Archives for November 2005

Evaluating My Parent’s 401k Portfolio, Part 1

After my parents learned of my interest in personal finance topics over Thanksgiving, my mom just sent me her last 401k statement and asked me what I thought. She is 55, and works for a small firm and therefore her 401k is serviced by a small company with limited fund choices. I won’t reveal total amounts, but here is the breakdown:

Dodge & Cox Income Fund
(DODIX) [Bonds]- 26%
Amer Funds Washington Mutual (RWMEX) [Lg Cap Value]- 18%
American Funds Growth Fund (RGAEX) [Lg Cap Growth] – 18%
Royce Total Return (RYTRX) [Sm Cap Value]- 9%
Columbia Acorn (LACAX) [Sm Cap Growth]- 9%
Amer Funds EuroPacific Growth (REREX) [Lg Cap Int’l]- 13%
AIM Real Estate (IARAX) [Real Estate]- 7%
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Saving Bonds Revisited – Rate Comparisons and Thoughts

(Please also see the previous discussion of Savings Bonds)

The end of November has snuck up on me, and I’ve been putting off until now deciding whether to buy more I-Type Savings Bonds. I already did the math to see the rates for the worst case scenario (deflation), but that is pretty unlikely. The CPI-U, which is what the inflation component of I-Bonds is based on, only rose 0.2% in October. Instead of trying to predict inflation rates, let’s just see what the overall rate will be for different rates of inflation. I will compare rates for holding the I-Bond for 12 months and then redeeming them with the associated penalties, in order to compare it with a 1-Year Bank CD. I will also assume that you can buy at the end of the month to shorten the actual hold time to 11 months.
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How To Get Around The $100,000 FDIC Limits

Most people have seen the notices online or in your physical bank that your deposits in an FDIC Insured bank account are insured up to $100,000. But what if you find yourself with more than $100,000 in cash? Say, in between home selling and buying? Well, one easy way is to simply open another account at another bank (You can verify that they are indeed FDIC Insured at this FDIC webpage.)

You can also get around those limits all at one bank if you notice that accounts in different ownership categories, like individual and joint accounts, are insured separately. I found a handy chart [pdf] explaining this from Emigrant Direct’s FAQ Page:
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How Much Did You Spend Over Thanksgiving Weekend?

I haven’t eaten out and shopped this much in a 4-day span in my life. Multiple Outlet Malls. Multiple fancy seafood restaurants. I don’t know the totals, but I’m sure it’s over $500. According to this IBD article ‘Thanksgiving take totals $28 billion’, we are above average (not sure about per-person though):

The average amount spent over the long weekend was $302.81, up from $265.15 last year, and accounted for almost 36% of buyers’ holiday shopping. In addition, one in 13 people already finished shopping for the holidays.

So, I made a little poll to see how you all compared:
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To all the people being dragged to all the outlet stores and shopping malls within a 100 mile radius this weekend… Sorry. I’ll be the guy keeping a spot in line while various women pile items in my sore arms.


thanks.jpgI have countless things to be thankful for today. One of them is you – the readers. Not only have I learned a lot from y’all, but having readers helps me blog, and blogging has helped push me towards my new career path. And then there’s the bloggers, from whom I’ve also gained knowledge and inspiration. Finally, I am thankful I’m not a turkey. So… Thanks! =)

If you haven’t seen it already – Black Friday Ads 2005.

Giving In To The Credit Cards

(Typing quietly while the parents are still asleep, shh…) I’ve decided to take advantage of two recent credit card offers:

1) The Citi Professional Card for it’s 3% back on restaurants, $100 bonus, and save-able 0% balance transfer, and

2) The Discover Miles Card for it’s no-fee 0% balance transfer for 12 months.

I was going to apply for another Citi Card, but I decided that would be redundant since you can move credit limits around with Citi and simply put all your credit limit onto the one card you are using for 0%. I am going to apply for both at the same today, hopefully today. I’ll post more on why later, but it’s basically so the credit agencies won’t be able to see I applied for the other card, maximizing my credit limit and chance at acceptance for both cards. Now to figure out exactly how to cook a turkey.

Buying T-Bills: Can’t Back Out After Rate Announcement

One bad thing about purchasing Treasury Bills at TreasuryDirect is that you don’t know the exact return of the T-Bill before you buy it. An interesting idea around this was presented by commenter Dan when I first posted about buying T-Bills:

You don’t have to commit until you know the price. 1. Schedule the transaction. 2. The auction will be on Monday for 3- or 6- month T-bills and Tuesday for 1-month T-Bills. 3. On Wednesday, look at your pending transactions. … At the bottom of the page, you have two button options. … “Delete” (which I assume means cancel the transaction, though I haven’t done it myself).

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XBOX 360 Flipping: Failure

xbox360fail.jpgI failed in my Xbox 360 flipping mission. Apparently people are just crazy over this Xbox thing. I went at 6:45am (store opened at 7), and the people who camped out had already gotten the vouchers and wanted to sell me one for $1,000. Madness. Prices are still mega-inflated on eBay, but you can find the occassional auction for $500 or so if you are lucky. Although I wouldn’t get this thing for my kid anyways.

Microsoft is wicked. Wicked smart! Dec 26th and these things will be on every shelf.

Carnival Time!

This week’s Carnival of Debt Reduction #10 is up at Boston Gal’s Open Wallet, and the Carnival of Personal Finance #23 is up at Frugal For Life!

If You’re Gonna Buy Online, Get Cash Back

Oh, the smell of wallets opening is in the air. My parents have already directed me to find the most direct route to the nearest outlet malls. I’m so sad that I will be forced into the writhing frantic mass that is Black Friday shoppers. I like shopping online so much better.

If you’re gonna shop online, don’t forget to use Cash Back portals like Ebates and FatCash. If you carefully click through their link and then buy something, they’ll give you a percentage back as a rebate on your purchase somewhere down the line. This is in addition using a properly chosen cashback credit card. I always manage to forget to use them, so I’ve actually put a Post-it on my monitor with EBATES written on it. Check both to see which is offering the best cash back rate.
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Xbox 360 Flipping

xbox360.jpgI don’t even play video games, but I am going to try and buy an Xbox 360 early on my way to the airport before my parents’ flight lands since it coincides with the official release date. I used to flip gadgets in college, so why not start doing it again? If they don’t have it when I stop by, I’m just going to give up, no camping out here. Some of the prices on eBay are mind-boggling.

And it isn’t even out yet! People are bidding on vapor-xboxes.