “I think you’d pretty much have to go with one of the Big Guys. So, I’d probably go with Jesus.” (Chris)
* “I would love to meet Jesus so he can heal me. I’ve been sitting in this chair way to long.” (Michael Monaco)
* “Hmm if I had 30k, I’d probably wanna kick it with Jesus for a day.” (Jay)
* “Have dinner with Jesus and bring DaVinci along to paint the portrait of the entire dinner party…” (Yo–Yo Mama)

I did detect a theme, here. Personally, I was pulling for Teresa. The Fates had other plans, however. I used random.org to generate a random number between 1 and 40, and the number picked was 36, corresponding to a comment by Matt (#2):

I think I would pay 30K to hang out with Larry David for a day.

random.org resultNow the very strange thing is I happened to be watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, a television show produced, written by, and starring Larry David when preparing this post. What a coincidence! Congratulations, Matt. The Maui Millionaires, plus a bonus book, will be on the way this weekend. I hope you enjoy it and manage to get more out of it than I did.

By the way, the attached image should be proof the number was randomly selected.

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Did you have any horrible consumer-related experiences with companies this past year? Is there a company you feel should be dragged through the mud? Nothing brings a corporation to the ground faster than a web award, and Consumerist is delivering the punch. Send them a comment with you story — or leave a comment here and I’ll compile a bunch and send them to Ben Popken in a nice package.

Last year, Halliburton was awarded the coveted prize. Who will win this year? Wal-Mart? Best Buy? Comcast?

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A few weeks ago, I heard the news that credit card numbers were stolen from T.J. Maxx computers. Coincidentally, I had shopped at that store recently. In fact, it was the first time I had shopped there in many years.

This was a good reminder for me to check my credit report. Last night, I visited AnnualCreditReport.com to get one of the three free annual credit reports all citizens of the United States are entitled to by law.

It’s important to keep an eye on your own credit report. Not only is it interesting to see which companies are pinging your report to determine which offers to send you through snail junk mail, but there may be errors on the report requiring correction.

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only portal you can use to take advantage of the three free yearly reports. Once you enter your personal information, you can choose one of the three credit reporting agencies to view that company’s report. The best plan for me to is to spread my credit checks throughout the year: Experian in January, Equifax in May, and TransUnion in September.

If you use a scheduling program like Microsoft Outlook, it’s very easy to set up reminders so you are warned when it’s time to get your next report.

I’m happy to report that my credit has not been compromised as a result of shopping at T.J. Maxx. Neither has it been compromised by a recent security breach by a third party vendor working with my employer. I’ll continue checking every several months to make sure nothing unexpected appears.

Update: Consumerist mentioned that a class action lawsuit was filed yesterday against T.J. Maxx due to the security breach.

Credit cards stolen in the breach have been used in Florida, Georgia, and Louisana, as well as Hong Kong and Sweden. Driver’s license data was stolen as well. Hundreds of thousands of credit cards have been reissued due to the theft.

Here is the news piece.

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I’m a fan of using financial reports to analyze my personal financial position and progress. I’ve done this so far using basic reports, like the balance sheet and income and expense report. When investors and decision makers analyze companies, they also look beyond these statements. There are a number of ratios or comparisons that tell a better story, especially when these ratios are examined over time.

One of these is the working capital ratio, also known as the “current ratio.” This ratio describes how well one can meet short-term debt obligations. It answers the question, “Will I be able to make all of my payments this year?” The working capital ratio compares current assets and current liabilities. When evaluating businesses, for assets and liabilities to be “current,” they are either convertible to cash within a year (assets) or due to creditors within a year (liabilities).

For personal finances, I think using a month for this comparison rather than a year tells a better story. That’s how I’ll perform my calculations. In order to determine working capital ratio, I’ll use the numbers from the end of 2006. Read the full article →

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Final Reminder: Giving Away Copy of The Maui Millionaires

by Luke Landes

As of this evening, there are 34 readers interested in the free copy of The Maui Millionaires by David Finkel and Diane Kennedy. I’m getting ready to start featuring a new book, so I’m wrapping up this giveaway in the next twenty-four hours. If you’re interested in receiving a complimentary hardcover edition of The Maui ... Continue reading this article…

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My MBA at the University of Phoenix Online, Part 4: Curriculum

by Luke Landes

A while ago, I started a series reviewing my experience with the University of Phoenix Online. I attended this school through its online master’s degree program and I earned my MBA several months ago. So far, I’ve discussed how I decided to go this route, their admission philosophy and policies, and what it’s like attending ... Continue reading this article…

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The Carnival is Up!

by Luke Landes

Five Cent Nickel is hosting the Carnival of Personal Finance. There are a few excellent articles this week, and Nickel managed to pick them for his Editor’s Choice selection. Many of the 48 remaining articles appear to be pretty good as well, so when you have some time, check them out.

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Weekly Blog Round-Up

by Luke Landes

Have you been following the MoneyBlogNetwork this past week? Here are a few interesting items from the member blogs and beyond. * AllFinancialMatters illustrated the effect of a couple of bad years in the market. * Blueprint for Financial Prosperity looks at historical federal tax brackets. * Five Cent Nickel shares how to get an ... Continue reading this article…

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Rate Update: HSBC Direct Offering 6% APY

by Luke Landes

There’s a catch: If you want to earn 6.0 percent APY, you’ll need to deposit “new money” into an HSBC Direct account. Money transfered out and then back in doesn’t qualify; only your net increase does. This special rate will only last until April 30, and their regular interest rate is currently 5.05 percent APY. It’s not ... Continue reading this article…

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Quicken 2007 Upgrade to Release 4

by Luke Landes

I was greeted this morning, while doing my financial update in Quicken, by a notice that an update was available for the software. This brings all versions of Quicken 2007 up to “Release 4,” and the fix includes changes to registration at quicken.com and “minor improvements” to the “Compare to Register” function. The update still ... Continue reading this article…

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Discover Business Card or AmEx SimplyCash Business FreedomPass?

by Luke Landes

Editor’s Note: Thank you for your interest, these offers have expired and are no longer available. Here is an instant messaging exchange from last night which may assist anyone trying to decide between a wide selection of business credit cards with cash back. [23:53] DoNotBlink: Hi there! [23:53] DoNotBlink: Was reading your blog and hoped ... Continue reading this article…

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Senate Has it In for Credit Cards

by Luke Landes

An item in today’s Marketplace Morning Report started out with this condemnation: Credit cards. Aren’t they evil? A convenient, maybe even necessary evil, perhaps, but such a temptation. They reported that the Senate’s Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee heard testimonies from consumer advocates today who want to see more regulation of the credit card ... Continue reading this article…

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Yet Another TIAA-CREF Problem With My SEP IRA

by Luke Landes

Back in April, I was assured by TIAA-CREF that my new SEP IRA contribution would be “coded” for the 2005 tax year. Guess what? I viewed my 2006 tax form provided by TIAA-CREF, and my SEP IRA contribution is included for the 2006 tax year. I am disappointed but not surprised. I’ve written about TIAA-CREF’s ... Continue reading this article…

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This Week in the Archives

by Luke Landes

Here are some more nuggets from the past of Consumerism Commentary. Click through for instant 2005-style gratification. From January 22-31, 2005: * My 401(k) Contributions * Olsen Twins Buy Out Their CEO * 2004 Investment Performance Here is one from this week in 2004: * The Power of Residual Value That’s it for now.

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Chicago Fed: Could the Penny Be Worth Five Cents?

by Luke Landes

Here’s a weird application of logic, brought to you by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. It started when the cost of creating the U.S. penny went above one cent. The Mint (and therefore the government) is losing money for each of the millions of one-cent pieces it produces and puts into circulation each year. ... Continue reading this article…

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This Week in the Archives

by Luke Landes

I’m continuing a retrospective this entire year, to benefit new readers who may have missed these articles the first time around. Here is a taste of what you may have missed this week over the past few years. From January 22-31, 2006, a particularly productive week: * Introducing the MoneyBlogNetwork — yes, today is the ... Continue reading this article…

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Investing: Real Estate vs. Stock Market

by Luke Landes

Reminder: This week I am giving away a copy of The Maui Millionaires. There is still time left to enter the random drawing. It’s easy. The gurus tout real estate, real estate, real estate as the way to get rich. It’s perpetuated in the media, penetrating a number of people I know who generally speak ... Continue reading this article…

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How Low Will it Go?

by Luke Landes

Last night as I was filling up my car’s tank at my favorite (lowest cost along my route) station, I was pleasantly surprised to see regular unleaded was “under” $2.00 a gallon. (To be more precise, it was listed as $1.999.) It was similar to the excitement I felt several years ago, probably around December ... Continue reading this article…

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Princeton University Holds Tuition Steady

by Luke Landes

If you’re an undergraduate student at Princeton University, you may be happy to hear that tuition for the 2007-08 year will hold steady at $33,000, or only $3,000 more than a seminar with the Maui Millionaires. Don’t get too excited, tiger. While tuition isn’t increasing, the costs for room and board will be substantially higher. ... Continue reading this article…

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FREE: The Maui Millionaires by David Finkel and Diane Kennedy

by Luke Landes

Last week, I reviewed The Maui Millionaires by David Finkel and Diane Kennedy. I pointed out the book’s shortcoming (sales pitch) as well as some of the advice hidden beneath this slick veneer. Here’s your chance to see for yourself without the risk of paying for the book. I have one copy (the copy that ... Continue reading this article…

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