Archive for the ‘Money’ Category
How to Contact Equifax by Phone – Equifax Customer Service
Equifax.com is one of the three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States. Equifax gathers information on you in the form of credit reporting data from sources all over the country — they communicate with banks and credit card companies as well as other debtors, and then set up a credit file on you based on that information. Everyone knows that credit reporting agencies like Equifax offer copies of consumer credit reports, but Equifax is worth more than that — they can monitor your credit report and even handle disputes. If you need to know how to contact Equifax for any reason there are a number of different ways to do just that.
Reasons for needing to contact Equifax vary from person to person. Equifax.com offers a wide range of financial services and offers multiple ways of contacting them to get those services. Some common reasons for contacting Equifax are:
- to get a copy of your credit report
- to put a consumer fraud alert in place
- to ask a question about one of their services
- to dispute something in your personal credit report
- to opt out of the Equifax mailing list
How to Contact Equifax.com to Get a Free Equifax Credit Report
If you need to contact Equifax for a copy of your credit report, you can request a copy of that Equifax credit report by contacting them on the phone or ordering your credit report copy online. To order a credit report by phone you will need to call Equifax at 1-800-685-1111. If you want to place your order online, just visit the Equifax.com website. If you have recently been denied a line of credit, have no fear. You are entitled to a free credit report from Equifax.
How to Contact Equifax to Get Off the Equifax Mailing List
Believe it or not, you can stop getting those annoying Equifax phone calls, emails, and fax machine messages. If you need to contact Equifax to get off of their various mailing lists, you are limited to using the telephone. Call Equifax at 1-888-567-8688 and follow the proper options for opting out of their mailing lists.
How to Contact Equifax Customer Service to Place a Fraud Alert on Your Equifax Credit Report
Placing a fraud alert on your credit report lets creditors and credit bureaus know that something suspicious is going on. If you’ve recently lost a credit card or other vital piece of information, ideally you need to place fraud alerts with all three credit bureaus. To contact Equifax to place one of these fraud alerts on your credit report you can either call them on the phone or make the fraud alert request online. To place the fraud alert by phone you will need to call the main number at 1-888-766-0008. To place the fraud alert online, visit the Equifax Fraud alert website.
How to Contact Equifax About Their Services
If you just have a simple question about an Equifax service you’ve ordered or are planning to order, contact Equifax by logging into the member center on their website. If you click on “Member Center Login” at the top of the page to log into your account, you can then click on the “Contact Us” link to send them an email or find a customer-specific phone number for assistance. The good news is that I’ve already done the work for you — for questions about services, call 1-866-640-2273. You can reach customer service via this number between the hours of 8am and 3pm Eastern time seven days a week.
How to Contact Equifax to Make a Credit Report Dispute
If there’s a mistake on your Equifax credit report, you can dispute the error by visiting the Equifax “online dispute center”. If you have a hard copy of your Equifax credit report, you can also mail your request with a copy of your credit report to the address listed on the report itself — P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374. You can also use that address to contact Equifax by mail for any purpose.
Who is the “National Council for a New America”?
The “National Council for a New America” is a brand new public policy group led by prominent Republicans. The National Council for a New America is a rebranding effort on the part of these Republicans, who believe the party must stand for more than simple opposition to Barack Obama’s policies. Concerned about the post-election perception that they GOP is the “Party of No”, the National Council for a New America is seeking a new brand which discusses new policy ideas and welcomes more opinions into the party. Prominent members of the national council are Jeb Bush and John McCain, as well as Bobby Jindal, Mitt Romney and Haley Barbour.
In fact, many of the leading members of the Republican Party have signed on to participate in the National Council for a New America. This “national panel of experts” will report to Republican congressional leaders. Among the GOP leaders in Congress who are expected to sign their name to the NCNA’s formation announcement this week are Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP #2 Jon Kyl, House Minority Leader John Boehner, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence and Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander. In other words, most of the GOP congressional leadership, several key Republican governors and several prominent retired Republicans are forming this organization to change the image of the National GOP.
Who Is the National Council for a New America and What are their ideas?
That’s yet to be determined. The National Council’s mission statement is to start a national debate on issues and encourage such a debate. The founders say they will welcome non-Republicans to their policy discussions. They are concerned with the perception that Republican leaders want a kind of ideological purity that marginalizes their party and drives moderates out of the GOP.
“Ideological purity” is what many conservative talk shows hosts like Rush Limbaugh call for. They want their conservatives to be conservative on every issue and call out Republicans who don’t. But Rush Limbaugh only has to draw an audience and ideological purity is good for ratings, since he appeals mainly to conservatives. Ideological purity doesn’t win national elections, though, because it alienates too many of the independent and moderate voters needed to swing close contests. Some Republicans have voiced the sentiment they would rather lose elections than compromise their principles, which appears to have frightened certain leaders of the party. Facing an uncertain future where they sit in a clear minority, GOP politicians on Capitol Hill and other Republicans have decided to seize the initiative on policy discussions away from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.
Republicans tend to have more squabbles about what it means to be a “true Republican”. Traditional conservatives would say that a conservative is someone who wants limited government or a more liberatarian view: lower taxes, fewer regulations, fewer overseas commitments. Fiscal conservatives want tax breaks for business interests, a sensible federal budget and measures to rein in the federal debt. A social conservative isn’t too much concerned about material matters: they want to end moral decline through pro-marriage and pro-life stances, as well as faith-based charity funding. The fact is, these various groups within the Republican Party are not going to always see eye-to-eye. Traditional conservatives wants to limit the power of government and they are likely to see “moral” uses of government, like federal control of reproductive rights, federal definitions of marriage and proactive use of military power to nation build and promote democracy as liberal uses of government. A fiscal conservative views military adventures as expensive drains on the budget, while social conservatives are likely to view fiscal conservatives as a bunch of big-money interests back east and just as concerned with material concerns as a liberal.
Each of these draw upon planks in the traditional GOP platform, but they are likely to see the others’ views as liberalism and not within the ideological purity of the party. All of these groups are likely to view their own stance as ideological purity, and many Republicans identify with more than one of these segments of their party. But when you try to meld these interests together, you often get illogical and even hypocritical policy positions. Scapegoating and an enemies list is great political theater, if not very good for political dialogue or solving the problems of the nation. Rush Limbaugh and conservative commentators are among the most successful at appealing to the varied interests of the GOP, because their platforms (radio, tv, books) allow for polemical arguments where there illogical positions go unchallenged. Rush Limbaugh might say a true Republican is someone who wants less government and tax cuts, but with an active, hardline foreign policy that promotes democracy. Limbaugh Republicans believe a true conservative is someone who always opposes liberals and chafes at the mainstream media and those Hollywood types.
That formula worked pretty well through the late 1990′s and most of this decade, but when less regulation leads to economic excesses and lower taxes lead to record deficits, that’s the time for a debate on these policies. When powerful Republicans refuse to learn from recent history and reconsider their stances in the name of ideological purity, then some leaders among the GOP were sure to create something like the National Council for a New America. Both political parties roll out plenty of spin and propaganda, but when you start to believe that spin (it’s not our fault; the liberals are to blame), then you cling to bad policies and losing strategies.
So Are the Republicans Going to Be a Permanent Minority Party?
Pundits and politicians tend to overstate the outcomes of the last election cycle. It was just four years ago where we saw reports that Karl Rove wanted to cement a permanent Republican majority in Congress, and those stories were taken seriously by people on both sides of the aisle. Only four years later and the Republicans have suffered major losses in two straight national elections (2006 mid-terms, 2008 presidential election), have lost control of both houses of Congress and face a young, popular Democratic president who will be tough to beat in 2012. That all happened in four years, so there’s no telling how the political winds will be blowing in 2012.
One reason the Republicans in Congress are getting the reputation as the “Party of No” is there isn’t much reason to sign on to the Obama reforms and stimulus packages. If those initiatives succeed, President Obama and the Congressional Democrats will get all the credit for those moves. The Republicans who voted along with them will largely be forgotten. But if those measures fail to produce results, if the Republicans stay at arms length, then all of the blame will fall on the Democrats. There really is every reason to be the party of “no”, besides the fact that the opposition party tends to stand in opposition and tends to have honest and long-standing differences of opinion on public policy initiatives.
Like Barack Obama said early on, if he fails to turn the economy around in three years, this country will have a new president in four years. And if Barack Obama’s stimulus packages appear to have stemmed the economic downturn and have the country pointed in the right direction, he will in all likelihood win reelection. That’s probably the way it should be: political success depending on policy success.
That’s why the Republicans are where they are right now. They had control of the White House for eight years and control of the Congress for the first six of those years, the Democrats had too small of a majority from 2006 to 2008 to beat a presidential veto. Taking all that into account, the American public decided the Republicans were to blame for most of the country’s recent problems. While Bill O’Reilly made a lot of Barney Frank’s 2005 speech about “no housing bubble”, that speech came in 2005 when Barney Frank simply couldn’t affect policy decisions unless a significant number of Republicans were also voting along with him. No one honestly thinks that Congressional Republicans were listening to Barney Frank when deciding how to vote. The Republicans got the blame for the policies or lack of policies that led to sub-prime mortgages and the global credit crash, so they got voted out of office. And since their policy ideas have been discredited for the moment, they are left with little to do than wring their hands about the Democrats’ proposed solutions.
So who is the National Council for a New America and is this something we should take seriously?
Maybe you should. American political history is full of political falls and the losing party rising from the ashes. If you lived through the New Deal years, it probably looked like the Democrats would never lose a national election. But the China fell to the Communists, the Russians got the bomb and the Truman Administration blundered into a major war versus China in Korea, so the American people decided that the country needed fresh Republican leadership in what looked like an increasingly dangerous world. When George Herbert Walker Bush had just won Desert Storm, it looked like he would have no trouble extending the Republican White House control to 16 years. But a year-and-a-half later, Bill Clinton was the new president-elect. And we’ve already covered how the American political scene looked 4 years ago.
When a party receives a major drubbing, then the old leadership is edged aside and new leaders emerge. The historical Goldwater loss in 1964 is now seen as the year that the modern Republican Party began to take shape. No one seriously thought after Kerry’s loss in 2004 that Barack Obama would emerge as a serious presidential candidate in 2008, much less the winner. The Republican Party looks devoid of leadership at the moment. New leadership will emerge in time, probably with a slightly different game plan and slightly different policies for a new generation.
The Democrats will say that this is a cynical ploy to give a different shine to the same old failed policies, that this is putting lipstick on a pig (I think we’ve heard that one before). That could very well be the case. But let’s give the Republicans forming the National Council for a New America credit that they are intelligent men and women just as puzzled as everyone else that the wheels have come off. If that’s the case, they might actually be searching for new solutions, realizing that conservative principle doesn’t have to mean a stubborn refusal to learn from mistakes. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have had their way for the past eight years, but now it’s time for the adults to take over. At least that’s what it appears the GOP leadership is saying by forming the National Council for a New America.
For the moment, the National Council for a New America looks a lot like the old leadership of the party: Romney, McCain, Boehner, McConnell. In a way, this looks like the old guard of the GOP trying to rebrand their old policies to maintain or reassert their control of the party. But along with these men, new faces are being added to the mix, and even more faces are likely to emerge in the coming years. So when you ask if we should take the National Council for a New America seriously, I would say maybe.
5 Ways to Measure Employee Performance
All managers want to be able to track the progress of their staff to ensure they are reaching their objectives, just as all employees want performance feedback that is deemed credible.
Performance appraisals are often conducted by managers to measure employee performance; but there are other tools that can also be used to steer away from unintended subjectivity.
Here are 5 effective ways to measure employee performance
First, let’s take at a look at employee appraisals, as this tool is almost always used by managers to measure employee performance. This type of tool is usually conducted by an employee’s direct manager. The most effective appraisal tools include both a subjective and an objective element. The subjective component will most likely conclude how an employee performs against standards. All measurements should include some type of qualitative component. Many times to include a qualitative component a manger will be asked to rate an employee on their ability to exhibit flexibility, work in teams, as well as their ability to think analytically.
Another important performance tool is self-appraisal ratings. This allows an employee to actually rate his or her performance. Using such a tool usually leads to an employee accepting the performance appraisal processes, especially when their scores and managers’ scores are similar. In most cases, if the scores are not similar, a tool can be used to provide a vehicle. This vehicle is used to facilitate discussions that relate to manager expectations and then also the employee’s self-perception.
360-Degree feedback tools are used by many managers to measure employee performance. The feedback received through this tool comes from customers, peers, managers, and direct reports. Most times a self-appraisal tool is incorporated into a 360-degree feedback tool. This type of tool works best when the atmosphere found within a corporation is one that promotes open, sincere and truthful communication, as well as employee growth. This type of tool should be implemented as a positive criticism tool, not one that punishes employees.
Management By Objective
A management by objective tool is used to set employee goals (or objectives). This type of tool can help set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and even annual objectives. Once an objective time period has ended measurements are then conducted and reviewed to see who met their goals. This type of tool should also be used in a manner that does not punish employees, but identifies which employees need extra training or guidance to boost company sales.
Balanced scorecards are often used at the highest business unit level; however, they are effective tools for a manager to implement as well. They help align and facilitate organization goals by measuring quantifiable data, such as accounts receivable turnover rates.
All organizations should experiment with different employee performance tools. Many times a company will find that one tool works much better than another or that combining several tools actually yields optimal results. The important thing is to use them according to the needs and wants of the company and its employees.
This was a guest post from Todd Shipley. Thanks, Todd!
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What can I get my dad for Father’s Day . . . that won’t break the bank?
We are all suffering to some degree from the economic crisis. It isn’t just Americans — countries around the world are feeling the belt tighten.
Unfortunately, Dads appear to be yet another victim of the falling value of our money. A recent survey by the National Retail Federation suggests that the average consumer is going to spend $90.89 on Father’s Day gifts, down from last year’s $94.54. If you’re like me, you looked at that number and wondered who is buying their dad a Ferrari and throwing off the average? Seriously — I’m not a cheap gift giver, but I’ve never spent anywhere near $90 on my dad — it would embarass. Still, for those of you that want to spoil dad on a budget, spending less money doesn’t have to mean that the gift is not a special one.
Here are some great gift ideas that can be had cheap, but will not come off as stingy when Dad opens his present over breakfast in bed. The prices on these gifts range from free to well below $50.
A card and a telephone call: All that your Dad is looking for on Father’s Day is some recognition. My Dad gets upset sometimes when his kids spend money on him — he would rather we invest that money or do something for ourselves. That makes it really easy for me — I can send my Dad a card, and call him on June 21st. You aren’t a cheapskate if you do this — you’re making your love for your Dad known, and personalizing it with a hand written card. Big brownie points here.
A framed certificate: Why not print something out and have it framed? It may be cheesy, but remember back to when you were a kid and you would make all of your gifts for your parents, from ceramic ashtrays in arts and craft’s class at summer camp to pictures you drew with Crayons in Kindergarten. Continue that tradtion — print out a Dad of the Year or Best Dad Ever certificate, have it framed nicely, and don’t be surprised if your Dad puts it up in his office. You can even find Father’s Day themed certificates available for download and printing online, making your job even easier.
Coupons: With the magic of a laser printer, you can print Dad focused coupons. Offer Dad a coupon for “one lawn mowing” or “movie and popcorn night”. Not only will this gift fit comfortably in your budget, but it ensures that you’re going to do something special for your Dad later. FamilyFun.go.com offers a wide variety of handsomely designed Dad coupons you can download and print
DVD or CD: My Dad is a huge music lover. When I visit him, not five minutes goes by without talking about a musician or a new album. I take advantage of this on Father’s Day by creating a CD of Dad’s favorite music, or music I know he’ll love, and customizing the case with drawings and funny Bush quotes (he’s an avid anti-Bush guy). An alternative to a music CD would be to edit Dad a special DVD of family photos. Use your creative spirit and the possibilities are endless.
Cheers to Dad: The internet is an amazing place. Give Real, a relatively new website, gives their customers the ability to order Dad a cocktail anywhere in the US. Just purchase a gift certificate for a drink that Dad can redeemed at any bar or restaurant that accepts credit or debit cards. This means thousands of place for Dad to belly up and order his favorite cocktail. Give Real has a huge variety of drink coupons, and I know my Dad is going to love the three Guinness coupons I’m sending him.
Flowers: Mom isn’t the only one that appreciates the thoughtful gift of flowers, especially from his precious daughters. We all know that flower delivery stores offer discounts for Mother’s Day — surprise, they do so for Father’s Day as well. Flowers for Father’s Day is a unique gift that will be a talking point for Dad at his job or at home.
What Are Stock Quotes?
Stock quotes are representations of the value of a share of stock.
So what is “stock” anyway?
A stock is a share in the ownership of a publicly traded company.
Stock is a claim on that company’s assets and earnings power. When a person acquires more and more stock, their share of ownership in the company is larger. Other words for stock include “shares” and “equity”, but it’s all the same thing.
Stock quotes, then, are numerical representations of the financial value of a single share of stock. During a day’s financial trading, the value of different stocks goes up and down as stock brokers buy and sell to earn profit. Stock quotes are available live, on stock tickers and on computer screens across the world, but they are most commonly examined in the newspaper or other paper report.
What Do Stock Quotes Represent?
A stock quote shows the financial value of a small part of a company. A share of stock used to be represented physically by a stock certificate, an elegant little piece of paper that looked something like a college degree. These days, this information is stored in brokerage firms’ computers as electronic records, so there’s no need for the fancy piece of paper. Shares are much easier to trade when they exist as electronic documents. Once upon a time, selling a large number of shares of stock required a physical transaction of these stock certificates. It is much easier to pick up your phone and sell shares of stock than it was to dump your stock into a wheelbarrow and wheel it down to Wall Street.
How to Read a Stock Quote
Reading stock quotes may seem complicated, but once you know what all the different figures mean, you’re in business.
Open up the financial section of your newspaper and look for the stock market section. You’ll see what looks like a million tiny numbers and words — these are stock quotes. They represent the value of different stocks at the end of the previous day’s trading.
Depending on your newspaper, there can be as many as twelve columns of numbers across the page for each stock that is listed. Here is what each column means.
Columns 1 & 2 — 52-Week High and Low
These numbers show the highest and lowest prices at which a share of this stock has traded over the last 52 weeks, or one year. It isn’t typical for the 52 week high and low to include the previous day’s trading, but it happens from time to time.
Column 3 — Company Name & Type of Stock
Here you’ll see the name of the company and symbols to indicate what type of stock it is.
Sometimes there are no symbols after the name of the company, and in this case the stock is considered “common.” There are different symbols for different types of stock, such as “pf” which stands for preferred stock.
Column 4 — Ticker Symbol
Every company that is publicly traded is assigned a ticker symbol. Rather than write out the long name of a company and clutter up the ticker, each company has a symbol they are known by. Knowing these symbols is crucial to reading stock reports, and over time you’ll recognize symbols as company names. It helps to know ticker symbols when you’re looking up stock quotes online. If you don’t know a particular company’s stock ticker, that information is easy to find online or by digging around in your newspaper’s stock report.
Column 5 — Dividend Per Share
This number indicates the annual dividend payment per share. Sometimes there will be no number in this column, and in that case, the company does not pay out dividends.
Column 6 — Dividend Yield
Dividend yield is simply a representation of the percentage return on the dividend. This number is calculated by dividing annual dividends per share by price per share.
Column 7 — Price/Earnings Ratio
The price to earnings ratio is another simple calculation that the financial page does for you — simply divide the current stock price by earnings per share from the last fiscal year. This is a key number for many investors as they see it as a marker for a stock’s potential future performance.
Column 8 — Trading Volume
This is a number reflecting the total amount of shares traded for that specific trading day, listed by the hundreds. To figure out the actual number of stocks traded, add “00″ to the end of the number.
Column 9 & 10 — Day High and Low
These numbers show the price range for the stock’s day of trading. These two numbers are the high and the low prices that people paid for the stock during a day’s worth of trading.
Column 11 — Close
The close is the final trading price recorded after the close of the financial market. Most newspapers financial sections make it easy to see stocks that are moving up and down a ton by placing the stock quotes for companies whose stock has moved up or down by 5% or more in bold. The close is the simplest indicator of a stock’s recent past performance, and most of the time it will give you an idea of the stock’s value when trading opens again the next day. Remember that the financial market continues to fluctuate even when trading is closed, so don’t expect to buy a stock for the close price listed in your local newspaper.
Column 12 — Net Change
Net change represents the dollar value fluctuation in a stock’s value from the previous day’s close. If a stock is “up for the day”, the net change was positive. A negative net change means the stock was down for the day.
Being able to read stock quotes is critical for success in the world of investments. Even if you are only lightly invested in mutual funds or stocks, you should have the ability to check up on your investments by glancing at the newspaper.
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What is Obama cutting from the Federal budget?
There’s an old saying in our nation’s capital — “$1 billion here, $1 billion there”. This is supposed to be a joke about the large amounts of money that our Federal government deals with on a daily basis, and is meant to give the common man a chuckle. However, in the case of President Obama’s recent budget cut decisions, it just isn’t true.
When President Obama organized his Cabinet, he let them know that he expected them to come up with $100 million in budget savings, and to do it pronto. Sure, $100 million pales in comparison to $1 billion, but as my mama taught me, every little bit counts.
President Obama’s Cabinet has finally delivered what the President wants. $100 million in budget cuts have been whispered to Obama, and now he’s sharing them with the country. Okay, so we’re not talking about an amount of money that will fix the economy or give back hundreds of thousands of jobs, but President Barack Obama’s budget cuts are a delivery on two promises. The first — a promise he made to his country, to his fellow citizens. The second promise — that Obama wouldn’t ask anything of us that he wouldn’t do himself. More on that last promise later. First, the cuts.
Most government agencies have agreed to go “paperless” in most cases, saving an untold amount in paper and copy machine costs. Don’t laugh — the estimate for this savings alone is over $90,000 per agency. Similarly, the Treasury Department has decided to shred classified materials (and to recycle them) instead of following their usual protocol and burning them through an outside agency. This small change will recapture about $40,000 per year.
Over at the Justice Department, the government will save an astounding $4 million in the next year by making their travel arrangements online (like the rest of us) instead of using travel agents. That’s a huge amount of savings for just one change — and by the way, who uses a travel agent anymore? Apparently, our government does.
In a move that echoes changes most of us are making in our own home, the Air Force agreed to install around 3,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs. This will reportedly reduce the Air Force’s electricity costs by about $36,000 a year.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture is cutting some overseas meetings and conferences (including a fancy trip to Australia), and the Department of Commerce did away with a plan to make over $140,000 in office renovations, saying that the changes were not “necessary to their operation”. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is shifting some expenses, including the maintenance and eventual disposal of temporary housing from Hurrican Katrina (120,000 housing units in all) — these changes will now be made by a private outfit. This move will save the government around $4 million in operating costs.
What is the biggest single change of them all? The Air Force isn’t just changing light bulbs — they’re saving $52 million by switching over to commercial jet fuel. The standard procedur for fuel in an Air Force jet is something known as “JP-8″. It doesn’t even there — the Air Force is cutting back a total of $18 million by transporting more soldiers per chartered airplane when they take leave. I figure they can sit the relative comfort of coach like the rest of us, but that probably won’t be a popular opinion.
The press release about the budget cuts came down the line late Monday evening with a surprisingly small amount of news coverage or fanfare. Most likely, the health care reform is clouding the news horizon, or the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. Either way, few people have heard the specifics of Obama’s cuts. And yes, Obama’s pledge to make cuts to the budget equals something near $1 for every $10,000 of his now $1 trillion budget — but he is delivering on a promise, and the angriest Birth Certificate conspiracy theory Republican can’t deny that. The budget, approved this past March, is now just a bit smaller.
Opponents of the President and his budget have been quick to compare the $100 million cut with “cutting a single foot-long submarine sandwich from the budget of a person making $60,000 a year”. Is it a strange analogy? Yes, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. After all, Americans are known for their predilection for food.
Don’t forget that the actual tally for cuts is $102 million for the year 2009, as well as an additional $165 million more in savings 2010. So, he’s cutting two sub sandwiches.
The President clearly believes that small savings add up to make a big difference. All comparisons to submarine sandwiches aside, these kinds of small changes reflect what the Federal government has been asking us to do for some years now — change little things to create big savings in energy costs. Think of these cuts as Obama practicing what he has so sternly been preaching.
By making these cuts, Obama has done exactly what he needed — fulfilled a couple of major promises he and his staff made to the American people. It may be easier for the rest of us to tighten our belts when we see our President doing the same.
What caused the recent stock boom?
The major U.S. stock index scores kept up the recent winning trend today, and have now risen to their highest levels in recent months. The up trend is caused by many factors, not the least of which is an unexpected number of quarterly results beating their estimates and a trickling upward in the home sales data.
That’s right — good news from the real estate market. Stocks are booming on news that existing home sales rose for the third consecutive month as reported from June. This boost in confidence for the stock market put to bed any previous qualms about the market. Some were saying this boom was based solely on those better than expected quarterly results, and that more evidence was needed that the economy may be turning around. For those skeptics, the new home sales numbers seems to have been the final straw.
The Dow Jones industrial average also hit a high mark, breaking through the 9,000 point for the first time since early January, this also a result of the National Association of Realtors announcing that sales of pre owned homes were 3.6% higher in June at 4.89 million annualized units, up from 4.72 million units in May. The new figures from the home market indicate a growth that is quicker annually than predicted by market analysts. With a projection for 4.84 million units in June, the analysts were under by almost 50,000 homes. This lifted shareholder’s hopes that the housing market may be heading in the direction of a gradual recovery.
On Thursday June 23, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 182. 43 points, or 2.1%, to jump to a volume of 9,063.69. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 22.17, or 2.3%, to close at $976.24, and the Nasdaq Composite Index shot up by 46.47, or 2.4% of its volume, to close at 1,972.85, all during a Thursday afternoon trading session.
Some stand out stocks include 3M, whose shares enjoyed heavy buying traffic on Thursday — the stock’s value closed up by $3.93, or 6.1% volume, to end at $68.60. 3M is a highly diversified tech company who recent press conference indicated that swine flu (or H1N1) fears helped sales of their respiratory masks, proving that H1N1 is having some major social and economic results. Overall though, 3M blames their good streak on “greater demand for consumer electronics”.
The recent boom in stock values is largely influence by the announcements of several companies who indicated they made more money than expected. The Dow is now up nearly 40 percent from low marks in early March of 2009. Ford Motor Co., AT&T Inc., and the aforementioned 3M Co. are just a few of the assets that have recently reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectations.
It is good to see all financial markets trending upward — it isn’t just the New York Stock Exchange, but also the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 who are also showing growth, with each one up over 2 percent today from previous highs.
Many analysts are slow to give credit to any one factor for the recent up trend in the stock market. Many say that the recent gains can be attributed not juts to companies beating their earnings estimates, but to investors coming back into the market because they don’t want to miss what is perceived as a rally, and the public’s perception that the economy is starting to recover, slowly but surely.
Another indicator of what might be causing a market boom — the tech heavy Nasdaq Composite Index, which was already on an 11-day winning streak coming into Thursday’s action, was up over 2%, helped analysts say by major gains in two of its high-profile funds following business’ quarterly reports. One major holding, EBay, was up by 10% after the online auctioneer announced that current quarter results would top analyst estimates. Interestingly enough, it was EBay’s rival, online retailer Amazon.com, that also bolstered the Nasdaq’s winning streak — Amazon gained 5.5% after announcing a surprising to all (including the CEO) profit increase. It didn’t hurt that Amazon also recently acquired major online shoe retailer Zappos.com. So is it tech stocks that are leading the financial boom right now?
Not necessarily — just look at shares of SanDisk, which plunged 13% in a day after the computer chip maker announced strong recent profits but what some analysts saw as “a disappointing outlook”. Recently, most stock analysts have downgraded the value of SanDisk to a neutral or average rating, with one reviewer saying: “Top-line weakness raises concerns about the demand environment and we believe partially reflects weaker consumer spending.” It seems that investors are still wary about tech stocks after the boom and crash in the late 90s / early 2000s.
What other sectors won big recently in the stock market? Health care, for one. Bristol-Myers announced their better than expected results (beginning to sound like a broken record?) and announced a plan to buy the much smaller Medarex company for $2.4 billion. Bristol-Myers shares were up a solid 1.6% on the day, while Medarex was the big winner, up 89%. Another health care company that did good for themselves — Wyeth, whose earnings also beat expectations. That pushed the value of the drugmaker’s shares up a full 1%.
Investors may also have responded to President Barack Obama’s press conference Wednesday evening regarding proposed health care legislation. If this is the case, they seem to have reacted positively — traders are notoriously nervous about any big moves by the Commander in Chief, and traders have been nervous about Obama’s health care package, whether it would face any major delays, if the plan could effectively control costs, if the plan would leave customers room for choice, etc.
Whatever the reason, the market is turning back into a solid investment. Part of the mini boom we’re experiencing could just be people returning to the market because their confidence has been restored.
Annual Compensation Payments
A structured settlement is a court-ordered set of periodic payments which stem from a lawsuit for damages or a legal agreement to settle damages in a tort case. The structured settlement calls for compensation payments for damages or workers’ compensation and is subject to the Internal Revenue Code Section 104.
Structured settlements have only been around for a generation or two, as the first structured payment plan occurred in a British court case in the 1970s. This type of payment replaced lump sum payment plans, which were the rule in damage claims before that time. The innovation came about because of the increasing amount of money changing hands in tort cases in the Seventies.
Since the Seventies, structured settlements have become the norm in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. These payments are often funded through the purchase of annuities, which acts as a guarantee of future payments. Structured settlements are considered asset-backed securities, and can result from either settlement out of court or due to a legal obligation incurred through a lost court case.
What Is Tort?
“Tort” is money compensation for injuries caused or wrong done by one party to another. Tort law has been evolving since before the 1970s, because of the increasing amount of damage claims in cases since that time. You’ve probably heard people talk about “tort reform” and tort cases all the time, but it’s a term that many people don’t immediately understand, since tort law isn’t taught in public schools.
What Is Tort Reform?
Tort reform is the name given to law which hope to limit the amount of compensation in tort cases. Supporters of tort reform claim that out-of-control damages clog up the civil court system, encourage ambulance chaser lawyers, and increase insurance costs for everyone else, as companies have to compensate for large damage settlements.
Opponents of tort reform claim that companies must face high penalties for cases where they cause irreparable damage to employees and private citizens, because they will view lesser settlements as the “price of doing business” and therefore have no motivation to limit danger to workers or individuals affected by cost-cutting decisions.
Therefore, tort reform becomes a matter of viewing individual welfare against public costs. Questions of whether to support tort reform often revolve around the question of whether private corporations will police themselves or need the threat of legal jeopardy to do the right thing in setting up their business practices.
You could say that tort reform is about whether “slimy” lawyers prey on private interests, whether crusading lawyers serve a public purpose in keeping those very same private interests honest. Whether you support tort reform tends to boil down to where you stand on that issue.
Proponents in tort reform have won a valuable public relations battle simply in having the issue termed “tort reform”, because opponents would say reforming the tort system is no sort of reform at all, but opening the door for corruption. In my personal view, the murky politics of personal injury law leaves room to blame both sides, though I suppose having a “curse on both your houses” attitude hardly solves any problems. Each case is different, so I tend to dislike laws that limit judgments.
Structured Settlement and Tort Reform
Structured settlements therefore have become a way for businesses and companies often targeted by personal injury claims to defer some of the costs of tort cases against them, but limiting the amount of up-front payments and forestall damages that would put them out of business.
You could say lawyers and corporations alike have found a third way, which avoids a lump sum damage claim that would close doors, while avoiding the kind of tort reform laws that would close the doors on the law practices of so-called ambulance chasers. The business paying structured settlements retain capital they can invest in their business, hoping either to collect interest or make profits that offset the costs of the annuities they’ll have to pay.
The corporation forestalls costs and pays out over many years, the lawyers still collect fees for years to come, and those harmed are paid out over the years, hopefully as its own kind of pension. It should be noted that Medicare and Medicaid sometimes affect the amount of money paid in a structured settlement.
Selling Structured Settlements
Believe it or not, there are companies that buy structured settlements from the people who’ve been awarded them or who bargained for them out of court. Imagine you have a structured settlement plan, but you need money up-front and fast. There are companies who’ll pay you a lump sum amount (at a lesser total cost), and who then have the right to collect the damages (making a long-term profit).
These companies do the same with life insurance policies, annuities, and lottery awards. You have to imagine that the amount paid to those selling their future payments is going to be at a significantly reduced amount, so they can eventually turn a profit on this transaction.
For the most part, I would urge people not to sell their structured settlement to one of these companies, but people mortgage their futures for quick cash today all the time, so I know that advice is going to fall on deaf ears in many cases. Understand that you’re selling a dime for $0.05 today, or more likely, you’re selling a quarter for five cents. If you can avoid selling out your annual payments, don’t sell.
How to Buy a Used Land Rover
There are plenty of reasons to buy a used Land Rover — this was one of the first civilian 4×4 utility vehicles (premiering in the late 40s) and these cars are known as the “luxury SUV” for a reason. If you want the convenience of a Jeep in a comfortable and more attractive package, you need a Land Rover.
Buying a used Land Rover can be a headache. Used car dealers are not as informed about the Land Rover as they may be about other makes — used car dealers just don’t see many Land Rovers through their doors. Dealing with untrained salesmen is the least of your worries. Since it is so difficult to have your Land Rover serviced, you need to make sure that the Rover you buy is mechanically sound. Anytime you buy a used car that normally runs for well over $30,000, you want to be sure you don’t have a lemon on your hands.
First, decide which model of used Land Rover you’re after. Are you interested in a Classic model? Maybe a Range Rover III? Before you head out the door to check out used Land Rovers, you need to know what classic mechanical problems these cars tend to have. Classic Rovers have problems with the steering box as well as the rear axle. Be sure to ask the dealer or private seller about the issues specific to your model. Other classic Land Rover mechanical problems:
- coolant leaks
- hose leaks
- air suspension
- sagging doors
- stock springs
Once you’ve found a model you’re interested in and have given it the once-over, it is time to write down the VIN and check the vehicle’s history. Write down the VIN (found either on the car’s title or in a little box set into the windshield) and head over to CARFAX to buy a vehicle history report. Yeah, you’ll need to shell out around $30, but finding out about a car’s sketchy history can save you a ton of money in the future. CARFAX will tell you if the vehicle’s been salvaged, how many owners it had, and all kinds of other useful info.
Finally, in your hunt for the perfect used Land Rover, be sure you’re buying a “clean” car. If you buy your used Land Rover from a privateseller, check to be sure there’s no liens on the vehicle and that the person who signs the Bill of Sale is the real owner of the car.
If buying from a dealer, maintain records of the warranty and all other papers — and yes, you need to read the fine print very carefully. Whatever is promised to you, get it in writing. Will the remaining original warranty be transferred into your name? Ask all your questions.
Owning a Land Rover doesn’t have to mean going broke — yes, they are nice cars and some models are quite expensive, but if you buy a used Land Rover (and follow all the suggestions above) you can drive off the lot in a new (to you) Land Rover at a big discount.
Why is the Cash for Clunkers program controversial?
After writing about the so called “Cash for Clunkers” program a few weeks ago when it was announced, I was stunned to find out that there was a contingent of people who were against the program. Some people are using it to make a case against the entire Obama administration and their economic policies — still others point to this piece of legislation as unneccessary government subsidizing. As usual, both sides have valid points.
You know about the “Cash for Clunkers” program if you’ve had the news on the past week or so — the Federal government has decided to hand out vouchers of different amounts to people for trading in their old or inefficient cars for newer models with better gas mileage. It is a sort of “fleet modernization” that is unparalleled in American history.
First, a positive sign for the American economy — nearly half of the vehicles sold to this date under the “Cash for Clunkers” buyer incentive program put money in the coffers of General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler. That’s right — the big three automakers performed way above average among people purchasing a new car with the government incentive money.
Other information about how the “Clunker” program has fared so far — small passenger cars accounted for 60 percent of the nearly 90,00 sales during the first week of the program, this according to numbers reported to the government by various retail dealers through this past Saturday. It is a good sign that Americans are looking smaller in terms of their vehicles — smaller cars are generally more fuel efficient. So far, the top selling car among buyers using the incentive program is the Ford Focus.
This represents the first major assessment of how the program is working out at the consumer level. Remember that some consumers are offered a voucher of $4,500 to trade in those clunker vehicles for more efficient models. It is good news that Americans are putting their faith back in American cars. And remember when everyone on Capitol Hill was shouting about those “big 3″ manufacturers being a major piece of the American economy? Guess what — the program’s working for them.
According to Obama administration officials, the “Cash for Clunkers” incentive will prove to be a major economic stimulator during a nasty recession. Those some officials are putting heavy pressure on the Senate to approve a proposed $2 billion extension of the program by the end of this week. Without the additional money, says Obama and company, the program will die on the vine. Obama’s already won half of the battle — the House of Representatives voted in support of the extension package late last Friday. We’ll have to wait to hear what the Senate thinks about an extension — that chamber won’t consider the extension measure until the middle of this week.
Those who oppose the “Clunkers” program think of it as another form of the bank bailouts that caused so much controversy last year. You can tell them until you’re blue in the face that “Cash for Clunkers” isn’t anywhere near as expensive a program for the taxpayers, but they will cling to their “subsidization” argument. $1 billion might sound like a huge incentive program, but the payouts to financial institutions amounted to $2.5 trillion and climbing. These same detractors will admit that the program has caused renewed auto sales and put people in the doors of dealerships. They’ll admit that the timing of the incentive program was perfect for struggling auto manufacturers.
What they’ll also tell you is that some recent analysis made of the program by non partisan economics forecaster suggests that the program will have no noticeable impact on the actual number of car sales. In other words, these were car sales that didn’t depend on the voucher — rather, these vouchers hit some consumers when they needed it most, when their older less fuel efficient cars needed replacing anyway.
The “Cash for Clunkers” program is also being cited as a perfect example of the Obama administration’s lack of understanding about the economy — critics say that “Cash for Clunkers” borrows money from one source in order to stimulate a bit of economic activity — and even worse, that this stimulation “borrows growth” from the economic future. In short, critics of “Clunkers” warn that your future tax hikes will pay for your current “new car voucher”.
What colleges earn their graduates the most money?
We’ve all heard the numbers — people with college degrees earn a ton more money than those who do not graduate from college. Also, the more degrees you earn the more money you’re worth. However, some schools seem to graduate students with higher salaries. It could be because employers are looking for specific names on resumes, or it could be that one college prepares students for the real world more than another. Whatever the reason, we now know what schools graduates earn the most money.
PayScale, a financial analysis website, spent the last couple of years collecting info from college grads about their jobs, their starting salaries, and the average mid-career salaries and put together a couple of charts ranking the ten highest median graduate salaries and ten highest initial salaries by school.
If you were expecting Harvard or Yale to top the list, you’ll be disappointed. Not even the powerhouse Massachusetts Institute of Technology took top honors. No, that spot belongs to Dartmouth College. Gradutes of Dartmouth programs report the highest median mid-career salary — an average of $129,000. As for the school whose graduates earn the average highest starting salary, that honor goes to little known Loma Linda University, a private school where graduates first year of salaray averages over $71,000.
There are a few weaknesses in the study that need to be discussed. because PayScale asked people to report their own salary information, without any kind of verification, the study may end up being about which campus graduates more people willing to lie about their salary. The study’s pool of respondents is not at all randomized — in fact, the pool is self selected and the statistics are reported by the study participants online and voluntarily. PayScale also went in a weird direction in terms of the limit of degrees earned — the study only counts the salaries of individuals with just a bachelor’s degree — lawyers, doctors, and other professionals who require post Graduate degrees are completely left out.
PayScale claims they did the study this way to show the high return one could earn from a single investment — whereas earning a Master’s or PhD requires hefty additional expense and investment of time.
Alright, so what we’re looking at here is a study of the potential return on an investment for a Bachelor’s degree. Here are the top ten colleges in both categories — highest median mid-career salary (first table) and median starting salary (second table):
1. Dartmouth College – $129,000
2. MIT – $126,000
3. Harvard University – $126,000
4. Harvey Mudd College – $125,000
5. Stanford University – $124,000
6. Princeton University – $124,000
7. Colgate University – $122,000
8. University of Notre Dame – $121,000
9. Yale University – $120,000
10. University of Pennsylvania – $118,000
1. Loma Linda University – $71,400
2. MIT – $71,100
3. Harvey Mudd College – $71,000
4. CIT (California Institute of Technology) – $69,700
5. Stanford – $67,500
6. Carnegie-Mellon University – $65,300
7. Princeton University – $65,000
8. Polytechnic University of New York, Brooklyn – $62,700
9. Renssalear Polytechnic Institute – $62,500
10. Rose Hulman Institute of Technology – $61,100
The lesson here is — tell your kids to be engineers. Engineers make tons of money, as reflected by the massive amounts of engineering schools represented inthe above tables. Especially promising for engineering students is the second table. Besides Loma Linda (which is a Seventh-day Adventist medical school in southern California), there are basically only engineering schools on the list of top starting salaries of graduates, with maybe three Ivy League schools thrown in. If you want to make good money right out of college, study Engineering.
Before you get obsessed over your next school choice, and before you die your fifth grader’s hair Stanford red, you might want to consider that this study is not exactly a one stop shop for how a school choice can impact sucess in life. The important thing is that you or your child attend college somewhere — not necessarily at one of these “top ten” schools. A college degree is what will earn a person more money over time, not necessarily a college degree from MIT or Carnegie-Mellon. There are many factors to take into account when choosing a college, and the results of this study shouldn’t be one of them.
Results from the government’s recent “bank stress test” are in, and the outlook is mixed.
Government regulators have told Bank of America that it must take serious steps to address an apparent $34 billion shortfall of funds, the biggest gap among the nation’s 19 biggest financial institutions.
Wells Fargo needs to find between $13 and $15 billion to make up their shortfall, while competitiors like GMAC, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley need to raise between $1 billion and $11.5 billion.
We need to bear in mind that not all the results have been released. Results for 6 of the smaller financial institutions have yet to be reported.
Financial markets worldwide apparently shrugged off the news. Stocks of those banks that have a great need actually rose dramatically and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 101.63 points by 4 p.m. in yesterday’s trading. The Dow Jones average closed at 8512.28, which is a four-month high. In Tokyo Thursday morning, stocks were up 4.2%, suggesting that the worldwide reaction will be mild, if not slightly positive.
Some financial gurus have said the news was less negative than initially feared. Still others held onto the notion that banks in danger would be able to boost their funds without having to seek more government assistance. The stress tests were designed to look into the individual banks abilities to withstand a negative economic future. These tests were designed to alleviate the panic that investors felt earlier this year, as many people worried that banks might have to be nationalized to stay afloat.
Still unclear is what will happen to smaller regional banks that are expected to have a hard time coming up with the extra capital the government is telling them they need. Many of these banks are facing a pileup of bad loans that went to finance local residential and commercial property construction.
Final results of the government’s tests were released Thursday after the close of trading and are expected to include detailed information about the banking industry’s chance for health in a shaky economy.
The moves to disclose the results of the stress test mark the beginning of a new phase in the banking sector and in the administration of new president Barack Obama.
One reason that financial bigwigs and investors were scared away from large banks earlier this year was a large degree of uncertainty about these institutions solvency, a problem that the stress tests were designed to clear up. The question now? Can the stronger banks stand on their own feet, and how well will the weaker banks recover in a still struggling economy.
But will the public think that these bank stress tests were, frankly, “tough enough”? From the very beginning of this testing process, many economists and banking industry analysts argued that the worst-case economic scenario presented by the government was too positive. They argued that the actual consequences of the current situation were much worse than the banks were subjected to.
Any bank needing to raise more capital has only until June 8 to develop a plan, and only until the following November to implement that plan. The banks will also be forced to review their management team and assure federal banking regulators that their leadership has “sufficient expertise and ability,” to stay solvent through the current economic environment.
Where Can You Find the Cheapest Flights and Airline Tickets?
Just a few years ago there were only a handful of websites offering cheap airline tickets. These days you have so many options it’s easy to get lost. Since you’ll be paying pretty much the same price at a lot of different websites, it becomes important to know how these services rate in terms of customer satisfaction.
Here’s a breakdown of three popular sources of cheap flights on the Internet.
Deal we found — Round trip ticket from Dallas / Ft. Worth to Boston, $190
Everyone talks about Cheap Tickets like they’re a bunch of criminals.
Before this year I’d never used Cheap Tickets, though they’ve been around for the better part of a decade, mostly because I heard the same old line from everyone — “their customer service is awful”. I’m not sure how it used to be but my experience and the experience of a few close friends tells me that Cheap Tickets is no less persnickety than your average airline.
People complain about losing their money when they cancel a trip with Cheap Tickets without stopping to think how common stuff like that is through any airline. When you start cancelling flights and moving them around you’re going to earn a bunch of fees and frustration, no matter the source of your ticket.
Cheap Tickets has an easy to use website though it isn’t exactly easy on the eyes. Head to Cheap Tickets when you’re booking something at the last minute — they’re known for surprisingly good deals on next-day flights.
Deal we found — Round trip ticket from Dallas / Ft. Worth to Boston + two night’s hotel stay, $398
Priceline.com may be the best-known of online cheap flights services mostly because of their nationwide commercials and affiliation with actor William Shatner. Just like Cheap Tickets, Priceline has plenty of people complaining about their services — people write really brutal reviews of these deal websites all the time. But what Priceline does it does well — providing a website offering deals as good as their competitors but packed full of features that makes the search for a cheap ticket easier. I love using Priceline’s website — is it the photos of Shatner or the super-fast search functions? I’m not sure.
I use Priceline when I’m planning a trip well into the future and need a car rental or hotel stay along with my flight deal. Their package deals are excellent and they have long-standing relationships with nice hotel chains and the top car rental agencies to provide Priceline customer discounts.
Deal we found — Round trip ticket from Dallas / Ft. Worth to Boston, $145
Cheapflights.com offered us the best overall deal on a flight from DFW Airport to Logan at just under $150 round trip, but Priceline’s inclusion of a nice two night stay at the Marriot for under $400 might rival it a little. Cheap Flights should offer package deals to be considered one of the big boys, and until they can hook me up with a hotel deal I probably won’t use them. Priceline’s charging about the same for flights while Cheap Tickets has lots of deal on last-minute travel. What’s Cheap Flight’s gimmick?
Sure, the prices are low and I’ve not heard too much complaining about their customer service, but it just doesn’t jump out at me as a place I’d want to do business.
I will say in Cheap Flight’s favor that their “handpicked deals” tab has all kinds of great prices available on other websites — it’s like a gallery of the best deals from Priceline, 1-800 Hotels, and other deal finders.
If you haven’t jumped on the “cheap flights” bandwagon and are still buying your tickets from the airline, you should give an online discount service a try for your next flight. It won’t make the in-flight meal taste any better, but the money left in your wallet could buy you a a few drinks to take the edge off your misery.
This is part of a series of blog posts we’re publishing about where to find cheap deals. The other posts in this series include:
- Where Can You Find the Cheapest Laptop?
- Where Can You Find the Cheapest Hotels?
- Where Can You Find the Cheapest Cars?
- Where Can You Find the Cheapest LCD TV?
What Are the Fastest Growing Companies in the World?
Ask three business analysts what the fastest growing companies in the world are, and you’re like to get three unique answers. Different analysts will look at different figures and come up with a wide range of responses, probably because the term “fastest growing” is not well defined. The list below of the ten fastest growing companies in the world comes from multiple sources, including Forbes, CNN Money, and Fortune.
There are some interesting trends in the list of the 100 fastest growing companies worldwide.Taking a close look at the United States of America, it is easy to see that the state of Texas is home to more of the world’s top 100 fastest growing companies than any other part of the country. The reasons for this are legion, but can be easily explained by the fact that Texas is the state that has been least affected by the American economic downturn, due to low land prices and a rather austere state wide financial policy going back decades.
Another trend worth noting — fewer web-based companies making the list of the world’s fastest growing. There are more energy and industrial based companies this year than in recent years, perhaps indicating that the “dot com” boom is really over. That isn’t to say that web based companies aren’t growing. Many of them are. But growth in other sectors is outpacing the Internet.
Research In Motion
The BlackBerry Curve is the highest selling smart phone in America (sorry, Apple) and the people at Canada’s Research In Motion are responsible. RIM is growing at a ridiculous rate — 77 percent growth over three years — and has enough cash in the bank to feel secure. Revenue over the past four quarters is over $11 billion, all thanks to America’s hunger for awesome smart phones. Regularly listed as one of Canada’s “top employers”, RIM has just recently branched out with new offices in Australia. News this year that competitor Motorola is bringing a lawsuit against RIM for copyright infringement have done little to slow the explosive growth of this telecom giant.
Posting 59% growth over the past three years (with revenue well over the $400 million mark in just four quarters), China’s Sohu.com almost makes me regret sounding the death knell for online companies earlier in this article. Based in Beijing, Sohu.com owns a mega popular Chinese search engine and a gaming site called Changyou. How popular is Sohu.com’s search engine? It is the 49th most visited website in the world, which is huge considering most of the world doesn’t speak Mandarin. Sohu.com has a chokehold on the web in China, and their popularity is spreading to the rest of the world.
There’s plenty to be excited about when it comes to First Solar. A bright spot in this top ten list, First Solar is a “clean” energy company showing huge growth numbers. Founded in 1999 to “provide an economic solution to the need for alternative energy sources”, First Solar is the fastest growing solar power company in the world. First Solar is also the largest manufacturer of solar modules in the world, and have famously created the lowest manufacturing “cost per watt” in the industry at just $1.14 / watt. Since 2004, First Solar has at least doubled its revenue every year.
Making deals with two big players in the tech world is a surefire way to boost your company’s growth numbers. Sigma Designs has famously paired up with both Microsoft and Blu-ray, providing chips for Blu-ray players as well as Microsoft’s new “Internet TV” sets. For a company that has already grown over 100% over the past twelve quarters, posting an annual revenue of over $200 million was not a big shock. Based out of California, Sigma Designs has become a model for west coast tech companies looking to escape the drastic effects of the economic recession.
Atlanta, Georgia’s “Ebix” is the growth story you probably haven’t heard about. This rather quiet software development company (working mostly with the insurance industry) earned over $70 million over the last four quarters, and boasts a 50% growth rate over the past three years.
One of the only entertainment industry names on this list is this unassuming company from Texas. DG Fastchannel is an advertisement and programming distributor that has branched out into online ads as well. This company earned over $170 million in revenue this year, adding to a growth trend that’s seen a 50% increase over the past three years.
CF Industries Holdings
This company makes mostly nitrogen based fertilizers — in fact, 75% of their business comes from such products — and the falling price of natural gas has made their business a lot more profitable. This Deerfield, Illinois based company earned almost $4 billion in revenue over the past year, contributing to an overall growth trend of about 40% for the past twelve quarters.
Shanda Interactive Entertainment
Shanda is China’s biggest online-gaming company, and they’ve increased their customer base dramatically, adding even more players to what was already the world’s largest Internet market, gaming or otherwise. Their three year growth rate is not as stunning as some of the other companies on this list, only 34%, but their huge revenue and an increase in customers means Shanda is a company to watch..
If you’re a natural gas and oil driller and you open over 200 new wells in a single year, you’re bound to see growth. That’s just what Oklahoma’s Arena Resources did over the last twelve months, and the result is nearly 100% growth over three years and revenue nearing the $200 million mark.
In a world of dot com startups and smart phones, it is easy to forget that the health care industry is growing rapidly. Massachusetts based Bruker company makes X-ray and MRI machines, and as the baby boomer generation gets older, these items are in higher and higher demand. This is a business that boasts $1 billion in revenue over the past year, with total growth across the past twelve quarters of well over 50%.
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What Are Mega Millions Numbers?
Megamillions numbers are the six numbers drawn every Tuesday and Friday in the Mega Millions lottery. The first five numbers are drawn from a set of lottery balls numbered 1 through 56, while the sixth ball is drawn from a set of balls numbers 1 through 46. Match your numbers with the drawn lottery numbers and you win the lottery.
How Megamillions Is Played
The Megamillions Lottery is played for $1. Players in certain states have the option to buy a 4x multiplier for the price of $1 more. Other states never allowed the megaplier option.
People across the nation buy their tickets at Megamillions Lottery terminals, often in convenience stores and other selected locations in the participating states. Players pay their money and get a ticket receipt with their numbers on the ticket. When the drawings are held, people can watch the drawing and compare their numbers with that week’s (and night’s) winning numbers. If you get a certain winning combination, you win the lottery and collect your winnings. If all 6 numbers match, you win the big Megamillions jackpot.
Megamillions Jackpot Drawing
Every week on Tuesday night at 11 pm Eastern Standard Time and Friday night at 11 pm ESt. The drawing is held at the WSB-TV studio in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally (and strangely), WSB’s weatherman, Glenn Burns, hosted the drawings. These days, the bi-weekly drawings are hosted by John Crow or Courtney Cason (less frequently). When a jackpot exceeds $200 million, the Megamillions drawing is held at New York City’s Times Square.
Winning Prizes In Mega Millions Lotteries
Here’s what the payouts are for matching numbers in the Megamillions Lottery. The more numbers you match, the bigger the payout. If you want to win the Megamillions Jackpot, every number has to match perfectly. The yellow Megamillions ball is worth more than the others, though you can still win big money without a matching yellow number.
- $250,000 – 5 Matching White Numbers and 0 Matching Yellow Number
- $10,000 – 4 Matching White Numbers and 1 Matching Yellow Number
- $150 – 4 Matching White Numbers and 0 Matching Yellow Number
- $150 – 3 Matching White Numbers and 1 Matching Yellow Number
- $10 – 2 Matching White Numbers and 1 Matching Yellow Number
- $7 – 3 Matching White Numbers
- $3 – 1 Matching White Number and 1 Matching Yellow Number
- $2 – Matching Yellow Number
Cross-Selling Expansion – Mega Millions and Powerball
The Mega Millions Consortium came to a cross-selling arrangement with the Multi-State Lottery Association, also known as the MUSL, to cross-sell Megamillions and Powerfull in many US jurisdictions. Twenty-three different Powerball states (listed below) started selling Mega Millions tickets in January of 2010. It’s quite possible that this is a temporary arrangement, with the expansion eventually leading to the merger of the two games into one single lottery.
Mega Millions States as of January 31, 2010
A whole host of states only joined the Megamillions network in early 2010, so many lottery players may not be aware that their local state supports Mega Millions lotteries. Here’s the list of the latest Megamillions lottery states.
- Arkansas Megamillions
- Connecticut Megamillions
- Delaware Megamillions
- District of Columbia Mega Millions
- Idaho Megamillions
- Indiana Megamillions
- Iowa Megamillions
- Kansas Megamillions
- Kentucky Megamillions
- Minnesota Megamillions
- Missouri Megamillions
- New Hampshire Megamillions
- New Mexico Megamillions
- North Carolina Megamillions
- North Dakota Megamillions
- Pennsylvania Megamillions
- Rhode Island Megamillions
- South Carolina Megamillions
- Tennessee Megamillions
- Vermont Megamillions
- West Virginia Megamillions
- Wisconsin Megamillions
Megamillions Consortium States before 2010
The Mega Millions Consortium started their lottery as far back as 1996, though. Back in 1996, U.S. states began to offer the Mega Millions jackpots for lottery players. Here is a list of the first states to offer Megamillions payouts, along with the year each state started playing Megamillions.
- Georgia Megamillions (1996)
- Illinois Megamillions (1996)
- Maryland Megamillions (1996)
- Massachusetts Megamillions (1996)
- Michigan Megamillions (1996)
- Virginia Megamillions (1996)
- New Jersey Megamillions (1999)
- New York Megamillions (2002)
- Ohio Megamillions (2002)
- Washington Megamillions (2002)
- Texas Megamillions (2003)
- California Megamillions (2005)
Mega Millions States – 2010 Megamillions States
After the big wave of states that joined the Megamillions Lottery in January happened, seven other U.S. states came aboard later in the year. The latest additions bring the total of Mega Millions states to 40, along with Washington D.C.
- Montana Megamillions (March 1, 2010)
- Nebraska Megamillions (March 20, 2010)
- Oregon Megamillions (March 28, 2010)
- Arizona Megamillions (April 18, 2010)
- Maine Megamillions (May 9, 2010)
- Colorado Megamillions (May 16, 2010)
- South Dakota Megamillions (May 16, 2010)
The Megamillions lottery changes its game all the time, to keep the game fresh and to give the Megamillions Consortium new opportunties to promote their game. Lottery tickets might look differently and the prize amounts fluctuate, but the Megamillions Lottery operates on the same principle it has since 1996 – get six winning numbers and you get rich.
Which Jobs Pay Best with No College Degree?
There are well-paying careers that people do not need college degrees to enter. Most of these careers are found in fields that are either highly competitive or that include responsibility with many lives on the line or a lot of money on the line.
You’ll also notice that these positions tend to require someone to receive a hefty amount of on-the-job training and possibly a license of some sort. But you won’t have to sit in a classroom for four years to hold these jobs.
Air Traffic Controller
An air traffic controller does not need a college degree. The air traffic controller does need four years of college and three years of on-the-job training. That’s because air traffic controllers direct airplanes on their takeoffs and landings and make certain they don’t crash into one another waiting to land or flying across the country. That’s a high pressure job with lots of training required, but the job pays on average nearly $93,000 a year for people with 10+ years experience.
The commercial pilot will need to complete a pilot’s license and maintain certification. Becoming a commercial pilot usually requires 250 hours of flight for smaller companies, 1,000 for regional commercial airlines and 2,000-3,000 hours for a national commercial airline. Getting hours to get to that 250 hour plateau often comes with a local flying club or through classes at the local airport.
Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent doesn’t need to have a college degree, since their job is sales related. Salesmen seldom do, but often make good money. A real estate agent will need between 60-90 hours of training and generally needs between 1-3 years of training as a real estate sales agent (different than a real estate broker) to attain a real estate broker license. Once you get this, you’ll buy and sell houses on the real estate market. A real estate broker might become a commercial property broker, instead.
Keep in mind that real estate is a highly competitive field. The turnover rate is incredible, because of how easy it is to enter the real estate broker field. Most decide the job isn’t for them or they can’t make a go at it. Those who remain in the real estate business for 5 years can make upwards of $75,000 to $80,000 per year on average, at least in the bigger cities.
Sales job aren’t likely to require a college degree. These individuals require a certain charisma to make sales that isn’t taught in schools. Sales reps tend to be personable, talkative, charming and gregarious. Typically, the sales representative sells a company’s merchandise to a store owner, who in turns sales them in retail to public customers. This position is generally not an entry-level position, but is attained after a time of service to the company. Some college might be preferred, but is not required.
Trucking companies inevitably need someone to organize and direct their transportation and trucking activities. That’s what a transportation manager does. The entry position is generally a truck driver himself (or herself). Many transportation managers have some college hours, but it’s not a necessity.
Immigration and Customs Officer
An immigration officer or customs inspector is charged with keeping illegal people and items out of the country. Because of the high level of responsibility required for this career, the salary for a customs officer tends to be pretty high. Once again, this job requires a keen eye and honesty, but does not require a college degree.
Nuclear Power Reactor Operator
No, you don’t have to have a college degree to be put in charge of whether a nuclear reactor has a meltdown or not. You do have to get a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and pass a yearly examination. Nuclear power reactor operators make a median income of just over $80,000 a year.
Casino Floor Manager
The casino floor manager is a highly important position in a casino, because he oversees the pit bosses and dealers: in effect overseeing huge amounts of money every day. The casino floor manager not only has to have a keen eye for gamblers and casino patrons involved in shady activities, but he has to keep an eye on a huge room full of employees, too. Most of all, the casino floor manager has to be honest.
You don’t walk into a casino and get a job as a casino floor manager. You’ll probably start as a card dealer. If you are successful and impress the casino management, you’ll get a job as a “pit boss”, who settle disputes, watch out for cheating and give comps to customers in one aspect of the casino: the blackjack pit or the craps tables, for instance.
If you’re successful at this intermediate step and stand out from the other pit bosses, you’ll get a shot at the casino gaming manager, who is likely to make over $75,000 a year. The casino wants to make sure you make a comfortable living, to avoid tempations to cheat the casino.
With all that in mind, you don’t need a college degree to become a casino gaming manager.
Once again, to become a police detective, you’ll need to work your way through the ranks of the police force, most likely starting out as a patrol officer. The police detective, like the air traffic controller and the nuclear reactor operator, has a lot of lives in his or her hands.
Not only are you solving crimes that might involve getting justice for a murdered someone and their family, but you are also saving lives by taking dangerous people off the streets. A bad detective can cost the wrongly accused years of jail time, while costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars in court costs. So the police detective has major responsibilities.
Fire Fighting Supervisor
The fire fighting supervisor has not only the lives of the public in their hands, but also the lives of the firefighters working under him. This individual generally comes from the ranks of the firefighters themselves.
What is the College Cost Reduction and Access Act?
The College Cost Reduction and Access Act was passed in 2007 — the bill, signed into law by then President George W. Bush, was a sweeping reform of laws related to finances for college students. Though most of the bill’s legislation has already been phased in, a crucial portion of the bill for those of us who are dealing with college loans goes into effect on July 1, 2009.
A quick summary of what parts of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act have already taken effect:
1. Doing away with “tuition sensitivity”
Students at some “lower cost” institutions, such as state schools or junior colleges, were once limited in the amount of Pell Grant money they could receive. These “tuition sensitivity” clauses were wiped out, allowing students at colleges across the nation to receive the maximum Pell Grant available. The bill also allowed for extra money to pay out these larger grants, and gave many students the ability to afford college.
2. Pell Grant increases
The size of Pell Grants went up as well — by 2012, students receiving Pell Grant awards would earn as much as $1,100 more per award year.
3. Increased funding for “Upward Bound” programs
4. TEACH Grants
Students in teacher certification programs could receive an additional grant from the Federal government to earn their teaching certificate. In order to receive this award, students earning a TEACH grant are required to serve a minimum of four years as a certified teacher in specific schools teaching specific subjects, mostly math and the hard sciences.
5. Interest Rate Reductions
Over the next four years, interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for students will continue to drop — as low as 3.4% by award year 2012.
6. Student Loan Deferment for members of the armed forces
These changes in college finances have already helped countless students on their way to a college education, but a major part of the bill’s platform will take effect next week — income based repayment of student loans.
Loan re payments will be limited to just fifteen percent of a borrower’s discretionary income. If a borrower is married, that number means 15 percent of the amount of the borrower’s family’s adjusted gross income. Unpaid interest and principal is forgiven after 25 years of repayment — meaning if your loan amount is so huge compared to your relative income, and you are in good standing for twenty-five years, the balance of your loan will be forgiven.
Many online calculators exist that could help potential borrowers to determine if they will qualify for the income based repayment option.
Most students who do qualify will have their student loan payments set at less than 10% of their annual income. However, it is important to remember that this option wouldn’t make sense for a graduate who plans to take a job paying upwards of $100,000 — like landing on the Income Tax space in Monopoly, you have to calculate your income and determine if that 10% option makes sense for you.
Realistically, most college graduates won’t immediately land a high paying job and earn the kind of salary that would keep them from enjoying the income based repayment option. Debt loads are climbing for recent graduates, and according to most sources, a high percentage of college graduates are exiting school with debt near $100,000 or more, especially if they earned any kidn of post graduate degree. If you were planning on stretchong out your debt payment, this new income based repayment plan is a good option.
Although the new law will make student loan repayment more affordable for most graduates, the legislation comes with complicated qualifications and rules that may baffle many potential aid recipients. In other words, borrowers may not get the information they need to make the right decision about the income based repayment plan.
Besides the income based repayment plan, there is a new “public service loan forgiveness” prgram that aims to entice students into certain public service fields. Borrowers can take advantage of the federal government’s public service loan forgiveness if they land right type of job (among many catgeories), take out the right type of loans (usually subsidized Stafford or TEACH loans) and continue to make prompt and full payments.
If you are confused about how the new legislation may affect you, or believe you might qualify for some of the new repayment options, check with your loan provider, financial aid counselor, or visit the government’s web site about the changes at http://www.ibrinfo.org/.
What Is the Average Cost of a College Education?
The cost of higher education is on the rise. The scariest part of this trend is that costs are going up a noticeable amount from year to year rather than increasing a little bit at a time. According to the College Board (that’s the folks who administer the SAT exam) college students will pay an average of $400 more for room and board this year compared to last year. That number will be different from college to college, but seeing big increases in college costs over just twelve months should be enough to convince you — college costs are going up.
Average Cost of Four Year Colleges
Because colleges regularly report their costs it is easy to come up with an average cost for a college education. In 2010, a year of tuition and room and board at a private college is up to $26,273. That’s an increase of almost 5 percent from last year’s cost. The price at public institutions is up too — room and board and tuition will run you $7,000 and that number is up 6.5 percent from the last academic year.
When students want to attend a school outside of their home state the cost is even higher. This year, out of state room and board and tuition and fees will run students an average of $11,500.
Average Cost of Two Year Colleges
College doesn’t have to be this expensive — two-year colleges (which aren’t included in the above averages) are affordable and you can often finish a large portion of your course load at a two-year college before transferring to a larger school for graduation. The College Board says that 31% of college students attend one of these two-year schools, so not everyone is getting squeezed at the bursar’s office.
The average cost at a public two-year college is around $4,000 depending on what part of the country you are in. Costs at these colleges vary widely, so check at two-year colleges in your area before you decide to go to a two-year school to save money.
College Cost Statistics
There are some interesting figures related to college cost reported by the College Board. College students have found lots of ways to reduce cost (grants and scholarships) and it appears there are plenty of colleges still offering a great value. For instance, 19 percent of students who attend a private four-year college pay tuition and fees below $18,000. Sure that’s a low number, but it means that you can get a private school education somewhat closer to a public school cost. With costs at public schools rising even more rapidly than those at private school, you may as well choose a cheap private college.
Having said that, there are some great deals on public four-year schools. The College Board reports that 32 percent of full-time public college students pay less than $6,000.
The opposite end of that spectrum is the group of students who pay outlandishly high costs — apparently, only one fifth of all private school students pay anything higher than $36,000.
College costs aren’t going to start a downward trend anytime soon. The issue of cost adds one more wrinkle to the already difficult college decision process. Consider cost differences between public and private universities as well as the differences between two-year and four-year programs before committing to any college.
This article answers the question “what is the average cost of a college education?” Other articles in this series include:
- What Is the Average Cost of Living by State?
- What Is the Average Cost of Raising a Child?
- What Is the Average Cost of Braces?
- What Is the Average Cost of a College Education?
- What Is the Average Cost of a Wedding?
Where are the best places to travel?
Figuring out the best place for you to travel is a matter of deciding what kind of trip you want to have and picking a spot. Simple as that — just decide if you want a budget vacation, an exotic destination, or a family-themed getaway.
Best Budget Travel Spots
If you’re trying to make your money stretch a little further, you’re going to have to vacation to places where the US Dollar is strong against the local currency. If you’ve been keeping an eye on the financial section of your local paper you know that there’s not many places like this left. Here are some spots you can travel to to keep a little extra dough in your wallet.
Most people don’t think of Vietnam as a tourist destination — but that’s changing. The cost effectiveness of a vacation in Vietnam is driving more and more people there every year. A “luxury” budget for a trip in Vietnam would be about $30 US a day, all inclusive.
The best way to visit Europe without losing your shirt is to travel further and further east. Cities like Prague or Sofia are perfect vacation spots (featuring plenty of culture and great food, etc.) that are as easy on the budget as they are on the eyes.
Sure, Costa Rica is one of the more expensive travel spots in Central America, BUT the American Dollar is well-valued there. One dollar will get you 500 of the local currency, up from about 300 ten years ago. So live it up — visit Costa Rica and have a tropical vacation you’ll never forget.
Since Central America is so cheap and the USD is so valuable there, why not schedule a budget vacation touring all the countries of Central America? From ancient wonders and beautiful beaches to surfing and fine dining, Central America could be the perfect (slightly exotic) cheap vacation idea.
This country is ridiculously cheap — travellers report spending as little as $4 a night for top-notch hotel rooms. You may not have thought of this little Southeast Asian country as a vacation spot, but the low cost combined with their use of the US Dollar means Cambodia is the best cheap travel spot on this list.
Sure — it is a desert. But for exotic locales and stunning beauty there is little to argue against the beautiful Sahara of Africa. Stop off in Morrocco and enjoy the Rif mountains and beach resort-style coastal towns.
Many people don’t think of Turkey when they consider what vacation destination to pick, but the fact is this country (nestled between the Aegean and the Mediterranean sea) can be considered the cradle of civilization. Arts, culture, museums, beautiful scenery . . . Turkey has it all.
Nepal / Tibet
There’s nothing like a difficult-to-reach mostly-Buddhist Southeast Asian country to get your exotic vacationer’s blood boiling. Looking for a spirital journey? Nepal is perfect. If you’re a fan of extreme outdoor adventure, either of these countries can provide outstanding mountain sports.
An island nation off the coast of Africa, Madagascar is largely untouched by civilization. The wildlife here is second to none.
Tunisia is another country that has avoided too much of the outside world’s spoiling, though the Mediterranean-style resort villages might fool you into thinking otherwise.
Family-Friendly Vacation Ideas
Everyone should go to Disneyworld at some point in their life. Get your family down to Orlando to see the the park as it evolves into the 21st century, but don’t limit yourself to Disney. Orlando has plenty of outdoor activity, and a drive through Florida or even down to Miami can be a real eye opener for your family.
Pile the family in the car and take a road trip to the Grand Canyon, one of the most beautiful natural spots in all of America. On the way into Arizona, there are plenty of places to stop and soak up the local flavor, like Albuquerque, NM to the east or Salt Lake City to the north. Seeing the Canyon itself is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Where California and Nevada come together there is Lake Tahoe. The South Shore of the lake is lively and active, while the North Shore is designed more for fans of the quiet life. Got a family that likes outdoor activities as well as hiking and natural beauty? Lake Tahoe’s perfect for you.
Between Busch Gardens and the Water Country USA theme park, there’s lots of fun for the whole family besides well-known Colonial Williamsburg. You and your family will enjoy an educational as well as recreational vacation near the birthplace of our country.
Though Oahu is small (taking up only just under 600 square miles) there is plenty of activity packed into this family friendly vacation destination. Boating, dolphin spotting, surfing, the Pearl Harbor memorial — there’s plenty to do and see in Oahu besides just the beach.
This post is part of a series of posts focusing on the questions related to “where are the best places to…”. Other posts include:
- Where Are the Best Places to Retire?
- What is the Best Place in which to Incorporate?
- Where Are the World’s Best Places to Live in 2009?
- Where Is the Best Place to Buy Movies?
- Where Are the Best Places to Live in the United States?
- Where Are the Best Places to Ski?
- Where Is the Best Place to Get Sports News?
- Where Are the Best Places to Get Live Football Scores?
Plastic Jungle Question
Plastic Jungle is a website which offers big discounts on gift cards. When people have unused gift cards they don’t plan on using or can’t use, they sell these unused cards at a discount. Plastic Jungle lets you bid on gift cards for most of the major retail chains, such as Target Gift Cards, Home Depot, Barnes & Noble, and Marshalls gift cards.
Plastic Jungle Scam?
The question so many people have when seeing the great discounts you can get at Plastic Jungle is whether Plastic Jungle is legit or a scam. There are similar
websites, which don’t guarantee transactions and stick by their claims, which are not legit. With potential savings up to 35% of the value of the card, it’s important
to know whether Plastic Jungle is too good to be true.
Plastic Jungle Legit?
The short answer is that Plastic Jungle is legit. This site, unlike so many others, offers a 100% guarantee on transactions and comprehensive consumer protections.
This is a legitimate website for auctioning off gift cards you aren’t going to use.
Imagine you get a gift card to Barnes & Noble for Christmas or your birthday from an aunt who hardly knows you. Imagine you don’t read books very often, or you don’t have a Barnes & Noble store in your local town. If this is a card you have no interest in using or little opportunity to use, then it makes sense to get whatever cash you can online from people willing to pay hard money in exchange for a significant discount.
Think about some of the other websites I’ve mentioned. While everyone tends to be able to find Wal-Marts and Targets nearby, and everyone can find something they need to buy there, that’s not always the case with other retail stores. Maybe you live in an apartment and never make home repairs, so having a gift card from a home repair store like Lowes or Home Depot might not appeal to you at all. There are people who might not like Marshalls merchandise. Even in the case of Target or Wal-Mart, you might decide you just don’t want to shop at one of those stores.
Plastic Jungle Review – How Plastic Jungle Works
People can list their unwanted gift cards for free at Plastic Jungle. When these gift cards sell, Plastic Jungle takes a 10% commission from the transaction. That’s a steep commission, but in exchange, you get assurances that the transaction is safe on either end, whether you’re a buyer or seller. All transactions are guaranteed, you get gift card protection, and you’ll be able to learn how to use Plastic Jungle at their learning center.
Some of the popular categories which you can find deals on gift cards at Plastic Jungle are clothing chains, electronics outlets, jewelry stores, sports & sporting goods stores, home decor & furnishings, handbags, shoes & accessories, and a whole list of other retail outlets.
Plastic Jungle Gift Card Examples
- Best Buy Gift Cards
- Kohl’s Gift Cards
- Macy’s Gift Cards
- Kmart Gift Cards
- Land’s End Gift Cards
- Sears Gift Cards
Plastic Jungle Coupon
Remember to go to Plastic Jungle to get your discount cards, though. You’ll find websites that rank for “Plastic Jungle” which aren’t the real auction site. Many of these are legitimate web addresses which lets you know when new Plastic Jungle auctions that you might be interested in are listed.
Others might be offering you a Plastic Jungle coupon that claims to give you even bigger savings. Watch out what you’re getting into with these sites.
Plastic Jungle Coupon Code
Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate sites which give heads-up on Plastic Jungle coupon codes, too. For instance, Plastic Jungle does offer $50 Plastic Jungle gift cards where you choose the store they are redeemed at. You buy the card and use the coupon code to redeem the purchase. My rule of thumb is to make sure you’re on the Plastic Jungle site when you finally make a purchase or exchange money in any form, since that’s where you are assured of getting real deals and have protections that keep you from being scammed.
Plastic Jungle Complaints
If you do have a negative experience at PJ, you can make Plastic Jungle complaints online at the Better Business Bureau or BBB. I’ve seen a list of complaints at the
BBB site about Plastic Jungle (like most other businesses). In this one example, I found list of options like “Making a full refund, as the consumer requested” (4),
“Making a partial refund” (0), “Agreeing to perform according to their contract” (7), “Refusing to make an adjustment” (0), “Refuse to adjust, relying on terms of agreement” (0), and “Unassigned” (1).
As you can see, the one unresolved case appears to be a new complaint which hasn’t been assigned yet. In all other cases, a refund was issued or Plastic Jungle agreed to live by the terms of the original agreement. The fact is, you’ll find few people complaining online about Plastic Jungle’s services, unless they believe that the 10% fee is too high. In a case like that, you know up front the price of doing business at Plastic Jungle, and can make your decision accordingly.
What Is Plastic Jungle?
So if you ask “What is Plastic Jungle“, the answer is that the Plastic Jungle is the #1 gift card rebate company on the Internet. It’s a place you can find cheap deals and safe bargains. Most important for you, Plastic Jungle is legitimate, secure, and safe to do business at.
- Most Popular Gift Cards
- Online Gift Card Exchange
- Red Lobster Coupons
- Cheap Magazine Subscriptions
- Cheap T1 Internet
- Golden Corral Coupons
- Father’s Day Gift Ideas
Is OptionsHouse a Scam? A 2011 OptionsHouse.com Review
OptionsHouse, doing business as OptionsHouse LLC since 2005, is a market maker owned by PEAK6 Investments. PEAK6 has been in business since 1997 in both the stock options and derivatives market.
The big draw to OptionsHouse is based on their promotions. At one time, OptionsHouse offered 100 free trades and $2.95 trades after those first 100 expired. Unfortunately for traders, the $2.95 price has inflated slightly to $3.95 for stock trades. $3.95 per trade is still a great deal, considering that most brokers are changing in the range of $7 to $12, with some high profile brokers charging closer to $30 per. OptionsHouse is also well-known in the options trading market, having won the “Best for Options Traders” award from Barron’s for three years in a row.
To open an account at OptionsHouse, you’ll need to deposit a minimum of $1,000 for a cash account or $2,000 for a margin account.
Even though the $2.95 OptionsHouse fees per trade deal ended in January of 2011, you can still sign up for 100 free trades. Getting 100 free trades on OptionsHouse’ new trading platform is a great deal. OptionsHouse released their new platform in March of this year, and it more than justifies the change in OptionsHouse fees. Remember that the $3.95 per trade fee is only good for stock trades. If you participate in options trading, spreads, or other financial trades you’ll have to pay a different fee.
As of this writing, the fee structure for trades other than stocks is as follows.
Fee plans for options trading come in two forms:
- Up to five contracts for $5 with each additional contract costing just $1 OR
- $8.50 flat fee plus a charge of 0.15/contract
Fee plans for spreads include two plans as well:
- Up to 10 contracts for $10 with a $1 charge for each additional contract OR
- $12.50 flat fee plus a charge of 0.15/contract
Mutual fund trades are $9.95 apiece.
OptionsHouse Trading Platform
The focus on trading at OptionsHouse is options trading, naturally. OptionsHouse offers free online seminars (called “webinars”) that take advantage of PEAK6’s experience in options trading.
OptionsHouse’ new platform offers real time quotes, a risk calculator for various trading situations, industry-standard charting and graphing tools, and a handful of useful watch lists you can tailor to your needs.
I find the Maxit tax-management tool particularly useful. Too many times I’ve made a foolhardy trade through another broker and found myself facing pretty serious tax consequences. With Maxit, I can look at those consequences before I make a hasty trade.
There are other features as part of the OptionsHouse trading platform that are pretty much available at any trading platform–conditional orders, streaming-options chains, and standard portfolio performance reports. You basically get everything you would with a more expensive broker site for much less money.
OptionsHouse also offers their clients an iPhone app for trading on the go, as well as options trading education and classes, the option to get one-on-one coaching at just $150 a month, and the best promotions package of any brokerage online as of this writing.
Is OptionsHouse a Scam?
Because of a large number of OptionsHouse complaints found all over the Internet and the low price per trade, some people think OptionsHouse is a scam.
Most of the OptionsHouse complaints online follow a pattern: “poor execution, clunky platform sceens, mishandling of funds, extremely limited customer service, not much extended hour trading” and the like. There is very little about any actual scams or criminal activity. Complaints about OptionsHouse seem to be from people who expected a service like ScottTrade or TD at a deeply discounted price. The fact is, you’re never going to get the kind of service and tools you’d get at those sites for just $3.95 per trade.
The key to avoiding these common OptionsHouse complaints is to do your research before you join the site. For example–most stocks and trading options valued under $1 are not compatible with OptionsHouse. There are other restrictions as well, like the fact that OptionsHouse’ extended hours trading is extremely limited.
Since OptionsHouse offers “virtual trading,” there’s no reason not to test the service out before you decide to join and start trading. If you play around with the virtual trading service and find you don’t like the interface or the speed at which the trades happen, don’t join the site.
OptionsHouse Promotion Code
There are currently three OptionsHouse promotion code deals available online. Enter these promo codes when you setup your account to take advantage of the deals.
- ACAT100REFUND–Use this code and have your transfer fees reimbursed, up to $125.
- DELL24–If you deposit $5,000 or more into your OptionsHouse account, you get a free Dell Full HD 24″ Monitor. There are additional monitor giveaways when you deposit larger amounts. Check for the latest Dell monitor giveaway codes.
- WIRE25REFUND–You can have your wire transfer fees refunded if you use this code when you make your initial deposit.
Using an OptionsHouse promotion code is a quick way to save a little cash or get a free HD monitor. Check for new promo codes regularly, as OptionsHouse tends to offers lot of different promotions.
OptionsHouse Pros and Cons
The best things about OptionsHouse are the access to PEAK6 market tools and the fact that their commissions are the absolute lowest of any trading site. The worst aspects of OptionsHouse are the lack of futures and international trading, the limited mutual fund investment opportunities, the lack of automated trading, and the difficulty OptionsHouse’ trading platform has with extended hours trading.
OptionsHouse has been dealing with complaints about their service and their financial policies since the site opened, mostly because people expect a top-notch trading service even when they pay OptionsHouse’ rock-bottom prices.
Respect from Barron’s annual list, placing them 4th overall among online trading sites in 2011, means more traffic and respect for OptionsHouse and PEAK6. For options traders, who do battle with spreads and fees on a daily basis, a service like OptionsHouse that offers such low fees for options trading is the best way to lower your trading costs without giving up a quality trading service.
Discover Card Services
Discover Card appeared in 1985 as a financial service of Sears. Since then, Discover has become its own entity, breaking away from MorganStanleyDeanWitter in 2007. The Discover Card competed with the two credit giants in America (VISA and MasterCard) where other credit card programs failed.
The Discover Card Difference
Discover Card was popular for a variety of reasons: for starters, unlike VISA and MasterCard, the Discover Card had no annual fee, the first national credit card to offer that feature. Discover Cards had slightly higher credit limits than its two main competitors, and Discover customers were the first in the nation to be offered a “Cashback Bonus.” Retailers were quick to accept the Discover Card because it offered much lower fees than VISA or MasterCard, meaning that people could use their Discover Card pretty much anywhere they could use their other credit cards.
Discover Card Application
To fill out a Discover Card application, head to the Discover website. Choose one of ten different Discover products, ranging from student cards and “miles cards” to their flagship Discover products, and fill out the application. You’ll need a few pieces of information to fill out your Discover Card application:
- Personal details (name, address, telephone number)
- Employment details (name, address, and phone number of employer)
- Social security number
- Date of birth
- Mother’s maiden name
Applying for a Discover Card is even easier now that they have a large number of pre-approved offers you can look up with your name, social security number, and credit score. Plug the information in and cards for which you are pre-approved pop up. Select your card design and start using your Discover card right away.
Discover Card Benefits
Depending on which Discover credit product you choose, your benefits can be anything from free travel, cash rewards, and even discounts on retail goods through the Discover Shop. There’s a huge array of Discover Card benefits available depending on your credit situation, the kind of credit card user you are, and how much you use your Discover Card.
The flagship Discover Card has a 0% introductory APR on all balance transfers. That means for the first fifteen months of your Discover membership, you pay no interest on transferred credit balances. That makes it easy to transfer from a high-interest card and save cash. Be aware that after those fifteen months, the interest jumps to between 11.99% and 20.99%, depending on your credit.
I used this option of the flagship Discover Card to pay off a store credit card that had just inexplicably jumped from 12% APR to 19.99%. I wasn’t about to pay off a high dollar credit card at that interest rate, so I transferred the balance to my new Discover product and paid the card off in fourteen months, just enough time to avoid paying interest on the total altogether.
That 0% introductory APR also works on all purchases made with your Discover Card for the first 15 months of membership. After that time period expires, the traditional APR of between 11 and 20% kicks in. This is one of the longest 0% introductory offers of any credit card in America. This makes Discover the perfect card for making a single large purchase, like a big-screen TV, and paying it off within 15 months.
As a victim of identity theft, I was pleased to find out about Discover’s $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee. Discover promises that if there are any unauthorized transactions on your card, you aren’t liable for those expenses. This service comes with Fraud Alerts–sign up for Fraud Alerts and get phone calls, emails, or text messages whenever there is suspicious activity with your credit card.
Other Discover Card benefits include Business Card benefits like spending tracking and expense management, the ability to create employee cards with set spending limits and monthly reporting, and quarterly and annual financial statements from Discover to help with your business bookkeeping.
Discover Card Rewards
The Discover Card Rewards program is built on a number of different special offers for Discover members.
Earn Cashback Bonus rewards with every purchase–be sure to read the fine print, as lots of special restrictions apply to this reward. The main Discover Card offers 5% cashback on certain purchases; you can take the cash or you can redeem your cashback bonus for retail goods or gift cards from partner businesses, like Bed, Bath, and Beyond, the Apple store, and other big name retailers.
The special ShopDiscover section of Discover’s website offers 5% to 20% cashback rewards when you shop at select online retailers that have a partnership with Discover.
Discover also offers their customers a cash bonus when they pay on time for a few months in a row, a bonus that can be exchanged for gifts or other rewards. These cash rewards are also available for customers who demonstrate “good credit management” (as determined by the customer service department).
Be sure to pay attention to the categories of goods that are valid for the cashback rewards. Check out the latest Discover Card rewards cashback schedule so you can make purchases in the right categories and earn money back. Cashback is available in categories like gas, travel, restaurants, and grocery stores. Cashback is only paid on amounts spent over $3,000, so if you’re not a big credit spender, you may not be able to take advantage of this deal.
Discover Card is sometimes seen as the redheaded stepchild of credit card companies, mostly because it doesn’t carry the exclusivity of American Express or the name recognition of MasterCard and VISA. Now that Discover card is offering branded bank cards through their acquisition of Pulse and with their excellent rewards and bonuses, expect Discover Card to become a bigger player in the American credit scene. If you’re looking to transfer a high balance or spend more than $3-4,000 a year on your credit card, opening a Discover Card can be a very lucrative credit decision.
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Founded in 1936, Government Employees Insurance Company, otherwise known as GEICO, is one of the most popular insurance companies in the country, thanks to their great rates and memorable ad campaigns. Leo and Lillian Goodwin set out to provide federal government employees as well as their families with insurance. Such an audience was targeted because it was assumed they would be a less risky group. Today, GEICO is known as the company to turn to for affordable coverage regardless if you’re a federal government employee or not.
History of GEICO
Despite the company starting as a very small, private organization, it grew faster than anyone could have ever anticipated. By 1948, Lorimer Davidson, an investment banker helped expansion by joining the company and by 1964, they had already exceeded 1 million policyholders. In 1980, GEICO introduced their 24-hour telephone customer service they are so well-known for and by the year 2000, everyone’s favorite gecko had joined the team to participate in their ad campaigns.
Of course, who could forget the GEICO Cavemen campaign convincing viewers just how easy it was to get free car insurance quotes. At the end of 2010, GEICO had more than 10 million policyholders! All this from a kind couple who started a small business for themselves.
Types of Insurance Providers – Rates and Coverage
About the only thing the GEICO website doesn’t provide is health insurance quotes online but they certainly cover everything else. Aside from your automobiles, below are other types of insurance GEICO can help you out with.
- Motorcycles – Regardless if you have a standard, cruiser, sport bike, touring bike or one that’s custom made, they take motorcycle coverage seriously. They even have scooter insurance available.
- Boat – Whether your boat is in the water, at dock or on your trailer, you want quality insurance. GEICO even has winter lay-up available for dry dock season.
- ATV – GEICO offers flex payments and online claim reporting to keep your trail riding fun, safe and affordable.
- RV – Campers, travel trailers and motor homes fall under this category too. You can get a discount on your rate if your automobile is also insured with them and you have completed a recent defensive driver course.
- Homeowners – Your home is worth protecting. GEICO offers a large variety of policies to fill the needs of anyone.
- Renters – Just because you don’t own a home doesn’t mean you don’t have to protect your personal belongings.
- Mobile Home – These policies are similar to homeowner insurance but GEICO customizes them specifically for the needs of mobile homes.
- Life Insurance – Making sure your family is financially secure should something happen to you, is one of GEICO’s specialties.
- Flood Insurance – It is proven time and time again that anyone can deal with flood damage. GEICO keeps this coverage affordable for you.
- Overseas Insurance – Regardless if you are moving or vacationing overseas, GEICO eliminates the hassle of getting your vehicle or property insured.
- Commercial Auto Insurance – GEICO takes the guesswork and frustration out of buying commercial auto insurance and they allow you to manage your account 24/7.
- Identity Theft – Maybe you aren’t even aware that this type of coverage exists but GEICO understands the importance of being protected and even provides six credit reports per year.
GEICO is a company who has gotten where they are today because of great coverage, affordable rates and exceptional customer service. They take the confusion and anxiety out of buying any type of insurance by making their policies easy to understand.
About the Author
Laura Penekamp is a stay at home mom with three wonderful kids who are now finally all old enough for a full day of school. She is a freelance writer and now that she has a quiet house during the day, has become quite productive. Laura loves to save money and has learned through the years how to understand insurance policies to ensure she’s not paying for something she doesn’t need.
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George Jacob Mecherle, a retired insurance salesman and farmer founded State Farm in 1922. Today they insure more homes and cars than any other insurance company in the United States and are quickly becoming a top contender in Canada as well. State Farm is a mutual company that is owned by its policyholders and ranked 34 on the prestigious Fortune 500 list.
Mecherle simply wanted to do things right and fair, treating customers like a neighbor, a vision still true today. State Farm began originally, strictly as an automobile insurance company, offering only a single line. Today they offer almost 100 services and products spread across 5 different types of businesses. They have proven time and time again that they are more than committed to their customers which is all Mecherle ever wanted. In fact, they handle on average close to 35,000 claims everyday. Due to their reputation for being so efficient, they are one of the first choices individuals turn to who are looking for free car insurance quotes.
Products and Services
- Automobile – As you would expect from a company with such a reputable history, State Farm will put you in a policy that accommodates your needs. Automobile coverage protects you, your fellow drivers, passengers, pedestrians and property.
- Homeowners – State Farm’s claim network is one of the world’s largest and is accessible 24/7. They even offer discounts for safety items like smoke alarms, burglar alarms, fire extinguishers and deadbolts.
- Renters – For less than one dollar per day, State Farm can cover your property and provide peace of mind.
- Health – If you are looking for health insurance quotes online, State Farm probably offers exactly what you need in one of their many polices. Individuals, Medicare Supplemental, Prescription and Hospital Income Coverage are polices suited for everyone.
- Boat – Risks with boats include sinking, fire, storms, theft, capsizing, stranding, collision and explosion. State Farm boat insurance can cover not just the property but accessories as well.
- Disability – State Farm understands that when you can’t work, you still have bills that need paying. Disability insurance protects you as well as your family against severe financial hardship.
- Business – There are always risks involved with starting your own business but State Farm makes them a little less scary. Their agents understand the diverse needs of every business owner and can build a plan according to your needs.
- Long-term Care – These policies help you to pay for care that you need when the time comes. Long-term expenses can quickly deplete finances for your family.
State Farm also covers condo owners, life and annuities, farm and ranch, flood, personal, motorcycle, volcano damage and community organizations. Not to mention, whether you are a policyholder or not, they provide mutual plans and everyday banking and loans.
About the Author
Laura Penekamp knows a thing or two about saving money considering she’s a mom of three. Being a freelance writer, she has discovered that the right insurance policies not only save you money but protect everything that is important to you. Laura feels this information is important to be aware of which is why she shares it with as many people as possible.
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Founded in 1931, Allstate was originally part of the well-known Sears, Roebuck & Co., but became a completely independent company in 1995. For over 75 years, agency owners and Allstate leaders revolutionized the way that vehicle claims are handled. They fought to make seat belt laws mandatory and played a key role in making consumers aware of the benefits of airbags back in the 1980s. Allstate is the largest insurance company in the nation.
Allstate is a Fortune 100 company who sells 13 lines of major insurance and they also offer banking services and investment and retirement products. Allstate is committed to helping customers plan for their future by protecting what they have and preparing for tomorrow. In fact, over 16 million households look to Allstate for their services and everyday, drivers from across the country turn to them for free car insurance quotes.
Your Choice Auto
One of the things that makes Allstate stand out from the rest is that they reward you for your safe driving habits. With Your Choice Auto, you receive rewards such as:
- Accident Forgiveness – Accidents are just that, accidents! Why should your rates go up just because you have one little fender bender? That’s kind of ridiculous and Allstate agrees. They can actually keep your rates the same, even if the accident was your fault.
- New Car Replacement – There is nothing worse than totaling a car, especially a new one. If your new car happens to be totaled within the first three years, Allstate will replace it with a vehicle of depreciated value.
- Deductible Rewards – When you sign up for Your Choice Auto you get $100 reduced from your collision deductible. Then, you get this same reward for every year you are accident-free, up to a $500 value.
- Safe Driving Bonus – Every six months that you go without any accidents, you receive a check for a Safe Driving Bonus that can total up to five percent of what you typically pay for your premium.
While shopping for health insurance quotes online can be confusing, buying car insurance certainly doesn’t have to be. Especially when you learn about Allstate’s exceptional roadside service. When they say you’re in good hands with them, they mean it. Allstate offers three different plans to choose from:
- Allstate Motor Club – This plan is open to anyone so you don’t have to have your vehicle insured with them to purchase this type of roadside coverage. There are family and individual membership options available and you don’t have to have an invoice to receive reimbursement. Services include towing, tire change, jump-start, lockout, refueling, trip-planning, travel discounts, legal defense and arrest bond cards.
- Good Hands Roadside – Once again, anyone can purchase this coverage, not just current policyholders and it will cover up to five vehicles and five registered drivers. It covers $75 per tow and $50 for other services including tire change, jump-start, lockout and refueling.
- Towing Labor Coverage – This service is only available to Allstate policyholders. It applies to the vehicle on the policy and Allstate will pay whatever the limit amount is set at including towing, tire change, jump-start, lockout and refueling.
Allstate understands that whether you are a policyholder with them or not, you want to be protected on the road which is why they offer Allstate Motor club and Good Hands Roadside. Now, wherever you go, you can have peace of mind knowing you’re in good hands.
About the Author
Laura Penekamp is a mother of three who loves history and writing so she is fortunate to be able to stay at home and work as a freelance writer. Being a mom on a budget, she is always looking for a way to save money and has learned that choosing the right insurance coverage can certainly be helpful.
What Is Solar Power?
Solar power is energy that comes from the Earth’s Sun. When scientists and ecologists speak about harnessing solar energy, they talk about finding technologies that collect solar rays and store that energy, converting it for use in heating homes and energizing the batteries which power everything from cars to flashlights. You might be wondering what “solar rays” are.
What Are Solar Rays?
The Sun produces solar rays through the process of nuclear fusion. The same process which explodes hydrogen bombs also power the vast energies of the stars. Only a tiny fraction of the heat and light put off by the Sun ever hits Earth, but if we could build technologies to harness the solar rays that do reach Earth’s surface, the human race could solve all of our energy needs.
In fact, the Sun already is the source of virtually all of the energy stored on the planet (besides the tiny amount of energy from other stars). This energy is stored in the form of the coal, oil, and natural gas we burn, as well as the calories found in the plants and animals we eat.
The problem is that collecting the energy stored in fossil fuels like coal and petroleum requires whole industries, while the burning of these fossil fuels to release the energy stored creates massive amounts of air and environmental pollution. To be able to catch solar rays and convert it into clean, efficient energy is a much better proposition.
Why Isn’t Solar Power Used More?
So you might be asking why our civilization doesn’t ditch fossil fuels and switch entirely to solar powered technologies. We don’t have the technological advancement yet to harness solar energies as cheaply as we can mine for coal and drill for oil and natural gas. That’s only going to happen when methods of capturing ultraviolet rays and powering our cities and transportation systems get cheaper, or the scarcity of our fossil fuels drive up prices so high that solar power because a feasible alternative.
You might ask why governments and private interests invest so much in perfecting solar power technology, if it’s more expensive than oil. Good investments in technology pay off over time, even if they don’t at first. The materials used to build and implement solar technology is too expensive right now, but working every day scientists and engineers work with those materials is another day closer to finder cheaper ways to produce them. Consider the rapid advances in aviation from the 1920s to the 1940s, as new and better materials–and better designs–came into usage.
Rapid Advances in Technology
As another example, look at the advances the “space race” and the lunar landings yielded. You might say that the space program is or was a waste of time, money, and resources, but exploring that little bit of space we’ve explored created much more rapid advances in satellite technology, telecommunications, and computer science. Every time you log onto your computer, every time you dial up on your cell phone, and every time you watch a sporting event live from the other side of the world, you are benefitting from the advances in technology made from public and private investments in technology.
So eventually, some genius is going to figure out a way to make solar power the cheapest energy science on the planet, and that will revolutionize the world economy, along with how we look (and cope) with a host of other social and geopolitical issues. Harnessing solar power and finding a cheaper, cleaner alternative to fossil fuels might happen tomorrow or next year, or it might be 20 years down the line, but it is going to happen–possibly before our supply of cheap oil runs out.
Solar Power in the Future
Who can say where the future of solar power lies? Science fiction writers have proposed technologies that seem outlandish by our scientific standards, such as the “Dyson sphere”, a technological sphere built around an entire star, so that a sci-fi civilization traps every single bit of light and stellar energy escaping from the star. I imagine our technologists will find less dramatic, more practical solutions to our energy crisis, but you can bet that harnessing “solar power” is going to be at the forefront of our energy solutions in the 21st century.
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Sonic Coupons 2011
Sonic coupons should be easy to use, because this is the fast food retail chain that offers brown bag special nights and a constant flow of monthly promotions. I’ve had Sonic waitresses offer Sonic coupons for the slightest perceived delays and offenses, so you’re dealing with a company that uses discount promotions constantly.
There are actually a couple of options for getting Sonic coupons online: go to an Internet coupon code website or get savings directly from Sonic through their Sonic Cruisers Club and Sonic Cards programs. I’ll discuss each of these in brief.
Retain Me Not Sonic Coupons
You can get free Sonic coupons and coupon codes at one of the prominent Internet coupon sites, such as Retail Me Not’s Sonic page. The current bargains on this coupons site include a birthday discount coupon, a “buy one shake, get another shake” free coupon, free coffee, free teacher discounts, free shipping on gift cards, and free Route 44 drinks.
You’ll be able to print off these printable coupons and coupon codes, many of which are over 10 digits. At RetailMeNot, you can see how often other costumers were able to use these coupons successful. The range I’m seeing isn’t always high with SONIC promotions on this site, between 50% and 8%, probably because the large number of locally-owned SONICs and the matter of “participating retailers”.
If a fifty-percent success rate isn’t to your liking, you might take a look at the Sonic Cruisers Club, the official way to get Sonic discounts.
Sonic Cruisers Club – Rewards & Coupons
You can also join Sonic’s online costumer rewards club, the Sonic Cruisers Club. It takes about a minute to sign-up, which lets you log onto Sonic.com and see what the latest deals and promotions are. Let me give an example.
Right now, the latest deals offered includes $2.99 for a BLT and tots deal, a Red Velvet Cheesecake Sonic Blast, and a SuperSONIC Cheeseburger combo. You can earn more savings by using your Sonic Card.
Sonic Card Reload Rewards
The Sonic Card is exactly what it sounds like: a Sonic gift card. This is only for those customers who really love Sonic and know they’re going to be eating there often enough to make this work. If you fit that profile, you get extra discounts for using your Sonic card under their “Earn Free Food” option.
When you “reload” your Sonic Card at Sonic dot com, you’ll get special offers, such as the free regular Sonic burger, free regular SONIC Blast, or free breakfast burrito with a reload of $25 or more. For “My Sonic Card” reloads between $15 and $24.99, you get a coupon for a free medium Sonic drink, free medium tots, or free order of medium onion rings.
All you have to use is either the “one-time reload” or “automatic reload” pages at the Sonic website. You’ll need to wait between 24 and 48 hours for the rewards to appear on your card, but after that, you have free food, drinks, and desserts waiting for you at your local Sonic. Don’t worry about getting spammed by Sonic emails by signing up. You can set parameters to receive as many or as few offers as you want.
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Quizno’s Coupons 2011
Everybody knows that Quizno’s sandwiches are better than Subway sandwiches, but Quizno’s can be a little pricey for a sandwich shop. Having Quizno’s coupons to take money off your final total here and there is important, when you’re budgeting your daily lunch menu.
Even a dollar here and there adds up over the course of a year, so finding Quiznos coupons and online coupon codes becomes essential. It’s not enough to clip coupons out of the Sunday newspaper, but if you have a ready supply of printable coupons every time you walk into a Quizno’s, these savings add up.
Retail Me Not Quiznos Coupons Online
Retail-Me-Not is arguably the most reliable online coupon website, and you’ll find a long list of Quizno’s Coupons on the RetailMeNot Quizno’s page. Below is a representative, if incomplete, list of Quizno’s deals you can find there at present.
- $1 Off a Sub
- $1 Off a Chopped Salad
- $2 Off a Regular or Large Sub
- $10 Off $35 Catering
- $5 Off $20 Catering
- Free Small Sub When you Buy Regular Chips and Fountain Drink
- Free Half Toasty When you Buy Regular Chips and Fountain Drink
- $3 off Subs
The success rates of using these coupons and promo codes are listed next to each coupon listed. Notice how the most reliable coupons are listed at the top of the page, so as you print off coupons from Retail-Me-Not, note that you’re more likely to have success using a coupon they higher up the page your selection is.
Quizno’s “Get Coupon” Page
You can also go to the Quiznos website and find the Quizno’s Get Coupon feature. Here, you can sign up for special deals and promotions with Quizno’s online operation. At present, you get any small prime rib sub for $2.99. That represents a significant savings over your everyday prices.
Once again, joining the Quizno’s coupon club is unobtrusive. If you feel you’re getting spammed by their advertisements (which I’m sure you won’t), you can set filters to rid yourself of any problems. The occasional email announcement of new sandwiche or other menu items and the latest promotion is a small price to pay for savings off your visits to the Quizno’s sub shops.
Kids Eat Free at Quiznos – Printable Coupons
Some people prefer not to sign up with these clubs, so if you’re still searching for Quizno’s savings, you might take a look at the Deals Plus Quiznos page. There’s a coupon here where kids 12 and under eat for free, receiving a sub, toasty torpedo, regular chopped salad, or “Choose 2″ meal for free.
You might try this at your local Quizno’s. The printable coupon in question says that no couple is necessary, though this is for a limited time. That time may have expired in your location, as only 7 of 22 visitors polled said the coupon had worked for them at their location. That’s around 30% success rate, so it’s not likely to be in effect for you. Ask before you have the sandwich made, if that could turn into a problem for you.
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How to Become a Stock Broker
Learning how to become a stock broker lets you get into a fast-paced career with wild swings of fortune and tons of pressure.
Stock brokers see endless “action”, and many of them develop ulcers due to the frenetic atmosphere, long hours, and intense thrills (or mood wings) associated with the fluctuations of the stock market. Stock traders have a chance to make a fortune on the stock exchange, though.
If that sounds like an exciting career field for you, then you can’t start preparing to become a stock trader soon enough. Even grade school students need to learn the skills that later will apply to stock trading.
High School Courses for a Stock Broker
Take as many mathematics, business, and economics classes as you can in high school. A good stock broker has a firm command of math, because you’ll be dealing with prices, figures, and fractions every hour of every day of your adult life. Get a firm grounding in math, and start to think about the business world early and often. Read business publications at the school library.
Also, see if your parents will give you a little bit of money to play the stock market (in their name before 18, in your own name after 18). These sums can be small, but you might as well start to learn how investments work. What applies for 1 share of stock in a company applies for 10,000 shares of a stock, so get in for cheap and see how the stock market works from day to day.
Join an Investment Club
Investment clubs are groups of people who meet regularly to consider joint investments. These might be serious associations of high dollar investors, student investment clubs, or Internet investment club communities. The sums of money can be immense, or as small as ten dollars a month.
The idea is that you join a group which seriously considers the investment of funds in real world investment opportunities. It’s good to bounce ideas off other people, and see how other people look at the stock market. You can learn and gain experience thinking critically about the stock market.
Get a College Degree
Most stock brokers are college graduates with a degree in business, a degree in finance, or a degree in economics. Getting the college experience does several things for you.
One, you get the proper training in finance, economics, and business studies to enter a career as a stock broker. Two, you build solid credentials for a resume, which helps you attain a job at a top firm or brokerage. Three, you make valuable business contacts, because a fair percentage of your fellow students are going to rise in the world of finance. College is a chance to learn and network, so you should always be willing to learn, and try to make as many friends (and as few enemies) as possible.
Series 7 Exam – General Securities Registered Representative Exam
The National Association of Securities Dealers administers the General Securities Registered Representative Examination, more commonly known as the “Series 7 Exam”. You must pass this exam to become a registered representative of a U.S. broker-dealer. This exam takes 6 hours and includes 260 questions (250 which count). Questions cover topics like stocks, bonds, investment compnay funds, limited partnerships, and options. When passing this exam, you receive a Series 7 license.
Certain states require brokers to pass other tests, such as the Series 63 license (the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam) or the Series 66 License (the Uniform Combined State Law Examination), as well.
Gain Experience in the Field
Get as much on-the-job training you can get, especially the training offered by brokerage firms, which helps potential brokers prepare for their examinations. These on the job training is going to take between 4 to 6 months. When the test is passed, the broker becomes a registered representative of their sponsoring firm.
Weather the Storm as a Young Stock Broker
The work environment of a young stock broker is a competitive one. Most brokerage firms hire a lot of young college graduates, knowing many of these young brokers are going to wash out of the business. Expect long, grueling hours and a sometimes frustrating training process. You’ll eventually build a clientele, if you can weather this initial storm.
Technical Resume – Aggressive Interview
When filling out your resume, highlight your knowledge, academic studies, and experience in business, economics, and finance. When you get to the interview, be professional, but be sure to highlight your aggressive personality, your will, and your tenacity for hard work. You need to convey that you have business savvy, but also the starch to hold up to the pressures of the job.
See the Business
Take every chance to see the business and view other, established stock brokers. Visit job fairs, meet stockbrokers, and learn by seeing others do their job.
Also, be ready to have a thick skin, get used to rejection, and learn how to sell. Brokerage life comes down to making sales, but in those lean early years, you’ll have to face your fair share of rejection.
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What Is Buy to Let Home Insurance?
Buy to let home insurance is sometimes called “landlord insurance.” It’s a crucial piece of insurance for any property investor planning on renting out their property. Buy to let home insurance provides extra insurance protection for house owners planning to rent their property–coverage that isn’t normally offered with regular homeowner’s insurance coverage.
What Does Buy to Let Home Insurance Do?
Buy to let home insurance is designed to protect your investment in the event of a tragedy or destructive event that can lead to lost money. Different types of buy to let insurance do different things, but for the most part, this type of insurance is designed to cover you in case of damage caused by tenants or lost income due to unpaid rent. Your attorney’s fees and other costs associated with unpaid rent can be covered by but to let home insurance.
Every landlord insurance policy will be different, so it is important to do your research to find the right buy to let insurance policy for your needs. Your regular homeowner’s insurance policy may assist you with property damage or damage caused by tenant neglect, but for the most part you’ll need to purchase landlord’s insurance to get full coverage. Some buy to let home insurance policies also offer additional flood coverage or protection against “acts of God” or natural disasters. Always read the fine print to be sure potential disasters in your area are protected. For instance, if you live near the ocean, you may need hurricane or flood insurance. Live in California? Make sure your landlord’s insurance covers mudslides and earthquakes.
Market Value and Landlord’s Insurance
Before you acquire buy to let home insurance, you’ll need to have a professional
home evaluation to determine the current market value of your property. This is because the insurance company you’re buying insurance from has to know the exact property value to determine your monthly premium. Under insuring your investment property is as bad for you as it is for the insurance company — if you devalue your property, you could end up paying for damages out of your pocket, which pretty much cancels out any benefit you get from acquiring landlord’s insurance.
Lost Rental Income and Buy to Let Home Insurance
Investing in a buy to let home insurance policy is ideal for protecting you from lost rental income. If you count on your rental property for month-to-month cash income, you should protect your investment with landlord’s insurance. If a problem arises with your tenant and you lose your rental income, or if rent is way overdue and you’ve made no arrangements with the tenant, you can continue receiving your rental revenue while you deal with the tenant issue and any rehabilitation the property needs between tenants.
Who Needs Landlord’s Insurance?
Not every landlord will need rental insurance. Landlords with substantial amounts of money invested in rental properties, or those who depend on the monthly income from tenants, should have landlord’s buy to let home insurance. Another category of landlord that needs this type of insurance is any property owner who is leasing a furnished property.
If your rental premises are furnished, you need to find a buy to let home insurance policy that covers home articles as well as the property itself. Not every buy to let policy is created equal, so make sure all personal property, floors, kitchen appliances, gardening appliances, carports, storage sheds, and swimming pools or hot tubs are covered. Be aware, though, that buy to let home insurance does not cover the personal items of renters.
Injuries and Buy to Let Home Insurance
Buy to let insurance does provide landlords with liability insurance protection in case their tenants or their tenants’ guests are injured on the rental property. Let’s face it, America is addicted to litigation, and believe it or not, landlords can be sued by their own tenants for injuries that have nothing to do with the property owner. Buy to let home insurance policies help pay legal fees in case a renter sues you, and more than that, landlord’s insurance pays legal fees in any situation where the landlord has to go to court with a property renter.
Choosing a Landlord’s Insurance Policy
Make sure the policy you’re about to buy covers you for all possible disasters. Match your policy to the area where your rental property is. If you don’t need protection from volcanoes, don’t get suckered in to a policy that covers you in case of magma. The point is — read the fine print.
Your buy to let home insurance liability policy should be enough to cover potential expenses of health care if renters are injured. Though it is rare, landlords have been sued for injuries to renters.
Landlord’s insurance should also be stout enough to cover the financial impact of lost rent or damage to the property in question. Remember that you may be sued by a tenant, and the tenant may win. Make sure your landlord’s insurance policy is enough to cover in case of litigation.
Remember that a single incident with a renter or a single lawsuit can jeopardize an investment property, and rather than selling your property to pay legal fees or judgements to renters, your landlord’s insurance could keep your investment property afloat.
Where to Find Landlord’s Insurance
A great source for buy to let home insurance information is the Landlord Association. The provide details on different insurance policy offerings around the country, and landlords can also get access to legal forms, learn legal guidelines for landlord’s insurance, and other information associated with buy to let home insurance.
Buy to let home insurance policies are an inexpensive way to give landlord’s security against a wave of potential legal and financial issues. With one policy, you can cover your real estate investment from any number of possible problems. With landlord’s insurance, you and your tenants are protected in case of legal problems.
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What Is a Good Credit Score?
There’s no such thing as a “good credit score.” Different loan and credit products require different credit scores, so establishing a single number as a “good” credit score is impossible.
But a credit score at the upper end of the scale is “good”, right? People with top-notch credit scores can say they have a “good credit score”, but you didn’t me to tell you that perfect credit is good, did you?
There are many different credit scoring systems all spitting out different numbers. There’s no way that your credit score at all three major credit reporting bureaus is the same, it just doesn’t happen. And because the credit range is different from company to company, there’s no single number you can point to and say — there, that’s it, that’s a “good credit score”.
Credit Score Range
But when you look at credit scores in a range, you can identify what a good credit score and a bad credit score are.
Here’s a good guide to determining if your credit score is good enough.
760 – 849
Excellent credit score. People at this level qualify for the best interest rates and loan terms.
700 – 759
This is still a wonderful credit score. People with credit over 700 should have no problems getting good loans and interest rates.
660 – 699
Good credit score. People with credit scores above 660 may not qualify for the best rates, but they will always qualify for a loan.
620 – 659
Average credit score. Most people fall in this range. They won’t get great interest rates but they probably won’t be turned down for loans.
580 – 619
Poor credit score. People with credit under 619 have a hard time getting loans or lines of credit.
Very poor credit score. There’s no chance that people with credit below 579 can get loans or credit cards.
Note that these numbers aren’t hard and fast. Some creditors may take a chance on a person with a low credit score, especially if there is collateral or some other backup system for a line of credit. Similarly, people with really high credit scores (700 or so) find that they don’t have access to some lines of credit because their score is “too good”. It is rare, but it happens.
So . . . What Is a Good Credit Score?
You could say that a credit score of 700 or higher is “great”, and that a person with a credit score of 650 or higher is “good.” Does it mean that these people will be offered loan products at the best interest rates? Of course not, but they’re far more likely to be offered the best financial products than people with a score below 600.
Credit Score 101
A credit score is nothing more than a mathematically generated number. Credit reporting bureaus use your credit information and a formula to calculate your credit score. This funny little formula analyzes data from your credit report to determine your score. This will be a number ranging from 300 to 850. Different credit reporting agencies use different formulas, which is why your credit score candiffer from one credit bureau to the next.
Your credit score is a number that reflects your “credit-worthiness”, or how likely the bureau thinks you are to make good on loans and lines of credit. It is meant to protect creditors from making poor financial decisions on customers who may not be able or willing to repay.
What goes into determining your credit score?
- Payment history – If you miss a lot of payments, or have missed big chunks of payments recently, your credit score will be affected. The good news is, as long as you start making payments on time, your credit score can improve quickly by making adjustments to your personal payment history.
- Amount you currently owe – Your credit score drops when you owe more money, and it rises when you owe less money.
- Credit history — This refers to the length of time you’ve been using credit responsibly. The longer you’ve been using a line of credit, the better — that’s why paid off credit cards or other lines of credit are best left open to increase your credit history rating.
- Applications for credit — If you apply for a lot of credit from multiple sources in a calendar year, your credit score drops.
- Credit mix — If you only have credit from one source, your credit score will be negatively affected. If you have loans from the bank, from a credit card company, and other types of loans and financial products, your credit score goes up. That’s why having a student loan, home loan, boat loan, car loan, and credit card is actually good for your credit score.
How Does My Credit Score Affect Me?
A higher credit score saves you money. Your interest rates will be lower if you have a higher credit score.
Let’s look at an oft-cited example of credit’s impact on your personal finances — a 30-year mortgage interest rate for a $300,000 loan –
credit score 760-850
Monthly payment $1,609
credit score 700-759
Monthly payment $1,650
credit score 680-699
Monthly payment $1,683
credit score 660-679
Monthly payment $1,724
credit score 640-659
Monthly payment $1,806
credit score 620-639
Monthly payment $1,913
In this example, a buyer with a credit score of 760 would pay $579,240 while a buyer with a credit score of 660 would pay $620,640. That’s a difference of nearly $45,000 on a 100 points variation on the credit score.
Your credit score is important. And more important than knowing if you have a “good” credit score is knowing if your credit score is good enough to secure the credit line you need.
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What Is the American Express Rewards Catalog?
Not a traditional catalog, the American Express Rewards Catalog is an online store where customers of American Express can spend the reward points they earn by using their American Express card. The American Express Rewards Catalog is full of options, some of them bizarre or outlandish. In fact, the rewards options with the American Express catalog range from trendy electronics to expensive special events or luxury vacation trips. (See The Best Places to Travel and Most Popular Gift Cards for more information.)
Examples from the American Express Rewards Catalog
- A golf trip to TPC Sawgrass golf course including two nights’ accommodations for two and four rounds of golf at TPC’s famous courses.
- A bottle of Dom Perignon (vintage 1993, rated 97 by Wine Spectator)
- A 3D-ready 60 inch Mitsubishi DLP Home Theatre HDTV
All three of these items cost about the same number of points — from 125,000 to 200,000. How much money is that equal to? American Express claims you earn a point for “just about every dollar you spend” — this has more to do with the fact that some purchases are not eligible for reward points. Ideally, every dollar you spend on your American Express card turns into a reward point, meaning that bottle of Dom up there cost you about $125,000. Of course, you already spent that money, so really the bottle of wine is your reward for being such a good customer.
Then again, there are ways to earn bonus reward points. Here are the basic rules of earning bonus points:
You can earn ten points for every dollar you spend on purchases at select American Express partners. Check the AmEx website for details on which partners are offering this bonus.
If you spend money at the American Express Bonus Points Mall, you’ll earn three points for every dollar. If you desperately need that 3D ready HDTV, spend $30,000 at the AmEx Bonus Points Mall and it can be yours.
The final way to earn points is to purchase them directly from American Express. I wouldn’t suggest buying a large block of points this way just to earn an item, but if you’re just a few points short of an item you want in the Reward Catalog, you can purchase them directly.
To make things even more confusing, there are three “levels” of awards that are available through the rewards program at American Express. The level of award you can get is determined by the type of AmEx card you carry.
The first level is “Membership Rewards Express”. This is offered on American Express Blue, Business Management Accounts, Platinum Business, and Optima Platinum cards.
The second level is plain old “Membership Rewards” – This is offered on American Express Green and Gold cards.
The top level of American Express rewards is called “Membership Rewards First” – This is considered a “super premium” award program for American Express Platinum members, Business Platinum cardholders, and Corporate Platinum Cards only.
What Is Membership Rewards Express?
This the basic awards program at American Express. With Rewards Express, you can earn bonus points as described above, plus you can select from a list of over 200 goods when you want to exchange your reward points. At this level of membership, you can use your points to pay for hotel stays with certain hotel chains.
What Is Membership Rewards?
The “Membership Rewards” program has all the features of the Membership Rewards Express level, plus a travel reservation service, and you can use your points at a wider range of hotels, car rental agencies, and spas and clubs.
What Is Membership Rewards First?
The super premium reward program by American Express includes all the benefits listed above, as well as the ability to earn triple points shopping at certain retailers, luxury goods available in the rewards catalog, one free companion ticket for any international flight, entrance into “invitation only” events like concerts and film premieres, and other red carpet extras that American Express is expanding every day.
Using the American Express Rewards Catalog
Since the catalog is online, it is easy to use. You browse for items like you would at any online store, only here you don’t pay with a debit card, you pay with reward points. The catalog gives all the information you need on the items you’re shopping for at the click of a mouse, and it shows the points it will take to buy a particular reward.
There are four basic categories of rewards in the American Express Rewards Catalog:
- Dining and entertainment
- Exclusive limited time offers
You can also sort the list by shopping by category, by points totals, and by brand. If you’re looking for something fancy, you could shop only for items above 100,000 points, or shop by expensive name brands.
The American Express Rewards Catalog is well known because it contains so much cool stuff. Check it out online to see why this catalog stands out above the competition.
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What Is Barclay’s Online Banking?
Barclay’s is a UK-based bank that is trying to break into the American market with online banking services for American customers. Barclay’s happens to be the largest financial services company in the world, holding $3.7 trillion in assets as of the last fiscal year. There are nearly 4 million registered users of Barclay’s online banking, and though most of their customers are in Europe and the Middle East, there are seven million Barclay’s online users in America.
How Did Barclay’s Spread to America?
When Barclay’s acquired basically all of the Lehman Brothers holdings in September of 2008, they were able to greatly expand their presence in the United States. The popularity of Barclay’s in the UK spilled over into the United States. Remember that the barclayscard they invented in the 60s was the first credit card in the UK and eventually became the first “all-purpose” credit card in Europe. People in America became familiar with the brand from travel and from an aggressive marketing campaign Barclay’s used to attract wealthy American clientele.
Barclay’s Online Banking
Like any other online banking service, the online banking at Barclay’s gives their customers access online to all of their bank accounts (even their checking account.) With Barclay’s online banking, you can pay your bills online, perform transfers between accounts, and look at your bill payment and check history. You can get your Barclay’s statement online, rather than in the mail, and even apply for loans through Barclay’s online loan application.
Basically, anything you can do at a Barclay’s branch office can be done using Barclay’s online bank service. About the only thing you can’t do is withdraw cash, but give Barclay’s a few years and they may well work that out too.
Barclay’s Online Customer Support
Unlike banks in America, UK customers of Barclay’s have the option of talking to live customer support twenty-four hours a day. Unfortunately for American Barclay’s customers, the same service isn’t available all day long. To reach Barclay’s customer service, American customers should dial 302-622-8990 between the hours of 6 AM and 2 AM.
Is Barclay’s Online Bank Secure?
Online banking customers depend on web security to protect their money and investments. That’s why Barclay’s uses a Gemalto security system to protect their customers assets — Gemalto is widely recognized as the industry leader, and Gemalto built Barclay’s security software from scratch — it is seamlessly integrated into the Barclay’s online bank website.
The main purpose of the security system at Barclay’s is to prevent fraud. Barclay’s uses a secure 128-bit encrypted server, and immediately logs the customer out after 10 minutes of inactivity. Other security features include a way to enter your password that is safe from password capture programs and viruses.
Barclay’s online banking service takes it a step further, giving its customers free Kaspersky brand web security software to download on their home computer. You get this for free with your online account at Barclay’s — the thinking goes that if their customers computers are clean, their bank system will be clean as well.
Barclay’s online banking service is meant to replace trips to a Barclay’s branch or time spent on the phone with a customer service representative. If Barclay’s online banking makes your life any easier, you’ve got a good bargain. Barclay’s online banking is free, and the nearly twenty four-hour a day help line makes the deal even sweeter.
See also: What Is Wachovia Online Banking?
What Is Wachovia Online Banking?
It’s becoming common for people to do most of their banking and financial transactions online. Online banking was conceived in the early 80s, but it took the Internet boom of the early 90s to get the ball rolling. The first widespread online banking functions were offered in late 1995 by Presidential Savings Bank. Big banks followed, including Wells Fargo and Chase Manhattan, two of the first nationwide banks to offer online banking to all customers. (See also: Barclays Online Banking for more information.)
Wachovia Online Banking
The Wachovia online banking service is similar to other online banks. Security features are standard — such as the login image, a small picture that appears when you’re signed in to a legitimate Wachovia online banking site. The content at Wachovia’s online bank program is also similar to other online banks, and includes:
- account activity and balances
- mobile phone account management through Wachovia Mobile
- online bank statements
- images of paid checks
- funds transfers between accounts
- online bill pay
- investment account balances, holdings, and activity
- online investment trading
- real-time stock quotes, news, commentary, etc.
- online retirement fund access
- manage your 401k retirement plan online
Wachovia is now owned by Wells Fargo. That should mean even more Internet banking capabilities for Wachovia customers. Wells Fargo is famous for their advances in online banking technology, and though there were some reports of issues with Wachovia’s online banking system right after the takeover by Wells Fargo, these issues have been corrected.
What Is Online Banking?
Online banking is the practice of making bank transactions or paying bills via the Internet. Thanks to technology, and the Internet in particular, we no longer have to leave the house. We can shop online, communicate online, and now, we can even do our banking online. Online banking allows us to make deposits, withdrawals and pay bills all with the click of a mouse. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that.
Benefits of Wachovia Online Banking
The benefits of using Wachovia’s online banking system are many.
Obviously, the biggest “pro” is the convenience factor. Most of your day-to-day banking activity can be accomplished online. Your bank statements are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can make checking your account balances a part of your daily routine without much effort.
The fact that you can keep such a close eye on your accounts means you have a better chance of catching a mistake or an instance of identity theft much easier. Any place you have Internet access becomes a portal to your online banking needs.
Online bill pay is a big part of the upside of banking online with Wachovia. You don’t have to write any more checks, put stamps on return envelopes, and possibly forget to mail checks to pay your bills — set it all up online for free. Wachovia’s online banking system makes it easy to set up your bill payment schedule. The funds will be automatically deducted from your account.
Don’t forget that online banking at Wachovia is cost-effective. It doesn’t cost you a penny to use online banking, and it makes sense for Wachovia to offer this service for free. They save money when you use online banking instead of driving to the bank and talking to the teller, and you save time in the process. I’d say that’s a fair trade.
A final check in the “pro” column for online banking is that it is an easy way to ‘go green’. Since online banking is paperless, you and the bank will be using less paper and creating less waste.
Downsides of Wachovia Online Banking
The biggest concern many people have when they begin using online banking is security — it is difficult for some people to believe that transactions on the Internet are secure. All information on the Wachovia online banking site is encrypted, and the chance of your account being accessed through the online banking system is slim. Wachovia’s spent a ton of money on high-tech firewalls and other online security systems, and don’t forget that your bank account at Wachovia is FDIC insured in case of such a problem. Though security can be an issue, know that your online bank account is probably a hundred times more secure than your home computer.
Another downside for some customers is the lack of face to face interaction. Believe it or not, some people enjoy going to the bank and seeing the employees, chatting with them, and getting a free lollipop for making a bank transaction.
Don’t forget that some bank functions still can’t be performed outside of the bank. Depositing cash or checks will require you to spend some time at a Wachovia ATM or in a Wachovia branch. Only direct deposits will go to your Wachovia bank account without your intervention.
All told, the benefits of online banking (convenience, low cost, etc) outweigh the potential downsides. If you are careful with your bank information and use online banking to supplement your other good financial habits, online banking is a great idea.
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How to Get a Patent
Every family has the story of “the invention that got away” — in my family, that story tells how crazy Uncle Tom worked twenty hours a week in his basement workshop and came up with a device that could measure the speed of a passing baseball. Everyone in the family ridiculed him, Tom never sought a patent, and ten years later (in 1954) the patent for the radar gun was awarded to a guy who has to be just filthy rich by now. Whether or not this story is true is not the point. There are examples throughout history of inventors whose names fell by the wayside — who remembers that Mahlon Loomis was the first person to demonstrate wireless communication in 1862? We all know the name Guglielmo Marconi, “inventor” of the radio.
These cautionary tales exist for a reason — the lesson is, patent your inventions properly or you’ll end up like Mahlon Loomis. If you have an invention, a design idea, or even a scientific idea that you feel is unique and worthwhile, it is time to secure a patent.
What is a patent?
Don’t get a “patent” confused with a “trademark” or a “copyright”. A patent is similar to these two things, but a patent has a specific meaning. A patent for an invention means the US government grants the property rights of an invention to the inventor who seeks a patent. Patents are issued by the Patent and Trademark Office.
New patents last for twenty years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States. Patents are not issued until certain fees are paid. What types of rights do patents grant? According to Federal law, a patent grants “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” your patented invention in the United States or importing their version of your invention into the United States. According to that language, a patent is not the right to make or sell your invention, but the right to keep other people from making, selling, or importing that invention.
How much does it cost to get a patent?
There’s no easy answer to this question. Every patent process is a little bit different, and depending on how you file your patent, the price could change dramatically.
A patent is not terribly expensive, especially for people who plan to market their invention and make big money on it. Here’s a breakdown of the fees associated with filing a patent.
USPTO filing fee: $165
USPTO patent search fee: $270
USPTO examination fee: $110
Grand total paid to USPTO — $545
If you are successful with your patent application (if the USPTO Patent Examiner says that you have an allowable application) you’ll need to pay an additional $755 fee to the USPTO to have your patent issued.
In total, the fees paid to the USPTO would be $1,300 for a successful patent application.
But there are other fees you’ll need to pay in some cases. For instance, if you plan to hire a patent attorney to draw up and present your patent to the government, that lawyer’s fees will be somewhere in the $10,000 – $20,000 range. Preparing and filing your patent yourself can instantly save you those fees, but there are good reasons to hire a patent attorney if you don’t feel comfortable filing on your own.
Getting a Patent
1. In some cases, you’ll first need to prepare a professional drawing of your invention.
2. Now it is time to conduct what is called a “patent search”. Most people will hire a professional patent agent or patent attorney to perform this task, but you can pay the USPTO directly and perform the search yourself and save money in the process.
3. If you’re going to hire a patent attorney, now is the time to do it. A patent attorney will represent you in front of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Yes, this is expensive, but patent law is notoriously complicated, and hiring a patent attorney to save you time and trouble could be an investment in the future of your invention.
4. Read and review the PTO website for instructions and fee schedules. There are a million special rules that govern patents — but in a nutshell, you need to know that there are three basic types of patents.
-Utility patents involve any “new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof”
-Design patents are “new, original, and ornamental” designs for a product
-Plant patents are what they sound like — patents for new, asexually reproduced “distinct . . . varieties of plant.”
I’m not sure what that “plant patent” thing is all about, but the point is you have to classify your invention along lines like this throughout the PTO patent process.
5. Once you’ve got all the paperwork prepared, either by yourself or your lawyer, it is time to actually “apply” for a patent. You’ll file an appropriate application and pay the application fees required by the PTO. Here’s what the PTO says about a good patent application — “A patent application should include a written document which comprises a specification (description and claims), and an oath or declaration, a drawing in those cases in which a drawing is necessary and filing, search, and examination fees.” This is the basic format of the document your patent attorney can put together for you. You may also need to hire a design firm or prepare a design yourself — in some cases, the PTO will required that you present a working model of your invention.
6. After you’ve filed for a patent, you can start using the term “patent pending” when you talk about your product or invention. This is a real world way of letting people know that your device is recognized by the US government as your own, and it could help you fight a legal battle later if someone tries to break your patent. As long as your patent is still in the pending stage, the only official language you can use is to say “Patent Pending” on the packaging.
7. Unfortunately, the end of the patent acquisition process is a waiting game. The PTO has been known to take years approving a patent, which is why it can be important to properly use the phrase “patent pending” in connection with your invention or product. The “average time” for a patent application from filing to approval is around eight years. As one famous inventor said, “You can get old” waiting on the patent office to come through.
Properly patenting your invention, product, or new idea is crucial if you plan on making money off that item. Without a patent, counterfeiting and plain old theft can get between you and the profits from your great new invention. Don’t be the crazy Uncle Tom of your family — gather a little cash and file for your patent before you lose your chance.
Part of the family of financial services put out by credit bureau Experian, LowerMyBills.com is a consumer oriented website that promises people big savings on their bills and other financial services. From home mortgages to debt consolidation loans, LowerMyBills was founded over a decade ago and was only purchased by Experian in 2005.
Experian must have seen something in the small company’s business model — they shelled out $330 million — an additional $50 million was promised as a performance incentive and paid out over the past couple of years. Lower My Bills.com is a profitable company, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in sales with profits hovering near $25 million a year.
Getting quotes and financial information (not to mention offers on phones and Internet access) is a messy and difficult process. The idea behind Lower MyBills.com (and many comparison shopping sites like it) is to bring lenders and vendors together in one place so that customers can get multiple quotes after submitting a single “packet” of information. Depending on the product you’re looking for, that information may include personal details about your income and financial past or it may be a simple four question “application”. LowerMyBills works with thousands of different lenders in an attempt to give their customers a wide range of quotes and estimates.
Unless you’ve been in the market for a loan product, you may only know LowerMyBills.com from their banner ads that ran after the Experian purchase and can still be seen from time to time today. The company famously spent nearly $100 million on web ads in 2006, but the quirkiness and nonsensical nature of the ads mean that most people remember them as a nuisance. The parent company of LowerMyBills.com, Experian, is one of the “big three” credit reporting bureaus along with Equifax and TransUnion. Experian also owns the much maligned FreeCreditReport.com and sites like ConsumerInfo.com and PriceGrabber.com.
To take advantage of LowerMyBills.com, consumers visit the website and select from a menu of products — generic categories like “mortgage”, “debt”, “insurance”, and even “education” give way to more specific offers as you click through. The scope of Lower MyBills.com is pretty wide. The “education” tab links to a list of ten topics (criminal justice, education & liberal arts, etc) that, when clicked, sends you to another Experian site that promises to “match” you to a college or certification program. Many of the other topics covered on the front page of LowerMyBills.com will keep you on-site. Clicking the “insurance” tab, for instance, leads to a series of questions about the type of insurance you’re looking for.
Basically, LowerMyBills.com is a mash up of various consumer services housed in one place, though you may be redirected. Keep your eyes on the URL so you know what site you’re on.
Is LowerMyBills.com a Scam?
Possibly because of this wide net, many people fear that LowerMy Bills.com is a scam. People have posted complaints about the site on various scam and consumer rights related pages, and the collapse of sister site FreeCreditReport.com didn’t help matters. It seems any website offering to lower your bills, reduce the cost of insurance, or “match” you to a financial product is met with much suspicion.
For example, if you want to purchase auto insurance through LowerMyBills.com you have to enter all sorts of personal information ranging from your state of residence to your date of birth and other details that spammers and identity thieves use to make your life miserable. There’s no guarantee anywhere on the site that LowerMyBills.com doesn’t sell your details to outside vendors.
The term “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) is in Latin for a reason — people have been feeling “ripped off” by a poor product for thousands of years. Buying and selling on the Internet is even more reason to look close at the fine print. In the case of LowerMyBills.com, the fine print hints at the “iffy” nature of the site. There’s a stipulation in the fine print that is becoming more and more common on the web — it says, in layman’s terms, that by doing business with LowerMyBills, you as the consumer agree to resolve any dispute with the company in arbitration in California. Businesses want to fight you in California for a reason — the laws there favor big business.
Another sign that you might be getting duped? Look at item 13 in the consumer agreement. It says that you’re waiving indemnification even in the case of intentional fraud. This clause even protects other entities that LowerMyBills works with, so if you have your identity stolen thanks to the shady practices of one of Lower MyBills’ affiliates, your ability to file a lawsuit will be limited. Caveat emptor indeed.
Folk movement against Lower MyBills aside, to date there are no lawsuits targeting the company for scamming. Some of their affiliates are in court defending allegations related to spamming and false advertising, but LowerMyBills has kept their formal business name out of the discussion. That means there’s no reason to think Lower My Bills is “a scam”.
You may be surprised to find out just how many online retailers and services are selling certain details of your life to junk mailers and email spammers. Ever wonder how you ended up getting all those erectile dysfunction emails with hilarious titles? Spammers aren’t just pulling email addresses out of the bag (well, they do that too, but it isn’t their main tactic) they purchase lists of email addresses or other information from companies you deal with on a daily basis. Your online movie rental company? They sold your email address to the highest bidder. Same for the site where you get your daily online auction fix. Just because a company has a mom and pop or friendly image doesn’t mean they aren’t stuffing your inbox with email you don’t want to read.
After reading that, you may feel scared to do business with Lower MyBills.com. The truth is most online businesses are guilty of these kinds of activities, and many brick and mortar businesses you use every day do the same thing. How does LowerMyBills stay afloat under the impression that they’re scam artists? The fact is that many of their services are at least competitive when it comes to rates and service.
Lots of people find LowerMy Bills through their massive online ad presence. The fact that LMB is owned by Experian is a big bonus — Experian already owns all your credit information and you do business with them any time you deal with credit anyway. If nothing else, handing over otherwise sensitive data to a company like Experian is safe because you already work with them. Since there are laws in place to govern how Experian can use your personal information and credit data, you can feel safe in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, has your back. Another good sign — LowerMy Bills.com doesn’t make you hand over your social security number until you are serious about making a purchase.
When you visit LowerMyBills.com, you’ll be walked through a basic query process depending on what kind of service you’re looking for. For the purpose of simplicity, we’ll be talking about the mortgage service.
LowerMyBills.com Mortgage Refinancing
Some of the questions you’ll be asked at the outset of a mortgage search are:
- What’s the Balance on Your First Mortgage?
- What’s Your General Credit Worthiness?
- How Much Is Your House Worth?
If you’re a good consumer, you can answer these questions without much digging. If you are unsure of your ability to answer questions in this vein, obtain a copy of your most recent mortgage statement. Because you’ll only be asked questions relevant to your mortgage lender search, you can rest assured that nothing untoward is happening. Too many times, non name mortgage lender comparison sites will throw in questions that have little or nothing to do with the topic at hand. These questions are put there so those less trustworthy sites can sell your answers to specific buyers. There’s none of that at LowerMyBills, besides the strange insistence that you tell them your exact age.
You’ll be pleased with Lower My Bills’ ability to communicate the entire mortgage lending process — once you’ve finished your application, you’ll get an email message with the name of the specific five lenders the site has selected to give you mortgage quotes. In that email, you’ll find out not just the names of those companies but their preferred contact method (email or phone) and a general idea of when they’ll be contacting you. Most people will start hearing from their five matched lenders within a couple of hours. Depending on the company you’re matched with, you may get automated form emails or you may get personalized phone calls. The luck of the draw will determine how you’re contacted. In my case, one of the lenders suggested to me never got in touch with me — but four out of five is great.
The experience you have with LMB depends on your own knowledge of what you’re in the market for. Be specific with your needs, whether you’re after a lower interest rate, a lower total payment, or even a return on your refinance investment. I was stunned when two of the four lenders that contacted me let me know within minutes that a refinance through their company would not be good for me.
If you are pleased with the offer made by a particular lender you find through Lower My Bills.com, you can ask for a good faith estimate. Some lenders will offer the good faith estimate without prompting, especially if it reveals that a refinancing deal may benefit your bottom line or meet your other needs. Rather than dashing off and taking out a loan with the first company offering you a good faith estimate, LMB gives you the option of waiting it out and comparing deals. The good faith estimate is the key to the lender’s ability to make a profit. While some mortgage lenders will charge higher fees to make their buck, others will give you a low interest rate. If a company doesn’t charge fees, you can bet your good faith estimate will be markedly higher. Listening to multiple offers gives you the choice of which way you’ll line the lenders’ pockets. Be a good negotiator — write down as many specific good faith estimates as you can and use them in your deals with other lenders.
I had a very positive experience with Lower My Bills. People who aren’t able to wrap their heads completely around the issue of refinancing will find the one stop comparison shopping convenient. The downsides of LowerMyBills.com are mostly due to the nature of the business — buying a book online is scary enough, imagine putting your financial future into the hands of a web based vendor. An FAQ or consumer’s rights’ section on the websites explaining their personal information policy would be a big help. Not knowing how your personal data will be used makes the whole process seem a touch on the shady side.
LowerMyBills.com Phone Number
Don’t let all the talk about mortgage refinancing steer you away from the other services at Lower My Bills. If you are in the market for phone service you can use LMB to compare rates, get special deals with service providers, or even get a free fancy new phone. While comparison shopping for mortgage products is fairly old hat, it seems like most people pick their phone service by throwing darts or rolling dice. Considering consumer groups tell us that the average phone bill in America is around $50 a month (or about $600 a year) the phone plan you pick could put a dent in your expendable cash.
LowerMyBills.com has two methods of finding a new phone service — a “plan finder” and a “phone finder”. Most people will take advantage of the plan finder, as this allows you to pick from a range of services, select the price and plan you like, and then match a phone to it, there are some gadget heads out there who prefer to find the ideal phone and match that phone to a service. Either way, the process is essentially the same.
Much like the home loan search, finding a phone plan with Lower MyBills means answering a series of questions and then communicating with the phone providers on your own. Think of the question and answer process as a series of filters that weed out plans that don’t match your needs and leave you with only your best four or five options. The “plan finder” system at LMB will ask you to answer the following questions:
- What is your area? (Zip code)
- What kind of offer do you want? (you can search all phones, only phones with new service, only pre-paid phones, or unlocked phones)
- What carries do you want to search? (this allows you to skip plan providers you don’t care for)
- What features do you want?
- What is your price range? (you can pick from “better than free” all the way up to “over $150″)
As you answer these basic queries, Lower My Bills.com shows you a list of phones on the right hand side of the website. These phones and plans meet the criteria you set up on the left side. Besides being user friendly, this allows you to comparison shop “live” as opposed to the pen and paper comparison shopping you’ll be doing with a mortgage or insurance search.
More “filters” pop up as you continue to enter your specific criteria. You’ll eventually be able to sort through the list of available phone plans by the phone manufacturer, the coverage in your area, and other detailed categories.
Even if you don’t plan on doing business with LowerMy Bills, using the phone or plan finder application is a great way to get the lay of the land in your area in terms of phone plans. The ability to enter your zip code means you’ll get area-specific quotes and inquiries. The best news is you don’t have to enter any information more personal than your zip code in order to get estimates from phone providers. No need to worry about LMB selling your personal details if they just don’t have them. Yes, Lower My Bills installed a cookie on my web browser, but if you only did business with websites that didn’t install cookies, you’d be wasting money with your wireless bill.
If you’re shopping for Internet service, doing business with LowerMyBills is a bit dodgier. Click the “Internet access” link from the LMB website and you’ll be redirected to DigitalLanding.com — an affiliate of LMB. The transition off site is nearly seamless, and if you aren’t particularly computer savvy you may not notice that you’re dealing with a different name. Still, they are legally affiliated with Lower MyBills.com, so any legal rights you have from doing business with LMB are transferable to Digital Landing.
Comparison shopping for web service is almost identical to searching for phone service. Enter your zipe code and your email address and start to answer questions about the kind of service you want. Yes, your email address will be stored and sold to a third party spammer, but that’s par for the course online. There are three different security certifications right on the front page of DigitalLanding, one from McAfee, one from TRUSTe, and a VeriSign confirmation of the site’s SSL security. While you may be indifferent about things like data encryption and virus protection, the folks at Digital Landing seem to go out of their way to show you they are not.
A big difference between shopping for phones and shopping for web service at LowerMyBills is the way your search starts. After entering the required details, you’ll go on “hold” for a second as the service searches for the best deals for your area. Only after local Internet service providers are shown do you start to filter through the results by price and other details. On the left side of the screen, you can choose to “bundle” your Internet service with other services like home phone service. In the center of the page are your service offers (which may be extremely limited based on your area) and on the right side is a box that provides information on the fees associated with each offer. If you make use of the entire web page, your search results will be more in tune with what you want and you’ll stay informed about hidden costs.
LowerMyBills.com Car Insurance
Lower MyBills works with over 1,000 different companies. That’s one of the big reasons for using this particular comparison service — if you want to save money you have to query as many companies as you can. Knowing what Company A offers you for an identical service provided by Company B is your best weapon against paying too much for car insurance, and getting a variety of price quotes at LMB is like shooting the proverbial barrel fish.
Shopping for car insurance with Lower MyBills starts like any other “compare and save” program they’ve got — you answer two questions (your zip code and whether or not you currently have car insurance) and work your way through a series of questions and search filters until finally the site narrows down your choices to about half a dozen.
There’s nothing new about online comparison shopping in the auto insurance industry. Sites like CarInsurance.com have been doing something similar since the Internet’s grammar school days. The reasons for picking LMB to help you pick an insurance provider are mostly convenience oriented. Any fool can walk into a State Farm or AAA shop front and walk out with an (expensive and unwieldy) insurance card. The people behind Lower My Bills work hard to convince you that using their service will save you time — I’ve never read the words “save” and “time” more often than in their promotional material. While you will save time comparing online rather than going door to door, there’s no real driving force behind the car insurance section of Lower My Bills.
You need to have the following information at your disposal when you hunt for insurance quotes online:
- Vehicle year, make, and model (e.g. 1998 Toyota Camry)
- Whether or not the vehicle is leased
- Vehicle’s primary use (company car, farm use, pleasure, personal, etc)
- Average mileage for commute (guesstimation is acceptable)
- Annual mileage (again, an educated guess is fine)
- Primary driver details (name, date of birth, gender, marital status)
- Age you obtained your driver’s license
- Details about tickets or license suspensions (date, punishment, etc) going back five years
- Highest Level of Education
- General credit score
If you go into your search at Lower MyBills with this information in hand, you’ll be saving yourself time running around looking for documents.
As for the car insurance rates offered by LMB’s affiliates, I found them extremely competitive compared to other insurance providers in my area. Searching for a policy with 0 deductible and full coverage, I was quickly sent six quotes, four via email and two personally on the phone. All six quotes would save me some amount of money, though in some cases the actual savings was at the nickel and dime level. One quote in particular was so good, I had to consider actually talking to this company. I’m not really in the market for new car insurance, but a six month quote of $840.16 is about two hundred dollars cheaper than my family currently spends.
A common complaint about comparison shopping websites is that you’ll be inundated with offers for weeks. Having used Lower My Bills myself, I can pretty much promise this won’t happen to you. The most responses I ever got was six, from a query on car insurance. There’s no calls all hours of the day, letters in the mail, emails choking up my inbox. What LMB says they’re going to do is what they end up doing in terms of the number of quotes you receive.
LowerMyBills.com Debt Management
There are six categories in the Lower My Bills.com “debt management” section.
Debt Relief – You start your path to debt relief at LMB by entering some basic personal data like your name, your address and contact info, and the general amount of your debt. After this step, it gets a little more pertinent. LMB wants to know what type of creditors your debt is with (major credit cards, medical bills, etc), your primary source of income, etc. They will then offer to show you a free credit score provided by Experian. This credit score is not a full credit report, and it is only from one agency. Depending on the area you live in, you may be required to pay a small amount for this score. Luckily, you can skip this step. Somehow, you’ve left LowerMyBills and are at an affiliate site called careonecredit.com. They ask a few more personal questions (total amount of debt, etc) and then invite you to call them at 1-800-498-1659 to talk with a “debt management counselor”. This is as far as I got before I realized this is the same kind of service I can do for myself.
Debt Relief Acceleration – What Lower MyBills.com calls “debt relief acceleration” is a link to DebtGoal.com. At DebtGoal you’ll be invited to join as a member and start a SmartPay plan. The idea behind “debt relief acceleration” is to make your debt visual and give a visual account of how much debt you’ve paid off and how far you have to go. There are a few other tools along the way to help you out (like tracking your monthly progress) but this is pretty much just a support system for people in debt.
Bankruptcy – This is another Lower My Bills affiliate. When you click the “bankruptcy” tab on the LMB home page, you’ll be redirected to bankruptcy.me offering in large letters a “free bankruptcy evaluation” form. The very idea that you could fill in six blanks on a form and be on your way to a positive plan for bankruptcy is a little bit silly, though bankruptcy.me is a licensed Federal Debt Relief Agency. I was surprised after filling out this form that Bankruptcy.me only found one debt relief agency willing to work with me, a place called RiseAbove Debt Relief, whose phone number is (888) 632-0587. In fact, when I filled out the same form with different details, I was sent to the same agency. It seems that rather than comparing potential debt relief agencies or trying to help people who have questions about bankruptcy, bankruptcy.me is a vehicle for a single relief agency. There are probably better options than just this one agency.
Debt Consolidation Loan – You start out your path to a debt consolidation loan from LowerMyBills .com by answering three questions. “What type of loan do you want?”, “What size is your home?”, and “What is your credit profile?”. Once past this page, there are even more questions about your property, such as “Purchase Year” and “Estimated Value”. In fact the questions keep coming and coming, details of your previous mortgages, your current income amount, etc. After you finish answering, you enter your contact info and sit back to wait for offers from debt consolidation companies. In a test run, I had nearly twenty offers (way more than is comfortable for me) in less than twenty minutes.
Private Student Loan – I thought it was curious that Lower My Bills was offering “Private student loan” shopping under their “Debt” tag until I remembered what my private student loans did to my credit. When you first visit the “private student loan” department at LMB, fill out the questionnaire. You need to let them know if you’re the parent or the student, the name of the college, the amount you need to borrow, and the expected graduation date. Then you tell them when you need the loan, your home zip code and email address, and you’re off to the races. Like with all other Lower MyBills.com offers, you’ll get about a dozen loan agencies with quotes or offers for you, some on the phone and some via email. None of the information that was sent to me was anything I couldn’t learn by talking to my school’s financial aid advisers, but for parents at home or students at large universities where it can be hard to get loan counseling, using LowerMyBills is an easy way to get ballpark loan figures.
LowerMyBills.com was once best known for their annoying ever present ads. At one time, they were the largest single advertiser on the web, a dubious title that nonetheless seems to have helped catapult them into prosperity. The Experian family of websites has hit something of a rocky path, what with the FreeCreditReport.com fiasco. The difference between a company like Lower My Bills and FreeCreditReport.com (now called FreeCreditScore.com) is that you don’t have to enter your credit card information or sign up for a “free trial” in order to comparison shop on Lower MyBills.com. FreeCreditReport.com got in dutch with the government because of the untold millions of people who signed up for their pay service without realizing it. There’s no “catch” like this at LMB.
All the same, a web search for LowerMyBills.com reveals the phrase “scam” in the top five results, in some cases more than once. This is mostly a matter of good old fashioned web paranoia and partially a backlash against a company that makes money by selling basic customer information (email, age, zip code) to spammers. The sheer scope of Lower My Bills makes it difficult to ignore, especially if you’re going out of your way to lower your costs. Comparison shopping on your own for a cell phone plan would require hours of legwork, visiting big box stores and strip mall storefronts until you find the ideal service. The same kind of search using LowerMy Bills takes seconds, though you may wonder if the trade off is worth it considering the possibility that you’re handing over your personal data in exchange for sponsored links and affiliate advertising. Your decision to use Lower My Bills for your next online purchase (be it car insurance, a home loan, or a college degree) is not one to be taken lightly. As a one time customer, I recommend this service to people who don’t have the time it takes to get a good deal or are just getting their feet wet shopping for insurance or home refinancing.
Internet Gift Card Exchanges
Ever received a gift card for a store you hate? Or maybe you don’t hate the store, but you don’t live near enough to a franchise to make the gift card valuable. Online gift card exchanges exist as a trading post for gift cards, gift certificates, and even high value coupons. The idea behind the online gift card exchange is simple enough — find people who want your gift card (ideally people with a gift card you’d trade for) and setup a simple trade. This way, you don’t waste your gift, and someone else gets to spend money at a store they really want to do business with. Gone are the days of trading gift cards on the first day of school after Christmas — online gift card exchanges are the web’s answer to the playground trade.
There’s another side of the online gift card exchange, a genius bit of marketing that some shoppes can’t resist. The discounted gift card. Discount gift cards are not exactly revolutionary — I remember selling discounted gift cards as part of a school fundraiser as a kid — but the way these companies deal in discount gift cards is the draw. Many online gift card exchanges also offer discounts on store gift cards, meaning you don’t just get $1 of gift card credit for every $1 you spend. In some cases, you can earn as much as $0.40 more per dollar spent on the gift card. In layman’s terms, you can buy gift cards for thousands of different retailers that are worth more than you paid for them. Spend a ton of money at Bass Pro Shops? You could pick up a $250 Bass Pro Shops gift card for just $150 — that’s like getting a free Benjamin just for buying your new fishing pole.
The final option common to many online gift exchanges is a simple sale. Online gift card exchanges and discount gift card dealers need your gift cards to do business with other clients. Think of the discount retailer as a middle man between you and the gift card holder that wants to trade with you. Usually, it is better to find a trade on your own, but if you are having trouble getting rid of the terrible card your Aunt Betty gave you, simply selling it to a discount card dealer is a great option. The amount you can earn for your card differs by company. As of this writing, the most popular gift card exchanges are trading really high numbers for grocery stores and box store pharmacies (92% for Albertson’s or CVS) and particularly low numbers for chain restaurants (50% for Chili’s or Chipotle). If you have a really valuable gift card, you can earn some serious cash in exchange for the useless plastic in your wallet.
You can trade your current gift card to a member of one of these online gift card exchanges for a card at a store you like, or you can shop for discounted gift cards you can use at the stores you already visit. Either way, online gift card exchanges exist to fill a consumer need; sometimes we just want to get rid of those awful gift cards we get at holiday time.
Here’s a breakdown of three popular online gift card exchanges.
This is a new player in the online gift card exchange world. Online since Fall of 2008, ABCGiftCards has earned a reputation as the largest discount online gift card dealer. You can also sell your gift cards to ABCGiftCards for some pretty good percentages. Most gift cards were exchanging at 70%, or seven bucks paid for every ten bucks on the gift card. The customer service at ABC is awesome — if your gift card isn’t listed on their page, you can call the company toll free to get a quote on its value. ABC has pledged to beat the numbers at all their competition, and will match advertised gift card values from other sites. ABC depends on their customers for business, so they want to offer good payment for the cards their customers want.
To get the best value for your gift cards at ABC, you need to have gift cards from specialty retailers or (best of all) a large gift card from a big chain grocery store. For instance, a $100 RiteAid card sold to ABCGiftCards.com tonight would earn the seller a check for $94.
The sale and trade process at ABC is top notch, and I’ll describe it here so you know what kind of service you should be getting from your gift card exchange service.
- Buy a card from ABC with an equal or greater face value than the card you want to get rid of.
- Pay with Paypal and have the cards shipped to a Paypal confirmed address.
- Fill out a trade form within twenty four hours.
- Wait for an email with shipping instructions to mail in your awful gif cards.
- Wait a few days for your Paypal account to be credited for the trade amount less any transaction fees.
Not everything at ABC is rosy — I don’t actually think they have the largest selection of gift cards or the largest volume in gift card trading as they claim. As an active user of ABCGiftCards I can promise you that the selection at ABC is not as good as at either of the other sites in this review. But you can get great value for your trade, and they move really fast.
I only use CertificateSwap.com (a site aimed at exchanging gift certificates) for a few specialized purposes. The site advertises that users can “Buy, sell, and trade gift cards”, and they do a good enough job of two out of those three. The problem with CertificateSwap is that most of the “certificates” are vouchers for travel. Sure, there’s a few other types of certificates scattered around, but most of the business at CertificateSwap is in the form of credits for rental cars, airplane tickets, or hotel reservations.
Now that I’ve complained about that lack of variety, I kind of like that you can hit up one website for travel gift certificates. I know that I will save some money if I book a flight with an airline I can find on CertificateSwap, or a hotel chain that I buy a gift card for on CS.com. All of the trades are handled through the mail, and most of the business at this site is between members.
CertificateSwap.com is an ugly website with too many ads. There, I said it. I don’t like the “eBay ten years ago” style interface and at the end of the day, the lack of variety in the gift cards here makes it only valuable to me a few times a year when I fly.
I have to include this specialty online gift card exchange because they’ve helped me out of some real gift card jams in the past. GiftCardRescue is one of the only online gift card services that will deal in so called “open loop” gift cards — re loadable cards and credit card branded gift cards such as Visa or Mastercard reloadable debit cards.
I understand that giving a credit card style gift card is a secure and classy way of giving someone money. Cash is pretty “blah”, and it seems like a cool idea to give a person a little card preloaded with money instead of a cheesy envelope with money in it. But I hate these open loop gift cards — it may be my least favorite gift. For starters, it is almost impossible to keep track of the running total on the card. I always feel awkward pulling out a Visa gift card on a date or pretty much in any public setting. I feel like it makes me look poor or incapable of having a real credit card. So when someone gifts me one of these open loop monsters, I know to head right for GiftCardRescue and barter for a good return.
I’ve sold four open loop cards to GCR and never made less than an 80% return. For a $500 gift card, that’s $400. Use these guys to sell that gift card that no one else will buy.
The Most Popular Gift Cards
A gift card is a great way to send someone something simple and valuable at the same time. Gift cards are great for events like graduations or weddings because they stand in for gifts of cash, are more secure, and can be geared toward the needs or desire of the person you’re gifting.
When giving a gift card, it is important to know that you’re buying something the person will use. The amount of the gift card is not as important as the store or merchant that the gift card is valid for. Here are the ten most popular gift cards, based on sales numbers and reports from online gift card exchanges. Buying a person one of these ten gift cards is a really safe bet.
1. Visa Gift / American Express / MasterCard Gift Cards
Pros: These gift cards are sometimes re loadable (meaning the person can keep using them by loading their own cash into the card later) which is kind of unique — what other gift card turns into a fairly responsible way of handling your cash? Another upside for the cash card is that you can use them a lot of different places — anywhere that the brand on the front of the card is accepted.
Cons: Check the fine print on the back of the card before you buy it for a loved one — there are sometimes fees built into the card that make them far less valuable than a plain cash gift. Another downside for the branded gift cash card is the fact that they’re kind of dorky. Why didn’t the person gifting you trust you with a cash gift? It seems kind of impersonal, while cash tucked into an envelope is like a beautiful embrace.
2. Lowe’s Gift Cards
This hardware store gift card is a mainstay man gift. Even the wimpiest of men can find something they need at a big hardware store chain like Lowe’s, and to the manlier men in your life a gift card to Lowe’s is like a license to break something expensive. If you need a quick gift for someone with a Y chromosome, a gift card to a hardware store is almost never in bad taste. Check the person’s area first — if there’s not a Lowe’s in his area, do a quick Google search and find what chain is near enough to warrant a little gift card usage.
I don’t want to make it sound like only dudes will appreciate a Lowe’s card. My wife does all the painting and most of the yard work. She’d love a hardware store gift card as much as the sweatiest guy you can find.
3. iTunes Gift Cards
I would be hard pressed to come up with a downside for the iTunes gift card. Most people with computers have active iTunes accounts. Heck, my sixty year old parents are more active on iTunes than I am — that’s why a gift card to iTunes is great for just about anyone you need to gift. Cards for iTunes purchases are really great gifts for budget conscious people, too — you can buy a lot of Bruce Springsteen songs for a cool $20 on iTunes, so your gift will go a lot longer than a similarly priced card at any other retail store.
4. Walmart Gift Cards
A gift card to Walmart is really only appropriate in certain situations:
- If the person you’re giving a gift to is one of those “I love Wal-mart” types.
- If the person you’re giving a gift to has four or more children.
- If the person you’re giving a gift to earned the gift by getting married or having a baby.
- If the person you’re giving a gift to is from the state of Oklahoma.
Just kidding about the Oklahoma part, of course. The point here is not to give something as pedestrian as a Wal-mart gift card to someone for their Sweet Sixteen. Choose your Wal mart gift card opportunities wisely.
5. Target Gift Cards
See all the rules for Wal-mart, but change “the state of Oklahoma” to “pretty much anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.”
6. Home Depot Gift Cards
A gift card to the Home Depot is the more family friendly version of the Lowe’s gift card. The Home Depot seems to cater more to all members of the family, while Lowe’s has a certain air of machismo about it. I get the feeling that my grandmother would be as comfortable shopping at the Home Depot as she would be at a large gathering of other people who knit.
7. Fast Food Gift Cards
This is another gift card that really needs to be tailored to the person getting the gift. What’s the use of sending someone a Taco Bell gift card if they live smack in the middle of Taco Bueno country? Beyond that, you need to figure out if this is a person who could even use fast food giftcards. I know as many people who would never consider eating fast food as I do people who do it enough to use a gift card. But for the college students and commuting businesspeople in your life, a fast food gift card is a great idea.
8. Best Buy Gift Cards
Once upon a time, my local Best Buy had a massive collection of CDs and even cassette tapes at decent prices. We’re talking a truly eclectic mix of independent artists you couldn’t find anywhere else and the big ticket things to give to my idiot friends as gifts. That time is long gone — try to find anything deeper than Montell Jordan at a Best Buy, I dare you. I would never use a Best Buy gift card, and I’m fairly technologically savvy. This seems like a non gift, especially since Best Buy has terrible prices.
9. Macy’s Gift Cards
If a gift card to Lowe’s is the go to generic “man” gift, a Macy’s gift card is what you give to women. Yes, men can shop at Macy’s stores, just like women could theoretically make a purchase at Lowe’s, but such an incidence has never been observed in the wild. Macy’s stuff can be pricey, so a Macy’s gift card is like encouraging someone to spend a little extra for something nice for themselves, and as such this is a classy gift for any time of year.
10. Gas Cards
The price of gas fluctuates enough that the value of a gas station gift card is not always easy to figure out. Earlier this year I paid as little as $1.85 for a gallon of gas — the price is now just above $3 in my area, and that $1.15 difference per gallon makes my measly $25 BP gift card something of a disaster.
See also: Plastic Jungle Review
How to Contact Experian
You see ads for credit reports, credit protection, and fraud alerts all over the place. Now that people are using the Internet to make tons of purchases, the age of identity theft is upon us — or at least, that’s what credit report companies want us to believe. If you have concerns about your credit history or think you may be the victim of credit fraud, or if you just want to know where you stand credit-wise, contacting one of the three major credit bureaus is your first step. Experian is one of these three major credit reporting institutions, so getting a picture of your credit situation from them is part of the battle for good credit.
There are multiple ways to contact Experian.
What Is a Credit Bureau? What Does Experian Do?
A credit bureau is a company that goes about the business of gathering information on a person’s consumer credit — how much credit a person has left, how much money they owes to loans, credit cards, or other sources, if that person has filed for bankruptcy or has any liens placed on them, and (maybe most importantly) if that person has ever been delinquent in paying off debts. The same credit bureaus that gather all that information also contain details about you, such as your name, current and old addresses, and social security number.
The three big credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) look at all your debt and credit details and assign you a credit score based on that information. This credit score is accepted nationwide as the standard for your credit history, and credit lenders (like credit card companies and landlords) look at that number to see if a person is credit worthy.
What Information Do You Want from Experian
People usually contact credit bureaus for one of two reasons — either for a copy of their credit report or in order to dispute a mistake on that credit report. There are a few other reasons, but those two are the most common and most important.
You might want a copy of your credit score just to check and see where you stand. When a creditor looks at your credit score, they know more information about you — if you don’t know what’s on your credit report. You can get a general idea of your credit worthiness by considering if you pay all of your bills on time, if you have any maxed out credit cards, or have defaulted on loans. Any number of poor financial decisions are reflected on your credit score — so if you have a bumpy financial past, you can bet your credit score is not so good. Then again, getting a copy of your actual credit score from a company like Experian is easy, and it gives you a concrete number, the same number your potential creditors can see. Planning to repair your credit or take out a loan requires careful attention be paid to your credit score.
You can request a copy of your credit report in order to see what creditors have been inquiring about your credit history. Because credit reports contain lists of recent inquiries, your personal credit report will let you know if a given company checked your credit before lending to you. Another great reason for staying on top of your credit report — to see if anyone has been attempting identity theft by opening a bank account in your name or signing up for a credit card you’ve never heard of. Your copy of your credit report from Experian will list all the lines of credit you have opened ,including old credit sources like credit cards that have already been paid off. If you see any unfamiliar credit lines, that’s a big red flag that you may be the victim of identity theft.
How to Contact Experian to Dispute Your Credit Report
When it comes time to questions something on your credit report, this means that one of the credit bureaus got something wrong and it is time to file an official dispute to have your credit report fixed. In the case of the three major credit bureaus, contacting them to make a dispute is as easy as calling a particular credit bureau’s customer service phone number and simply follow that company’s procedures for filing a dispute. In the case of Experian, simply call 1-888-397-3742.
Why You Shouldn’t Pay for a Credit Report
If you have never looked at a copy of your credit report, or if it has been a year or more since the last time, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Unlike those annoying television commercials suggesting they’ll give you a credit report for free (neglecting to mention that you also sign up for a monthly service and a fee), it is possible to get a totally free credit report. You can order one credit report from each of the major credit bureaus once a year, every year of your life. This is a consumer right that is granted by law — instead of getting ripped off with monthly surcharges and inaccurate credit “scores”, you should contact Experian or one of the other two credit bureaus directly. Once you request more than one credit score for each credit bureau, you’ll have to start paying for additional reports.
Contacting Experian about a Credit Report, or to Report Fraud, or to Dispute a Claim
Experian is the largest of the three credit bureaus. To contact Experian about a credit report or to report fraud or to dispute a claim, call 1-888-397-3742.
If you need to contact them by mail, use this mailing address — P.O. Box 2104 Allen, TX, 75013.
See also: How to Contact Equifax
How Much Is Scrap Metal Worth?
Scrap metal is worth whatever you can manage to sell it for. But how much can you manage to sell it for? That’s the question.
Scrap metal — there’s so much of it lying around and it can be very valuable. Take a walk down a city block and take notice of the different metal things you come across — discarded cans, old car parts, etc. Everything made of metal has a value. Even the smallest piece of metal can earn you money at the scrap yard, and even though a single aluminum can may be worth fractions of a penny, a big load of aluminum cans really starts to add up.
The fact is that metal is heavy. It won’t take you long to get together a big haul of metal — 50 pounds of even the lightest metal does not take long to gather. Once a person learns how to collect scrap metal, they can quickly pick up a couple hundred pounds of it from the side of the road.
How Do I Find Scrap Metal?
Curbside piles on trash day are a great place to start your metal scrapping. Car batteries, pieces of gutter, bed springs, pipes, copper tubing, chain, and anything made of metal should be your target. Keep your eyes peeled on trash day and you could have money in your pocket before you know it.
If you call your local trash collection center you can figure out what day they pick up “bulk junk” from the roadside. Once you learn the schedule, simply drive around the nieghborhood early on bulk pickup day and examine your neighbor’s junk piles — you will find more scrap metal than you expect.
If you really want to start a career in scrap metal recycling, you could make a small business for yourself out of picking up hard to get rid of metals for local businesses. When businesses want to get rid of unwieldy metal trash, they tend to want rid of it immediately and will even pay you a little bit to haul off their junk. This is a good way to pick up old hot water heaters, boilers, air conditioning units, and the like. You can pocket the value of the scrap metal at the junk yard.
Simply telling people that you’re looking for old junk they want rid of can be lucrative — most homes have junk metal items they want to get rid of but don’t know how to. Remember that anything made of any metal is worth money to you.
Where Do I Sell My Scrap Metal?
Okay, so you’ve got a little pile of scrap and now you want to get paid. Scrap metal dealers are your first target — look them up in the phonebook. Search under “scrap metal”, “scrap metal dealers”, “recycling”, etc. Most of these dealers will buy any metal items like copper or iron, but they’re also interested in the more rare metals too. If you find a load of tungsten or chromium, you can make a pretty penny at the scrap metal dealer. If you don’t have a scrap metal dealer in your area, try the junk yard. Usually located near the city dump, junk yards will often pay you for your scrap.
How Much Is Each Metal Worth? Scrap metal Values and Prices
Aluminum Prices – Aluminum is a very lightweight metal that tends to be a dull silver color. Sometimes you may think you have a load of aluminum, but what you really have is the even more valuable metal magnesium. Both are dull silver and lightweight. Be careful with aluminum that you suspect is magnesium — come anywhere near magnesium with something hot like a match or an open flame and it will ignite. Aluminum and magnesium are commonly used in car trim, hand rails, gutters, ladders, and lawn furniture, not to mention soda and beer cans. Aluminum can be worth 15 to 45 cents a pound, while magnesium is usually worth about 35 cents per pound..
Iron Values – Iron is easy to find because it is magnetic. If you touch a pile of scrap metal with a magnet, anything that is iron will either be attracted to the magnet or will stick to it. Iron is very heavy and it rusts quickly. Car parts, pipes, and other industrial equipment is made of iron. If you can find a load of iron, you’re a lucky scrapper. Iron is only worth about 1 to 4 cents a pound, but since it is so heavy the pounds really add up.
Stainless Steel Rates – Stainless steel contains iron but it is non magnetic. Rarely, a piece of stainless may be slightly magnetic, but that’s all you’re gonna get. Stainless is really heavy and has a dull shine to it. You can find stainless steel in car parts, beer kegs, old water heaters, etc. Stainless fetches from 15 to 35 cents per pound.
Lead Prices – Lead is heavy, soft, and dull gray. If you find a lot of old plumbing equipment, you’ve probably got a load of lead. Lead will earn you 8 to 15 cents a pound.
Copper Prices – You can tell copper on sight because of its familiar red color. In time, red copper will turn green from exposure to moisture, so be on the lookout for green metal, too. Copper is classified in several categories, but unless you’re a metal dealer you won’t know the difference. That means copper can earn you between 35 cents and $1.50 a pound.
Brass Prices – Brass is distinctively yellow and is often used as a substitute for gold. Since brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, it can be very valuable. From low pressure plumbing tools to sink drains and household fixtures, brass is relatively easy to find, especially around demolition sites. Brass can earn between 25 and 90 cents a pound.
Car Battery Values – One of the most common pieces of junk, and a valuable one at that. Any junk dealer will gladly take your old car batteries. Yes, they can be toxic if they aren’t disposed of properly, but they are still recyclable. A car batter can earn between 25 cents and $5 per battery.
Recycling scrap metal is very popular these days and few realize just how profitable it can be. Finding and selling scrap metal is like hunting for treasure, and after you make your first bit of pocket change you could be hooked.
- How Much Is Silver Worth?
- How Much Is My Car Worth?
- How Much Is My Computer Worth?
- How Much Is Google Worth?
How Much Is Google Worth?
Google is worth a lot of money, more money than most people can imagine. But assigning an actual dollar amount to what the company is worth is trickier than you might think.
It is difficult to assign a value to a company like Google. The word “google” has entered the global lexicon, standing in for “web search” the way that the brand Kleenex stands in for “tissue”, as in “Give me a Kleenex.” How many times a day do you remind yourself to “google” something later? The value of a readily-identified monopoly such as Google is notoriously difficult to establish.
Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp famously shelled out $580 million to purchase Myspace in a move that was eventually only worth about $60 million. Other Internet start-ups that were overvalued and ended up costing their investors tons of money are a dime a dozen.
Still, as of October 5, 2009 (the last solid financial figure we have), Google’s market capital was valued at $153.4 billion. To put that number into perspective, Facebook’s market capital is estimated at around $15 billion, about a tenth of the market value of Google. Since investments in Facebook are an extremely hot commodity (and probably over valued) that huge number for Google is impressive.
How Is the Value of Google Determined?
There are any number of ways to determine the value of any website, from the smallest WordPress blog to a market giant like Google. Simple methods include –
Multiplying the net annual profit by a factor of ten — This is far too simplistic a model for something as complex as Google. Valuation by ballooning a website’s profits just doesn’t work. There are too many factors that go into something like “net annual profit” for a simple economic model like this to make sense. Still, many investors use this as a “base line” for determining a website’s value.
Adding up inventory and assets — This means figuring out the cost of replicating the website and setting its value somewhere around that number. For a website like Google, “assets” is a complicated term. It could refer to the quality of content and images, the value of search engine presence, the size of its customer lists and databases, etc.
Traffic — Websites make money based on the amount of traffic they get. For a website like Google, investing based on traffic means setting a value for one of the most popular websites in the world, often ranked #1 or #2 in terms of traffic. For a diverse site like Google, the value of traffic and traffic diversity is difficult to put a finger on. Paid advertising, links, and publicity alone are worth a ton, but the amount of traffic that Google gets means a higher value.
Branding — The value of the Google brand is a big factor in figuring out the overall worth. As we said before, the term “google” is a big part of our everyday speech now. What is the financial value of a brand recognized by everyone that uses the Internet? Tough to say.
A final note on determining the value of Google — when Google went public through a stock auction, lots of small investors bought in based on their long term view of its value, not short term. After the IPO, the stock market value of Google was well above any “institutional” value determined by the above factors. In other words, Google is as valuable as the people who invest in it believe it is.
The current stock value for Google (at the time of writing) is $463.01 per share. That’s well below the high at the end of last year of around $700 per share. Ups and downs on financial markets, and the dropping value of the dollar, means that Google’s stock is less valuable than when it was first released.
How Much Cash Does Google Generate? How Does Google Make Money?
Free cash flow is a major determining factor in the valuation of Google. Free cash flow means operating cash minus expenses, and in the last four years Google has continued to increase free cash flow. In the four year period starting in 2003, Google started with about $218 million in cash, growing year by year until by 2007 its cash value was up above $1.7 billion. Investors in Google, based on these numbers, are operating under the assumption that Google can continue to increase free cash flow by about 50% a year through 2012, when Google is expected to be worth about double what it is worth today.
Microsoft has traditionally been one of the highest valued companies traded publicly. For Google to surpass Microsoft in terms of valuation (Microsoft is only valued at about $70 billion today) is a huge deal, mostly because Microsoft deals in physical commodities that can be seen and touched. Google makes its money on invisible things like industry stature, web traffic, and maybe a little ad revenue thrown in for good measure.
Investing experts tell us that the Google brand alone is worth about 70% of Google’s value, meaning their reputation still far exceeds their profitability. Google itself reports that it will bring around $60 billion into the United States this year almost exclusively through search engine value and advertising. AdWords and AdSense are cash cows for Google, and if their brand value is still almost three-quarters of their total valuation (and $60 billion is nothing to sniff at) then the potential growth in Google’s value is exciting.
Whether you think that $60 billion mark is nothing but spin (and many investors do) or that Google is still undervalued (AdSense is expected to earn its members about $2 for every $1 they spend, a decent investment) any money sunk into Google is likely to earn a return, at least in the short term.
- How Much Is Silver Worth?
- How Much Is My Car Worth?
- How Much Is My Computer Worth?
- How Much Is Scrap Metal Worth?
- How Much Is My Website Worth?
- How to Make a Website
How Much Is Silver Worth?
Silver is a precious metal — like gold but without the hype. Silver has been used for thousands of years as a store of value and an industrial metal with practical applications. Silver money has existed for at least four thousand years and was once a major part of the American financial system, though its use in legal tender faded out in 1970. How much is silver worth?
The current market price for silver, as of this writing, is $17.63 per ounce. Because financial markets fluctuate rapidly, the current price as you read this is certain to be different. For a current market value of silver, check out this live market quote.
How is the Value of Silver Determined?
The price of silver is determined by a number of factors and fluctuates widely because of its use in industrial settings as well as its status as a store of value. Demands made on silver by industrial and financial markets are the two main determining factors in the value of silver as a commodity. Any commodity that has a value that fluctuates like silver and is traded on financial markets is called “volatile”, and for good reason.
Looking back 150 years, the value of silver was once quite low. In a year when gold was trading at an average of $20 per ounce, silver (in 1860) was only worth about $1 per ounce. Gold has always had a higher value than silver, and because these two precious metals are so closely linked (both in financial markets and industrial settings) comparisons are often made between the two. There’s even a statistic in the financial world known as the “gold / silver ratio” that helps track the relative value of each material.
Why does silver not trade as high as gold? That gold/silver ratio (often used by traders and investors to determine a proper buy level for both) indicates that investors have always “felt better” about an investment in gold. The average gold/silver ratio during the entirety of the 20th century was 1:47, meaning that an ounce of gold was worth forty-seven ounces of silver.
Private investors drive the market value of precious metals, including gold and silver. As with any commodity, attempts to corner the silver market have driven the price up and down especially towards the end of the 20th century. A group of investors attempted to literally corner the market on silver in the 70s, and at one time these investors (the Hunt brothers) reportedly owned over 100 million ounces of silver. Changes in investment rules broke up the Hunt brothers silver run, but not until their tactics drove the value of silver to an all-time high (at that time) of over $16 per ounce.
Industrial demand is the other large factor in determining the value of silver. Silver is used to build everything from basic electrical appliances to the most complex medical technology, and the use of silver has increased in the industrial world since 2001. This is mostly because of the use of silver in batteries for things like laptops and cell phones, superconductors, and computer microcircuits. This increase in non-investment demand makes silver a smart investment — since it is being used more and more in industry, it has become a safer commodity, not as heavily affected by the fluctuations of financial markets.
One factor that some silver investors worry about is the switch from silver halide based photographic film to digital. How many people even use print film anymore? Though the impact of the switch to digital photography has made an impact, the continued use of silver in new applications has pretty much offset the drop in value.
How to Invest in Silver Coins and Bullion
When you invest in silver, you have the option of buying actual silver bullion. These “bars” of silver are the traditional way to invest in physical silver. Silver bars and silver coins are often kept in safes, safe deposit boxes, or placed in storage at a bank or with a commodities dealer. When you buy bars or coins of silver, you’re investing your money in what you hope is a relatively safe commodity, one whose use in commercial products and whose historial use as currency won’t necessarily be affected by nightmare on the stock market. Investing in precious metals is seen as another way of diversifying financial investments — rather than sinking all your money into real estate or the stock market, you can invest in solid silver.
Some people prefer to invest in silver as an ETF, or exchange-traded fund. This is a good way to invest in silver without the necessity of purchasing and storing physical silver, though the benefits of investing in silver as a way to avoid the ups and downs on Wall Street are lost when you’re talking about ETF investments. Basically, when you invest in an ETF of a precious metal, you’re investing in a company whose business is purchasing, storing, and trading in physical silver. Think of an ETF as a way to “hedge your bet” on this precious metal commodity.
Investing in a company that mines silver is another, less obvious way of investing in silver. Buying shares in silver mining companies is a good way to diversify your commodities investment, as silver mining companies do not exclusively deal in silver. Silver deposits exist alongside deposits of other materials such as tin, lead, or copper. Thus, shares in silver mining companies are also generic “metal investments”, meaning your money could be a bit safer than money sunk into a single commodity investment. There are also precious metal mining mutual funds that invest in multiple mining companies, further protecting your financial investment from chaotic ups and downs.
Investing in precious metals is becoming more and more popular thanks to dozens of commercials advertising the sale of gold — as people get interested in trading gold, they learn more about precious metals trading in general. With the current economic downturn and an uneasy feeling about the future of investments in corporations, money sunk into precious metals is growing, and thus the value of silver and gold is growing as well. The future of silver investing depends on its use as a store of value and an industrial commodity.
For more information related to how much is silver worth, see some of the following:
How Much Is My Computer Worth?
There’s an oft-quoted statistic about computer value that says a computer loses 2% of its value every week, inclusive. According to this maxim, your computer is worth 2% less of its value after a single week, then 2% of that revised value the week after, and so on until after just a couple of years, your computer is an expensive paperweight.
This figure seems drawn out of nowhere, and depending on the original value of your computer, the value of your computer may decrease faster or slower than 2%. In fact, it is safe to say that (much like a car) a computer loses value as soon as it is used a single time. If you never use a computer, you can sell it as “new,” but once you use it, it becomes used technology. Big drop in value.
What Makes My Computer Less Valuable?
The release of computers with better parts means that the machine you bought last year is outmoded. Faster processors, less expensive and better memory, and larger hard drives hit the market every year. Just a few years ago, the best computers on the market were 933 mhz — now, the fastest computers are closer to 4Ghz. No matter how much money you spend on your computer, something better and faster will be available in just a few month’s time.
Another factor that drives down the what your computer is worth is the existence of new models that cost less to build and therefore are less expensive to the consumer. A basic model new computer right out of the box a scant six years ago would set you back about $1500. These days, even with the popularity of more expensive laptop models, you can buy a new computer for as little as a couple of hundred bucks, and most models for home use run $400 – $700. Why would someone want to buy your (slower) used computer for more than it costs to buy a new one?
The final piece of the computer devaluation puzzle is simple oversupply. The used computer market is huge, and competition for low prices is high. Why so many used computers? Businesses phase out equipment faster now than ever before, releasing a massive number of pieces of used tech every year. The used market is chock full of computers usually sold by people who can accept a lower price than you because of volume.
How Can I Figure Out My Computer’s Value? Can I Use a “How Much Is My Computer Worth Calculator” of Some Kind?
One quick way to judge the value of your used computer is to look at other similar used machines and see what price they’re fetching. If you look into used computer sales on eBay, you can find out what people are actually paying for used computers rather than what used computer retailers are asking for old equipment. On eBay, you can see the final price of sold used computers by selecting a few options on a search. Put in your computer’s make and model number and compare final sales prices. This won’t give you a precise value for your computer, but at least you’ll have a ballpark figure.
I don’t know of a single “how much is my computer worth calculator” that works more effectively or quickly than your brain and a little comparison shopping on the Internet.
Can I Donate My Old Computer for a Tax Write-off?
You can donate your old computer for a tax write-off, but you’ll have plenty of work to do. If you think the effort required to sell a used computer is more than the value, making a donation (and getting a nice tax break to boot) may seem logical. But donating a used computer may be even more of a hassle than trying to sell it.
1. You have to clean up the hard drive — You don’t want to donate your computer with your personal information all over it. Take into account your various software licenses and personal details and you realize you’ll simply have to “wipe” the hard drive clean before donating it. This takes about an hour.
2. You have to find a charity or school that will take the used computer — Not all charities accept donations of used technology. Finding one that will (and that you support) could take some time.
3. You will have to pay to move the equipment or move it yourself — Do you really want to take the time and money to take your used computer equipment down to your charity’s receiving station?
4. You will probably have to catalog your used computer donation yourself — Yes, some charities will accept your used computer without having it itemized, but for tax purposes most charities will insist that this cataloging is done before the donation is received. EPA regulations have really changed the face of technology donations — computer monitors are particularly notorious for violating EPA laws, and you will be hard pressed to find a place to accept the donation of a monitor. Also thanks to EPA regulations, many schools will no longer accept a computer donation if the machine is more than a year old.
What is a Computer Liquidator?
A computer liquidator service takes care of a lot of the hassle involved in getting rid of old technology. They are trained in computer value and will give you a no-nonsense fair offer for your technology. Obviously, newer computers will earn you more money, and don’t forget that computer liquidators are in the business of making money. Selling your computer will not make you rich.
The computer liquidator will take your old computer away with haste, getting it out of your way and cutting you a little check. The liquidator will also wipe any data that still exists on your hard drive for you. If you prefer to have your hard drive shredded (the most efficient way to remove data) then the liquidator can do that for you, for a charge. Liquidators also act within the bounds of EPA regulation to get rid of any unusable parts such as monitors or very old computers.
Technology of any kind exists in a kind of stasis between the old and the new — your computer is probably worth far more than a computer purchased twenty years ago but not nearly as valuable as the one you’ll buy tomorrow. Advances in computer technology mean that purchasing a computer is something of a risk — ask any iPhone owner about the impact of new generations of that technology on the value of their phone and they’ll tell you the same thing. You may not make yourself wealthy selling your old computer, but you can recoup at least some of the costs of the machine by using a computer liquidator or auction service.
For more information related to “how much is my computer worth?”, visit some of the following pages:
How Much is My House Worth?
You might wonder how much home equity you have left. Whether you need to sell your house right away or you want to get a new low interest rate through refinancing your home or taking out a new line of credit.
Maybe you’ve done renovations on your home recently and you want to compare the old value of the home through tax records to what you estimate to be the new value. Whatever the reason, finding out a ballpark figure (or even a very precise and professional estimate) is not difficult. To figure out if the value of your house has dropped since the real estate, use one of these four methods.
1. Get a Free Online Estimate – Home Value Calculators
To get a quick and dirty estimate of the value of your home, you can use free real estate appraisal sites like Eppraisal.com or Zillow.com. These sites offer a rough estimate of your home’s value based on a basic analysis of appraisal and real estate information that is available to the general public. That means these sites use things like tax records and census information to estimate the value of your home. In some states, these type of free appraisal sites list the recent sale prices or even satellite photo images of recently sold homes.
Yes, these free sites will give you a big boost when you’re looking into the value of your real estate, but you have to remember that these sites are just starting points. You won’t get an accurate appraisal but at least you’ll have a ballpark figure of your house’s value in your head.
2. Use Online Appraisals For a Fee
More accurate information online is going to cost you. You really do get what you pay for, and in the case of the free appraisal sites above you aren’t paying a dime. Fee-based online real estate appraisal services, like ElectronicAppraiser.com, give you similar information to that found at the free sites, but way more accurate and loaded with extra features. You can download your specific property evaluation report for a small fee. Just like the free sites, these are real estate analyses based on information that you could gather yourself, so even the fee-based evaluation sites may only be worth the money if you’re using them as time savers. Your local tax assessor can give you the same kind of information through public documents they have on file. Why pay $30 for a report that you can get yourself for free?
One reason is that the fee-based report crams a ton of details into one easy to use piece of paper — the number of bedrooms and baths, recent sales prices, local census details, and even the quality and names of nearby schools.
3. Look at Real Estate “Comps”
A “Comp” is a “comparative market analysis”. These reports are put together by real estate agents and are basic estimates of the selling price for different houses. They are more informed guesses than the kind you can get from online evaluation sites — real estate agents know the area as well as different asking prices and sale prices for similar houses in your neighborhood.
Comps are really only useful if you plan on selling your house through a real estate agent or dealer. Comps don’t count toward securing a loan or any other credit line. In some states, you can ask a real estate agent to prepare these comp reports (for a small fee) even if you don’t list your home with that agent. In general, you’ll find that real estate agents don’t want to give away that information without earning the right to list your home.
4. Get a Home Appraisal
If you’re applying for a loan or other line of credit (or selling your home by yourself) you will need to get a full professional appraisal. This kind of appraisal will always be the most accurate evaluation of the value of your house. For people who have made renovations to their home since they bought it, a full professional real estate appraisal is a must — your home is now worth more thanks to your hard work, and you need to know just how much more.
Appraisals are far more detailed than real estate agent’s analyses because professional appraisers literally get out and look at the house to estimate square footage and other details, while most real estate agents just look up those details from public tax information.
When looking for a professional appraisal service, you need to use one that:
- -has a state certification in appraisal as well as an appraisal license.
- -has at least three years’ experience as an appraiser. No appraiser is allowed to work as a professional for the first two years while they are in training.
- -is a member of a professional organization like the Appraisal Institute.
Your professional real estate appraisal will set you back between $300 and $400. In some cases, especially if your house is large and requires extra time to appraise, you’ll be charged more. If it isn’t easy to find a comparable property, your appraiser may charge more to cover his research costs.
Depending on how much detail you need about the actual value of your house, you may be able to use a free online estimator. The purely curious may want to see how their house stacks up compared to the neighbors, and those free services are perfect for that. But if you need a hard estimate for any other purpose (like selling your home or opening a new line of credit) you’ll simply have to get a professional appraisal.
For more information related to how much is my house worth, see the following:
- How to Invest in Real Estate
- The Cheapest Homes in Mexico
- The Cheapest Homes in Canada
- Where to Find Cheap Homes for Sale
- Where to Find Mobile Homes for Sale
What Is Bill Consolidation?
When a person transfers their outstanding debts and loan payments into one bill, this process is called bill consolidation. On paper it sounds simpler than it really is. Remember that bill consolidation requires a loan. You don’t just pile all your debts into one payment and send a check and that’s that. You have to be approved for bill consolidation loans. But bill consolidation is just what the name says — combining your bills into one easy to manage payment.
Why Use Bill Consolidation Services?
Theoretically your consolidation loan will decrease the amount of interest and fees you pay on your debts. There are other benefits to using bill consolidation services (such as allowing for one simple payment rather than a dozen little ones), but the big benefit to taking out a bill consolidation loan is the lower interest rate you’ll get. It means you’ll pay off your debt much quicker than using traditional methods.
Take note of the fact that you’ll have to make regular monthly payments to your bill consolidation company, including any fees they tack on. Depending on the company, these fees can be anything from reasonable to outlandish. The credit card or bill consolidation company takes your money and pays off your various debts themselves — they make their money by securing ultra-low interest rates and having some of your debt lopped off by your debtor, then pocketing the difference between your payment and they payments they make. That’s why you have to be religious about paying them — they’re paying for you and without your payment they’re losing money.
It is common to find a bill consolidation company that doesn’t charge monthly fees. Sounds nice until you realize that they make their money on huge upfront fees — sometimes thousands of dollars — and you’ll end up paying the same either way. You see fewer and fewer bill consolidation companies using the “upfront” method these days, maybe because it makes more financial sense for these companies to get a little money out of you over an extended period of time. Whatever the reason, monthly fees are now the norm.
One slight downside to bill consolidation loans — your debtors may report your loan to credit reporting agencies and this could keep you from opening new bank accounts or credit cards. The good news is that after 6 months or so of regular payments, you can start to take on new debt or open a new bank account.
Another point — some debt can’t be consolidated. Student loans, mortgage payments, and even some high-balance credit card debt is impossible to consolidate.
How Do I Find a Bill Consolidation Company?
Bill consolidation companies (or “debt management companies”) are professionals who negotiate with your debtors to reduce your interest rate. That’s all they do. Don’t get sucked in to doing business with a bill consolidation company that has little or no experience — there’s just too many talented debt management companies to waste time on some low-rent bill consolidator.
When you look for a bill consolidation company, stick with a company that works exclusively with debt management concerns. Companies with a wider scope of interest may not be as interested in easing your debt as they are interested in taking your cash. One tip when signing on with a company — ask for a specific date when your accounts will be paid in full. A good consolidation company will be able to give you a date when each of your accounts will be paid off and you will be debt free.
For more information related to bill consolidation and credit card consolidation, see the following:
- How to Consolidate Student Loans
- How to Repair Your Credit Rating
- What Is a Secured Loan?
- What to Do When You Lose Your Job
- How to Get Out of Debt
- How to Declare Bankruptcy
- How to Avoid Bankruptcy
- Government Debt Consolidation Loans
What Is a Tax Attorney?
A tax attorney is a lawyer who specializes in helping taxpayers deal with IRS or other revenue service problems. The IRS isn’t the only entity that people get in trouble with — state tax departments are a big problem for people who live in states with state income tax.
United States tax law is byzantine in structure, with more curveballs than a minor league baseball game. The tax law isn’t just complicated, it is ever-changing, with additions and retractions piling up year after year. This means that having a good tax attorney is necessary to people who are affected by small changes in tax law — like small business owners and the self-employed.
What Do Tax Lawyers Do?
Tax lawyers have a specific focus — tax law and tax relief. You can hire a tax attorney to help you get through an audit, get your fines for failure to pay taxes reduced, have liens removed from your property, etc. Tax attorneys are also adept at assisting small businesses with tax troubles and can be useful for those of us that deal with self-employment issues — the self-employed are often hit hard by tax debt and fines.
When a taxpayer gets behind on taxes or has any disagreement with the IRS or other tax entity, the taxpayer may be able to sort out the mess on his own. Due to the complexity of tax law (and the fact that tax negotiations pit one individual against the federal government) a taxpayer may find they need to hire a tax attorney to protect themselves and help them get square with Uncle Sam.
Who Uses Tax Attorneys?
Plenty of small business owners make their tax attorney a major part of their business — as crucial to the daily operation of their business as an accountant. A talented tax attorney will help you deal with potential tax problems before they cause you financial stress. Think of a tax attorney as a different kind of financial advisor.
A tax attorney may be a requirement for the wealthy — they can help set up trust funds, stock portfolios, financial accounts. If your tax attorney is worth his salt, he can make sure that your various financial accounts are legally sheltered from high taxes and government interference. You don’t want to run into a big federal surprise on April 15.
How Do I Find a Tax Attorney?
Don’t just call random tax attorneys out of the phone book — the best bet when looking for a talented tax attorney is to ask your friends who they use, or even ask for a referral from your personal attorney. This is much like finding a medical specialist — your doctor probably has the name of a good endocrinologist should you need one.
When looking for a tax attorney, find one with lots of IRS experience, experience in debt management, and an attorney who has done plenty of work with actual taxpayers. Your tax attorney should have plenty of references and produce them on demand without protest.
Make sure your tax attorney is a member of the American Bar Association as well as your state Bar. You wouldn’t go to an unlicensed doctor or send your kids to a school that wasn’t certified, so don’t trust your finances to a lawyer who isn’t part of the Bar.
When a taxpayer gets in dutch with the IRS and can’t find his own way out, it is time to consult a tax attorney. If you wait to act on your tax debt, those fines really start to add up. Waiting too long could mean bankruptcy or even jail time. This is why any money you spend on a tax attorney is an investment and not a liability.
For more information related to tax attorneys, see the following:
- Is the Federal Income Tax Legal?
- Personal Finance Articles
- The Difference Between C Corporations and S Corporations
- What Is an IRA?
- What Is a 401K Plan?
- How Much Money Does a Lawyer Make?
- DUI Attorneys
- How to File Income Taxes
- Government Debt Consolidation Loans
What Is a Secured Loan?
A secured loan is any loan that is backed up by an asset or a piece of collateral.
Secured loans are the easiest way for consumers to get big loans without waiting too long. A lender won’t usually loan a big amount of money without something to back it up — in this case, your word is not good as gold. For the consumer, the secured loan can act as a guarantee that you will pay back the loan. For people who have trouble paying back debts, putting their house or another piece of collateral on the line is incentive to pay off the loan in a timely fashion.
What Kind of Collateral Do You Need for a Secure Loan?
An interesting tweak in the secured loan system is that the item being purchased (for which the secured loan is necessary) can be used as collateral. Most secured loans are taken out to buy a home or a car, and a lien can be placed on the item. This lien means that your bank or finance company will own the title or deed until the loan has been paid off, including any appilcable fees and interest.
If you don’t want to risk your home or your car on a secured loan, you can put up financial commodities like stocks or bonds as collateral, or a valuable piece of personal property.
What Other Types of Secured Loans Exist?
Not all secured loans are taken out to pay for new property. You can use a secured loan as a home equity loan or a new line of credit paid on your home’s equity. Some people are using secured loans as second mortgages as well. Secured loans not used for new purchases are based on the amount of equity in the home — this equity being the value of your home minus the amount still owed. In this case, your home is used as collateral. Be careful using a secured loan based on your home equity — if you don’t make payments on time you could lose your home.
There are still other types of secured loans, like debt consolidation loans. In this case, you use your home or another piece of property as collateral. The reason debt consolidation loans work — instead of paying off several high interest debts each month, a large chunk of money is loaned to you in order to pay off the original lenders, and you only have to pay back the one big secured loan. Interest rates for secured loans are almost always lower than the interest rate on your debt, and your monthly payments on your secured loan are likely lower than the payments made toward your debt. A secured loan used as debt consolidation loan will save you money as well as time mailing bills each month.
The secured loan is the opposite of the unsecured loan. An unsecured loan is a loan made without collateral. Your line of credit with a credit card, student loans, and even bank notes are generally unsecured loans. The difference? An unsecured loan has a much higher interest rate than a secured loan, because unsecured loans are not backed by collateral.
If you are looking for a loan and can’t seem to get a line of credit, a secured loan could be your ticket to the cash you need. If you own a piece of property with a high value to use as collateral, or if the item you’re trying to purchase can be used as collateral and placed under a lien, you could be on your way to the loan you need.
For more information related to secured loans, see some of the following pages:
- How to Consolidate Student Loans
- Types of Bank Loans
- How Do Credit Reports Work?
- How to Avoid Foreclosure
- Secured Credit Cards
- Unsecured Loans with No Credit Check
- Prepaid Credit Cards
- Government Debt Consolidation Loans
What Is a Savings Account?
A savings account is any bank account used to hold money and draw interest. A savings account differs from a checking account in that a savings account can not be drawn on by checks, debit cards, or any other personal financial tool. The other crucial difference is that a checking account doesn’t draw interest.
Savings Account Basics
I don’t want to steer you wrong — not just banks offer savings accounts. You can open savings accounts at credit unions, or you can open a money market fund through an investment company. There are lots of ways to open a savings account, so if you don’t want to do business with a bank, you’re in luck.
Unlike a 401k or an IRA account, savings account funds are easy to get access to if you need to. Simply transfer funds from your savings account to your checking account or even withdraw money directly at your bank. But every savings account is a little different, so your bank may in fact charge for withdrawing money out of your savings account. For the most part, bank members have the ability to freely withdraw money from their savings account, as long as your bank is open or you can get to one of your bank’s ATMs.
One good reason to open a savings account — earning interest on your money. There are other reasons — your savings account is a secure place to store your cash, far better than zipping it up in a plastic bag and burying it in the garden. Even better than a checking account, which we all know earns us exactly nothing.
Savings Account Insurance
Savings accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC. When you open a savings account, the FDIC insures your money up to $250,000.
This means if the bank goes bankrupt or fails for some other reason, the FDIC will protect your investment up to a certain amount.
Be sure to check that the savings account you’re opening is FDIC insured — there’s no reason to open an unsecured account — they’re everywhere. Almost every bank, credit union or investment company offers this insurance. Don’t go without it.
How To Pick A Savings Account
Do some shopping — look for a savings account that offers a high interest rate. While it is no longer true that banks offer better interest than credit unions, you should compare a series of both banks and credit unions in order to find a competitive interest rate. Money market funds offer the widest variety of rates, but interest rates will always fluctuate based on the stock market and other financial markets — you may find awesome interest rates one year and the next year be stunned by how low your interest rate offers are. This is why it pays to do your homework.
Because there are so many places to find a savings account, the competition for your money is heavy. You should use this to your advantage. Shop around for the best high interest savings account that you can find.
Some banks offer their customers incentives, everything from cash ($50 deposited to your account at opening) to high interest rates for a year or even cheesy giveaways like cars and vacations. Though these gimmicks are just what they sound like — cheap tactics to get customers — you can use them to your advantage. Make the banks compete for you, and let your money start making you money.
For more information related to savings accounts, see some of the following pages:
- How to Save Money for College
- What Is a Money Market Account?
- What Is a 401k Plan?
- What Is an IRA?
- What Is a Checking Account?
- How to Invest in the Stock Market
- What Is Online Banking?
What Is Currency Trading?
Currency trading is a kind of commodities exchange much like stock or futures markets only the trading occurs between the values of different currencies. Since one country’s currency is always a different value relative to another currency, the difference that exists becomes a trade-worthy commodity.
Online Forex Currency Trading Basics for Dummies
Despite the fact that it is a volatile market (with high possibility of financial loss) currency trading is the largest financial market on the planet. Depending on whose estimate you believe, there is about $2 trillion traded in the currency market every day. We think of the New York Stock Exchange as a large financial market, but when compared to the currency market, the $50 billion traded on Wall Street seems like pocket change. The currency market is simply enormous, partially because it involves traders from all over the world and partially because its only commodity is cash.
The currency market is commonly referred to as “foreign exchange”, FOREX, or just FX. You’ll see all three names in use in different settings.
All currency has a value that changes relative to the world’s other currencies, and traders on the foreign exchange market buy and sell large chunks of currency to make “leverage” against the ups and downs in that relative value — the goal is to buy one currency when its value is low and sell it again when that value reaches a profitable level. Yep, the old “buy low sell high” principle is at work again.
Why Does Currency Change Value?
Two main reasons — the most common reason is international commerce. When people from one country want to invest or purchase an item or product from another country, their money’s value must be weighed against the value of currency in the market in which they’re shopping. The same process works in reverse — when money leaves or enters a country, that money’s value must be known before it can be converted for commercial use. Basically — when money changes hands or crosses borders, its value must be known.
The second reason for the change in currency’s value turns out to be the foreign exchange market itself. The forces of “speculation” in the currency market actually affect the currency being traded.
It happens like this — an investor makes a speculation about the value of a given currency based on current events or some other inside information. That investor then either purchases sells a currency based on that notion. On a small scale, these kinds of decisions don’t have much impact, but when a speculation turns into a trend, it can have major consequences on given currency, and even on a country’s economy in the big picture.
For example, a financial crisis in Asia in 1997 was seen as a chance for investors to turn global economic downturn into profit. Financial market speculators used FOREX to buy currency low and sell high. This had a negative impact in the long run, as most economists credit the financial market with extending the downward financial trend in East Asia that year.
Why Currency Trading?
There are plenty of benefits to currency trading when considered against any kind of market equity trading. Because the “spreads” between different currencies are low, an investor can make a low initial investment. Besides low cost, there is the chance for making huge amounts of cash in very little time. Returns as high as 500 : 1 are often reported by members of the FOREX community, as compared to similar high boasts of ratios like 100 : 1 on the NYSE. If you can come up with a currency trading system that works, then you can make some money. But…
This last feature — high potential gain — is cut by a serious chance of loss. Amateur investors or people who don’t understand the financial market, stand a good chance of losing their shirt. Remember that gambles for big gain often mean gambles for big loss.
For more information related to currency trading and investing, see the following pages:
- The Forex Currency Market
- What Is Forex Trading?
- Why Trade Forex?
- Forex Trading Software
- Best Forex Software
- Day Trade Forex
- Automated Forex Trading
- Free Forex Trading
- Forex Currency Market
- Forex Brokers
What Is Online Banking?
Online banking is a system by which a banking customer can conduct bank transactions using the Internet. The movement of banking into the online world was inevitable — as soon as the Internet became ubiquitous it was only a matter of time before we handled everything (even our personal finances) on the Internet.
Online banking means we have one less reason to leave the house. With online banking, you can do everything you would normally do at your bank from the comfort of your computer. Make deposits, transfer funds, and even pay bills using your Internet connection. About the only thing you can’t do with online banking is make a withdrawal — it’d be nice if our printers could spit out money, but the technology’s just not there yet.
Benefits of Online Banking
The main purpose of online banking is to create convenience for bank customers. Rather than waiting for a bank statement to come in the mail, you can access all of your bank statement information right in your web browser. You can check your account balances 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In general, your Internet bank will provide you with login details (username and password) and the URL you should use to log on.
Another big convenience factor with online banking — security. You can catch any banking discrepancies on your various accounts right away and deal with them well before you could if you were relying on paper statements. You don’t even need to be at home on your own computer — safety features allow you to access your account from any computer in the world. If you have Internet access, you have access to your bank.
If you choose to pay your bills online through your bank, you will find yourself writing far fewer checks. Not just paper checks, but the cost of postage stamps and the pain of walking down to the mailbox are all gone. Online bill pay is one of the most convenient aspects of online banking — simply enter the amount of the bill to be paid and the funds will be automatically deducted from the bank account of your choice. Even better news — the cost to the bank for providing these online services is low, so that savings is passed on to the consumer. Sure, some banks charge a fee for online banking, but it is usually extremely low. When you figure in the cost in time spent standing in bank lines or dealing with crotchety tellers, the cost of online banking is justified.
Downsides of Online Banking
The most secure Internet connection in the world is still vulnerable to hacking or interference. Since online banking depends so heavily on the Internet, outages and security breeches can be a serious problem. Sure, your information is insured and encrypted, and the chance that your online bank account will be compromised is slim, it does happen. While hacking and irresponsible online behavior can be a problem, rest assured that reputable online banks have lots of security features and stopgap measures to prevent fraud.
Another downside is the lack of personalized service. Maybe you like going in and dealing with the same bank teller week after week — with online banking, you may never see a teller’s face again. On the upside, any time you need to make a cash withdrawal or if you have to deposit cash or checks, you will be spending some time at the bank or at the bank’s ATM. Don’t fear — you’ll probably still have plenty of face to face contact with bank representatives.
In most people’s eyes, the benefits of online banking outweight the few risks and downsides. Online banking is no longer the wave of the future — it is just the way most banking is done these days. Contact your bank to see what online banking options they offer and join the 21st century.
For more information related to online banking and Internet bank accounts, see some of the following pages: