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February 2008


The value of the dollar in comparison to other countries around the world is falling. Meanwhile, my net worth is increasing, so naturally I began thinking. Is it possible that although I’m earning income, saving, and investing, I’m not actually gaining ground from a global perspective? Furthermore, does a global perspective matter to me? I haven’t been outside the country in years.

From January 31, 2007 to January 31, 2008, my net worth increased from $75,121 to $125,770, an increase of of 67%. During that time, the dollar has decreased in value compared to other currencies and commodities. I ran some calculations.

I would have done better if I had been earning my salary in euros. With a strict currency conversion using rates from OANDA, my net worth was valued at EUR 57,964 at the beginning of the period and EUR 85,083 at the end. My former 67% increase in dollars translates to a less impressive 47%.

What about gold? I’ve heard people claim that the economy would be better if we never left the “gold standard.” I’m not quite sure it would make a difference. All value is arbitrary, whether it’s a metal or paper. Anyhow, converting my net worth in dollars to ounces of gold would result in a starting point of 114.61 ounces ending with 135.92 ounces. Thanks to the dollar’s decline and gold’s rise, my value in gold increased only 18% in the last year.

Does any of this matter? I don’t use either euros or gold for the exchange of goods and services. Yet, I still can’t overcome the feeling that I’m not getting ahead as much as the USD numbers claim.

New Day, New Low for Dollar [AP]

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Haven’t you heard? This week is America Saves Week. From February 24 through March 2, a coalition of non-profit, corporate, and government groups are pushing a media campaign to encourage savings in various forms, from increasing money deposited into bank accounts to finding bargains and saving money on purchases. It’s a noble goal.

Building wealth starts when you set a goal and make a plan to reach that goal. Whatever goal you choose — whether it’s buying a car, buying a house, or getting out from under your debts — learn about proven savings strategies and get simple tips on the best ways to save.

The organization is targeting certain minorities or special interest groups with special sub-campaigns, too, such as Black America Saves, Hispanic America Saves, Military Saves, and Youth Saves.

For the rest of us, the main America Saves website offers suggestions for increasing savings and decreasing expenses.

Get Out of Debt

The first step in getting out of debt is to stop borrowing. To do that, you have to stop spending more than you earn. So, make a budget and cut out any expenses you can. It may help to cut up your credit cards or lock them away in a safe place… If your debts are too large, you may want to consider bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can give you a fresh start, but it is a serious step that can make it harder to get credit for years after you declare bankruptcy.

Savings and Investments

* Cut spending painlessly by finding small savings that add up to big savings over time, like The ECRD Factor.
* Comparison shop for necessary purchases.
* Restrain spending for birthdays and holidays.
* Automate your savings.
* Put your loose change into a high-yield savings account.
* Take advantage of employer-matching retirement plans if available.
* Build an emergency fund.

My bonus was deposited into my bank account this morning. I plan on celebrating America Saves Week by putting a large portion of the newly-found cash towards paying down my student loan.

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A few weeks ago, I mentioned that 100,000 unique visitors browsed Consumerism Commentary during the month of January, the highest monthly count in this website’s history, 106,492 to be exact. There’s a good chance that February’s count will double that. I hope some of this month’s new readers plan to stick around for a while.

The following blogs and websites sent the most visitors here during the month of February. This doesn’t count visitors coming from search engines, RSS readers, or social media websites like StumbleUpon and Digg.

# Lifehacker
# Get Rich Slowly
# The Consumerist
# The Simple Dollar
# CBS 8 San Diego
# MoneyBlogNetwork
# KSPR (CBS Affiliate)
# AllFinancialMatters
# Fabulous Financials
# Free Money Finance

Here are the top 10 visited articles from the past month, including the last few days of January. This only counts web visitors to each page; I don’t have any way of knowing how many people have read these articles via RSS. Only articles published within the last month are included.

# Economic Stimulus Tax Rebate Calculator
# How Will the Economic Stimulus Tax Rebate Affect 2008 Tax Returns?
# Tax Rebate Calculator Updated and Blog Roundup
# The New Emergency Fund: Five Components of an Emergency Plan
# Living Paycheck to Paycheck (On Purpose)
# How to Save a Million Dollars at Any Age: 25 Years Old
# How to Save a Million Dollars at Any Age: 35 Years Old
# Smart Women Marry for Money, and Here’s Why
# How to Save a Million Dollars at Any Age: 45 Years Old
# Personal Balance Sheet, January 2008 ($125,770, +2.3%)

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If you’re new to Consumerism Commentary, these articles from the archives will be new to you.

From the Second Half of February 2007

The Case Against a Life Without Debt
Tips for Purchasing a Musical Instrument for the Non-Professional
How Much Do You Pay in Taxes?
Survey Says: More Money Leads to Better Sex
Advice Needed: Newly Found Debt and Debt Collectors
12 Steps for the Paycheck Type to Become a Millionaire
Extreme Frugality: Living Out of Your Car
Is This a Buying Opportunity?
New Jersey Property Tax Rebate Increasing for Renters

From the Second Half of February 2006

Read the full article →

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FDIC Expects More Bank Failures But Foreign Governments Are Bailing Us Out

by Luke Landes

This doesn’t sound like good news. [FDIC] is planning to beef up its staff — including temporarily hiring up to 25 retired FDIC employees who worked in the agency’s more than 200-person division that handles failed banks — to handle an anticipated increase in bank failures. If you keep funds in some of the smaller ... Continue reading this article…

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Your Food Pantry: An Essential Part of Your Emergency Fund

by Luke Landes

The most effective emergency fund, for use in the event of a job loss or unexpected major expense, is actually a combination of several types of investments. You should be prepared with a small amount of physical cash to hold you over until you can get money from a bank, highly liquid investments like a ... Continue reading this article…

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Middle-Class Millionaires are Concerned for Their Future

by Luke Landes

Are you concerned about your ability to maintain your current financial position? I am. Sure, I have an emergency fund, a significant cash cushion beyond the emergency fund, and steady income. But I have taken on risk. My long term investments are invested in the stock market which has proven to be more than a ... Continue reading this article…

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Ben Stein’s Parents are Well-Off Thanks to Variable Annuities

by Luke Landes

Should you get a variable annuity when you retire? The company I work for hopes you will, but many financial advisers, gurus, and authors steer people away. The reason is simple — the benefits in the form of gains don’t outweigh the fees and diligent investors can manage their retirement money in the form of ... Continue reading this article…

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Learn How to Handle Your Mortgage… In Church

by Luke Landes

The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is concerned that the recent rash of foreclosures, if it continues, will degenerate the neighborhood into its recent crime-ridden past. To combat this possible future, the church has now begun offering “Housing Crisis” workshops alongside its Sunday school religious lessons. Are pastors and Sunday school teachers extolling the values of ... Continue reading this article…

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States Plan On Shutting Down Small 529 College Savings Plans

by Luke Landes

Are state-run 529 plans — investment accounts that offer tax benefits for saving for educational expenses but with penalties otherwise — worthwhile? I haven’t made up my mind yet. But some investors may be wishing they had chosen other investments. Some 529 plans are being closed because the states are finding them too expensive to ... Continue reading this article…

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Jung Typology and Finance: Sensing vs. Intuition

by Luke Landes

Recently, I wrote about Jung Typology and Finance, looking at the first of four dimensions used by psychologists and career coaches for categorizing personality preferences. Introverts and Extraverts draw their energy from individual or group activity, and that difference can have an interesting effect on opinions and behavior with regard to money. The second dimension ... Continue reading this article…

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Starbucks Allows You to Bring Your Desktop Computer

by Luke Landes

If you don’t own a notebook computer but you still want to write term papers or browse the web from Starbucks, apparently the staff doesn’t mind. Recently, one Starbucks location in New York City was invaded by a few individuals who brought old Windows PCs, monitors included, to do some “work” and film the event ... Continue reading this article…

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How I Evaluated and Declined a Recent Rental Property Investment

by Sasha

As my partner and I are active landlords and property investors, it’s no surprise that people approach us with real estate offers. Sometimes they’re great deals, too – people occasionally inherit properties they want to get rid of quickly and therefore cheaply, or learn of a house at a great price that just isn’t selling. ... Continue reading this article…

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Back From D.C. (and Blog Roundup)

by Luke Landes

I took a vacation from work this past week to coincide with my girlfriend’s winter break (she’s a teacher). We traveled to Washington, D.C. to see the sights and meet up with some friends. Thanks to the snow, the exhibits were not very crowded. Unfortunately, the weather had a negative effect on our health, and ... Continue reading this article…

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The Case Against Mortgage Pre-Payment

by Guest Author

This article was written for Consumerism Commentary by Adfecto, a mid-20s guy with a masters degree in engineering. He aspires to be wealthy and writes frequently for his own blog, Adfecto Abundantia. When I purchased a home it was not a lifetime commitment. I view a person’s choice of housing first as a financial decision ... Continue reading this article…

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Living Paycheck to Paycheck On Purpose

by Guest Author

This is a guest post, written for Consumerism Commentary by Single Ma. Single Ma is the author of Fabulous Financials, a blog presenting a chronicle of a 30-something single mother’s pursuit of financial independence. I’m paid bi-weekly, which is typically twice per month. Every now and then, there’s a month or two sprinkled throughout the ... Continue reading this article…

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HD DVD Officially Dead: Long Live Blu-ray

by Luke Landes

When VHS finally emerged as the market leader over Sony’s Beta format, we gave our immediately-obsolete player to my grandmother. I’ve been following the high definition format wars with moderate interest, since I was a “late early adopter.” Last fall, I picked up an HD DVD player and during the holidays I received a Blu-ray ... Continue reading this article…

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Guide to Chase Credit Cards

by Luke Landes

If forced to categorize, I’ve found that there are two main types of credit card users. Type A credit card users use debt to buy what they cannot afford and often pay much more than they need to thanks to interest. On the other side of the spectrum, Type B credit card users take advantage ... Continue reading this article…

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Smart Women Marry for Money, and Here’s Why

by Ginger
Gold Digger

Ginger is a fashionista in her late 20s — a wife and graduate student striving to have it all. She wrote this article for Consumerism Commentary, but Ginger also publishes the blog Girls Just Wanna Have Funds, and you can subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed here. Let me preface this by stating that I ... Continue reading this article…

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Big Mistakes That Cost, Part 2

by Luke Landes

Focusing on small spending habit changes is a good way to save significant money over the long term. No matter how many daily lattes you forgo, if you make poor spending decisions on major expenditures, all your ECRD savings could be negated in one moment. Consumer Reports has identified some of these major mistakes that, ... Continue reading this article…

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