Archive for the 'Finance' category

Switched to Amica Insurance

 | May 31, 2009 6:50 AM

I have been hearing for many years how good of an insurance company Amica is.  But for whatever reason, probably cost, I did not switch to Amica.

Recently my home and auto insurance were coming up for renewal.  I decided to investigate Amica’s rates and this time I was pleasantly surprised to learn their rates were better than my current provider’s, Farmer’s.  I also looked into a few others and still found Amica’s to be the best.

This survey on FreeAdvice shows how good people think Amica is.

Amica touts their awards and recognition on their own site.

So far service has been good.  The sale went slower than I expected but maybe that’s a good thing.  Also when I canceled my Farmer’s insurance I received a funny reply.

Please keep in mind with these not well known insurance companies you run the risk of underpaid claims or even denial of claims. You might be saving money now, but in the end you can end up paying a lot more out of pocket for claims. I’ve never heard of Amica these (sic) is why I bring this up to you.

One thing I have immediately appreciated about Amica is how no-frills they are.  All their paperwork has no color and their auto insurance identification cards are on plain paper.  That’s my kind of insurance company.

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Extreme Frugality

 | May 23, 2009 6:57 AM

Recently I was listening to an interview on NPR with the author of the Extreme Frugality columns, W. Hodding Carter.  Mr. Carter and his family now live on just $550 per month which is easier to do in coastal Maine but still quite impressive.  His family take some extreme measures to save money like picking up roadkill, dumpster diving, tapping for maple syrup, etc.  I like how his family raises chickens for eggs and I would consider doing that if it wasn’t illegal in Sunnyvale.

ham Another of his more interesting ideas is shopping at liquidation stores.  I searched for liqudiation groceries in the Bay Area and found this State by State List of Salvaged Grocery Stores.  Fortunately there is one not too far in Redwood City, Grocery Outlet, 1833 Broadway Street, Ph 650-364-7406.  I might check it out when I am in the area though part of me wonders if it is worth it since we normally only purchase organic products and prefer not purchasing processed foods.  Also this store not seem to be a true liquidation store.

Here is a short video from Money Talks about Salvage Grocery Stores.

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I have enjoyed banking with WaMu though it was a bit stressful when it almost went under.  Their free services are great though it looks like that time might be ending.  I hope I don’t have to switch to another bank but I don’t hear the best things about Chase.

The popular WaMu Free Checking account becomes the Chase Free Extra Checking account, and keeps a lot of the useful perks.

Benefits

  • No monthly service fee, no minimum balance requirement.
  • No fee for money orders, cashier’s checks and travelers checks.
  • No Chase fee for non-Chase ATM withdrawals.
  • No fee for Domestic Outgoing for Foreign Outgoing Wire Transfers.
  • You will continue to receive your discounted or free check orders when ordered from us.
  • One insufficient funds/Returned Item Fee will be refunded annually. However, the refund will no longer be automatic, you must call in and specifically request it. Also, it will no longer carry over if unused.

Changes

  • The 0.03 Cash Back debit rewards program is discontinued.
  • We may change your account to a Chase Better Banking Checking account when you do not have at least one customer-initiated transaction over the past six monthly statement cycles (which has a $12 monthly fee if minimum balance is not met).

The WaMu Online Savings account will be converted to a Chase Premier Savings account, with the monthly fee “waived at this time”.

WaMu Free Checking is now Chase Free Extra Checking » My Money Blog.

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At the end of 2008 I was feeling pretty good about how I cut down my expenses.  Then I got hit by a staggering series of medical premium increases.

  1. 12/18/08 – 15% increase effective 02/01/2009
  2. 01/16/09 – 30% increase effective 03/01/2009
  3. 02/20/09 – 12.32% increase effective 04/01/2009

The net increase is 68% over three months.  To be fair the three inceases are somewhat coincidental.

  1. My premium had increased in 03/08 but I was not charged that until 02/09 because I had a 12 month freeze on rate hikes on my account.
  2. The 03/09 increase is the annual increase.  The amount of 30% is unprecedented but apparently it’s happening everywhere, possibly because the insurance companies are afraid of what President Obama’s administration is going to do to them.
  3. The 04/09 increase is because Ji Seon is moving up into the next age bracket.

And to top it off a brand-name drug deductible of $250 for 2009 was added.

I hope President Obama’s administration does come up with an effective, national, affordable health care plan.  Our family needs it.

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52 Ways to Make Extra Money

 | February 4, 2009 5:17 PM

52 Ways to Make Extra Money | Prime Time Money.  For me I thought  a possiblity was blogging or maybe setting up an online store.  For others maybe being a mystery shopper or tutoring.

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Children Aren’t That Expensive

 | January 6, 2009 1:42 PM

Canadian One Dollar BillIt’s conventional wisdom to say that children cost about $200,000 to $250,000 each through college.  But this article says otherwise and I agree with it.

What does that total up to? $52,800…

Children aren’t the enormous expense that they’re made out to be. I’m not claiming that they’re not expensive – not at all. Instead, I’m saying that the quoted expenses bandied about – $200,000 to $250,000 over the child’s lifetime – looks only at expenses. It does not look at some of the savings that will come your way naturally during the child-rearing process, nor does it take into account the tax benefits of children.

The Simple Dollar » Do Children Really Cause Financial Burdens?

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2008 Investment Portfolio Review

 | January 5, 2009 11:05 AM

Inspired by MoneyBlog I decided to look back at 2008 and see how bad the destruction was to our savings.

Account Return
Vanguard Frank’s IRA -36.95%
Vanguard Frank’s Roth IRA   -36.95%
Vanguard Ji’s IRA -36.93%
Vanguard Ji’s Roth IRA -36.93%
Vanguard SEP-IRA -42.08%
Vanguard Dylan’s 529 -38.56%
Vanguard Isaac’s 529 -37.25%
Vanguard Victoria’s 529 -44.50%

 

Security Return
Vanguard 500 Index -36.93%
Vanguard Aggressive Age-Based Option: Aggressive Growth Portfolio -38.96%
Vanguard Small-Cap Index -10.92%
Vanguard Total International Index -49.79%
Vanguard Total Stock Market Index -39.19%

It’s tough to accept that years of savings were wiped out. It makes me wonder if my savings strategy (index funds, once a year, balanced between U.S. and international) is working. But until I learn of a better strategy I will keep trying this out.  I am optimistic about 2009. :-)

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25 Gadgets That Actually Save Money

 | December 2, 2008 2:29 PM

This article, CyberMonday Gifts That Can Pay For Themselves?, led to this article, 25 Gadgets That Actually Save Money.

In these articles I do have the following.

  1. Ooma
  2. Slow Cooker
    • not saving any money with it
  3. Battery Charger
  4. Blender
    • again not saving any money with this one
  5. Flash Drive
    • again no money saved here
  6. Solar Calculator
    • discarded by someone else, not saving any money since I always my computer for calculations
  7. CFL’s
    • questionable if worth it considering the toxic mercury dust inside each bulb
  8. Programmable Thermostat
  9. Efficient Space Heater
  10. Laptop
  11. Hybrid Car

Things I might buy.

  1. “Smart” Power Strips
    • seems liks a good idea though I usually manually turn off everything so I think it will take a long time before I get my investment back
  2. Kill-a-Watt
  3. Efficient Shower Heads
  4. High Efficiency Washing Machine

Things I would like to buy.

  1. Windmill
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Timing the Market Mutual Fund Style

 | November 27, 2008 1:36 PM

When I heard the market on Thursday, November 20 had dropped to its lowest point in 20 years I said I have got to buy.  On Friday afternoon at 3 PM EST I put my order in and was pleased that the market had remained flat that day.  When the market heard Frank Kim was buying it was an immediate bull signal.  In just a few minutes the market shot up 6% and on Monday it shot up another 6%.

One would think this would be a happy story but it is not because I am buying mutual funds and they do not execute until the end of the next business day.  In two days I lost over 13%.

On the bright side the market continued to go up for the rest of the week and I am up 2%. :-)

It just goes to show you can’t time the market and you really can’t time it using mutual funds.

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Efficient Markets

 | October 9, 2008 9:38 PM

With the way the market is crashing it is hard to believe in efficient markets. Yet I still believe in them and it is mostly because of this book, A Random Walk Down Wall Street, as well as The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing and to a lesser extent, Beating the Street.

One reviewer on Amazon gave a great summary of A Random Walk Down Wall Street.

This book does a very good job reconciling between market efficiency and perceived inefficiencies such as bubbles at different times. The author believes in a weak form of efficient market theory. Simply put, the market may not be perfectly efficient at all times, but it’s efficient enough to make it very difficult and costly trying to beat it. In the end, an investor is better off holding a market index fund that invests in everything under the sun. It’s not worth the cost and effort trying to find the undervalued stocks or high-growth mutual funds.

With the Dow Jones industrial average having dropped 20.8% in the past six trading days one has to wonder if it is time to jump in.  But if you believe in efficient markets you know you can’t time the market, you just have to invest because you have money to invest and that you would invest whether the market is going up or down.  Still it does seem to be short-term fear that is driving people to flee to cash.

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