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July 2010


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I’ve had thousands of dollars in credit card debt since 1997. I remember applying for a job in March of 2001 which I calculated would help me erase my credit card debt in about twelve months. I didn’t get that job. Nobody got that job, in fact, the entire web design sector was crashing, and I had just moved to Seattle. Almost two years ago on this very website I declared that I would be free of credit card debt six months later. That didn’t happen, either. I admit that this problem is almost entirely my fault, even though circumstances beyond my control have made the problem worse, like a 10% pay cut from last Spring that still hasn’t been fully restored (even though we’ve hired two new people).

But in January of 2010, I decided (again) that enough was enough, and I started posting regular debt updates, and limited myself to spending only $100 a week. I thought it would be plenty, but on weeks that required gasoline or a haircut or car maintenance, well, it didn’t always work out as planned. On the upside, I have more than one source of income, and I’ve been able to maintain a regular schedule of paying about $1,300 a month toward that debt.

It hasn’t been a joy funneling every dollar I could toward the ghost of debt that has been haunting me for thirteen years. We missed an entire growing season in the backyard because we didn’t have the money to pay someone to fix the faucet, to say nothing of every other home improvement project that was put on hold.

Thanks to the obligation to post regular, detailed updates, I found places I could be saving more money, and on May 7th, I was able to completely pay off one of my two credit cards. Now here I am, on the cusp of paying off the second, and last, credit card that I ever hope to carry a balance on. No, I really mean it this time. I got paid today, and between that and the extra money from side jobs, I am able to bring the balance to just a couple hundred dollars.

Now, even if I double my weekly budget for myself, and ignoring side jobs and the restoration of my proper salary, I’m still going to have $1,100 a month that I don’t owe to anybody. I can’t stress this enough: this is completely new territory for me. First, of course, I’m going to throw a party. There will be good wine and delicious snacks. You can’t talk me out of that.

After the party, though, I’m conflicted about how best to deal with the extra income. We still have car loans and a mortgage, but I don’t feel a strong compulsion to pay those down faster than is scheduled. I know that most of our very smart readers will encourage me to start saving toward a three- or six-month emergency buffer. When I look at the three-month number of $12,820, I feel the same dread I used to feel when my credit card debt totaled a similar number. Suffice it to say that I’ve never saved even 10% of that amount in my life, and I’m shocked that we go through that many expenses in just three months, but we do.

At present, mostly because of my previous credit card payments, my wife and I put 10% of our leftover income into a joint savings account. If we kept it to 10%, we’d meet our three-month buffer in twenty-six months. If we bumped it up to 50%, we’d meet the same goal in five months, and we’d have about $200 each for weekly expenses. In reality, we’ll probably settle on something higher than 25% but lower than 50%. There are still all those household projects to take care of, vet bills, maybe some occasional new clothes, etc.

All of the above assumes that both of us want to stay at our current jobs, earning the same salaries, which isn’t necessarily true. We both have strong creative urges that are better fulfilled at the kind of projects you find outside of offices, and if we could still live without fear of homelessness, either one of us might be persuaded to seek a job with a lower salary and fewer hours and/or brain requirements, so that we might have more opportunities to pursue those creative projects.

If you sympathize with that, or even if you don’t, I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

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Somehow over the past several years, I’ve been increasingly finding myself in the position of an entrepreneur. Throughout my life, I have been a bit of a self-starter with the ability to inspire others to join my causes, whatever they may be. I’ve never considered myself an entrepreneur, however. I never thought I’d be using my creative tendencies to run and manage a business.

Frankly, I’m not very good at it. I’m quite disorganized, and competing priorities always seem to be problems. And if my history of dead-end projects is any indication, while I may be a self-starter, I’m not always a self-finisher. To me, “entrepreneur” was a bad word, signaling a person whose specialty was business rather than the industry in which the business falls.

Nevertheless, here I am, an accidental entrepreneur running and trying to manage a successful business. I don’t admire many entrepreneurs, but I am a fan of Aaron Patzer — at least what I know of him from his public persona and our interviews on the Consumerism Commentary Podcast. Aaron created the popular web-based personal finance management and budgeting software Mint.com, which was recently purchased by software behemoth Intuit, the makers of Quicken.

This entrepreneur is a lecturer with The Founder Institute, a membership organization designed to support budding business-starters. He also recently wrote an article for CNN describing how the institute developed a test that can supposedly predict the success rate of an individual as an entrepreneur. The test is based on research that indicates that success is not correlated to traditional metrics like IQ, teamwork, and planning. Instead, the best entrepreneurs tend to be spontaneous, appreciative of aesthetics, passionate about art and literature, and older.

Read the article here or sign up to take the quiz that will predict your success as an entrepreneur.

Not everyone is destined to succeed as an entrepreneur, and that’s not a bad thing. A lot of people — and the programs they offer for sale — tend to treat entrepreneurship as the Holy Grail of personal finance or wealth-building, with complete control of your own financial destiny and the ability to create wealth rather quickly compared to buying and holding stocks for decades in order to become “rich.” But this lifestyle is not for everyone, and not everyone is interested in taking the entrepreneur’s path.

What are your thoughts on entrepreneurs?

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If you take a look at our best online savings accounts page, you’ll notice EverBank resting in the number two slot. In terms of true online banking institutions, this bank is worth mentioning because EverBank offers a variety of money market, checking, and CD accounts that the first-listed bank, SmartyPig, does not have.

To increase their appeal even more, EverBank has just announced a $75 cash promotion for anyone that signs up for a new money market and checking account. The bonus is split between the MMA, which offers a $50 bonus, and the checking account, which offers a $25 bonus. Here are the details on each of the two promotions.

As of September 20th, 2010, the EverBank $75 Cash Bonus Promotion has expired.

Yield Pledge Money Market Account – EverBank’s Yield Pledge Money Market Account currently sports a first-year interest yield of 1.51% APY, which includes a three month bonus interest rate of 2.25%. Every following year, customers will earn a 1.26% APY. A new customer who opens a new account and makes a $20,000 deposit will receive a $50 bonus on the fifth month’s statement. In order to receive the bonus, the initial deposit cannot be withdrawn before the fifth month. If your account’s balance drops below $5,000 in any month, you will be charged an $8.95 monthly maintenance fee.

FreeNet Checking Account – High-yield checking accounts are tough to come by these days and EverBank offers one of the best you’ll find. Similar to the bank’s MMA, the FreeNet Checking Account has a bonus APY of 2.25% for the first three months, then a tiered interest rate in the following amounts:

  • $100,000 and up: 1.26% APY
  • $50,000 to $100,000: 1.20% APY
  • $25,000 to $50,000: 1.16% APY
  • $10,000 to $25,000: 0.70% APY
  • Less than $10,000: 0.51% APY

In order to receive the $25 bonus, customers must open a new account with a minimum of $10,000. The bank will pay the bonus on the fifth monthly statement. There is no monthly fee to maintain your FreeNet Checking Account regardless of the balance.

A bonus of $75 on top of a $30,000 deposit might not be enough to make you leave your current banking institution. However, if you’ve been considering or have just heard of EverBank, now is the time to take advantage. To sign-up for this limited-time offer visit EverBank’s Official Website.

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How To Do What You Love And Get Paid – $1,000 or More a Month

by Ramit Sethi

This is a guest article by Ramit Sethi, author of the best-selling personal finance book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. He recently launched a new program, Earn1k, to help people earn more money on the side. To get a free mini-course on earning more, sign up here. Ramit will also be our guest ... Continue reading this article…

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Making Work Pay Tax Credit Extension

by Luke Landes

The 2009 economic stimulus, usually called the Making Work Pay tax credit, provided slightly bigger paychecks for the middle class throughout part of 2009 and all of 2010. This benefit is in danger of expiring if Congress does not act to extend or renew the credit. This stimulus took a different form than those previous. ... Continue reading this article…

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Sometimes the Customer Isn’t Right

by Smithee

You’ve probably seen this sign hanging up in a shop or office: Rule 1: The customer is always right. Rule 2: If the customer is wrong, see Rule 1. This is not always right. I’ve had a lot of jobs I’ve been out of school and in the working world for thirteen years. That’s not ... Continue reading this article…

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Reducing the Cost of Dentist Care

by Luke Landes

How often do you visit the dentist for preventive care? Since graduating college, I’ve been getting regular check-ups and cleanings twice each year. I’ve seen the results of neglect, and I have no desire to lose my teeth any time soon. I’ve also seen results of bad dental work, so it’s imperative not only to ... Continue reading this article…

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Podcast 66: Keeping a Natural Disaster From Becoming a Financial Disaster, Richard Rosso

by Luke Landes

On today’s episode of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, Tom Dziubek talks to Richard Rosso, CFP and financial consultant at Charles Schwab. Richard discusses his advice on how to prevent a natural disaster from becoming a financial disaster and offers up many tips, including how to make sure you have the proper insurance coverage, taking inventory ... Continue reading this article…

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The Best Gas Credit Cards, October 2014

by Luke Landes

Gas prices are on their way back up again. When the economy tumbled in the past few years, gas prices dropped from their highs, but they are now increasing fairly steadily. It’s hard to imagine where the price of gas will be just one year from now, but it makes sense to continue preparing for ... Continue reading this article…

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Weep Not for Interchange Fee Revenue

by Smithee

I used to answer customer service calls for Bank of America, one of the nation’s biggest banks. Granted, I was near the bottom of the totem pole, but they generally treated everybody with respect there (I was in Washington State, your mileage may vary), and they wanted us to be able to give customers informed ... Continue reading this article…

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Is a Graduate Degree Worthwhile or Worthless?

by Luke Landes

Several years ago, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in business. I had been working in finance for a while, and as someone who believes in lifelong education, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to obtain an MBA. I took the relatively unpopular route of pursuing a degree where ... Continue reading this article…

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Unemployment Benefits Extended

by Luke Landes

After some false starts, Congress has passed a bill to renew the extension to federal unemployment benefits. Federal benefits begin when state benefits end. With the extension in effect, jobless individuals qualify for benefits for a total of 99 weeks. The most recent extension expired on June 2, and this new bill extends the deadline ... Continue reading this article…

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New Financial Regulations in the Wall Street Reform Law

by Luke Landes

Updated: The media are calling the new Wall Street Reform Law, recently signed by President Obama, the most significant reform of the financial industry since the Great Depression. It looks to tighten the reins on a industry that helped cause the recent recession by requiring the Federal Reserve to create and enforce regulations on the ... Continue reading this article…

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True Earnings® Card from Costco and American Express $25 Cash Back Bonus

by Luke Landes

Editor’s Note: Thank you for your interest, this offer expired and is no longer available. One of the best cash back credit cards available today, the True® Earnings Card from Costco and American Express can earn cardholders an immense amount of rewards, just for everyday purchases. Now, with a $25 cash back bonus opportunity, just ... Continue reading this article…

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Which Wine Do I Want to Buy?

by Smithee

I enjoy a good glass of wine, but I don’t know how to find one. I haven’t been buying wine long enough to have memorized a group of “go to” bottles. I probably made the mistake of buying Bolla Pinot Noir three times before I finally learned that I don’t like it. Between my unreliable ... Continue reading this article…

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Pregnant Women Are Liabilities to Mortgage Lenders

by Luke Landes
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Here’s the message conservative lenders are sending: Don’t have a baby if you want to qualify for a mortgage. On maternity leave or paternity leave, it’s common for a family’s income to drop. If income during the leave is classified as disability income, mortgages look at this income as temporary, and they often don’t consider ... Continue reading this article…

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P/E Ratios

by Luke Landes

I’m not a skilled investor, particularly when it comes to short-term prognostication, and my long-term track record has yet to be established considering my first investing decision was less than ten years ago. I don’t invest in many individual stocks. My 401(k) includes company stock as part of my employer’s matching contribution, and I opted ... Continue reading this article…

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Podcast 65: New “Goals” Feature at Mint, Saving Money at a Ball Game

by Luke Landes

Today’s episode of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast features two interviews. In the first segment, Tom Dziubek speaks with Aaron Patzer, founder of Mint and Rob Garcia, Director of Product Strategy at Lending Club about Mint’s new “Goals” feature and their related partnership with Lending Club. Then, Tom talks with Consumerism Commentary founder Flexo about different ... Continue reading this article…

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The New Financial Regulation Law and Your Money

by Smithee

Flexo posted a good review of the major changes in the Wall Street Reform bill that passed through Congress yesterday, and mentioned that it will be some time before we know exactly how the regulations which are now possible will be written. But there are some reasonable guesses we can make, and I thought it ... Continue reading this article…

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