Sunday, August 31, 2008

Car/SUV, $25k Free Gas, and $100k Giveaways at Fuse TV, Progressive Insurance, Lifetime TV / Entertainment and Better Homes and Gardens

Below are four premium online contests with grand prizes of a car/SUV, $25k in gas, 2009 Ford Mustang and$100k. Entries can be made ever day. Before posting this, I traced each online entry form back to the parent site to ensure the contests were not an effort to capture your info from a less that reputable source. No guarantees that your info won't be shared with "marketing partners" of the companies offering the prizes.

(1.) Fuse TV (Music TV): Kia keys to the ride sweepstake for either a Kia Spectra or Sportage. Max one entry per household, per day. Sweepstakes valid only for continental U.S. (48 states). Entry period ends 1159pm EST on Sept 30th. Wiki's summary of what Fuse TV.

(2.) Progressive Insurance $25k gasoline giveaway. One entry per day, per household up till 12/31/2008. Three grand prizes of $25k gasoline awarded.

(3.) Better Homes and Gardens $100k Grand Prize Sweepstakes. You don't have to list your phone number on the registration form! Contest thru Feb 15th, 2009, One entry per day, valid on 50 states.

I entered into all of the above sweepstakes and will likely enter again in subsequent days as I remember.

Generating Income From My Blog

Did you know that is offering $12 referrals in its Amazon Associates Program? I've been an Amazon Associate for 2 years but have never used it. I'm giving it a try since there adds are very clean and it is certainly trusted content. The $12 referrals are offered until October 31st for Amazon Prime referrals.

Over last 30 months, I earned about $200 from Linkworth and about $41 in non-dispursed Yahoo Publisher earnings. In my defense, I recently did one year in Afghanistan where it was "illegal" for me to blog (U.S. Army directive for that area). Thus, I didn't blog and my traffic and established link exchange friends erroded away.

Today, I now have diversified advertising across Google Adsense, Yahoo Publisher & Amazon Associates. My goal is to earn $241 over the next year. This will equal what I've earned over the last 30 months. This is small change and should be doable. For now, I'm going to keep my content on In the future I may migrated to a dedicated website. Anybody find success in other trusted advertisers?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Link Exchanges

I love to blog about finance and share my ideas with others. Please email if you have similar interests and would like to do a link exchange.

I've been blogging since 2006 but was offline during an unexpected tour of duty in Afghanistan. I'm in a stable, non-deploying job for the next 2 years and should be hard at work online as primary hobby.

Looks like my spouse may also be joining the fray and start blogging about Thai Cooking sometime soon.

Best of luck to my fellow bloggers!

A Paradigm Shift for My Financial Goals

When I first created pluggedinfinance I started with an original goal of $80k / year in passive income and a retirement age of 47. Retiring at 47 would have allowed me to beat my Grandfather who retired at the age of 48.

Recently, I changed my goals to $125k / year in passive income and deferred my retirement age to 51. I increased my passive income goal in a first attempt to incorporate what I forecast $80k in 2006 dollars to be equal to in 2025. I also am deferring my retirement age by 4 years not because I think it's necessary to meet a financial goal, but to factor in the fact that I want to make every attempt to stay in the Navy for the maximum of 30 years and retire at the rank of Captain (equal to Colonel in other services). I could stay in beyond 30, but it would require making the rank of Admiral which is only a 1 in 20 possiblity. Attaining this rank and serving 30 years would be a significant life achievement and would ensure that I never second guessed myself in retirement as to whether or not I realized my potential. Hey, and a 30 year Captain's Pension is about $84k/year.

Updated Prosper Lending Strategy / Tips Prefaced By Comments on Prior Lending Failures

This post is nearly two years in the making. I haven't posted about my Prosper lending strategy since November of 2006. My November posting hit the mark and was my best collection of tips up till late 2006. If you have a short attention span, look at my prior November 2006 posting first and come back to this as time permits. In today's posting I tell you my search criteria and include several new tips at end.

In November, I was near the peak of my stupidy with LENDER RISK TAKING. Prior to this, I had made 78 loans and all of them were performing (non-late), giving me an average portfolio interest rate of 17.8%. Around the time I hit 78 performing loans, I was also “volun-told” that I was being ripped from my desk job in Tennessee (just bought a house there) and deploying to Afghanistan. I coped with some of my disappointment surrounding the deployment by throwing a lot of money at something that made me happy in the past, prosper lending, where I previously enjoyed great success. I got cocky, took on a number of high interest rate loans and shifted my average loan portfolio interest rate to somewhere between 21.5 and 22%. For awhile, money was coming in and I was very happy with most of the high interest rate loans. Soon afterwards I was hit with an onslaught of non-performing loans. Realizing this, I was overcome with disgust and started to withdraw funds from my prosper account.

I returned from a very rewarding tour in the middle-east in October of 2007. Now, I would even consider volunteering to go back.

I started lending again on in February 2008. So far, my lending has been restricted to reinvesting returned principal and interest payments. Since Feb 2008, I’ve originated 20 performing loans with zero late ones. The following are general characteristics of my recent 20 loans:

-Inquiries over the last 6 months: 1.6
-Average debt-to-income: 23.2%
-Average interest rate: 15.3%
-Average credit rating: Between A and B, more closely to B. Zero E, HR and NC loans

I’m focusing on a narrow range of borrowers. Here’s my search criteria

Credit grades and minimum rates: AA (10%), A (10.5%), B (11%), C (11.5%), D (12%)

Debt/income ratio: 0% to 50%

Loan amount: $0 to $25k

% Funded: 33% to 100%

Inquiries in last 6m: 0 to 5

Occupation: Civil Service, Doctor, Military Enlisted, Military Officer, Nurse (LPN), Nurse (RN), Nurse’s Aide, Pharmacist, Police Officer/Correction Officer, Postal Service, Principal, Professor, Teacher

I’m now focusing on the above occupations because I feel these jobs are more protected in harsh economic times. Does anybody else focus on other occupations and why? Of my last 20 loans, I’ve deviated from the above search criteria about 25% of the time.

Sometimes, I also give preference in cases where a borrower’s friends are also bidding on the listing.

Finally, here are few new tips in addition to those I listed in November 2006:

-The value of any new lending strategy can only be determined once you have originated a significant number of loans (at least 30) under that strategy and the loans have had time to mature (>12 months). DON’T assume early success as a reason to assume more risk. In my opinion, borrowers may not have yet had an opportunity to fully utilize the money you lend them in the first few months after the loan is made.

-Most lenders can easily understand the importance of screening for current/past delinquencies and debt-to-income, but also consider a borrower’s bankcard utilization percentage. Think of it this way, do you want to lend money to people that may only be borrowing to increase their spending / consumption? Whether they say it or not, some people with high bank card utilization rates have problems with spending and may be originating a loan to pay off credit cards, only to continue building high credit card balances. Also, people that have high percentages are waiting until the last minute. Do you want to loan to somebody that isn’t proactive? Looking at bankcard utilization rates are not useful though when you’re considering new college graduates, divorcees who assumed the ex-spouses’ debt or people with small lines of credit.

-Spreading your risk across multiple listings is the key to any diversification strategy. But you “shoot yourself in the foot” when you invest all of your money over a short period of time. Think of it this way, are you taking advantage of your instincts / gut feeling when you lend money every day on Prosper? I highly recommend you take your investment capital and spread it out over longer periods of time. This way, you can exercise due diligence in using search criteria, asking borrowers questions, generating “watch lists” of preferred listings and finally loaning to an individual that you feel confident in. At the peak of my lending stupidity, I was originating new loans on the rate of one every day or two. Now, I’m doing one new loan about every 6 days.

-This is common sense, but you must believe in the borrowers’ story and they convinced you in their ability to repay. If this doesn’t happen, there is little value in the credit rating associated with the listing.

-If you're into statistics, consider looking at for studying average and individual lending statistics. This site is a little better than Eric’s Credit Community.

Finally, if you chose to read this far, you skipped the first paragraph option of clicking straight to my November strategy posting. If you've came this far, I recommend you read my November strategy posting.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Do Not Call and Do Not Mail Listings: Just Signed Up With Both Services, You Can Too

I just registered our home phone with the do-not-call registry and am finalizing my PERMANENT OPT OUT registration in the Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion pre-approved credit card marketing agreement.

Both are pretty easy. Here's a breakdown of what you have to do:

(1.) Do not call:
- Got to the National Do Not Call Registry
- click on the register now button
- submit your phone number and email address
- go to your email and click on the provided link to confirm your registration.
Doing this took a total of 1-2 minutes.

(2.) To Opt Out of Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers:
- Go to
- Click on "suite of preference services," you may also see other opt out services at the suite of preference services. So far, i've only elected to opt out of the credit card offers. You may also elect to opt out of "DMA Member Prospect Lists" too! This latter option may prevent you from receiving mail you want / don't want, such as new catalogs, coupons, announcements about new businesses in your community, and notices of special offers.
- Click on link to
- Once you click on this, you'll be prompted for your name, address, SSN, birthday and phone number. I would normally be a bit leery about this. However, this website has a number of referrals to it adding to it's appearance of legitimacy.
- You'll be given a choice of opting out of pre-approved credit card offers for 5 years or permanently. Select the option you want and print out the form.
- Sign and date the form and mail it in.
This takes a few minutes but should prove well worth the time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


You can undo a ROTH conversion. This is powerful information if you are stuck paying taxes on capital gains from a regular account that has dived in value after your conversion to a ROTH. The trick is, you have to act quickly (same tax year). Read this.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Just Got $35 In Olive Garden / Red Lobster Gift Cards. You Can Also Get Gift Cards To Many Popular Businesses Through This

I just redeemed my reward points at for $35 in gift cards to Darden Restaurants. Darden Restaurants includes Olive Garden & Red Lobster.

You accumulate reward points with simply by doing one of several things:
(1.) Open advertisements received at your email account from Mypoints.
(2.) Take surveys from Mypoints
(3.) Shop online via Mypoints
(4.) Use a Mypoints credit card

I've been a member for several years and have accumulated $178 worth of gift cards from Mypoints by almost exclusively doing #1 above (receive email advertisements). Receiving and opening the Mypoints advertisements are easy. You don't even have to read the advertisements that you open to get credit.

On occasion I have shopped via Mypoints and have earned about 2 or 3 points for every dollar spent on one of many popular national chains advertising via

I'd love to refer any of my readers to Mypoints. People that I refer automatically get 250 points added to their account (I also get 250 points for doing a referral). To put 250 points into perspective, I cashed in the following point totals today:

- 1400 points for a $10 Red Lobster / Olive Garden gift card
- 3400 points for a $25 Red Lobster / Olive Garden gift card

Once a member, you typically qualify for about 25 points a day in email advertisements, 60-120 points a week in possible surveys and unlimited points in shopping with the Mypoints credit card or online through companies that adverstise with Mypoints.

There are tons of other options for gift cards (i.e. Wal-Mart, Shell Gas, Old Navy, Circuit City, etc.).

Friday, August 08, 2008

Finding the Cheapest Gas: Just Became A Member With

This is an excellent site for people who want to know the cheapest price of gas in their area or along whatever route they are planning to drive.

I have been using for about a year now and enjoy its mapping feature. On my recent trip from Louisiana to Washington, I routinely saved 10-20 cents per gallon by finding several gas stations along my route that offered significantly lower gas prices.

I became a member tonight (now able to report on gas prices) because I feel it's important to identify and promote local gas stations that offer the best price on gas. I feel that if more people frequent the cheaper gas stations, then the higher priced stations would be more pressured to lower their prices to get business traffic.

The added perk of being a member is that you become eligible for contest entries on their site. As an example, has a gas card contest running through 1 September where people can win one of four $250 gas cards.