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Archive for July, 2010

Image problems

July 30th, 2010 at 07:04 am

Are you starting to get as frustrated as I am about not being able to post pictures in your blogs? I don't blame the admins for this, of course. They've worked hard and things happen. I'm also quite certain that they're aware of the issue and are working on it.

That being said, we need an interim solution, and I would like to introduce one here:



See that picture? Here's how I got it working.

1. Go to: http://www.imgur.com

2. Upload your pictures there.

3. After your upload, copy the DIRECT LINK URL located in the upper left hand portion of the web page. It's very important that you don't lose this link! Copy and paste it in advance to a text file on your computer if you have to.

4. In your blog entry, use the IMG and /IMG tag, but with square brackets of course, and place the direct link URL in between the tags.

5. Test your entry. Although I have yet to have any serious problems with IMGUR, I can't guarantee that they will work each and every time.

IMGUR is more like a volunteer site, so in exchange for being free and easy to use, I don't expect them to work all the time, even though they've been pretty good so far. Also, the images may not stay long. Perhaps 30 days at most?

On limits and nature

July 29th, 2010 at 01:03 pm

Sooo... did I just hear that right? That the FDIC and NCUA's $250k limit is going to be permanent? If so, that's great news that we can all rejoice in!

On a separate note, there's something cool about a Crocodile Dundee look-alike that can forage for his own salad in the wild, and eat it with chopsticks he himself has made.

Networth and visit

July 29th, 2010 at 07:44 am

Well, it's that time of the month again. Big Grin So, I just updated my net worth, and I have to say I was cringing because I knew it wasn't going to be pretty this month either. Turns out, I went up 2%, so I guess I'm sort of back on track at least? Otherwise, nothing particularly interesting to report here.

In other news, a fellow SAer decided to come down and visit me and the town I live in. She and her family were thinking about moving down near where I live. I didn't get explicit permission to reveal who it is, but I'm sure if she wanted it to be known, she will.

In any case, they were a nice family of 5 with 3 fairly grown kids. Truth to tell, I thought I may not be all that interesting to them seeing as how I am a stranger, but they turned out to be fun to hang out with and I at least had a nice time.

In particular, they seemed to have enjoyed Golden Corral. Me too, as they're running a BBQ special this month. Big Grin Actually, I wanted to take them to a nicer BBQ place, but as it turns out, that place is closed!

But anyways, that's the first time I've ever met anyone in real life from SA. I guess it's interesting to be able to attach faces and lives to people behind the names you see on the computer screen.

The Risks of TDFs

July 28th, 2010 at 08:31 am

I was reading this article, The Risks of Target-Date Funds, and thought it would be worth writing about. I'm going to assume that readers already know what they are (which also goes under the name of Freedom funds, Lifecycle funds and Target Retirement funds).

First, I just want to say that I am a big fan of them. They are particularly good for average, passive investors looking for a way to "set it and forget it" for their retirement investments. In fact, my entire 401(k) is just one of these funds right now.

That said, nothing in life is without risk, and these funds are no exception. The article linked here is one such reminder of that.

The only thing I would say about the article is that they're pointing out the end of 2008 as an example of how TDFs have failed investors who were nearing retirement by having too much % equity. To which, I do have some rebuttals:

1. Retirement investing does not end at retirement. Hopefully, you'll still have 30 more good years ahead of you, so even if you have taken a hit back in 2008, there is still time to recover and grow even more.

2. Even 100% fixed income investments comes with its own risk, such as inflation risk and longevity risk. Suitability of asset allocation depends on the size of your nest egg and risk tolerance.

3. Prior to 2008, most of these TDFs were criticized for being too conservative and not matching the gains from more aggressive funds. This was an incorrect perception back then, as the point isn't so much to increase gain, but more to decrease risk in my opinion. But it's hard to be reminded of risks during the good times. Not surprisingly, more aggressive funds fell out of favor after 2008, but TDFs also took a hit for being too aggressive as well.

4. After 2008, most target funds (or at least Vanguard funds that I am aware of) have been tweaked to become more conservative. So, it's important to keep in mind that today's 5-year horizon TDFs is not the same as the pre-2008 5-year horizon TDFs for example.

But regardless of the details in this debate, I nevertheless agree that we should always be ever-vigilant of our money. In the era of Toyota and Honda safety recalls, even the best can falter, and it's up to us to be aware of these issues.

GRS

July 28th, 2010 at 06:37 am

The nerve of some people! Uh yes, I'm about to go into a rant again, so just a heads up in case you want to skip this. Big Grin

I just saw this comment, and it really bothered me:

"Take a look at the numbers for the Get Rich Slowly blog and for mine. I think it would be fair to say that the primary reason why his numbers are 100 times better is that he promotes Get Rich Quick investing strategies and I do not."

WHAT?! Who in their right mind would accuse Get Rich Slowly of peddling get rich quick schemes? I've been reading GRS for years, and I'm quite confident the author does NOT promote rich quick schemes. Quite the opposite, in fact.

But you know why I'm "upset" enough to blog about it in the first place? Because JD (the author) is a nice guy! He even went as far as giving the originator of this derogatory comment some (undeserved) recognition on his own blog! He's a better man than I am.

I'm not going to use this guy's name (you can tell from the link), but suffice to say, you just have to watch out on the internet sometimes. All kinds of crazies spouting all kinds of crazy talk.

Shocking electric

July 27th, 2010 at 05:22 am

I just received my electric bill for last month and... wow. Just wow.

I'm used to seeing only $30 to $40 on it, but this time, it was $130! I think it's the AC. It doesn't seem to run too well, and even with AC on, I still have to keep a box fan on me.

This is astounding. I'm going to have to take drastic steps.

Best Husband Ever

July 26th, 2010 at 02:52 pm

Haha, I saw a funny video that I thought it'd be fun to share....

But before I do that, it did make me wonder about whether I even want to get back into the dating scene or not? Or heaven forbid, get into a relationship! Wow, just the very thought of it scares me right now. Big Grin

Although I suppose for the right woman, I could probably be talked into it.... But considering that I'm still single, I guess this isn't exactly something I need to worry about right now.

Still, I wonder: How do you know for sure when somebody standing in front of you is the right person for you? How do you tell you're not just infatuated with them, or that you're just in love with the idea of being in love? What do you think?

Anyways, here's the funny video I was talking about. And here's one for you poor ladies out there.

Old WWII poster

July 26th, 2010 at 07:40 am

Some of you may find this interesting.

Louis C.K.

July 20th, 2010 at 05:05 pm

Is a hilarious comedian who uses a lot of explicit language, so please be warned.

That said, here is his skit on Being Broke.

Financial futbol

July 8th, 2010 at 08:48 am

Like finances? Like futbol? Hate vuvuzelas?

Well, here's a fun little game for you!

GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!

Ben

July 8th, 2010 at 05:57 am

When it comes to financial insights, many look back at the life and times of Benjamin Franklin. His advice is simple and timeless, advocating industry, frugality, and never squandering our most precious resource, which is time.

Here is a big list of sayings by Ben Franklin.

FRUGL

July 7th, 2010 at 08:38 am

I ran across this picture of a license plate on the internet, and thought that it would be fun to share it.

I was amused at first, but the more I looked at it, the more I wondered if it was really frugal? I mean a Honda Insight is environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient, but it's not cheap either. Also, a vanity plate isn't exactly frugal.

To be fair though, the owner may very well be frugal. It just depends on what their overall financial picture looks like.

- - - - -


Anyways, my meandering around the internet also landed me on an article that I think is written by our very own Jeffrey. It appears that he has succeeded on his $1 a day food challenge and is forging ahead for more! I haven't read all the entries, but of the ones that I did, they were certainly amusing.

In a way, he's a stronger man than I am because I don't think I can pull that off. Well, unless I had absolutely no choice, because subsisting mostly on bread, vegetable, and cereal? Ouch. Earned my respect right there. Big Grin

- - - - -


Oh, and I just came across a free minimalist e-cookbook from thestonesoup.com. This cookbook promises no more than 5 ingredients and no more than 10 minutes to make.

For those of you who are born with a spatula in hand, you may scoff at this, but if you're someone who is a bit more ah challenged in the kitchen like myself, this may be of interest to you.

The only downside is that I question the price of some of these ingredients.

Tom Bodett

July 6th, 2010 at 08:30 am

Ever heard of the Motel 6 ad, where they were joking about how Motel 6 was frugal before the new frugal became chic or something like that? I wish I could find a transcript of that ad because it was pretty humorous, but those of you who have heard it should know what I'm talking about.

In any case, it got me wondering about who this Tom Bodett guy is, and how they came up with the slogan, "We'll leave the light on for you." According to his funny autobiography, he ad-libbed it on the first recording session! I guess, sometimes, brilliance is chanced upon.

Or is it chance at all? What if it simply struck a chord through simplicity and sincerity?

I must say that I love the Motel 6 ads. Understand that, unlike something like the Ritz Carlton, Motel 6 is an economy motel chain. As such, their product, as well as their marketing pitch should be and is a simple one: Clean rooms and good price. But you know what? That's all I ask for in a motel stay anyways. And these Motel 6 ads come across as very down-to-earth and sincere about such a promise. Real life experiences may vary of course.

I suppose the takeaway lesson here is that, sometimes, simple and sincere may be the best way to go, including matters of business. That and the more things change, the more some things seem to stay the same. And when it comes to certain values such as frugality, that's not really a bad thing at all.

Blockbuster bust

July 5th, 2010 at 06:47 am

Grim news indeed if you have anything to do with Blockbuster beyond being a customer.

First, they went through bankruptcy restructuring, clinging on to less than $40 million in capital, which may sound like a lot, but not when you're facing nearly a billion dollars in debt. To make matters worse, now there is news that they will be delisted from the NYSE.

You can read more details in the link if you want, but what I wanted to share about this story is that even the mighty can be brought to its knees if it is unable to tame the debt dragon.

One could also argue that it's about business agility, which I can agree with, but if Blockbuster didn't have so much debt, it would still have time to evolve and grow.

Oh yeah, that and maybe karma. Late fees used to be Blockbuster's bread and butter, and as such, they didn't bend on the policy. I hated that though, and cheered Netflix when they will allow you to keep yours for as long as you want without late fees. Anyway, the late fee inflexibility may have been the double edged sword that gave Netflix a chance to break into the market.

But mostly, it's a cautionary tale about what debt can do to you if you are not careful.

Rant about ETFs

July 2nd, 2010 at 07:31 am

Not a very interesting topic, but I just want to get this off my chest.

For years now, I still see online that people tout ETFs because of their low expense ratios relative to their equivalent mutual funds. Based on that, they therefore conclude that ETFs are better.

However, with a few exceptions, ETFs also require a trading fee. Translated into mutual fund terms, that's a front and a back load you have to pay as well!

Now, I'm not saying that in certain circumstances, ETFs can't be cheaper. I'm saying the real answer is: It Depends.

* It depends on how much you contribute. The smaller your contribution balance is, the larger in percentage your trading fees are.

* It depends on how often you contribute. If you're in a 401(k) program, where you may be automatically contributing bi-weekly, the fees are going to destroy you. However, if you're someone who is only making annual buys, say, in an IRA, then it's not so bad.

* It also depends on how many ETFs you plan on buying. A typical portfolio will consist of at least one large cap ETF, one bond ETF, and perhaps an international ETF. You may have more, and the point is, all those ETFs each require a separate trading fee from you.

* And finally, it depends on your existing balance. For example, if you're someone who is just starting out and have a fairly small amount, the difference in the expense ratio is negligible. Now, if you have a lot of money already invested, then yes, I agree expense ratios are extremely important.

Bottom line, I don't understand what the fascination with ETFs are. I mean I can articulate circumstances where even I will use them, but for the most part, I think you can do just fine with regular mutual funds.

Investing isn't always exciting, but it doesn't have to be. It just has to work.

What inflation?

July 1st, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Mint.com does it again with another fun graph, this time, showing certain items that actually cost less than they did 10 years ago... when adjust for inflation.

Here's the link.