Archives for January 2011

Carnival of Passive Investing # 2 – Jim Cramer Rants Edition – January 31, 2011

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Welcome to the January 31, 2011 (only the 2nd ever!) edition of Carnival of Passive Investing – a monthly collection of the best and most intelligent passive investing strategy articles around the internet! Some people foolishly want to beat the market (want being the key word), but we just want to invest with it.

As discussed in my introductory post for this carnival, the purpose of this carnival is two-fold:

  • To provide a forum to showcase articles and research in passive investing strategies (i.e. investing in ETFs, index mutual funds, etc. in such a way that one avoids employing active stock picking). By investing with the market, we are able to beat 70-80% of investment “professionals.”
  • To create a community of passive investment bloggers to connect and share expertise.

The theme for this month’s Carnival is rants by Jim Cramer! As a passive investor, Jim Cramer is one of the people I most thoroughly enjoy disagreeing with and writing about. 

However, I completely respect the man for making people more aware and enthusiastic about finances. I love his show and books as well! Both are very entertaining to watch and read. I especially like when he bursts out in his rants!!! So, I’ve decided that today would be the perfect occasion to share some with you all!

Please enjoy and stop by my blog on my non-carnival days as well.

Listed below are this month’s top 3 editor’s picks! 

1. Craig presents A Better and Less Risky Way to Invest in Stocks posted at Free From Broke, saying, “Stocks provide great returns. There’s really only one thing wrong with this investment class. It’s the risk! Lots of middle-class people feel that they must invest in stocks to have any realistic hope of attaining a good retirement but live in fear of the stock crashes that can wipe out the accumulated savings of a lifetime in a few years. If only there were a better way!”

2. FIRE Getters presents Investing – The Mistake Of Timing The Market posted at FIRE Finance, saying, “We sometimes ponder and try to speculate the market. Basically we try to time the market to maximize our gains. Often we give up in despair! There are so many factors to be taken into account, volumes of information to be considered (not all of them are all reliable either) and finally there is a humongous number of unknown parameters that may influence the market! How on earth does one tackle all that?”

3. Barb Friedberg presents HELP, I’M CONFUSED ABOUT INVESTING, WHAT SHOULD I DO? posted at Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance, saying, “Investors frequently wonder, should I get out of stocks because they are too risky, or stop investing in bonds, or avoid cash because the yields are too low? TB, my student, voiced concerns that I’ve encountered on investing forums and from countless friends and acquaintances.”

Jim Cramer – Bernanke, WAKE UP. THEY KNOW NOTHING!!!!!! (Go to 2:05 if you are short on time!)


Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog presents Want An Investment That Can Manage Itself? posted at The Canadian Finance Blog, saying, “ETFs are investments that manage themselves. Some investors are moving to Exchange Traded Funds as more reliable and more dynamic investment options.”

Dan presents 7 Fresh ETF Launches for the New Year posted at ETF Base, saying, “There have been some great new ETF launches so far in 2011. Here’s a comprehensive review of 7 new ETFs across various asset classes and strategies.”

Financial Planning

Steve presents Finding the Best Retirement IRA Companies posted at 2008 Taxes, saying, “Moving money to a self-directed IRA can allow your investment funds to produce a better yield.”

Index Funds

Investor Junkie presents Vanguard Review posted at Investor Junkie.

FMF presents The Beauty of Index Funds posted at Free Money Finance, saying, “This post details why investors should love index funds.”

Jim Cramer – Bear Stearns is fine! Famous last words!


Mike Piper presents Does This Count as Market Timing? posted at The Oblivious Investor, saying, “People often ask whether a strategy “counts as market timing.” The name doesn’t matter though. All that matters is whether it’s a good idea.”

Alexander presents Build Passive Income with Dividend Stocks posted at Dividend Stocks, saying, “The ability to maximize money – without having to do a great deal of additional active work – is a concept that most people can cherish.”

Arjun Rudra presents Blending Global Macro Economic Research and Technical Analysis With Jason Priest, CFA posted at Investing Thesis, saying, “Blending Global Macro Economic Research and Technical Analysis With Jason Priest, CFA”

Jim Yih presents Dividends, Interest and Capital Gains posted at Retire Happy Blog, saying, “Dividends, interest and capital gains are the three amigos of taxable income sources and the tax aspects can have a dramatic impact on your income when employing your passive investing strategy.”

Michael Pruser presents Minimize Risk With LendingClub’s 60-Month Notes posted at The Dough Roller, saying, “Lending club is now offering investors a way to earn a return and gain exposure to the fixed income asset class, with less risk involved.”

Michael presents CNN Money’s 8 Least-Evil Banks posted at Consumerism Commentary, saying, “CNN recently surveyed America and found while most banks charge ridiculous fees, these banks don’t. These can definitely help provide a place to store your cash funds in building your passive investing strategy.

Jim Cramer Blow Up Trying to Explain Why Keeping Your Money in Bear Stearns – (I don’t envy him for having to answer that question!)


BIFS presents Our Stock Portfolio posted at Budgeting In the Fun Stuff, saying, “This is the full run down of our stock portfolio and the target date mutual funds our retirement accounts are squirreled away in.”

Well – that concludes this month’s edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Passive Investing using our handy carnival submission form.

***Photo courtesy of

Tax Carnival # 80 – Tax Horror Stories Edition

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Welcome everyone to the Carnival of Taxes! That’s right, the blog article festival where we party like it’s 1040…Form 1040 that is!

The purpose of the Carnival of Taxes is to serve as a continuing compendium of tax-related postings, ranging from tax news to commentary on taxes (and the politics and politicos who create them) to filing tips and tax-saving strategies.

I hope you enjoy the money stories and the tax horror stories spread throughout, and stop by to say “hi” again on my non-carnival days as well.

Editor’s Top 3 Picks

1. 39 year veteran tax professional, Robert D. Flach, presents What to Give Your Tax Preparer posted at THE WANDERING TAX PRO. In this very well-written, detailed piece, Robert explains what is necessary to give and not to give your tax professional when preparing your taxes. Read and learn!

2. MoneyNing presents Tax Time: Do I Have to Report that Income? posted at Money Ning. So, you’ve started a little home business, but the money is only dribbling in. When do you have to start putting that income on your tax forms for the IRS? Find out here!

3. Jeff Rose, CFP presents Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) Changes for 2011 posted at Jeff Rose. In this post, Jeff takes us through the ins-and-outs of the changes for FSA accounts for this new year. I’ve read a lot of these “FSA Changes” posts this past month, but this one has some new details that I hadn’t read yet! Enjoy!

Tax Horror Story # 1

“Boy do I have a horror story for you! My father passed away 10/90. His estate for tax purposes was assessed at 7.7 million dollars when it was re-evaluated. After six months it had not changed much so approximately 3.8 million was owed in death and estate taxes.  Most of my father’s estate was in real estate and shortly after the six month period after his death, real estate took a dive. And every piece of property we sold to pay taxes sold at about 40% of what it was appraised at time of death.

Well it has been ten years since my father’s passing and we have still not seen any money. If and I do mean if we are lucky, then maybe at the end of this year after we pay the last $350,000 to federal and pay the state, my mother, sister and I may have all of $200,000 to split between us. Great.”

–Michael Stern


Listed below are the rest of the great tax article submission for this edition (listed in order of 1st to last submitted):

Daniel presents Federal and State Estimated Quarterly Tax Payments are Due! posted at Sweating The Big Stuff.

Mike Piper presents Income Tax 101: Tax Brackets and Withholding posted at Oblivious Investor.

FreeFromBroke presents TurboTax Online Tax Software 2010 Review posted at Free From Broke.

Trent Green presents How Social Security and Medicare Payroll (or FICA) Taxes Work posted at Money for Regular People.

Miranda presents Tax Planning 2011: Things to Think About This Year posted at Personal Dividends.

Pinyo presents 2010 Tax Tables, IRS Federal Income Tax Rates And Tax Brackets posted at Moolanomy Personal Finance.

Andy presents 2010 Income Tax Brackets posted at moneywalks.

Money Thinker presents Watching for Common Tax Errors posted at Money Thinking.

Jim Yih presents Tax Smart Investing posted at Retire Happy Blog.

Tax Horror Story # 2

Ghosts of Receipts Past 
Julie faced her worst nightmare one evening when she came home to fire trucks in front of her burning home. To make matters worse the tax deadline was just around the corner and she could not recover enough of her financial document to prepare her return. Julie contacted the IRS to explain the situation, and told IRS personal how she had lost her entire archive of financial documents and receipts. Although she was able to file for an automatic extension, Julie was shocked to find an IRS audit letter in the mail less than two weeks later. Without any proof to back up the information in her previous returns, she was forced to pay over $18,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties.

Jason presents Common Tax Deductions Reminder for Filing Your Personal Income Taxes posted at One Money Design.

Control your Cash presents Read this and watch your taxes fall posted at Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense.

RC presents IRS to Start Accepting Itemized and Delayed Filer’s Tax Returns on February 14th posted at Think Your Way to Wealth.

Craig Ford presents The Best TurboTax Discounts | Save 35% Off posted at Money Help For Christians.

CreditCardGuru presents Can You Pay Taxes With Credit Card? posted at Credit Card Forum Blog.

FMF presents The Return on Your Social Security Taxes posted at Free Money Finance.

Kay presents Tax refund debit card pilot program raises Congressional questions posted at Don’t Mess With Taxes.

Tax Horror Story # 3

I was fined by the IRS for missing a payment for my home based business while I was ill. I appealed with the help of my accountant and tax attorney. After a long winded process, I received a notice, by registered mail, to say my appeal had been rejected. The same day, there was a knock at my door and a man in an expensive looking suit flashed some ID and said he was from the IRS to collect a payment. He was inside before I had chance to object. He showed me a copy of the notice I had received and said he would like a check. Fortunately I had kept the money aside in a money market account so I could pay. Once he had the check he was much more pleasant. I asked if this was normal practice and he said that he almost always collects payments in this manner due to the “transient” nature of business owners in Southern California. Reader


Michael presents Social Security Contribution Limits ? 2011 posted at The Dough Roller.

Madison DuPaix presents 6 Free E-File Options posted at My Dollar Plan.

PT presents Ideas for Your Social Security Tax Break posted at PT Money.

Ann Douglas presents Tax Advantages of First Time Home Buyers Explained posted at

Tax Horror Story # 4

 A Cayman Islands Vacation Gone Bad  
When most people hear the words “Cayman Islands” they probably think of a relaxing Caribbean vacation. However, many might also think about illegal tax shelters, as the islands are somewhat infamous for hosting the private bank accounts of many American tax evaders. A few years ago, Joe ran into a few problems of his own in the Cayman Islands. He and his business partners used to vacation in, and bank in the islands on a regular basis, until Joe’s vengeful ex wife got wind of the situation. She tipped off the IRS and Joe found out about it one afternoon when 25 federal agents stormed his home and business, ceasing all kinds of financial information. Joe was considered a flight risk and imprisoned under $5 million bail. It took dozens of court cases, and thousands of dollars in legal fees to prove his innocence, and resulted in a major lifestyle change for Joe.
Well – that concludes this week’s edition! Thanks for reading and a special thanks to all the contributors. We’ll be back in a few weeks with the 81st edition of the Carnival of Taxes!
Be sure to submit your tax-related articles (and tax-only items please; check the guidelines for details) via the Blog Carnival page.

Also, if you are interested in hosting an upcoming edition of the Carnival of Taxes, you can read the hosting requirements and submit your request at the following link.

***Photo courtesy of

How to Save Money on Your Next Family Vacation

Welcome to My Personal Finance Journey! If you are new here, please read the “About” or “First-Time Visitor” pages to find out more about us. If you would like to receive free updates on articles like this by email, then sign up here or you can subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, check us out on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks for visiting! Keep on learning!

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Today’s guest post comes to us from Bailey Harris. Bailey writes about home insurance quotes and related topics for

How to Save Money on Your Next Family Vacation

In today’s economy, a vacation may seem way out of reach. But here’s the good news: there are many ways to save money and still enjoy a fabulous vacation. You and your family can plan a great vacation and spend less money than you think. Here’s how!

Plan Ahead

A great way to spend less money on a vacation is to plan ahead. After you’ve decided where you want to go, do some research online. For example, if you plan to fly to your destination, you can save money by booking your flight, hotel, and car rental in one bundle. You can also find valuable coupons and discounts online for various attractions, theme parks, and restaurants. Taking the time to search for these discounts will save you time and money.

Ways to Save if You Fly

Let’s face it: flying can be very pricey for an entire family. If you decide it’s the best method of transportation for your vacation, there are a few ways you can save. First of all, if you have frequent flyer miles, use them. It’s worth it to get a frequent flyer number if you don’t already have one. You can also inquire at your local bank to see if you can get a debit or credit card that earns frequent flyer miles. 

Another way to save if you are flying is to try and get by with less baggage. Baggage fees can add up fast, so plan to stay somewhere with laundry facilities. You won’t need to pack as much which will cut down on extra fees.

Plan a Road Trip

Driving on your vacation can make for a much cheaper adventure! You don’t have to worry about how much luggage you bring along, and you can make lots of exciting stops along the way to your destination. By driving, you avoid spending high ticket prices that you would have if you were flying, and you don’t need to worry about renting a car, either.


Instead of staying in a hotel on your vacation, why not stay in a vacation rental? For a family of 4 or more it can be much cheaper–you can sometimes save as much as 70 percent by going this route. If you stay in a vacation rental, you will most likely have a kitchen in which you can cook some of your own meals, allowing you to save money on food. Another way to save money is to camp. A family camping trip can be a lot of fun and it is one of the biggest ways to cut down on costs.


Eating out three meals a day while on vacation is very expensive, especially if you have a large family. If you are driving, bring some food with you. You can easily pack a cooler with sandwiches, healthy snacks, and beverages. Food purchased at gas stations or convenience stores adds up. Look for grocery stores to purchase snacks and groceries instead. If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen or kitchenette, try and cook some of your own meals. If you cook breakfast and lunch, you and your family will be able to afford lots of nice dinners out.

Take a Cruise!

A family cruise can actually turn out to be quite cheap. Food and accommodations are included, and there’s plenty of entertainment provided for you and your family. Some cruise-lines offer deals as low as $199 per person.

Other Ways to Save

While on vacation, use your debit or credit card instead of withdrawing money from an ATM. Most ATMs charge a fee, and those fees can add up fast. Almost all places now accept plastic, so you can save a lot by avoiding ATMs. Or, if you travel to a particular foreign country very frequently, try out a foreign currency account to save on conversion fees. 

If you and your family decide to visit a theme park or large attraction, be aware that a lot of these places charge for parking. Look for free places to park even if it means you have to walk a little bit more. It’s cheaper and it’s great exercise.

If you need to rent a car for your vacation, check with your insurance agent to see if your car insurance policy covers rental cars. Some policies do and this will prevent you from purchasing car insurance you don’t need from the place where you rent the car.

As you can see, family vacations don’t have to break your piggy bank. There are lots of ways to save money and give your family a fun and memorable vacation!

How about you all? How do you save money by traveling? Have you used any of the tips above? Share your experiences by commenting below!

Jacob’s Thoughts on Various Article Points – 

  • @Frequent flyer miles – These are great to use for trips! One thing that I find frequently is that when I take a plane trip, the miles from the trip do not get added in to the system officially. This can occur when you have to do a lot of manipulation with your original ticket due to cancelled flights, etc. However, you can go in to the airline’s online system and request that the miles be back added.
  • @Saving money by carrying less luggage – This is a great tip as well! What I have been doing recently that works really well is to carry-on a large backpacking backpack that I gate check so that I don’t have to have it inside the fuselage with me. And, the folks at security don’t catch on that it is a big bag because it is “just a backpack.”
  • @Going on a car trip – I would just make sure to check that the total charge for gas will not be more than airfare!
  • @Going on a cruise to save money – While it is true that it looks like taking a cruise is cheap at first glance, it very important to know that the price of the cruise does not include alcoholic drinks or excursions at ports. Be sure to factor in those things when doing your financial planning!
  • @Using debit/credit cards when travelling – While it is true that ATMs do charge fees if you are not in provider bank’s network, watch out for foreign currency fees that credit cards charge you if you use them while out of the country. This is typically around 3%, and can add up to more than an ATM charge if you are not careful.
  • @Car rental insurance saving – Along with your car insurance company generally already providing rental car coverage, many CREDIT CARDS offer the perk of providing rental car insurance! Don’t get suckered in to paying more for insurance if you don’t have to!

***Photo courtesy of

Boiler Repair Delays Start of School Term

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The following is a guest post by Alex on behalf of Home Serve.

Boiler Repair Delays Start of School Term

When it happens in the home, a boiler repair can really ruin your week – both financially and emotionally. However, this is not the only place where a heating howler can cause serious problems, as one recent story has proven…

The Story

Students at Darrington CE J&I primary school in Yorkshire, England got an extra day off after the festive holidays when a boiler failed on campus the day before the start of term. According to the Pontefract & Castleford Express, the breakdown meant that youngsters in classes A and B were forced to stay away.

Although this no doubt meant an extra day of sledding in the snow and playing with new Christmas presents for the kids, it’s likely to have caused frustration among teachers eager to get their students back in the swing of things. It could also have served as a stark reminder to teachers and parents of having adequate preparation for such events in place, both at home and school.

What Can We Learn From This?

While the school is likely to have had comprehensive insurance in place (meaning that getting a boiler emergency service was as simple as a quick phone-call), it’s not always as easy to solve the issue at home. Should you be unlucky enough to suffer a breakdown over the festive period, getting a repair service in to fix the problem ASAP may not be as easy as it sounds. And, should you manage to locate a repairman/woman over the Christmas period, his or her rates are likely to reflect the fact he or she has been dragged away from their own seasonal family celebrations.

For this reason, some people could find that having boiler insurance in place gives them the peace of mind that their home will always be protected from heating disasters. With this type of protection, you needn’t worry about the consequences of a boiler breakdown, whether it’s the height of summer of the bleak mid-winter.

Taking out this kind of insurance also guarantees that the tradesman who comes out to fix the problem is fully qualified and on the Gas Safe Register. Although it’s illegal to carry out work on gas appliances without this important accreditation, there are plenty of cowboys out there eager to make a quick – and dangerous – buck by taking on jobs they’re not legally allowed to.

They may not teach you about getting boiler insurance at school. But, suffer a breakdown without it in place, and you could learn a lesson about taking care of your home the hard way.

How about you all? Do you have boiler insurance? Have you ever had a boiler break and caused some chaos in your home?

Jacob’s Thoughts – The importance of making sure your home is properly insured is paramount. Personally, I am going to review my homeowner’s insurance policy to see if a rupture in the water boiler is covered under the policy terms. It is my understanding that frequently, these bursts are not covered. It is also important for your home to be secured. If you are interested in options for different security systems on the market, there are some great online resources. For example, I recently read an article of a Reliance Protectron Review from the folks at Home Security System Canada.

Another option is to self-insure with a sufficient emergency fund to cover the repairs that are needed.

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy of

The Advantages of Debt Consolidation Loans

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Today’s guest post comes to us from Andrew. Andrew has been working in the finance industry for several years. He has helped many people with debt issues by advising debt consolidation solutions and short term loans.

The Advantages of Debt Consolidation Loans

Consolidating your finances is an option many people tend to overlook because they do not understand what it entails. Many credit providers and lenders offer many debt consolidation loans because there is a constantly increasing demand for such products. It is not surprising that now is the best time to get such loans.

Debt management is something you should master if you want to relieve your current financial stress. If you consolidate your debt, you could save a lot on interest costs, but you should also consider each loan’s early repayment fees, if there are any. Take advantage of financial calculators available and compute how much you could save if you would repay all your loans simultaneously and instead repay a single loan in a month.

Why should you opt for any of available debt consolidation loans? Here are the best reasons you would be wise to do so.

Single Payment

Effective debt management is assured by taking advantage of consolidation loans available. The single loan could replace the multiple debts and loans you may have. Thus, in a month, you would only need to pay one debt in a lender, instead of many debts in different lenders. It could also help save time and money. Consumers with consolidation loans rave about how they get more effective in avoiding possible loan defaults, which could be more troublesome.

Lower Interest Rates

Have you ever computed how much you are paying in interest rates of each of your loans? If you would consolidate all those rates, you would be surprised at how much you are shouldering in a month. By that alone, there is no doubt debt consolidation loans are very advantageous. The money you could save could be added to the repayment for a consolidated loan in a month. This is logically more practical.

Lower Monthly Dues

Debt consolidation loans could give you the opportunity to pay lower monthly repayments. You have the option to take a longer term or repayment period, which comes with lower monthly dues. This is the best option if you are aiming to more effectively manage your overall finances. Thus, you need not worry about having to spend all your monthly income just to repay your debts. In the long run, you could be able to generate more savings, which you could use in investments for added revenues.

Prevent Pressure From Multiple Creditors

Are you one of those consumers who dread taking telephone calls every now and then from various creditors? It could ruin your day and affect not just your mood but also your productivity. It is time to get rid of that kind of pressure. Debt consolidation loans are there to help you eliminate that kind of problem.

Credit Score Protection

Lastly, you could improve your credit record or maintain a good one if you would repay all your debts now and replace them with a single consolidation loan. This is possible because you could easily avoid incurring late payments or worse getting to a loan default. It is always best to come clean after emerging out of your debt obligations.

How about you all? Have you all ever used a debt consolidation loan? Do you think this could be something useful to your current financial situation? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy of