Archives for December 2011

Chaikin Power Gauge Stock Rating Widget – 3 Month Effectiveness Check-in and Performance Comparison

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!

Click here to enter my free $74.52 giveaway for a chance to win 5% of My Personal Finance Journey blog income and give another 5% to a charity of your choosing! Deadline to enter is December 31st, 2011.

Three months ago, I investigated and reviewed a stock rating tool called the Chaikin Power Gauge Stock Rating Widget. At the end of the review, I concluded that even though the widget seemed to be very streamlined and easy to use, I didn’t have enough information at the current time to determine whether or not the Chaikin Widget was effective at predicting the movement of stock prices (in order for it to be used as the sole source of information in executing buying and selling stock actions).

As such, the purpose of today’s post will be to check-in on the performance over the past 3 months of 10 stocks I selected from the Dow Jones Industrial Average and compare that performance to the movement predicted by the Chaikin Widget overall stock potential rating 3 months ago. By doing this, I hope to get a feel for if this rating tool seems to accurately predict price movements of common stocks.

A Quick Review of How the Chaikin Rating Widget Works

Once you enter a stock ticker symbol in to the widget and hit the “enter” button, the following qualitative and quantitative details will be generated automatically for you on the widget. 

  • The current trading price per share of the common stock.
  • The Chaikin Power Gauge rating  “This rating is based on market expert Marc Chaikin’s back-tested 20 factor model, which has been proven successful at identifying a stock’s potential over the next 3-6 months.” I personally didn’t yet look in to the details about what 20 factors this widget takes in to consideration.
  • Along with the overall Power Gauge rating, the widget displays the bullish or bearish levels of the following company details.
    • Financial metrics.
    • Earnings performance.
    • Price/volume activity.
    • Expert opinions.

3 Month Performance Analysis vs. Chaikin Power Gauge Stock Rating Widget Predictions for 10 Dow Jones Average Stocks

As eluded to above, three months ago when I wrote the original Chaikin Widget review, I selected a “mixed bag” of 10 of the 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average companies from different industries. Along with noting the name of each company 3 months ago, I also listed the stock price per share, ticker symbol, and the Chaikin Power Gauge Rating at the time. It was very interesting to note that the widget didn’t predict that a single one of the 10 stocks would go up in the next 3-6 months.

The ten stocks I selected are shown below, along with their stats and overall Chaikin Widget potentials/predictions from 3 months ago on September 30th, 2011. 

3M (MMM) – $74 – Very Bearish
American Express (AXP) – $46.45 – Neutral – Trend Down
Boeing (BA) – $59.51 – Neutral
Coca-Cola (KO) – $67.39 – Bearish
ExxonMobil (XOM) – $69.30 – Neutral – Trend Down
The Home Depot (HD) – $33.72 – Neutral
Merck (MRK) – $31.04 – Neutral – Trend Down
Wal-Mart (WMT) – $50.79 – Neutral – Trend Down
Disney (DIS) – $29.81 – Neutral – Trend Down
Microsoft (MSFT) – $25.06 – Neutral – Trend Down

And, shown in the table below is how these 10 stocks have fared in real time in the past 3 months compared with the Chaikin Stock Widget Ratings. 

Unfortunately, none of the price movement predictions/potentials by the Chaikin widget (in the middle column) correctly forecasted the performance of the stock over the 3 month period. 

When a stock was rated as “neutral,” the stock experienced significant gains (above 20%). When a stock was rated “neutral, trend down,” the stock gained a minimum of 1.55%, with double-digit gains often realized. A similar result from seen with the stocks rated as “bearish.”

Overall, the average % price change for the 10 stocks over the past 3 months was 15.46%. This trumped the % increase of 11.48% of the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) pretty nicely. However, the widget didn’t predict that a single one of the 10 stocks had the potential to go up in the next 3-6 months.


From this analysis of the performance of 10 of the 30 Dow Jones stocks over the past 3 months to the price movements predicted by the Chaikin Stock Rating Widget, we saw that the widget did not accurately predict the performance of any of the 10 stocks, and seemingly could not predict the movement of the overall market either since none of the predictions were directionally correct.

While I realize that a study of 10 Dow Jones stocks is by no means exhaustive (the widget may work better for other stocks in certain sectors, etc), because of these results obtained over 3 months, I would still not be comfortable making buying and selling decisions solely based on the results from the Chaikin Stock Rating Widget. Additionally, the low % of accurately predicted price movements gives me cause for concern. 

To me, these results also reinforce why I avoid individual stock selection for the bulk of my retirement assets, using a passive investing strategy of index mutual funds instead. If a model based on 20 factors developed by an expert that has spent years in the industry cannot accurately predict price movements of individual stocks, what would make me think that I could have more success?

Lastly, since the Chaikin Stock Rating is “proven successful at identifying a stock’s potential over the next 3-6 months,” I have placed a reminder on my calendar to check the performance again 3 months down the line. It is possible that the results will be a different story then!

How about you all? Have you ever used the Chaikin Stock Rating widget or any other similar tool for analyzing stocks? If so, which ones? How well have you found that they work? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of

    Cavalcade of Risk # 147 – Riskiest Start-up Businesses Edition – December 28th, 2011

    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!

    Click here to enter my free $74.52 giveaway for a chance to win 5% of My Personal Finance Journey blog income and give another 5% to a charity of your choosing! Deadline to enter is December 31st, 2011, just a few days from now!

    Welcome everyone to the December 28th, 2011 edition of the Cavalcade of Risk. The Cavalcade of Risk (or Cav of Risk for short), as is implicated by the name, is a bi-weekly blog carnival that features the top articles regarding risk management. Several of the realms of risk management covered relate to finances, insurance, and health.

    My Personal Finance Journey is honored to be hosting the last Cav of 2011 this week. We’ve hosted the Cav two times thus far in 2011. On March 23rd of this year, we featured a bunch of very interesting articles and centered the Carnival around the theme of the riskiest jobs in the United States. What we saw was that fishing and logging-related jobs weighed in as the riskiest occupations, with MANY more deaths per 100,000 workers than the other top-ranking riskiest jobs. Next, on July 27th, we centered the theme of the carnival around the riskiest sports in the world. From this, we discovered that cave-divingcheer leading, and horeracing all have inherent risks involved with taking on the hobby.

    Continuing on with this theme of exploring high risk activities/jobs, the theme of this week’s carnival is the top 3 riskiest business start-up ideas in the market today. But, without further ado, let’s get on with the Carnival.

    Listed below are this week’s Top 3 Editor’s Picks! Enjoy!

    1. Nelson presents Not Everyone Needs Life Insurance posted at Canadian Finance Blog. Not everyone needs life insurance. This includes single people with no dependents to provide for and underage children not yet earning a meaningful income.

    2. Emily Holbrook presents Extreme Risks of Reality TV Shows — Are They Insurable? posted at Risk Management Monitor. Fear Factor, Wipe Out, Survivor and even The Biggest Loser are all shows that put contestants at risk. And, in order to gain viewers’ attention (and ratings to keep advertisers happy), reality shows are constantly trying to one-up each other while in turn increasing their risk. So, how do these shows get away with it? Who would insure such insane acts? How do producers make sure they’re covered in case of an injury or death?

    3. Ken Faulkenberry presents The Art of Position Sizing to Manage Money and Risk posted at AAAMP Blog. Learn how to use position size, scaling in, and scaling out to manage risk within your asset allocation.

    Risky Business Start-up Idea # 1 – Carpentry Contracting
    This business idea made it on the risky business idea list because it is tied to the success/health of the housing industry. And, since that hasn’t been doing well the past 3 years or so, carpentry contracting has been in a permanent decline. 

    In my personal opinion, I think that carpentry contracting isn’t as risky of a business idea as some of the others on the list. Sure, if the housing market continues as it has been since 2008, carpentry might be in trouble. However, I believe that eventually, the housing market will rebound, and this will fall off of the list.

    And, listed below are the best of the rest!

    Louise from the Colorado Health Insider posted about Colorado HealthInsurance Website Receives Praise From HHS, saying, “Between the national recognition garnered by Rocky Mountain Health Plans 30-year partnership with Grand Junction physicians, the fact that Colorado has been so proactive already in terms of establishing the framework for a health benefits exchange, and the praise from HHS for the new health insurance transparency website, it would appear that Colorado stands out as a leader in health care reform..”

    Jaan Sidorov MD presents HHS Blinks On The Affordable Care Act’s Essential Health Benefit posted at The Disease Management Care Blog. In this post, Dr. Sidorov looks at how Washington proposes to settle the controversy over the Affordable Care Act’s ‘essential health benefit.’ While the threat was that HHS would require an out sized benefit package, Dr. Sidorov says common sense prevailed.

    Phil presents Backing Up Civilization posted at Transparency Revolution and discusses risk mitigation.

    Risky Business Startup Idea # 2 – DVD, Video, and Game Rental Stores

    This business idea, in my opinion, is not only a risky business, but it is one that simply should be avoided. Period. Netflix and Blockbuster online/mail order rental services have completely taken over this market. 

    Take a second and ask yourself one question – “how long has it been since you set foot in a physical video rental store?” For me, it has probably been about 4 years now. This business start-up idea is simply one that should be avoided. 

    Paul Vachon presents How to Save Money on Home Insurance posted at The Frugal Toad. Home insurance is one of the most important forms of insurance you can purchase and in most cases, is required by your lender. Not all homeowners insurance policies offer the same coverage so it is important to shop for a home insurance quote.

    Risky Business Start-up Idea # 3 – Coin Laundry and Dry Cleaning Businesses
    In the source article listing these business ideas (see link below), it mentions that coin laundry businesses are risky because there are 1) many established players in the market already and 2) very high capital start up costs (just think about buying 30 washers! haha). In addition, there are low profit margins, and the franchise fees are very high. All of these factors make for a risky venture. 

    However, setting the risk factor aside, I do believe that there will continue to be a market for these services/locations. People will always need to wash/dry their clothes, and especially in tough economic times, it’s unrealistic to think that EVERYONE will be able to afford a washer and dryer in their own home. So, all in all, I think that this business has risk, but since there is a demand, the risk can be managed. 

    FMF presents Ten Insurance Policies You Need To Own posted at Free Money Finance. There are an incredible number and array of different types of insurance policies that you can purchase and quite a few that you should own. You may look at the number ten and think that is just way too many, but when you get right down to it, they might be just right to keep you and your family protected.

    Philip Taylor presents Fix Your Finances and Quit Your Day Job posted at PT Money Personal Finance. Discusses the risks involved in quitting your day job and how to get your finances in order if you are looking to quit.

    Well – that concludes this edition. Thanks for tuning in!

    You can submit your blog article to the next edition of Cavalcade of Risk (scheduled for the middle of January and hosted by Political Calculations) using the handy carnival submission form.

    Also, if you are interested in hosting the Cavalcade of Risk in the future, just send Henry (the organizer) an email by clicking here.

      ***Photo courtesy of
      ***Riskiest and safest business startup ideas ranking source –

      The Effects of TV Shows on Reality

      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!

      Click here to enter my free $74.52 giveaway for a chance to win 5% of My Personal Finance Journey blog income and give another 5% to a charity of your choosing! Deadline to enter is December 31st, 2011.

      The following is a guest post written by Jason, the Frugal Dad. Check out for more personal finance advice and retailer coupons and deals.

      The Effects of TV Shows on Reality

      Reality programs have flooded the networks in the last few years, essentially muscling out other forms of entertainment. In the face of this influx, Psychologists and researchers Steven Reiss and James Wiltz were curious as to why millions of viewers tune in weekly to watch what is essentially public humiliation. What they discovered was less than flattering.

      Reiss devised a system based on over 10,000 individual studies that isolates essential human desires and their corresponding joys when they are fulfilled. What we choose for entertainment determines what desires are strongest and what ‘release’ we are craving. Those who consider themselves to be addicted to reality programming were shown to have strong cravings for both social status and vengeance. Watching people soar through massive emotional highs and lows from the comfort of their couches allows the viewer the unabashed joys of self importance and vindication, something they might not attain in their own daily lives.

      It’s a less than flattering image – over 51 million people achieving subconscious satisfaction through watching highly constructed ‘every day’ people endure suffering with embarrassingly low levels of self control and dignity.

      More Real than Reality?

      In the 1960’s, media psychologist George Gerbner proposed that our exposure to popular culture images shapes our perception of events, people, and places. Someone who is a heavy television watcher will base his or her ideas of reality on what they see portrayed. For example, if a person watches excessive amounts of news programming daily, they generally have a more negative concept of life and are more prone to accept punishment as justice. 

      What if a person watches nothing but reality programming? From exposing themselves to these shows, they create a reality for themselves where embarrassment, disrespect, and degradation are the norm. In this constructed reality, relationships must be tumultuous and self-centered in order to be normal. Marriage is something that can be annulled in a second but perhaps worst of all, parenting is an adult centered soap opera where the children are barely considered and hardly protected.

      Reality Television At Its Worst

      North Americans are obsessed with being the ‘perfect parent’; we want our children to enjoy the best education, the best recreation, and be on the road to a successful career by kindergarten. If reality entertainment really holds a mirror to our culture, then is this obsession one based on our own need for dominance and not the well being of our children? Perhaps we look to programs such as ‘Kate plus 8’ and ‘Teen Mom’ in order to satisfy our need to feel superior as parents. Watching teenage moms struggle with drug addiction, suicide and family distress puts us into a powerful, voyeuristic position while at the same time allowing us to forgive ourselves for our own parenting difficulties.

      However, what message are these programs sending to those who aren’t parents? ‘Kate plus 8’ presents a world where a single mother can effortlessly raise 8 children in a house filled with professional lighting, makeup artists and designated ‘interview rooms’. Hours of footage are condensed into an entertaining, fast paced half and hour essentially reducing the daily grind of good parenting down to what is the most sensational. The effort it takes to be at your best daily, to be a conscientious and concerned parent is abandoned on the cutting room floor as our desire for humiliation is satisfied. Those who watch these shows regularly may head into parenting with a set of extraordinarily narcissistic ideals that can be just as damaging to their children’s psyche as it is to their own.

      It’s common knowledge that what we choose to watch as entertainment holds a mirror up to who we are as a society. With over 85% of the most valuable advertising space on television being reserved for reality television, it is safe to say that we are obsessed with what was once believed to be a passing fad. However, for something that is so obviously popular, it is almost universally vilified as the worst possible form of entertainment. In his article for the Association for Psychological Science, Eric Jaffe describes this phenomenon as a “threat to intelligence – catering to (and rising from) the most prurient of human instincts”. It’s a threat we can’t get enough of and one that has definite effects on what we expect from the lives we live every day.

      How about you all? Do you watch a lot of reality TV? If so, what do you find draws you to watch the shows? If not, why do you avoid it?

      What are the positive and negative effects of reality TV on today’s society in your opinion? 

      Share your experiences by commenting below!

      Jacob’s Thoughts – Listed below are my random thoughts as I was reading this article.

      • @ The world’s obsession with reality TV –
        • Personally, I probably am not the best person to ask/comment about reality TV since the only reality TV shows I’ve really ever watched were Survivor and some of the series on the Discovery Channel, such as Dirty Jobs, Mythbusters, and Deadliest Catch. And, as far as I know, these shows aren’t the “stereotypical” reality TV shows that people most often think about.
        • However, I do agree with the findings of the research study mentioned in the article above that mentions that many people choose to watch dramatic reality TV in order to feel better about one aspect of their lives or another.
        • It could be argued that even with “light” drama reality TV shows such as Deadliest Catch and Dirty Jobs, people could watch these in order to feel more empowered/better about their own occupations. 
          • Do I think this is why I watch these shows? I didn’t until I read this post, but now, it has made me stop and think….It could be that on a sub-conscious level, I like to watch Dirty Jobs to feel glad that I don’t have to deal with that sort of stuff in my day-to-day routine. 
          • However, the conscious side of me says that I really like to watch the show just for the sake of it being interesting to find out what other jobs entail. 
          • After all, I have started a business that involved scooping up dog droppings from other people’s yards, so I definitely don’t feel like I am “above” jobs that involve getting your hands dirty.
          • However, it’s definitely an interesting idea to ponder, since it’s not often that you think about what’s going on at a subconscious level.
        • But, one thing that is for certain is that reality TV is wildly popular in today’s society! I once heard that more people voted for the winner of American Idol than for the President of the USA. Crazy!
      • @ How reality TV affects today’s society – 
        • Another intriguing question is, how does reality TV affect the world’s population?
        • First, I do feel that reality TV does shape our perceptions about what is considered “cool,” “attractive,” “socially acceptable,” as is touched upon by the article above.  
        • However, another potentially harmful effect that could be experienced with a large portion of the world’s population being glued to the TV set for many hours each week is a decrease in productivity.
          • For example, instead of watching reality TV (or any TV for that matter) 4 hours per week, could that time be used to start a side business to help secure your family’s financial future?
          • Instead of watching TV, could you be studying more? learning new skills? doing your homework? The list continues….
          • It’d be interesting to do a future post to investigate any linkage between hours of TV watched per week and wealth/financial success! It’d be cool to see what trends could be observed!

      ***Photo courtesy of

      Who Manages Money Better – You or Your Government?

      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!

      Click here to enter my free $74.52 giveaway for a chance to win 5% of My Personal Finance Journey blog income and give another 5% to a charity of your choosing! Deadline to enter is December 31st, 2011.

      Often times, when I talk to individuals about the personal debt they carry (especially in the form of consumer debt), I get the feeling that they feel alone and/or isolated because of the money they owe. Because of this, they feel very unwilling to share the details of their debt or reach out to others to help them.

      However, the truth of the matter is that there is no reason to feel isolated or alone because you carry debt. In fact, many individual people AS WELL AS entire governments of countries are facing problems with debt in today’s society. In this way, debt has truly become a problem/issue on the global scale.

      The purpose of this post will be to take a look at the current levels of debt that individuals are currently carrying and then compare this level to the amount of debt that governments hold in an effort to see who in today’s society is doing a better job managing their finances – people or the government.

      Current State of Individual Debt

      Thanks to and, I was able to dig up the following statistics about personal debt in the world today:

      United States

      • The average college graduate in the US has approximately $20,000 in debt.
      • The average credit card debt per household with credit card debt = $15,799. The overall average unpaid balance (includes people that pay off their entire balance each month) is $3,389.
        • Personally, my takeaway from this pair of statistics is that once people decide to go down the path of having credit card debt, the magnitude of the debt becomes very serious/huge!
      • The average household total debt – including credit cards, mortgage, home equity, student loans, etc – for all U.S. households is $54,000.

      • The average household total consumer debt (excludes mortgages) in Europe is $2,068 USD. The average for the UK is about twice this value.
      • I had trouble finding reliable statistics about the average total debt in Europe. However, there was one report from that mentioned that the average household debt in the UK was 183% of the average annual disposable income, and that this figure was very high for a European country. 
        • According to BBC News, the average disposable income in 2008 in the UK was about $23,000 USD. 
        • So, a rough estimate of the total household debt in the UK would be 1.83 x $23,000 USD =  $42,090.
        • We’ll consider this a high figure for Europe. And, as a conservative estimate for the average European household debt, we’ll use half the UK value, equaling $21,045 USD.

      Current State of Government Debt

      So, above, we obtained an approximate picture of the current state of personal debts both in the US and Europe. Now, let’s take a look at how the money owed by the governments of these nations stacks up against the personal figures to see who is actually doing a better job managing their finances – people or governments.

      According to a recent report, the following statistics give an overview of the current levels of debt carried by the governments of Europe and the US:

      • By the end of 2011, the US government is projected to be carrying a per-capita debt of $32,000 USD
        • In the year 2000, the per-capita debt carried by the US government was almost 3X lower at $12,000 USD. Wild stuff! It’s been a costly 11 years!
      • By the end of 2011, the European governments, on average, are projected to be carrying a per-capita debt of $29,000 USD.
        • In the year 2000, this average per-capita debt carried by European governments was almost 2X lower at $17,500 USD

      Conclusions – Do You or Your Government Manage Money Better?

      While I admit that there are many facets to analyze in determine the quality of “managing money,” examining the statistics listed above can give us a good indication of whether governments or individuals are performing better at staying out of (or at least minimizing) debt.

      In the US, the average personal debt is almost 68% higher than the per-capita debt carried by the government. This data indicates that the US government, for all of the mistakes that it most likely has made, is doing a better job than its citizens at reducing debt.

      In Europe, the opposite seems to be true in that the government seems to be worse-off at getting in to debt than the individual citizens. Using our rough average obtained for personal debt throughout all of Europe of $21,045 USD, we ascertain that this is almost 33% less than the per-capita debt carried by the government.

      Thinking about these conclusions, they tend to make a lot of sense (at least to me personally).

      First, I know for a fact that obtaining credit is MUCH easier in the US compared to pretty much anywhere in the world. For example, one of my Peruvian blogging friends was telling me that it is a HUGE process simply to get a small balance on a credit card in his country. I’ve heard similar stories from my Chinese graduate school friends, and I have experienced this tight-credit phenomena when I was living in Spain. Because of this, it makes sense that relative personal debt levels would be higher in the US than other locations.

      Additionally, I know that the governments in Europe are “bigger” than in the US in that they offer more public programs. A good example of this is public health care. Thus, it at least partially makes sense that the government debt figures are relatively higher than personal debt in order to keep these government programs going.

      An Outstanding Set of Questions To Ponder….

      As is generally the case with global economic issues such as this, an investigation often generates an entirely new set of questions. Thus, an interesting set of outstanding questions to all of this is the following…..

      It’s no doubt that individuals in the US are in large amounts of debt.

      • However, are individuals in the US actually worse about getting in to debt and not paying it off because of a lifestyle/culture issue? 
      • Or, do people in the US simply have greater access to credit and therefore, are more likely to get in to trouble with debt than people in other countries? 
      • If people in other countries had the same access as Americans did, would they fall in to the same problems?
      • And, if the amount of debt people are in boils down to an credit access issue, how do governments know if or where to draw the line between a good amount of credit for a healthy economy vs. extending too much debt? Or, should this be something that is set by free market forces?

      Clearly, I don’t have the answer to all of this, but it’s something interesting to think about!

      How about you all? What’s your take on the questions posed above? 

      Share your experiences by commenting below!

        ***Photo courtesy of

        Yakezie Carnival – 10 Tools I’m Thankful For in My Personal Finances – December 18th, 2011 Edition

        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!

        Click here to enter my free $74.52 giveaway for a chance to win 5% of My Personal Finance Journey blog income and give another 5% to a charity of your choosing! Deadline to enter is December 31st, 2011.

        Welcome everyone to the December 18th, 2011 edition of the Yakezie Carnival!

        About This Carnival

        For those of you unfamiliar with the Yakezie Personal Finance Blog Network, it is the web’s largest, most involved, and most organized group of personal finance and lifestyle bloggers. Participants in the network collaborate multiple times throughout each day on the Yakezie forums and through other mediums. You can view all of the details at the “About Yakezie” page by clicking here.

        Each week, the members and challengers of the Yakezie Network submit their best articles to be featured in the Yakezie Carnival. And, today, it is My Personal Finance Journey’s honor to be the host! We last hosted the carnival nearly three months ago on September 25th, when the theme of the carnival was highlighting several examples throughout history of selflessly helping others.

        Today’s Carnival Theme

        Being as that Christmas is only 1 week away and the holiday season is when I often reflect on things for which I am thankful, I figured it’d be cool to share 10 tools that I use in my personal finances and am thankful for as part of today’s carnival theme. You’ll find these interspersed in random order throughout the post listings below. Enjoy!

        To get us started, listed below are this week’s Top 3 Editor’s Picks. Typically, when I host a carnival, it is quite clear what the three winning articles are. However, I find that when I’ve hosted Yakezie Carnivals, the quality of the articles is so high that I often find myself torn between about 8 articles competing for the top spots. 

        1. Money Q&A: Three Christmas Gifts To Give Your Children That Keep On Giving – There are a few examples of Christmas gifts to your children such as Roth IRA contributions that will keep on giving long after the holiday season has ended.

        2. Krantcents: Holiday Networking – Holiday parties can be a great for networking. Expand your network for the future.

        3. Your Finances Simplified: Work Hard and Shut Up! – I promise you, that if you worked this hard at anything, your life would be different!  Mrs. YFS and I were at our local IHOP to take advantage of some of their seasonal pancakes and stumbled upon this very ambitious and dedicated employee who is the basis of my story.

        And, listed below are the best of the rest! The selected entries are formatted as follows – 1) Blog title in bold, 2) Post title and link, and 3) a description written by the site owner about the post.

        10. Online Banking – No more balancing of the checkbook is needed, and all of my purchases are tracked automatically! Additionally, I can transfer funds via ACH over the Internet without deposit slips.

        Financial Success for Young Adults: Debt: The Elephant in the Room – Debt is a reality for most college students. Don’t be afraid to manage your debt so that you can have money to invest.

        Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance: How to Live Well When Your Passion Doesn’t Pay Well (Part 3) – This article highlights 4 people who learned how to turn their passion into cash.

        Debt Black Hole: How Much Do You Spend On Your Geek Collections? – Most Geeks take their collections (action figures, props, autographed pics, original art, authentic replicas, etc.) VERY seriously! But there’s always someone out there with a bigger collection- and more money to spend on it. What do you collect? Where does the money come from?

        My Journey to Millions: Affording the Costs of Living – Presently, I’ve learned to compartmentalize things by remembering what I sometimes call the “random fund”. The random fund is small cache of money I mentally set aside that is used to pay for all the little random things life can throw at you.

        Invest It Wisely: The Three Stages of Financial Freedom – Last week, I talked about the three stages of financial despair. This week I am going to look at the flip side, the three stages of financial freedom. We all want to get out of the rat race, but before we get there, we need to get out of the hole and onto level ground.

        Money Cone: Selling Stuff on Amazon: A Step-by-Step Guide – How would you like to get rid of your old stuff and get paid for it? Toys, DVDs, gadgets, books, CDs… everyone’s got a few! But instead of junking them or even worse, letting them collect dust, why not sell them from the comfort of your home? With Amazon Marketplace, you can!

        9. Automatic scheduled payments and savings – In my finances, I try to automate as many things as possible so that they happen without me having to remember to do them (which helps prevent me from failing to do it). I have automatic payments set up on everything from paying my homeowner’s association fees and internet bill to saving for a trip to the Grand Canyon in 2012-2013!

        Live Real, Now: Fighting Fair – Arguments in your marriage aren’t–or shouldn’t be–intended to draw blood. Fights happen. If your goal is to win at any cost, you will both lose, possibly everything.

        Investorz Blog: Why Being an Investor is an Ideal Career Path – There are two big decisions in life: who you’re going to marry, and what career path you’ll take. This post concerns the later. Here is why I believe that being an investor is the ultimate “job” one can have. Using Freezer Cooking as a Way to Reduce Your Grocery Budget – Don’t be intimidated by freezer cooking. It can be as easy or as hard as you make it. If you just simply double your recipes when you are cooking your dinner, you will have a stocked freezer and more money in the bank, before you know it.

        Money Talks Coaching: One Big Savings Account or Lots of Little Ones? – The reason I’m a fan of having separate savings accounts is because it keeps the individual balances lower. It’s a psychological thing.

        The College Investor: The Best Investment Advice I’ve Received – A personal story about the best investment advice received and how it paid off.

        My Multiple Incomes: How Long Referral Traffic Spends On Your Site – A look at how long referral traffic stays on your site from major social media sites.

        8. Google Docs Spreadsheet – My my – where would I be without Google Docs spreadsheets? I use these little gems to track my net-worth movements from month to month, my spending in order to group the totals in to different categories, and my running monthly budget to make sure I’ve met all of my monthly requirements.

        The Frugal Toad: Estate Planning Basics – What You Need to Know – Have you ever thought about what would happen if you became incapacitated or died? What would happen to your home and other assets? Do you have a will and does your spouse know what your final wishes are? An estate plan is a set of legal documents that will make sure that your final wishes are taken care of.

        Personal Finance Whiz: How To Live On One Income – A Budget For A One Income Family – Can you live on one income? It may not seem like it if you have always had a two income household. But, it’s totally doable. A year ago, I might have felt differently, but this year, we’ve moved to one income in our household.

        Narrow Bridge Finance: What Is the Best Time of the Year to Sell Stocks? – As we approach the end of the year, some investors are going to try to minimize their taxes by selling stocks. Someone recently asked me when you should sell, and the answer can be complicated depending on your situation.

        Beating Broke: DIY Disaster; or, Our New Deck – Be sure you do as much analysis as you can on the project, and budget for unforeseen issues, before you tackle any major DIY project. Also, it’s better to have it done right, than have it done cheaply, so if you get in over your head, find a professional to help you. Many will gladly charge a consulting fee to come and tell you what you need to do next. Find one that will, or hire one to finish the job so that it’s done right.

        Bucksome Boomer: A Blogger Without Internet Is Like. . . – I like getting unconnected during vacations but those times are planned. Instead of running out to a fast food restaurant with free WiFi, I took and breath and decided to make the best of it. It wasn’t bad but thankfully the outage was only 16 hours.

        Money Is the Root: How Well Do You Know Your Health Benefits – Until recently, the extent of my knowledge of my healthcare benefits was that I was insured. After all, we place such a high emphasis on simply being insured that we don’t know what’s covered until the worst happens.

        7. Cash Back Credit Cards – The credit cards really don’t benefit too much from having me as a customer (except for making money off of the point of transaction fees they charge vendors) since I never carry a balance month to month. Nevertheless, I really love that they give me the benefit of receiving 1-5% cash back on all of my purchases! Very nice!

        My Broken Coin: Is Hoarding The New Frugal? – My friend is a very frugal person: she counts every penny, she evaluates every purchase, and she does her research before she decides to buy anything whether it is a car or a pair of shoes. Read her story here!

        Money Reasons: Controlling Christmas Costs – This is how I control Christmas Costs in the past, present and future. These are strategies that worked for me and perhaps will work for you!

        Sweating the Big Stuff: Give This Gift If You Want To Piss Off Your Husband – I love getting surprises, but there’s one I wouldn’t be too thrilled with. If Lauren ever does this to me, we’d have a problem. What do you think?

        101 Centavos: Walk-away Negotiating – Learn about walk away negotiating, be prepared to use this technique if you have to.

        Thousandaire: Thousandaire Countdown #2 – HTPC Rap – The HTPC Rap is my best (and only) rap song. It’s also the second best song I’ve ever done.

        The Family CEO: The Top Three Things I’ve Sold Online – These are the top three things that I have sold online that were big wins for me!

        6. High Yield Online Savings Accounts – Have you ever gotten on a traditional brick-and-mortar’s banking website and looked up what interest they’re paying on regular savings accounts? These days, it’s around 0.05%. Yes, you read that right – there’s a zero before the 5! haha However, with these online money market savings accounts (that are also FDIC insured), you can get many times greater interest payments!

        Funancials: I Only Listen to Techno – crats – Technocrats are becoming very popular in within our debt-stricken governments. Greece and Italy have already placed two technocrats in charge of their countries, now which countries will follow?

        Smart Family Finance: Will a College Degree Increase Your Odds of Becoming Wealthy? Gallup Poll Finds Half of the Wealthiest 1% of Americans Have a Graduate Degree – Do you want to better your odds at become part of the wealthiest 1% of Americans? Gallup polling results show that you should consider getting a graduate degree. Half of those in the top 1% of wage earners have one.

        Finance Fox: Thinking of Going Back to Former Employer – Would You? – Returning to a former employer is a real trend, and it’s happening in all industries. The trend is appropriately dubbed as “boomeranging.” No one said all relationships are perfect the first time. Maybe the second time around is the charm.

        Newlyweds on a Budget: The Biggest Myths about Marriage – Long time married couples have often touted these three soundbites as the best kept secret to a long-lasting marriage. But, I’m here to tell you why these are the biggest marriage myths of all time.

        Squirrelers: The Albert Pujols $254 Million Contract and the Pursuit of Money by the Top 1% – Would you turn down a job that offered you several million dollars more per year than the next best alternative? Of course not! Then why do people complain when athletes switch teams and do this? This post covers the topic of hypocrisy when judging the top 1% – from the perspective of someone squarely in the 99%!

        The Happy Homeowner: Maintaining Your Financial Plan During the Holidays – The holidays can be one of the most challenging times of year to maintain your financial plan. This article provides some easy ways to help you keep an eye on your bottom line as you shop for gifts, host & attend parties, and celebrate the season.

        5. Roth IRA’s – My Roth IRA is quite indispensable in my overall finances. Each year, it is one of the highest priorities to be funded in order to save for retirement and shelter money from taxes while it grows.

        Money Beagle: Saying Bah Humbug To Secret Santa – I said no way this year after last year’s debacle.

        Novel Investor: Know The Wash Sale Rule When Selling Those Losers – The year end is a popular time to sell those loser investments for tax purposes. But, this strategy can backfire if you don’t knowing the wash sale rules.

        Investor Junkie: Best 2011 IRA Promotions – The holiday season is here, and that means the end of the year is almost near. Now is the time for investors add money to your IRA account. If you currently don’t have one, now is the time to open an account. I’ve gathered up the best IRA investment promotions.

        My University Money: Tracking Your Expenses – The First Step to Budgeting – Why track? Why not just do a budget? We’ll explain why.

        20s Finances: Getting a Bank Loan – Learn about what factors you need to consider when you are going to take out a bank loan and why you should use it as a last resort.

        4. Online Charity Donations – Each year, I donate to a Multiple Sclerosis fundraising event called the Tour de Vine. I also rally fundraising support for the event from others as well. Being able to process donations online in a secure environment plays a big role in making the fundraising process go smoothly.

        Passive Income To Retire: Keep My Day Job? – In my plan to retire from passive income, I have often questioned at what point will I quit my day job. It is hard to pass up on some of the benefits that my day job offers. Find out what my plan is.

        Living in Financial Excellence: Top 5 Reasons Debt Is Like the Matrix – Reasons why being in Debt is like the Matrix, the movie!

        Prairie Eco Thrifter: The 30K Challenge: Online Money Bloggers – I was honoured when I received an invite from two of my blogging pals Derek @ Life and My Finances and Corey @ 20′s Finance to participate in a new year challenge. At first, when I read that I would be challenged to make 30K next year online, I almost fell out of my chair followed by writing an email saying “Are you nuts?”

        Budgeting in the Fun Stuff: A Great Workout Music Playlist – Here is the workout playlist my husband put together for me to get me motivated. I really love the songs below, so don’t be too harsh, lol.

        Cents To Save: Becoming A Full Time Caregiver – I have come to the realization that I will be my parents full time caregiver. As an only child, this is something that I knew might happen. Did I think it would happen now? No, not at all. I was pretty content enjoying my new home out in the country as a empty nester. But, with my mom’s recent diagnosis of Stage 4 brain cancer, things have definitely changed.

        3. Index Mutual Funds and ETFs – As a passive investor, I don’t trust myself in making investments in buying/selling individuals stocks. Instead, I invest the majority of my money in index mutual fund and ETFs.

        Cash Flow Mantra: Preparing SMART Goals for 2012 – Being an active blogger brings about many benefits, one of which is the fact that I end up reading a lot of material online and offline and so get to learn a lot of new things. One of the things that I learned this year is about goal setting and making my goals SMART.

        Free Money Wisdom: The Bible and Finance: The Story of the Rich Young Man – The Biblical story of the rich young man is one of the more misunderstood and misinterpreted stories of the Gospels.

        TotallyMoney: Easy Mince Pies – A simple mince pie recipe for the run up to Christmas

        2. Microloans – I’m a fan of placing a relatively small amount of funds each year in microloans for developing countries. For me, I see this as sort of a mix between investing and a donation. By doing these types of loans, you can really have an impact to get someone’s life going. To invest in microloans, I have found that is reliable.

        Don’t Quit Your Day Job…: What is the Net Worth of Members of Congress? – Ever wonder how your wealth compares to members of Congress? I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you that they’re likely winning the horse race… a full 6+% of Congress is in the upper 1% of net worth in America. On the other hand, 30 members have a negative net worth. Make you think… remember, these folks set the country’s budget!

        Saving Money Today: How to Improve Your Finances in 2012 – Twelve tips for improving your finances in 2012. Follow one each month and you’ll be in great shape in no time!

        Former Banker: You Got Fired, Now What? – I got fired! What do I do now? How do I maintain my lifestyle? How do I start looking for a new job? Do I qualify for unemployment?

        The Milionaire Nurse: Shoplifting: Top Ten Holiday Favorites – Businesses will have over a hundred billion in lost profits from shoplifting in 2011. This figure does not even take into account the revenue spent in loss prevention. Crowded stores during the holiday season make it even easier for shoplifting to occur. On top of that, the most popular items stolen change during this season of good cheer.

        Family Money Values: Growing Your Blog with Staff Writers – Ever thought about getting help with your blog? What are the benefits of using staff writers; management tasks related to use of them; payment and legal aspects of their use; and the blog results seen from using them?

        Free From Broke : Tips for Holiday Tipping – The holidays creep up fast and all of a sudden you realize you need to tip people! But, who to tip and how much? Check out some basic guidelines and tips for holiday tipping.

        Money Cactus: Wealth Creation Online: Untemplater Interview – Sydney took over the reins of Untemplater early this year and has been doing a fantastic job of delivering quality content and encouraging people to shatter the template lifestyle.

        RamblingFever Money: A Socially Secure Christmas Story – A short story that compares one couples Christmas savings to the way that Social Security is funded.

        1. C.O.T.A.P. Folders and Microsoft Outlook Electronic Financial Information Storage System – Keeping track of detailed personal finance records can be a big pain, especially since the majority of records are being stored electronically these days. To manage all of this, I use a system of folders both on my computer/back-up hard-drive and Outlook email interface known as the C.O.T.A.P. system. In this system, a different folder is made for Clients, Output, Teams, Administrative, and Personal items. What I’ve found is that amazingly enough, most all documents fit in to one of these folders. Hence, the system works well!

        Sustainable Personal Finance: Sustainable Index Invest – Is oil sands producer Suncor really the best choice to go into a fund like this? Newmont Mining? Really? Where are the solar and wind power companies? What’s up with all the banks on there? What do they do to help the environment, besides recycling their bottles?

        Faith and Finance: 8 Year-End Tax Moves to Consider at the End of 2011 – Before you know it, 2011 will be in the past and tax season will be upon us. Because it will be here sooner than you know it, now is a good time to look at what you’ll need to accomplish for your 2011 taxes before the end of the year

        Watson Inc: 3 Powerful Ways To Decrease Your Financial Stress – These days people are fraught with economic stress.

        How about you all? Which article in the listings above was your favorite? What personal finance tools do you use that you’re thankful for? 

        Share your experiences by commenting below!

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