As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

April 2007

excuse-me-your-job-is-waiting.jpgExcuse Me, Your Job Is Waiting: Attract the Work You Want
Laura George

A few days ago, I finished reading Excuse Me, Your Job Is Waiting, by Laura George. This book follows in the footsteps of another, Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting. The premise of both books is the “law of attraction,” which is generally interpreted in popular culture as the idea that events are influenced by the attitude of those involved. Positive thinking helps encourage positive outcomes.

Of course, none of this is scientifically proven, at least not within this book. However, there are enough anecdotal testimonies to convince people the concept is “true.” In this convincing, positive outcomes can be attributed to positive thinking and negative outcomes can be negative thinking.

I’m convinced, for the most part. Whether positive thinking actually influences outcomes in a cause-effect relationship, I’m not entirely sure. Positive thinking certainly makes one feel better, and this attitude can be picked up by others involved in active communication, and can be perceived as a connection, making everyone feel better about the relationship. If you’re on a job interview, this is a good thing.

The book goes much farther with this idea. Read the full article →


Here are some interesting articles from the MoneyBlogNetwork and beyond.

MBAs Don’t Prepare Managers for Real-Life Challenges
The process of getting an MBA is more about the connections you make than learning how to deal with real-life management problems, apparently. This is true about most degrees. In school you learn fundamental concepts and theories, but practical skills come from experience on the job. I’m not sure why this comes as a surprise to people. I’ve been slowly chronicling my experiences obtaining my MBA degree from the University of Phoenix, a school critics love to hate. [Free Money Finance]

Orlando Gas Gouging
Here’s an example of price gouging on gasoline, although prices at stations around airports usually are much more expensive than others. They don’t post their prices, yet motorists still stop by to fill up. Then they’re surprised when they receive the bill. [FiveCentNickel]

Do Payday Loans “Victimize” People?
Payday Loans are bad ideas, but are they victimizing customers, or should customers take full responsibility? Responsibility must be shared between companies that should operate in an ethical manner and not take advantage of people in difficult positions, and customers who must be as educated as possible about whatever product or service they’re considering. [AllFinancialMatters]

How To Talk Salaries With Coworkers
One way to find out whether you have room to negotiate your salary is to determine what your co-workers are making. This is a dangerous path to walk down. I wouldn’t recommend it. [Blueprint for Financial Prosperity]

Yard Sale Finds This Weekend
Mighty Bargain Hunter found some mighty bargains while on the hunt in the yards of northern Virginia. [Mighty Bargain Hunter]

Simple Way to Save $3,000 a Year: Brown Bag It
The money you save by spending $1 to $2 on lunch each day rather than $10 to $12 may amount to $500,000 after 25 years! As one commenter mentioned, you should also look at the “opportunity cost.” But eating alone at your desk every day, you miss out on opportunities that come by through socializing with your coworkers and management. [Zen Habits]

Here are a few more:

* A Look at the Digg Effect in Action
* Money in the Mattresses
* How Much Would A 3 MPH Crash Cost You? Hint: Thousands!
* How to Look Good on a Budget: The Business of Beauty

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Yesterday, Vanguard announced they have simplified their account fees. Effective on Thursday, here is the new fee structure.

* All fund accounts with a balance of less than $10,000 will be assessed a yearly fee of $20.

Now that’s straightforward. In the old configuration, my recently-opened 2006 SEP IRA would have been charged $20 anyway. So why am I so happy with this change?

Because there are several ways the new $20 fee can be avoided completely by

* keeping each fund account balance over $10,000;
* maintaining total assets at Vanguard at $100,000 or more; or,
* signing up for electronic delivery of all documents, like prospectuses and statements.

With my assets at Vanguard totaling up to only about $3,000, it’s pretty clear which option was my choice.

Vanguard LogoI have a Roth IRA and another SEP IRA at TIAA-Cref. The problems I’ve had with this organization, while they have settled down except for a request from their lawyers to remove their logo from this page, are well documented. Most importantly, the mutual funds at Vanguard that match up with the mutual funds at TIAA-Cref have lower expense ratios.

The two funds currently invested in my Roth IRA at TIAA-Cref can theoretically be transferred to Vanguard because the balances are each above the $3,000 threshold. My 2005 SEP IRA isn’t above that level, but I may be able to combine it with my 2006 SEP IRA, already at Vanguard, if I don’t mind changing my asset allocation. The 2005 SEP IRA is invested in an international index fund, and the 2006 SEP IRA is invested in the total stock market index fund.

I’d rather have all of my accounts at Vanguard, so I’ll be looking to make this transfer in the next few weeks.


Editor’s Note: Thank you for your interest, these offers have expired and are no longer available.

For people who are responsible with managing money, sometimes it makes sense to pay for large purchases with a 0% APR loan or credit card. The reasoning is fairly simple. If you have a card that is offering an introductory rate of 0% on purchases, and if inflation for the year is running 3% to 4%, then the value of the $100 you’re paying by the time the full amount of debt is paid off is 3% to 4% less than the $100 you were paying at the beginning of the term.

Also, smart purchasers only buy what they can afford. Assuming you have the cash, you can get a significant effective discount by depositing the cash you would normally use to make this large purchase into a high-yield savings or money market account, like the one offered by HSBC Direct, and pay off the credit card directly from this account. This way you can benefit from both the earned interest and inflation.

There are always tight rules when cards offer 0% introductory rates, and the companies would prefer to make money off of you. They will wait for you to fall into one of the many traps, one of which is a late payment. If you miss the payment deadline, the credit card issuer will charge you all accrued interest at the regular, non-introductory rate. In addition to the interest, you’ll have to pay late penalties.

An annual fee would also reduce the benefit of leverage. The cards listed below are all no-fee credit cards.

Be careful. If you have revolving debt, this technique is not for you. Pay off your debt, curb your spending, alter your mindset, then start thinking about using leverage for large purchases. If you’re ready now, feel free to check out these good deals.

Discover Business MilesDiscover Business Miles Card or Discover Business Card.

These are “business” cards, but you do not have to be a business owner to apply and use these cards. Both cards are offering 0% interest on purchases for one year. With the miles card, you can earn “double miles” on gas and travel expenses. The miles can be redeemed for travel credit (any airline, any date) and gift cards.

The non-miles card gives you cash back, to the tune of 5% on office supplies, 2% on gas and up to 1% on all other purchases. There is no yearly limit to rewards, and if you use the rewards for purchases from retailers within Discover’s network, they count double.

American Express Platinum Business FreedomPassAmerican Express Platinum Business FreedomPass Card.

The FreedomPass card offers a 0% interest rate on purchases for one year. Each dollar you spend earns one point. These points are like Discover’s miles; they can be redeemed for travel expenses like flights, hotels, and rental cars, with no restrictions or black-out dates. The card offers a nice bonus, as well. You’ll receive 5,000 bonus points with your first purchase.

GM Business CardGM Business Card.

The GM Business Card also offers 0% on purchases for 12 months, but it also offers the same interest rate on balance transfers. Don’t get carried away, though. While this card is good for basic leverage, if you’re looking to earn cash back, use this card only if you know you’ll be purchasing a vehicle from the GM family of brands. Every purchase earns 1% cash back except for fuel, restaurants, office supplies, and GM parts and service, which earn 3%. That cash back must be used to purchase the latest Chevrolet, GMC, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, Saturn or Hummer vehicles within 5 years.

Chase Platinum Business CardChase Platinum Visa Business Card.

The Chase Platinum Visa Business Card, like the GM card, offers 0% interest on both purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. This card doesn’t offer cash back or miles, but by being a customer with the Chase Platinum Visa Business Card, you qualify for discounts of up to 20% at retailers, in addition to special offers on computer equipment and business supplies.

Update: The CitiBank Diamond Preferred Card is also offering 0% APR on purchases for up to 12 months.

While the above cards are technically “business” cards, which explains the discounts and perks on office supples and travel, you do not have to be self-employed or a business owner to apply for and use these cards. The important point is that the card you choose should be used just for one major purchase, after which the card should not be closed but remain unused except for periodic, on-time payments to pay down the balance within a year.


My Next Step: Two Bedroom Condo or More Renting?

by Luke Landes

Those who have been following my travails closely may have a feeling I might need to start contemplating my living situation. About a year ago, a chronicled my adventures looking for an apartment with my girlfriend (one, two, three, four, five, and six) which ended unsuccessfully and with a bit of a scuffle with the ... Continue reading this article…

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I Buy Generic Brands and Store Brands Sometimes

by Luke Landes

When I was in college, some of my poorer friends (that is, unsubsidized by the government or their parents) would get their products as cheaply as possible. I have distinct memories of afternoons with certain friends and the beverage of choice for lunch being “No Frills Cola.” These days, I don’t go so far, but ... Continue reading this article…

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Five Couples Living on $46k, Number 4: The Wheats

by Luke Landes

I’m following the CNN Money series focusing on five couples earning about the U.S. median income, $46,000 a year (couple one, two, and three). The fourth couple in the series lives in Ruidoso, New Mexico, a noisy town. Brent Wheat is a self-employed contractor and Shawna Wheat is an office coordinator. Together, they earn the ... Continue reading this article…

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I Got a Nintendo Wii

by Luke Landes

On Sunday, I purchased a Nintendo Wii. It wasn’t for me. My girlfriend, celebrating her thirtieth birthday, wanted the game system as a gift. Not knowing much about the current state of demand and supply for the game consoles and assuming any frenzy ended with the past holiday season, we went shopping on Saturday. Our ... Continue reading this article…

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Five Couples Living on $46k, Number 3: The Leones

by Luke Landes

In CNN Money’s series about five couples living on (about) $46k (couple one, couple two), the third couple, Andrew and Ozgul Leone from Fort Lauderdale, clock in at $54,400. Here’s their profile. They’ve been juggling debt around. Their property doubled in value, so the couple took advantage of a home equity loan to pay off ... Continue reading this article…

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Weekly Blog Roundup, Warm Weather Edition

by Luke Landes

I hope everyone is getting outside and enjoying the weather this weekend, especially those of us in the New York metropolitan area. If you’ve found yourself locked in a room with only an internet connection to keep you entertained, try some of these fine personal-finance related articles from the MoneyBlogNetwork as well as other blogging ... Continue reading this article…

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This Week in the Archives: TIAA-Cref, Disneyland, and ING Checking

by Luke Landes

Here’s a look back at some of the “finer” articles from Aprils gone by. During this time last year, I was in California for a portion of the time. Here are a few from April 16-22, 2006: * Apr. 18: TIAA-CREF Didn’t Fund My SEP IRA (7 comments) * Apr. 19: In-N-Out (14 comments) * ... Continue reading this article…

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John Bogle and Jeremy Siegel Debate Index Funds

by Luke Landes

John Bogle founded Vanguard and the index fund movement. Put simply, cost-conscious modern financial advice is to buy index funds, which track the performance of a large selection of stocks usually grouped by market cap, and hold on to them for a long time as they appreciate over time. This theory is based in part ... Continue reading this article…

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I Got Hit With a $4 Bank Fee From Wachovia

by Luke Landes

Last month, my landlord revoked credit card rent payments without enough notice to set up direct debit for April’s rent. I had to scramble to move around some money to write a check for April’s rent. Well, it would have taken too long to get the money from my ING Direct, so I had to ... Continue reading this article…

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5 Annoying Habits of Entrepreneurs

by Luke Landes

Marshall Goldsmith is an executive coach who works mainly with entrepreneurs. He has identified five annoying habits that the best entrepreneurs share. The same personality that helps individual succeed also hinders the same individuals in certain social situations. I’m not a fan of broad generalizations, so I wouldn’t say that all entrepreneurs act a certain ... Continue reading this article…

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Excerpt From Suze Orman’s New Book: Women & Money

by Luke Landes

Yahoo Finance is featuring an exclusive excerpt of Suze Orman’s latest book, Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny. If the book follows the standard formula, this excerpt is from the introduction and outlines the 8 qualities of a wealthy woman on which the rest of the book will expound. Here are ... Continue reading this article…

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Not All Target Retirement Funds Are Created Equal

by Luke Landes

Over the last few years, “target” retirement funds have become more popular. Vanguard offers a wide selection for those looking to retire between 2005 and 2050 in 5-year increments. Fidelity offers the same options with their “Freedom Funds.” One would think that the Fidelity Freedom 2020 Fund should be similar to the Vanguard Target Retirement ... Continue reading this article…

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Financial Documents For Young Families

by Luke Landes

Have you recently welcomed your first child into your family? If so, it may be time to get some of your financial documents in order. These are some things you may not have considered before having a baby. This video from SmartMoney TV quickly runs down the basics: which documents are necessary and why. 1. ... Continue reading this article…

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Should High Schools Require Money Management Classes?

by Luke Landes

USA Today reported earlier this year that teens are not getting a decent financial education. High school students failed a 2006 quiz from the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, correctly answering an average of only 52.4 percent of questions about credit cards, insurance, retirement and savings. This is well below high school students’ average 57.3 percent ... Continue reading this article…

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ING Direct Threatened to Close My Account

by Luke Landes

For the second time this year, I received a nasty letter from ING Direct. I haven’t been diligent enough with watching my withdrawals. FDIC, the government organization that ensures that I can’t lose money my leaving cash in a bank account up to $100,000, also limits savings accounts to six withdrawals per month. For ING ... Continue reading this article…

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Why Do I Share My Finances Every Month?

by Luke Landes

I’ve been asked this question several times over the past few years, by strangers and friends, most who don’t approve of my openness for one reason or another. Each month, I write with excruciating detail about my expenses and income, assets and liabilities, and my net worth. For example, here is my latest net worth ... Continue reading this article…

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