As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

November 2006

In response to my latest balance sheet, Wacko asked a question:

Any pointers on how to calculate an automobile’s depreciation? Obviously I can look at Kelley Blue Book, but I do not know the monthly depreciation.

Also, I was wondering if anyone knew of an accurate way to determine the value of one’s home. I want to be able to balance the current value of my home with the loan on it.

What is the true value of an asset? [click to continue…]


It was actually two weeks ago that I posed the question about the “biggest weakness” question that we’ve all experienced in some form in job interviews. Some great responses followed, and one was randomly selected to win my copy of The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read, which I reviewed earlier this month. Here’s a few selected anecdotes provided by readers:

Kira said:

When I interviewed for my current job, I thought everything went really well – we seemed to all hit it off and they seemed impressed by my qualifications. Right off the bat, everyone assumed I was a whiz with computers and math (somewhat yes, completely no) – my supervisor told me recently that they assumed I had those qualifications, though we didn’t talk about them at any length in the interview, because I wore white socks with black shoes and therefore I must be a geek.

Jeremy was asked the dreaded question:

I ended up saying one of my biggest weaknesses was the fact that I have trouble delegating work. I can have a hard time letting go of control over every aspect of a project, thus I end up doing a lot of mundane tasks that eat up time that could be better spent doing more appropriate tasks.

The winner of the giveaway, samerwriter, was on the other side of the conference room table:

We’re always told to ask this question (or similar “behavioral” questions) when we interview potential employees. I don’t like them, for the reasons you mentioned. You really wind up testing someone’s interview skills rather than their job skills. Other examples of this type of question are “Give me an example of a time when you failed.” But what you’re looking for, and you don’t need to be a psychologist for this, is someone who recognizes that they aren’t perfect.

Here are the rest of the comments.


The U.S.Presidental Dollar George Washington Mint has unveiled the first designs for the new Presidential Dollar Coin program. The new coins will feel identitcal to the Sacagawea coins that begun production a few years ago.

For some reasons, the American public just doesn’t like dollar coins. Most vending machines won’t take them, and companies don’t want to retool their equipment to deal with them. Yet the Mint continues to come up with new programs to push the coins. They do last a lot longer in circulation than paper bills, so would save money in production if they were to catch on.

There are some things that make this coin unique:

* Some text inscription will be on the edge rather than the face.
* Rather than the word “Liberty,” which is found on other coins, the new $1 pieces feature a design of the Statue of Liberty.

The Mint is hoping that people will take to the presidential dollar coins the same way the public enjoyed the state quarters series. It seems to me that people just won’t use the coins enough to make the program worthwhile. There has been no success yet, and I don’t think any marketing will make the coins more useful in everyday life.


These gifts may be a good choice for younger people who are just starting to get interested in taking care of their financial lives, from Chuck Jaffe and MarketWatch.

1. Shares. Buying a newborn baby shares — or even just one share — of a certain company is a nice way to start off a new life, but this works for holiday presents as well. MarketWatch suggests ShareBuilder [affiliate] for starting off in small amounts of stock. I’d watch out for transaction fees, but in the case of a gift, minimizing fees doesn’t have to be a primary goal.

2. Guidance and help. Paying for someone to start seeing an advisor can be a good gift for someone of any age — from those just starting out to those in retirement — trying to get their finances together.

3. Time and service. MarketWatch suggests offering your time as a gift. If you have a friend who has a lot of responsibilities, maybe after a spouse passes away as an example, a gift can be helping that person accomplish tasks that normally lead to exasperation.

4. Relief from monetary pressure. This is a great gift for teenagers. It doesn’t have to be a signal that they don’t have to worry about money and will be always be bailed out by those with more means. A one-time gift can help teens focus on more important issues, like their own education, rather than being burdened for a short time. It also helps to instill a giving attitude; when good is done to them, they may be more inclined to do the same for others once they can.

5. Charity. I have experience with this. I’ve donated to organizations on behalf of my friends when they’ve expressed their interest in certain charities, beyond the typical “Please sponsor me as I walk to cure [insert disease here].” MarketWatch suggests presenting a check to the recipient of the gift made out to anyone other than the recipient.

6. Nothing. The gift of the ungift: overcoming the habit of exchanging gifts with friends. This might be a good idea for a circle of friends with varying levels of income and responsibilities. It’s not as fun, but giving up the tradition of everyone exchanging gifts with everyone else saves money, and that can be a gift in itself.


Young and in Debt: Five Twenty-Somethings Share Stories

by Luke Landes

U.S.A. Today is featuring a six-week series following five twenty-somethings and their adventures in debt. Debt seems to be the primary concern of most people as they emerge from their undergraduate education and begin working or continue onto graduate education. One of the first articles in the series, Young People Struggle With the Kiss of […]

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Rockin’ the Suburbs: Y’all Don’t Know What It’s Like

by Luke Landes

Early tomorrow morning, I’ll be boarding a plane to head out to California for Thanksgiving. I’ll still be posting, but perhaps not as frequently. To hold you over, here are some lyrics from one of my favorite musucians, Ben Folds. It’s about life in suburbia, something which many of us can relate to.

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Money-Saving Tips for Shopping Online

by Luke Landes

This is a guest post by Jacquelyn Lynn, a widely published business writer and experienced online shopper. She is the author of Online Shopper’s Survival Guide and maintains a blog, Online Consumer Advice and Commentary. Shopping online is the easiest way to find the lowest price for whatever it is you want. But there are […]

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Extreme Savers Greg and Tara: We Have Some Things in Common

by Luke Landes

CNN Money seems to have switched its focus from “Millionaires in the Making” to “Extreme Savers,” and today they have an article about Greg and Tara Black. They earn $48,000 and live in Charlottesville, Virginia. They shop at Kohls and JC Penney for clothing, as I do. Their entertainment comes mainly from Netflix, of which […]

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US Airways and Delta Airlines Might Merge, My Flight Unchanged

by Luke Landes

This story attracted my attention because I am getting ready to flow from East Coast to West on US Airways next Monday. US Airways is looking to purchase Delta Airlines, which is bankrupt, for $8 billion in cash and stock. Any merger won’t affect my flight, although it would be nice if the airline lift […]

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What is Your Biggest Weakness? With a Giveaway!

by Luke Landes

When I had the chance to interview a prospective supervisor I avoided asking this question, but every interview I’ve had in which I am the one auditioning for a position, I’ve been invariably asked about my weaknesses. Fortune Magazine is tackling this question. Dear Annie: After a detailed conversation about what I’ve been doing, the […]

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