Friday, March 31, 2006

ING now 4.00% APY...

Looks like ING has bumped up their normal savings rate to 4.00% APY. Seems like a weak move compared to all of the other rates out there. I'm surprised, it is such a small move compared to their promotional 4.75% winter save up sale, which started on January 19th and will be ending April 15th.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Federal fund rate takes a hike!

The Federal Reserve hiked the federal funds rate one quarter point today up to 4.75%. That's the highest it's been since April of 2001. That's also the 15th time in a row they've done the quarter point move. The prime lending rate has also moved up to 7.75%. Expert predictions say there will only be between one and three more hikes ranging from 5 to 5.5% . The hikes make me nervous and excited at the same time, I'm excinervous. When I think of how these raises will affect me, some catagories make me happy, some neutral and some worrysome. Let's see, in the happy catagory we have our savings and future money market accounts, nothing but good news there, keeping hiking! In the neutral catagory we have credit cards, eh, we only have a few with low and pretty decent interest rates. We hardly carry balances, and the rates are very negotiable. Now the worrysome catagory...our mortgage. We have a 5/1 A.R.M. Ya see, before getting married 1.5 years ago, we wanted a house, but wasn't able to afford a decent one in the midst of the housing boom. We decided to save up for one in the early years of our marriage and wait until the market deflated a bit. We also decided we didn't want to rent in the mean time, felt it was a waste of money. We saved up a bit of cash and settled for 20% down on a low priced condo. We got the mortgage thinking we'd be containing some of our money and even making it grow. We'd also have low payments which would help us save. We plan on selling it before the arm is up, or at least until one year after it, during the first cap. But what are the interest rates going to be like in 2009? And the housing prices for that matter? Eek. Another item in this catagory are our I-Bonds, purchased in October and currently 4.80%. With inflation trying to be controlled by these hikes, there are rumors the fixed rate will drop to 0%, and could go even lower? Yikes! And i'm not quite sure what higher rates do to the market, but what about my stocks?! I think I need to analyze other positive factors about the rate hikes to help sooth myself....another post perhaps.

Money Blogger Podcast Update...

Episode 11 of the Money Blogger Podcast was released lastnight. In this interview he talks with Seattle Simplicity of..um, well...Seattle Simplicity! It's not often I come accross a blog where a person generates an above average income, and lives their life simple and even frugal. Check it out!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What will $300K buy in Clifton New Jersey?

I realize this subject is now one week old, but it looks like it's still alive. I feel it's a good opportunity to represent ma hood. JLP from All Things Financial asked, what will approximately $300,000 buy in your neighborhood? Well, unfortunately Passaic and Bergen County seem to be hot property in New Jersey. The house prices seem too inflated. This is what $305,000 will buy you in Clifton New Jersey... Ooops, that's what I WISH I could be buy 305k. I'd have to scrape up another 345k for that one. Again, unfortunately this is what I'll have to settle for...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Money Blogger Podcast Update...

In episode 10 of the Money Blogger Podcast, Scott interviews Jane Dough of Boston Gals Open Wallet. Another good interview with another shining star in the pf blogging community. I was suprised that I didn't detect the infamous New England accent, or as they say "Bastan accent." Check it out!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sitting on the biggest nest egg...

Thanks to Kara McGuire over @ Ka-Blog for finding the "A.G. Edwards Nest Egg Index." The "Nest Egg Index" ranks America's top 200 performing communities and the 50 states based on residents' personal savings, investing behavior and how well they nurture their nest eggs. The index is based on the average score being 100. And surprisingly my state, New Jersey, was #1 with an index rating of 114.35. The highest city was San Jose with a score of 128.37. Their methodology for the index was based on 12 statistical factors that affect or influence personal savings habits including…
  • Savings propensity (proportion of households in the area that have a savings product of any type – e.g., regular savings account, CD, IRA)
  • 401(k) retirement plan penetration
  • Non-401(k) retirement savings plan penetration (e.g. pension plans)
  • Investing propensity (proportion of households in the area that have any investment product or service, excluding 401(k) plans)
  • Net worth
  • Owner-occupied housing value
  • First mortgage balance
  • Personal debt level
  • Home Ownership
  • Household income
  • Cost of living
  • Local employment rate
You may already know this but it does also mention that America has a negative 0.7% savings rate which is the lowest in the industiralized world, down from 12.5% in 1981. That's the lowest since the depression. Keep learning and improving your financial knowledge and spread the word!

Brace for the ripple...

Looks like the slow down in the home market will be affecting the job market as well. Not surprisingly home sales have declined nationwide for the past five months. And as the housing market slows, so will the appeal for it. That means that the thousands of people that filled the real estate related jobs during the boom (appraisers, mortgage brokers, home construction workers, etc.) will have to find a new line of work. Almost 4 out of every 10 jobs created in the past four years were in housing related fields. The housing boom helped the economy out of the last recession. As of last year, 9.8% of American workers were employed in the real estate industry, that's a record up from 8.2% about 10 years ago. It's too early to tell how the industry will react, but they are already seeing signs of it. Washington Mutual will be closing 10 mortgage processing centers and fire 2,500 employees. Back in November Ameriquest laid off 1,500 people. Home sales are expected to fall 8% from last years record say some economists. On a positive note a Cheif economist @ JP Morgan says they "don't expect housing to completely collapse." They predict a few things that may help the impact to the economy. The commercial building market is experiencing an upswing. 768,000 people have jobs in this sector, the most in 3 years. Hurricanes last year destroyed or damaged over 700,000 homes on the gulf coast. 25% of the outstanding mortgages in the 4th quarter were adjustable rate mortages. That means that many homeowners will be refinancing in the months and years ahead to lock into a fixed rate mortage. We'll see....

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Bernanke talks, and the market walks...

Looks like Bernanke will be giving a speech Monday evening that may affect the market for the week to come. Recent data shows a lower consumer price index (CPI) than expected, which made people think twice about future interest rate hikes. The futures market expect the federal fund rate to peak at 5% in may instead of 5.25% in June, which was anticipated earlier this week. The "Federal Open Markets Committee" will be meeting on March 27th and 28th which will be the first meeting with Bernanke. Everyone anticipates a raise up one quarter percent to 4.75%. One expert says the market wants to hear that economic growth is slowing or that inflation is under control. He also says if the market thinks the fed may stop the raises at 5% which would cause major indexes to extend their near five year highs. I'll be anxiously watching...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Social Class Matters...

While making my daily scan of the pf bloggers out there I came accross something interesting @ Hedonic Adjustment.The post lead me to a special section of the New York Times online called "Class Matters." It's a bit old, but interesting to me, and maybe a few others out there. It has many good and interesting articles, graphs and charts on class and what the American people perceive about it. I've always slightly wondered what class I fit into, and according to this "Class Analyzer" i'm in the 63rd percentile on the class component scale. Oh well, back to work for me...

Emigrant Direct Savings Up To 4.50% APY!

Looks like Emigrant raised their rate for savings from 4.25% up to 4.50% today! The specs are still the same, no fees or minimums, it can be opened online, etc. They say no minimums, but it seems people in the pf blogging community have had some issues with that. In particular Cap over at "Stop Buying Crap" had an interesting story to tell about it. I noticed they also have a deals on CD's now, 5%. But they give you a choice from 18 months to 10 years, uh, 5% for a CD for 18 months doesn't seem so tempting to me, and I wouldn't even think about 10 years. This poses a small dilemma for me. Once ING's winter save up sale is through April 15th, where to put my money? Back in my Emigrant account, or open a new Virtual bank money market account @ 4.60% apy? Is .10% or approximately $25-$50 a year worth the hassel? Hm, maybe.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Money Blogger Podcast Update...

Episode 9 was released last night featuring JLP from "AllThingsFinancial" on the Money Blogger Podcast. Another great interview with one of the most prominent PF bloggers out there. He's been blogging since October of 2004, and is part of the some what new, and growing "Money Blog Network" In the interview I learned that JLP carries a degree in finance, and works in that sector as well. His site is full of great links and information on personal finance, investing, real estate, debt control, etc. Check em' out!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Free Starbucks Coffee...

Not a bad deal if you're a Starbucks fan... Get FREE brewed coffee during "Starbucks Coffee Break" on March 15 from 10 a.m. to noon. A Starbucks press release says: "Starbucks will host its first-ever Starbucks Coffee Break, inviting customers across the country to enjoy a complimentary cup of freshly brewed coffee. In stores and on street corners, from insulated brewing equipment and giant coffee backpacks, partners (employees) will pour tall (12-ounce) cups of coffee to surprise customers and delight commuters."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Aggregate This!

While I was wandering around pfblogs.org today I noticed that they have a little quote box in the upper right hand corner. And it looks like I'm one of the featured blogs! It's the little things in life....

Friday, March 10, 2006

The 2006 worlds richest people!

It's that time of year again, Forbes compilation of the worlds richest people. Not so surpisingly the list of Billionaires has increased by 102 people up to 793, which is an all time record! They found the average net worth is $3.3 Billion dollars, and their combined wealth is $2.6 Trillion, which is up 18% since last March. The worlds Billionaires have come a long way since 1986 increasing 653 among their ranks. They attribute this surge to strong stock markets around the world (with us being the exception). America leads the way with 44 new Billionaires, and makes up nearly half of the list of the worlds Billionaires, with Bill Gates hanging on at the top of the list. The second runner up was India with 10 new Billionaires, with help from the sensex market which up 54% in the past 12 months. China added 4 new billionaires which is double of what they had last year. Russia grew 7 new Billionaires this year up to 33 in total, equalling $173 Billion. Their RTS stock exchange was up 108%, nice. Those are the juicy bits.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tax refunds getting fatter...

Uncle Sam says that tax refunds are up almost 5% this year to $2,480 from $2,371 a year ago. They found that is the case with all of the refunds issued so far this year. A recent survey shows that fewer people will be using the refund on "big ticket" items this year, 7% down from 16% in 2003. More people said they will save and invest their money this year, 38% up from 31%. That's good news, I hope this the start of a new trend.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Money Blogger Podcast Update...

MBP released episode #8 lastnight. He interviews Madame X from "My Open Wallet" in what seems to be his longest interview yet. Check it out!

Monday, March 06, 2006

March Net Worth...

Looks like it's that time of the month. Time to calculate our net worth and do a little analyzation. I keep track of our net worth in a excel document..March_Net_Worth.xls (15kb) Not a bad increase for 27 days. I was thinking about waiting until the 30 day mark which would be more of a round figure to represent an average month...and have an extra paycheck by then. But I was a bit too anxious since I've never consistantly compiled a net worth monthly before. The figures might've been a bit higher, but we had a nice vacation this month with out of town relatives, which equals more spending than usual. I think we can do better taking into account our net income for the month, and the small unnecessary expenditures. Bankrate.com has some very informative articles on net worth. I think they're worth a look.

Finance I.Q.

Ever wonder how well you know the world of finance? I was cuirious myself so I went looking for one of those interesting little tests online to find out. I came accross the Scorelogix.com "Finance I.Q. Test" It's a test that consists of 8 pages with 5 questions on each page. The range of questions is pretty decent, but it seemed to weigh more with the tougher questions in finance in my opinion. It has a nice easy question like... "Which term describes a company sponsored savings plan in which employees can invest part of their earnings in a retirement plan?" Up to something like "Which would be a typical use of LIBOR?" It took about 10 to find out that my knowledge is "Average" which they consider a "financial survior" Whatever that's supposed to mean...grumble. If you're interested in taking the quiz/test, you'll have to do the basic registration. There's no charge, it's free. Check it out and let me know what you think. Scorelogix Finance IQ Score Range 1-50: Poor (Financial Novice) 51-80: Below Average (Financial Struggler) 81-110: Average (Financial Survivor) 111-150: Above Average (Financial Star) 151-200: Superior (Financial Genius)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Financial excitement....

When recently reviewing our financial status to update our net worth for the month of March, I noticed something exciting. We're only 4 months/payments away from paying off my car loan! That's $242.47 less to pay, worry about, stress about, and use our precious time on, every month! That's approximately $8 more in our pockets every day, $60 a week, $242 a month, and $2,909.64 a year! Plus roughly $130 in extra interest per year. (Virtual Bank's 4.50% MMK account) It's more exciting than the time I refinanced this loan from a 8.90% interest rate to a nice low 3.99% rate, saving us approximately $680 a year! Oh well, still too soon to celebrate. But it's a nice thought.....

Saturday, March 04, 2006

PFblog shout out....

Are you looking for Personal Finance Blog heaven? A place that is a ad free aggregator for personal finance, real estate and investing blogs? A place that shows updated entries for 240 weblogs every 10 minutes?! Look no further than PFBLOGS.ORG.