Lazy Online Banking

This week’s reader question comes from Binary Dollar. He is covering the question of what to look for in an online bank account. My contribution wasn’t as thorough as some of the other answers because I setup our online bank account more on a whim than as a result of exhaustive research.

ING Direct
We keep our emergency fund in an ING Direct account. I wasn’t very scientific about the way I chose to go with ING over the other alternatives. A friend at work had a coupon that gave a $50 bonus for opening an account with ING Direct. I was sick of the 2% interest we were getting in our money market several years ago so I opened an account with ING Direct and moved the money over there.

Status Quo for Now
It seems to me that the biggest differentiator between different online savings accounts is the interest rate they offer. I considered moving the money from ING Direct several times to different accounts but the small rate difference wasn’t worth the time and hassle in my opinion. Our finances are pretty much automated as far as direct deposit, online bill pay, and automatic investments so I don’t like to mess with it unless I stand to save or make a good sum of money. For now I’m happy with ING Direct but I am going to look into 4-week T-bills and tax exempt money market funds that Sun and SVB suggest.


Two Ways to Grow Your Business Income

TuesdayMorningI’m excited to announce that I’m working on a strategy to double the amount of money our little eBay business brings in!

Until now the amount of money I’ve been able to make on eBay has been constrained by two main resources, products and time. Over the last week, I think I’ve made progress on both of these constraints.

Finding More Products
Thanks to Generation X Finance, I checked out a store called Tuesday Morning last week and was excited with what I found. As the image shows, they sell new products for 50 – 80% off retailer prices. With the additional markdowns I saw in the store, I can buy items for as low as 90% off retail price!

I’ve been limited to one main source of products that can be hit or miss on the deals. Although the margins may be somewhat lower for stuff from Tuesday Morning, it should provide the consistent source of products I’ve been looking for. In addition they have items I wouldn’t find at my other source, adding variety.

Finding More Time
Once I get the products home my biggest challenge has been finding the time to put them up for sale on eBay. My family and career obligations aren’t changing any, just the way I make use of my free time, i.e. 10 PM – 2 AM.

Thanks to some ideas from the book 4 – Hour Work Week, I’m going to try and hire some help to get my backlog of products out on the web. If my spreadsheet calculations hold true, I’ll more than make up the cost of paying others by the increase of sales volume I hope to achieve.

Growing the Business Income
My current projections are that a new source of products combined with listing these products for sale in a more timely fashion should double the monthly income our eBay store generates. Time will tell; I’ll let you know how it goes.

One thing I have been researching is inventory tracking and management software to help manage the increase in products. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them.


How Can You Save Money on Kids – Festival of Frugality

I’ll be hosting the Festival of Frugality next week. Submissions for any articles on being frugal are welcome but I’m particularly interested in tips on how to save money on kids.

Our little guy is just under a year old and can cost us a pretty penny at times. Any articles on ways to save money when buying for young kids would be fabulous! Of course if you have different frugal insights please share them as well. You can submit your articles here, be sure to check back next week for the festival!


Good News for American Century Mutual Fund Investors

As an investor in American Century mutual funds I was disappointed when I read about a month ago that the fund company was changing its funds to load funds.

My wife’s retirement account is with American Century so I knew it was going to be a hassle to find and switch to another fund company. Plus, we’ve been investing in American Century Equity Income Fund (TWEIX) for several year now and have been pleased with its performance. However, I’m not a believer in the fees that load funds charge so I called in yesterday to inquire about switching the accounts.

I was pleased to discover that any person that invests directly into an American Century mutual fund before the last week in September will not be subject to the load fees now or in the future. Basically, any existing investors will be grandfathered in and won’t have to pay the load. My guess is they didn’t want to chase away existing investors but wanted to implement a load so this is their approach.

This is good news for us. We’ll be rolling my wife’s 403b into a Vanguard IRA at some point in the future after she stops working. Now we won’t have to hassle with finding a new fund company in between. No load fees, no hassle, good news!


Personal Finance Mid Week Review – Free Stuff Edition

Five Cent Nickel has been writing about personal finance for two years now and is giving away free iPods and other goodies to celebrate!

The Digerati Life tells us 10 Ways To Organize and Simplify Your Finances.

Free Money Finance warns us about the greatest enemy of a good investment plan.

Binary Dollar offers a tip on a good way to pay off our mortgage early.

Generation X wraps up his 24 Signs You Could be in Financial Trouble series with the final post ignoring the signs.

The Frugal Duchess gives tips on bargaining for furniture & electronics. Our neighbors did this just last weekend to get a great deal on a TV at Best Buy.

The Simple Dollar talks about setting and reaching short-term and intermediate-term financial goals. I imagine we’ll soon see an article on long-term financial goals to round it out.

Blogging Away Debt tells us how she makes extra money for her family.

This mid week review is a new edition to the lineup. I’d typically been doing a weekly summary of personal finance articles but there are so many to mention that the weekly list was getting pretty long. I decided to break it up into twice a week and smaller lists, enjoy!


4-Hour Work Week – A New Way of Valuing Your Income

Warning: Do Not Read This Book Unless You Want to Quit Your Job

I knew I was in trouble when I read this on the back cover of the 4 – Hour Work Week. I’ve been beat up with high stress and long hours at work the last few weeks so quitting is a tempting option.

I’m not ready to jump ship just yet but The 4 – Hour Work Week has me looking at things a little differently in the office recently. The author, Timothy Ferriss, provides an interesting approach for valuing the income you receive based on the work you do.

He suggests four items to help value the money you earn:

  • What You Do
  • Where You Do It
  • When You Do It
  • Whom You Do it With

If you’re in control of all four W’s then you have much more freedom in your life and it’s easier to live with lower monetary compensation. I definitely earn decent money in my current job but the only W I have some control over is when, and that’s only because my hours are somewhat flexible.

This view on the relationship between the income you earn and the freedom you have resonates with me and the theme of this site. Earning a good salary is definitely important to meeting my financial goals but I need to look more closely at the four W’s in the future and evaluate the third of my life that I spend at work. How about you? How many of the four W’s do you control?


Personal Finance Decision Guide – 1st Edition

Simplifying Your Personal Finance
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Personal Finance Decision Guide! Read more about the goals and strategy behind the decision guide here. Then check out the articles listed below to help you focus on simplifying your personal finances by making one decision at a time. If you’ve written about a personal finance decision, you can submit your analysis or experience to the guide.

Investing
-Technical Analysis Versus Fundamental Analysis
-Actively Managed vs. Index Funds
-Investing: Real Estate vs. Stock Market
-Stocks vs. Real Estate

Retirement
-Roth 401k vs. Regular 401k
-Roth IRA or Regular IRA

Real Estate
-Pros/Cons: 15 Year Mortgage vs. 30 Year
-When Renting is Better Than Buying a Home

Insurance
-HSA vs HMO Analysis

Debt
-Paying Cash vs Going Into Debt: Looking at the Numbers
-A New Look at Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

Taxes
-Tax Talk: ETF vs Mutual Funds
-Passive vs. Active Management – Tax Effect
-Tax Credit vs. Tax Deduction

Consumer Spending
-Shopping small versus big- Mom and Pop vs. Big Box Stores


What Do These Ladies Obsess About?

I failed to pass the torch in my recent post covering the things I obsess about so I’m rectifying that now. I read Amanda’s post on the gender salary gap and thought I’d help spread the awareness of the continued inequality by choosing several different sites run by women.

So I’d like to know. What do these ladies obsess about?


Personal Finance Week in Review – Bachelor Party Edition

T-R-O-U-B-L-E, that’s how you spell bachelor party! Actually a friend’s bachelor party this weekend should be pretty tame. Just a bunch of guys that haven’t seen each other in a while getting together to catch up and celebrate. I’m sure no one will get arrested since George won’t be at this party :) . While we’re out partying it up you can catch up on some good personal finance articles.

Gen X Finance says you’re in trouble if you don’t have Financial Goals.

Five Cent Nickel warns we may have to pay $4 a gallon for gas.

Binary Dollar discusses Home Equity Loans & Taxes.

Jim takes the Devil’s Advocate approach to rolling over your 401k.

Lazy Man talks about the Income Divide in our country.

Free Money Finance looks at the cost of owning vs renting.

The Digerati Life compares Fundamental vs Technical Analysis of stocks.

My Money Blog tells us about renting out your credit score.

The Sun asks how we compare to the National Savings Rate.

The Simple Dollar talks about money lessons for kids.

Money, Matter, & More hosts the Festival of Frugality: Definitions of Frugality.

Mighty Bargain Hunter wonders if a jump in home foreclosures is an investing opportunity.


Personal Finance Ultimate Fighting Championship

Are you imagining two guys in a cage fighting for the championship? Where does personal finance fit into this picture? Well the cage is actually this website, the two guys are you readers, and the prize is honor & glory.

The Concept
Inspired by a mixture of Devil’s Advocate and Guest Writer Days I’ve decided to introduce a new series here at Money Smart Life. Most personal finance topics have two sides and I know that many of you readers have something to say about one or the other.

I’ll publish a topic, for example, Renting vs. Owning a Home and two readers that have something to say on the subject will send me a guest post defending or reasoning why one is better than the other based on their personal experience. In order to provide both sides of the equation we’ll need one post for each side.

The Details
This idea is still being hatched so I’m looking for feedback on the details. I’d publish the concept two weeks before it was planned to go live. Anyone interested in arguing their case would contact me with the side they wished to present. The two competitors would have a week to write their views and submit them to me as guest posts. I would publish them either both on the same day, or one Monday and one Tuesday. If only one person submits a guest post, I’ll argue the opposite of whatever position they take.

A new set of head-to-head articles would be published every two weeks. The name of the series is yet to be determined, I just thought the Ultimate Fighting Championship would be a good eye catcher to get some initial feedback; I’m looking for suggestions for the name.

As I mentioned before, the prize is the honor and glory of convincing the world that you’re a personal finance guru. We could vote on the winner via comments or a poll, or we could just let everyone decide in their own minds which approach they prefer and works best for them.

The Feedback
So what are your thoughts? Leave some comments about what you think will work and what could use some tweaking. Thanks!



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