Monday, September 26, 2011

Time to Check the Credit Report

If you've been following along with me, you know that every 4 months I run a credit report to make sure nothing looks crazy or out of whack.  You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies every year.  So every 4 months, I run one from a different agency. That means within the year I have run all three and I can follow my credit throughout the year rather than just once in a calendar's turn.

So if you are playing along, it's time to run our Experian credit reports.

Go to AnnualCreditReport.com (the only truly free site to use and sanctioned by the government) and select your state.  Fill out the info your are asked and tell it you want only the Experian report (if you're doing the every 4 month plan with me).  Then....off you go!

For me?
I had 0 potentially negative items in my report
I had 20 accounts in good standing in my report.

When I read that 20 account bit, I was like, "Wha...?"  But as I look through them, 16 of them are old accounts that are already closed and have to appear on here until a set date (ranging between 2012 and 2020).   So that's 4 open accounts. 

What are those 4 open accounts? 
  • American Express - Chip's credit card that I'm a joint account holder on.
  • Chase - my "big" credit card that I hate and am attacking now. It will be the next to go for balance and emotional reasons.
  • GMAC Mortgage - Our current mortgage.
  • USAA - Our bank and my preferred credit card.  This will be the only one we keep when all are paid off.
Everything else looks all well and good.  So one more report done and I feel safe and sound about my credit.

How did you fare?

Photo credit: LotusHead

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Update on Timeshare Saga

So a little while back I told you that we were applying for a Lending Club loan. I never really gave you a follow up to that though, did I?

Well, the loan went through with a 9.99% interest rate, which is significantly lower than the 17.9% rate it was at! If I solely pay the minimum on this loan (which I will do until the high rate cards are paid off) until the end of the 3-year term of the loan, I will pay $13,937.40 on our $12,000 loan. If I were to pay the minimum on the old loan, it would take 8 years and $19,906 to pay it off!

Now of course, the plan was never just to make the minimum payments, but until I have knocked out my Chase card (read my loathing for it here), I will be paying the minimum. And I can save a LOT in interest just by lowering the interest rate until time to pay more than the minimum arrives!

AND – Now we should be getting the deed in hand soon. Once that is done, we will be calling the manager of sales at the resort and attempting to sell it back to them at a discounted cost just to get out from under it. Whatever we sell it to them for, we will then be rid of it and its maintenance fees and we will apply that amount to our Chase card.

Win-win, right?

I hope so.

I’ll keep you updated on how selling it back to the timeshare company goes….

What do you think? What would you do with the money?


Photo credit: penywise

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are Your Kids Safe?

I shudder to think of the danger that we once put Patrick in. Yes...us. His parents. The people who should be the most protective of him and look out for his well-being more than anyone else on earth.

And the reasons we did it were pretty stupid.

We turned Patrick from a rear facing seat to a forward facing seat just about 1 month after his first birthday. He barely weighed the required "20 pounds" and we would have turned in on his 1st birthday if he had already weighed enough. At least we were listening to that part.

What we did ignore was that he was still tiny and petite. He was still safer facing backwards.

All for the sake of us having an easier time checking on him, looking at him, talking to him. All for the sake of him getting to see the world as we drove down the road rather than the back of the seat and a glimpse of whatever we had passed by already.  Because you know...he needs to see where we are going at 1 year of age.

Although we, like most parents, are more relaxed with our second child than with our first in most ways, this area is an exception. Abigail is currently 2 years and almost 3 months old. And she is still facing rear. She has outgrown her infant seat and is in a convertible seat, but she still stares at the back of the car and anything that we can see after we have driven by it already.

No, it's not convenient for us to see her. No, it isn't comfortable to not be able to push the front passenger seat back further because of the cumbersome car seat in the back (although the passenger seat is a safe distance from the airbag).

But she's safer. And because she's never faced forwards, she doesn't know the difference.

Our little barely 25 pound two-year old is happy as she is and we are pleased that she is safe.


This week (September 18 - 24) is Child Passenger Safety Week. Although you can still find sources that tell you that turning children forward in their seats is okay at 1 year, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommendation back in April to extend that milestone until the 2-year mark. All agree, even those who think earlier is "okay", that rear facing is safer and therefore should be done as long as possible.

A study by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health asked parents of children 7 to 48 months old about their use of rear-facing car seats. The study found that 73 percent of parents switched their child from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat before the age of two. Thirty percent of parents turned their child's seat to face forward before their child reached one year of age. (cited) Now, I can't blame all of the parents who turned them around before 2 because all of the people polled did not have the new guidelines at the time their children were between 1 and 2. However, the 30% that turned them around earlier...that just makes me shudder.

So...now we all know. Leave them backwards until they are at least 2 and longer if you will, as they will be safest this way. It's okay if their legs are longer than their seat...that will not hurt them.

Also - did you know that car seats expire? Yep...the plastic they are made up can start to weaken with age. Some manufacturers put an expiration date on the back of the seat, but if you can't find one, use 5 years from the date of manufacture as a rule. And if you can't find that date on the seat, consider about 4 years from the time you bought it new. I really would not recommend buying one used for this and other reasons (in case they were compromised in an accident at any time).

Another fuzzy area for most parents is booster seats. 47 states (plus DC) require them and all have their own age/weight requirement. In the end, know your older kids are safer until a seat beat fits snugly across their thighs (not stomach) and across their should and chest (not their face or neck). And always, always, always in the back seat. Until they are 13. And after 13, still keep them there until they physically take on the shape and size of an adult.

Did you know that the NHTSA found that 3 out of 4 kids are not as secure in the car as they should be because their car seats are not being used correctly. I know...I thought I was smart too and could figure it out, but all of those darn things are different! Don't guess. Don't hope. Check it out. This Saturday (September 24) is National Seat Check Saturday where a number of local resources in YOUR community will be available to check out your car seat for free. You can use this locator to find nearby car seat inspection stations on National Seat Check Saturday and throughout the year.

And lastly, the Child Passenger Safety Twitter account (@childseatsafety) will be hosting a live Twitter Q&A today, September 21 at 2 p.m. ET. Safety experts from the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be available to offer essential information on car seats and how to safely travel with children of all ages in cars. Just use the hashtag #CPSweek to follow along and ask your questions.

I'm not trying to preach at you. I'm not perfect, as I plainly admitted to you in the beginning of this post. I don't want you to have to learn the hard way. I don't want you to have any regrets. I don't want you to be ignorant as we were so long ago.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Carnival of Personal Finance #327 - The Pirate Edition!

Ahoy, landlovers! Today ye might hearrr pirrrate rattlin' on all arrroun' ye and wonderrr what in th' name o' Davy Jones be chartin' a course. Did ye be knowin' it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day?!

Okay...so I can't keep that up. It's exhausting and it would be impossible to read. But have some fun with it today in your regular life.

Welcome to the Carnival of Personal Finance #327 - The Pirate Edition!

There were SO MANY entries in this carnival it was almost overwhelming! I couldn't possibly include every last one of them, but that should show you the scope of this week's editing task by the number that DID make it in! Please don't let the number of posts scare you, as there are a LOT of great articles included.

And to add to the theme of the day, I've included a bit of pirate trivia as well.

So without further ado....

Editor's Picks
I could load you down with all of the posts that I could have labeled as "great!" this week, but instead my Editor's Picks are those that introduced me to a new perspective. Honestly, I don't agree with them all, but I love posts that make me think and these did.
Budget:
Edward Teach, more commonly known as Blackbeard, was an English pirate in the Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic during the early 18th century, a period referred to as "The Golden Age of Piracy." Blackbeard often fought wearing a large feathered tricorn hat and sporting multiple swords, knives, and pistols. He had hemp and lighted matches woven into his enormous black beard during battle. Accounts of people who saw him fighting reported that he looked like the devil.
  • Bret from Hope to Prosper presents Money Fail: Broke on Thursday. This is the beginning of a new series and a great perspective to effect a change of how you handle your financial life.
Career:
Born in County Cork, Ireland, Anne Bonney disguised herself as a man in order to join John Rackham's (aka - Calico Jack) crew aboard the "Revenge." The couple stole the sloop at anchor in the harbor and set off to sea, put together a crew and took several prizes. Anne took part in combat alongside the male pirates and accounts describe her as competent, effective in combat and someone who gained the respect of her fellow pirates. According to legend, she once stabbed a fellow pirate through the heart when he discovered her gender.
Credit:
Red Legs Greaves' was known for merely stealing loot and leaving. His greatest success was his capture of the Island of Margarita. After capturing the Spanish Fleet, he turned the guns of their warships against the forts which he then stormed and was rewarded with a huge booty of pearls and gold. He didn't sack the town or rape and torture the Spaniards. Greaves then retired to the life of a planter in the island of Nevis. One of his former victims turned him in for the bounty on his head. He was quickly tried and sentenced to be hanged. When the great earthquake came that destroyed the town in 1680 he was one of the few survivors. Greaves then turned pirate hunter, retired to a plantation and died of old age. He got the nickname "Red Legs" because his legs continually burned from the tropic sun.
Debt:
Port Royal is situated in Jamaica opposite Kingston in the same harbor. Gallows Point, where a number of pirates were hanged was one of the first points of land visible when entering the port. The gallows were placed there conspicuously to discourage piracy. The bodies were left there after they were hanged. Calico Jack and Captain Charles Vane were among the many pirates hanged there during a 100-year span.
Economy:
Piracy was quite a problem in ancient Rome. At their height, pirates had about 1,000 ships and raided over 400 cities, including Ostia, the port of Rome. Julius Caesar was captured while on a sea voyage and held for ransom until his wealthy family paid up. This was a fairly widespread practice. In the end the effects on Mediterranean trade became so serious that Pompey got the commission to get rid of the pirates, which he did in about three months in 67 BCE.
  • FIRE Finance educates us in What is the Current Unemployment Rate? by taking a hard look at how unemployment is measured and what it means for our economy.
  • Khaleef Crumbley from Faithful with a Few presents No More Checks for Social Security Benefits (and he’s talking about paper checks). There is more to this post than just a fact-of-the-matter point stated in the title. Go read and weigh your options.


Source

Finance:
The cutlass, the most well-known of pirate weapons, was a slightly shorter, curved, single edged sword. Its size and shape made it a better weapon for fighting in the limited spaces aboard ship. The sharp outer edge made it ideal for hacking and slashing at an opponent rather than stabbing. It could also double as a tool for cutting through rope and so on. Other pirate weapons were also useful as tools, like the marlinspike and the gully.
Frugality:
Klaus Stoertebeker was a famous German freebooter of the 14th century who plundered Danish merchant ships during war time and brought the goods to besieged cities along the Baltic and North seas. But soon he and his men were plundering ships of other nations and the German Hanse itself. Do you know what his name refers to? "Stoertebeker" means roughly translated "bottoms up". He and his men were finally captured and faced execution. Legend has it that Klaus Stoertebeker made a deal that all his companions should be lined up. After he was beheaded he would try to walk by as many of them as he could, and they would be spared. He managed to walk past eleven of them and could have gone farther if the executioner had not tripped him.
Investing:
So this is a bit of a departure from the rest of the post, but did you know that pirates have their own stock market? I mean, an actual stock market for today’s pirate funding. Please check out the advice below instead of investing in those funds:
Money Management:
Bartholemew Roberts was captured by pirates in 1719 and ended up joining them. He became known as one of the most successful pirates in history for having taken 400 ships in the space of only three years. Due to his competency he was elected captain upon the death of the previous captain, Howell Davis. Roberts was killed in 1722, in battle. His crew threw his body overboard rather than let it be taken by the British Navy.
Real Estate:
Captain Woodes Rogers was a former privateer became governor of The Bahamas and is credited with driving the pirates from the islands. Rogers was appointed Governor-in-Chief over the Bahama Islands by King George I on February 6, 1718. After he became governor he offered the "King's Pardon", which gave amnesty to most of the pirates in the isles. The most notorious and powerful pirates were not granted the amnesty and were hunted down and killed. It was Woodes Rogers who found Alexander Selkirk, inspiration for the novel "Robinson Crusoe."
  • Miss T. from Prairie Eco Thrifter presents No Cost Refinancing--Pros and Cons. She explains that a no cost refinancing loan can be a great idea, but only if the circumstances are right.
  • Melissa from Everything Finance Blog tells us to Pay Biweekly to Shave Years off Your Mortgage and save some money in interest!
  • Ben from Money Smart Life instructs us in FHA Loans 101. You’ll learn about about benefits and drawbacks of an FHA loan and how it can help if you don't have much money to put down.
  • Crystal from Stupid Cents presents Why You Need House Insurance and stresses why it is so important regardless of the cost.
Saving:
Captain William Kidd was commissioned as a pirate hunter in 1696, before turning pirate in the Indian Ocean. Kidd was neither particularly successful nor ruthless. While hunting pirates and not being able to find any he decided to turn pirate, he took prize of an English ship which had been flying a French flag as a lure to pirates - Kidd wanted to return the ship to its owners but the rest of the crew wouldn't allow this. Upon his return to New York he was arrested and sent to trial in England, found guilty and hanged.
  • Tim from Canadian Dream: Free at 45 insists that people should Stop Bitching & Save Already, a rant about people who won't save and ways they can actually do something about it. To #3, I want to yell out a hardy “Amen!”
Other:
Piracy continues today. An average of 500 deaths occur every year due to contemporary pirates. Pirates of today usually board large luxury motoryachts with a swift and quiet dinghy and try to steal things, kill, or do both and take over the yacht all together. For instance, the Seabourn Spirit was attacked by pirates on November 5th, 2005 about 70 miles off the coast of Somalia. Pirates boarded the ship from two small boats. The pirates used machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades when attacking. Luckily only one person, a crew member, was slightly injured - due to shrapnel.

Join the Carnival again next week when it will be hosted by Wealth Informatics. Make sure to get your submissions in!

Info source: http://www.funtrivia.com/
 

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