November 2008 Monthly Archive
Posted by Cap in Stop Buying Crap!
on November 26, 2008 | 7 Comments
Mmm… it’s almost Black Friday, and you know what that means — it’s make or break time for retailers. With news of consumer spending dropping a full 1% in October, consumers should more than ever be out at the retail stores, saving the economy from the brinks of utter collapse.
Unfortunately for my local retailers, I’ll be doing what I’ve always been doing for the past few years on Black Friday: staying at home, eating leftovers, and sleeping in. Super sweet.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Blasted Cap. Always a cheap ass and never a generous spender. The economy could be falling apart and Cap will be at home, wrapped in a blanket while eating Cap’n Crunch cereal (it’s getting chilly in Southern California, temperature hitting low 60s).
It’s not my fault, honest.
I mean, I would love to go out there, make my dollars work and save Circuity City from the sorrowing abyss of pink sheets hell; but alas, I have no one to buy gifts for.
As much as I like to tout about friends and family in recent days, truth be told, I’ve done enough damage through the years and have driven away many people.
And there you have it, Cap’s secret sauce to keeping spending in check during the holidays: piss off your friends and loved ones so you don’t have to buy gifts for any of them.
Haha. I’m just kidding.
…or am I?
top photo credit: J. McPherson
Posted by Cap in Personal Finance
on November 24, 2008 | 3 Comments
You might be wondering why your pal Cap is so corny these days. Truth be told, as I get older, it becomes harder to be a wise-cracking, sarcastic moron poking fun at all things in life (although being an ass means I’ll keep trying). One thing is for sure, my goal in reaching financial independence is the same now as it was years ago, and will remain the same years later: to provide for my family and loved ones.
You’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of financial tips from personal finance blogs. Don’t just read them, take some action. If most of us average-Joe personal finance bloggers can pay off our debt, fund our retirements, and reach our financial goals or dreams — you can too. Print out these reminders or write your own today.
Have a reminder to share? Please leave a comment.
Posted by Cap in Credit Related
, Personal Finance
on November 24, 2008 | 4 Comments
Consumer Reports took out an ad space on Monday’s USA Today, reminding us all to be a little bit wiser with our credit cards during this difficult holiday season:
From [Money & Shopping Blog] and [Adrants].
Posted by Cap in Miscellaneous
on November 23, 2008 | 49 Comments
Bank of America’s new envelope-less ATMs have actually been around for awhile now (probably over two years), but they weren’t widely available in my area until a couple of months ago.
Although I’ve always tried to keep my banking online (because heading into the sunlight burns my dungeon dwelling skin) — I occasionally still get a few pesky checks in the mail. As I was depositing some checks into the ATM a few days ago, I decided to snap a few picture for those of you that have yet to encountered these new ATMs:
Here are some pros and cons that I’ve observed from using these new ATMs:
- Instant scan and image of checks printed on receipt.
- Not having to lick those envelopes anymore.
- Fast for single check deposits into single account.
- Cash deposits gets credited immediately.
- If you have to deposit multiple checks into multiple accounts (businesses), prepare to enjoy the machine’s company as the machine takes only one check at a time (disregard picture above as that was just an example).
- If the machine eats your check without spitting it back out properly, you’ll be dealing with a lot of hassles trying to resolve the issue.
- If the machine takes your cash but didn’t credit the amount properly, you’ll be in for a world of headache.
Despite their myriad of fees and often shoddy services (or lack thereof), I’ve kept a Bank of America checking account open for years mainly because of the massive amount of locations Bank of America has — after all it’s pretty darn convenient to be thousands of miles away from home but still have access to fee-free ATMs.
These new ATMs can certainly be convenient, but I dread the day when I have to deposit more than 5 checks at the machine or have the machine gulp down the cash deposits but improperly crediting them.
If you’re a fellow Bank of America
slave customer and have something to say about the “new” ATMs, feel free to chime in.
Posted by Cap in Miscellaneous
on November 23, 2008 | No Comments
Some of you may remember the post I wrote about a month ago on Tip’d, a new portal for financial news. The site launched fully launched earlier last week after a month of beta testing. If you’re a financial news junky and you haven’t tried out Tip’d yet, now’s as good of a time as any.
The community currently has about 2,000 registered users, with many more financial news and tidbits already “tipded.” Each week, I’ll try to highlight a few interesting things I find via Tip’d and other social network sites in the weekly roundup. You can find me lurking on Tip’d as Cap, so feel free to add me as a friend if you’re a Tip’d user.
Posted by Cap in Credit Related
, How To's and Guides
on November 20, 2008 | 4 Comments
Did you came here searching for information on FICA score? What you’re looking for is actually a FICO score, which can be found at sites such as Equifax Score Watch.
It was Friday night and I was browsing the web, reading financial tidbits and news (yeah this is how every cool 20-something rolls during the weekend) — I noticed that there was a large confusion online between the financial terms of FICO and FICA.
To make matters worse, a quick search on Google shows that many websites use the term FICA score interchangeably with the term FICO score, without clearing up the difference between these two completely unrelated financial terms.
As my weekend web trolling is already going so well, why not write a post to clear up the misconception? This will for sure make the weekend extra cool. After all, who needs to go out when there’s blogging to be done!?
What is FICA?
FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contribution Act. Without going into too much history about Social Security and Medicare, FICA basically mandates that you and your employer contribute a percentage of your income to this tax, in order to fund the aforementioned Social Security and Medicare.
For those that may not know, Social Security provides income to retirees, people with disability, and some other select groups of people, while Medicare provides for medical insurance coverage to persons over age of 65 and again, other select groups of people.
And that’s what the 6.2% of your paycheck goes to (your employer pays the other 6.2%). If you’re a student being employed by the educational institution you’re attending, rejoice, you’re an exception to the FICA tax!
If you happen to be self-employed, your FICA contribution will be split to 12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare. There are of course exceptions to this rule, whether you’re self-employed or a regular wage-earner. You can read more about these exceptions in the resource of links below.
But that’s about the gist of the term “FICA” and how it matters to you. So does FICA have anything to do with credit score or is there even such a thing as a FICA score?
To clear the acronym confusion up, read on.
What is a FICO Score?
A FICO score is a credit score, which in short is a score providing a grade on your overall credit worthiness. A true, legitimate FICO score can be purchased from Fair Issac Corporation at myFICO.com or with the Equifax Score Watch monthly plan. The score ranges from 300 to 850 — the higher your score the better your overall creditworthiness and likelihood to receive favorably interest rate when applying for a loan (home, auto, etc.).
These scores are formulated with data from your credit reports. Because you have three major credit reports from three different major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian), you may have three slightly different FICO scores.
Factors in your FICO score:
- 35% – Payment history
- 30% – Amounts owed
- 15% – Length of credit history
- 10% – New type of credit
- 10% – Types of credit used
In short, if you have a positive payment history (never paying late), your amounts of balances on your accounts are low, and you have a long history of positive accounts — then you most likely have a super credit score.
Those are the only factors of your FICO credit score. Your sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, age, salary, occupation, and residency location will NOT be factors determining your score. If its not in your credit report, then it’s not a factor.
Importance of FICO Scores
So why are FICO scores important and why are there so many people online searching about “FICA score?”
A good FICO score increases your chances of receiving favorable interest rate. With current interest rates, that means when you compare between an excellent FICO score of 760 and a poor FICO score of 580, there will be a difference of $780 in monthly mortgage payment for a 30 year fixed, $300,000 loan.
If that didn’t get your attention, the interest difference is a low 5.63% APR versus a high 9.451% APR. This is a significant impact as when the mortgage is paid off, the difference in total interest paid will be about $280,000!
Thus knowing and keeping your FICO score can be pretty important. As long as you properly manage your credit usage, your FICO score should be top-notch and a non-issue.
This concludes a brief primer on FICA scores. Woops , I mean FICO scores.
top photo credit: QuitoCarela
Related Links and Sources:
Posted by Cap in Even More Ramblings
on November 18, 2008 | 66 Comments
Probably opening up a can of worms to a classic debate… but the question popped into my mind again while reading Madame X’s latest posting on the subject at My Open Wallet.
It’s a tough question because it brings up all sorts of issues on equality, feminism, and independence.
Personally, call me old-fashion, but I still have a certain drive to foot the bill when the check comes. My reasoning? It’s mostly because I’m the one begging asking for the night out.
Am I a sucker perfect for targets by “gold diggers?” Probably not, since driving a Honda Civic doesn’t exactly scream baller. And the fact of the matter is, most people should be able to spot a less than genuine intention.
And this goes both ways too, of course. If you’re the guy and you’re paying the bill for silly reasonings, other than simply wanting to treat someone out, it’ll come across as pretty obvious.
At the end, I also believe that the entire thing can be a moot point as long as both party is on the same page when it comes to the matter. As long as there aren’t any strange strings attached, it shouldn’t be an issue whether the guy or the girl pays for the bill — first date or not.
What’s your take?
top photo credit: fortinbras
Posted by Cap in Stop Buying Crap!
on November 18, 2008 | 9 Comments
Ruining My Life and Productivity Due to an Online Game? Pft.
It’s been well over a year since there’s an addition to the “Stop Buying Crap” series. What a shame. Ya’ll must be terribly sad (alright probably not).
Joining the list of “crap” today will be every massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) that’s currently active with a thriving online user base. This includes recent popular ones such as Warhammer Online and Age of Conan. Heck, for good measures, lets throw in some upcoming ones such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Stargate Worlds. And of course, let’s not forget the big daddy of them all, with over 11 million subscribers across the globe: World of Warcraft.
For those that have been fortunate enough to not have a MMORPG intersect into their life (whether directly or indirectly), you may be a little bit confused right now. Basically, a MMORPG is a genre of role-playing games, where a large number of players interact with one or another in a virtual, persistent world.
In short, you’ll be chilling in a virtual game world with your best pals, family, and new-found online friends — kicking virtual baddies ass and taking names. Sounds harmless right?
Addiction, Lost of Sleep, and Inability to Quit. Oh My!
According to a now famous research conducted by Nick Yee, 50% of surveyed MMORPG gamers considered themselves addicted to MMORPGs. A majority of the gamers (60%+) have played a game for 10 hours continuously or more, while in another question, over 40% of male gamers claimed that they’ve often lost sleep due to game playing habits. To make matters worse, 30% of the respondents in the 12 to 17 age group tried to quit the game but was unsuccessful in doing so.
To be blunt, MMORPGs, like many type of things we come across in life, can drive and cause addiction — and a costly addiction at that. Imagine failing school, losing your job, and ruining your relationship due to excessive game playing. To add insult to injury, you may be paying a monthly fee on top of it all.
Thus in conclusion, avoid MMORPGs, never buy a MMORPG, and if your kid or someone you know plays a MMORPG, strip them of all access to it and tie them to a chair to start the withdrawal process.
Alright, Actually It’s Not That Bad.
That was a bit extreme and in all honesty, lame and unfair.
This post was going to be a sarcastic, flame-ridden post, highlighting all and any negative stereotypes to playing MMORPGs, with plenty of jabs to all those people neglecting their real world responsibilities, whether it be their school work, career, or significant other.
In truth, the numbers highlighted above is definitely a cause for concern, but they were also acquired from a select group of gamers that may have been slightly skewed and biased. Are the numbers of MMORPG gamers these days reflective of the ones surveyed by Nick Yee? Perhaps, perhaps not.
Regardless of what a current survey result will show, a healthy dose of perspective check will always do more good than harm when it comes to an avid gamer of MMORPGs.
MMORPGs Are Just Like Credit Cards. Seriously!
Let’s put this into a financial context so that the post will align a little bit more to the supposed theme of a “personal finance blog.” When you really think about it, MMORPGs are just like credit cards.
Credit cards are a financial tool for convenience or cash-flow management, while a MMORPG is a tool for entertainment or socializing. Both are a double-edged sword where mismanagement and lack of balance can cause serious harm to the end user.
If you use a credit card irresponsibly, you have the potential to hurt your credit history, drive up debt, and cause serious harm and stress to yourself or loved ones. The same applies for playing a MMORPG irresponsibly: you have the potential to neglect real life responsibilities and cause serious harm and stress to yourself or loved ones.
Unfortunately, unlike a credit card, addiction to a MMORPG is harder to break than irresponsible credit card usage. If you seriously suspect someone you know may be addicted to an MMORPG to the point where it affects their livelihood — an intervention may be required, whether its a simple talk or seeking of professional help (may sound extreme but there are real cases of addictions).
Some minor online tips on breaking MMORPG addictions:
An Open-Minded and Balanced Approach
This post would have been more entertaining had it just contained flames and jabs at the crazy world of MMORPG — after all, there’s plenty of materials (online weddings, to name one) — but taking such an extreme stance would have been a bit irresponsible.
Like credit cards, it would have been easy to join certain financial gurus and completely swear off credit card usage. It would also be just as easy to take the extreme stance and claim that MMOs are a new form of crack cocaine. But when you take such a stance without looking at it with a middle ground perspective, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
That isn’t to say that MMORPGs aren’t ripe for abuse in usage (remember, it’s a double-edged sword). The point is that as with many things in the world of personal finance (oh hell, and everything else in life) — you will usually be better off when you look at a situation in question with an open-minded perspective and an attempt to find a balanced approach.
If you want to read more on Nick Yee’s research and learn more about MMORPG psychology and addiction, you can visit The Daedalus Gateway: The Psychology of MMORPGs for some insightful reading.
If you have tips on breaking an addiction to MMORPGs, tips on avoiding unhealthy usage of MMORPGs, or if you have crazy stories on how MMORPGs have affected someone you know, please share in the comments.
Other More Funny Stop Buying Crap:
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