Archive for January, 2008

I am in a hurry

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Live fast and die young . . .

That was my Uncle Bob’s motto.  Strangely enough, he died last week after a long and happy adulthood.  He told me once that he first recognized this when he saw an old black and white movie Knock On Any Door.   In it John Derek, Bo’s husband, played a young street tough who figured out early that life wasn’t going to treat him well so it was up to him to do for himself.  In the movie, told in flashbacks, Derek’s character does indeed die young.  But Derek, who both acted and later directed, was famous for his many love interests and the control he seemingly exerted over their careers.  He died at the age of 71.  Oddly enough so did Uncle Bob.

Bob was famous in our family for his peripatetic ways and successful life style.  Though he died quietly in his sleep, while he was alive, he never stopped taking chances and pushing the envelope.  He truly believed that money was made to be spent.  He made a lot.  And this is what intrigued me, he spent it all.  It wasn’t wasteful spending though.  He just knew what he wanted from life and damned if he wasn’t going to get it.  It wasn’t hurtful spending either.  He always took care of the people in his life and when times were tough they came first.  He told me he didn’t mind work as long as it was followed by plenty of play.  He was a dancer, a romancer and damned if he was ever afraid that he couldn’t solve a problem or find someone who could help him figure it out.

But the main thing I still remember about him was his way with kids.  He always talked directly to them as though they mattered.  His ability to listen made him a great teacher.  And he seemed to know instinctively how to avoid embarrassing them.  When you were with Bob, you knew he wouldn’t lie to you if you asked him questions and he wouldn’t let you act like a child just to avoid getting to the real answer.  He was frustrating sometimes because he would never answer questions where with just a little thinking you could figure it out for yourself.  He seemed to love the puzzle of things and to play with the different ways that you could see information.  When I would ask him for help spelling a word, he would take great pleasure in acting out the word’s spelling and meaning so that eventually I would end up with a dictionary in hand and learning much more than just how to spell that word. 

I think about Uncle Bob whenever I hear people say they can’t wait for something or other to happen or for time to pass so they can do something.   Bob never waited, and he died young, at the happy age of 71.

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Yeah, it’s tax time again

Now this is probably going to sound strange but I actually enjoy tax time.  I like summing things up and looking at where the year has brought us.  It also gives a me chance to look at my bookkeeping and decide if I need to make adjustments.  It also sets us up the information for our annual shareholder’s meeting where we look at the year past and plan the next. 

All my record keeping for our Corp and our real estate investments is kept in Quickbooks.  My version is still the QBPro2005.  There are several reasons for this.  One, QB lets me tailor the program to our particular needs and stores and reports all the info in accountant’s terms.  Two, I can use it as a file cabinet that stores all the relevant data: the bills, the sales, the inventory of equipment, the bank and credit card accounts, and the payroll and tax information.  Three, I can keep it simple.  By that I mean I don’t let the program nor the company behind it, Intuit, tell me what to do.  I am not really interested in the constant innovations or updates that the company keeps sending me.  I have learned through use of the earlier versions that like most computer programming it is designed for common use not for individuals.  It assumes to do the accounting so given certain input it is programmed to interpret and handle that input a certain way.  I am not an accountant nor do I want to be.  Luckily, QB lets me set up my company as a cash business.  That means everything we do, every piece of info I input is right in front of me all the time.  No hidden accounting practice requiring double entry.  No lag in reviewing or comparing the data.  And really, no need for the constant stream of updates.

So here it is tax time again.  With a few clicks and a quick review of the company’s finances we are on our way to our tax accountant.   Like I said, I love doing taxes, here it is January and I am already done.

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Emails versus Readers

I guess I’m old fashioned but my preference here is for the email.  I like receiving letters and really like responding to them.  But that being said, it appears to me that the preference amongst most bloggers seems to be for readers.  That way they can go to one site and scan their lists of blogs for items that they might want to read and respond to and they are done.  That, of course, is a guess on my part since I have never really met another blogger to ask what they prefer.  I guess I could do a poll but that just leads me to have to find out how to set up a poll on my site.  I probably should do that anyway.  Meanwhile, this whole question brings me back to the email vs. reader deal.  Some of the email subscriptions I have are just naturally made for email.  Alternet.org, Truthdig.com, Investipedia.com, in fact, any of the news type blogs that carry a variety of authors, all to me are best suited on email.  However, some people use their reader like a self-designed daily news service and thus simply open it up like a newspaper they can scan for their favorite authors or to find new news. (ha ha)

Anyway, I only pose this because I am trying to figure out the way to get more subscribers for either.  Ah well.

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Live and learn, Stoozing

Well, we all woke up to a increasingly troubled financial market and as Trace Adkins pointed out on Bill Maher last week, “even though we’ve all seen it coming, it still seems like it just blew up all of a sudden.”  So today the fed announced another interest rate cut down to 3.25% which should (they hope) affect the economy in a stimulating way but meanwhile, the way the stock market is careening all over the place doesn’t bode well for any instant changes.  However, T and I are Stoozing about 50K and today we have to think about how this will affect our ability to refi.  We have 5 props all mortgaged at between 6% and 6.825% and fixed for 30 years.  But refis are now coming available at 5.25 and even lower for 15 yr loans.  We have no debt aside from the mortgages and the three Stoozes and our FICO is at 760 and holding.  Still, we are a little doubtful about the viability of a refi once the lender looks at the newest hits on our credit cards.  One thing that I think at this point works for us is time.  We can pull and pay the Stoozes off quite quickly.  Then if the credit environment stays the same as now, with our solid employment record and long list of assets we should be able to take advantage.

On the other hand, on a less personal note.  What good will all this financial maneuvering do if the whole economy tanks?  We have savings and emergency funds but they are in banks.  And what I’ve been discovering lately is that the domino effect that most of us used to laugh at back in the day when the war hawks used to use it to describe why they needed to keep bombing Vietnam is actually a good way to look at the financial trouble we are all in.  The whole thing is one big series of Stoozes and it all relies on the original concept of keeping the principal stable and liquid.  I am not sure but it may well be that this has gotten so far out of hand that countries, banks, lenders, investors and the people that run them may not even know anymore who owes who what.

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Surfing the net

Today, I decided to just read around the net and see what is happening.  My first stop was at the news links on my Google Home Page.  I really am in a quandry as to what to believe.  On the news side, the stock market is plunging and the world market is responding by falling too.  But the liberal point of view looks at the stats and claims one thing while the conservative side looks at supposedly the same info and claims another.  Five percent unemployment rates, the libs say we are in trouble, the cons say that means 95% are employed.  Foreclosures up 15%, libs say more to come, cons say 85% own homes. 

 Meanwhile, the real fun is in the poking.

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It’s morning and I’m ready to Stooze

Well, maybe not ready to myself but definitely ready to oversee T. as she works at it.  And definitely ready to share with any readers their experiences along the Stoozing trail as she and I go forward.  BTW, I should mention that most of the info we are gathering appears to be from England, though I know the Aussies are using it too, so don’t get thrown off when the money amounts are expressed as pounds instead of dollars.

Anyway, so there it is.  Right in front of us.  A brand new income stream funded by manipulating the very system that the credit industry has been using to rope us in.  We hope.  Frankly, that’s why T. and I are such good partners.  She gambles where I would not.  I gamble when she would not.  But we never gamble when we aren’t in agreement about the consequences.  We always talk them through.

Unfortunately for me, that means I’ve got to spend sometime researching the whole idea while she runs off to find the best offers to take more advantage of.  I like the things I’ve found out so far but beware of something for nothing keeps running through my thoughts as I check out Wikipedia and then start reading at www.stoozing.com.  Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide how much of a review to give the site that sits behind the stoozing.com one that looks to be a combination of information and sales.  Hmmm. 

Stoozing is a way of making money by exploiting credit cards which have an introductory period during which no interest is charged.
There is fierce competition in the credit card industry, so many lenders have introductory periods of between 3 and 18 months during which they charge 0% interest on the card balance. This allows the Stoozer to borrow money for ‘free’ and to move it into a high interest savings account.

Seems simple when you say it like that.  Take those damn tempting offers and instead of going into debt start earning income from them. 

At the end of the 0% introductory period, the money is withdrawn from the savings account and used to pay off the full credit card balance. The interest gained from the savings account is your ‘profit’. As with any other savings account interest, taxpayers need to pay tax on the interest earned.

Also, you have to be aware of two other things.  One, there is usually a one time fee for the use of the money, either 3% or $99 whichever is higher.  Two, there are three types of offers, 0% on money for a limited period, 0% on balance transfers, and 0% on purchases for a limited time.  Beware of the balance transfer and save it for part two of the Stooze. 

Part Two:

Rather than pay off the credit card directly from the savings account at the end of the period, the Stoozer would normally have another 0% credit card lined up to pay off the first one. Thus, the borrowed money could stay in the savings account for a considerable amount of time.

A Stoozer would typically earn between $400 and $2500 per annum from Stoozing.
Why not put some figures into the stoozing calculator and see how much you could earn?

That’s the part where if you want to be accurate you have to check out the current exchange rate or you can just do like I did and use the numbers in the calculator as a guestimate.  Stoozing has been around for a relatively short time but investors and banks have been doing it for a long time in something called the carry trade.  Even so at the stoozing.com site this caveat is in place:

However, before embarking on Stoozing for the first time, please read our risks section. This is important because you need to be aware of the effects on your credit history and because not everyone has the attention to detail necessary for successful Stoozing. Once you have understood the risks, take a look at the full guide from the pull down menus or click an option below.

One last item for today,  once a month T. and I host a financial game night where we play Cashflow 101 and discuss different financial strategies culled from personal experience.  One person came to a meeting last month and wanted to talk about a new mortgage paying strategy that was being offered by an Australian Bank.

An alternative way of making money from Stoozing is to put the borrowed money into an offset mortgage instead of a savings account. This reduces your mortgage payments, ‘earning’ you money in that way; usually tax free.

We talked about this quite abit at our meeting but could come to no consensus.  No one at the time saw the connection to Stoozing.  And one of the things that I’m discovering is that there isn’t much information about Stoozing in the U.S.  So this  statement from the stoozing site seems apt.

Partial reconfigurations of the offset mortgage are being introduced in the United States, however due to differing US mortgage policies and accounting practices as well as US tax laws these programs are generally not effective.

So that’s it for now.  In a couple of days I’ll take a look at what T. has found out and share it here.

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