Welcome to all my friends, fellow bloggers and lovers of personal finance information. You are in for a treat today: a brand-spanking new edition of the Carnival of Twenty-Something Finances! Whoo! Since you're in my neck of the woods now, I thought I would combine this week's edition with one of my other loves: Anime! (For those of you who aren't big dorks like me, anime refers to Japanese animation or cartoons; although they cover a lot more ground than your typical American cartoons.) As you read through some of the great financial posts for twenty-somethings that came out recently, enjoy some recommendations of my favorite anime series, as well.
Now, let the commencement beginulate with the best posts from this crop of submissions!
Best of the Best
One of my favorite anime series would have to be Azumanga Daioh, a comedy focused on a group of Japanese high school girls and their wacky misadventures. It is easily one of the funniest things I've ever watched, and one of my goals in life is to get everyone in the country hooked on it too. I've already got my girlfriend ensnared, now it's time for all of you… What follows are six articles (well, five articles and one video) that were nearly as good as Azumanga Daioh; read them, enjoy them, and perhaps consider following the authors for their assuredly good future works (I know I will):
Credit Scoring Variations: FICO vs Vantage Score – On The Digerati Life, there's an explanation of how different companies calculate your FICO score (or related credit scores). Given the importance of credit to our society, knowing how to improve and protect the number banks and other sources of credit see is a vital part of getting your financial ship in order.
Lending Club Review: Lending Money for Profit – Millie Kay G. writes on The Smarter Wallet about Lending Club, the service that allows you to lend money to other people and profit from the interest they pay. She covers both sides of the process (lending and borrowing) in enough detail to help you through the process. (An addendum to what she included: if you are a member of a state where you are not allowed to lend directly (yet), you can still invest by buying existing notes from other people. That's what I did.)
Could the US Dollar be Replaced as the World’s Reserve Currency? – If so, it will have some big implications for investors in the US and abroad, most of them negative (at least for me and my fellow Americans). Darwin of Darwin's Finance details why this might occur, what would replace the dollar, and why we don't have to worry about this happening quite yet (although, knowing what could happen will make it easier to handle when the time does come).
Stop Trying to Time the Markets! – Baker from Man Vs. Debt comments on the market speculation that is sure to result from the emphasis we've put on this ‘magical' 10,000 Dow Jones number. The only ‘markets' in our lives worth speculating on… are our own personal ones. (Baker did a pretty good job of summing up his point on the ‘milestone', so I just quoted him verbatim. His video is well worth the few minutes it takes to listen.)
Quit Worrying About 80% of Your Life – It's easy to get bogged down in all the details and confusion required of us on a daily basis, and lose track of the big picture. At times like that, it's good to take a page from Tyler of Frugally Green, look over our life, and re-prioritize on the most productive things we do towards what we hope to accomplish, whether those accomplishments are financial, environmental, or, for us blogging types, literary.
11 Unbelievable Glittering Golden Objects – I like to believe I'm pretty hard to surprise. Yet, sometimes I come across something so odd it just makes me pause. This post, from Linda on Money Compare, had me pausing at least half a dozen times. If you were ever wondering where all the gold in world ends up, here are a few of the most bizarre places. (Also, according to Linda, my blog is quirky, which seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black after reading this post.)
Fullmetal Alchemist is set in an alternate reality where alchemy developed into a thriving, powerful force, with numerous alchemists able to transmute one material into another (like the classic lead into gold). You might wonder how, in a world where a small (but substantial) number of residents can literally make money from trash, how does the economy keep from collapsing? Well, in the anime, a law against making gold is vigorously enforced, so alchemists have to go and earn money the old fashioned way. Similarly, in our world, you have to learn how to grow and invest your money, but luckily, you have some help in that department:
Scottrade Discount Brokerage Review– By Money Blue Book, providing a review of the services and features provided by Scottrade, the online stock trading site.
Stock Picking Pros and Cons: Should You Buy Individual Stocks? – A question that most investors ask themselves at one point or another. Francis Investor of Investing Toolkit covers both the pros and the cons of individual stocks, and there are many.
How to Begin Investing in the Stock Market– Jeff Williamson of Before You Invest provides some information to help the would-be stock investor get acclimated to the process of buying and selling stocks.
The Definitive Guide To Natural Gas ETFs: Natural Gas ETF Investing 101 – The name says it all; everything you could want to know about investing in natural gas productions and distribution via ETFs, as discussed by the ETF Database
Calculating Capital Gains and Capital Losses – If you're going to be investing in a taxable account, you'll need to be able to calculate your gains and losses. Luckily, the ABc's of Investing has you covered with a short guide to the math involved.
Even anime characters need spending money, and like real life, some people have all they can handle, and some struggle to get by. The heroes of Cowboy Bebop are in the latter category; although set in a futuristic reality, they can barely bring in enough money from bounty hunting to keep their space station in orbit. They've also got an uncanny knack for having bounties not being paid, reminding us to never count the money we're owed before it's paid. For more advice on handling credit, let's turn to some of the finest personal finance bloggers from our time:
Low Score Got You Down? How to Establish or Rebuild Your Credit – By PT Money, who includes several ways to improve your credit, as well as several ways NOT to improve your credit score.
Prepaid debit cards to control spending – One way to cut down on your credit card spending is opt for a prepaid debit card instead, as noted on One Mint.
Is It the End of the Credit Card Era?– Credit Card Assist discusses some of the recent signs showing the downturn of credit card use as of late, and brings up prepaid debit cards as an alternative. (Suddenly, prepaid debit cards seem to be becoming quite popular.)
Looking at Charge Offs and the Health of Consumer Credit – Sadly, the bad news on the credit front keeps on coming; the number of charge-offs (outstanding balances that credit card companies have written off as noncollectable) has increased by more than 60% since last year, as noted by Clear Choice Credit Cards.
R1 Credit Rating: How to Keep it– Mike of Gather Little by Little provides some explanation of credit ratings, as well as tips to help you keep yours as high as possible (including having a budget and making sure to call if you are going to be late with a payment).
Somtimes, unpredictable things happen in life; cars break down, loved ones get sick, alien women riding on mopeds strike you in the head with a guitar causing a bump that turns into a giant robot. Alright, that last one probably isn't going to happen (unless you're Naota from FLCL), but the fact remains: you need to protect yourself from the unexpected things in life, including moped-related accidents. That's where insurance comes in:
Insurance You Can Do Without-Credit Life Insurance – To quote Tom of The Canadian Finance Blog, “Credit life insurance is purchased so that the balance of your car loan or credit line would be covered if you die before your debt is paid.” As his title says, this is insurance you can do without.
LifeLock Review: Can The Program Really Protect My Identity? – A review of the Lifelock system provided by the Sun's Financial Diary. Some details of the program are provided which I hadn't previously known (particularly about the one million dollar guarantee they're so big on hyping).
There's so many manga series about going to college that it's hard to choose just one. Still, one of my personal favorites is, was, and will probably ever be Love Hina, a romantic comedy involving long forgotten promises, eternal hope, and true love. Oh, yes, and repeated attempts by our hero to get into Tokyo University (the Harvard of Japan). If you are able to get into the school of your choice, here's some help in paying for it all:
Saving For College – A few considerations when deciding whether to help your child(ren) with college expenses is covered by Travis on Christian Money Mountain.
Student Loan IBR Income Based Repayment Plans – Jim on Bargaineering discusses some of the features of the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan for paying off college tuition, which would save most graduates, particularly lower income graduates, money over the long run.
You might be tempted to think that you're having a hard time repaying your debt; it just seems to keep piling up, higher and higher. Hopefully you won't be tempted to take the path chosen by Hayate's parents, who sold his organs to mob in order to pay off their gambling debts. Luckily, he happened to save a passing heiress from being kidnapped, and she paid off his debt… in exchange for his service as a butler for the next hundred years or so. If you don't want to rely on the kindness of strangers (or indentured servitude) to pay down your debts, here are a few tips to help you out:
Balance transfer option off of the table?– Raj Patel of DebtGoal.com writes about alternate ways to help pay down your debt, in light of harder to obtain balance transfer options.
Am I Debt Management Suitable? – One Advice of the UK provides some commentary to help you decide if you are suitable for debt management.
If there's one thing that's certain in this world, it's that there will always be the need for people to do work. Even as machines do more and more of the tasks in our offices and homes, there's still the need for human intelligence to control them. Although, in the future, the line between human and computer might start to get a little blurry, as in Ghost in the Shell, where anyone (and nearly everyone) can be a cyborg, and robots can make better philosophers than most humans. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook), we're not there yet, so there's still plenty of work to be done:
Back to Work: It's Expensive to Make Money – By a.b. on Modern Tightwad, covering some of the expenses as he (I'm guessing) rejoins the work place after a period of unemployment (I especially sympathize with the cost of commuting).
Don't Kill Yourself Over a Job – A reminder that your life should not be entirely about your job is provided by The Investor on Monevator.
The Ugly Jobs Scenario From A Ground Level View – If you're reading the Carnival of Twenty-Something Finances, chances are that you are a young person. If so, you're probably aware that the entry-level job market…sucks, to put it bluntly. The key is to keep moving forward, as 20s Money highly recommends.
Declining a Job Offer after Accepting It – If you are able to get a job offer in this economic climate (and good for you if you can), you might not be inclined to give it up; but if you do have your reasons to decline a job offer you've already accepted, Nissim Ziv of The Job Interview Site has some advice.
It's hard not to sympathize with Excel and Hyatt; two down on their luck girls who work tirelessly toward their final goal, their ultimate dream: helping Lord Illpalazzo take over the world! Well, it would make for one interesting retirement, at least. Assuming your retirement plans don't involve global conquest, it might be worthwhile to consider some alternate plans:
SEP-IRA Retirement Plan for the Self-Employed – Jill on My Dollar Plan provides a short (but sweet) introduction of Simple Employee Pension or SEP IRA plans, one retirement plan for self-employed and small business people.
Best Companies to Retire From– Apparently, there are still companies that provide excellent retirement benefits to their employees, and My Retirement Blog lists them.
Roth 401K vs Regular 401K – Some of the differences between a Roth 401(k) and a Traditional 401(k) are brought up by Roth IRA Rules, including the fact that employer contributions can only be added to a traditional and not a Roth 401(k). (Which makes sense, as you would never be taxed on that money if it was added to a Roth.)
With the way the banking industry has been acting lately, it's hard to tell if you're still on Earth. Reputable banks are closing, bank failures are dragging down the whole economy, and bank executives seem more worried about keeping their bonuses than preventing the second Great Depression. If you feel you've fallen into Wonderland, you're not alone: Miyuki-chan could certainly tell you a thing or two about what that's like. Of course, her Wonderland was filled with lots of cute girls (who had the bad habit of hitting on her), while ours is filled with bankers who get rewarded for doing things that would cost your retirement. Since we're already down the rabbit hole, let's see what advice we can get on surviving around here:
The State of the Banking Industry vs. Economic Recovery – On Banker, Saver, there is a discussion of how the banking industry is recovering (or not) from the economic downturn. Of particular note is how the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is faring after all the recent bailouts. (Not too good, although you should click through to find out all the bloody details.)
Why You Should Only Bank at FDIC Insured Banks – Patrick on the Military Financial Network reminds us that even if it is having trouble at the moment, FDIC insurance is major safety net for anyone who holds money in a bank (which is most of us); if your bank is not ensured, a bank failure would be even more devastating.
Fruits Basket rounds out my list of recommended anime; it's about a family who has a curse: several of its members turn into animals from the Chinese Zodiac when hugged. From that odd plot comes one of the most popular girls' anime ever; sometimes the most unexpected start can lead to the best end. On that note, enjoy these articles that I couldn't fit anywhere else; sometimes unique is a very, very good thing:
25 Ways to Save on Craft Supplies – My younger sister would never let me live it down if I didn't include this article from Craft Stew, which details numerous ways to be crafty AND frugal.
Probate- Why and How to Avoid Probate Fees – If you're a twenty-something, chances are that you are more likely to be receiving an inheritance than gifting one to your heirs. Still, Ray gives a few suggestions on avoiding probate on Financial Highway, which you may wish to pass onto your parents or grandparents (try to do it in a way that doesn't make it seem like you're hoping for their deaths…)
My “Worst” Buyer's Remorse Story… – J. Money of Budgets are Sexy shares his biggest case of buyer's remorse: choosing to buy his house instead of continuing to rent. (He doesn't regret it for financial reasons; rather, it's being tied to one place that seems to get to him).
How to get the best deal on your next rental car– Bob of Christian Personal Finance is going on a trip shortly, and uses the opportunity to give some advice on finding an inexpensive rental car. (Hint: shop around)
‘Bailout' blues falling on deaf ears– As Connie Prater on Taking Charge tells us, the recession has even hit the novelty song industry; we can only hope that ‘Weird Al' Yankovic will still be in business by year's end.
Alright, that's it for this Carnival; pack up the tents, grab the last of the cotton candy, and let's call it a day!
(All manga featured here (c) the respective owners)