Entries Tagged as 'Finance'

STOP • THINK • CLICK

I’ve mentioned the Internet Crime Complain Centerbefore, but the US Government also sponsors OnGuard Online with the slogan

STOP • THINK • CLICK

While most savvy internet users should be aware of most everything on the site, there’s no harm in taking a minute out and visiting it to see if there’s any suggestions that might make your online experience safer.  You may also want to recommend that your bank, credit union, and credit card company link to them.

Originally posted 2009-01-07 12:00:50.

Apple – Double or Nothing?

Yesterday Apple announced another record quarter in sales.  In fact, iPhone sales doubled in Q4 2009 (a good holiday present for Apple).

Tomorrow Apples announces a new tablet computer (at least that’s the rumor of what they will announce).

Google has a lot of ground to catch up with Apple in the phone market, and it certainly doesn’t appear that Apple is going to just stand by and wait for them.

I guess the one thing that Apples numbers show is that there is money to be made in economic hard times if you’ve got something people want.

Originally posted 2010-01-26 01:00:44.

Gas Prices

So have you filled up your tank lately?

Gas is now less than two dollars a gallon in much of the country again; including California and the Northeast (NY/CT).

Less two months ago gas had hit five dollars a gallon, and had taken three years to rise to that price from it’s current level.  Actually it took one year to go up a dollar, and then the next year it went up two (and most of that in just a few months).

Why?

How?

Oh… right — who was in charge of the US Petroleum Reserves… and who are his friends and business associates?

My feeling is this begs for a congressional investigation and some punitive action against those responsible.

My rational is simple.  Many American’s that were hardest hit this Summer by gasoline prices had their budgets totally destroyed by the price gouging… and some of them likely lost their houses or had to dip into their retirement saving because of it.  So once again, the middle class Americans pay for big business (read that as big oil) to make even more money.

Greed… pure adulterated greed!

I certainly have no issues with capitalism and fair market economies; but we don’t have a totally open economy, the government exercises control over many facets of it, and that requires that the government keep a watchful eye over all of it.

Originally posted 2008-11-17 12:00:11.

Boehner makes sense

House Minority Leader John Boehner (Republican) stated that he would support President Barack Obama’s proposal to renew the expiring Bush tax cuts only for those making less than $250,000 if it were his only option.

The Republicans in both the House and Senate were quick to add fuel to the fire and turn up the volume on the rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, watching out for the little guy, etc, etc, etc — and saying that they believe the tax cuts should be extended for all Americans.

Do people making over $250,000 really need a tax cut?

Seems to me that they’re doing OK; much better than the average American is fairing in this economic crisis (I won’t call it a recession because it certainly seems much more like a depression — so we’ll leave it a crisis).

The bottom line is we have to pay our bills — and as the Republicans are complaining about the government has been spending out of control… but what they don’t remind you is that George W Bush is responsible for the out of control spending; Barrack Obama and his administration haven’t spent anywhere near as much as George W Bush — and a large amount of what is being spent now is being spent on a war that George W Bush threw this country into (and lied to get the support for it).

I’m well aware that it’s a tenant of Socialism that we take more from those who can afford it, and give it to those who need it…

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need
· Karl Marx, 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program

But in point of fact the American income tax structure has always been based on a progressive tax (those who earn more, pay more); except what happens now is that those who earn enough can avoid taxes by taking advantage of the loop holes the complex laws afford them.

We really need to rework the tax system so that it’s more equitable across the board; and those who benefit greatly from society pay their fair share of the costs of supporting society… but until then, I think getting $700B from those who earn more than a quarter million dollars per year is a necessary step to putting this country back on the road to stability.

Originally posted 2010-09-15 02:00:52.

Boeing

I’ve seen a number of initiatives from Boeing that are targeted at trying to get a US DOD contract for supplying tankers to the US Air Force.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Boeing as a potential supplier for tankers (though I would like everyone to review why we need to build tankers period); but Boeing seems to be forgetting that with government contracts, it’s the lowest bidder who wins.

Boeing talks about American jobs, know-how, unfair competition from Air Bus (well, Boeing probably thinks any competition is unfair)… but they don’t highlight the fact that they simply aren’t competitive.

Welfare capitalism to large is just another form of socialism — and part of the “trickle down” philosophy (the question is how much get’s skimmed of with huge executive bonuses and how much really does trickle down).

We need to think global; and keep moving forward to creating a global economy and global society rather than trying to make sure the grass in our own yard stays the greenest (of course we can talk about this on a state-by-state basis just as easily as a nation-by-nation basis).

I say, the the low bidder win; and let’s make sure that the defense budget is treated with the same scrutiny and cuts that other budgets are — waste is waste, and “saving” our troops (who were put in danger by a lie by George W) just isn’t a reasonable excuse to keep spending on destruction.

Originally posted 2010-04-29 02:00:45.

Sam’s Club Discover

I was at Sam’s Club on the first of this month, and they had a promotion going on that you’d get a $40 instant credit on $100 (or more) purchase if you applied for and were accepted for a Sam’s Club Discover Card.

It was a no brainer —  what I was going to buy was $120, and the $40 instant credit would pay the fee for renewing my Sam’s Club card (NOTE: the renewal fee was excluded from the $100 minimum purchase).

GE Money Bank (the issuer of the Sam’s Club and Walmart Discover cards) issued a stated on the second of the month (the day after the charges); and had my statement to me less than a week after I’d opened the account.  However, I just received the actual card today.

Like with most credit cards you needed to call a toll free number and enter just about every piece of personal and confidential information you’d provided when applying for the card — at what seemed like the end of the activation, I got a message to please hold that I was being transferred to customer service.

After almost five minutes on hold, a very cherry woman come on the line, ask me how my day was and immediately launched into a sales pitch — I cut her off and told her whatever it was she was trying to up-sell to me, I wasn’t interest… that their system had kept me on hold for nearly five minutes to just try and sell me something I wasn’t the least bit interested in, and then I told her I wanted to close my account.  She responded that I’d need to look on the back of the card for the number, and I told her I wanted the number from her.

She gave me the number, and I hung up and called.

The automated system answered immediately, forced me to hear all about my account balance and due date — presented a myriad of twisty little turns to finally get to a customer service representative.

I told her I wanted to cancel; I told her why — she started to sputter out some apology and ask me to reconsider and I told her I didn’t care about her time, but I was tired of wasting my time and I just wanted the account canceled now.  The call was disconnected.

I called back; and same thing, a very long hold.  By the time that I actually got to talk to a customer service representative I’d been at this for over half an hour — and I pointed this out to her, and told here that I was in none to good a mood — that she would cancel the account, and I didn’t want to hear anything but it was done.

I wrote an electronic message to Sam’s Club on their web site after all this was done telling them what a poor reflection GE Money Bank was on their reputation.  The reply I receive (almost immediately) was just an apology, and told me what a valuable customer I was.

Right — GE Money Bank had been telling me what a valuable customer I was all the time on their automated system… but the bottom line, they didn’t value me as a customer — they wanted to treat me like a schmuck who’s time was totally worthless.  Clearly a company that didn’t value my time — or value me as anything but a potential source of revenue.

I’ve always considered Sam’s Club as low rent compared to other warehouse clubs such as Costco — and they continue to reinforce that image time and time again.

Costco selects American Express (which I consider to be thieves and liars — but they at least do pretend to respect their customers) for their credit card; Sam’s Club chooses GE Money Bank (how much more low rent can you get).

I don’t do much business at Sam’s Club; and I certainly won’t be increasing the amount of business I do there… but I certainly won’t be doing any business with GE Money Bank — and personally I think they tarnish Discover Card’s exceptional customer service.

Originally posted 2010-09-16 02:00:55.

eBay Master Card

GE Money Bank provides the private labeled eBay Master Card and they’ve been running promotions here of late to give you a fairly substantial cash back bonus (generally up to $25.00) on your eBay purchases (applied as a statement credit, instantly).

This might be a good choice if you have an eBay purchase in mind — but there are many better cash back credit cards out there.

For general purpose use the Pentagon Federal Credit Union VISA card is one the the sweetest.

For private label cards, the Chase Amazon.com VISA offers a $30 instant bonus and 6% cash back for the first 90 days; the Chase Buy.com VISA offers a $40 instant bonus; the GE Money Bank Sam’s Club Discover offers a $40 instant bonus; and the GE Money Bank Walmart Discover offers a $10 instant bonus (plus additional $10 bonuses for using the card at places other than Walmat and Sam’s Club).

You can certainly put a little money back in your pocket by playing the credit card game — of course you have to be careful that you understand the rules for getting the cash back (and make sure you follow them).

A couple things to keep in mind.

GE Money Bank is a major credit card issuer — but they are a very low rent credit card company; and you certainly will not be treated like a “valued” customer or even a customer that has a choice.  Both Chase and Citibank are far better large credit card companies to do business with — and Pentagon Federal Credit Union has out of this world customer service and does value your business.

Your credit score can be negatively impacted by applying for a large number of credit cards in a short period of time (regardless of whether or not you are approved, the credit inquiries may lower your FICO score).  To protect yourself, and insure that you get the best credit offers, don’t apply for more than two credit cards in any one month — and try not to apply for more than four in any consecutive three month period.

Originally posted 2010-10-07 02:00:44.

Nothing but the necessities…

In a school district that is struggling to keep teacher’s it’s amazing that that the Santa Rosa County Florida School District can find the money (and need) for 90 iPad2s for administrators (it’s also amazing that there are 90 administrators in a  county with only about 150,000 residents).

I’m glad to see that my tax dollars are well spent on essential items to insure that today’s school children will be properly educated and that the administrators responsible for overseeing that education will have new toys at the disposal to sit mostly unused in their desks — after all, an edict has been issued by the school district that these devices are only to be used in a professional capacity.

I wonder, will it be grounds for immediate termination the first time a games is played on,, a facebook post is made from or personal email is sent via one these essential educational tools — inquiring minds want to know.

My personal feeling would be this money would be better spent offsetting the $4.4 million dollar shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year that is necessitating the layoff of teaching staff — of course, why should I be surprised about iPad2s for administrators, after all most of them just got raises to address the inequities in their pay (I guess they couldn’t afford their own iPad2s — though they seem to expect teachers to buy a great deal of supplies for their classrooms out of their considerably smaller salaries).

Originally posted 2011-08-15 02:00:22.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a real problem, and credit bureaus make it all to easy for individuals who get a little bit of information about you to get your entire life’s story — and use your name (and credit) to make their life better and your life a living hell.

While there’s been improvements in legal recourse for identity theft, your best bet is to guard against it.

To make yourself a harder target, try some simple things like:

  • Elect on-line delivery of banking and credit card statements; utility bills; and anything else you can.  It’s safe, it’s good for the environment, and it reduces the likelihood of mail theft.
  • Use on-line bill payment or pay bills with your credit card; it’s safe, convenient, and it reduces the likelihood of mail theft.  Using your credit card may give you additional rights, and cash back.
  • Destroy paper items that have any personal information on them; cross-cut or confettie shreaders are the best, a fire place, or just mark it over and tear it by hand.
  • Destroy old credit cards, drivers licenses, passports, etc — make sure nothing with personal and confidential information on it goes in the trash.
  • Don’t give out your name or address to any one or on any site or on any phone call unless you know who you’re dealing with and there’s some advantage for you to do so.
  • Remove your name from mailing lists, refuse delivery of mail you didn’t request (that will cost the sender money generally and is more likely to get your name expunged from the list they use).
  • Put a “freeze” on your credit report.  Click here for info
  • Report scammers, spammers, and phishers to law enforcement. Click here for info

 

There are lots of great sites online that are free (free of advertising), and full of information… here’s one of them:

          http://www.consumersunion.org/

Originally posted 2008-11-08 08:00:50.

Keep Wall Street Occupied

A friend of mine put this together; and I think it’s very good advice…

I’ll add a couple points:

  • Mail over 13 oz requires you drop it off in person
  • Mail over 5mm thick is charged a higher postage rate (regardless of weight).
  • I’d discourage you from spending a penny on sending anything to a bank (not just because of the cost, but because of the environmental impact to produce and distribute anything); find your non-recyclable items around your house and use those to send a message — just be careful, some items are prohibited from sending via the US Postal Service — A Customer’s Guide to Mailing.
  • You may want to include in your note to remove your name and address from their mailing list (they already have all that information, they got the mail to you right — so you don’t really have to worry).
  • Don’t do business with banks — especially “big banks”.  Choose a credit union or a local bank for your needs.  If you have credit card services from a “big bank” make sure they are paying you back to use their card (they still make money, but at least you get something), never pay a membership fee or yearly fee for credit cards, and never carry a balance on a credit card at a “big bank”.

Originally posted 2011-10-30 02:00:24.