Time for another edition of the Carnival of Wealth, our weekly roundup of personal finance blog posts both good and rotten. Let’s go:
Mother-and-son team Boomer & Echo return after a pronounced hiatus. They’ve given their site over to Sandi Martin of Spring Personal Finance, at least temporarily. We can think of many sites that would improve if they’d let her take over permanently. Ms. Martin reminds you how dumb you are if you turn your investment advisor into an investment oracle. You need to do your homework first and then ask questions, not throw yourself at the advisor’s mercy and say “Handle this for me.” Especially since investment advisors have an incentive to sell you packages that might not necessarily benefit you more than they benefit the advisors themselves.
PKamp3 at DQYDJ.net (here’s our quarterly reminder that it stands for “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”) eschewed numbers for prose in his objective look at the absurd custom that is obligatory tipping. How can it be “To Insure Promptness” if you’re doing it at the end of the meal? There’s at least one restaurant that has removed gratuities from the diners’ discretion, and likely more to follow.
For our American readers who think tipping is counterintuitive, here’s a tip of our own, in the sense of “unsolicited advice”. Eat in locales that are frequented by foreign tourists, and watch the wait staff drop what they’re doing to embrace you. An example is Moab, Utah, the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. You’ll hear more German, French and Japanese being spoken on Main Street in Moab than you will American English. When a local waitress lucks out and finds an American party sitting in her section, she knows she’ll be in for something beyond her standard tip of 0.
In defense of Michael Lux at Student Loan Sherpa, he wrote his submission before seeing the piece we posted on Friday. Michael is an attorney who already had an engineering degree before entering law school. For some reason he chose the dark side, but the good news is it came with its own built-in punishment: “a medium sized fortune in student loans,” to quote Michael. His financial advice is curious and sometimes internally contradictory, such as telling students to “(not) be stupid” and then giving them alcohol consumption pointers in the very next sentence. Also, recommending that you use student loans to pay the interest on your student loans (sic) is yet another example of going for the small victory. If you instead enroll in a practical school that you can afford without subsidies, you can laugh at all the overeducated losers in the unemployment line while cashing your paychecks.
Daniel at Sweating the Big Stuff, who’s usually one of our most thoughtful contributors, decided to wind down his limited liability company because of the tax hit it brought on. Which seems rash, seeing as he’s now presumably going to be a sole proprietor and will start paying taxes at ordinary income rates. Make sure you read the comment from Leigh, who must have read Chapter X in The Greatest Personal Finance Book Ever Written and who understands that just because Daniel lives in the business-unfriendly state that is California, that doesn’t mean he has to incorporate there.
Michael at Financial Ramblings barely met the deadline last week, then overcompensated by being the first to submit this week. So we’re placing him firmly in the middle of today’s CoW, and the universe is in balance. Michael discusses when to rebalance a portfolio, and says you shouldn’t be a slave to the calendar. Only fix if fixing is warranted, and stay within 5% of your targets.
Kristen at My Dollar Plan spent 4 seconds cobbling together a 131-word post about how she and her boring husband are saving money for Christmas. You know, that holiday just 4 months down the road. Kristen dared us to run her cocktail napkin scratchings dressed up as a blog post, and we did. Next week, Kristen will share with us one of the notes she placed in her kid’s lunch box.
Mike St. Pierre at the aptly named Annuity Rates HQ is still clanging that annuity bell. Just read his introductory definition of an annuity, then buy one from him regardless of what kind of payments it promises and then we can all go home. This post includes a video that was still loading at press time.
Bryan Chau at Success Pen Pal sent us what we can only assume is his grade-school report on the color green. You read it and tell us otherwise. Bryan gets a C- (needs improvement), only because he spelled most of the words correctly and didn’t make it too obvious that he cribbed several excerpts from Wikipedia.
Something called Buck Inspire offers an audio submission, an interview with financial planner and Iraq War veteran Jeff Rose. SSgt Rose saw combat, came home in one piece, became a CFA and is now writing books. That makes him at least 4 times as impressive as us.
Zero, and you’re a uxorious sap if you argue otherwise. Todd at Fearless Men tells you how much you should spend on an engagement ring, a costly trinket with no value outside of its ceremonial, non-economic one. (Excluding its very real economic value to the jeweler.) Todd goes halfway, at least acknowledging that the prospective fiancée should understand that her betrothed will likely put himself (and by extension, her) into hock should he buy a pricey ring. Why you’d acknowledge that yet still sign off on the purchase, we have no idea. We also aren’t carrying a nickel of consumer debt, so understand that we don’t know what we’re talking about. You need to hear from a debt blogger for the proper perspective on this.
American “energy independence” is another of those meaningless stock phrases politicians love to bust out, like “affordable health care” and “common-sense gun laws.” They frame the terms of the debate before it even begins, and everyone who has a counterpoint to make must therefore be advocating expensive health care or nonsensical gun laws.
The U.S. doesn’t have “food independence” nor “clothing independence”. No one considers it a crisis that your bananas come from Costa Rica and your t-shirts from Bangladesh. So why is energy the one commodity that has to be produced within our borders? Is Alberta Tar Sands oil inherently flawed? This rant is a preface to Dividend Growth Investor’s latest, in which he questions the sanity of Warren Buffett’s right-hand man Charlie Munger. He sees importing oil as something a prosperous modern country does, while Dividend Growth Investor disagrees with Munger’s formulation of his argument.
Much in the same way that fat people don’t know they’re fat, stupid people don’t know they’re stupid. (Yes, there’s quite a bit of overlap.) Harry Campbell at Your PF Pro made the latter observation while explaining his latest discovery: companies will sometimes go to outrageous lengths to keep you happy these days, now that Twitter exists as a forum in which to publicly criticize companies. Calling the customer service complaint line wasn’t quite as fruitful back when the conversation was just between the company and a wronged patron.
Barbara Friedberg suggests 7 ways to make money fast, 6 of which we (and Barbara) know none of you are ever going to attempt. You might sell your junk on eBay, though.
Sandi Martin of Spring Personal Finance is so good she gets to make an encore before we’re even finished. Here’s the best line of this week’s Carnival:
I’ve seen a lot of debt consolidation train wrecks, and about five of them were due to circumstances beyond the borrower’s control. The other 7,256,219 were due to the window slamming shut, either because the borrower didn’t know or didn’t care
Don’t confuse consolidating debt with merely moving it around. But you’re probably going to do it anyway, assuming you were irresponsible enough to have required debt consolidation in the first place.
Finally, the prolific Jason at Hull Financial Planning. (Prolific in the John Creasey sense, not the Travis Henry sense.) Even someone as absurdly accomplished as Jason can think that he’s somehow wasting his time. Jason posts a list of 101 things he needs to remind himself of more often, and does so publicly to doubtless spur himself to even greater action. Years out of the army and he still does more before 9 a.m. than most of us do all day.
And we’re done. See us for a new Anti-Tip of the Day every day, and new posts Wednesdays and Fridays. New CoW next Monday, as always. ‘Til then.