We just discovered the greatest invention since the microprocessor. Elegantly simple, it’s a sports bottle with a detachable bottom (and top). No more E. coli down your throat! For bikers like us, it’s a godsend of sanitation. And costs only marginally more than the standard sports bottles they sell at the bike store. We haven’t contracted dysentery once since using it, so it must be working. Uncompensated plug over, now it’s time for the show:
Sandi at Spring Personal Finance submitted a winner 2 weeks ago, got cold feet last week (literal cold feet, she lives in the Ontario hinterlands), and is back with her tour de force. Retirement planning, Sandi’s trade, involves more than the stock photo of walking barefoot on an Aegean beach with your slightly graying but still attractive spouse. There’s a battery of questions you have to ask decades beforehand, ranging from the philosophical (What do I want?) to the quantifiable (How much money do I have? How quickly am I accumulating it?) Some people defer retirement planning because of the mundane work it requires. Sandi reminds us that:
[I]f digging through a year’s worth of transactions is something you can’t find time to accomplish, it’s something I’m very, very good at.
She’s also a fee-only financial planner, the only kind you should even contemplate dealing with.
Emily Guy Birken at One Smart Dollar wanted to buy a rental home, rent it out, and enjoy the resultant cash flow. Then she decided that it’d be easier to buy a new home to live in and rent out its predecessor. We’re living proof that you can indeed make money doing the one, or the other, but your lender isn’t going to make it easy for you. Emily explains what you need to have in hand before going all-in on such an investment.
Next up is Michael at Financial Ramblings, the most inaccurately named blog in all of personal finance. Michael doesn’t ramble, he educates. In today’s case, explaining the benefits of holding a tax-exempt investment in a taxable account. Sound contradictory? It isn’t. Also, it’s amazing what you can learn when you divide listed yield by effective tax rate.
(3 quick rejections, all garbage. Save the story of your chocolate addiction for someone who cares.)
This one, on the other hand, might be the worst submission we’ve ever received. It’s so banal that we can’t just reject it. No, it deserves your attention. From “Nicholas Jackson” (a pseudonym if we’ve ever heard one) at Selling Your Structured Settlement. Here’s the opening sentence. Read it aloud to get the full effect:
How can we as “bloggers” and providers of the structured settlement annuity information most commonly found via the internet create higher quality information, less biased content than that most commonly found today, and make a larger push toward legitimate education?
The post boasts 55 footnotes, and was written 5 months ago. And oh yeah, it’s a front for a company that offers you pennies on the dollar for your annuity.
Paula Pant at Afford Anything to the rescue, yet again. In a world where we’ve encountered plenty of 29-year-olds who sponge off their parents, sponge off their grandparents, and/or go to school for a useless graduate degree, it’s encouraging to know that there’s someone out there who not only builds wealth but has fun doing it. How many countries have you visited? Probably fewer than her. “Well, I can’t go gallivanting across the globe whenever I feel like it. Unlike that lucky Paula, I have work responsibilities.” YES! Now you’re getting it.
PKamp3 at DQYDJ.net finally did it. He created a Grand Unified Theory of personal finance. It’s basically our book crammed into the space of a blog post, and it’s as awesome as you’d expect from one of our very few consistently great contributors.
You don’t need a job to build wealth – honestly, it’s probably going to hurt more than it helps (in that most jobs rob you of the opportunity to leverage your time.) In fact, you don’t even need a budget to build wealth. Just ask the amazing Pauline Paquin at Reach Financial Independence, who’s a slave to neither a job nor a budget. Pauline said au revoir and Je ne veux jamais voir ton visage puant à nouveau to a skyscraper office in Paris and replaced it with real living on the Guatemalan coast. You can do it too, or something similar, if you’re willing to do a minimum of prep work. Pauline’s post involves some simple calculations, which on their own will be enough to daunt the less enterprising among you.
Dividend Growth Investor came in seconds ahead of the deadline, with a story about Warren Buffett that we’d never heard before. Everyone knows he’s superlatively rich, but few people know how he made his first few millions. Buffett started what was essentially a hedge fund, had 13 years of positive returns, and only then liquidated the hedge fund. Who says you can’t get rich overnight?
Buffett has been more than lucky, and Dividend Growth Investor has written more of consequence on Buffett in this one blog post than we’ve read in a long time. Buffett had a scalable business model, and used other people’s money to build his empire. It wasn’t until the 1970s that he developed his “moat” strategy, investing in businesses with unassailable competitive advantages. Unfortunately, to some of our stingy colleagues Buffett will forever be known only as The Guy Who’s Lived In The Same House Since Alaska Was A Territory.
Let’s round things out with a hat trick from the Evolution Finance sites. First, John Kiernan at Card Hub explains that, fairly or not, your credit rating could affect your employment. We have to admit, anyone dumb enough to incur $12,000 in credit card debt and make only minimum payments doesn’t sound like the kind of person we’d entrust with helping our business grow. Remove the plank from your own eye first, etc.
Lynn B. Johnson at Wallet Blog thinks you should sock money away in a Section 529 college savings plan. Offered by every state and the District of Columbia, Section 529s are a cumbersome if effective way to reduce the impact of a financial outlay that, let’s be honest, will probably never pay off. (You don’t need a Section 529 to learn how to become a carpenter, because trade school tuition is so cheap. Also, you’ll have close to a guaranteed job and a tangible skill once you graduate. But no, much better to spend hundreds of times more on a degree in French literature. You know better.)
Now here’s something we can get behind. Liberal arts major Ross Garner at Wallet Hub explains what equity is. No, it’s not a synonym for “equality”. This is actually the response to a reader question, rather than a full blog post, but we’ll let it slide because what Ross says here is worth remembering.
But what do you know? There’s another response to the reader’s question, written by none other than Jason of Hull Financial Planning. Jason also contributed a submission of his own, in which he self-nominates for (Financial) Retard of the Month. Jason recently underwent surgery after tearing up his knee a few months ago, and the Army veteran thought he’d save a few bucks by going to a VA hospital instead of a civilian one. Institutional inertia being what it is, Jason ended up trading 9 weeks of discomfort for $340. Jason explains that money isn’t the only commodity that can become a sunk cost: time can too, and throwing good hours after bad is no way to live your life.
(Trent Hamm: “Jason had to wait 9 weeks for surgery, but ended up saving $340? What a deal!”)
And we’re done. See you tomorrow. And on Investopedia. Possibly both.