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August 2009

I do very little stock trading. In fact, the only individual stocks I hold are Microsoft (MSFT) and Akamai (AKAM), both of which I purchased with free money for opening a brokerage account. Naturally, I think free cash is a perfect candidate for experimentation with the stock market and I most likely would not have made these purchases without this particular incentive.

Zecco Trading is offering a different incentive for those who have funds for trading stocks but would like to avoid pesky transaction fees that eat into your returns. For a very limited time, Zecco is offering 20 free traders. This discount brokerage normally offers 20 free trades each month for customers who maintain a $25,000 bonus in their account or execute 25 trades each month. Otherwise, each trade costs $4.50, still one of the lowest transaction fees available.

Here is how to receive 20 free trades without meeting the minimum balance or minimum trade volume. First, be a new customer. Only new Zecco customers are eligible. Apply for your Zecco account here, and use the code bonus1 when signing up for your account. Your application must be complete and approved by September 13, 2009.

As long as you meet the above criteria, you will see 20 free trades available in your account by September 16, 2009.

For more options, see this summary of five true discount brokerages.


Our guest today is Matt Jabs, blogger and founder of Debt Free Adventure, a blog designed to help the author stay accountable for getting out of debt. Debt Free Adventure is one of my favorites among new personal finance blogs.

Today’s discussion focuses on the concept of giving yourself a raise, an important way to improve your financial condition, particularly in an economic environment that is supporting fewer raises from your employer. Tom Dziubek and I explore this concept with Matt Jabs and discover a number of ways you can give yourself a raise today.

To listen, use the player above (Adobe Flash required), download the podcast here, subscribe to the podcast RSS feed, or use the iTunes link. Note: open links in a new window (Ctrl-click or Command-click) to avoid interrupting the podcast.

[00:00] Introduction from Tom Dziubek
[00:33] Interview with Matt Jabs of Debt Free Adventure
[01:10] Matt’s inspiration for writing about personal finance
[02:57] Giving yourself a raise at home
[04:26] How to give yourself a raise
[08:41] Creating a personal trigger to change your mindset
[10:24] Living outside the box
[12:16] Finding and following your passions
[14:29] The journey is as important as reaching the goal itself
[15:59] Dealing with customer service reps
[21:39] Do it yourself
[25:17] How it adds up
[28:04] End

We always welcome feedback from listeners. If you have any comments for this episode or for any other, or if you have suggestions for future episodes, please leave us comments here or email us at podcast at this domain name.


Happy Snow Leopard Day

This article was written by in Software. 6 comments.

For the increasing number of Mac users in the audience, today’s the day to start deciding whether you want to upgrade your operating system: “Snow Leopard” is on the scene.

Number-wise, this is a move to OS 10.6. It will only work on Apple computers with an Intel processor and at least 1 GB of RAM. For anybody whose Mac came with 10.5 (Leopard), this should include you. And for you, it’s a $29 upgrade. (Users of 10.4 “Tiger” will need to spend more if they want to upgrade, but it’s still possible.)

The $29 fee is kind of a double-edged sword for me: it’s the cheapest operating system upgrade of, I think, my entire life. And yet, because it’s so inexpensive, that must mean it’s not necessarily worthwhile. Apple’s been pretty upfront about that, though… most of the changes are pretty boring.

Here’s what I recommend for right now:

  • Find yourself a good, detailed review of the Snow Leopard features
  • Wait at least a week and keep your ear to the ground for problems people are having: I’ll be watching my Apple friends on Twitter and this part of the macnn.com forum.
  • Not sure how often this will be updated, but I also found a list of programs that we know don’t work (or are restricted) with Snow Leopard
  • If you can manage it without losing any software, I strong recommend doing a clean install that wipes your hard drive first. In my experience–and I used to do this for a living–the only reason to upgrade an operating system (as opposed to a clean install), is to document what goes wrong.

Personally, I’ll be watching to see what new gee-whiz features Apple will soon introduce that won’t work on anything earlier than 10.6.


When I started formally tracking high-yield savings rates, with a shared online spreadsheet, it was common to see banks offering interest rates above 5.0% APY. That was in January 2008, and the economy is in a different situation now. According to the government, there has been no measurable inflation, and now interest rates for lending are held low to stimulate the economy. Savers suffer in these conditions.

Bankers were livid this past spring when Ally Bank, a re-branding of GMAC Bank which had been tainted by the bailout of General Motors, rose like a phoenix and maintained the same interest rate it had been offering in its previous incarnation. The director of the FDIC got involved to prevent Ally from using its bailed-out position to create an unfair competitive advantage over other banks.

The bank must now be confident that it is no longer on the FDIC’s bad side. Click here for the latest interest rate from Ally Bank. It’s a small increase, resulting in only 50 cents more a year on an initial $1,000 balance. It seems to be a signal, though weak, that Ally wants to be considered a stronger bank than others, but I don’t think it’s a signal that we should expect to see more banks raising interest rates.

I do have an account with Ally Bank and you can read my review of the Ally Bank savings account here.

Today’s interest rate increase should not be enough to convince someone to move all of their money into this one bank, but if you have the inclination, Ally is a good choice for a diversified portfolio of savings accounts because at this time, I would expect they will continue offering one of the highest interest rates for highly liquid accounts and despite FDIC’s funding woes, your money should be safe.

See the review of the best online savings accountsupdated November 13, 2009.


Employee Stock Purchase Plan Dilemma

by Luke Landes

For the last few years, I have been participating in my company’s stock purchase plan at the maximum level. Every paycheck, ten percent of my gross salary is withheld. At the end of each quarter the funds are used to buy my company’s stock at a 15 percent discount from the lower price of either ... Continue reading this article…

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Are You Sure Your Credit Card Still Works?

by Jeff

After we got married, my wife and I combined our finances. We moved most of our money from a local brick and mortar bank to a bank that we primarily access online and over the phone. This arrangement has worked out well for us, but it does mean some accounts that were previously utilized many ... Continue reading this article…

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Sixth Anniversary iPod Giveaway: Winners Announced!

by Luke Landes

Congratulations to Consumerism Commentary readers Aliotsy A. and Scott O.! Aliotsy and Scott were selected randomly among those who responded correctly to the scavenger hunt held last month to celebrate Consumerism Commentary’s sixth anniversary. Both winners chose to receive the Apple iPod Touch. The iPods are now on the way! More giveaways will be offered ... Continue reading this article…

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Consumer Confidence Above Expectations: Are We Out of the Woods?

by Luke Landes

Depending on which newspapers and news websites you read, the Consumer Confidence Index either soared, jumped or surged this month. The headlines as you would expect don’t tell the whole story. The Conference Board calculates this index by performing a random survey by phone of 5,000 households in the United States, selected because they represent ... Continue reading this article…

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Join Me for a Live Online Chat Thursday Night

by Luke Landes

This coming Thursday, August 27, I will be hosting an online chat session. Please feel free to join me on Money Quantum, a social network for people whose lives involve money, to chat about personal finance, investing, blogging or anything else we feeling like chatting about. I will share more information about Money Quantum later. ... Continue reading this article…

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What’s Important to You in Healthcare Reform?

by Smithee

It’s been a while since I’ve taken the pulse of our readers on a hot topic, so I figured it was time. I’ve been paying closer attention than usual to the various proposals in Congress dealing with healthcare and health insurance reform, and I’ve made a list of the different things they’re trying to tackle. ... Continue reading this article…

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Discover Card Overhauls Their Credit Card Terms

by Luke Landes

Editor’s Note:  This offer is no longer available. Now that regulations established by the Credit CARD Act and related rules by the Federal Reserve have begun to take effect, I’ve started receiving notices from card issuers regarding my accounts. My Discover Miles Card was opened in 2005 to attempt a 0 percent balance transfer, a way ... Continue reading this article…

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Cash Back Rebates Now Take the Form of Prepaid Debit Cards

by Luke Landes

My girlfriend is an elementary school teacher in the New York City public schools. One of the benefits of her employment is the reimbursement for the purchase of supplies and materials used in her class. Any teacher will tell you that they are required to pay for many of their own materials, and the amount ... Continue reading this article…

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Podcast 18: Financial Snap Judgments and the PowerCost Monitor

by Luke Landes

Today’s first guest is David Adler, behavioral finance expert and author of Snap Judgment: When to Trust Your Instincts, When to Ignore Them, and How to Avoid Making Big Mistakes With Your Money. Tom Dziubek and I discuss with the author the elements of good financial decision making. Tom Dziubek also speaks with Peter Porteous, ... Continue reading this article…

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Decaf Double Short Skim Double-Pump Vanilla Latté

by Smithee

I promise this is a coincidence; I had no intention of writing about coffee for two articles in a row (previously: “Iced Coffee Savings“). Yesterday, Starbucks started instituting pricing changes on some drinks, lowering the prices of easy-to-make, popular drinks and raising the price on larger, more complicated drinks. There weren’t a lot of specifics, ... Continue reading this article…

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Roth IRA Conversion

by Luke Landes

The option to convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA has been around for a while. Here are the differences between a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA for those new to these retirement accounts. As long as your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is under $100,000 you have qualified for this conversion. Contributions ... Continue reading this article…

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Is Buying a Foreclosed Property Realistic?

by Jeff

My wife and I enjoy our apartment, but we’re preparing for the day when we can make the jump to a house. We could use the extra space, and we’re ready to get away from some of the ticky-tack regulations and rules that landlords love to use. Financially, however, our preparation is lacking. It isn’t ... Continue reading this article…

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Don’t Let Dealerships Mislead You About Cash for Clunkers

by Luke Landes

It’s debatable whether the Cash for Clunkers program, formally known as the “Car Allowance Rebate System” or the apt but unoriginal acronym “CARS,” will eventually be seen as successful either in terms of the economy or the environment, but it certainly has dealerships fired up. While the dealers appreciate the customers — without Cash for ... Continue reading this article…

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How to Save Money at Baseball Games

by Luke Landes

I am not a very good baseball fan. I grew up with the Mets as the team of choice in my family although none of us were much into sports. This loyalty was solidified with the team’s World Series win in 1986 when I was ten years old, the prime age for baseball fandom. Now ... Continue reading this article…

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Earn $500 By Referring Friends and Readers to ING Direct

by Luke Landes

Update: The waiting list is currently full. Keep reading Consumerism Commentary (or subscribe) to be notified when the waiting list is open again. ING Direct is one of my favorite banks due to their savings account. While ING Direct’s Online Savings Account does not offer the highest interest rate, they are consistently towards the top ... Continue reading this article…

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Iced Coffee Savings

by Smithee

This is a cliché, but I need my coffee in the mornings. I prefer it iced, except in the very brief winters we have here in Texas, and for a long time, I was a loyal customer of the Starbucks Iced Coffee in a Can. I’d have one every morning at least four times a ... Continue reading this article…

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