Guest Posting Opportunities at MyMoneyBlog

I am taking some time off in October, and am looking for some additional content for MyMoneyBlog. I’m not looking for the usual “5 Ways To Save Money” material though. I want unique, original content. By this, I mean I want something that only you could write, something I couldn’t replicate after spending an hour researching on Google. Perhaps you don’t have time to start a blog, but did build a house by yourself. How much did it cost? Was it worth it?

I want personal decision processes. I want to hear if you scored a great deal, got ripped off, or retired early and read this blog from the beach every day. Here are some more potential topics that I would love to read about (will add more as I think of them):

  • My research for picking a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) and Health Savings Account (HSA) provider.
  • How I bought a used car off Craigslist
  • How I worked a nice stable federal/state job for 20 years and retired early
  • How I work only on an Alaskan fishing boat three months a year and take the rest off
  • How I started RandomWebsite.com and it now earns me $1,000 a month in passive income (not a personal finance blog)
  • Booking my around-the-world itinerary for under $10,000
  • Paying for college in real time and finishing with no debt at all.
  • How I retired to a country in SE Asia/Mexico/South America at age 45 (or 75)
  • How I built a solar-powered house that is off the grid.
  • How I built my own “go bag” or survival kit myself on the cheap.

Please contact me with your post idea. I’m flexible on length, but I reserve the right to suggest some edits. You will get full credit, an author byline, and a link to your website. If you want to remain anonymous, that’s fine too. As an additional push, I’ll even throw in a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate if your post gets published. If I get at least 10 guest posts, I’ll run a contest for the best one and that person will get $100.

I know there is some great experiences out there. Share it!

Update 9/29/10: I think I now have enough guest post offers for October, but may need some at a later time. If you’ve already e-mailed me, I’ll be replying shortly. Thanks!

Happiness Is Earning $60,000 A Year?

Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman performed a TED Talk this year about how as humans our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. Basically, he says that our memories of experiences differ from what really happened during the experience itself.

But what ended up being the catchy soundbite was in the Q&A session after his talk, where he tells us that while millions of dollars won’t buy you happiness, a job that pays $60,000 a year might help. This is based on a survey of 600,000 Americans:

“Below 60,000 dollars a year, people are unhappy, and they get progressively unhappier the poorer they get. Above that, we get an absolutely flat line. I mean I’ve rarely seen lines so flat.”

“Clearly… money does not buy you experiential happiness, but lack of money certainly buys you misery,” he said. But the real trick, Kahneman said, is to spend time with people you like.

I found this talk through the GatesVP blog, who offers this analysis:

In most parts of the US you already have access to a very good and healthy life at 60k. You’ve pretty much covered everything commonly deemed as a necessity and you probably have some money left over for “entertainment”. So the jump to 90k really just gives you a little more “entertainment” and maybe some bigger stuff, but that’s it.

And if you’re the type who’s not happy with being in the top 20%, then how much further do you need to go? Top 10%? Top 5%?

Really, 60k for one job is far enough “ahead of the game” to keep happy those that can be kept happy. And that’s probably why this is true.

According to the 2008 US Census, making 60k a year is in the top 20%. I pretty much agree, especially with the idea that humans are creatures of comparison. As long as we’re doing a little bit better than our neighbors, then we tend to be happy. What do you think?

You can view the entire TED Talk below. The Q&A session starts at about 17:15, and a transcript is available on the right sidebar here.
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Capital One 360 Apologizes

Capital One 360 apologized for shutting my site down without warning or cause via e-mail today:

Jon, I’d like to apologize for our recent actions regarding your website. Customer security is our number one priority, and it is not something that we take lightly. One of your readers and one of our vigilant Customers alerted us to what he felt may have been a phishing scam. When presented with security concerns — such as a possible phishing scam– that may affect Customers’ personal information, we act swiftly and decisively to protect them. In the case with your site, we may have acted too quickly. After further review, we immediately reversed course and resolved the situation. We’re sorry for the inconvenience it caused you and your community, and we are working to make sure this type of situation doesn’t occur again.

Thanks for being a valued partner of Capital One 360. We look forward to continuing our successful partnership.

Sincerely

Robert Weaver
Head of IT Security
Capital One 360

I suppose that is something. I only wish it could have been “When presented with security concerns, we actually visit your site and verify the accusation before hiring a large security firm to scare your web host into shutting down your revenue-generating website.” I also disagree with “immediately reversed course” because only after my begging my hosting provider was my site brought back online and given 12 hours to comply to the demands.

Oh, and here’s the long, scary e-mail that was sent from RSA Security yesterday morning (after the jump). I think you’ll agree it was very accusatory and pretty offensive. They even demanded an entire download of all the contents of my site and server.

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Capital One 360 Accuses Me Of Phishing, Shuts My Site Down, Then Apologizes… Kind Of

MyMoneyBlog.com was unceremoniously shut down this morning by Capital One 360 and RSA Security when they sent a long, scary e-mail to my web hosting provider accusing me of phishing.

The page, now still removed just in case, involved Capital One 360′s person-to-person referrals, which Capital One 360 offers users in order to promote it’s banking service. One user refers another user, and if a new user opens an account, both get a cash bonus. My page was a simple page where other readers could post up their referral links, and have another person come by and claim the other end of the bonus. Win-win, right?

I should also mention that this specific page has been up for about 4 years, with not a peep from them. I can confidently say over 1,000 people have gotten a new account at Capital One 360 through this page.

Was there an warning e-mail saying “Hey Jon, this page angers us.” or “Hey Jon, remove this page or we’ll shut your site down with our big bad lawyers.”? Nope.

Finally, all of the links directly go to a Capital One 360 page. There is no link on mymoneyblog.com that asks for any Capital One 360 user information, least of which full name or login credentials, nor had there ever been. Their accusation is like Bank of America accusing me of phishing when I link to a $100 account bonus that they’re offering at bankofamerica.com. (Don’t get any ideas, BofA!)

I’m also kind of disappointed with my web host, LiquidWeb. You’d think if I buy a dedicated server from them, I’d at least get a phone call before having everything shut down.

Conclusion. I called RSA Security directly to get this all straightened out. After checking their records, they said (over the phone, I’m paraphrasing somewhat) “There was a misunderstanding with Capital One 360. They first contacted us to shut down your site. Then they realized you work with them as an authorized partner. So a few hours later they told us never mind. Everything is okay. You don’t have to take down anything. We apologize on behalf of Capital One 360.”

Of course, neither my web provider nor myself got this “all clear” e-mail. Capital One 360 still acted like a big faceless corporation, and I haven’t yet received any apology from them directly. Being just a little peon, I’m just happy my entire site wasn’t shut down further because of this. Now please excuse me while I throw up from all the stress…

PSA: Monoprice.com Possibly Hacked; Credit Card Data Stolen?

Although relatively new, Monoprice.com has quickly become a very popular place to buy cheap but high quality audio/video cables and adapters online. I recommended shopping there if you’re trying to connect your laptop to your TV (and maybe drop your cable subscription?). I’ve probably bought from them five times in the last year, and I don’t even shop online that much.

However, if you bought anything from them recently, I would check your credit cards for any fraudulent charges. Monoprice shut down their site today and placed this message up:

A few of our customers recently reported to us that information from credit cards they used on the Monoprice website had been misused. We promptly began an investigation with the help of expert computer forensic investigators to determine if any card data had been stolen from our computers.

To date, the investigators have found no evidence that card information has been stolen from Monoprice’s computer network. As a precaution to ensure that our customers’ information is not at risk, we have taken our website offline temporarily while we and our investigators complete the audit of our computer network.

Grocery Prices: Name Brand vs. Store Brand vs. Organic

Here are the results of a recent study by industry research firm IBISWorld that compared the price of an average grocery cart in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago.

In general, organic products cost about 20% more than simply name brand items. However, the organic grocery cart is nearly 40% more expensive than a cart filled with store-branded products whenever possible. I wish there was more information on what makes up an “average” grocery cart, but I’m guessing it contains a wide variety of items.

Which reminds me of a previous post on which fruits and vegetables you should buy organic. If you value organic but are still on a budget, certain conventionally-grown vegetables retain much higher amounts of pesticides than others. Prioritize your spending with this updated list from Foodnews.org (you can even download an iPhone app with the chart):

“Fear the Boom and Bust”: Hayek vs. Keynes Economics Rap

Ever heard the term “Keynesian economics” and wanted to learn more? Here’s a new rap video that explores the competing theories from the Austrian business cycles of Friedrich von Hayek and the interventionist theories of John Maynard Keynes. Yes, I said rap… and it’s actually pretty good! I like the quotes at the end.

We’ve been going back and forth for a century
[Keynes] I want to steer markets,
[Hayek] I want them set free
There’s a boom and bust cycle, and good reason to fear it
[Hayek] Blame low interest rates.
[Keynes] No … it’s the animal spirits

Full lyrics and song download available at EconStories.tv. Via NPR, thanks to reader Tim.

Free Incorporation / LLC Service From MyCorporation

Update: This offer has expired, but there is a coupon code CABIN-20D good for an additional $20 off their $49 dollar LLC or Incorporation filing package. Net price under 30 bucks!

In case your plans include formalizing your business ventures, MyCorporation is offering their LLC formation and incorporation filing services for free until 1/31 with the coupon code MYFREE. You must still pay shipping fees and the filing fees charged by each state.

Free Corps & LLCs: Regular price of $149 is being waived when coupon MYFREE is used to obtain discount. Document shipping, state fees, publication fees, and additional product fees are additional. Discount valid for orders placed for a new corporation or limited liability company only. Prices subject to change without notice. Limit one discount or coupon per order. Coupon is not valid on any other product or service. You must enter/mention the coupon code at the time your order is placed. Coupon or discount is not valid on previous orders. Refunds/credits/adjustments will not be issued on prior orders.

MyCorporation is owned by Intuit, makers of TurboTax and Quicken. I view such online incorporation services as similar to TurboTax for taxes. Yes, you could fill out your 1040 tax forms manually, but it’s much easier to go through a question-and-answer software that walks you through it and explains the steps. However, if you’re talking about a huge business or something that is complex, then you should hire a professional to handle it (accountant for taxes, lawyer for incorporation).

When I formed my S-Corporation, I used one of their primary competitors LegalZoom and paid about $150 for the service – not including the state filing fees and shipping – so having it done for free seems to be a great deal. (I’m sure they’ll try to upsell you some additional services.) It was good to have someone look over the forms before submitting, while avoiding thousand of dollars of fees from a lawyer for our little venture.

The decision between staying a sole proprietor/partnership or forming an LLC/corporation is not always simple. If you’d like to dig into the details, I recommend the book LLC or Corporation? How to Choose the Right Form for Your Business from Nolo Press. I chose to go the S-Corp route primarily for the payroll tax savings.

(You can even have a LLC and chose to have it taxed as an S-Corp, as if things weren’t confusing enough!)

Capital One 360 Referral Fill Giveaway (Expired)

Do you have an Capital One 360 savings account with unused referrals? I usually have lots of $25 bonus links available, but have been falling behind again. The first 25 people who comment below tonight and leave a working contact e-mail (real name not required, e-mail will not be shared publicly) will get one filled by me for free, which is $10 for you. (All done!)

As a bonus to my always-helpful commenters, if you’ve also left a comment with the same e-mail address ever on any post before, you’ll get an additional referral filled for free.

Due to comment moderation, your comment may not show up right away. One referral per person. Look for a message from me to your e-mail address with further instructions later on. This usually goes fast, so thanks for helping me out!

Thoughts About Bailouts and Bonuses

There seems to be a lot of noise about previously struggling financial companies who were begging for bailouts but now are paying out billions of dollars in bonuses to employees.

I’m not trying to be political here at all, just thinking out loud. First, I don’t see why any private company should be allowed to be “too big to fail”. Otherwise, the whole point of bailing out these companies was… to bail them out and have them recover to be successful once again. The question is, why didn’t the government borrow a credit card tactic and charge them a nice 5% “balance transfer fee” and 35% APR since they were a “high-risk” borrower? You know, the same terms they’ve been giving to consumers forever, even forgetting things like payday loans. Then taxpayers would have earned a nice interest rate on their lent money, the public wouldn’t feel so angry about these bonuses, and the banks can repay quickly and move on with a better public image.

From this Forbes article, it appears that many of the TARP recipients got a deal for about 5% interest rate for the first 5 years. Banks like JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley have already paid back their money.

MMB Incorrectly Labeled As Spam Site on WOT

There is a new web browser plugin called WebofTrust which is a “free Internet security addon for your browser. It will keep you safe from online scams, identity theft, spyware, spam, viruses and unreliable shopping sites. WOT warns you before you interact with a risky website.”

Unfortunately, it seems that my domain somehow made it on a list of sites that promote a get-rich-quick scheme by buying links on Google Adwords. The original page seems to be here, where I am associated with some guy named Scott Hunter. What makes it worse is that a user on the MyWOT Forums is was* telling people to blindly rate all of these listed sites negatively without even actually verifying the content. As any regular reader will know, I have never posted anything to do with any of these Adwords schemes.

As a result, my site has been labeled as a scam site! Users visiting my site will see a pop-up indicating I participate in “phishing or other scams”, and that my site is dangerous.

*Update: It appears I was confused with my-moneyblog.com (note the dash), which is indeed a spammy site and is pretending to be me on some level. The original WoT forum member has edited their post, and the negative reviews have been removed. If you use this plugin, please feel free to rate my site honestly.

Tuesday 10 Links: MonaVie Scam, Estate Docs, Free Disney, & More

More quality links for your enjoyment:

Free Day at Disney For Volunteers [WalletPop]

Disney will give a free day of admission in 2010 to 1 million people who complete a day of volunteer service. As with its free birthday promotion, which is in effect this year, people must register with the parks’ Web site before embarking on their day of service, which must be handled and certified by the widely operating HandsOn Network.

MonaVie Threatens PF Blogger [Lazy Man and Money]
As much as I enjoy $50 bottles of MLM-flavored juice, I don’t like it when they threaten lawsuits against my blogger colleagues. Naturally, this means that we link to his site in an effort have his page show up whenever people want to learn about MonaVie. He’s currently 4th in Google.

Top 10 Consumer Complaints And How to Protect Yourself [CashMoneyLife]
I guess buying $50 juice didn’t make the list. #11 perhaps?

iPhones and Peer Normative Behavior [Well-Heeled]
AKA, you don’t really realize you want something until a friend gets one and plays with it in from of you. Story of my life. Must. Resist. iPhone.

Anyone ever make fun of you for being frugal/crafty? [Budgets Are Sexy]
I one-up cheeseburgers by stating that I have brought in entire bags of Act II 25-cent microwave popcorn + a tub of ice cream into a movie theater when I was a teenager. I must have smelled aweful!

4 Estate Planning Documents You Need Today [Moolanomy]
Not a happy thought, but I view these documents as helping out your family and not just yourself.

Frugal alternatives to school pictures [MSN SmartSpending]
I don’t think my parents ever bought the school-sponsored ripoff pictures. We just kept the little purse-sized samples!

How I Lived for 3 Months on $450 [TightFistedMiser]
Found this nice story in the archives, and apparently you can still rent a room for $100 a month in Central America.

Finding and Selecting a Tenant [Four Pillars]
Mr. Cheap shares his thoughts on an important part of being a landlord.

Free Printable Grocery Store Price Book [NoCreditNeeded]
Handy dandy, or just use as template for your own notebook.