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Thursday, November 30, 2006
Does raising kids help you become a good manager?
Read an interesting article by Anne Crittenden (Pink Magazine, posted at regarding similarities between managing children as parents and managing employees as managers, and the management lessons one can learn from parents. As per the article, the job of parenting teaching important lessons about handling crises and maintaining life/work balance and these lessons can be put to use in managing employees at work.

According to the article, the management tips that executives learn from $2,000 expensive seminars can easily be learnt from $10 books on parenting. Reason being that the skills you need to deal with a minor child are typically the same skills that you need when dealing with other people.

Here are some of the lessons that parenting can teach executives:
  • Treat people with respect
  • Listen to what others say
  • Recognize others' achievement if you want to have amotivated staff
  • Make employees do what you want to do by making it look like it's their idea
  • Be there for your employees; stand by them and let them take reasonable risks and learn from their mistakes

I agree with the recommendations listed in the article. Raising kids is an extremely tough job and you learn a lot as you rear children. The article does a good job of highlighting the skills you learn as a parent.

For the original article, click the following link:
Good Mother=Good Manager
posted by Ruby @ 9:06 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Higher inflation helps reduce taxes
At least from one perspective, the higher inflation has a beneficial effect - it has widen the tax brackets and the income limits for IRAs in 2007. IRS is required by law to make many tax-related adjustments to account for the inflation every year. As a result of these revisions, some of the key changes that have been made are as follows:

- Personal and dependency exemption for most taxpayers increased from $3,300 in 2006 to $3,400

- Standard deduction increased as follows:
  • $10,700 for married couples filing a joint return, up $400 from 2006
  • $5,350 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up $200 from 2006
  • $7,850 for heads of household, up $300
In addition, the tax-bracket thresholds will increase for each filing status, and raise the income limits that apply to the retirement savings contributions credit, contributions to a Roth IRA and deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. For examples, the tax rates for Married Individuals Filing Joint Returns and Surviving Spouses are as follows:

If Taxable Income Is: The Tax Is:
  • $15,650 or less: 10% of the taxable income
  • Over 15,650 to $63,700: $1,565 plus 15% of the excess over $15,650
  • Over $63,700 to $128,500: $8,772.50 plus 25% of the excess over $63,700
  • Over $128,500 to $195,850 $24,972.50 plus 28% of the excess over $128,500
  • Over $195,850 to $349,700 $43,830.50 plus 33% of the excess over $195,850
  • Over $349,700: $94,601 plus 35% of the excess over $349,700

For other brackets and additional information, see the following: IRS publication

posted by Ruby @ 6:57 AM   0 comments

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Monday, November 27, 2006
Cashing in on Black Friday sales to your advantage
Well, the thanksgiving holidays are over and it's back to regular routine. Had a good relaxing weekend – spending time with friends and family, shopping as well as watching movies. On Black Friday, like many people, did a little bit of shopping although I went out around 9 AM and was back home by 11:30 PM – so spent less than 2.5 hrs in shopping. We needed a new DVD player and since I had seen the ads on Black Friday Web site, we decided to buy it as the prices were decent. That was our only major purchase for the weekend!

I know that retailers spend a considerable amount of money in promoting the great deals available during the Black Friday and the rest of the holiday season. Fortunately, in our house, we typically do not go crazy about buying things just because they happen to be on sale and we try to limit impulse buying. One thing we realize is just because something is on sale, it doesn't mean that that thing has to be bought nor does it mean that it's free.

That said, I believe that as a savvy consumer, it's good to be able to postpone buying things that can wait, and be able to buy them when they are on considerable discount such as during the thanksgivings weekend. So the DVD player was one such purchase. We needed a new one as we were having problems with our existing player. However, as it was not an urgent need, we decided to wait till it went on sale last weekend.

Am sure there are lot of other people who are doing the same thing and delaying their major purchases where possible until they go on sale during the thanksgiving to christmas season. I think this is one way for savvy consumers to beat retailers on their own game, and use their heavily advertised sales to your advantage rather than getting further into debt. Of course, the primary goal is still to avoid frivolous spending because ultimately, your interest in the must-have item you bought wears off more quickly that the interest charges that remain on your credit card.
posted by Ruby @ 7:41 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, November 26, 2006
Salary survey - Accounting and Finance professionals remain in demand
As per the Accounting Today magazine, the accounting and finance professionals continue to remain in demand. According to the Robert Half International's 2007 Salary Guide of accounting and finance professionals, the greatest salary increase is expected for those working as compliance professionals, financial analysts, internal auditors and public accountants.

Some of the salary ranges are as follows:
  • Chief Compliance Officers at large companies: $132,500 to $181,250
  • Internal Audit Managers (large companies): $77,500 to $101,500
  • Senior Managers and Directors (public accounting): $82,000 to $120,000
  • Entry-level accountants: $38,000 to $44,000
For the entire article, go to Accounting Today's Web site. For Robert Half's 2007 Salary Guide, contact them at 800-803-8367 or go to Robert Half's Web site.


posted by Ruby @ 7:37 AM   0 comments

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Saturday, November 25, 2006
Taxes - New standard mileage rates for 2007
Thanks to the higher gas prices, IRS has increased the standard mileage rates for using car for business, and medical/moving purposes. The new rates are:

Business miles driven: rates increased from 44.5 cents/mile in 2006 to 48.5 cents/mile in 2007

Medical or moving purposes: rates increased from 18 cents/mile in 2006 to 20 cents/mile in 2007

The rates for miles driven in service to a charitable organization still remain the same as that for 2006 which is 14 cents/mile.
posted by Ruby @ 6:37 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Thanksgiving day - a day to thank our blessings
The thanksgiving day is finally here! Read a good post at The Family First site regarding how to give thanks at Thanksgiving; here's the link:

Reasons to be thankful

I guess, thanksgiving day is a good reminder for us to be thankful for all our blessings and be grateful for everything god has given - family, friends, etc, as well as for all our successes, and failures which taught us important lessons.

Happy thanksgiving!
posted by Ruby @ 7:47 PM   0 comments

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Earn frequent flier miles for Ads
Came across a Web site that allows you to earn miles for viewing ads. The site allows any one to earn miles on many US and international airlines including Continental, Delta, Northwest and US Air. You can specify the email frequency regarding maximum number of emails you want to receive every week.

The site is:


I find the program fine but am kind of hesitant about it because I already get too many emails but on the other hand, the program is a good way to renew the frequent flier miles before they expire.


posted by Ruby @ 8:10 AM   0 comments

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Monday, November 20, 2006
I, my car and emergency road side assistance
Got off to a bad start yesterday when I ended up with a flat tire on the way to work yesterday morning. Fortunately, I was able to drive my car to the side of the road safely, and then called my auto club, GM Motor Club, for assistance. The operator took the necessary info and within 45 minutes the assistance guy was there at the scene.

I was pleasantly surprised by the GM Motor Club's fast service. This is the first year we joined them. In the past, we used to have Emergency Roadside Service from Geico but we ended up changing it because Geico kept increasing our auto insurance rates as well as Emergency Roadside Service rates every year. I felt that GM Motor Club's service was much more prompt that that provided by Geico's club in the past.

The good part was that after I provided my location, car info, etc to the operator, I got an automated call back saying that the assistance guy has been notified and I was provided with his number. I got another automated callback when the assistance guy left to come to my location, and then after he had provided the service, I got the third and final automated callback to confirm if every thing went fine and if I wanted to provide my feedback on service via telephone survey.

I had used Geico's ERS in the past but I never got such calls to confirm if everything went well. In fact, I often had to call them several times to confirm if the assistance guy had been notified or not and has he left his shop to come to help us.

In addition, the club's fee was very reasonable. Another good part of the membership is that the club offers travel and dining discounts and coupons for restaurants through out the country. When we were doing comparison shopping, we realized that it was way less expensive and better than AAA as it had annual fee of $59 covering both myself and my spouse. In addition, it provides towing for much larger distance compared to AAA's basic membership - see comparison at their Web site:

GM Motor Club versus AAA comparision

So the club's good service was a good part of otherwise what was a bad start to the day but fortunately, every thing was fine and safe.
posted by Ruby @ 9:57 PM   0 comments

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Sunday, November 19, 2006
Internet site displaying Black Friday specials
Friday after the thanksgiving, also referred to as the Black Friday, is approaching soon, with the Thanksgiving on Nov 23. The Black Friday has traditionally been the busiest shopping days in the US, with most stores throwing up many items at low prices and opening stores early in the morning since the specials last only for a few hours. I am myself planning to buy some electronics stuff, so am looking forward to shopping that day although I definately won't be standing in front of the stores at 5 AM in cold weather.

This year, fortunately, came across an internetsite called Black Friday that displays the specials from various stores such as Circuit City, CompUSA, Best Buy,Walmart, etc; the site link is as follows:

Black Friday
posted by Ruby @ 5:49 PM   0 comments

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Saturday, November 18, 2006
Do you need the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification to become a better investor?
Was talking to a coworker yesterday who was thinking of taking the CFA exam and wanted to get my opinion. He does not work in securities industry and was thinking that taking the CFA exam would require prepping for it and that would help him become a better investor. As many people are interested in it, I decided to post some information about it on this site.

The CFA exam consists of three levels (Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3) or series of exams, with candidates allowed to take one level every year. If you pass, you can take the next level in the following year. The exam is extremely rigorous and tests on the fundamentals of investment principles.

As per the CFA's web site, some of the areas on which the exam tests you include: Business Strategy, Corporate Finance, Debt Investments, Derivative Instruments, Economics, Equity Investments, Financial Markets, Financial Statement Analysis, etc.

I was fortunate to learn about CFA from my professor-cum-advisor who happened to be a CFA. However, as I gathered more information on it, I realized that it would not help me much professionally as I did not want to work on the Wall Street or for that matter, in the securities valuation/analysis area. However, this certification can be helpful if some one wants to work as a securities analyst etc. As per the CFA's web site, based on a salary survey, they found that people with CFA designation had compensation levels 54 percent higher than those without it ($180,000 vs. $116,850), with salaries also dependent on years of experience in many cases (For complete survey, click the following link:

Link to salary survey at CFA's web site

However, any one who is thinking of taking the exam needs to consider the following facts:

- The exam requires a lot of preparation as well as commitment. Even if some one wants to take all levels, basically he/she has to commit at least three years to it

- The exam is very expensive. As per the CFA's web site, the fee for each level ranges from $450 to $690 per depending on when you enroll. In addition, you have to pay about $400 one-time registration fee. So a person can end up spending close to $2,000 just in taking all three levels, and that is assuming, he/she passes each level on the first attempt

- In addition to the exam cost itself, other costs also need to taken into consideration including the review material (each level's study book can cost about $400), and the fact that once you do earn a CFA, you will have to pay annual fee to keep it current.

So personally, I feel that CFA is a good investment for people who do want to work in the securities analysis/valuation area and especially, if their employer is willing to reimburse them for the certification exam and other costs. However, if someone's considering CFA primarily to improve his knowledge to become a better investor, and he will not be working in the securities analysis field, I think it may be better to study on your own and improve one's knowledge. As many of the successful mutual fund managers have shown, people can become better investors without earning a CFA; nor does earning a CFA guarantee that you will consistenly beat the markets. Of course, you still need to spend time and effort in expanding your investment knowledge and expertise in order to become a better investor.

If planning to take the CFA exam, here are the links to some study guides and review books for the exam preparation: For subscription to the Chartered Financial Analyst magazine, see:

Chartered Financial Analyst

To learn more about the CFA, visit CFA Institute's Web site by clicking the link below:

CFA Institute

For Part II of this post, click the link below:

Career Options for CFAs

If interested in learning about stock investing, some of the low-cost, excellent books on stocks investing include:

Fire Your Stock Analyst!

The Stock Market Course

Rule #1

The Intelligent Investor

Contrarian Investment Strategies in the Next Generation

The Little Book That Beats the Market

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posted by Ruby @ 8:28 AM   6 comments

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Thursday, November 16, 2006
Reality behind the magic curtain
Went out with a friend yesterday. He was a bit down, so decided to take him out to lunch. During our conversation, he mentioned about his growing debt. Both he and his wife work and make decent salaries. Apparently, however, they have been living a high life which has caused them to spend beyond their means and max out their credit cards and take out home equity loans. I was actually surprised to hear about his debt problems since I always thought that he and his wife were making good money. As a result, I thought they could afford to have nice cars, big house, large screen TVs and all the latest gizmos. I had heard and read about many such cases where seemingly rich people were actually not-so-rich in reality but did not think that it could happen to a close friend also.

Most of us carry some debt in the form of mortgage and student loans. Some times, many people have to take on debt because of medical reasons or personal emergencies. However, some people get into debt simply because they seem to want instant gratification. They buy things they cannot afford to buy based on their bank balance. However, because of credit cards, they can buy it and then they end up paying high interest on it. I have myself made such mistakes and spontaneously bought stuff and high priced goods. However, with experience, I have now realized that the "happiness" you get by owning such material things is momentary and lasts for just a few days. After about a week, most of us do not care much about the new car, large screen TVs etc, and these things are left gathering dust, while we end up paying the interest and other charges for it on our credit cards for a long period of time.

In order to live a debt-free life, I believe that one has to be willing to postpone instant gratification and be willing to commit to living within one's means. True, for certain things such as education, house and cars, we often have to take out loans but for many of the other things we include under "necessities", we do not have to take out any loans if we either don't buy that stuff or buy it only we can pay it off immediately. As usual, it goes back to one of the prerequisites for a good life - you have to be willing to sacrifice certain things in order to get other things.
posted by Ruby @ 5:25 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006
How to succeed in life?
Read an interesting post regarding how to make money at Personal Finance Advice blog site.

This is an excellent site, and among one of my favorite sites. Some of the attributes the site lists that a person should have in order to make money on the internet include stubbornness, passion, creativity and so forth.

You can view the original post by clicking the following link:
Personal Finance Advice

While the post talks about how to make money on the internet, I believe that the attributes that the site lists also apply to succeeding in business as well as personal life. All of us encounter problems in our lives and what separates winners from the regular people is their attitude and how they deal with those problems. Rather than simply giving up or blaming other people/destiny for their problems, they accept their responsibility in any mistakes they make, and find ways to solve their problems. In order to succeed in life, whether personal or professional or spiritual life, a person must adopt the right attribute, be willing to persist and self-motivate himself/herself and accept the fact that a successful life involves tradeoffs - you have to be willing to sacrifice certain things in order to get other things.
posted by Ruby @ 7:36 AM   0 comments

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Monday, November 13, 2006
Is Buy and Hold strategy ideal for all types of stocks?
Most of the financial magazines, books and newspapers I have read emphasize the importance of buy and hold strategy when it comes to owning stocks and mutual funds. What is interesting is that when I browse through the prospectuses of many mutual funds, I find that many fund managers recommend that their clients not to lose faith and continue to invest in their funds even though these managers themselves rapidly buy and sell their fund holdings, and their funds have a high turnover ratio.

Based on my experience, what I have found is that such a strategy depends on the type of stocks or mutual funds you own. I believe that the buy and hold strategy should not be applied blindly in all cases. While the strategy may be good to follow in cases of stocks of large firms with stable earnings, it should be followed with caution in case of small firms, technology firms and firms with volatile earnings. In my view, in case of the latter firms, due to the rapid changes in technology and competitive environments, mergers and acquisitions, and other factors, buy and hold strategy may result in substantial losses. For example, firms such as Cray, Wang, Silicon Graphics etc were once dominant companies in the technology sectors before they lost out to other firms due to the changes in the technology, emergence of other firms and other factors. A buy and hold strategy in case of such firms would have seen most shareholders lose a substantial part of their capital. I learned this fact the hard way when I invested in Siebel whose stock peaked in early 2000. Siebel was the leader in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) industry and had grown rapidly as the major companies bought its CRM software. However, because of the saturation in the CRM industry, changes in the market conditions, technology and competition from companies such as, SAP and others, Siebel's stock dropped all the way from $200+ to in 2005 to around $7-$9 range in 2005 before it was bought out by Oracle in 2005.

So these days, I try to follow technology stocks as much as possible in case I invest in them rather than just buying them for long term and forgetting about them. In addition, one of the things I try to do is to take out my original capital if the stock has risen substantially, and if I still want to own shares in that company. This way, I am playing only with the appreciated value of the stock, and even if the stock later tanks, at least the money I had invested is not lost.


posted by Ruby @ 7:46 AM   1 comments

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Friday, November 10, 2006
Redeeming United Airlines frequent flier miles for magazines
Received a form in the mail for redeeming United Airlines frequent flier miles for magazines. I have some miles and was looking to subscribe to some of the magazines any ways, so it was good to receive the form.

Some of the magazines you can subscribe include:

Barron's - 26 issues(Code: N7R, Miles: 1,700)
BusinessWeek - 51 issues (Code: CK3, Miles: 1,200)
Entrepreneur - 12 issues (Code: CKP, Miles: 600)
Fortune (25 issues) and T+L Golf (7 issues) - (Code: CK0, Miles: 1,800)
SmartMoney - 24 issues (2 year subs) (Code: C38, Miles: 1,400)

The magazine's customer service number is 800-961-8723. This automated number provides info on the latest magazines that are available for subscription by redeeming the miles. I called the number and found the subscription process pretty straight forward.

Am glad UAL is offering this service; I just wish US Air was doing the same because I have some miles that I want to redeem before they expire.


posted by Ruby @ 6:05 AM   4 comments

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Thursday, November 09, 2006
Sam's Club joins the Priceless Club
Heard on the TV today that Sam's Club will soon be accepting MasterCard effective Nov 11, 2006. As there's a Sam's Club close to our place, it's a good news for us. Currently, Sam's Club only accepts Discover Card and since we don't use that card for any other purchases, I have always tended to avoid getting Discover Card. This, however, means carrying cash to pay for purchases at Sam's Club; something I never like since I don't like to carry too much cash. Plus, as we get reward points on our purchases with Visa/MasterCard, I try to use them as much as possible.
posted by Ruby @ 7:25 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Identity Theft:
Virtually every day, I keep getting scam emails supposedly from companies like ebay, paypal, Citibank and other regarding some issue with my account along with URLs that I can use to access that site. Of course, the purpose of such emails is to for the scammers to capture my user id and password info when I go to their fake Web sites and access my account. In most cases, I don't even have accounts with such firms, so it's easy to spot such emails as fake. However, that's not stopping scammers from coming up with more creative ways to steal customers' identity and their money.

Was reading an article recently regarding how many scammers are now buying Web site domain addresses that appear to be associated with well known banks and other financial institutions. Examples of such fake Web sites could include, and so forth. Of course, the main purpose for scammers to buy such domain addresses will be record user's login information when they try to access their accounts on such Web sites, and then use that info to steal money from their accounts at actual Web sites.

So the best thing as always is to be vigilant of such new creative ways of the scammers. Personally, I try to avoid accessing any secure Web site through any URL in the email and instead just access the Web sites directly using their Web address

For the related article, check out: Information Week
posted by Ruby @ 6:43 AM   0 comments

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Putting Fraud Alerts and Victim of Fraud Statement on Credit File
Just called Equifax yesterday to update fraud alert on my file. Fraud Alerts are easy to put on your file as you just need to contact any of the three credit agencies. Once you do that, that credit agency will also notify the other two credit agencies to put fraud alert. And the best thing is it can be done over the phone in most cases. The Web site and phone addresses of each of the three credit agencies are as follows:

Equifax   Phone: 800-685-1111
TransUnion   Phone: 800-680-7289
Experian   Phone: 800-311-4769

For the extended Fraud Alert, each credit agency requires you to mail in the request with info about your current address, SSN, and so forth. The exact info and the mailing address for sending the request can be found on their Web site.
posted by Ruby @ 7:48 AM   0 comments

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Friday, November 03, 2006
Buy Low and Sell High - Hackers' Stock Trading Strategy
Both E-Trade and TD Ameritrade brokerage firms had their sites hacked recently. After gaining access to customer accounts at these firms, the hackers allegedly made numerous trades, buying low-priced, low volume stocks. By buying these stocks in large numbers using the brokerage firms' customer accounts, they drove up the prices of these stocks. The hackers already owned these stocks in separate accounts, and after driving up the prices of these stocks, they sold their own stocks at profit.

As this pump-and-dump strategy indicates, hackers have been becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach and this is becoming an increasing concern for businesses and customers. Having been subject to ID theft myself, I know it's a big nuisance and takes a lot of time, money and headaches to clear up things. E-Trade estimates that its customers lost several million in losses. However, the customers at E-Trade and TD Ameritrade fortunately won't at least be losing financially for any losses, as both the brokerage firms will be covering their losses.
posted by Ruby @ 7:13 AM   0 comments

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Thursday, November 02, 2006
Free domestic and international calls without the internet
Just came across a site called Jajah that lets you make free domestic and international calls without the internet. The calls are free if calling other Jajah users but the site does charge for calls to non-users; the charges seem to be reasonable.

The site does not require you to have broadband access, nor do you need any internet phones or headset because the site uses your standard landline or mobile phone to make the calls. The site uses fiber network rather than the internet for making calls.

To make calls, you will need to type the phone number from where you want to call as well as the number of the receive into window on the Jajah's web site. Once you hit call button on their web site, you basically wait for your phone to ring and you then pick up your landline (or mobile) phone and in the mean time, Jajah's site supposedly has already dialed the receiver's phone number.

Some of the countries where you make free calls include Canada, France, Germany, UK and so forth.

For more info, check their web site at:

posted by Ruby @ 9:28 AM   1 comments

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