Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Kind of Boss Do You Have?

Whether you enjoy your job or not depends a lot on the people you work with, and most importantly, who your boss is. It's one thing to have personality and professional conflicts with co-workers but you can't afford to have a combative or disintegrating relationship with the boss. So, how do you get along with the boss and keep your job when your working and social styles are so different?


Inc. com neatly categorizes the different types of bosses by personality and management style and gives some insightful advice on dealing with each in "The 9 Types of Bosses You'll Encounter in Life". Whether your boss is the Energizer Bunny who is always at the office come hail or gloom of night, or whether your boss is the MIA, who can't be found when needed, you will learn some valuable tips on how to succeed in your job, while surviving your boss.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why I Joined Pay Per Post

There's a lot of personal satisfaction in blogging. You have the opportunity to share knowledge and engage readers. So why carry ads, you ask? Because blogging in some ways is like any other job, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it and we all would like to make a tidy second income.

Recently, I signed up for Pay Per Post. If you read my disclosure policy on this blog, you'll see that along with my usual content, there may be the occasional sponsored post.

Does this mean that I will be endorsing products and services just for the money and abandoning my principles? Not at all. There are just as many posts that I am not compensated for where I provide links to sites that provide excellent and useful information.

In many ways, I consider Pay Per Post to be of great benefit to both my readers and to me. As I peruse the opportunities, I often find valuable sites, products and services that I was not aware of and that both I and my readers may find useful. It's just another means of finding these sites and bringing them to my readers. Because there is such a wide variety of sponsors to choose from, I never have to write about anything I don't believe would be of interest to my readers.

If you're interested in bringing quality, relevant content to your readers, introducing them to services and products of interest to them and being able to make money for your blogging efforts, sign up for Pay Per Post.

Apple Won't Take Cash


If you've been saving your nickels and your dimes to buy that new iPhone, don't bother. Apple won't let you pay in nickels and dimes, nor in paper money. In fact, you can't even use Apple gift cards. Apple will not sell you an iPhone unless you use a debit card or a credit card to pay for it.

Apparently Apple wants to know exactly who has purchased the iPhone. Is this an invasion of privacy? Is it even legal?

Certainly, it would seem that a consumer has a right to purchase an item without having to prove identity, as long as it's a legal item or not one strictly controlled. You expect to provide ID to buy cigarettes and liquor, but no one takes down your name. You expect to have your name taken when you buy a gun, but a phone?

Apple has already made customers unhappy this year when they dramatically decreased the price of the iPhone to $399 for the holiday season, after having sold them to first-comers for $599.
In this case, being first wasn't best.

I wonder how long it will take for there to be customer backlash on their credit-card-only sales policy. At least one customer is suing them over the price cut, and she wants a whopping $1 million in damages.

Take the Personal Finance Quiz


Are you a financial wizard or a financial flop?

Everyone believes they know how to handle money, even when our financial situations seem to indicate otherwise. But in order to make good financial decisions, you need solid financial knowledge. For instance, what are the differences between a Roth IRA and a traditional 401K plan? When may you withdraw money from each? When must you take distributions from each? If you sell your home, are you subject to capital gains taxes?

To test your financial acumen, take the Kiplinger.com Personal Finance Quiz. There are some basic questions on everything from taxes to the stock market. Then check out how your score compares to others taking the test. You might discover you are a financial wizard after all, or you might pick up some valuable tips.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fees Can Devalue Your Gift Card

Nowadays, social convention holds that a gift of cash is crass, but since finding the right gift for some people is more difficult than for others, the giving of gift cards has gained popularity over the years. But what people may not realize is that gift cards can come with hidden "dormancy fees" and expiration dates.

Many gift cards have expiration dates, and the issuing company may impose dormancy fees on unused balances after six months. In some cases, use of a card after the expiration date requires a "reactivation fee". All of these fees will devalue the card and your gift. Some states, like Connecticut, have put a ban on these gift card fees, but retailers are still fighting these bans in court cases.


Fees, unspent balances, expiration dates, all devalue gift cards

The dormancy fees seem excessive and punitive, especially if you consider that at least $8 billion in unused balances are retained by issuing retailers every year. Some people never use their gift cards, others leave small balances on them that are never spent.

Gift cards are not an inherently bad idea when buying for someone who is hard to shop for, but keep in mind some guidelines when choosing a gift card.

Be sure the recipient of the gift card actually shops at the store where you purchased the card, or better, buy a card that is good for any store in a large mall that you know they frequent. You might also check the card for an expiration date and point it out to the recipient so that neither of you loses the value of your gift. You can also opt for Travelers Checks that don't lose value and from which the spender can get the unspent balance back in cash, rather than having a tiny balance on a gift card that may never get spent.

Or perhaps a nice money holder card with cash is really the best gift. Perhaps we can start an etiquette revolution by giving gifts that are actually useful.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

401K Distribution Penalties


You're changing jobs, and you need to make a decision about your 401K. For better or worse, you have decided not to roll it over into an IRA account. If you are planning on taking a distribution from your 401K and you are under 59 1/2, be aware that you will be subject to taxes and penalties that will affect the amount you receive.

You may have good reasons why cashing in your 401K is the option for you, but you could lose a substantial amount if you are under age 59 1/2. A 20% withholding will be taken on the amount you cash out. That 20% withholding will be applied to any tax you owe for the year but you will pay any taxes owed above that amount. Additionally, you will be subject to a 10% penalty tax.

If your 401K is worth $10,000 you will receive only $8,000. In addition to the $2,000 withholding you will pay any other taxes that apply plus $1,000 for the 10% excise tax.

The 10% excise will not apply however if one of the following applies:

* Made to a beneficiary (or to the estate of the participant) on or after the death of the participant.
* Made because the participant has a qualifying disability.
* Made as part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments beginning after separation from service and made at least annually for the life or life expectancy of the participant or the joint lives or life expectancies of the participant and his or her designated beneficiary. (The payments under this exception, except in the case of death or disability, must continue for at least 5 years or until the employee reaches age 59½, whichever is the longer period.)
* Made to a participant after separation from service if the separation occurred during or after the calendar year in which the participant reached age 55.
* Made to an alternate payee under a qualified domestic relations order.
* Made to a participant for medical care up to the amount allowable as a medical expense deduction (determined without regard to whether the participant itemizes deductions).
* Timely made to reduce excess contributions.
* Timely made to reduce excess employee or matching employer contributions.
* Timely made to reduce excess elective deferrals.
* Made because of an IRS levy on the plan., or
* Made on account of certain disasters for which IRS relief has been granted.

For more information on 401K distributions, see the IRS website.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Kids Want to be in Charge of Their Money

A poll conducted by HSBC Bank and the Personal Finance Education Group of 1,369 children in the UK aged 7 to 11, revealed some surprising results. HSBC and PEFG recently launched a primary school program called What Money Means in a effort to teach young children about handling finances early.

Only 18% of seven to 11-year-olds said they would trust their parents to save for them, while some worried that mum and dad would spend the money by mistake.

But 42% of pupils said they saved in a traditional piggy bank or money box.

About three-quarters of the age group said they were saving money, some for a car and others for university costs.

Friday, October 19, 2007

FEESA - Free Gifts Now, High Fees Later

College students are some of the most vulnerable consumers out there. Credit card companies know this and regularly market credit cards on college campuses. Students often fall deeply into debt, and it could take them years to get themselves out again.

Credit card companies market to college kids using free gifts and promotional items. Students are often unaware of the high interest and penalty fees that can be charged to them, and the credit card companies do not disclose this information in these campaigns to snare young consumers.

Truth About Credit and US PIRG are working together on the campaign "FEESA: Free Gifts Now, Huge Fees Later".

They are working to get colleges to adopt the Principles of Responsible College Credit Card Marketing:

1. Prohibit use of gifts in marketing on campus.

2. Control passive marketing techniques.

3. Block acquisition of student lists.

4. Stop group sponsorship.

5. Increase financial education.

6. Credit card contractual terms and conditions that take advantage of students as consumers shall be discouraged.

Read more about the campaign at Truth About Credit.org.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Phony Utility Refund Email Scam Alert


With energy costs rising, nearly anyone would be happy to receive an email from the Department of Energy alerting them of their eligibility for a refund on their utility bills. But if you receive one of these emails, beware, it's a scam.

The email states that the recipient is due a refund of $480.58 and instructs the recipient to click on a URL to receive the refund. Clicking on that link infects the recipient's computer with malware.

The email erroneously claims to be from the Department of Energy forging the email address refund@energy.gov. According to the DOE, this email account does not exist.

Here is the text of the phony email:

From: Deparment Of Energy
Subject: Urgent Notification!

After the last annual calculations of your bills we have determined that you are eligible to receive a refund of $480.58. Please submit the refund request and allow us 2-3 business days in order to process it.

To access the form for your refund, please click here link deleted

Note: For security reasons, we will record your ip-address, the date and time. Deliberate wrong inputs are criminally pursued and indicated.

© Copyright 2007, U.S. Department of Energy All rights reserved.”


The Department of Energy states that they do not collect revenue from, or issue refunds to, the general public via email. If you receive this email, delete it and do not click on the link provided or your computer could be infected with malicious programming.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

5.3 Billion Credit Card Offers in 2007

Have you noticed an increase in your junk mail lately? How about those unsolicited credit card offers? According to Synovate's Mail Monitor, US households will receive 5.3 billion credit card offers through the mail this year. But that's actually down a bit, from a high of over 6 billion in 2005. The applications generated from these mailings are expected to go up only slightly in 2007.

And that may actually be the good news. Despite the overwhelming number of offers being sent out, consumers may be getting a bit better educated about credit cards and choosing their offers more wisely.

There are still a lot of truly bad offers out there, so even if you want to try for one of these pre-screened offers, be careful and be smart. Read the entire agreement, especially the fine print. Watch out for excessive fees that can eat up more than half the offered credit limit (it is often quite low) and note what future fees you may be charged. Don't apply for a card that in the end, will only help you worsen your credit rather than repair it. Remember, there are 5.3 billion offers out there, take time to choose wisely.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cash Advance Debt Costliest to Cardholders

Credit card companies often allocate payments in ways that are most convenient (profitable) for them. 76% of credit cards clear debt on cash advances last. Cash advances usually carry the highest interest rates.

What this means is that while your payments are busy trying to clear the lower interest purchases, the interest accruing on the cash advances is growing and in the end, will cost you much more.

Because credit card company take advantage of "order of payment" rules, they often clear fees for late payments and balance transfers first, followed by debt for purchases, leaving cash advances for last.

A good rule to follow is just to never take a cash advance, especially if your card uses payments to clear the cheaper debt first. But if you want to use your card for cash advances or take advantage of those checks they send you, then do some research and know the true cost. Read the fine print and find out how your credit card company allocates payments. Better still, look for a card that allows you to pay cash advances first, helping you to lower all-around and future debt on the card.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Rebate vs Low Interest - What's your best deal?

The purchase of a new car is not a deal to be entered into lightly. Choosing the right car and getting a good price are major factors, of course. But just as important are the loan terms, because if you get stuck with a loan you can't handle, that shiny new car could end up going back or bankrupting you.


Often dealers will offer you the choice of a lower interest rate loan or a cash rebate. Which is the better deal? That depends a lot on the size of the rebate, the price of the car and what interest rates are available. A rebate will lower the total loan amount but a lower interest rate will give you lower monthly payments for the life of the loan.

If you are trying to decide between a rebate or a lower-interest loan, try running it through this handy little tool at Bankrate.com. Just plug in the price of the car, the interest rates with and without rebate, the amount of the rebate and the length of the loan, and it will show you which can save you the most money.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Making A Will

No one is comfortable with planning for their eventual demise but as they say, the only two sure things in this world are death and taxes. In fact, taxes follow you after death - and the government could get nearly half your assets if you die without a will in place.

The only way to be sure your property and possessions will be distributed after your death is to make a will. Over half of all Americans die without a will, and it is a simple process to make one. Without a will to document your wishes, the court will decide the distribution of your property. If you don't appear to have any heirs, the state may claim your estate.

If you have children, you may need a will to name a guardian for them rather than leaving it to a court to appoint one. You may also want to designate certain gifts, such as a car or jewelry and name specific beneficiaries for them rather than having everything split between all beneficiaries. Another important point will be naming an executor, someone to carry out your wishes and oversee the distribution of your assets as well as arranging for the payment of any debts or donations as directed by the will.

Laws regarding wills may vary slightly from state to state and a will should be updated whenever changes in your circumstances necessitate it (such as in the event of a new marriage, a new child or a move to a new state). Wills need to be signed in the presence of witnesses, usually the witnesses may not be beneficiaries. When you make a new will, be sure to destroy the old one to avoid confusion.

Everyone needs a will regardless of the size or value of their estate. Prepare one now and you will have peace of mind for the future.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Debt Advice

You're in debt. You are always late with payments, can't cover expenses and have to put off visits to doctors or dentists because you can't afford them. You know you need help and solid advice but where do you turn?

There are many debt counseling agencies out there and a lot of companies advertising that they can reduce your credit load. Before you contact any of them, you need to be sure you are dealing with a reputable organization.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling was founded in 1951 and has over 100 non-profit member agencies nationwide. Member agencies provide information and education about financial planning for free or at a low cost. Services provided include:

* Budget counseling and education
* Debt management plans
* Counseling referral services
* Financial literacy courses
* Housing counseling

You can get information and advice on paying off debt and improving your financial health at Debt Advice, a service of the NFCC.

You're in debt. You are always late with payments, can't cover expenses and have to put off visits to doctors or dentists because you can't afford them. You know you need help and solid advice but where do you turn?

There are many debt counseling agencies out there and a lot of companies advertising that they can reduce your credit load. Before you contact any of them, you need to be sure you are dealing with a reputable organization.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling was founded in 1951 and has over 100 non-profit member agencies nationwide. Member agencies provide information and education about financial planning for free or at a low cost. Services provided include:

* Budget counseling and education
* Debt management plans
* Counseling referral services
* Financial literacy courses
* Housing counseling

You can get information and advice on paying off debt and improving your financial health at Debt Advice, a service of the NFCC.