Thoughts and Riches

.....a blog about personal finance, motivational stories, deals, and special offers

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Friday, March 30, 2007
Free FICO score to first 5,000 students
To kickstart the launch of its Web site, WhatsMyScore.org is offering free FICO score info to its first 5,0000 user students. For details, check out the following link:

WhatsMyScore.org

The site also lets any one estimate their FICO score; for details, check out the following link:

FICO Score Estimate
posted by Ruby @ 9:19 AM   0 comments

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Steps to retire early
The CNNMoney.com article discusses the strategies to retire early. If considering early retirement, it’s important to have saved a sizable retirement kitty that would be sufficient to cover expenses during the retirement. As per the article, possible options include

- Reducing big-ticket expenses, for eg, by continuing to drive existing car
- Sending kids to public instead of private schools
- Increasing portfolio allocation in stock related funds (which, however, could increase the portfolio risk)
- Taking advantage of retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k)s
- Opening a business

The article seems too generic to me. Am sure many people already have followed most of the above steps and yet it’s hard to save sufficient money to consider retiring early. For eg, most people I know, already send their kids to public schools. In addition, even opening a business doesn’t mean it will be successful nor does it consider the amount of investment, time and commitment it would need to get it up and running. If the idea is to retire early in order to quit work, then opening a business could instead result in greater work load and financial and time commitment.

To check out the article, click the link below:

CNNMoney.com: Build the big sum you'll need
posted by Ruby @ 6:52 AM   0 comments

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Saving on weddings
The Motley Fool/Yahoo article discusses on how to save on wedding. Possible saving options include:

- Planning the wedding themselves rather than using a wedding planner
- Passing up on the party favors
- Organizing wedding at a low cost location
- Reducing the number of guests
- Not go into debt to pay the wedding bills
- Skipping on roses/anniversary gifts

Although the suggestion of not going into debt is geared towards the bride and groom, I think the recommendation is equally true for the parents, if they are planning to pay for the wedding. For complete article, click the link below:

Motley Fool/Yahoo News – Hurry Up and Get Married
posted by Ruby @ 5:21 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, March 25, 2007
Weekend Quote - Profit
Watch the costs, and the profits will take care of themselves
– Andrew Carnegie
posted by Ruby @ 7:59 AM   0 comments

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Thursday, March 22, 2007
American Airlines' Million Mile Give Away
View American Airlines' brief booking demo for a chance to win 25,000 to 250,000 miles. For details, check out the following link:

American Airlines' Million Mile Give Away

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posted by Ruby @ 6:45 AM   0 comments

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Breaking out of the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck
Kiplinger.com’s article discusses how to break out of the cycle of living from paycheck to paycheck. So how can some one do it:

- Track expenses in detail to determine where money is going

- Set goals such as saving for house, or retirement. Important thing to keep in mind is that there's difference between needs and wants

- Cut costs such as by raising deductible on insurance, lower credit card interest rate costs, cut down on ATM costs

- Boost income. The article says to look at the possibility of adjusting W4 for the amount of withholding from your paycheck based on any changes that could lead to such an adjustment, as well as contributing pretax dollars to employer-sponsored plans such as flexible spending, and dependent care account. Of course, personally, I think one should do every thing to improve one's skill which could lead to an increase salary at existing or new job.
posted by Ruby @ 5:43 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, March 18, 2007
Weekend Quote - Rich versus Poor
The difference between rich people and poor people is where they sign their checks. Poor people sign on the front. Rich people sign on the back
- Ric Edelman
posted by Ruby @ 7:14 AM   0 comments

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Thursday, March 15, 2007
Kmart to refund gift card dormancy fee
In a settlement reached with the FTC recently, Kmart has agreed to refund dormancy fee it charged its gift card holders. The company previously charged a dormancy/inactivity fee even though its Web site stated that its gift cards never expire. To get refund of dormancy fee, a customer will need to provide gift card number on which the fee was assessed, along with mailing address and phone number.

For more details, check out the link below:

CNNMoney.com: Kmart to refund gift-card fees
posted by Ruby @ 1:10 PM   0 comments

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Working 6+ hours to pay credit card penalties
Recently, a reader sent me a link to an interesting article on the shady tactics increasingly used by credit card companies these days. Some of the tactics used by credit card companies include:

- Using hard to understand credit card disclosure statements and agreements
- Charging high credit card fees and interest rates
- Charging high penalties
- Changing due date
- Not mailing out statements
- High balance transfer fees
- Charging inactivity fee for not using accounts

What's surprisingly is that not only smaller credit card companies are embracing these tactics but some of the bigger and well-known are doing it as well. I myself have been fallen for some of the gimmicks. I ended up using the checks in my statement that supposedly had zero balance transfer fee but ending up paying a fee on them. Fortunately, that was a lesson well learnt but the sad thing about the tactics used by credit card companies is that they hit poor and the uninformed people the most. For example, many issuers charge a late fee penalty of $30 or above. For some one who's making the current minimum wage of $5.15/hr, that means almost 6 hours of work to pay just the late fee penalty, and this does not consider the other interest charges that person may be paying on the credit card charges, as well as his/her after tax income.

As always, the best thing to do is to be aware of these tactics and take steps to avoid incurring late fee penalty and other charges in the first place. For eg, I try to pay the minimum payment amount a few days ahead of the deadline, to ensure at least I am not hit with late fee penalty. The remaining portion of the balance I try to pay by the deadline.

For complete article, check out the following link:

Shady Credit Card Tactics

Fortunately, Congress is currently reviewing the credit card industries practices. In addition, CNNMoney.com recently published an article on how to avoid some of these charges.

CNNMoney.com - Sidestep credit card fees
posted by Ruby @ 6:08 AM   0 comments

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Saturday, March 10, 2007
Weekend Quote - Fortune
The mold of a man's fortune is in his own hands
– Francis Bacon
posted by Ruby @ 7:11 PM   0 comments

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Thursday, March 08, 2007
Free Starbucks' coffee - Mar 15 (10-12 AM)
Starbucks' will be providing free coffee to its customers on March 15 between 10-12 AM as part of its 2nd annual Coffee Break. For more details, check out the link below:

Free Starbucks' Coffee
posted by Ruby @ 6:54 AM   0 comments

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007
High yielding online banks and bank promos
The stock market has been very volatile lately. Fortunately, for people who want to avoid stocks, there are many good online banks that are offering good interest rates while still being FDIC-insured. Some of the banks have no minimum requirements also.

One such bank that's offering good interest rates is HSBC Direct. I had opened the HSBC Direct savings account last year and for most part, like the bank. The bank has been offering 5.05% APY for quite some time and lately, has been offering 6% APY on any new deposits till Apr 30, 2007. If any one is opening a checking account, the bank is also running a $75 promotion on their Interest Checking account and $25 on their Free Checking account.

I also recently received an offer for E-Loan's 5.25% APY Savings Account. The bank is offering a rate of 5.25% which is quite competitive and unlike HSBC’s 6% interest rate, it does not expire on Apr 30, 2007 – at least not as of now.

Apart from Eloan and HSBC Direct, Emigrant Direct is another online bank that has been offering good, competitive rates. The bank is currently offering 5.05% interest rate.

I used to have ING Direct earlier, but closed it last year since their interest rates were not keeping pace with those offered by Emigrant Direct and HSBC Direct. I also see offers from Citibank and other’s from time to time but so far, none of them seems to be competitive with HSBC Direct's 6% APY promotional offer and some of the other online banks I listed above. However, Citibank is offering $25 promotion on accounts from new customers (some restrictions may apply). IGoBanking.com is another bank that seems to be offering good interest rates.

For more info on the banks mentioned above, click the links below to get more details:

HSBC’s 6%/5.05% APY offer

HSBC’s $75 Interest Checking Account promotion

IGoBanking 5.30% APY offer

E-Loan's 5.25% APY Savings Account.

Emigrant Direct 5.05% APY offer

Citibank 4.65% APY $25 bonus offer

ING Direct 4.50% APY offer
posted by Ruby @ 6:26 AM   0 comments

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Sunday, March 04, 2007
Weekend Quote - Time and Success
It takes time to succeed because success is merely the natural reward of taking time to do anything well
– Joesph Ross
posted by Ruby @ 7:08 AM   0 comments

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Friday, March 02, 2007
SmartMoney's Stock Picking Competition
SmartMoney is holding its 2007 Market Madness competition. You need to pick from 64 stocks over 6 rounds. Winner gets Gevril Timepiece, supposedly having a retail value of $6,000. For details, check out the link below:

SmartMoney's Market Madness competiton

CNBC.com is also having a similar portfolio challenge. Check out one of my previous posts:

CNBC.com's Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge
posted by Ruby @ 6:57 AM   0 comments

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Thursday, March 01, 2007
Certification Info: Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
In my previous post, I discussed about the CMA certification. Another recognized accounting certification is Certified Internal Auditor or CIA.

The certification is offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and requires passing four parts in the areas of Internal Audit Role in Governance, Risk and Control (Part I), Conducting the Internal Audit Engagement (Part II), Business Analysis and Information Technology (Part III ) and Business Management Skills (Part IV).

A passing score of 75% is required on each part. The exam is administered during Mid-May and Mid-November. The cost of the exam is $400+ although students can get up to 50% discount. For more information, check out the following links:

IIA: General Info

CIA Eligibility Requirements

Steps to Getting CIA

Certification FAQs

For posts on other accounting certifications, check out the following links:

CPA

CMA

Enrolled Agent

CFA

CISA


posted by Ruby @ 7:24 AM   1 comments

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Favorite Quote
"If you look at what you have in life, you will always have more. If you look at what you do not have in life, you will never have enough".
                - Author Unknown
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