November 26, 2006

Shopping Update...

You know how it was predicted that Black Friday would be a slow sales day...

Well, it turned out that the shopping day went pretty well.

The story above seemed so very out of line with the MSM portrait of gloom and doom that I was pretty worried about them until I read the blurb in Saturday's WSJ. From the print edition on the front page where they have the "short bits".

Many retailers reported stronger-than-expected turnout for yesterday's Black Friday holiday-shopping debut. But some economists and analysts worry that it is only deep discounts that are drawing shoppers, not underlying economic strength. Without robust consumer spending, sluggish growth could last through the year.

Whew! I feel much better! The world has righted itself in it's course. The WSJ is being "fair and balanced" by bringing us the "it might sound good - but this is the last hurrah before the final collapse" news.

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November 24, 2006

Not A Soul To Be Seen

It's Black Friday and I went out today... Well, I had to get my Starbucks didn't I?

I also wanted to get to the grocery store (as you may recall I did Thanksgiving dinner last week instead of yesterday) and it too was only normally busy.

The roads were clear, no backups at the usual lights. All is good.

Guess where everyone was... go on just guess...

I passed two malls on my little jaunt today. Each of them had parking lots packed to the gills and half mile backups of cars waiting to get into the parking lot and cruise for the elusive place to plant the car.

I want to thank the news media for letting me know that today would be a slow sales day, otherwise I might have thought that the malls are actually, you know, selling stuff.

Posted by: Teresa in Money, Money at 01:32 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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November 21, 2006

Are You Ready For It?

The news agencies are ramping up. They are putting out the little stories already.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday not as busy as most think

That's right. By Monday at the latest, we'll be seeing the stories of doom and gloom in the retail sector. We'll be innundated with black little stories of how no one is buying anything. Just wait. It's coming. Happens every year.

This is the first year I've managed to snag the "pre-black-friday-is-a-bust" story though.

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April 21, 2006

Do You Trust Your ATM?

Someone's been skimming card and pin numbers from a local ATM.

Police in Bellingham are warning residents of bank fraud after an illegal card-reading device was reported at an ATM in a busy shopping center Friday.

I can't tell too much from the description in the article, but it sounds as if the card reader was attached to the front of the ATM. Which means, naturally... if you ever see an ATM and it doesn't look quite right - go find another one! There shouldn't be anything extra on the front of the machine - period.

Bothersome factors.

There are a couple of things that really bother me about this story. It could be the way it's written and edited or it could be that the reporter didn't get all the information, or they could be true - which is just annoying and scary all at once.

"As far as we know, it is safe (to use). Electronics are pretty sophisticated and we don't know what kind of equipment they have and we are not sure about the equipment that they were using yet," Perry said

Okay - so they don't know how it was done... but it's safe... What planet does this guy live on? Was it well enough concealed that you literally CAN'T detect it? I don't think so because apparently people noticed.

Bellingham police and Bank of America received multiple complaints that a skimming device had been placed at the location...

Obviously it was noticeable. But for someone to say "we don't know how they did it, but we think you're safe" seems to be more than a bit contradictory.

The other thing...

Although it received reports from customers of a skimming device at the location, Bank of America had no comment about why the ATM was not shut down until the Bellingham police got involved.

Once again we have no timeline. Was it weeks? days? hours? I can understand not being able to immediately get someone out there to shut it down before a couple of hours have passed (I don't know the procedures but I would think not just anyone can do it). Plus the machine may not be near a branch office. If it was longer than a couple of hours OR if Bank of America personnel actually serviced the machine while the skimmer was attached - and yet continued to let it operate - that is outrageous. But it's interesting that we are left with the vague notion that Bank of America was being negligent - yet there is no timeline of events to show us that the accusation is true.

Gotta say - slapdash reporting like this is just annoying. About the only thing we learn from the story... watch out where you stick your card.

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December 02, 2005

Guess I'm Not the Only One Who Notices This Stuff

Every year when the Christmas season of shopping begins, I listen for the obligatory news story of how things just aren't going well this year. I always wonder how the 90's could ever have been considered a boom time, after all, every year during the biggest buying time... the news was always... gee we aren't selling enough this year.

Yesterday I commented to my husband about a news story I had heard on the radio earlier in the day.

The big news was -- The Christmas shopping season had started out with a big bang - Walmart and JCPenney were doing gangbuster business. BUT Nordstroms didn't do very well. (My comment... didn't do as well as what? As well as they were expecting? as well as Walmart and Penneys? as well as last year at Christmas? as well as last months sales? They don't bother to put any of this "bad" news in context - this is the balance part - you must have bad news if you are going to present good news... even if you don't give us the whole story. The real point is - they can't just say that spending is up this Christmas season - no they have to tell us that even though spending is up not everyone is doing well)

The topic arose because of another news story we both heard on the radio last night... Spending in this Christmas season is way up... Americans aren't saving enough, they're going into debt... this is bad! (My comment - What do they want? they complain about too little spending, then they complain about too much spending. then they even go so far as to say - the children of the people going into debt now will be paying off these bills... more than a little bit ridiculous - this isn't the national debt - this is individual debt)

Well, I'm not the only one who has noticed. I first saw this in the printed version of the WSJ this morning and luckily it's on the opinion journal site too! Brian Wesbury noticed and I hope his op-ed gets lots of readers...

It is amazing. Everything is negative. When bond yields rise, it is considered bad for the housing market and the consumer. But if bond yields fall and the yield curve narrows toward inversion, that is bad too, because an inverted yield curve could signal a recession.

If housing data weaken, as they did on Monday when existing home sales fell, well that is a sign of a bursting housing bubble. If housing data strengthen, as they did on Tuesday when new home sales rose, that is negative because the Fed may raise rates further. If foreigners buy our bonds, we are not saving for ourselves. If foreigners do not buy our bonds, interest rates could rise. If wages go up, inflation is coming. If wages go down, the economy is in trouble.

Yes, the MSM seem to keep getting worse. There is nothing to be reported unless it's bad news. It's almost as if they think reporting good news - in and of itself is a Cardinal Sin.

And they wonder why their circulation and viewing numbers are dropping so quickly. After a while - people get tired of continual bad news. And after Crying Wolf enough times - who is going to listen if the MSM really does have a point about something?

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September 28, 2005

So... Do You Know How To Handle Money?

As I am trying very hard to catch up on my blog reading... I came across a post by Homefront Six that I thought it would be fun to answer.

Unfortunately keeping yourself out of debt means that you generally can't have what you want when you want it. Since few people want to wait and work for something - there are many people living under huge clouds of debt. As usual the solution to money problems is to know what you can afford - and just don't buy more than that.

1. Your credit card bill is paid in full each month with never a penny in interest incurred.
Absolutely - one of my biggest aversions is to pay out interest on just about anything. If I can't pay off the credit card bill each month - I don't buy it! When we didn't have much money - we had one credit card and kept a running tab of how much had been spent each month - on the refrigerator in plain site. When it got to our imposed limit of what we could pay... we didn't use the card until the next billing cycle. In 26 years we have never carried a credit card bill to the next month.

2. You understand that the variable annuity in which your neighbor just invested will prove to be a sad mistake.
Yes.

3. Despite orchestrated furor by the media, you recognize that the $30 it costs to fill your vehicle’s gas tank is cheaper in today’s dollar that the $15 it cost 20 years ago.
Yes, because I have been filling my gas tank myself since the OPEC Oil Embargo of the 70's - I know the dollars are not comparable!

4. You enjoy financial talk shows for their entertainment value while knowing that 95% of what’s said is nonsense.
Yes, and for the most part I don't even find them entertaining.

5. The only type of life insurance that you’d ever consider purchasing is a term policy.
Yes! Even though I've had numerous people over the years tell me what a good deal they're getting on a Whole Life policy. (the same people who use their taxes as a windfall at the end of the year and think that's a good thing cause now they can pay off bills... sheesh!)

6. You’re not tempted to invest in something because of a hot tip you get from a friend or relative.
Do people really get hot tips from others? I never have.

7. You have serious doubts that the 3-unit course in basic English composition offered at Eleganté University for $900 is any better than a similar course conducted at Midtown Community College for $60.
This can be a bit tricky - because much depends on the school involved on the low end. There are some Community Colleges that are wonderful and others that are awful... so basically you could say that a good Community College English class will be just as good as one at a very expensive university... as long as the Community College is up to standard.

8. You are sufficiently sophisticated in real estate to know that the worst house in the best neighborhood beats the best house in the worst neighborhood.
Another tricky question. The basic answer is Yes... In other words buy low in a good neighborhood... BUT do realize that a house requiring thousands in work to make it livable will mean your investment in the neighborhood may not pay off as much as you think. (remember "least expensive" is NOT at all comparable to "worst"!!!)

9. You owe nothing on the vehicle you drive.
Currently - no we don't. Although with the prices of vehicles today - it's nearly impossible to buy outright unless you get a piece of junk. So, get the smallest loan time you can get - and pay off as quickly as possible if you are unable to pay outright.

10. You have a pretty good idea by mid-November how much your income tax obligation for the current year will be.
No not really - I don't pay attention too much to that. I realize that I should, but I don't. Some years we pay out other years we get money back. We try to work with the woman who does our taxes to make any paybacks as small as possible. I would rather owe at the end of the year than let the government have my money and give me no interest.

11. When hearing that the S&P 500 Index just hit an all-time high, you are not inclined to call your broker with a buy order.
Don't have a broker - don't want one either... but I still wouldn't do it even if I could - it makes no sense to buy at the all-time high!

12. It’s beyond your comprehension why anyone not certifiably insane would purchase a timeshare property.
Absolutely! I have never ever understood why anyone would buy a timeshare. A money sink if I ever saw it!

13. Your checking account balance never drops below the minimum limit that triggers a monthly service charge.
No - never get that low. Although I don't know that my checking account has a service charge... hmmm. Well, I don't care - if the balance were to get that low - it would be because someone is stealing my money!

14. You’re aware that an option to pay your auto insurance premium in two installments, with a "modest convenience fee" instead of a single payment, probably works out as a loan at about a 25% interest rate.
Well yes - any sort of service charge is "interest" on money. I wonder why there isn't a similar question about ATM charges in this list or right here at this question. How many people will pay a bank $1 to $3 to get hold of $20???

15. Although you thoroughly enjoy the home in which you live, it’s considerably less expensive than you can afford.
We've been home owners for 22 years. We ALWAYS make sure to go well below what anyone would lend us as a mortgage. We would be bankrupt if we had taken the mortgages that were waved in our faces when we were trying to buy!

16. You know practically nothing about the option market—and intend to keep it that way.
Option Market? I know what it is - have zero interest in gambling my money away.

17. You feel instinctively that every dollar you contribute in FICA taxes to the Social Security system is a dollar lost to you forever.
Well, even if I see a tiny bit of that money... it won't be enough to live on. Personally I don't think I'll ever see a dime of it back.

18. Whenever you’re negotiating a purchase and qualify to receive a discount, you do not hesitate to ask for it.
I don't remember the last discount I was eligible to receive, but if it was available I'd ask for it.

19. You entertain no illusions that a financial advisor will provide sound counsel merely because of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation held.
I don't trust many people when it comes to money advice - they'd have to prove to me they aren't just out for a commission...

20. You make the maximum possible contribution to your retirement funds.
Yes - and sometimes I could really have used that money... like when darling daughter was in college!

21. Whether your choice of wristwatch is a top-of-the-line Rolex, a fashionable Cartier, a respectable Bulova, or an economy Timex, you recognize that all are battery-operated, with a similar quartz movement, and none fail to keep excellent time.
This is an affordability issue. I don't wear a watch, but if I wanted to buy one I would buy one I could afford and would like to look at. There is a quality difference in materials between high and low end. I like nice things - so even if a Timex will run as well as a Cartier - if I liked the Cartier and could afford it without going broke - that's what I would get. Wearing something cheap is only necessary when you need to save the money for something else otherwise it's just being cheap.

22. You find it baffling why anyone would buy a lottery ticket.
I will buy them for grins every once in a while - but only $3 - $5 worth tops

23. You cannot remember when you last borrowed money for an unexpected emergency.
We haven't - but that doesn't always make it wrong. Sometimes bad things happen that can't be handled and you need help.

24. The newspaper advertisement offering a half-pound silver commemorative medallion from The Perfidious Mint, at the "special advance price of only 139 dollars," forces you to suppress a laugh.
I suppose people must buy that garbage... or they wouldn't still be selling it. But yeah it makes me laugh.

25. You have no confidence in the concept of "Investor Confidence."
I always want to know - who are the "investors" and what is their "confidence" (or lack thereof) in? They never tell you that... plus they always make up bogus statements about why "confidence" is up or down...

Well - there it is. How do you rate on these questions?

Posted by: Teresa in Money, Money at 11:52 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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July 05, 2005

Money, Money, Money

I was browsing through the headlines this morning and this one caught my eye.

Pirated Live 8 DVDs on eBay, industry protests

First of all, what kind of idiots actually want to buy what would amount to an awful amateurish video of some concert? Not that I really care - but the thought of spending money for something like that makes me laugh.

I guess this Live 8 thing was supposed to make the G8 governments aware of Africa's problems with stuff like money and food... (like this suddenly appeared out of nowhere this year and became a big problem... sure whatever). But on reading the story and being amused at the things people will shell out money to get hold of... I ran across this little tidbit.

While the concerts were free, British media said record company EMI (EMI.L) paid millions of pounds for the rights to release the official DVD of the event, which Bob Geldof organized to put pressure on world leaders to do more to beat poverty.

Shall I be so crass as to ask? Well, sure I will... who got all those millions? The artists? Bob Geldof? The record companies of each artist? I mean - mega bucks are changing hands - while these artists are supposedly trying to bring attention to the plight of the poor starving African people... Will the millions go to any sort of charity to help anyone in Africa? Or will it pay the artists who are already millionaires many times over?

I have a feeling that the money will line pockets that certainly aren't hurting for food, clothing, or shelter... because if it was going to help the African people - you can bet they'd be screaming about it in the story. Something to the tune of this: "ebayer's taking money meant to help starving children!" Since they didn't say this - one assumes that these millions are not destined for such great works.

No - their only interest lies here

"There are too many people out there who believe music is for stealing, regardless of the wishes of artists and the people who invest in them," said David Martin, director of anti-piracy at the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

Somehow, I don't think that really bad pirated recordings of a concert are going to cut into anyone's investment. I don't fault people for being interested in their bottom line... but let's face it - when it comes to an "event" of this sort - it rather makes them look like money grubbing stingy Scrooges.

However, this does show that, lest anyone think this was an "awareness raising concert" as opposed to a "fee for services rendered concert" - I think the actions to protect EMI's investment and the amount EMI spent to get hold of the rights, have clarified things for us.

Posted by: Teresa in Money, Money at 03:56 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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