Sunday, December 27, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, Fund My Mutual Fund, Darwin's Finance, Dink's Finance and Everyday Finance

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life. "College Education Costs: Is College Worth What You Pay For It?"

Fund My Mutual Fund. "California Asks Rest of Nation's Taxpayers to Help Pay for its Unbalanced Budget." A lot of good information in this article besides the references to CA.

Darwin's Finance. "7 Year-End Tax Tips You Can't Miss!"

Dink's Finance. "Inspirational Fourteen Year Old Investor on Track to Become a Millionaire." A take away here is to have your kids buy stock in items they consume. In this case, consider buying Nike stock if you son buys a lot of Nike shoes.

Everyday Finance. "Gift Card Overload? CASH IN or Buy from Stores you Actually Want."

Everyday Finance. "Why Would You EVER Buy a Book From a Bookstore for a 30% Premium?" Smart use of an I-phone application helps keep shopping prices down.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: MoneyNing, Free Money Finance, Fund My Mutual Fund, Financial Armageddon, Dual Income No Kids...

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

MoneyNing. "13 Ways to Enjoy Your Life Without Spending Alot of Money."

Free Money Finance. "Is This a Viable Way to Save Money When Buying from an Infomercial?"

Fund My Mutual Fund. "David Malpass: Near Zero Rates are Hurting the Economy."

Financial Armageddon. "An Alternative Read on Today's Bullish Jobs Data."

Dual Income No Kids. Thanks for finding this excellent lesson in unemployment stats.

Dividends 4 Life. "Stock Analysis: Aflac Incorporated (AFL)." This is one of my largest DRIP holdings. Agree w/ analysis.

My Good Cents. "$5 off $5 at Hallmark Stores." Nothing beats Free!!!

Financial Fitness. "People Who Tell You To Buy Actively Managed Stock Funds Want Your Money."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

TMZ says Tiger's Wife Caused Accident

I know this is not personal finance related. But, pulled this article from one of my favorite fantasy sports websites (Rotoworld). is reporting that Tiger Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren, caused his SUV accident when she distracted him by hitting the vehicle with a golf club as he was driving away after an argument regarding another woman.

TMZ says that Elin confronted him after seeing a report about him seeing another woman and then went after him and the SUV when he bolted from the house around 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning. Oh, the drama. TMZ has become a fairly reliable source about these kind of reports, but we'll have to see what the police say after interviewing him over the weekend." (TMZ)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, Free Money Finance, My Two Dollars, My Good Cents

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life. "Why Lottery Winners Go Broke: Prospect Theory at Work"

Free Money Finance. "What Real Millionaires Do."

My Two Dollars. "Using Twitter To Get Better Customer Service."

My Good Cents. Free Taco Del Mar chicken taco with purchase of chicken taco.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

IIHS Announcement of "Top Safety Picks" is Out to Lunch

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced this week its "top safety picks" amongst 2010 autos. IIHS performs an invaluable task in identifying cars that are safe for consumers. You can read their list of selectees here. Motortrend also has a good pictorial.

What I cannot accept though is IIHS' use of the word "top" in its selection. "Top" in no way describes the selectees. 52 cars were tested and 27 were selected as "Top Safety Picks." This huge number of selectees yields a fifty-two percent selection rate. Hey IIHS: Let me recommend you call your selectess "Top Half Safety Picks." If that doesn't sound good it's because it's not.

You hardly ever hear college-bound students brag about scoring a 21 on their ACT because this is the average.

I suspect you rarely hear somebody brag about having an IQ of 100 because this is the average IQ score.

General Electric has always prescribed to a philosophy that if it can't be either number one or two in an industry, it has no business of being in it.

IIHS: Do us all a favor and award the "top safety picks" to those that are truly top in safety. We the consumer should not be considered dumb. Unemployment rates are at all time highs and many 401ks have been reduced to 201ks. Consumers value the money in their car budget. Do us the favor of restricting your "top safety picks" to the top two of each car segment. Those that don't finish in the top two of their category but meet minimum criteria can be given a "Pass." Those that fail to meet minimum criteria can be referred to as a "Fail." It's that simple. If you want to have a larger listing, you can also rank the tested cars from best to worst regardless of generic "pass" or "fail" score.

Keep up the great work IIHS, but remember you can do a better job.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: Free Money Finance, My Two Dollars, Fund My Mutual Fund, Mighty Bargain Hunter, Financial Armageddon...

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

Free Money Finance. "How to Become a Billionaire"

My Two Dollars. "35 Ways to Watch Television Without Cable or Satellite"

Fund My Mutual Fund. "Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Mumbai to join New York, London, Paris as World's Dominant Cities by 2025"

Money Smart Life. "52 Extra Ways to Make Money." Money Smart Life actually posts a link to another site's article (PT Money).

Mighty Bargain Hunter. "Here’s a great comeback when negotiating to buy a property"

Financial Armageddon. "The Financial Body Count." Article that discusses the federal government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

Darwin's Finance. "Why Do People Pay More Money for the top of the Line Model? Incremental Value Analysis"

Everyday Finance. "Launch of a Risky and Perhaps Very Profitable Emerging Markets ETF"

Dual Income No Kids. "Rumor: Fake Morgan Dollars Being Made in China." As recently as 2007 I noticed fake Morgans being sold in Afghanistan Bazaars. Perhaps these were coming in from China.

Go Banking Rates. "Where are the Jobs? An Infographic"

Dividends4Life. "Stock Analysis: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)"

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: Free Money Finance, Fund My Mutual Fund, Financial Armageddon, Everyday Finance, Master Your Card

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

Free Money Finance. "Americans Not Ready For Retirement."

Fund My Mutual Fund. "Wells Fargo (WFC) Kicks the Can by Transforming Option ARM Mortgages into Interest Only." Aside: I'm completely out of bank investments.

Financial Armageddon. "My Latest Market Observation." Closer review of US productivity.

Everyday Finance. "The Best Wisdom From Consumer Reports December 2009 Edition."

Master Your Card. "Don't Pay the Geek Squad: Extended Warranty is Free Through Visa."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, MoneyNing, Free Money Finance, Financial Armageddon, Dual Income No Kids

Just having a lazy Sunday watching the NFL and my fantasy football leagues.

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life. "New Credit Card Rules, Opting Out of Interest Rate Increases"

MoneyNing. "Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Early?"

Free Money Finance. "A Great Way to Get a Degree Without Paying For It"

Fund My Mutual Fund. "Barron's: A Scare That Can Last Beyond Halloween (Technical Analysis)."

Financial Armageddon. "An Artificial High."

Dual Income No Kids. "Apartment Shopping? Three Tips for Rent Negotiation."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, Fund My Mutual Fund, Financial Armageddon, Blogging Away Debt, Northern Cheapskate...

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life. "National Unemployment Statistics: Job Losses at Record High."

Fund My Mutual Fund. "CALPERS (California Pension Plan) - Too Big to Fail, and Acting Like It."

Financial Armageddon. "Running Out of Options."

Blogging Away Debt. "Ways To Get By While On Unemployment..."

Northern Cheapskate. "Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel."

My Good Cents. "Pampers Extra Protection Diapers Sample." Plus other free stuff from Wal-Mart.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Veterans Dine For Free at Applebee's This Veterans Day (Wed, 11 NOV)

In recognition of your service to our country, all veterans and military service members are invited to eat free at Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar Restaurants this Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009.

As you may recall, Applebee's launched a pilot program last year on Veterans Day offering free entrees to military service members and Veterans. Because the response was so overwhelmingly positive, Applebee's is extending the invitation throughout the country this Year.

All U.S. Veterans and military service members with proof of current or former military service will eat free at all Applebee's nationwide on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009.
Proof of service includes:

* U.S. Uniform Services Identification Card,
* U.S. Uniform Services Retired Identification Card,
* Current Leave and Earnings Statement,
* Veterans Organization Card,
* Photograph in uniform
* Or wearing uniform.

For additional details, visit: or contact your local Applebees.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, Free Money Finance, Fund My Mutual Fund, My Two Dollars, Military Finance Network, Etc

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life. "Double Dip Recession: Why Dow 10,000 May Not Last."

Free Money Finance. "Interesting Money Facts."

Fund My Mutual Fund. "Inverse Correlation Between Stocks and the US Dollar in One Chart."

My Two Dollars. "Share With Your Neighbors at Neighbor Goods."

Military Finance Network. "2009 Veterans Day Discounts."

Northern Cheapskate. "Cool Ice Cream Coupons." It might be cold, but it's still comfort food.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

IRS Announces 2010 Pension and 401K Plan Limits Remain Unchanged

Donna Cheswick reports that pension and 401k contribution limits will remain unchanged in 2010.

I'm surprised. I thought that deflation would cause these limits to adjust about $500 lower.

Here's her article.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What Morningstar and Yahoo Finance Say About The No/Low Cost Dividend Reinvestment Plans I'm Actively Investing In (BHI, JNJ, MHP, WMT, XOM)

I'm actively buying in five dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPS). I like DRIPS because you have the opportunity of buying stocks for the long haul and significantly undercut transaction costs that you would otherwise experience at discount brokers.

I'm cautious on the overall stock market since we are due for an economic hangover when all of the stimulus spending dries up. That said, I'm willing to pick and choose from various stocks. I'm investing small monthly amounts in the following DRIPs:

Baker Hughes (BHI)
* No Economic Moat
* B Stewardship Grade
* Three Star Morningstar Rating
* 1.34% dividend yield
* 8.24% earnings yield
* 12.14 P/E ratio
* 10.21% Profit margin
* 10.01% Return on Assets
* 16.76% Return on Equity
* Zero Investing Fee (Periodic Non-Reoccurring Investments)
* Zero Dividend Reinvestment Fee
* Zero Auto-Invest Fee
* Drip Prospectus

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
* Wide Economic Moat
* C Stewardship Grade
* Five Star Morningstar Rating
* 3.08% dividend yield
* 7.37% earnings yield
* 13.57 P/E ratio
* 20.76% Profit margin
* 11.49% Return on Assets
* 27.49% Return on Equity
* Zero Investing Fee (Periodic Non-Reoccurring Investments)
* Zero Dividend Reinvestment Fee
* $1 Auto-Invest Fee
* Drip Prospectus

McGraw Hill (MHP)
* Wide Economic Moat
* C Stewardship Grade
* Under Review for Morningstar Rating
* 3.28% dividend yield
* 8.56% earnings yield
* 11.68 P/E ratio
* 12.06% Profit margin
* 13.21% Return on Assets
* 50.5% Return on Equity
* Zero Investing Fee (Periodic Non-Reoccurring Investments)
* Zero Dividend Reinvestment Fee
* Zero Auto-Invest Fee
* Drip Prospectus

Wal-Mart (WMT)
* Wide Economic Moat
* B Stewardship Grade
* Four Star Morningstar Rating
* 2.11% dividend yield
* 6.76% earnings yield
* 14.79 P/E ratio
* 3.32% Profit margin
* 8.61% Return on Assets
* 19.89% Return on Equity
* $1 to 5+10cents/share to Investing Fee (Periodic Non-Reoccurring Investments)
* Zero Dividend Reinvestment Fee
* $1 + 10cent/share Auto-Invest Fee... Charged $1.2 on my $200 monthly investment
* Drip Prospectus

Exxon Mobil (XOM)
* Wide Economic Moat
* B Stewardship Grade
* Five Star Morningstar Rating
* 2.37% dividend yield
* 8.99% earnings yield
* 11.12 P/E ratio
* 8.98% Profit margin
* 10.86% Return on Assets
* 26.92% Return on Equity
* Zero Investing Fee
* Zero Dividend Reinvestment Fee
* Zero Auto-Invest Fee
* Drip Prospectus

I generally like the above DRIPS because all of them but WMT have options for investing for zero fees once you have your first share set up. I'm investing in WMT because I believe in their long-lasting competitive advantage over all other retailers. I'm willing to pay the modest $1.2 on my $200 monthly investments with WMT because I know that once I have a large enough position established, all dividend reinvestment is free.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Deadbeat Banks? Here's a List of Banks Who Have Failed to Make Their August TARP Dividend Payment

Don't have access to the list of banks on the FDIC watch list? We'll here's another list of banks with going financial concerns. has published this list of 33 banks that have failed to make their required August TARP dividend payment to the U.S. Government.


Reference (Yahoo post)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, Free Money Finance, Fund My Mutual Fund, Mighty Bargain Hunter, My Two Dollars

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life. "Family Finances: How is Your Financial Status?"

Free Money Finance. "10 Ways to Lower Your Taxes."

Fund My Mutual Fund. Three CNBC World videos that present "real" world assessments of the U.S. Economy.

Intro video

Continuation video (discusses a proposed invisible hand affecting TARP stocks)

Continuation video discussing unemployment rate, etc.

Mighty Bargain Hunter. "Before You Hire a Computer Geek, Check Out This Free Website."

My Two Dollars. "The Big List: 1,019 Different Ways to Save Money."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Retirement Relocation: Consider All Taxes When Figuring Out Savings

I found an excellent article from the Orlando Sentinel written by Ms. Mary Beth Franklin. I will summarize.

States without income tax:
(1.) Alaska
(2.) Florida
(3.) Nevada
(4.) South Dakota
(5.) Texas
(6.) Washington
(7.) Wyoming
(8.) New Hampshire (tax only dividend and interest income beyond certain limits).
(9.) Tennessee (tax only dividend and interest income beyond certain limits

States that exclude federal, military and in-state government pensions from taxes:
(1.) Alabama
(2.) Hawaii
(3.) Illinois
(4.) Kansas (taxes public pensions from other states).
(5.) Louisiana
(6.) Massachusetts
(7.) Michigan
(8.) Mississippi (exempt all retirement income, including IRA and 401(k) distributions).
(9.) New York
(10.) Pennsylvania (exempt all retirement income, including IRA and 401(k) distributions).

States tough on retirees:
(1.) California (9.55 percent tax on income less than $1 million).
(2.) Rhode Island (9.9 percent income tax).
(3.) Vermont (9.5 percent income tax).

Do not tax Social Security Benefits:
(1.) Alabama
(2.) Arizona
(3.) Arkansas
(4.) California
(5.) Delaware
(6.) District of Columbia
(7.) Georgia
(8.) Hawaii
(9.) Idaho
(10.) Illinois
(11.) Indiana
(12.) Kentucky
(13.) Louisiana
(14.) Maine
(15.) Maryland
(16.) Massachusetts
(17.) Michigan
(18.) Mississippi
(19.) New Jersey
(20.) New York
(21.) North Carolina
(22.) Ohio
(23.) Oklahoma
(24.) Oregon
(25.) Pennsylvania
(26.) South Carolina
(27.) Virginia
(28.) Wisconsin

States without a sales tax:
(1.) Alaska
(2.) Delaware
(3.) Montana
(4.) New Hampshire
(5.) Oregon

States with notable sales tax amounts:
(1.) California (8.25 percent)
(2.) Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Tennessee (7 percent).

States that do not allow municipalities to levy local sales taxes:
(1.) Connecticut
(2.) Kentucky
(3.) Maine

States with lowest property taxes (from lowest to highest):
(1.) Louisiana
(2.) Alabama
(3.) West Virginia
(4.) Mississippi
(5.) Arkansas

States with the highest property taxes (from highest to lowest):
(1.) New Jersey
(2.) New Hampshire
(3.) Connecticut
(4.) New York
(5.) Rhode Island

In my own opinion it's best to focus on states without pension/retirement income taxes and relatively low property taxes.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

8 Ways Car Dealers Make Money Off of You

Mr and Mrs Plugged in Finance will likely be buying a new or used car between this December and next Spring. The newer car will be purchased to replace our 1998 Acura CL. I typically do car research at:

Edmunds Daily
Yahoo Cars

Tonight, I came across a great article with a title similar to that of this post. In summary, car dealers make money off of you in the following ways:

(1.) Mark-up
(2.) Hold back and advertising
(3.) Undervaluing a trade-in
(4.) 4 Pack
(5.) Customer service fee
(6.) Bump-stickers
(7.) Service contract
(8.) Holding points of rate

Click here for the full article.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Prosper Peer-to-Peer Lending Getting With the Program

I haven't made a loan at Prosper since Oct 2008. Since 2006, I have entered into nearly $5000 in loans. Many of them risky. My net gain/loss has been ($38.35) at Prosper. I still have 32 active loans at Prosper and I suspect that before it's all over i'll eeck out a few dollars in gains.

I have been reinvesting my blog's earnings at Lending Club in $25 loans and have had nice returns (~9%). Initially, I hated the Lending Club interface (as compared with However, I have grown use to Lending Club. I particularly like the fact that you can bid a minimum of $25 on loans. The time spent searching for loans hardly justifies minimum $25 bids unless you approach it from a hobby perspective.

I had almost written off Prosper until I got the below email announcing they have switched to $25 minimum initial investments and have a new risk rating system. Now, I will at least reconsider reinvesting my existing Prosper loan distributions (in safer loans this time).

All of us at Prosper would like to thank you for investing through our marketplace. We are eager to have you come back to Prosper to invest in your fellow Americans once more.

As you may have heard, we're now offering several additions to our marketplace, like an Improved Risk Rating System. We've also lowered our minimum bid to $25, so you can better diversify by bidding on more loans.

Since our relaunch we have seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of listings. In fact the average credit score of listings in the marketplace has improved to 700 in the first month since re-launch. And 16% of the listings have a Prosper Rating of AA to B.

These tough economic times require a new approach to investing and Prosper provides you with the transparency and best-in-class rating system you deserve.

Please consider coming back to lend on Prosper – you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are helping your fellow Americans get the loan they need.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: Free Money Finance, Fund My Mutual Fund, Darwin's Finance, Northern Cheapskate, Paper Economy and Others

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

Free Money Finance. "Why Annuities Are a Bad Investment."

Fund My Mutual Fund. "Ron Paul With Dylan Ratigan."

Darwin's Finance. "Price to Earnings Ratios Gone Wild - A Measure for Investors to Follow?" This is a good recap of a more robust Business Week article. Good charts included in Darwin's article. Click through to Business Week article for additional charts.

Northern Cheapskate. "Free Will And Trust Kit From Suze Orman."

Paper Economy. "New Home Sales: Aug 2009."

Financial Armageddon. "Another Crop of Interesting Indicators." Indicators like the Hot Waitress Index, etc.

The No-Spend Zone. "Flying Free (Or Rather Insanely Cheap)"

Military Money Might. "A Sample Dispute Letter to Send to The Credit Reporting Agencies."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting a Free Breakfast (You Can Too)

Just went to a few websites and got several free cereal samples.

* Kashi Honey Sunshine Cereal. Got to free sample form.
* Fiber One Cereal. Go to free sample form.
* Total Blueberry Pomegranate. Go to free sample form.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: Free Money Finance, Darwin's Finance and Dividends 4 Life

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

Free Money Finance. "Dirty Little Money-Grubbing Healthcare Secrets."

Darwin's Finance. "Best Places to Work: Surprising Survey Results and Analysis."

Dividends 4 Life. "Building Retirement Income Streams With Dividend Stocks."

Finally, the following article was not from a site that shares a link with Plugged in Finance. It's useful in that it maps out the United States and shows forecasted date ranges for when U.S. region housing prices will hit their peak in price again: Dr. Housing Bubble Article.

Monday, September 07, 2009

IRS Lowering 401K Maximum Contribution Limits in 2010?

One of the common pillars of retirement advice is to "save more." Some people who have watched their 401Ks slide into the realm of 201K are seriously considering investing more in an effort to catch up. If you're in this group, you might be in for a rude awakening in 2010.

The IRS determines 401K maximum contribution limits based on a formula using 3rd quarter consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U). In the recent past, the CPI-U has pushed higher each and every time the IRS did their calculations. However, in Oct 2009 the 3rd quarter CPI-U value may very well be lower than in 2008. Since March 2009, the CPI-U has come in lower than its corresponding 2008 value. What does this mean for 401K maximum contributions? Well, it means they could go lower. Initial thoughts are that 401K maximum contributions could be about $500 lower in 2010.

Here's an Associated Press article that talks about it more.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, Free Money Finance, Fund My Mutual Fund, Dual Income No Kids Finance, My Open Wallet

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life. "Pet Care Costs: How Much Does Your Dog or Cat Cost."

Free Money Finance. "What Do You Plan to do in Retirement."

Fund My Mutual Fund had this CNBC video on his website. I find it very interesting that something bad in the markets may be lurking.

Dual Income No Kids. "Track Investments With" Article shows cool red/green color coding comparison of individual investor's performance relative to broader indices.

My Open Wallet. "Unintended Consequences: 401Ks Mean Fewer Jobs for Younger People." Excellent article. In a tangential way, I infer from this article an increased importance in the need for universal health care for U.S. citizens to help ensure a stronger socio-economic safety net.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

New Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Features

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) upgrades were included in the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act" legislation as riders.

Four key planned features were addressed:

(1.) Roth 401(k) option. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board states that it could have the ROTH option ready in one to two years. Most recently, I have read mid-2011 on some sites for ROTH-TSP implementation.

(2.) Automatic enrollment of new federal civilian employees. Contributions would go directly to the G-Fund. Employees would have 90 days to opt out and receive a full refund. The bill left it up to DoD as to whether or not military personnel will be automatically enrolled. DoD has stated that they will automatically enroll personnel in TSP once the ROTH-TSP option is implemented.

(3.) Survivor benefit that would let spouses of deceased TSP participants maintain accounts.

(4.) Mutual fund option that would let participants invest TSP funds in select private sector mutual funds. The Army Times reported that:

It's far from certain that the TSP board will follow through and offer a mutual fund option. Executive Director Gregory Long has described the board's attitude toward mutual funds as "agnostic," though he added that such an option in the TSP could be a "proving ground" for different investment options and could dissuade lawmakers or third-party groups from trying to add new funds to the plan.

You might also be interested to know that TSP now has a feature called the Personal Investment Performance (PIP) number. Your PIP truly reflects your own TSP return.
"The Personal Investment Performance (PIP) number is a combined rate of return earned on all of the funds you held in your TSP account during the year covered by the annual statement. Your personal performance is based on the performance of your investments and on the timing and amount of your purchases (e.g., contributions) and redemptions (e.g., loans and withdrawals) as well as the effect of any interfund transfers. Therefore, your personal performance may differ substantially from the performance of the investments themselves. The TSP uses the Modified Dietz method to calculate Personal Investment Performance. The Modified Dietz method weights individual cash flows by the amount of time that those cash flows are held in the portfolio. This method of calculation is widely used by financial analysts and investment managers to measure the time-weighted returns of investment portfolios." Source: Alamo Gordon News, 6 AUG 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Eighteen Free Entries in Texaco Performance Game: Win a Camaro, Free Gas For Year, $5 Gas Card

Today is the last day of the Texaco Performance give away. I have 18 unused contest codes that I will not be able to use (site limits you to one per day). Feel free to use my left over codes. Contest ends tonight at 1159 PM CST. Contest open to 18 yr olds and over who are legal residents of: AL, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, LA, MS, NC, NM, NV, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, WA, WV and WY. Good luck!

(2.) GBMSW56C
(3.) X65QKWPT
(4.) HJL3QD5F
(5.) PC7XNV2S
(6.) K9Q75ZJC
(7.) G9JBS84P
(8.) JHFKC62N
(9.) Q64NJ7DV
(10.) QLMWR9J6
(11.) CK57QG43
(12.) G9QC8F73
(13.) PSL7J4R5
(14.) XGMZ9W63
(15.) 9SR6WQ7F
(16.) 3VDQ8HPK
(17.) 4MC8PQTB
(18.) 4FCP2DMH

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, MoneyNing, Mighty Bargain Hunter, Darwin's Finance, Military Finance Network, etc.

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life. "California Unemployment Rate History: A Visual Guide."

MoneyNing. "Finally, An Online Savings Account Raises Rates."

Mighty Bargain Hunter. "Bargain Hunting Miles and Points With Credit Cards." The author brings up a good strategy called "stacking."

Darwin's Finance. "Corporate Pension Plan Shortfall - The Next Crisis?"

Military Finance Network. "Free Stock Trades at Zecco - 20 Trades for New Customers"

Trading Goddess. "Marijuana, LSD and Cocaine are now Legal in Mexico: Will it Help the Mexican Economy?"

Lending Club Peer-2-Peer Lending Update (Up 9%)

I have been using Lending Club since November 2008. Back then, I decided to use the site as an exclusive reinvestment point for my Plugged in Finance website earnings. Since then, I have invested 80% of my site's earnings across 48 loans. Each investment is for the minimum amount of $25. It's a time intensive, yet rewarding hobby.

I embarked on this hobby principally because I knew I could do a better job than what I did at At Prosper, I loaned over $5000 out and as of this weekend have a net loss of $45. Initially, I was very successful at Prosper. At first, I had a 78 loan portfolio with zero delinquents. I eventually got very cocky and took on way to much risk. I transitioned the average interest rate on my portfolio from 17.5% to 21.5%. Bad move.

Today, I'm far more conservative at Lending Club. I am only lending to those:

* In the military
* In Federal or state civil service
* In health care
* Frequently only those that have been in their job for a minimum of 3 years.
* With less than 20% debt-to-income
* Zero delinquencies last two years
* Loan request no more than three times documented gross income

My loan portfolio stats are:
Total Loans (48): $1052.12
Charged Off (0): $0
In Funding (2): $50
Issued & Current (44): $1002.12
Late 16 - 30 days (0): $0
Late 31 - 120 days (0): $0
Fully Paid (2): $0
Default (0): $0

Weighted Average Rate: 11.84%
Expected Monthly Payments: $36.21
Accrued Interest: $6.37
Payments to Date: $183.73
Principal: $148.46
Interest: $35.27
Late Fees Received: $0

Loan Distro:

Lending Club states that my weighted average rate is 11.84% and my net annualized return is 11.94%. But, the nasty little secret is that Lending Club's formula for determining account returns does not factor in sold loans. Why not? I have no clue. When you factor in that I sold two of my loans at a loss, my net annualized return is closer to 9%. My goal was for a net return of 8.4% or better. So, I'm happy with the results to date.

I sold two of my loans that were in the 16-30 day late category. I sold one of the loans for a $7 loss and the other loan for a $3 loss. The first loan continued to deteriorate. The second loan ended up returning to a current status before I could cancel my sale.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Finished Paying Off 401K Loan Ahead of Schedule

In Apr 2006 we took out $26k at 4.5% from my 401K for the down payment on our primary residence. We added this to the $17.8k we had and put 20% down to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). The remaining balance was financed with a 15 yr fixed at 5%.

The 401K loan was actually taken out from my military Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Interest paid is redeposited back into my TSP account. I always like using TSP loans whenever I'm buying a house or need emergency funds. The interest is getting paid back to you and my military job is quite secure. Anybody using a 401K loan in a secure job since 2000 has fared fine since the stock market has done poorly and you would have paid the interest to yourself.

Ten months ago I targeted a payoff date of Sep 2009 for this TSP loan. My wife and I were happy when we were able to cut a check for $7900 this month and pay the loan off ahead of time. This puts my TSP balance at $52.7k. I'm fine with having only $52.7k in my TSP since this is a back-up to my military pension which should be a minimum $40k a year if I get no more promotions and stay in another 81 months. I actually intend to stay in much longer (15 more years) if I get promoted to O-5 (Commander), equal to Lieutenant Colonel in Army & Air Force.

We still have one more TSP loan with a balance of $23.5k. This last loan was taken with an interest rate of 2.75% payable over 5 years. We needed this for $23k in exterior repairs at one of our investment properties. We currently plan on letting this loan run close to the full 5 years. In the mean time, we will funnel most of our spare cash to paying off all three of our investment properties.

Ten months ago we also set a goal of paying off our least expensive investment property in March of 2010. We bought the property for $86.8k in January 2005. It currently appraises for $140.5k and we owe $19.7k left on it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: MoneyNing, Dividends 4 Life, Military Money Might and Paper Economy

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

MoneyNing. "Rental Property vs. REIT." We already have three investment properties (3200 sq ft, 1900 sq ft and 1450 sq ft homes). I'm seriously thinking about investing some in REITs.

Dividends 4 Life. "The Social Security Blues." At the end of this article he also recommends four dividend stocks. I own two of them (JNJ & WMT) via low cost dividend reinvestment plans.

Military Money Might. "Military Spouses Can Receive a Grant of Up To $6,000 a Year For College."

Paper Economy. "Two Great Bounces." This is a chart overlay of the initial bull rally in the Great Depression Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Great Recession S&P 500. Writer implies that our recent rally is similar to that seen in the Great Depression and that our current rally may be drawing to an end in favor of a bear market slide.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Net Worth Up 9.13% Over Last 12 Months

One year ago today I started to keep a monthly log of our net worth. In the past, I would overwrite monthly updates.

Here's a graphical representation of our month over month gains in net worth. Click to enlarge graph.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just Made My First Stock Options Trade Ever: Made 21.25% Gain in Starbucks

I bought 3 call options (equivalent to 300 shares) in Starbucks with a Jan 2010 strike price of $15 for $4 a share in Apr 2008. The stock was trading at around $14.50 when I bought the call options. I just sold the call options (yesterday) at $4.85 a share for a 21.25% gain.

You can make or lose money quickly in options. I remember that within the first 30 days I was up over 20%. Unfortunately, I never cashed out early and held the options for a lot of ups and downs.

Had I bought the call options in March of this year I would be up far more. That's ok. At least now I'm developing some initial confidence in options trading.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Three Year Best Buy Laptop Warranty Already Paid for Itself (Despite Geek Squad's Initial Diagnosis)

I picked up my fixed laptop yesterday. I had gone without it for just over three weeks. My track record with laptops has been pretty bad. I have spent $4.8k across three laptops since 2004. I'm on my third laptop as we speak and have learned not to buy the $2k laptops any more. Instead, i'm using a $400 HP with a three year warranty that cost almost as much as the laptop. =(

Three weeks ago I was having problems with doing a successful system recovery using the original factory recovery disks. I attempted a system recovery two times because I had too much malware on my computer and the free AVG adaware program wasn't keeping my system clean.

When I dropped off my laptop, I was surprised to hear that the Best Buy warranty does not cover software problems. A software problem would have to be fixed at owners expense, regardless of the existing warranty.

I acknowledged this and turned my laptop over. All the while, I was expecting Geek Squad to discover that my laptop had "software issues." A few days later Geek Squad told me that they were unable to find any hardware issues with my computer and that I had the option to ship it anyways to their depot repair facility for a second opinion. Glad I did. Had I not done so, I would have been forced to deal with a perceived "software problem" on my own.

Best Buy's depot repair facility fixed my computer at no cost to me. The repair ticket cited the replacement of a "palm rest" at a total cost of $347.22 (covered by warranty). I'm not convinced that my "palm rest" was broken, but I'm happy nonetheless to recieve the laptop back in working condition.

I have had good luck w/ warranties dating back to 2004. Besides this repair, I have spilled soda on my other computers twice and had them fixed despite warranty limitations on liquid spill repairs.

Monday, July 27, 2009

U.S. Vows to Have Unsustainable Federal Deficits in 2010, Maybe 2011 and Perhaps 2012

Just found an interesting Bloomberg article discussing Treasury Secretary Geithner's comments at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue talks under President Obama in Washington DC. Geithner's comments were made to Chinese in attendance. His comments appeared to be in conjunction with a receptive Chinese audience worried about the falling value of $801.5 billion in US Treasury Holdings.

I wonder if the reason the Administration is not asserting an earlier deadline for reigning in deficits is due to an attitude that Americans don't really care about the deficit and that the Administration should instead worry about whatever else it takes to get re-elected.

You won't find my article's title explicitly stated in the referenced Bloomberg article. Instead the article states U.S. assures concerned China that it will ensure a sustainable deficit by 2013.

Bloomberg article.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In Goldman Sachs (GS) We Trust. Goldman Sachs Has Uncle Sam in It's Back Pocket. A Glenn Beck Video.

Thanks to Fund My Mutual Fund for finding this excellent, albeit lengthy video clip from Glenn Beck. It covers so well the fact that the degrees of separation between our Government and Goldman Sachs aren't as significant as you might think.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: The Digerati Life, Fund My Mutual Fund and Military Finance Network

Here's several recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

The Digerati Life - "Recessions And The State of Our Economy: A Visual Primer" Link.

Fund My Mutual Fund - "Weekend Reading." Link. I find particularly interesting the lead off article about no return to full employment till 2015.

Military Finance Network - "Cash for Clunkers Information." Link.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Just Finished Spending $23k in Investment Property Repairs

I've been plowing money into repairs at the first house I ever bought. It's a 16 year old, two story, 1900 sq ft house in Mobile, AL. I bought it in 2001 for $128k. I converted it into a rental in 2003 and have had the same tenants in it ever since. estimates the value of this property at $194,500.

I've spent $23k in maintenance in repairs since January 2009. I ended up picking a contractor that I've known over 20 years. I experienced some additional travel expenses because the contractor lived 70 miles away from my investment property. The additional cost was worth it. Here's my bill

Front Porch: $1352.20
Back Steps: $615.18
Back Deck: $3377.01
Back Door: $750.00
GFCI Outlet: $50.00
Repair & Replace Siding: $217.12
Pressure Wash House: $800.00
Trim Trees: $200.00
Trash Disposal: $350.00
Repair Carport Post: $50.00
Chimney & Window Trim: $1508.69
Rental on Lift: $600.00
Nails & Caulk: $100.00
Fuel & Travel: $250.00
Paint: $750.00
Front Door: $1150.00
Chimney: $3000.00
Paint House & Carport: $3600.00
Chimney Cap: $176.00
Columns: $750.00
33 Days Travel: $825.00
Window Screens: $120.00
Sconces: $230.00
Dormer Corner Boards: $200.00
Repair & Replace Siding (Back Wall): $1,200.00
Repair & Replace Soffit & Facia (North): $500.00
Repair & Replace Soffit & Facia (South): $300.00
Permit Fee: $51.00
Front Door Peep Hole: $20.00
Wasp & Hornet: $25.00
Replace Door Lock: $35.00

The roof has been weather beaten by the tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes that have hit the coast. It will need to be replaced sometime in the next 5 years. I hope the tenants continue to rent indefinitely.

Besides the roof, I really shouldn't have any other significant exterior expenses on the house for the next 10 to 20 years.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The and NHTSA American Made Index (Use These Car Lists to Aid You in Buying American) recently released its list of the top 10 U.S. built cars by domestic content. New to the list are the Ford Taurus, Toyota Camry and Toyota Venza. Finally, we're starting to get some decent cars on the list. Last year, the only real family sedan on the list was the Chevy Malibu.

I believe heavily in the need for us to buy American. Our government doesn't have the cohenes to impose any strict buy American policies to buoy our labor markets. A buy American stance is sorely needed to help us erase some of the job losses that have driven our national unemployment rate to nearly 10%.

Here's the list:

Rank Make/Model U.S. Assembly Location (Last Rank)

1. Toyota Camry, Georgetown, Ky.; Lafayette, Ind. (-)

2. Ford F-150, Dearborn, Mich.; Claycomo, Mo. (1)

3. Chevrolet Malibu, Kansas City, Kan. (3)

4. Honda Odyssey, Lincoln, Ala. (7)

5. Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Fort Wayne, Ind. (8)

6. Toyota Sienna, Princeton, Ind. (6)

7. Toyota Tundra, San Antonio (5)

8. GMC Sierra 1500, Fort Wayne, Ind. (—)

9. Ford Taurus, Chicago (—)

10. Toyota Venza, Georgetown, Ky. (-)

NHTSA has a separate list of top domestic content cars. It ignores sales volume and is based exclusively on domestic content. The NHTSA list is:

Make/Model Domestic-parts content Assembly location

1. Ford Taurus 90 percent Chicago

2. Lincoln MKS 85 percent Chicago

3. Toyota Sienna 85 percent Princeton, Ind.

4. GMC Savana 1500 82 percent Wentzville, Mo.

5. Chevrolet Express 1500 82 percent Wentzville, Mo.

6. Buick Lucerne 81 percent Detroit

7. Chevrolet Malibu 80 percent Kansas City, Kan.

8. Honda Odyssey 80 percent Lincoln, Ala.

9. Toyota Avalon 80 percent Georgetown, Ky.

10. Toyota Tundra 80 percent San Antonio

11. Toyota Venza 80 percent Georgetown, Ky.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: Free Money Finance, Financial Armageddon, Darwin's Finance, Northern Cheapskate, Bullish Bankers & Others

Here's some recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

Free Money Finance. "Top Ten Mistakes Candidates Make in an Initial Interview." Article.

Financial Armageddon. "Latest Food Stamp Data Makes for Sober Reading." Article.

Darwin's Finance. "Minimum Wage Increase Coming - Is it Right?" Article.

Northern Cheapskate. "Restaurant and Beverage Deals Abound." Article.

Bullish Bankers. "McDonald’s New Angus Burger – A Green Shoot? Article.

Dividends 4 Life. "Looking For Strong Dividend Growth Metrics." Article.

Everyday Finance. "Is Goldman Sachs Responsible For Every Bubble?" Article.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Setting Up Your Garage Sale: Some Tips From The Pros

A garage sale is an excellent way to clear out the stuff you don't use or would otherwise waste money on for storage. Here are some great tips from "St. Louis Today."

(1.) Ditch the sale of clothes. Unless you are selling baby or kids clothes, all other items sell poorly. Perhaps you can make better money selling them at a consignment store.

(2.) Check out a few garage sales in your area to see how things are being priced. Also use brightly colored stickers when you price your goods.

(3.) Pick a date and time and advertise well in advance. Wed, Fri and Sat starts at 7am seem to be the norm. Don't advertise a closing time.

(4.) Clean your garage and groom your yard. Houses with curb appeal tend to draw more buyers.

(5.) Set up for your sale the night before.

(6.) Prepare for early birds (1-2 hr early arrivers) or advertise no early birds.

(7.) Everything is negotiable.

(8.) Take down your signs after closing and count the cash!

Read here for the actual article.

My experience with organizing my own garage sales is that a majority of items sell in the first hour. Sales after the 2 hour point are few and far between.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Is The Plunge Protection Team Manipulating Markets?

The President's Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG), also known as The Plunge Protection Team, released a statement in Oct 2008. It states:

The diversity of institutions and markets under stress, and the magnitude and complexity of the adjustment underway, requires that the tools available to policy makers, regulators and supervisors be used in forceful and coordinated ways across regulatory and supervisory agencies in the United States and throughout the world. This will involve moving with substantial force on a number of fronts.

Wikipedia states:

Financial writers for British newspapers The Observer and The Daily Telegraph, along with U.S. Congressman Ron Paul and writers Kevin Phillips (who claims “no personal firsthand knowledge” and is “not interested in becoming a conspiracy investigator”) [7] and John Crudele,[8] have charged the Working Group with going beyond their legal mandate. Claims about the Working Group, which are labeled conspiracy theories by some writers, generally include that it is an orchestrated mechanism that attempts to manipulate U.S. stock markets in the event of a market crash by using government funds to buy stocks, or other instruments such as stock index futures—acts which are forbidden by law. In August 2005, Sprott Asset Management released a report that argued that there is little doubt that the PPT intervened to protect the stock market.[9] However, these articles usually refer to the Working Group using moral suasion to attempt to convince banks to buy stock index futures. [10]

Get Rick Slick posted an article titled "Plunge Protection Team Alive and Well." The site included this video clip from Bloomberg allowing readers to infer that the Plunge Protection Team was the invisible hand behind our recently buoyed financial markets.

Here's another guy making the assertion that the Plunge Protection Team intervened on Oct 10 and Oct 28, 2008.

You can find more videos related to the Plunge Protection Team at YouTube. To date, most of the assertions about the Plunge Protection Team manipulating the stock markets has been categorized as conspiracy theories. I find interesting one assertion that the Plunge Protection Team may be manipulating Goldman Sachs to make trades on behalf of the Plunge Protection Team (source).

I remain interested and cautiously skeptical of assertions about the Plunge Protection Team. I believe that Government has a need to manipulate financial markets, but I haven't yet been able to find a high level member of the Plunge Protection Team inadvertently disclosing enough info to confirm the alleged "conspiracy ideas."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Just Got a Utility Discount and Free Rent From my Apartment Complex

We've been living in an apartment since arriving in Washington state in August 2008. We decided to rent since real estate is expensive up here and because we'll only be here for about two years.

We like our apartment and have paid on time for 11 months. Three weeks ago I got a surprise when I noticed a letter attached to our door. It notified us that if we renewed our 12 month lease early we'd be able to get one month free rent and 10% off our water & trash bill. We sat on the offer for two weeks because my wife was a bit interested in moving closer to her job. Eventually, she decided that it was a good deal and we renewed the lease.

This is the third time i've lived in an apartment as an adult. The first time we broke the lease after living there for just 3 months (we found a house we liked). The second time I was in grad school.

My advice to those living in or considering an apartment:

(1.) If you are already residing in an apartment complex, check the apartment's website for current rates. I found that the rate for our floor plan actually decreased by $15 per month. Had I not looked at the website, I would not have been able to renegotiate a lower rate.

(2.) Some apartment complexes are actually willing to negotiate your lease payment. They would rather minimize the # of months an apartment is vacant and will sometimes entertain rates that are below what's advertised on their website.

(3.) If you're moving into an apartment, check the cable jack before calling to get your cable turned on. In one of three apartments I've lived in, the cable jack was already hot. The cable company was a bit lazy and never turned off the cable from the prior tenant. Had I known this, I would have got free cable until they figured out their error. This was in 2001. I'm not sure if cable companies have gotten any better with service terminations.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Net Worth Up $8k in June

Our household net worth is up $8k for the month of June on $9k in take home pay. We didn't lose any significant money in the stock market. We had no maintenance expenses for our vehicles and $300 in maintenance for one of our three investment properties. The $8k gain in our net worth can be attributed to saved income and equity gains in our rental properties.

Recommended Personal Finance Articles From: Free Money Finance, My Two Dollars, Financial Armageddon, Money Smart Life, and Others

Here's some recommended articles from those sites that share links with Plugged in Finance. I hope they are of use to you.

Free Money Finance - "Wealth Without Wall Street" <- Great article!

My Two Dollars - "What Your Moving Company Won’t Tell You Until You Sign The Paperwork"

Financial Armageddon - "Scenes From a Downturn"

Money Smart Life - "Start A Side Business in The Lazy Days of Summer"

Military Finance Network - "Roth TSP May Be Further Off Than Anticipated"

Fund My Mutual Fund - "Bloomberg: Correlation Among Asset Classes Highest Ever"

Financial Fitness - "Brought LR2 Home Yesterday" Highlights use of ""

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What Your Home Will be Worth in 2012

Yahoo Real Estate had a good article earlier this week on 10 real estate markets. Yahoo worked with FISERV to analyze real estate data across the U.S. and predicts that real estate prices will start to stabilize around the fourth quarter of 2011 when prices will inch up slightly.

My take, watch unemployment numbers. Our economy is already spiraling lower than what was predicted by the White House. The White House predicted that the peak unemployment rate would be 8% if its Stimulus package was passed. Since unemployment is now at 9.4%, we know that the White House estimates are off by at least 17.5% [(9.4-8)/8 * 100 = 17.5].

Foreclosure activity is also important. The moratorium on foreclosure activity ended in March. In the last three months, there were almost one-million foreclosure filings. For the month of May alone, foreclosure filings were up 18% from May 2008. In May, one if every 398 households got a foreclosure notice. (Source: Moneynews)

Finally, consider the months of unsold pre-existing home inventory on hand. The real estate market will continue to be a sellers market until the months of unsold pre-existing homes on the market drops to six months. Our nation's ability to get to a six month inventory of unsold pre-existing homes depends greatly on trends in new home construction. If builders continue to add new homes to the market, pre-existing unsold home inventory will continue to remain higher than historical averages.

Enough about my opinion, here is what Yahoo Real Estate estimates for 10 real estate markets:

1. New York
Metro: New York-White Plains-Wayne (N.Y.-N.J.)
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $343,937
Q4 2008 price: $440,000
Projected price change by MSA: -21.8%
Projected price change by state: -15.6%

One of the metros with the highest housing prices in the nation, the New York-White Plains-Wayne area is projected to have the third-largest drop in the country, behind Los Angeles and Tampa. Analysts predict that 2009 and 2010 will be the worst years, and then home prices will stabilize. Of particular concern is the impact that the crisis in the financial industry, one of the area's largest employers, has had on the housing market. From banker to back-office staff, thousands lost their jobs or saw their incomes slashed. As Wall Street strengthens, so will real estate prices.

2. California
Metro: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $253,328
Q4 2008 price: $350,000
Projected price change by MSA: -27.6%
Projected price change by state: -13.2%

Los Angeles, best known as the home of Hollywood, is home to excellent universities such as the University of Southern California and large corporations such as aerospace contractor Northrop Grumman. Southern California has been particularly damaged by the downturn in the housing market and home values are expected to remain soft.

3. Illinois
Metro: Chicago-Naperville-Joliet
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $248,136
Q4 2008 price: $247,000
Projected price change by MSA: +0.5%
Projected price change by state: +0.6%

Chicago, hometown of President Barack Obama, is the third-largest city in the U.S. and a financial center. The city is famous for its architecture, museums, nightlife, and deep-dish pizza. The area's top employers include Jewel-Osco supermarkets, United Airlines, and J.P. Morgan.

4. Pennsylvania
Metro: Philadelphia
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $171,347
Q4 2008 price: $195,000
Projected price change by MSA: -12.1%
Projected price change by state: -3.6%

This year, prices in the nation's fifth-largest metropolitan area are projected to fall 11.6%. Housing prices in the suburbs remain expensive but have still dropped in price. Real estate in Center City also has seen significant declines but will begin to turn around in 2011.

5. Texas
Metro: Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $160,471
Q4 2008 price: $160,000
Projected price change by MSA: 0.3%
Projected price change by state: -0.1%

Texas in general and Houston in particular have been spared the worst of the downturn, thanks in large part to the energy industry. The sixth-largest metropolitan area in the country will hold steady over the next four years. Prices are expected to dip a bit in 2009 and 2010, but regain ground by 2012.

6. Georgia
Metro: Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $182,199
Q4 2008 price: $182,000
Projected price change by MSA*: +0.1%
Projected price change by state: +0.3%

Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, has seen its home price declines slow. Prices dropped about 1% in March from to the previous month but were down 16% from a year earlier. The Atlanta metro is home to many of the nation's largest companies including Delta Airlines, CNN, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot.

7. District of Columbia
Metro: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $306,398
Q4 2008 price: $330,000
Projected price change by MSA: -7.2%
Projected price change by state: -11.5%

The DC area is one of the nation's few economic bright spots and has been somewhat buffered from the recession because of its government and defense contractor jobs. Another bright spot is its popular tourist attractions, which bring in millions of visitors every year to fill its museums, hotels, and restaurants. However, home prices will remain down through 2010 and will come back in 2011.

8. Massachusetts
Metro: Boston-Quincy
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $294,741
Q4 2008 price: $320,000
Projected price change by MSA: -7.9%
Projected price change by state: -3.2%

Boston is a historic city with large hospitals and world-class universities such as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But while education and health services have been strong, the construction, leisure, financial, and transportation industries have all taken a hit. Home prices will begin to normalize in 2011 and be up more than 7% year-over-year in 2012.

9. Arizona
Metro: Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $141,859
Q4 2008 price: $169,000
Projected price change by MSA: -16.1%
Projected price change by state: -17.2%

Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale is one of the worst-hit housing markets in the country. Retirees, empty-nesters, and others flocked to the area during the boom for its warm weather, relative affordability, and recreational opportunities. And so did builders. Many of the new homes built during the boom have since been repossessed.

10. Washington
Metro: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett
What a Home Will Be Worth in 2012: $413,966
Q4 2008 price: $395,000
Projected price change by MSA: +4.8%
Projected price change by state: +5.4%

Relatively protected by the presence of tech giant Microsoft and airplane maker Boeing, after a nearly 10% drop in 2008, analysts project an 8.7% decrease this year, followed by gains. (Source: Yahoo Real Estate)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Something I Never Thought I Would See on The White House's Website

This isn't personal finance related but you gotta love this hokie video of the President dunking and egging kids to dunk his Senior White House Staff.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Numbers on Welfare See Sharp Increase Year-Over-Year (OR +27.2%, SC +23.1%, WA +18.3%, CO +16%, MD +14.2%...)

Just read a good WSJ article discussing the nationwide increases seen in the number of welfare recipients.


* Twenty-three of the thirty largest states have seen an annual increase in welfare case loads. The biggest increases are generally found in the states with the highest unemployment rates.

* Welfare cases peaked at above 5 million in 1995. In Sep 2008, most recent date on record, the number of welfare cases were 1.6 million.

* The number of food stamp recipients has increased over the last year at a greater rate than welfare recipients. The criteria to qualify for food stamps is easier than qualifying for welfare. In general, people with an income less than $2297 per month can qualify for food stamps. Additional details on food stamp programs can be found at the US Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) site.

* Average monthly welfare benefit in 2006 was $372 (Source: Sarah Murray)

Annual shift in welfare usage among top 30 most populous states (Source).

Cash For Clunkers: Short AP Video Describing Program and How to Qualify

I despise government bail outs. But, they are news and if you can take advantage of them you must. If you don't gain from them out spite, you're a double loser in that you get nothing out of them now and you pay higher taxes in the future to cover the cost.

Hey government, why doesn't my 27 mpg 1998 Acura qualify too? I'd be happy using the credit for a 37 mpg or more car! I guess Congress didn't want owners of cars like mine to qualify because our subsequent purchase might be less profitable to the auto manufactures.

Here's the video:

Those who qualify for the cash for clunkers incentive may have to move fast. I hear there is only $1 billion reserved for the program.

Treasury Department Issues Emergency Recall of All US Dollars (Hoax - Video)

Don't like our spiraling national debt? Here's another good video for comic relief.

Treasury Department Issues Emergency Recall Of All US Dollars

US to Trade Gold Reserves for Cash via Cash for Gold (Hoax)

Thanks to the Calculated Risk for this funny video.

US To Trade Gold Reserves For Cash Through

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Finally Established a Twitter Account

I'm typically not an individual to join faddish social networking sites. I've held back from joining Facebook, Myspace and others.

But, I decided to join Twitter because it seems like it offers a revolutionary shift in social networking. This week I have seen the viability and importance of Twitter demonstrated on a global scale with the Iranian election demonstrations... So, I got off my butt and joined.

My profile can be found here.

I already set up my account to follow other personal finance writers who share links with Plugged in Finance. I'm looking forward to networking with others who share my interests in the future.

My Largest Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP): Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

I have carried my Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) dividend reinvestment plan since 2005. While the stock market has seen tumultuous times, I haven't in my JNJ position. Factoring in dividends, I have lost just 6% of my investment compared with an approximate 19% loss I would have experienced if I invested in the S&P 500.

JNJ is my largest DRIP. I bought it originally through (since taken over by I was able to establish my JNJ DRIP without ever using a broker. Subsequent cash and dividend investments in JNJ are not charged any fees. Only reoccurring investments are charged a $1 fee.

CBS Marketwatch seems to like JNJ also. Here's a recent Marketwatch video that emphasizes that JNJ may be a "Buy" now.

Morningstar details on JNJ:

Morningstar Rating: 5 stars
Economic Moat: Wide
Last Price (COB Fri, 19 Jun): $56.09
Consider Buying: $64
Fair Value: $80
Consider Selling: $100

JNJ is selling 12.4% below Morningstar's consider buying price.

If you are interested in establishing a DRIP in JNJ check out Computershare for further details.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Excellent Articles From: The Digerati Life, Free Money Finance, My Two Dollars, Money Smart Life, Single Guy Money, Northern Cheapskate and others

Here's some excellent articles from those personal finance sites that share links with Plugged in Finance:

The Digerati Life - "How to be a Millionaire? Start With the Right Attributes"

Free Money Finance - "Nine Tips on How to Advance in Your Career"

My Two Dollars - "How to Get Your Monthly Electric Bill Below $25"

Money Smart Life - "Seven Ways to Save Money on Your Summer Family Trip"

Single Guy Money - "Don't Pay for Credit Repair"

Northern Cheapskate - "Free Premium Channels..." Check out the link at this site for a referral to Free Preview TV.

Bullish Bankers - "Structural Changes in the Economy, Unemployment, and Inflation"

Miami Herald No Spend Zone - "False Friends use Facebook"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sold My First Delinquent Lending Club Loan on FolioFn

On Friday, I announced that I was suspending my investments at Lending Club until either a delinquent loan caught up on payment; I accrued enough interest payments to offset my initial $25 investment or I was able to sell my investment at FolioFn.

Well, I was able to sell the $25 loan on Monday for $17. That's a 32% discount from the original loan investment. Initially, I listed the loan for sale at $19.09 and got no response. It didn't help that the FolioFn loan listing search feature wasn't working correctly on the weekend. My shift to a loan sale price of $17 was based on my gut feeling that I never should have made the loan, and FolioFn wasn't working well on the weekend. I initially figured FolioFn was a poor medium for searching for investment options and just wanted to unload my loan.

I initially thought FolioFn was a poor site because the option to sort notes by "yield to maturity" (YTM) was not working. Sorting loans by YTM is the best bottom line method of finding heavily discounted notes. How could people find my loan if this wasn't working well?

I tried the YTM sort feature today and it's working.

Another disturbing item is the fact that the equation used by Lending Club to calculate your Net Annualized Return does not factor in FolioFn fees and losses people may take selling discounted loans at FolioFn. About the only way the advertised "Net Annualized Return" works with any accuracy is if you hold all of your delinquent loans till default.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sold My Bank of America (BAC) Stock

I have had a Bank of America (BAC) dividend reinvestment plan for several years now. I've lost a bit over $2k in it. Today, I sold all but 8 shares of the DRIP. I locked in a price of $13.23 per share.

I decided to sell since:
(1.) Worst case assumptions for bank stress tests have already been exceeded.
(2.) Money supply is fading
(3.) The stock is up 325% after hitting the bottom.

It's time for it give back some of its gains.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Savvy Shopper: Why Not Have That New Car Delivered

You could save some coin and precious time by getting your new car delivered.

Edmunds Daily has an excellent article on the topic. It makes several key points:

* Most dealerships are willing to "deliver" the new car you want to buy.

* It's best to push for the delivery just before you agree to the deal.

* When the car is delivered you completely avoid the finance and insurance office (F&I), which is where many car buying mistakes are made.

* Instead of sitting in a little room and being pressured to buy extended warranties, paint protection packages and other high priced items and services, the contracts arrive with the car. There is no chance to add any extras.

* Contracts are being brought by a porter or other non-salesman type. All they want is your signature, a check and proof of insurance.

* If you pick up the car at the dealership, they won't print the contracts until you get there. The wait just to get into F&I can be an hour and the process can last an hour or longer.

If you like to read about cars, I highly encourage you to check out Edmunds Daily. The full Edmunds "Savvy Shopper" article can be found here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

'Gray Water' Saves Green

Here's a good CNN video about reusing gray water. Reuse of gray water is particularly useful in the west or in counties elsewhere with low water tables or other emergency water conservation regulations.

Consider Reusing
* Washing machine
* Bathtub
* Shower
* Bathroom sink

Don't reuse
* Kitchen sink
* Toilet (toilet water is considered 'black water')
* Dishwasher

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Car Tax Deductions for States Without Sales Tax

The IRS and Treasury Department announced on Wednesday a tax break for vehicles purchased in states without sales tax. US taxpayers are already authorized to deduct new motor vehicle state, local or excise taxes paid. Now, the IRS will allow new car purchases made in states without sales tax to also qualify for a deduction.

Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon do not have a car sales tax. Taxpayers who purchase a new vehicle in these states are entitled to deduct other fees or taxes imposed by the state or local government. The fees or taxes must be assessed on the purchase of the vehicle and must be based on the vehicle’s sales price or as a per unit fee.

Vehicles purchased after 16 Feb 2009 and before 1 Jan 2010 qualify for this deduction. The deduction is limited to the fees or taxes paid on up to $49,500. The deduction is phased out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income between $125k and $135k for individual filers and between $250k and $260k for joint filers. This deduction is available on 2009 tax returns regardless of whether or not you itemize deductions.

Source (IR-2009-60)

I am Suspending my Lending at Lending Club (Peer-2-Peer Lending)

Investing via peer-2-peer lending is a fun hobby that I have been doing at Lending Club for six months. Previously, I spent over two years investing at Prosper.

Over the last six months, I have made 37 loans at Lending Club. Lending Club states that my net annualized return has been 11.51%.

Two of my 37 loans have been paid off and now one is 16 days late in its FIRST payment. Here's my late loan.

I like how Lending Club provides a "collection history" on late loans. I found this collection history on my late loan:

Collection Log
6/11/09 (Thursday) Collections Agency contacted a borrowers relative
6/9/09 (Tuesday) Payment Failed
6/4/09 (Thursday) Attempted to collect payment
6/2/09 (Tuesday) Contacted a borrowers relative
6/2/09 (Tuesday) Contacted a borrowers relative
6/2/09 (Tuesday) Attempted to contact borrower (left voicemail)
6/2/09 (Tuesday) Contacted a borrowers coworker
6/1/09 (Monday) Attempted to contact borrower (left voicemail)
5/29/09 (Friday) Notified borrower of failed payment (e-mail)
5/29/09 (Friday) Attempted to contact borrower (left voicemail)
5/29/09 (Friday) Payment Failed

Was I just a victim of a Lending Club (Lendingclub) scam? The loan was for the maximum amount of $25k. If I was a Lending Club scammer, I would pursue a $25k loan.

I am now going on hiatus from investing in peer-2-peer loans at Lending Club. I will stay on hiatus until either:

(1.) The loan gets caught up on payments.
(2.) I accrue enough interest on my other loans to completely offset my initial $25 investment on the above delinquent loan.
(3.) I am able to sell the delinquent loan via the FolioFn Note Trading Platform. I have listed this loan for sale with an asking price of $19.09, a 25% discount to its face value of $25.45.

If the loan gets caught up on payments, I'm still going to attempt to sell the loan via the FolioFn Note Trading Platform. Pursuing the eventual sale allows me to clean up my Lending Club balance sheet of suspect loans and gain experience with using the FolioFn Note Trading Platform.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

How To Initiate Fraud Alerts With All Three Credit Agencies. It's Free and Only Takes Four Minutes Start to Finish

I was just notified by my mother that her purse was stolen. She advised me that she has always maintained my social security number and full name in her purse. Upon receipt of the news, I initiated a fraud alert with all three credit agencies.

First, I looked at the Lifelock service. The service offers the convenience of never having to renew your fraud alert and provides up to $1 million in identity theft insurance for $10 per month.

Before ordering the service, I figured I'd try the manual route of initiating a fraud alert. A quick google search of "how to initiate a fraud alert" will give you all the info you need. I quickly came across a site that listed the toll free numbers of all consumer credit agency fraud departments. Reluctant to just work from that personal finance site's info alone, I did a google search of the toll free number restricting my search to just

Here's the Equifax Fraud Dept number: 800-525-6285

You can confirm the number by going to Google and typing the search string:


Reporting the fraud alert w/ Equifax is done via voice prompts. During the process, Equifax states that if your fraud alert filing is successful, then Equifax will automatically file the fraud alert with the other two agencies (TransUnion & Experian). From start to completion, my entire phone call was just four minutes.

The principal issue with manually initiating a fraud alert is that fraud alerts expire after 90 days. Every 90 days you'll have to redo the fraud alert. I figure that four minutes every three months is a great investment compared with $30 for Lifelock's insurance plus automated fraud alert renewal system.

When I go to work tomorrow i'll program my Microsoft Office calender to automatically remind me every 90 days.

How To Save Money Making Your Own Laundry Detergent

Here's an excellent video for those frugal at heart who don't yet know how to make laundry detergent.