Picking up Nickels

Monday, July 28, 2008

Get a free box of Cheerios cereal

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While supplies last. Offer expires 3/31/09. Limit one per person. U.S. Households only.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

By the time you foreclose on my house, I’ll be dead

Wow. Those chilling words were included in a fax a 53 year old wife and mother sent to her mortgage company before killing herself on the day that her house was to be foreclosed on (Taunton homeowner kills herself prior to foreclosure).

"I had no clue,” said John Balderrama explaining that his wife handled all of the couple’s finances. “I’m just lost. I tell you, I’m beside myself.” He said Carlene had been intercepting letters from the mortgage company and shredding them without his knowledge. He had no idea she hadn’t paid the mortgage in 42 months. “She put in her suicide note that it got overwhelming for her,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview today. “Apparently she didn’t have anyone to talk to. She didn’t come to me. I don’t know why.”

Even though the housing bubble and resulting credit crunch have impacted many people all over the country, this is the first time that I have heard about it resulting in suicide. My deepest sympathies go out to the Balderrama family.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

IndyMac on the brain

Friday's IndyMac takeover by the FDIC has led to a surge in interest for my account of an FDIC takeover of my Bank of New England accounts in the early 1990's, which turned out to be a non-event for me.

The lesson here is that IndyMac customers with deposits that fall within FDIC insurance limits shouldn't worry about losing a single penny. If you didn't have the foresight to avoid deposits exceeding FDIC limits, then unfortunately your situation is a bit more complicated.

Monday, July 14, 2008

July 2008 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on July 11th, 2008:

Asset June 2008 July 2008 Change
Checking 873 278 -595
Money Market 25,370 25,723 353
Savings Bonds 14,734 14,750 16
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 94,877 98,235 3,358
Brokerage 106,648 106,129 -519
401k 100,162 93,039 -7,123
Roth IRA 32,513 29,768 -2,745
SEP IRA 185,955 174,248 -11,707
529 Savings 37,920 36,182 -1,738
Credit Card 0% Balance Transfers 0 0 0
Total Assets $599,052 $578,352 -$20,700 (-3.46%)

The S&P 500 index has not been kind since my last update, dropping an additional 8.76% during that time:

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

Oil prices dipped to "only" $144 per barrel today. Despite the major stock market indices going south, I put some cash from the distribution I took from my 2007 S Corporation profits into my brokerage account and also added some cash to my recently matured 6 month E-Loan CD @5.15% APY that I rolled into a 6 month E-Loan CD @ 3.61% APY. What a difference 6 months makes...

The only other noteworthy financial move I've made since last month was applying for the Penfed Platinum Rewards VISA for 5% rewards on gas purchases since American Express was kind enough to cut the gas rewards on my Amex SimplyCash Business Card from 5% to 3%. Otherwise, it'll (hopefully) be onward and upward until August after a short July vacation...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Save money: Buy a great used bike on craigslist cheap!

These days, high gas prices are encouraging people look into more cost-effective transportation alternatives. Among the beneficiaries of this trend appears to be the bicycle industry, where a good quality new (non-Walmart) bike can easily cost a minimum of $300 with the sky being the limit if you go for the high end carbon fiber models.

I definitely appreciate the quality of a nice bike, and I've recently been keeping an eye out for a nice used bike for one of my children since paying hundreds of dollars for a new one that could be outgrown quickly wasn't terribly appealing to me. I've been watching the listings for used bikes at craigslist for a few weeks and finally picked one up a couple of weeks ago.

I ended up buying a 2004 Giant MTX 225 mountain bike that had been sitting in a backyard shed for $60, which would have cost $200+ when new. Overlooking a few scratches, a flat tire, a broken front brake, and a rusty chain and spokes, I felt that I had a bike with really good bones to work with.

I needed to replace a few parts, so I plunked down $17.58 for a new 24" tube, a chain, and a V-Brake noodle and one evening I cleaned her up (also using some WD-40 and fine steel wool on the rusty spokes), installed the new parts, and adjusted the front and rear derailleurs and brakes. Once finished, I had a really nice bike on my hands for an out of pocket cost of $77.58 (not including the cost of the trip to pick it up).

I'm not exactly an expert bike mechanic, but I was able to figure out how to do the work after a little reading at sheldonbrown.com (a very informative site, whose creator passed away earlier this year) and the How to Fix Bikes blog (see the "How to Replace a Chain" video below). The whole process was fun, educational, and rewarding, and the end result was a great bike for less than the $100 a cheap department store knockoff would have cost me.