Carnival of Wealth, Pre-Debate Edition

“It’s just a popularity contest.” “No kidding.”

 

And we’re back, regular as clockwork. Another compendium of the least average personal finance blog posts of the week, summarized and arranged for your reading pleasure and education. We call it the Carnival of Wealth, and it beats that unreadable and insipid Yakezie Carnival every day and twice on Mondays.

When inspired, we try to find an encompassing, somewhat universal theme for each week’s CoW. Not all of you are into college football or guns, so we have to broaden our purview a bit. Thus this week’s theme, the series of presidential debates that are somehow going to explain the candidates’ positions better than months of sound bites and ads (and years of endorsed and vetoed legislation) have.

Seriously, the debates are more a contest of the candidates’ ability to keep cool than anything else. For whatever reason, photogeneity and the appearance of confidence (whether said confidence even exists) have become prerequisites for the highest office in the land. Thus two visually appealing, resonant candidates. Hook noses and contralto squeals never had a chance.

The guy on the left, our left, won the first debate unambiguously. If you believe the polls, that changed a few people’s minds. If debate performance is the one criterion you use to determine your favorite between two candidates whom you otherwise consider indistinguishable, well…thanks for registering, we guess.

That introduction went absolutely nowhere and served no purpose, not unlike the debates themselves. Let’s start this thing:

The remarkable Dave at 6400 Personal Finance has earned top billing even when he doesn’t submit to the CoW. We picked this piece from his recent archives. He explains how a government can’t be expected to exercise fiscal discipline when the elected representatives who comprise it carry giant credit card balances and negative net worth of their own.

Sometimes (all the time) it seems as though the Internal Revenue Service goes out of its way to make the tax code as arcane as possible. The good news is that since Ron Paul didn’t win the Republican presidential nomination and, let’s be honest, probably won’t get the 50 million write-in votes he needs to win the presidency, the tax code promises to be even more complicated 4 years from now than it is today. Regardless of who’s in the White House. If you’ve heard stories about people winning cars or boats in raffles and then having to sell them because they couldn’t afford the taxes, never fear. Michael at Financial Ramblings explains that credit card rewards aren’t taxable income. But because they’re rebates, you have to deduct them from your income. Having this situation accounted for is a far more productive use of bureaucrats’ time than implementing a flat tax (and a basic standard deduction) would ever be.

Look who’s back! It’s the chairman emeritus of the Carnival of Wealth. Founder Shailesh Kumar at Value Stock Guide makes an all-too-infrequent appearance with his piece on The Boston Consulting Group Growth Share Matrix. What is it? Nothing less than the Grand Unified Theory of investing. What Stephen Hawking has attempted to do for the universe, The Boston Consulting Group has done for managing your portfolio. The Share Matrix is actually less complicated than you might think.

(Post rejected because it’s written for those who are “Looking for frugal eateries while traveling to Hyde Park in Chicago? We cover five such places.” Not only is it off-topic, anyone who uses the word “eateries” is a jackball.)

Oh, snap. Another “frugal” blog? With a green logo (you know, the color of money?) And big, boldfaced paragraph headings and a series of questions at the end of the post (Blogger 101)? John P. Schmoll at Frugal Rules enters the CoW with a post on how to roll your 401(k) over when you switch jobs. This post actually isn’t bad, although the news that 15 million people have left their 401(k)s with their old employers is. (Oh, and John? It’s “principles”, not “principals.” No worries. Here to help.)

The definitive authority on Canadian resource investing, Mich at Beating the Index, returns after a mysterious layoff. Maybe he was enjoying Canada’s 13 weeks of federally mandated vacation. No wait, that’s Denmark. Easy to confuse, they both have red-and-white flags. This week, Mich discusses exploration in that notorious hotbed of oil deposits…Trinidad & Tobago.

Didn’t know that Trinidad & Tobago was 7 miles north of Venezuela, did you? Nor that Trinidad & Tobago lowered the profit tax on petroleum this year. Mich met with the principals of a junior explorer that’s staked claims in that part of the world, and sees promise.

Free Money Finance is unapologetic about building wealth and wanting to build more. Which shouldn’t be noteworthy, except that for some reason lots of people feel guilt or ambivalence about doing so. If you don’t believe that, check out the commenters whom our contributor felt the need to clarify himself to. Everyone has certain advantages, the idea is to capitalize on whatever gifts you’re blessed with and have developed. Do that, spend less time emailing personal finance bloggers to tell them how unreasonable they’re being, and maybe you can be less of a failure too.

One of our favorite regular contributors, the erudite and hilarious PKamp3 at DQYDJ.net, found a subject that hits an even more sensitive nerve than usual:

We’ve spoken time and again on this site about what an utter waste of time and money a college education is unless you major in the hard sciences, math, applied science or finance. If you’re really committed to throwing your life away and being unproductive, you can keep collecting degrees (and debt) until you become a fully tenured professor in your useless discipline of choice. Like a certain political science professor at the City University of New York whom the New York Times gave some column inches to so he could ruminate on a rhetorical question too stupid for a site like Control Your Cash, “Is Algebra Necessary?”

He argues as follows:

  1. Math is hard.
  2. Studying it in high school makes kids drop out, or at least impacts their grades enough that they can’t qualify for college.
  3. So let’s drop algebra.

Hey, any high schooler who happened to read the professor’s opinion piece and is now reading this (you never know): if you’re too dumb to solve x + 3 = 7, learn to drive a bus. You’ll be more productive than if you’d squeezed into an undemanding college, and you won’t carry any long-term debt.

The professor says that the vast majority of students won’t need math in their careers. A) Bullcrap, and B), as PKamp3 put it:

(W)e should cancel physical education because most people sit at their desks.  Let’s cancel literature since most of us don’t read classics at work.  In fact, let’s cancel everything except lunch(.)

Herbert Hoover was the only engineer to serve as President, back in the ’20s. Since then it’s been a largely unbroken line of attorneys, most of whom couldn’t find a first-order derivative if their lives depended on it. No correlation, of course.

Speaking of unbroken lines, the lovely Liana Arnold at CardHub returns with a piece on organizations busted for credit card fraud. Liana doesn’t mean merchants slapping cardholders with unfair charges, she means card issuers that signed cardholders up for payment protection and other nonsense without the cardholders’ consent. The good news is that Discover, American Express et al. had to pay up. Was this straight-up fraud, or just misleading statements? Either way, read the agreement and save every email. (Also, Liana attempted a sports reference. Adorable!)

John Kiernan at the closely related Wallet Blog writes about the phenomenon of banks changing the ways they disclose terms and conditions. Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the biggest charitable funds in the world, recommended a simple and streamlined 1-page disclosure form for banks to use that will help accountholders answer variants on the question, “How much is this going to cost me?” Incredibly, many major banks adopted it. See, you folks using Bitcoins are missing out on the fun new transparent standard banking industry.

A couple of years ago, we tore an unreadable book to shreds. (Figuratively. We have Kindles.) The author and his army of relatives are persistent, however, sending us the occasional CoW entrant. So here’s Jack Thompson (regrettably not the former Bengals quarterback, or even the lunatic disbarred lawyer in Florida who loves to sue Howard Stern and video game manufacturers) of Becoming Your Own Bank. He writes about the wonders of…whole life insurance.

Whole life insurance is almost as big a waste of money as a humanities degree is. The author’s boss sells whole life insurance for a living. Do your research. Buy our book and don’t get screwed.

Harry Campbell at Your PF Pro backed away from last week’s ill-fated toe dip into Chipotle ordering strategy, and returns with a vengeance. This week, Harry discusses the nefarious tax called inflation. It hits all of us, and it hits the poor (i.e., people who have relatively more of their wealth in cash) particularly hard. Thus Harry recommends I Bonds, which include both a fixed rate and an “inflation” rate.  They protect against inflation, which the Federal Reserve says is currently negligible but which anyone who buys or sells anything knows isn’t. Harry’s post includes a smart, easily actionable strategy for buying I Bonds (when to, how much to etc.) that you can…(can’t use “take to the bank”, that’s too trite an idiom)…implement.

Darnell Brown at Excess Return (killer name for a site, by the way) is the guy holding his palm vertical and saying “Halt” when everyone else is telling you to buy gold. Darnell reminds us that precious metal prices aren’t wholly determined by supply and demand. (Thank you, central bankers!) If you’re set on buying gold or silver, listen to what Darnell says about the methods of doing so (bullion, exchange-traded funds etc.) before committing.

Big Cajun Man had an even bigger layoff than Shailesh Kumar, we think (have to check the records.) The former returns with a…oh wait, it’s a guest post by “journalistically trained” Miranda Marquit. Take it away, Miranda:

keyword keyword incredibly basic thought keyword SEO phrase link to sponsor keyword keyword pap keyword SEO phrase pablum keyword pabulum keyword keyword insultingly rudimentary advice keyword SEO phrase unnecessary adverb to keep the word count up keyword

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Teacher Man guest posts at Young & Thrifty and asks if you should invest in a consumer electronics (mostly) company that’s trading 80% up from its 52-week nadir and that has a price-earnings ratio of about 15. Oh, and that’s sitting on more cash than most national governments.

Carlos Sera of Financial Tales loves to write. Paragraph after paragraph of unedited prose that, with some distillation, can get to a valuable and important point. Bring your favorite caffeinated beverage and plow your way through his post on risk, reward, and the Mar ratio. Again, there’s something worthwhile in this post, it just takes forever to get there. That’s why we saved it for last.

And we’re done. New blog posts every Wednesday and Friday. New CoW every Monday. Anti-Tips of the Day, daily. Investopedia too. Take care.

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