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January 2011


The year is no longer new and novel. I’ve stopped accidentally writing “2010″ on my checks, though I still double-check the date before sealing envelopes. New Year’s resolutions often don’t last past the first month of the year, so it’s time to see how “average” I am — how much I am like the typical American who doesn’t stick to the lofty goals set at the beginning of the year. For the record, I don’t see dropping goals as a problem, because setting the goals, and thinking about the type of person you want to be or the accomplishments that mean the most to you, is almost as important as reaching those goals. The better those goals are, the longer it will take, too.

As usual and expected, I’ve already had some successes and not-yet-successes in 2011. Here is how I’m doing so far in comparison with my goals for 2011.

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Some things are beyond our control, and having a happy and fulfilling life requires accepting those things we cannot change. It’s possible, however, to control more than we believe we can.

Right before I first started on my journey of getting my life and finances in shape, I left a low-paying job that depleted my money and increased my debt, I lived in a terrible apartment in a bad area, and the relationship with my girlfriend at the time ended. Most of my life seemed beyond my control for years leading up to that point. These bad things continued happening to me, and there was nothing I could do about it. Of course, a series of bad choices — including, in some cases, not making any choice at all — resulted in these bad situations, but I didn’t want to see it that way.

My boss at this company often talked about how every aspect of our lives is a result of a choice that we make. For example, in his opinion, someone who was late coming to the office due to traffic was primarily at fault for not preparing for delays by leaving home well in advance. Someone who oversleeps, even if the alarm does not wake him, makes a conscious decision that lying in bed is more worthwhile than getting out of bed and living life. At some point, something clued me into attribution theory. I was attributing various outcomes in my life to situations beyond my control, and I had a low opinion of my self-efficacy.

After some introspection, I was able to see that both the good and the bad things that happened in my life were results of the decisions I made, and I began approaching my life differently. The choices I made were making a difference in my life, so I started making better choices. It hasn’t all been perfect since then, and I am constantly trying to improve everything about me, but my mind is in a different space than it was ten years ago.

All of the items below are within our control.

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Those listening to the Consumerism Commentary Podcast may have noticed that our latest episode, featuring guest David Bach, was hosted by a new voice. Our long-time producer, Tom Dziubek, is currently taking a hiatus from the show to explore a great job opportunity, and we wish him the best of luck. We’re happy to have an experienced podcast host and producer filling in for the next few months.

Bryan J Busch is an all-around, genre-agnostic content creator. He has been producing his own podcast for several years, and he produced a video for Consumerism Commentary last year, Television of the Future. Bryan was also an early guest of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, featured alongside J.D. Roth. In addition to his experience with audio and video production, Bryan is also a photographer. Bryan is at home whether behind or in front of the camera or microphone, with experience as a stand-up comedian and an improv comedy performer.

Meet Bryan.

To round out a busy week, consider reading some of the articles I contributed to other websites recently.

Saving for Retirement. The financial industry certainly wants us to use their services as much as possible, but the more of your income you lock away, the less you have to live your life today. What is the right balance? There’s always a risk of not living until you have the chance to retire. What will you regret not doing when you had the chance?

Save $1,000 on Your Tax Bill. There’s a little-known credit that offers low-income households an incentive for putting money away for retirement. The credit is a little elusive, because those who would qualify often struggle with making their regular household expenses, let alone invest for retirement.

Here are more articles I enjoyed this week. Read the full article →

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Today’s guest on the Consumerism Commentary Podcast is David Bach, author of Debt Free For Life: The Finish Rich Plan for Financial Freedom, the latest in the Finish Rich series of books and online tools. David, Flexo and Bryan discuss financial changes in the last year, the national trend toward paying down debt, the Done of Last Payment (DOLP) program and Equifax DebtWise™.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcript for a description of DebtWise™. The service carries a monthly fee of $14.95, but is free for the first month if you follow this link.

Get Equifax DebtWise Now!

Consumerism Commentary Podcast #93
Debt Free for Life, David Bach: S04E15 / 116

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Table of contents

[00:00] Introduction from Bryan J Busch
[00:38] Interview with David Bach
[00:56] Success stories from 2010
[02:23] Good debt vs. bad debt
[03:45] Which debts are worthwhile risks?
[05:54] The new crisis of student loan debt
[06:31] Subsidizing school and exorbitant tuition
[09:20] Buying an expensive home just to get the tax deduction
[10:54] Searching for blame and deciding to take action
[15:14] DOLP and personal stories
[18:57] Equifax DebtWise™
[24:03] Reducing credit card interest rates
[26:20] Bankruptcy options and pitfalls
[29:16] Credit counseling options
[32:32] Looking ahead to 2011
[34:18] 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.

Theme music by Mindcube.

Full transcript

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Citi ThankYou Preferred Card – Earn 20,000 Bonus Points

by Luke Landes

Citibank’s line of credit card products are well-known for having some of the best balance transfer credit cards available, especially for cards that also feature a rewards program. The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card – Earn 20,000 Bonus Points offers new cardholders a way to earn 20,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after members make $1,500 in card ... Continue reading this article…

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Jeremy Siegel’s Economic Outlook for 2011

by Luke Landes

Jeremy Siegel, the author of Stocks for the Long Run, was correct with his prediction for the stock market comeback in 2009. Looking back, it may be easy to say that was an easier prediction due to the low starting point that year, but many experts thought the stock market had further to dive. This ... Continue reading this article…

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7 Independent Personal Finance Blogs You Can Trust

by Luke Landes

In just the past few years, there has been an explosion of personal finance blogs, a niche that was vacant eight years ago. Those eight years feel like a generation or two, considering the way the Internet has changed since then. Now some might argue that the blog form is on its way out as ... Continue reading this article…

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When Did I Become a Millionaire?

by Luke Landes
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At some point within the past couple of years, I became a millionaire. There was no party, no celebration. In fact, it was clearly a non-event, considering I have no idea when it might have happened. If you’ve been tracking my financial progress monthly with me, you may be a little confused. After all, my ... Continue reading this article…

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The Causes of the Financial Collapse

by Luke Landes
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In May 2009, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was created to determine the primary factors that drove the economy to collapse, sparking the Great Recession. Their reports will be released in just a few hours to the public. The committee consists of members from both sides of the political aisle, and opinions within the report ... Continue reading this article…

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CNN Money’s 8 Least-Evil Banks

by Luke Landes
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Out of the eight “least-evil” banks, as ranked by a staff reporter for CNN Money, I am a customer of two. Everyone who makes financial transactions of a regular basis or handles money in any form should have a checking and savings account at a solid bank that doesn’t attempt to charge its customers exorbitant ... Continue reading this article…

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Ink Cash Business Review

by Luke Landes

If you’re a small business owner needing credit, you may want to consider a small business credit card for your everyday purchases. Not only will you be able to itemize your expenses in just a few minutes, but the money and rewards that can be earned by utilizing your small business credit card could keep ... Continue reading this article…

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US Government Minting Five-Ounce Silver Rounds

by Luke Landes
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In the U.S. Mint’s continuing effort to create more products for use outside of currency, the organization has created a series of new silver bullion coins with the same designs as the 2010 and 2011 American the Beautiful quarters. These new coins are five-ounce .999 fine silver, unlike the coins that share the designs. While ... Continue reading this article…

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Is Frugality Still Here?

by Luke Landes
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Yesterday, American Express reported its fourth quarter income, and the company had much to cheer about. The company’s net income during the last three months of 2010 was an impressive $1.1 billion, up 48 percent over the fourth quarter of 2009. It gets better than that. If you isolate just American Express’s card business in ... Continue reading this article…

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Series: Life After Salary

by Luke Landes
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In December 2010, I left the day job where I had worked since 2002. My intent was to focus on Consumerism Commentary, the blog I started in 2003, and other related projects, without distraction from a nine-to-five day job. By that time, the revenue generated by my projects significantly exceeded my day job salary — ... Continue reading this article…

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Check Your Federal Tax Refund With Your Phone

by Luke Landes

Although the tax code is mired with decades-old rules, fixed up with temporary bandages every year, and convoluted, the IRS is still able to produce something fresh, modern, and simple. Today, the government agency released its free application for iPhone and Android phones, IRS2Go. The app simplifies the process of checking the status of your ... Continue reading this article…

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Mobile Payments Could Be the End of Credit Cards

by Luke Landes
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In my wallet, plastic is king. I use my credit card for almost every transaction, though in rare cases I still go for cash. Like many others in this country and around the developed world, I also carry my cell phone around with me everywhere I go. Cell phone technology is progressing quickly, and this ... Continue reading this article…

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Braces and Orthodontics: Costs and Benefits

by Luke Landes
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Through most of my four years of high school, I had braces on my teeth. The braces helped to correct an overbite, and I wore them longer than most kids my age most likely because I wasn’t consistently wearing the head gear during the night as prescribed. It’s hard for me to weigh the cost ... Continue reading this article…

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Podcast 92: The Real Cost of Living, Carmen Wong Ulrich

by Luke Landes

On today’s Consumerism Commentary Podcast, Tom Dziubek speaks with Carmen Wong Ulrich, author of The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money. Carmen’s new book goes focuses on the “personal” aspect of personal finance, showing how the best decisions can be made by considering both the financial ... Continue reading this article…

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Weekend Reading: Buying Your First House, Poetry, and Warren Buffett

by Luke Landes

Here are a few articles to keep you entertained and informed this weekend. 4 Questions Before Buying Your First House. Here is my recent contribution to US News. “The decision to buy a house is about more than just mortgage interest rates, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, and property taxes. Your home is more than ... Continue reading this article…

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Itemizers Must Wait Until February 14 to Submit Tax Returns

by Luke Landes

Thanks to the bevy of new changes to the tax code for 2010, the IRS is still unprepared to handle tax returns filed early. If you itemize your deductions, you must wait until Valentine’s Day to submit your returns to the IRS. That doesn’t stop taxpayers from starting early. If you use software to file ... Continue reading this article…

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