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Archive for January, 2009

Win a free house

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Lauren loves HGTV and I admit I actually like a few of the programs they have on there as well.  So I am not sure who if any of you are award of this, but every year HGTV does a dream home give away.  I figure, the odds of winning are low, but entering is free and its a chance to win a house.  The link is:

http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv-dream-home-2009-giveaway-enter/package/index.html

You can enter once per day and hey, who doesn’t want a free house!

The theft of a house the size of Colorado (including your money)

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

It seems like everytime I turn around lately there is some wall street mongrel being arrested for fraud.  Sound familiar? Bernie Madoff stole 50 billion from investors.  To put that in perspective, in the cost per sq foot it cost to build my house you could build a house the size of colorado.  No kidding, the entire state.

Colorado house

Sorry Kansis, NM, and Utah we borrowed 20 extra bill to build on you too, since the government gives out billion bills like candy these days.

Whats the moral? Well we have a few of them for you:

The experts know nothing more than you do
Have you ever wondered why the so called expert’s estimates can be wrong so often yet investors hang on their every upgrade or downgrade, moving the price of a stock each time they revise their opinion. I won’t even start on my Jim Cramer rants, since you all know what I think of him.  They use really complicated mathematical models to come with these estimates and generally, only after much schooling. It’s a given that most if not all of them are extremely bright. Then again a lot of them are not.  Of those that are extremely bright, how many actually know what is coming?  Zero.

Your broker recommends what makes them the most money
I can hear honest, hard-working stockbrokers screaming and tearing their hair out as they read this. How could any law abiding, honest individual forego every shred of decency in the name of larger commissions? Easy, just like you and I, they need to put food on the table or in a lot of their cases, a yacht in their marina. A bang on explanation comes courtesy a scene in the movie Wall Street where Charlie Sheen explains to his dad why he’s always broke. The overhead just overwhelms. They have necessities such as cars, dinners, suits, boats, expensive cigars, golf games, crown XR,  et al that somebody has to pay and it isn’t going to be your friendly broker, it’s going to be you.

The overwhelming point is this: there is no magic formula for investing to get amazing returns year after year and any broker that tells you there is is a liar and a thief.
Brokers are looking out for themselves, and any that promise returns that seem too good to be true I can promise you actually IS too good to be true.  Don’t allow yourself to get swindled.

24 Hour Fitness

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I have had a few people write in asking about the new sponsor on the left that replaced Prosper.  From John in Portland:

“Hey Jesse, aren’t you a financial blog? Whats with the 24 hour fitness sign/sponsor?”

After my new years resolution article where I encouraged everyone to  follow through on their resolutions including getting fit both physically and financially I received an email from a VP at 24 hour fitness asking me about my experience.  I responded that I was very happy with my local 24 hour fitness sport and things went from there.   I do not personally plug companies with graphic affiliate ads unless I believe in them (as I still do with p2p lending and ING banking).

As most of you know, I am not an advocate of the ultra frugal lifestyle but the responsibly frugal lifestyle.  I believe spending money on things that are of great value, and I believe fitness is one of those things that is valuable and worth spending some money on.  If you are entrenched at your local gym or comfortable with your home gym, by all means keep at that.  If you are looking for a gym try out a 24 hour with the 30 free day trial.  Hopefully at some point I can find a introductory offer for TPS readers.

Got Laid Off

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

(NOTE: I did not just get laid off, I am fine, read entire article carefully, this was a dream/flashback)

I am sitting in my office when my boss comes in and says we need to talk.  I make a joke, but he doesn’t smile.  He informs me that I am being laid off.  I can hardly breathe as the shock sits in and I am overwhelmed with a sense of panic.  “Why?” I ask.  “We have to make cut backs.”  I persist “I got the highest rating possible during my last review, did I do something wrong?”  He looks away from me “No, I am recommending you for rehire if and when we can.  Im sorry.”

I have the mortgage to pay.  I have no job prospects, my resume isn’t up to date, and the job market is terrible.  What am I going to do? Now what?

This is the nightmare I had last night and it hit hard…because it actually happened to me.  This was exactly what happened to me when I worked at HP.  The difference is that now I have a fiance and son to worry about and that was the first thing that popped into my mind.  Oh my God, what about my family?  The difference between being single and being laid off and having a family and being laid off is astronomical.

Sadly, many people are living this.  I have had so many google hits on ‘Got Laid Off” and ‘Got Laid Off what now” it is scary.  I am sorry to all of you who are in this position, and I am going to help.  To those of you who are not, read on as well, you never know when it could happen.  Just friday an old friend of mine from HP got laid off after 10 years and she thought she had complete job security.

What now?

1) Update your resume right now.
Seriously, stop reading if you must and update your resume.  If you are having trouble with your resume, send me an email and I will try to help.

2) Get some exercise. 
I know this sounds weird, but it is going to help in a lot of ways.  It is going to help release some frustration.  It is going to make you feel better about yourself.  It is going to allow you better clarity and focus, which will be necessary.

3) Start Searching now.
Monster.com, newspapers, friends, strangers.  I have read a ton of career sites that say “take time, don’t rush into finding another job.”  BS, you have a family, you have bills, you don’t want to take time to reflect.

4) Get health insurance immediately.
Even if it is disaster protection (3k deductible or so).  I did not do this because I was young and healthy and I paid a big price.  I never had a major accident in my life until I didn’t have health insurance.  This is how life works.  I am still paying credit cards that were used for medical bills (4 years later).

5) Be aggressive
When you get into contact with companies and get interviews make sure you stay on top of them.  Employers will never fault you for inquiring on your status, but they might forget you if you let them.

Don’t panic and don’t give up.  There are plenty of jobs out there and remember, America is a place where wealth is created not stolen or reallocated.  Show your value to a company and you can get a job in any economy.

Got laid off what now? Now time to move onto your next success.

The formula for financial success (or any sort of success) made easy

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words:

success
There are literally thousands of books out there dedicated to this subject.  Just look in the self help section of any bookstore and you will see rows and rows of books about how to be successful.  It is not nearly that complicated.

Good planning + Action + Perseverance = Success

Of course there are a lot of details in each but when it comes down to it nearly every thing in life really is a matter of deciding to do it, doing it well, and sticking to it.

External influences are merely an environment and some sort of success can be achieved no matter what the environment.  Thats right, I believe that no matter your situation you can be successful.

Action and Persistence are things that are easily understood but I think planning often gets left out.  Lets look at some ways to improve planning:

1) Define what you want to be successful at.  There has to be a goal or there is no way to measure your success.  I would take it a step further and say forget any outside influences.  What are the things most important to you?  What are your goals?  How will you measure your progress toward those goals?  It has to be somehow quantifiable or you will end up chasing ghosts.  For example here is a goal of mine: I want to lose 15 lbs and go from 230 to 215.  Here is another goal of mine: I want to pay for our honeymoon and my share of wedding expenses without adding any debt.  Which of these two is the better goal?  The first one.  The better way to quantify the second goal is to say: I want to set aside 2000 for a honeymoon, and 1000 for a wedding ring.  Notice the difference?  Quantifiable goals can be achieved.  Vague goals leave you wanting more, and do not allow for action and persistence.

2) Study the success of others who have has similar goals.  How have they achieved their goals?  What can you use to aid yourself?

3) Be Flexible.  If a goal is not realistic or environmentally impossible, change your goal.  There is no rule that goals cannot change, just make sure not to short change yourself in the process.

4) Take risks.  Don’t be afraid, anything that is easy to attain is not success, so ‘aim high’.  Man that cliche makes me shudder but its too true to leave out.

I want you to all to be successful, so get planning!

Its a bird, its a plane, no it’s a gigantic tower of excuses!

Monday, January 5th, 2009

excusesSince I pointed out the new years resolutions that people like to make, I am going to go ahead and empower you to follow through on them instead of building yourself a gigantic tower of excuses.  Ready for your help? Alright, here it is!

1) Getting in shape
Its January 5th, have you fallen off the bandwagon yet?  Or have you even jumped on yet?  I am actually switching gym memberships from a local club to a 24 hour fitness.  I found a free 30 day trial membership.  That’s 4X longer than their standard free trial.  You may have to fight them a bit to get the 30 days instead of the 7, but it is worth it!  Also, check out my fitness blog: I don’t update it often and the others even less frequently, but there is some great information related to fitness on there, and one of my new years resolutions is to keep it more updated.  So check it out HERE.   Now, for those of you who want to get into it and get some whey protein etc I suggest buying online because you will save a ton of money.  My favorite place traditionally has been Netrition, however AllStarHealth has lower prices and good reviews (but the site is a bit harder to navigate).

2) Get rid of debt
I get a lot email about various things and I usually do short answers but this time around for the next two weeks I am going to open up for helping everyone on a case by case basis with making personalized plans.  I will take as many as I can handle.  Also, I am offering a budget calculator for download.  I plugged in some example numbers to get you started.  Now, take some time and sign up for Mint.com.  I use it to keep an eye on my spending, and it does a pretty good job of breaking things down.  Start using coupons to grocery shop.  In a survey of my friends, almost none bother to cut out and use coupons.  I also am terrible about it and I know could easily save myself more money doing it.  Check out shortcuts.com and you can load coupons onto your King Soopers card.  I have yet to try this, but I know two people who swear by it and I am going to try it out today.

How to stick to New Years resolutions

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Its that time of year again where we all make resolutions we intend to keep but never do.  Here is my graphic depiction of my health club on December 31 vs January 1.


In all seriousness I’ve always been a little bit skeptical of the whole idea of new years resolutions.  It seems like an artificial motivation, and artificial motivations lead to disappointing ends. How many of us (myself included) have said “This year I am going to lose weight” or “This year I am going to get organized” and then not done it?  Im going to go ahead and guess probably everyone reading this.

The secret is that cold turkey changes simply do not work for most people.  The only true way to stick to new years resolutions is to make small changes.  Here are a few common examples to get you started.

1) Get in shape
Instead of saying “I am going to the gym every day and eating only healthy foods” start easy and work your way up.  Sure, get in those first few good workouts but then try some gradual changes.  First, do ten pushups every day when you get up.  Go to the gym once a week.  Eat very healthy for at least one meal per day.  Once you have worked that into your life such that it is routine, move it up a notch.  Work out three times a week, eat healthy for two meals a day.  It is all about building routine.

2) Get rid of debt
Once again, its time to start small.  Instead of making a minimum payment, add $20 onto each credit card payment, or start to follow the Penny Saved Plan for reducing debt.

3) Reconnect with people
This is another one that can seem overwhelming but is actually fairly easy.  The key here is to start small: decide whom you most want to reconnect with and make a phone call.   After the initial contact, make yourself follow up in 2 weeks if you don’t otherwise.  Chances are, if they are happy to hear from you, they will make an effort as well.

 Why do we abandon resolutions?
The main reason is that its easy to get discouraged when results don’t come quickly enough or when we figure out they don’t immediately make us happier.  This is once again where routine comes in.  Behavior change is not an overnight occurance…and it generally requires discomfort. 

Happy New years, and remember, changes don’t happen overnight! Now excuse me while I go renew that gym membership 😉