Entries Tagged as 'Finance'

Black Friday

It’s Black Friday… though I suspect with this economy most retailers will continue to see red rather than black on the balance sheets this year…

Oh, and just because the retails “report” good numbers – keep watch for the “revisions” for the sales numbers that are likely to follow.

Reality sucks almost as much as the economy.

Black Friday on Wikipedia

New Year – Same Down Economy

Retailers started releasing fourth quarter earning reports yesterday.

There’s no surprise here — Target, the number two retailer in the US, announced on Christmas Eve that sales would not meet there expectations; and Master Card also indicated that spending (via credit card) was down.

Wal-Mart, of course, tipped everyone off that they expected a bad retail season when they started their “Black Friday” sales three weeks before Thanksgiving and most retailers followed suit with deep discounts through out the retail season.

While a bad retail season doesn’t by itself mean that the economy will continue to slump, there are certainly enough signs to that effect (personally I’m ignoring the US Department of Labor’s unemployment numbers… they simply don’t make sense, they don’t seem to reflect reality, and they are designed to be misleading).

I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but the long the economy continues the slide downward the harder it will be to revive.  My instinct tells me that this downturn, like The Great Depression, will not be ended by planning and programs — but by aggression, greed, and exploitation.

The solution to illegal immigration

Wow, it looks like the GOP really knew what they were doing by driving the economy into the toilet.

I guess the GOP realized that they weren’t really getting any traction on protecting American jobs from illegal immigrants through circumventing the law and harassment, so they just decided to make the economy in the United States worse than most every where else in the world…

…and it’s working!

Reports from the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that the number of illegal immigrants entering this country per year has been steadily dropping since 2007.

Maybe this is why the Republican’s have seemingly resisted all the efforts to get the economy back on track.

Region 2009 2008 Change
South Atlantic 1,950 2,550 -600
Florida 675 1,050 -375
Others combined 1,050 1,200 -160
Mountain 1,000 1,200 -160
Nevada 180 230 -50
AZ-CO-UT 700 825 -130

Source: Pew Hispanic Center

The South Atlantic consists of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The Mountain region consists of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Protecting Your Rewards

Many financial institutions that issue “cash back” or “rewards” debit cards and credit cards are in poor financial shape at the moment.

As a precaution you may want to cash in your points now in order to insure that the institutions don’t make a change to the program that greatly diminishes your value.  In addition you might want to find another financial institution that isn’t in precarious financial condition with a rewards program to use in the interim until your current institution stabilizes.

The two largest banking institutions that have liberal rewards programs that are in financial trouble are Citi Group and Bank of America.

The largest banking institution that has a liberal rewards program that isn’t in financial trouble is Chase.

Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.

FY2007
FY2007

FY2008
FY2008

FY2009
FY2009

Sold: Amityville Horror House

by Sarah Mcbride

Trying to sell a house in today’s lackluster real-estate market?

Maybe you just need a good story behind the property. That may have helped homeowner Brian Wilson, who just sold his place at 108 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, NY. The house inspired the bestselling book and movie “The Amityville Horror” after the 1974 murders that took place there.

The five bedroom Dutch-colonial style dwelling was listed in May for $1.15 million. It sold for an undisclosed price, the New York Daily News reported.

After the murders of the DeFeo family, the property sold to George and Kathleen Lutz, who said the house was haunted and moved out shortly after buying it. Their experiences provided the basis for a bestselling book and movie.

A bank foreclosed on the house, and it was sold in 1977 to James Cromarty, who lived there ten years and told Newsday in May that “nothing weird ever happened there.” He sold it to another couple that also lived there ten years. It last sold in 1997 for $310,000.

The murderer, family member Robert DeFeo Jr., is still incarcerated.

Amityville Horror House

The house in 1974
Richard Drew/AP

Original Story on NPR.org

Ups and Downs

Just as the trucking industry tells us that delivery volume has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the years; retailers tell us that consumers are beginning to spend less.

And the Commerce Department announced that the recession was deeper than previously estimated.

Who’s doing the estimates?

Anyone with any sense knew the economy was in bad shape, and that it would likely take a number of years before there was any real improvement, and potentially a decade before we truly recovered.

You have to ask yourself are the people in Washington DC and on Wall Street stupid — or do they just think the American public are so stupid they will believe anything?

Personally I feel this is a catastrophic event in World history that requires leadership to acknowledge it’s severity and begin making long term plans for recovery while creating short term safety nets to keep society afloat.

Just one more sign that anyone who’s been in office in this country isn’t part of the solution — they’re part of the problem.

INCUMBENTS

A Pledge of No Privacy

Part of the intent of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (aka the Financial Modernization Act of 1999) and the rules and regulations for federal banking and credit unions was to put into effect requirements on financial institutions1 to safe-guard the personal, confidential, and financial information of their customers2.

On of the main parts of the law was that it required institutions to provide customers with their privacy policy which explained their information sharing and information safeguarding.  However, because the law was heavily effected by lobbying, and even reviewed by large financial institutions before being considered by congress there are cases where institutions aren’t really subject to many limitations on what they can do with your information.

You might find it interesting that every large financial institution I have dealt with since the law was passed (ie Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Barclay, etc) have specifically allowed for an “opt-out” of the sharing for personal information for use both inside and outside the company (effectively limiting the information to be used only as require by law and as necessary for the maintenance of your account).

However, you have to be very careful about smaller institutions.

Credit Unions are in general very customer oriented, and most the time “do the right thing” — particularly when it comes to building a solid, long term customer relationship based on trust and respect.  However, take a look at the “Privacy Pledge” for Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union3 (formerly Monsanto Employees Credit Union) http://www.gogulfwinds.com/page/privacy — WOW — that’s a really nice pledge to no privacy.  In essence what it says is that they’ll use any information they collect on you (both public and non-public) and use it to the full extent allowed by law (I’d guess to profit from) and won’t allow a customer (or consumer) to “opt-out”.

How many ways can you say “non-customer focused”???

The moral of this, don’t assume you’re better off dealing with small “local” financial providers that might seem to have your interests in mind — you might actually end up getting better over all service and respect from a much larger financial provider.

I for one will be re-assessing my financial relationships; and likely terminating a few — and trying to convince congress to stand up to the financial services companies and actually pass a law that protects me.

REFERENCES:

In Brief: The Financial Privacy Requirements of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

NOTES:

1 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 apply to banks, credit unions, securities firms, and insurance companies as well as a number of other type of companies providing financial services to consumers and is part of a larger framework of federal, state, and local banking laws.

2 The Financial Modernization Act of 1999 privacy requirements apply to customers; which are defined to be consumers (not business) with which the institution has a “long term” relationship (ie holds an account), and does not necessarily cover all consumers who might interact or transact with an institution.

3 You can find the same type of non-privacy policy at a number of smaller financial institutions; Gulf Winds is particularly sad because they refer to it as a “Privacy Pledge” rather than just a “Privacy Policy”.

Give in the present for the future…

Help Wikipedia grow — read the appeal from Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, for US tax deductible donations to help grow Wikipedia and keep it free for ourselves and future generations.

If you want to give this holiday season, give something small that will really help big… or give something big that will help hugely!

Jimmy Wales

Donate to Wikipedia

Citi Mobile SM for Cards

Citibank has rolled out a mobile banking application for many phones on most major cellular carriers.

Personally I’m not sure why we’ve gone to a model where vendors seem to believe we need all kinds of applications to do simple things that could be done through a web browser… perhaps that’s an unfortunate side-effect of the iPhone craze (or perhaps better said as crazies).

I think it’s great that banking institutions are thinking about ways to provide services to individuals who have cellular data plans, but I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t just use simple standards — after all, the point is to enable the flow of information, not to make an application that people play with like a game.

To use the Citi Mobile application, you need a supported handset on a supported carrier, and you have to sign up, download, and activate it through the Citi “My Account” web portal.