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.