Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hard To Find Any Cheer On Black Friday

So how are sales for this year's Black Friday coming along? Not too good, if the below news are anything to go by.

…but for many stores there will be little to nothing to cheer about (For stores, the holiday season may already be over; AP).

There may be a lot of traffic to stores but it is not the quantity that matters but rather the quality (Black Friday shoppers out in force, but cautious; AP).

Sure, shoppers will be out in big numbers, it is Christmas chopping season and even though the majority will cut their overall spending they don’t wish to give up the experience.

New York City has strengthened security at its subway system amid warnings of a potential terror threat during the holiday season (Feds warn of terror plotting against NYC subways; AP).
Well, Carl Icahn started his holiday shopping spree early and boosted his Yahoo stake by 6.8 Million shares to 75.6 Million or roughly 5.5% (Carl Icahn raises his stake in Yahoo; AP).

Icahn is not the only one who packed goodies in his bag as the British government took a 60% stake in RBS, the countries second largest bank (RBS to be taken over by British government; AP).

It is clear the Icahn’s Christmas list was focused on assets while the British government loaded up on liabilities.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Join The Snowflakes Revolution

The Snowflake Revolution is a collection of blogs that discuss the principles and practices of snowflaking.

Snowflaking is the concept of using small amounts of savings or earnings above and beyond our normal budget to meet our financial goals. A spinoff of the Ramsey Snowball concept, this can be used for debt reduction but it also goes beyond debt to savings, investing, and more.

If you have a blog related to the snowflaking theme, be it to debt, savings, investments, or anything else, you can join the revolution!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Make Money From Your Blog

There are many reasons why we start a blog but I am sure making money from your blog is one of the foremost motivation. It doesn't help that the blogosphere discusses the money-making aspect thoroughly and made five figure income sounds so easy.

A lot of people are tempted by the A-list blogger's lifestyle and set up their blogspot or wordpress account earnestly. Registration is free and it takes less than five minutes. Wam bam, you now have an online presence.

But now comes the hard part of making money from your blog. "If you build it, they won't come" is a common experience for many webmasters. Monetization into full time income doesn't happen overnight. In fact, it is hard work to produce content, perform search engine optimization and promote aggressively to attract traffic.

I start a blog mainly to share my opinions and I am happy to make some side money to cover my hosting and internet subscription every month. Here are four strategies which I have utilized on my blogs to earn extra money. If I can do it, so can you.

1. Sell advertising

For blogs which receive huge streams of traffic, you can do private ad sales but if your blog is lesser-known, services such as Google's AdSense or BlogAds will be helpful.

AdSense displays contextual ads based on the content of your blog and pays you based on how many readers click on the ads. It's free. BlogAds, on the other hand, hooks bloggers up with would-be advertisers and levies a commission in return for any ad placements that result.

2. Help sell others' products

Affiliate programs enable your blog to serve as a conduit between readers and online sites offering various goods and services. It allows you to make big money from your blog if you are skilful in networking and has a huge list of subscribers. One popular affiliate choice is Amazon.

When you offer book reviews or place a link to a book, readers can click directly from your blog to Amazon to find out more about the book. If the book strikes a chord, your readers may reach for their credit cards and you get paid a percentage of the sales.

3. Solicit contributions

If you are confident about your blog, you can ask for contributions and rely on the kindness of strangers. For instance, you may be supporting a cause (tax reform, health care, environment, etc.), so why not rally your regular followers for help?

Since they already enjoy reading what you have to say, they may just underwrite their loyalty with a little financial aid. Programs such as PayPal make it easy to make money from your blog by establishing a simple on-site contribution collection button.

4. Market your services in your blog

Many people think of blogs as a place to rant, shout and criticize. Indeed, blogs are an ideal venue to express and share your thoughts, but it is also a good place to hawk your goods and services.

When appropriate, mention in references to what you do and, in turn, what you can offer to potential clients/customers who may be reading your blog. That can spread your ideas and get the word out about your business at the same time.

You may be surprised at the amount of new business generated in this manner. If possible, avoid short commentaries that begin a dialogue with readers, as many blogs do, try to write the equivalent of journal articles that demonstrate your abilities, strategies and perspectives on specific issues. When it resonates, it means money.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Get Serious About Clearing Your Debts

Debts have permeated life in America so much that it is almost ridiculous. Mortgage brokers, car salesman, and credit card companies flood our mailbox every day with tempting offers. And the expansion of credit is what is causing so much of the economic woes today.

It is easy to fall into debts but clearing your debts is far from easy. It’s a shame that many Americans are debt laden(at last count, Americans have an average of 7-8 credit cards). Are such spending habits sustainable?

The hardships which arise from termination of credit lines and raising of credit card interest rates during this financial crisis drives home the fact that we should get serious, once and for all, about clearing our debts.

Credit card debts are the worst. It has the highest interest rates, aside from payday loans which you should never go near. A car loan is unnecessary too. Even if you get a good rate, you could have gone used or cheaper and skipped the loan. Save your money if you really want a brand new car.

Some debt is okay to have though, such as a mortgage. Unless you have your own business, this is really the only debt you should ever have. If you have good credit, you can put down a nice down-payment and have a low interest rate.

To clear your debts, it’s important to eradicate reckless money mistakes. Debt is a heavy burden, and the faster you pay it off, the better.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is Spending Our Way Out of Recession Right?

I saw this article written by jeflin and have been wondering if spending our way out of recession is the right thing to do.

Taking on more debts to put money into the hands of consumers and businesses, in the hope of reviving the economy may be hard to comprehend for some, isn't America in a glory shit hole because of all the debts amassed. What if it cannot service its interest obligations or other countries like China and Japan have had enough and start dumping their Treasury notes?

Granted, debts is what got us into the current mess. Everybody has huge debts from nations, corporations down to the individuals. It is scary that US debts was less than 50 trillion dollars in 2005 and today has ballooned to twice the amount because of all the bailout.

Consumers are also burdened with huge debts in the form of credit cards, auto loans and the ultimate killer, mortgage loans. Coupled with unscrupulous mortgage brokers and investment banks, all these debts are packaged into CDOs and sold to unsuspecting investors.

The housing crisis has caused a lot of houses to be underwater (ie. valuation worth less than the mortgages) and could bring about a wave of foreclosures as owners walk away with little more than a bankruptcy name but leaving banks to abosrb the losses.

But sadly, almost all weapons in the Federal Reserve have been exhausted. It is a path not without danger, to raise more debts in a stimulus package, but the cost of inaction by doing nothing could be far worse. We are a few whiskers away from the Great Depression 2.

The way things have panned out in the stock markets and global economy, the recession is likely to get worse if left unchecked. Already, there are heavy retrenchments going on, Citigroup announced 52000 layoffs, a record number of job loss in recent times. This will shrink Citigroup's work force by 15 percent, and are in addition to 23,000 jobs eliminated between January and September.

I can't blame Citigroup. They hope to slash expenses by as much as 20 percent and having lost $20.3 billion in the past year, it is not expected to return to profitability until 2010. In fact, with Citigroup's stock value plunging, there is a strong possibility of a sale of all or parts of the company.

The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. I am in support of the stimulus package and spending our way out of recession. Too bad, that we did not accumulate reserves during the fat years and now when we really open up our wallets and spend, we should not shy away and start to hoard money.

Get our finances in order and cut down debts when times are good, not in times of recession.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Contact Me

I always enjoy comments and suggestions, as well as stories of personal finance.

To contact me, please email barryritz[at]ymail[dot]com.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Family Money Management Involves Agreement

Are you entrenched in debts or surviving on payday loans? You should start on a household budget soon, if you don't want creditors banging down your door. For that budget to work, your household members have to be in total agreement.

family money management

Money conflicts happen when you are a frugalisit while your spouse loves shopping and racking up credit card debts. Creating a household budget is meaningless as it won't work, instead there will only be nasty quarrels and fights.

Before you get a household budget going, here are some steps which you can implement.

1. Discuss Money Management Objectives

Take a seat at the kitchen table and get a piece of paper ready. Make a list of long-term money management objectives that both of you agree upon.

It can be getting out of debt, contributing to a college fund for the kids, or bulking up on a retirement fund. Alternatively, you may want to save up for seminars, courses, training which could raise your earnings power.

2. Start Working On The Household Budget

Once you tabled the objectives, start working on the household budget. Decide how much you need to save monthly to meet your objectives. Then, subtract this from your monthly income to see how much you have left over to spend.

Next, subtract your “secured” debt. Typically, this would be your mortgage payments, car payments, or any loans secured by an asset such as your house or vehicle.

The last part is to analyze your other expenses and unsecured debts. For example, your clothing, transportation, food, membership fees, spa treatments, credit card debts -- as these are the usual areas where you can make cuts.

Once again, reach a consensus on where those reductions can be made. If your spouse loves fashion; clothing and shoes are her lifeblood. You know the rest of the story when she is not happy with the way you broach this sensitive topic.

3. Find A Compromise

Compromise on the household budget as it is unlikely that you achieve your objectives straightaway. Arrive at a spending limit which your spouse agrees is fair, even if it is some way off your desired figure. Then, look for another category where you can make cuts to get your final household budget number down to where it needs to be.

4. Make Fortnightly Reviews

Sit down with your spouse twice a month to review your household budget to see if the goals are achievable. You will find that you're under in some categories and over in others. Don't worry about making adjustments at this time. Just make notes as to where you need to buck up.

5. Be Flexible And Make Adjustments

After the first two months, you should know where you've been spending more than you budgeted and where you've spent less. The two of you can then discuss what adjustments you need to make. There should not much arguments since the objectives are agreed and the household budget created together.

The important thing is to keep the discussions from becoming accusatory. If one of you has been the “household budget breaker,” it's better to ask “it looks like we've got a problem here, what to you think we can we do to fix it?” then to say, “you really screwed up this time.”

What can you do if you or your spouse just can't control his or her spending and keeps busting the household budget, month after month? Unfortunately that's an issue that probably needs the work of a good marriage counselor.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aussies In World's List Of Poorest

Australia is a developed country but can you believe that its people, or to be exact, retirees, are the fourth poorest in the developed world? According to a report on poverty, the nation has the poorest unemployed people of any developed nation.

Aussies In World's List Of Poorest

The key findings in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development report revealed that:

1. Half the single retirees are living in poverty (defined as less than 50 per cent of average earnings).

2. 27% of all our retirees are living in poverty.

3. Number of single pensioners in poverty has risen by 4.8% in the last decade.

4. Unemployed are worse off than pensioners -- being rated as the poorest in any developed nation.

The pensioner poverty rate is a real disgrace and underlined the failure of the government. As for the unemployed, there is a sobering message with the number set to rise by 200,000 due to the economic turmoil.

The Rudd Government has moved to boost pension incomes this year, introducing a $500 allowance that is paid quarterly and raising the telephone allowance to $132 a year. Last week it announced a one-off $1400 lump sum pre-Christmas bonus for single pensioners and $2100 for couples to boost consumer spending. It also has an inquiry under way into raising the rate of the single pension currently set at $281 a week.

The unemployed have $50 a week less to live off than aged pensioners and they were left out of the Government's recent economic rescue package.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Barack Obama: Give Him Your Money

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How Capitalism Will Save Us?

The Depression was actually triggered by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1929--30, which imposed massive taxes on countless imports. Other countries retaliated in kind. The global trading system collapsed. International capital flows dried up.

How Capitalism Will Save Us?

The legislative history of Smoot-Hawley is instructive. When it first surfaced in Congress during the fall of 1929, the stock market cratered. When near the end of 1929 it appeared that Smoot-Hawley was being sidetracked, stocks rallied, ending the year almost where they had begun. But then in early 1930 Smoot-Hawley resurfaced, and stocks resumed their slide, which continued after Smoot-Hawley was signed into law that June.

A devastating global contraction ensued. Compounding that error was the U.S.' giant tax increase in 1932. President Herbert Hoover thought a balanced budget would restore confidence. The top income tax rate was raised from 25% to 63%. Hoover even legislated an excise tax on checks--you had to pay Uncle Sam a fee every time you wrote a check.

Not surprisingly, strapped consumers withdrew massive amounts of cash from banks in order to conduct their business, which put even more stress on troubled banks. This check tax was one of the factors leading to the bank closures of 1933. The huge tax increase deepened the U.S. economic slump.

Read the full article here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Interesting Money Blog Snippets #1

1. Global Stock Markets - Halloween Relief?

Here is Richard Russell’s (Dow Theory Letters) take on matters: “Things are looking better. After a series of 90% down-days, we had a 90% up-day on Tuesday, October 28. Since then, the market action has been fairly good. With bonds appearing to have topped out, I’m beginning to think that there’s a fairly good chance the market has bottomed. Adding to the bullish case, Lowry’s published a significant contraction in selling pressure today.”

2. Bear's Last Stand

Yes, I now believe the ultimate low is already in. We're still in a bottoming process but the low will not be violated and we're set to have a really good multiyear rally.

The BEAR is dead, for good. This is "Bears' Last Stand" and the hole underneath them just busted wide open and they are falling in one by one. Sucked in like the Black Hole sucks anything in. Their fate is sealed. Goodbye Elliott Wavers.

3. The Rise And Fall of Nokia

Nokia investors have experienced a very wild ride in a short period since the start of 2006. From a low near $16, Nokia rose to $40 per share in two years (though not exceeding is 2000 split-adjusted $55 high) and then has spent the better part of 2008 in virtually total free-fall.

I did want to point out a larger “accumulation-distribution” pattern (or cycle) that was evident in the stock.

4. Flush DBS High Notes 5 Down The Drain

Let’s take a leaf out of J.P. Morgan, Jr’s philosophy of wanting his bank to be known for ‘doing only first-class business… in a first-class way.’ This is a statement he made before the Sub-Committee of the Committee on Banking and Currency of the U.S. Senate in 1933.

5. Rate Cut May Be Too Late For Baby-boomers

The rate cut may be too late for the baby boomers …

As many baby boomers are facing retirement, this recent meltdown in the stock market has put many in a precarious position. Money they had counted on for their golden years has quickly disappeared and will not likely return anytime soon.