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May 2007

NJ Transit 10% Rate Hike

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It’s time again for a 10% rate hike for commuters on NJ Transit bus and rail lines. I used to be a mass transit commuter, taking the train to Newark every day to work, but at some point when my work schedule was unpredictable, I started driving for more flexibility.

Commuters on NJ TransitI haven’t been working in Newark for over a year, and my current job is also located a few blocks from a train station. I still drive, however. This rate hike won’t affect me, but I’m already affected through the price of gasoline. I pay twice as much to fill up my tank as I did when I purchased this car — a car with excellent gas-mileage — several years ago.

The rate hike on NJ Transit takes effect tomorrow, so it might not hurt to stock up on those tickets which do not expire.

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Recently, Mapgirl’s 401(k) balance surpassed the $20,000 balance milestone. That’s not small accomplishment for less than two years on the job. For comparison, I’ve been investing in my 401(k) for more than five years now, and my balance is only approaching $40,000 including company match. I started investing only 4% of my salary and have recently increased to 25%, which I can only do thanks to other income.

It’s interesting to see how companies use future payoffs with the intent of retaining employees. For example, when I became fully vested in my company match, after working at the company for three years, I felt better about the possibility leaving the company. If I had quit at two years and 350 days, I would have missed out on thousands of dollars in company match. It wouldn’t make much sense unless I could negotiate a new job offer for a higher salary to take that into account.

Following this thought process further, if I could negotiate a higher salary or other benefit for that reason, I should be able to do so for any reason, making it again a loss to leave before fully vested.

Within a year after becoming fully vested, the company presented a new carrot for its employees: an associates stock grant. A good amount of stock was given to employees but the shares wouldn’t vest until 2009. At the time, it was pretty far in the future, so it’s a part of compensation that would be easily to forget about while negotiating a salary at a new job.

Are you less likely to look for new work if leaving your current company would mean leaving money on the table?

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The Carnival is Up!

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The Carnival of Personal Finance was posted yesterday over at Money Smart Life. The 102nd weekly edition of the Carnival was given a musical “theme” with help from Alice Cooper, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd. Here are some possibly Grammy-worthy submissions in addition to the articles Ben chose as Editor’s Picks:

* Lazy Man wonders if we are living larger or living differently than the generations that have come before. He has some explanations for those in my generation not being as well off as their dads.

* Should you accept money from your parents? In theory, Plonkee Money believes she shouldn’t, but in practice, that might not be the case.

* The Happy Rock has a few suggestions for what to look for in a personal finance system.

* FiveCentNickel writes about the difference between net worth and net investable assets, which I touched on how to calculate your net worth.

* Here’s an example from Grad Money Matters of expenditures while renting an apartment vs. owning a house.

* Ben also included my post on making money from John Adams dollar coins in the Carnival.

Next week’s Carnival of Personal Finance will be hosted at Clever Dude.

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A few weeks ago I put myself on the waiting list for John Adams coins at my local Wachovia branch. I happened to be in the bank this past weekend, so I asked if they had any available, despite not having heard from them. The tellers were able to come up with three rolls.

I opened one roll to look for Mint errors, but each coin was properly struck. There were also no black-toned coins like the one in this recent auction that sold for $45.

I didn’t find any strange forehead error coins. This one sold for over $70.

It’s still the double strike error that is going on eBay for almost $400. I didn’t find one of these, either.

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President Bush Holding Up Traffic in New Jersey

by Luke Landes

Here’s a good case for working from home, which I would have done today had I known about this. President Bush will be fund-raising near my office today, and in the short time he’ll be coming and going — which happens to line up with rush hour — major roads I usually travel, including the ... Continue reading this article…

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Businesses I’d Promote for Free (Hint: They’re All Local)

by Luke Landes

Free Money Finance mentioned there are a few companies he loves and would be willing to promote with no compensation. He asked others to do the same, so I tried to come up with a few that have gone above and beyond for me in terms of customer service. Jay’s Cycles. I purchased a bicycle ... Continue reading this article…

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HSBC Direct Offers Online Checking Account

by Luke Landes

I just received an email stating that HSBC Direct has created an “online payment account” to compete with ING Direct’s Electric Orange Checking Account. The major differences are HSBC Direct’s account will offer only a 2.50 percent APY, which is higher than your traditional checking account but significantly lower than ING’s, and HSBC Direct will reimburse ... Continue reading this article…

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This Week in the Archives: Be Your Own Boss, Graduation, and The Long Tail

by Luke Landes

If you’re new to Consumerism Commentary, you may have missed these posts from this week in the years gone before. Here are some articles from May 23-31, 2006: * May 23-27: Six Steps to Being Your Own Boss, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 * May 26: Don’t Get Ahead, Start Ahead * ... Continue reading this article…

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American Men Earning Less Than Dad

by Luke Landes

A study by a group of research organizations have determined that men in their thirties are earning less, when adjusted for inflation, than their fathers earned in their thirties. Studies like this help to explain the reported financial condition of younger households throughout the United States. Relying on Census Bureau figures, the study’s authors found ... Continue reading this article…

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Congratulations to Patrick, Winner of Quicken Premier 2007

by Luke Landes

Thanks to everyone who had suggestions for the next version of Quicken. Now, I’m sure the software architects and programmers don’t read the site, and I’m also sure than Quicken 2008 is just now receiving its final touches in preparation of its release, but there are some great suggestions that one would hope would make ... Continue reading this article…

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Weekly Blog Roundup, Long Weekend Edition

by Luke Landes

I, for one, am looking forward to the good weather over this “long” weekend. Here are some personal finance nuggets from around the blogosphere to keep you busy over the weekend. There are Almost 1 Million Accidental Millionaires. FMF points out an article describing the mass of individuals who have high net worth — mostly ... Continue reading this article…

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Money Magazine’s 7 Best Reward Credit Cards

by Luke Landes

Editor’s Note: Thank you for your interest, these offers have expired and are no longer available. Updated: Here are 15 Credit Cards With the Best Rewards. This month’s issue of Money Magazine contains an article with credit card recommendations for a variety of spending types. Here’s the run-down. For big spenders: Blue Cash from American ... Continue reading this article…

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Man Buys $8,000 Worth of Forever Stamps

by Luke Landes

Now that the U.S. Postal Service increased stamp prices and began offering the “forever stamp” last week, people can avoid the hassle of going back to the post office to buy “upgrade stamps” when the prices increase. The law that allows the forever stamp also indicates that the price increases will never beat inflation. That ... Continue reading this article…

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How to Calculate Your Net Worth

by Luke Landes

When I put together my monthly financial reports, I tend to get questions about how I decide what to include and what not to include in my balance sheet. The purpose of determining your net worth is not to compare yourself with others. The real reason to do these simple calculations each month is to ... Continue reading this article…

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New Price-Gouging Bill Passes House

by Luke Landes

While it will probably be vetoed by the White House, the House of Representatives passed a bill designed to prevent price-gouging at the gas pump after catastrophes, like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Charley (NY Times). The House bill would give the FTC “the explicit authority to investigate and punish those who artificially inflate the price ... Continue reading this article…

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How to Make Money With John Adams Presidential Dollar Coins

by Luke Landes

Whenever the US Mint comes up with a new concept for circulating coins, it inspires a new bunch of collectors and investors. That has certainly happened with the Presidential Dollar Series, which began earlier this year. First impressions of the George Washington $1 coins were luke warm, but then collectors started discovering errors. In some ... Continue reading this article…

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Where to Put an Unexpected $5,000, Part 3

by Luke Landes

If you’ve been lucky enough to come across $5,000 for which you haven’t been planning, you may be wondering what the best plan would be. Considering CNN has 43 suggestions for you, there are many options. I’ve had some thoughts on CNN’s list which I’ve shared so far here and here. Here is the next ... Continue reading this article…

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FNBO Direct 6.0% APY Savings and Media Blitz

by Luke Landes

A few days ago, I received a press release from the marketing company representing the First National Bank of Omaha, which recently created FNBO Direct to compete with online outfits like ING Direct and HSBC Direct. The new FNBO Direct account, with no minimums and no fees, offers 6.0 percent APY through September 28. The big ... Continue reading this article…

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Where to Put an Unexpected $5,000, Part 2

by Luke Landes

CNN Money has 43 suggestions for those who come upon an unexpected $5,000 based on the market right now. I didn’t particularly agree with each suggestion I’ve looked at so far. Let’s see how CNN Money does with the next batch of suggestions. 8. Best reality check: Eight hours with a financial planner 9. Best ... Continue reading this article…

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The Carnival is Up!

by Luke Landes

Carnival of Personal Finance #101 is online at FIRE Finance. The quality of these Carnivals continue to rise. Here are some of the more interesting articles in this week’s edition. * What Does Getting Out of Debt “Buy” You? answered at The Happy Rock * Almost Debt Free: Good Debt vs. Bad Debt at Queercents ... Continue reading this article…

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