Archives for March 2005

RIP Freetrade, I barely knew ye. Hello Ameritrade IZone.

Even more bad news. What a week! After hearing some rumors, I just read an e-mail from FreeTrade saying that they will be shutting down and transferring my account to Ameritrade IZone on April 29th. Goodbye, free trades. Dangit! I’ve only made one trade, and I’ve only had my account open for a couple of months. I should have seen the writing on the wall, as IZone was newly introduced about 6 months ago, and had many of the same features as FreeTrade. At least I have 30 days notice to make some last minute trades.
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IRS May Tax Ebay Sales

More bad news. BusinessWeek reports that the IRS is starting to scrutinize the massive amounts of money (and therefore potential taxes) that people are making on eBay. I knew that this would happen some day, with the explosion of eBay and the ability of anyone to buy something cheap (like toast) and resell it at a profit. I think it’s a matter of time before eBay must report sales figures directly to the IRS. I’ve easily sold over $10,000 of stuff on eBay.
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Tons of Personal Information Stolen, Fraud Alert Placed

Yay. My credit card was already stolen last month, and now I come home to see that my personal information, including Social Security number, name, date of birth, and address was leaked by my school via a stolen laptop. Why is all this information, which supposedly spanned three decades, sitting in an unattended laptop?? Seriously, people!
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Advance Directives: Make *your* decisions now

If there anything to be learned from the headlines today, it’s that now is the time to decide what kind of medical treatment you want, as there may be a time when you won’t be able to decide for yourself. And that’s exactly what it is. Your decision. Not your spouse’s, not your parents’, not W’s. Wills and estate planning are something that everyone know that they should do, but an Advance Directive can be even more important.
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Advance Directives: Make YOUR Decisions Now

If there anything to be learned from the headlines today, it’s that now is the time to decide what kind of medical treatment you want, as there may be a time when you won’t be able to decide for yourself. And that’s exactly what it is. Your decision. Not your spouse’s, not your parents’, not W’s. Wills and estate planning are something that everyone know that they should do, but an Advance Directive can be even more important.
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Mini-vacations are great: How much did we spend?

After my post/rant about how Americans don’t get enough vacation and the fact that I hadn’t done anything memorable since January, I just returned from a two day “mini-vacation”, which unfortunately seems to be the most popular way for people to take a break these days, especially on those sacred three day weekends. Well, I already missed President’s Day weekend, so I skipped out of work a couple hours early on Friday and we just set off to a nice, nearby coastal town for a couple nights.
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Ten Myths of IRA Investing

Fidelity Investor’s Weekly is a weekly personal finance online newsletter, much like what is available on CNN Money or MSN MoneyCentral. It’s supposed to be for Fidelity members (I am one) but it looks publicly accessible to me! Although many of the articles have a Fidelity slant – you won’t find them recommending a Vanguard fund for sure – there are some good articles from time to time, such as this one: Ten Myths of IRA Investing.
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Credit Cards: What’s the point of signing?

Ever notice that very few cashiers ever check to see if the signature on your receipts really matches the signature on the back of your credit card? At the grocery store I go to, you just take out your card, swipe it yourself, and put it away. They don’t even look at the name! They just hand you the receipt and you sign it. I mean, you could just sign it “Zeus”. And this guy did!
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A Tale of Two Brokerages: Ameritrade and E-Trade Thoughts

I closed my accounts with both Ameritrade and E-Trade recently, as I was moving all my stock trading to FreeTrade.com. When I cancelled my E-Trade account, there was a long hold time, and then the person who cancelled my account was rather rude – they said “Ok, it’s cancelled” and basically just hung up on me. In contrast, when cancelling my account with Ameritrade, the person actually asked me why (E-Trade didn’t even ask). I told them I was going to move to FreeTrade instead, and they said that the could either close my account as wished, or I could “freeze” the account. What’s that?
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Americans have the least vacation in the developed world.

Ugh. What a long Monday. Worked on Saturday too. And it’s not just me. the average middle income family now works four months more in total hours than they did in 1979. Some 80% of men and 62% of women work more than 40 hours a week, and almost 40% of Americans now work more than 50 hours a week.*

According to this website, the French have an average of 25 paid vacation days a year, while the Germans get 30 days. Even the Japanese get 18 days. The U.S.? An average of 12 days. Me? 10 days. Bummer. I love how they call it “two weeks”. To me, two weeks = 14 days!
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U.S. Savings Bonds: I-Bonds and EE-Bonds – Good investment? (Part 2)

(This post is continued from Part 1)

Okay, so we went over I-Bonds for a little bit, now let?s see what EE Bonds have to offer. Again, EE-Bonds share many characteristics with I-Bonds, which were outlined in my previous post. However, EE-Bonds are sold at half of face value ? a ?$50 EE Bond? costs $25. Whenever a contest offers you a ?$50 Savings Bond?, odds are it?s an EE-Bond.
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Tipping guidelines: How much do you give? (Part 2)

(Note: This post is a continuation of Part 1)

First, I just want to make it clear that these are what *I* think is reasonable. Tipping is inherently a fuzzy thing – I’ve been working and travelling for business for about 2 years, and this is what I’ve picked up so far. At first I admit I was clueless on many things, and have stiffed at least 1 skycap and a few hotel maids. The first part of this post has some sites that offer tipping guidelines as well, and you’ll notice that they don’t all agree with each other either. Here are a couple more situations:
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