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Financial Oracle to the rescue

December 12th, 2019 at 10:04 pm

(NOTE: Previously posted this summer during the time of the Purge. - Reposting as I still have the text)

My buddy at work has over the years seen my finances and has heard what I do to improve my finances. So as time has gone on he has asked me more and more questions, especially of late. He inherited some money from His father's estate recently. I don't know the amount, but I think it is a hundred thousand or two, something like that. First his questions were where to save, how to invest, somewhat general things. Over this time he has trusted my wisdom on finances more and more. I have become the defacto Financial Oracle. Of course with great power come great responsibility. [Hmmmmm.... I think I heard that some place before. Well in any case....]

So this week he comes over and starts telling me about a trip he took to the bank and how he was offered investment "counseling". I had to put that in "quotes" because it reminds me of the phrase "With friends like these, who needs enemies?". So he starts to try to explain what they were offering him, and I tell him it sounds like a variable annuity, a very very bad product. He insists that's not what its called, but still he didn't understand what it was and if it was good.

And so starts........

****** Financial Oracle to the Rescue [Play appropriate theme music here] ******

I finally tell him I can't give him any better answer without whatever paperwork they gave him. I told him I don't care what they said, they could say anything. What matters is on the paper. And I was willing to look it over if he liked. So yesterday I got paperwork from him for the two products they were proposing. And an eyefull it was.

WARNING: Crazy dry financial info follows. Don't say I didn't warn you.

First thing is these were called "Buffered investment securities". Ok, have to say I didn't know what these things are. I don't know every financial product out there after all [Oops.... don't let him hear that...]. So off to Investopedia for some research. Hmmmmm... some products of a general nature that help you taking on some of the risk when the market, or whatever you are basing it on, goes south. Ok, so what's the catch? Well doesn't say specifically, but each product has its own downside so its up to you to read the fine print and figure it out what do the providers get out of it.

OK, with that out of the way it was time to start reading, or in my case skimming through and finding the parts that are important (there are walls of text in spots, mostly telling you things you should already know. I'll save my eyesight, thank you very much.).

So I start with document #1 and what do I find? First there is 5% commission he must pay up front, though it can be from 2% to 8% so throw that money away to start (apparently you don't know the exact percentage until they print out the final paperwork for you to review and sign). The investment follows the S&P 500 going off of the index values at the start and end dates only (ignores everything in between). It also ignores dividends (which runs about 2%/year right now). So as this is for 5 years, there is another 10% of earnings you lose out on versus investing in an S&P 500 ETF. Add in any compounding of this money and it could easily cost him 20% of his investment in earnings. He will get the growth in the index at the end, but only based on the starting 95% of his investment.

So that was the down side, what the company gains. And what does he get for giving away his money for 5 years? The company will cover his losses if the index goes down, but only down to 26%. After that he is responsible for any further declines. So say the index goes way down, like 45%, how would my friend make out? Well he would lose the 20% I previously mentioned, but the company will cover the losses of 26%. So basically instead of being down 35% (45% loss less the 10% earned in dividends if he invests in an ETF that follows the index) he would now be down 39%( 45% loss + 20% of potential earnings lost {see above} - 26% covered by the company ). So even if the market goes down, you are losing about the same amount of money (ok not exactly - there would be taxes on the dividends, but still...) And your money is locked up for 5 years. Oh, and BTW, there is no collateral, so if the company goes bankrupt, you're out of everything. Oh you do get growth if the index goes up, but you lose out on the earnings in any case, and the 5% haircut up front. After I told him all of this he was basically "OK, I got it, this is terrible. I had no idea." Whew, talk about a lose-lose scenario for investing in this "great package".

PS: I just reviewed the second document. This one is worse, which is hard to believe. It follows the Dow Jones Industrial index value over 3 years. For a 3 year lock in of your money, you are limited to 15% growth (that's it, you cannot earn more!), you pay 3-5% up front (again, decided on the day it is created), lose all your dividends (say 6%), and ignore compounding on that money, and how much do you save if the market tanks? 15% max, but that's after losing the 9-11% previously mentioned. Or a savings of.... 4-6%. And for scenarios that almost never happen. Whooo hooo, what a deal!!!! I can save myself 4% of potential losses if I limit my upside to (15% max less loss of money from 9-11% , so therefore a max earnings of 4-6% over 3 years) no matter what happens. If the market goes up 50% over 3 years? Sorry you get 4%, the brokers will keep the other 46%. What a deal.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

If you've read this far, I think they change the names used for these things so they are tough to look up and research, but this seems to cover it:

Final note: to be fair, the second item isn't exactly what I wrote. Weirdly, if the index drops 10-15% you make out great with this security. But if the market drops 16% (one percent greater drop), you actually lose an extra 15%. (WTF???) So I could look at this as a bet on the market dropping from 10 to 15 percent. Anything else and you lose, possibly big time. I had to check it three times to make sure this was right - its one weird financial thing to stay far far away from.

Final final last note: If its not clear, just say no to anything promoted like this. Seriously, if you can't understand it, just stay away. These aren't bad, they're atrocious. You may as well burn your money.

19½, how you tease me so

July 15th, 2017 at 10:54 pm

I'm fortunate to work where you get a pension, and as such I have a date where I can stop working and get the pension paying out on day one versus waiting until I turn 65. In my case due to the odd date I started working, I will be able to retire and get the pension on the exact date I have been working 19½ years. I'm getting close to 14 years in the bank now (2 more months), so its no longer a mystical date out there, but one that I can start to see in the distance, yet it is a tease for the moment.

Anyway, come to last week, and I go to a little retirement presentation (probably first one I went to in about 2 years) for a person I worked with for about 7 years before he moved to another division. I've barely seen him in the last 7 years. Anyway, as they are going through his work history and what not, its pointed out he is retiring after 19½ years. Arrrgh! I think about this enough already, I don't need more reminders!!!!

Ok, just had to get that off my chest. I really need to stop thinking about this.....

Coming soon to an airspace near you (X2)

October 29th, 2015 at 02:37 pm

There's a title to an old movie "The Gods Are Crazy" (or something like that). In the past few days, it seems that way.

What's been up? Well...

The "birthday fund" at work is supposed to supposed to reimburse expenses when we are tasked to bring in a cake. Well, I did that, and brought in the receipt to the person that has the funds. My bill came out to $20 exactly. Great, I can give her the receipt, and we don't have to worry about making change - I'll just get a $20 bill. Easy, or so I thought. I walk to her desk and she tells me she doesn't think she has the change for this. I point out its $20 exactly, no change is required. She opens up the envelope and all that is there are a few $1's and a $100 bill. Sheesh, really??? I got my money the next day (I brought in $80 and got the $100 bill), so no real problem, but come 'on folks.

Election time is here and we're getting the various big glossy card for various low level politicians. I got one the other day, and the SG-GF looked at it and immediately says "Is that Abe Lincoln running for your local supervisor?" I look and sure enough, the guy looks like he is Abe's twin (but dressed in modern day clothes). And it wasn't a joke photo, all the cards that have arrived for him look similar to that one. He may be a great guy, but really, that's the look you're going for?

And for the airspace items.....

First comes this: At work we get occasional offers for computer sales via Dell (we're supposed to get some type of extra deal buying through our employer). On Monday came our offers for November. Well, for the first sales offer came this: "Buy a computer ($500+), get a drone free". Oooooh, my effing head. Great now anyone can buy a computer and become the total bane of the neighborhood. As if we don't have enough idiots around, now we need to encourage them. Frown All I can say for this one is where can I get my giant drone swatter???

And then this: Yesterday a military blimp escaped and headed into PA. As it got lower its dragging cables started to take out power. Well..... it ended up going right next to my old high school (the school was mentioned in some news stories), not far from my mother, and I heard from her last night that the power was out in the area for over an hour due to the craziness.

Just when you thought the sky was safe, guess again!

Forgot to renew your policy? Congratulations!

September 29th, 2015 at 07:49 pm

Just like stores, where the errors always seem to fall in their favor (shocking!), so too does it work that way with insurance companies (even more shocking!).

To wit... this month the SG-GF forgot to renew her renter insurance policy. Soooo... the company informs the apartment complex, who then complains to her that she needs to get this re-activated. So she goes and finds out she can't get it reactivated, but has to apply anew (usually that means more money for them). Sounds bad, but guess again. Her company finds out that her credit score increased so much since she first set it up (I understand their logic using a credit score to price out renter insurance... nonetheless don't get me started on how stupid I find that to be...) they'll now give her the same policy at a much reduced rate.

Very convenient that they didn't lower her rate when her score went up (without this intervention). I'm sure if credit score went down there would have been a rate increase for her. The real solution is for her (and anyone else) to live in a way you don't need to spend money on such .... lunacy.

I like my money working for me, not the other way around. And I plan on keeping it that way.

That's a "Service Deal Special"???

January 9th, 2015 at 01:49 pm

Over Christmas the SG-GF got both of us replacement cabin air filters for our cars. She had been threatening to get new ones for a while, and she finally did it. Well after looking online for how to do it, I spent about 4 minutes replacing mine, and 2 minutes to replace it in her car. No tools required. She was saying "That's it?" after it was done. Yep, that was it. "They wanted $60 to do that!" Now you know why dealerships are so shiny.

Anyway, today I got an email from the local dealership promoting various "specials" (*cough, cough*). Yeah, they're "special" all right. For $50 they have the special to replace the filter on my car. I checked online, and the filters cost less than $10 each, and I am sure the dealership pays less than I do for the filters. I know they have overhead, but give me a break. Charge me $30-$40 for 5 minutes of work, and then review the car to find other things you recommend to be "fixed" at your "cheap" rates as well? Ugh.

Can anyone understand simple math nowadays?

December 23rd, 2014 at 04:10 pm

Went to the local Family Dollar store last night with a Family Dollar store coupons for a can of veggies ($0.50 after FD coupon), and for a case of coke cans for $2.75 (after FD coupon). I also had a $3 off manufacturer coupon. With all of that, I should just have to pay for the can plus tax (maybe $0.60 - right)? Well you would be wrong. Their system insisted after all the coupons I needed to pay over $1.50. I immediately said this can't be right and I got a lost look from the cashier. Instead of saying something like "Well our system voids out the other coupon when you use yours, we can't change it", all I got from the person at the register as well as the manager that came over was "No, it didn't void the coupon, that's the right amount. See the computer says so." I left with my coupon and the can of corn - sheesh.

The computer says so???? So if the computer says you are getting paid only half of what you expect that is ok, because "the computer says so"??? People, you are getting paid poorly because you are clueless, and you will remain that way for the foreseeable future. And I won't feel sorry for you.

Sorry, but it just had to be said.

Is it 3/4 full or 3/4 empty?

May 2nd, 2014 at 09:49 pm

After spending the past week barely in the office (6 hrs in one day and another day teleworking) due to a bad flu (for a while I thought they might have to put me down), today is pay day. Nothing too special there, but it gets you to think. I would like to retire early, and I certainly haven't changed that attitude, but being out sick, moping about the house, and just feeling like you could die at times.... and yet now I am getting better and know I will get paid for these days just like if I had gone in to work. It makes me appreciate having that office just a (little) more then I did a week ago. So that office job, is it a 3/4 full or 3/4 empty situation? Hopefully it can stay on the 3/4 full side.

PS: My apologies for those that don't get paid sick leave at your jobs - I know that sucks big time. BT-DT.

Warning and a Teachable Moment

October 8th, 2013 at 07:28 pm

I love to talk about how well things are going financially (OK brag) but this is a half rant / half warning for those that read this. (You have been warned)


When you save money you are of course working towards having the money available for your needs (and wants). Optimally however you will have money that not only gives you everything you reasonably want over your lifetime, but beyond that the money can give your descendants (or whomever you designate) money that can help them pay bills, have a down payment on a house, get a reliable car, or just whatever makes sense. If the money goes to someone else, it can be to appreciate what all they did in life, or help an organization that does things you believe in. The point is, it is common in our society to allow you, in fact I would say it is a given, that as the person owning the money you get to decide what will happen with your money (and other items as well) when you pass away. Yes, if your estate is large enough, the government will stick its hand in for a share, but otherwise you are free to distribute as you see fit.

Unfortunately, there are those that feel that the deceased's wishes can be ignored, and often can get away with it. A few years ago in dealing with my father's estate I came up against this first hand. An object from his items, that was specifically indicated as to go to me, was all of a sudden said that it would stay with his wife because she "needed" it. Yes, she could use it, just as much as I could have used it. It wasn't worth a lot, probably would cost ~$600 to get new which I could afford, but that wasn't the point. Everyone there knew, and said as such, that my father said it was for me. But her answer was that "I'll give it to you when I die." Yeah sure. Perhaps today I would have fought it, but at that point I was disgusted and just wanted to get away from her and that place, as that was the best for my mental health. Lets just say I didn't like the way she treated him for some time, and that was the push I needed to never ever want to go back there.

A week ago similar issues started with my girlfriend. This time the estate of her mother was being split, which went as well as could be expected, given 5 daughters, with the multitude of dislikes between various sisters. Then the final split was to be done, where the instructions given were that the remaining liquid funds should be split equally between all grandchildren (The exact words I think were "All remaining cash is to be distributed in equal shares to all grandchildren", but it may have been slightly different). With all previous disbursements of IRAs and stock investments, the executor was very deliberate and checked with the sisters before finalizing the various distributions. This time however no check was done with the sisters, but a brusque email indicating that the final liquid dollar amount ($X) would be destributed among the grandchildren (#Y) but that however each grandchild would not be receiving $X/Y (call it $Z). Instead she has decreed that since her mother indicated that the grandchildren will get the same money, but since two grandchildren got a life insurance policy benefit of $5,000 (basically a investment that was made 15 years ago with the grandmother paying for it over 12 months), she would only give ($Z-$5,000) to those two grandchildren (my girlfriend's children), and take that money and give it to the other grandchildren. When we pointed out the mistake she made (the life insurance was not part of the estate), she indicated that she "knew" what her mother wanted, and that my girlfriend should shut up otherwise she would stop payment on the check she did send. I won't go into it further, but the explanations have been contradictory, illogical, and when she was backed up by another sister (lets just say the one that really doesn't like my girlfriend) that sister's story was implausable for a number of reasons. My disgust with their behavior was palpable and I wrote to let them know just what they did wrong and how I felt about it - which of course was dismissed out of hand (which I am sure didn't help, but really do you even want people around you that will steal from children in the family?).


To wit, this, which I could easily rant about more, is a warning and teachable moment.

Teachable in that this whole escapade has been shown to her children how people can behave. It shows that people that can say they care about them, and then turn around and treat them as second class family members (and that's being generous here). And then behave like they are the victim at that.

And this is a warning to everyone that reads this. If you have wishes for your money, you need to be very, very explicit about how it is to be executed. More so, if you have any sizable amount of money (I would guess over $50,000). If you want it done right, pay for a lawyer, or make sure the person in charge has impeccable ethics. An executor is given very wide latitude in their actions, and can easily use the opportunity to enrich themselves, or just to curry favor with those they feel the closest to. Lawyers will follow the instructions, so you know what will be done, no doubting will be needed.

The BH Death Star strikes again

June 27th, 2013 at 07:37 pm

BH = Berkshire Hathaway (or for those that don't know, think Warren Buffett). Three years ago BH swooped in and bought out my position in BNSF in my Roth IRA (though I used that money to buy stocks that have done exceptionally well). Now they hit my DRIPs, taking out Heinz and taking it private. Due to this attack, today I am depositing a check for over $3,500 for the privilege of "allowing" them to take my stock. :P

I guess I shouldn't complain, as I am ending up with almost double what I have put in over the past 6 years I had the stock, but still... having someone come in and take away a favorite dividend paying stock is a royal pain. Its like the kid that says "its my ball, you can't play". I wish they would consider that there are other people that are trying to retire on stocks, did they have to take everything? Hopefully I can put that money to work well again like the last time the death star struck.

I'm in a credit card state of mind

August 14th, 2012 at 02:46 am

At least it must seem that way to the credit card companies. Tonight when I came home and got the mail outta the mail box, there was a nice pile of letters. Coming inside I went through the pile. Of the non-credit card variety there were 3 advertisements, and one info-letter about my FSA being changed.

Next I come to the credit card pile. There is not one, not two, not three letters. (wait, there's more!) There are not four, not five, not six letters. (ok, hang in there) There are not seven, not eight, but nine, yes, nine letters from credit card companies.

To wit, we have...:
* 2 with "convenince" checks with absurd fees (dream on)
* 3 discussing how I can earn 5% for the next 45 days (sorry, I already have this offer with another card)
* 1 informing me of a credit limit change (don't care - already knew about it)
* 1 saying if I spend $3,000 (!!!!) per month for four straight months I can get a $500 bonus (DREAM ON - times Four!)
* One with convenience checks and decent fees (ok, I'll hold onto this one)
* Lastly one with my new credit card (spend $1000 in 3 months and get a $500 bonus - this is more my speed!)

This reminds me of an old Dilbert comic where he tries to get as much junk mail as possible so he can use it to feed his house's furnace. Gawd, what a pile of papers!


On the finance front, today I have a $7 book sale on (bought for $0.25), a ebay sale of some tin toy items I got as a throw-in as part of a $10 purchase a few weeks ago (I didn't know they were worth much, but they sold for $50), and a pair of old pre-war plates sold on ebay for $6 (I got for free along with some really nice depression era glassware - I'm keeping the good stuff!). Picking up the free glassware was a long drive, but this sale will pay for the gas I used and then some.

New math to the rescue?

August 4th, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I was out at the yard sales this morning, and they were few and far between for the second weekend in a row. What's up with that? Is there something going on I don't know about? I found things at only one sale on my normal route, and only for $.50, so as I ended my normal loop very early I decided to go onward.

On the way to a flea market I heard about for the first time, I stopped at an "estate sale". I put that in quotes as while they were selling most everything in the house, the people selling it didn't strike me as the professional type. Not bad pricing, just not very organized to say the least.

As I'm going through the place I hear that everything is now 1/2 off the marked prices. My guess was this was a one day sale and they were basing this discount on the time of day(?).

After hearing this, I decide to get a few things I had passed previously. One was old pyrex custard cups. They were marked as 2 for $1 and I decided to get 4 of them. As I go to pay the woman at the table looks at the price on the cups and says "hmmm... 2 for a dollar. Ok, half price would be 4 for $.50" I didn't say anything, but in my mind I went "Huh?".

I wasn't major extra money saved, but still... can't people do basic math anymore?

Why yes, I *would* like my money back.

April 29th, 2012 at 05:10 pm

Last year (in April) I had the mystery bill from a local hospital I never went to (and posted about it

Text is here and Link is
here) and then I had to fight with them to get them to submit the correct type of procedure they did to the my insurance. All the time I was getting bills saying I had to pay or they would report this to the credit bureaus and send this to a collection agency (basically threatening me).

Once they filed it properly my insurance had me pay a co-payment, which made no sense as it was part of the procedure done at a doctor's office. At that point I didn't care any more and paid it, happy to let it go. Now just two weeks ago I get a letter from the insurance saying I shouldn't have been required to make a copayment and they went and paid the hospital my $25 copayment.

Of course the hospital didn't send any reimbursement of the copayment. I knew that would happen, so again another call to the hospital this Wednesday where I get "Oh, you'd like the money back? Sure we can do that." however, what goes through my mind is to say "No, actually I like paying extra, don't you?" GRRRR.... I just say "yes", and leave it at that.

Funny how their systems work great one way and not the other. Ugh. Oh well, I guess I should be happy about the extra money.

Sharebuilder rates a big "FAIL"

February 4th, 2012 at 12:20 am

After my very good and professional dealings with Scottrade I figured other stock trading companies would have similar (if not same) abilities and professional web sites. So when I went to setup a brokerage account, I decided to "play the field" and check out other companies, as it wouldn't make a big difference, right? Sheesh, have I found out wrong.

** Rant follows **

It all started a month ago when I signed up with Sharebuilder to take advantage of their sign up bonus. That worked like a charm, money went in, the web site showed the funds, and then showed the bonus money. Then I found out their "$4 trades" (originally a big selling point with me) are ... ummm... like what one poster said... "like a weekly blue light special available for a short time". Otherwise you pay more for your trade than you do with brokers that have manned offices. Not very impressive.

Next I find out they have bonus codes for free trades (of the cheapo variety). OK, I can live with that. I put in the codes, and sure enough, I get emails stating all of these free trades my account has accumulated (about a dozen). So what to do? Lets make a trade or two...

Or so I thought. I go onto the site, log in, and no where are the free trades listed. So thinking they show up automatically when you order, I go to setup a trade. When I get to the point where the final cost is listed, there is nothing about free trades, just their $10 charge. Here I cancel the order, and do some research. I look about the site more, and find absolutely nothing.

OK, well lets see... ok, there is a big help FAQ section. OK, nothing related to my issue (big shock there), but there is a place to write with your questions. So I write there, asking where I can determine my free trade balance, and... for good measure I copy along one of the emails from them indicating my account number along with the free trades I should have.

Today I get a email with a canned message cheerily directing me to the place to find this information listed. I was pretty sure I checked there, but I go again. Yep, they didn't bother to check, and there is still nothing showing right where they said it would show.

OK, so now I need to decide....

Either I go with company that has a web site that misses things, they only have canned help, and the trades are expensive

-- OR --

Start over with a company that has a site that has worked great with my Roth IRAs for years that shows up to the second balances, they have people (locally!) I can talk to for help (only happened twice), and less expensive trades.

I don't know... this could be a hard decision. (OK, maybe not :P) BTW, I should be able to get the money out no problem, so I'm not sweating this, but they have pretty much lost a customer with this fiasco.

Tonight's episode: A good deed never goes unpunished.

January 10th, 2012 at 01:47 am

Prologue) Previously on Single Guy (SG) - SG finally decides he needs to upgrade his falling apart 12 year old ride, and comes up with the money and finds a nice low milage car that is a very basic model, but does what he wants for a good price. Little does he realize the car comes with only one key - no duplicates are provided. As he drives away from the dealer he thinks "No problem, I'll get a spare when I have time. Its a basic key, nothing special about it."

Act 1) Months after his purchase, we find SG stopping at another hardware store. "Can you make a copy of this key?" Book is pulled out. Shuffle, shuffle. "Hmmmm, let see if we have it." Looks all through the stock of keys. "Sorry, it looks like we don't have that key blank in stock." SG heads out of the store with a familiar refrain in his head. "How can no one have this key blank? I sure don't want to spend $30/key at a dealership." Grumbling, he heads off for his car, still with his lone car key.

Act 2) That evening SG tells his girlfriend he's stuck out getting a key again. "Looks like the dealer is my only option." "For $30??? There's got to be a way to do this. Hey have you tried buying the key blanks yourself?" "I never thought of that." And sure enough, key blanks are available, 2 for $10 delivered. And we pull away as he makes his online purchase of key blanks.

Act 3) Key blanks in hand, we see SG driving toward a hardware store he rarely goes to as it is out of his way a few miles. However this time he has decided that he will try this store as it is a small hardware store that could use his patronage. He then pulls up to the store and walks in and is quickly greeted by the lone salesman in the store.

"Can I help you?" "Yes, I'd like to make a copy of my key here. I've had trouble finding any place that carries this key." "Here I'll do that, I'm doing most everything here tonight." With that they arrive at the key cutter. Book out, shuffle, shuffle, page with the needed info is found. A look to the board with tons of keys on it, looks at a blank spot where the key would be. "Nope, no key here sorry. You know the easy solution would be not to lose the key." SG does a double take at that comment. "Well this was a used car purchase and it came with only one key, so I didn't have a choice in the matter."

He then pulls out two key blanks. "Can you make copies with these blanks?" The person looks incredulously at the blanks. "You have blanks?" "Yeah, it seemed like it was the only way I was ever going to get keys made." "Where did you get them?" "Online, I had them sent to my house." "I've never had anyone bring in their own blanks before." Sort of in shock at this change to his routine the salesman starts to work on one key, only to realize he has no idea if he should do this, or if so how much to charge. After a few calls to management explaining the situation, he is told to make the keys and what to charge.

After a quick 2 minutes both keys are made and ready to go. As the salesman walks with SG towards the registers SG comments "Looks like we learned something new today." "You?" "No you, you know how much to charge someone that has their own blanks."

"Well I think bringing blanks is like taking a steak to a restaurant." Non-plussed, SG replies - "I was going to buy the keys from you if you had them in stock." "You couldn't get them at the dealer?" "For $30 per key, I don't think so."

The salesman stops. "Too many prople right away go to a store to get a key. They should go to the dealer or a locksmith." Surprised where this is heading SG tries to keep a non-commital face, waiting to see where this is goes. "There's this whole industry, locksmiths, yet no one will go to them to get their keys made. Its a real problem today." With that he heads off into the bowels of the store. We pull away as we hear SG thinking "Locksmith???? Really? I should go to a locksmith when all I want is a copy of a key? WTF???"

Epilogue) SG is seen heading out of the store, newly paid keys in hand. He starts to open the door with his old key, then realizes he should be using a new key to test it. It smoothly works the door lock, then once inside the ignition behaves like this key has always been used with this car. Driving away we hear this thoughts as he reviews what just happened. "I go out of my way to give this store some patronage. After a few minutes of work they earn a few dollars, yet the salesman behaves like getting the key done there was the worst thing in the world. I guess that saying is true, no good deed ever goes unpunished."

Rocking and rolling...

August 23rd, 2011 at 10:24 pm

... isn't supposed to happen inside your own house. Yowza. What a day to telework! This afternoon I thought for a few seconds the house was going to come down on me. I decided heading outside would be a safer bet.

FYI, I live probably ~50 miles from the epicenter, and the house sure sounded like the 50 years old that it is.

Now its paid off (honest) & this and that.

June 19th, 2011 at 01:27 am

I can go online now and see that as of Friday, the mortgage balance is now $0. For course they had to tack on some type of documentation fee of $65. Errrr, really??? Someone always has their hand grabbing for your money, don't they?

On my mystery medical bill, the doctor's billing person said it wasn't done right, and they will fix that, after I fax them the bill (which I did). Hmmmm, I suspect I'll have to contact them again - it never goes away that easy.

Today was nice weather, yet yard sales were sparse, to put it mildly. Is there a holiday I wasn't told about? I spent $2, yet I found a dollar bill near my car, so total outlay was $1. Yeah, I can afford that.

Went to the car dealership today, but they didn't have the cars they said they had in stock online. Almost felt like a bait & switch. Seriously, the lot out front looked half empty. I went to do a test drive on a used car, and as the saleman got the car to the side of the showroom for me to get in, another saleman comes out and says that car was just sold. WTF??!! Is this the new reality with car sales? BTW, this was a Hyundai dealership, so I'm not sure the Japanese problems should have any effect on them.

The $40 gas gift card arrived today. Unfortunately I needed gas yesterday (I was on fumes), so this will have to wait to be used for a week or two.

Oh well, if this is the worst of my complaints on life, I should be happy. Right?

Medical mysteries & garage doors

April 30th, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Sorry, the two subject items are not related (certainly would be interesting if they were).

I may as well start with the mystery. Its not medical, in that I am not sick, but the more common one now a days. That is: What the F*** is this bill I got from a hospital I never went to? Seriously, what is someone to think when they get a bill from a hospital they didn't go to, for a service that comes under the name of "Pathol/Hystol"? Actually, I have an idea what this is about, though it really is a surprise. On the "day of service", I had a cyst removed at a doctor's office about 30 miles away from the hospital. Could this be some test of what was removed? Perhaps, but the doctor didn't tell me that was going to be done, they never informed me of any results from this mystery test, and the hospital never informed me of any results of this mystery test. I won't get into my opinion of having these mystery providers bill you seperately instead of through who you went to see in the first place. I have a number to call if I have questions (and I *WILL* be calling).

Assuming what I am guessing above is correct, would I be out of line to insist getting a copy of the results otherwise not paying? This is why I want to stay in the best shape possible - crazy F bills appearing out of nowhere for who the F*** knows what. GRRRRrrrr.

I can afford it, but thats not the point. Are people supposed to pay every crazy bill that appears when there is no explanation for the bill? Sorry, but my brain doesn't work like that.


As for the garage door, I can't open it right now. I don't know about you, but I see that as a bit of a problem. (Thankfully my car was outside the garage when this happened) My door has these extra large springs to give an assist when opening - well one broke this week. It was probably the 1960 issue door spring that came with the door. The door is solid wood and super heavy. Oh boy. I know they sell replacements (I should go tonight and get it), but raising and keeping the door up by myself is going to be a challenge (I know - I had to repair the pulley system 2 years ago)


Another house payment is in the books. Now the total in my savings (not CDs, just savings and checking) is a match to my mortgage balance. I would pay it off, but I have car insurance payment this month, then a property tax payment in July, so its better if I keep some money liquid for a few more months. Still, its crazy to my mind when I compare my savings to my mortgage. Its like there is a mistake, it can't be right.


Participated at a local church / community yard sale today. It was very disappointing - I probably brought in $60 for the day. I've done better doing it in my own driveway, and the prep work was much less. At least it was a wonderful day weather wise.


And last (and in no way least) my relationship is still going great (ergo the change in my personal info). There have been a few rough spots, but each time we seem to work it out and make things even better. This is the part that is truly encouraging. The communication has been great, both of us have been trying to not let anything slide, but instead we let each other know what we're thinking about absolutely anything. That was something I never could get out of my ex, and it is really refreshing. We don't always agree, but we make sure to resolve it by communicating.

Hmmmm, I should go get that garage spring (and use my coupons that expire today at the grocery store). OK, gotta go!

How TV Ruined Your Life

February 14th, 2011 at 04:09 am

That's actually the title to a TV show. I'm surprised I never heard of it before this weekend. If you want to explain how people waste so much money and then don't understand where it all went, this is it.

I watched one episode this weekend, and decided I needed to post it here. Its a BBC comedy of sorts, written like a documentary, but its oh so true. If you know anyone that watches too much TV (or even a "normal" amount of TV), this would be a great show for them to see. I can't recommend this one highly enough, though there are some spots that I am fairly sure are real TV shows, but they look so absurd you have to wonder what they were thinking. In any case, if you were on the fence about dropping a cable subscription, watching this should push you off the fence.

Text is "How TV Ruined Your Life" and Link is
"How TV Ruined Your Life"

Is doing things yourself out of vogue?

February 13th, 2011 at 03:09 am

This could be subtitled: Is the American man willing to do anything for himself any more?

WARNING: Sorta frugality / sorta rant ahead...

During a discussion a few days ago I mentioned how I had built from scratch / built from kits / refinished most of the furniture in my house. During this I remembered how it had been many years since I bought a solid wood kit to build (probably 6-7 years). I figured there would be more kits out there available now. I mean, there is the internet now, everything is more available if you search for it, right? But just about every link to a place selling kits was out of business, sold their items on Amazon at crazy expensive prices (they're kits for crying out loud!), or they sold only a few kits any more and now sold mostly finished items Frown

Now I don't think the companies have changed their focus on selling fully built items just because of higher markups. I'm sure its because so few people want to build their own items, while saving money in the process. When I was putting together my first collection of furniture, this is what I did. I refused to buy fiberboard junk. Now you can't do it, even if you wanted.

Sorry, it just bothers me you can't even get kits of good furniture any more. Considering how the economy is rough right now, I figured more people would want to do what I did to get good furniture for decent prices. But nope, it looks like the "I want it now, I don't want to have to do any work for it" philosophy is still going strong. Ugh

Is this a sign of the times?

January 23rd, 2011 at 04:23 am

Maybe this is common, but if so I must live an isolated life (could be - I don't go out shopping much at all).

Tonight I stopped at an intersection and a neon light in a store window across the street caught my eye. I thought it said "gold". I looked again. Sure enough it was "Sell your gold here". Odd, I don't remember a pawn shop there. The light turned green and the truck next to me moved out of the way and I see I was right - its the laundromat that has always been there. Laundromats are now buying gold? Are people really taking gold to a place like that to get money? ????

Of course the real solution is to not waste money on stuff like gold when you could have more pressing needs, but really, why would you sell your valuables there? I guess thats where the economy is today though. Ugh.

Squeaking by on $250,000

December 14th, 2010 at 12:35 am

The same people that brought us

Text is "Squeaking by on $300,000" and Link is
"Squeaking by on $300,000" have apparently decided that another in the series is appropriate. It seems this time they couldn't find anyone dumb enough to put themselves up for deserved ridicule, so this one has a hypothetical family making $250,000 and they show how "impossible" it is for them to save.
Text is "Where does $250,000 a year go?" and Link is
"Where does $250,000 a year go?" The story shows this family of 4 living in various locations around the country, and determines how much they'll spend in each location.

Ignoring the bad math in some spots, they have this family (may as well call them "The Stupids") doing the following:
- Paying extra for a house close to the city center where their jobs are going to be, and then ignore any public transportation. Instead they will use two cars, and then not only pay to drive back and forth, they will also pay an extra $3,000 (in my area) just to park.
- And speaking of cars, they allocate over $7,500 for gas during the year. Ok, lets make gas @ $3.00/gal. That is 2,500 gallons for the year, or 1,250 per vehicle. Assume 15 MPG (pretty poor I know), and that comes out to 18,750 miles per year. Ok, they have a short commute (see above), where the hell are they driving? Are they doing a cross country trip? Who comes up with these numbers???
- They're paying $5,000 just for cleaning, because well... you know... they're so Stupid they can't do any cleaning themselves.
- They have to eat out every day at work for $10 lunches and they eat takeout of $25/week (a meal on the weekend? So we're talking 6 dinners, 7 breakfast, and maybe 1 or two lunches each week. Their food should be less right? The family of 4 pays $13,659, or over $1,100 per month just to eat at home. WTF are they eating????
- Even the dog is costing $1,571 a year. Is the dog having surgery every year? I would have to estimate even with vet vists (admittedly infrequent as my mutt was fairly healthy) I spent no more than $2,000 total over 11 years on my dog.
- Phone, cable, and internet is coming in at $200/mo. Apparently the Stupids never heard of bundled service. And if they're so busy making this great money, why do they even have cable?
- Gas & Electric comes in at $5,280, or $440 per month, every month. Did they buy a home with no insulation what so ever????
- Oh, btw, there is under "Leisure" an entry for "Eating Out". Another $200/mo. for that.

If you go and read it, there's more (really!), but I think I have overwhelmed anyone reading by this point. Apparently the Stupids make an amazing amount of money, yet can't for the life of them figure out how to stop the continual wasting of money. These people would have to be dumber than the average American when it comes to finances, yet in the top 3% earners in the richest country in the world, which is just amazing there could be people like that. In fact, they have them overspending by $5,000 to $24,000 per year!

The names have been changed to protect...

December 11th, 2010 at 11:18 pm

... the guilt ... errr, I mean the innocent. I tend to talk finances with a co-worker, who last summer was talking about getting a new car. He admits he doesn't save nearly enough (and he is amazed at how much I save and how little I can spend and still get good things), and he is nearly my age with a wife and one child still living at home. His house is falling apart (his words), and he has been spending money like crazy to fix various issues. I haven't kept track, but it had to be $10,000 or more this year alone.

Anyway, as he started to look for another car (he felt his latest new one was having issues) he looked at various models, including an expensive car he had wanted since he was first driving (you know - a super sports car). He had mentioned it to me, and he already knew I would say "Are you crazy, what a waste of money". I did try to be even handed with it, mentioning that I had read where some frugal types would say "save your money on what you don't care about to spend it on what you really want". "If that reallllly makes you happy, then maybe its worth it to you." That said, I *did* think it was crazy to spend that type of money (and said that too).

Later I heard that his wife kept saying "get the car, you deserve it". She didn't go to college, works but doesn't make that much, and doesn't worry about finances, or how it can stress him. Ugh. And so he bought the car. He told me that even while buying it he kept hearing in his mind what I would think of it. (And he was right! :P) Not sure on the price, I think it was around $35,000. The expense was so much, he had to get a 6 year loan, and even then his payment is (I am estimating here) almost half his mortgage payment.

Since then I have kidded him, asking if he has his first scratch yet (yep), and how often is he going to get pulled over (once already). Yowza. Now this past week we were at the office Christmas get together. There different people ooh'd and aaahhh'd about the car. They all loved the car, and asked what the wife said about it. He told them she was the one encouraging him to get it. I then hear lots of "oh, what a great wife". The whole time I am cringing inside. No concern about if he can afford it or about how "helpful" she is with the bills. Ugh. I think most of the people there are in two income households, but even so, no one was concerned if he could afford it? What's the saying, "If you still have a job, there is no recession."? Some people still live in their own bubble of fantasy, even today I'm afraid.

The Save My Jacket project & more dating follies

October 14th, 2010 at 03:38 am

Guys don't have a thing for fancy clothes, or buying the latest fad, but when they have something they like... they hate to let go. Which leads to my jacket. I have a number of leather jackets, but there is one I have worn religously for years (probably around 10). Its a Wilson's Leather jacket, insulated, and has a removable extra insulated liner. Its a little rough on the edges, but I have used leather shoe touch up dye to make it look nearly like new in the past years. But last year the zipper started to come apart occassionally for no reason, and when I tried it during the first cold snap this month, the zipper wouldn't work right.

Heart broken (ok, maybe thats a bit much) I decided to freecycle it as maybe someone wanted to try to fix it up since it was still nice. I had photos taken ready to post it, but I hated to see it go. Then I looked at the zipper and decided it couldn't be that hard to replace, so I decided to look and see if I could find a replacement zipper. I must say ebay has everything, even zippers, and some were the right length.

Ok, but how do I get it fixed? Time to call in a favor with mom. I have been finding yard sale items for her this year, so we worked a deal. I buy her some replacement machine needles, and we'll try fixing it. I'm looking at a total cost of less than $10 for the fix. Admittedly, I have seen some nice jackets at sales in the $15 - $20 range, but I want MY jacket, as it works just right for me.

As for dating, nothing has been happening, but during a relative's wedding this past weekend I got asked the question of why I have no girlfriend / significant other. It was many hours out of town, in the back woods, so to speak. They said "you're good looking, you own your own home, make good money, nice mannered, ... so what's the deal?" I try to explain the problems with the women round here, how it nothing like where they live, but they think I'm exaggerating. Then today the Wash. Post comes up with a great article about modern dating. I say great, in that shows (inadvertantly) just how deluded some women are in this area. Good god, what attitudes. Anyway... if you'd like to read, go

Text is here and Link is
here. The reader comments are especially amusing. This article will be saved for me to take along on my next trip, so they can understand better the attitudes I have to deal with.

Is "going green" really the best way to go?

September 24th, 2010 at 04:26 am

Now I love the idea of going green when it saves you money. Less trash, better for the environment and less money spent on trash removal. Less water usage, better for the environment, and less cost. And on and on... you get the idea.

But lots of people promote green industries, which I agree is the best way to go long term, but too often I think people look at it as a "pain free" way to soothe their conscience, instead of doing what is really best (i.e. finding ways to use less, and *then* using renewable sources).

This thought came up with the arrival today of the latest electric bill. (btw, this month's bill was $36, not bad for 1/2 of August, 1/2 of September) In with the bill were as usual a number of inserts, including one where you can commit to purchase renewable electricity certificates. I looked into these in the past, and basically you just pay extra which subsidizes purchases from renewable sources so that the providers' costs are more in line with other power sources. This just never struck me as a good way to promote this. If renewable is good, and I agree it is, then the company should commit to purchasing some percentage of this power and spread the cost across all consumers, while trying to increase this percentage over time. Then people could concentrate on cutting down on their own usage, which would help the environment more than just buying these credits. And for those that don't conserve, well at least they are buying some renewable power as part of their overall utility cost.

Sorry, just a rant here, as I figure if I can cut down on usage, I'm helping myself *and* the environment, which is really the better way to "go green" all around. I'm not up for subsidizing green power for other users, which is what buying these certificates look like to me.

Eat, Pray, Love. Do we really have to?

August 22nd, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Before I get onto the theme for today, let me pass along my latest utility bills (read savings): $16.85 for nat. gas, under $50 for my electric, and my quarterly water bill (for 2nd quarter) was $12. I also spent some time today repairing some items around the house, so this was a good weekend.

OK, remainder of this is very unfinancial ... you have been warned.

Friday night I went to one of these singles dinners, where we had 4 guys, 4 gals, at a table. Evening didn't start too bad, we got our food (and as none of us had eaten there before we were kinda clueless on how to eat this type of ethnic food which was amusing), and started with various chatting. About 30 minutes into the meal one of the women brings up the movie. A quick discussion starts to see who saw it (4 women, 0 men - big surprise), and one woman says of course this is a chick flick, you can't expect the guys to have seen it. OK, fair enough.

No big deal right? Well not so fast. Instead of trying to talk with the men, the 3 women to my left continue on discussing the finer points of the movie, while the guys just sit there and eat and listen. The other woman talks with me on various things, but while we talk I can hear this conversion about the movie going non-stop between the three women. Just after it finally ends (20 minutes? Maybe more?) I decide to test the woman to my right. "Oh wow, the other women just finished a discussion about Eat Pray Love." "Really, Oh wow, I should have been talking with them, I so wanted to discuss the movie with others." Hmmm, make that "failed test".

About another 20-30 minutes later they had the guys swap tables so we could meet other women. But at the end of the movie discussion I had already "checked out" from this group of women. Good Lawd, WTF are they thinking? Go to a dinner designed to get you to know and maybe meet someone of the opposite sex, and then just go on about something the others don't care about, and you know they don't care about? Maybe us guys should have started a round robin discussion about the NFL for the upcoming year. At least we knew enough not to do something that dumb. "Oh they're single you say? At this rate they're going to stay that way."

I left that table and didn't look back. The other women were better, though that's faint praise in this case. Nothing sparked with them, but at least they knew why they came. Still, what a waste of time and money. After this I am going to change my way of trying to get with women, because after this third time its obvious the women at these dinners are single for a reason.

I didn't know I was a vegetarian (& my house is still standing)

June 17th, 2010 at 03:09 am

Anyone who has a clue what either item in the title is referring to has gotta be a psychic. That said...

I decided late tonight to use some store coupons that expired tonight at a grocery store a about 4 miles away. As these were special "not available at the store" coupons, but only mailed to your home, there was nothing marking the items in the store that these were the items the coupons matched up with. As you can guess, occassionally the items to use the coupons on might not be perfectly clear. So, after checking out I saw that one coupon never registered, and went to the service desk. It was for a pack of turkey hot dogs. Looking at the coupon I saw that the brand was right, the size was right, even the style was right (bun length), so I couldn't have the wrong item, could I? I show the guy behind the counter the receipt and the item, and he says "oh you didn't get the right type."
"I didn't?"
"No, see these are for meat hot dogs. These aren't meat."
"Um... I'm sorry. Turkey isn't a meat?"
"No, these coupons are for meat hot dogs only."
"Huh? Do you mean beef hot dogs? I don't think any of the packages are labelled 'meat hot dogs'."
This went on for a bit longer. The guy was pleasant, and returned the money when I asked, so I'm not complaining. But this was like I was on one of those "Jay Walking" segments on the Tonight show, where people say the most absurd things, and seem to mean it.


As for my house, why wouldn't it be standing? Well... I returned home yesterday from my doctor appt. (shoulder got a clean bill of health) to find the street blocked near my house, and fire trucks parked out front. Turns out the neighboring house had been on fire (again!). About a decade ago they had a decent fire, and now in almost the same location of the house (closest to my house - of course) another fire started, again when no one was home. This time was worse, melting sliding, blistering paint off a car out front (as well as melting the head lights), and buring off a good chunk of the roof. Even the tree between the houses has a nice chunk of brown leaves now on it.

You could say they are unlucky (you could), but lets see. After the last fire, their family (not professional contractors) seemed to be involved with a lot of the restoration of the house, and then after moving in they seemed to come into a sizable chunk of money that went into buying a very expensive motor home they park out back and use for (I don't know - going to NASCAR races perhaps?) And now a fire starts in the same part of the house the family did the work. Hmmmm, relatives do house work, then money appears, then fire starts in same spot - you don't think they are related, do ya? (I'll leave any conclusions up to the readers)

Lets just say I won't be bringing up the neighbors to my home insurance company any time soon. I don't need my insurance rates going up, thank you very much.

Viewing the debris of the aftermath up close (Part 2)

May 2nd, 2010 at 08:13 pm

It was a year (or maybe two) ago I wrote how going to yard sales can give a very interesting view on how some people fritted away money left and right on erm... c!&p, and now don't have money for basic needs like utilities, or even housing. Of course this was while I was visiting with relatives living "in the countryside" as I like to call it.

Quite possibly (make that probably) in the past year I have come across people moving out of the area I live in due to financial issues as well. But yesterday I came across one, that while they didn't say it directly, must have blown some serious wads of cash, and now had nothing but bills to show for it. It was late in the morning, so I probably missed some interesting items, but lets see - what did they have?
* Padded chair with speakers built in
* Some really expensive looking furniture
* Brand new wrought iron curtain rods and unopned very nice curtains (these are what I bought and installed in my kitchen)
* Some type of mini electric arcade (like you would find at Brookstone - are they still in business?)
* Fancy glassware
* Nice dresses
* Lots more high end bric-a-brac.
* Nice jukebox
* And last but not least - *TWO* cars sitting on the front lawn for sale. Both very high end cars, one some type of sports car, the other I think was a new BMW of some type. New fancy rims, new tires, nice and shiny. They wanted $35,000 for each one. Whew!

And the house, for this area anyway, would probably sell for $750,000 now (make that well over a million a year or two ago).

While I was looking someone that was helping this woman sell things commented "Well its not like you're going to have room for these things when you move into your condo." Yikes. While condos can be extra nice around here, most of them are just glorified apartments. Just keep the money spent on the junk I saw (and buy one reasonable used car instead of the two there) and I swear you would have enough money to pay a couple *YEARS* of mortgage payments, even on a house that size. I guess they thought the good times would never end. She even talked like she was well educated, but obviously some common sense was seriously lacking.

Prescription: Pain :(

April 14th, 2010 at 01:58 am

At least thats the pronosis going forward for me as far as I can tell. I had an X-Ray and MRI of my shoulder that has gotten terrible in the past few months, and at today's doctor appt. I figured I would hear that the rotator cuff was a mess and surgery was needed. Nope, a very minor tear, but the big issue is extreme inflamation and capsulitis. So no surgery (which is good), but a long bout with physical therapy (good I suppose, but painful). Now I need to find a therapist close to work or home, and start into the cult of pain.

I need to keep telling myself "No surgery = good prognosis", other wise I'll probably go crazy.

Gambling economics explained in a single comic strip

March 22nd, 2010 at 02:22 pm

Gambling is just one of those things I never saw the fun in. I guess its from my math background, I just know that its just a fancy way to throw away your hard earned money. A lottery isn't so bad, at least you are told up front what the odds are. But casinos are ... well... not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.

Anyway, if you feel like I do, here is the perfect comic strip to show those that think going to a casino is a great way to spend some time. You need to select Saturday March 20 to view it, and it will probably be there for only 10 days, so don't wait...

Text is Pearls Before Swine and Link is
Pearls Before Swine

A bad day ala Bliss Hunter

March 7th, 2010 at 06:27 am

Some days things don't go right. After doing early morning errands, I returned and tried to open my garage door. As I lifted it, it jamed and I hear all types of noises inside. After some effort I got it open a few feet and was able to get in. Here one of the two spring / pulley / counterweight mechanisms came totally apart, with the spring flying to the other side of the garage, and some parts on the floor. Now it is extremely hard to open the door, and without the spring there is nothing holding it back from crashing back down. I found all the parts except the pulley, so until I can find where that spun off to, I can't try to fix it (if I can even do it by myself!).

And then my Apprentice Bliss Hunter moment came a few hours after that. I had talked with a woman online off and on for a few months, and we met two weeks ago where I paid for a modest lunch, and then we talked and walked for about two hours afterwards. I had a wonderful time, it was very interesting, and she seemed to really enjoy it. When we were leaving she made a point to give me a card and wrote her cell phone number on the back. This week I got back in touch with her and as she was stressed at work, I suggested since the weather was nice this weekend, lets go to the museums Sunday. We could take some sandwiches and a drink, and have a few relaxing hours. She says "That sounds wonderful" (on Thursday), and then today (Saturday) I get the message from her that she can tell we're totally incompatible and wishes me well.

I had very little emotional baggage attached at this point, but I soooooo understand Bliss Hunter's feelings when it comes to dating. If she had been less than happy with me when we met, I could certainly understand. Not everyone connects, of course I get it. But what is it with them having the same values as you, even having good dates, then just pretending it was the opposite, not wanting to even see if something special happens? I'm not really stressed about this, as somehow I found this was going too well to be real. Still the last year has totally jaded my view towards dating. And certainly towards the cries of women that the good men aren't out there. Spare me the tears, I just ain't falling for it any more. These women have issues, and I simply don't get what they are.

Apprentice Bliss Hunter, if you're out there, you're not crazy, and you're not alone. Keep your chin up, and do what you feel makes sense, not what others tell you. In the end all you can do is make yourself happy, at least that's something.

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