More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

PART FOUR: "HOW TO BRING HOME THE BACON" BLOG SERIES


FREEZE YOUR ACCESS

We generally may think otherwise, but credit cards are the enemy. They are horrible destroyers of personal wealth and financial freedom. Each and every night that we lay, snuggled comfortably beneath our covers, they are robbing us blind. They aren't after our jewels. They're raiding our coin jars. They're taking a penny here and a penny there. We'll notice the diamond ring in the jewelry case has gone missing. But we'll not so easily recognize when a couple of pennies go missing from the jar. They (the credit card companies) are masters at nickel and dimeing.

When it comes to credit cards, the worst part of all is that we tend to cherish them. We tend to rely on them. In some cases, we may even love them. After all, credit cards give us the feeling that we have an unlimited supply of money in our pockets whenever we want it. We can have whatever our heart's desire. We can conquer any emergency that comes along to haunt us. I remember one guy I used to work with, who with great pride showed me his array of cards which were stuffed into the photo compartment of his wallet. "A couple of these are platinum," he told me through a grin. "I've got nearly $100,000 worth of credit in here."

Good for you, I thought to myself. $100,000 worth of used credit is $100,000 you owe somebody else.

Still, even I'm willing to concede that credit cards can be helpful at times. And they are not all bad. Like all things, moderation and responsibility are key. It's about leveraging, for example, and knowing the difference between borrowing and leveraging. You can, for example, pay for a central air-conditioning repair and use a credit card effectively to do so, if you can pay less in interest for the expense than you are earning on the money you are investing or saving that would have otherwise paid for it.

The little tip I'm offering this week is for those who need to keep a credit card around for a sense of security if something major comes along, who perhaps don't have much in the way of savings to cover major expenses, but who also feel the temptation to use their credit card for non-emergency purposes is simply too great.

Behold. You can have your credit card and use it too.

This is a great idea, and one I won't take credit for, though I can't recall the source. I just recall many years ago seeing this tip in an article somewhere and thought it was not only novel, but genius. It is simply to fill a small bowl with water and submerge your credit card in it. Put it into the freezer and let it freeze. You can, of course, thaw the ice and retrieve your card. But it won't happen as quickly as the impulse to use it will. And by the time the ice melts, so may your desire to go on a costly shopping spree.

Years ago when I was in the Navy, I actually did something similar to this, only in my case I was using a savings account. I opened an account in a bank 30 miles from the ship and made it so that the only way I could get to the money to withdraw it was to physically drive to the bank. No ATM access here, folks. The thought of driving 30 miles made me think twice about spending the money. And even if I hopped into the car in a fleeting moment of weakness, I had 30 miles to think about what I was about to do.

The "How to bring home the bacon without slaughtering the pig" blog series will take a short hiatus, but will return on December 1, 2009 with "Part Five: Keep Your Eyes On Your Money." Also, if you are enjoying The Springboard and would like to receive updates via email when a new blog is posted, send an email to porwest@yahoo.com and type "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I THINK FORD MAY BE WARMING UP AGAIN SOON

I was recently at a birthday party for my wife's cousin's son. It's a pretty large group (30+), and so usually a line is formed to the food at serving time. On my way to pick up my plate, I happened to notice on one of the shelves a box with that unmistakable blue-oval Ford logo on it. Then, written in black magic marker the words, "Toilet tank parts." Pointing to the box I shouted out to the host, who also happens to be a Chevy man, "Are you trying to say something there?" To which he simply responded, "Yep."

Everyone's got their favorite Ford jokes, don't they?

Of course you'll note that I said back in March that I thought, not only was it time to buy a Ford car, it was time to buy the stock as well. And if you've been keeping track of the company's stock, it has done everything to prove my point so far. Just last November the stock was trading at a dismal $1.01 per share and seemed doomed for sure to fail miserably with the rest of the whole lot of American auto companies. The mere thought of it made me nauseous, considering I had been a shareholder for several years. I'd lost a sizeable portion of my investment, and more than once I considered just cutting my losses and being done with it. I did exactly that when my Krispy Kreme stock tanked. I did it again when my stake in Blockbuster Video went south.

Still, I saw upside. Ford Motor Company in my view would be able to weather the storm. They were making decisions to consolidate long before anyone else was, shedding Land Rover and Jaguar. They were ramping down production and making cuts, and they still owned the market with the best-selling truck in America. And so instead of selling, I decided to simply average down.

By August of this year, bolstered by a $700 payment protection plan as unemployment steadily rose, and then by the CARS deal, or Cash for Clunkers, and most importantly as a result of the company's stellar management performance and remarkable negotiations with the UAW, all of which were factors which allowed the company to say "Thanks, but no thanks," to President Obama's bailout offerings, the stock had gained as much as 780%. I took my profits back in September, mainly because I felt that the stock was becoming a little overbought.

My thinking is that, while I am not at all dissatisfied with my decision to take profits, my decision may well have been a bit premature. Ford is still the most attractive of all the US automakers. They have a great line of cars and those cars are getting good performance marks. And I think the Fiesta will provide a significant boost to Ford's compact car sales, especially considering oil prices are seemingly back on the way up again. The company and its line of cars are solid.

So, I'm presently considering reentering my position in Ford stock. I'm not exactly a buyer yet, but if the stock breaks $9 a share, that's definitely when I think it's time to get back in.

And what about that box of toilet tank parts? I think Ford will definitely outlast the toilet.

Jim Bauer does not currently own any shares in Ford Motor Company. Also, you can get email updates to this blog by sending an email to porwest@yahoo.com and putting "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

PUT VERY SIMPLY, MICHAEL MOORE IS AN IDIOT

Michael Moore's newest movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story," will soon be out in theaters en masse, and honestly I have yet to decide whether or not I'll be watching it. Perhaps, being that I'm typically one who likes to take in all sides of an issue and draw my own conclusions as to who's right and who's wrong, I'll give the movie an opportunity to at least make its case to me. But based on what I've read and what I've seen so far, and especially based on the rantings of Michael Moore himself on the film's substance and context, I feel fairly reasoned in my thinking before seeing the film that, like its infamous director, the film is full of crap and so is Moore's harebrained ideology surrounding capitalism.

Let's face it, Moore likes shock value. No mystery there. He thrives on the disenfranchised and the I'm-a-victim-of-society crowd, which also happens to be the uninformed and (sorry) most intellectually inept portion of the American population. It's this same crowd that cheers whenever someone shouts out "We're going to stick it to the man." That's really what this movie is about isn't it? Sticking it to the man. This crowd thinks they are going to get something. Oh what little do they know. Yeah, we're gonna get something alright.

The man is the bank that gives us the loan for our house, that issues the credit card for us to buy that big screen TV, the government that we pay our taxes to and who determines how much we pay, and its also the person who gives us a job. If we stick it to the man, ultimately we stick it to ourselves. The more it costs a company to run their business, the more I'll be charged at the register. The more the government taxes the man, the less people he will hire and the less he'll pay in benefits and wages to each employee.

Granted, I'm not saying the man doesn't have its share of shysters. I'm not saying that the system is without flaws. But let's not kid ourselves. There are shysters at every level of the population. Everything is flawed to an extent. There will always be someone who will game the system, whatever it is, if they see an opportunity to do so. We won't count the millions who, at this very moment, are busy gaming the welfare system and that little thing we call disability.

One of Moore's biggest complaints is of course that the top 1% of the population owns 99% of the wealth in the country. Okay fine. And yeah, I'll agree that being in the bottom 99% stinks a little bit. It certainly doesn't have near the perks the top 1% enjoys. But it's possible that the majority of that 1% earned that wealth through risk-taking and hard work. It's possible that I too can have an opportunity to propel myself to these elite ranks through hard work and risk-taking, if I so choose to do so.

Which leaves me to wonder, but through capitalism, how else would Mr. Moore himself have risen into this elite top 1%? Yep. He's right up there with them. His films are shown in publicly traded theaters. They are distributed through DVD retailers, cable companies, and (wait for it) Netflix. Last I checked, all of these businesses are owned, run, and were started through capitalism. A vast majority of them are traded in the stock market, including the company that owns his own company Overture Films. But for capitalism, he would not have been able to find investors to capitalize his ventures.

Nasty, dirty, low-down rotten capitalism. Ptuey!

Which brings me to another thought. Why not just give away this wonderful little flick? I mean, after all, Moore is already a millionaire many times over. He doesn't need any more money. Why be greedy about it? It's only his hard work and his labor of love. Shouldn't that be given away?

I can say no more. My rant has run it's course. Simply put Mr. Moore, you are as dumb as a box of rocks. You are literally biting the hand that feeds you, and I hope that that hand bites you right square back on your ass.

Monday, October 12, 2009

PART THREE: HOW TO BRING HOME THE BACON WITHOUT SLAUGHTERING THE PIG

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX ON THE ROAD TO RICHES

Let's face it. Life is hectic. It's a challenge each and every day to get the kids off to school, prep yourself for work, and meet all of the other obligations life has in store for us. Even with all of the efficiency inventions and innovations have brought to our lives, it seems we have less time than we have ever had before to get things done. For that reason something as simple as a box of macaroni and cheese seems very economical. A 7 minutes from pot to plate box of mashed potatoes seems almost too good to be true. Crock-pot favorites in a bag must make some people weak in the knees.

I'm sure you've heard it said a thousand times before; time is money. Many people don't realize how true that statement really is. In this example, not taking the time is what's costly.

Speaking of those darned jobs, don't forget that how to bring home the bacon without slaughtering the pig is all about eliminating the necessity to work to gain access to all the things we want or that we need. We've got tons of money right under our noses if we take some of that precious time to look. When we're working the daily grind for money we don't truly need, that takes a lot of time out of our lives as well, doesn't it? Bringing home the bacon with less as opposed to more work is about spending efficiently, and putting the money we save to work for us so that we can ultimately have more time for living. Let's make sure that point is perfectly clear. And of course, this also ties directly into the Law of Averages and one of the larger ways we can lower our daily consumption rate.

Hectic as life is, we have to think outside the box if we want to save money. Keep this little tidbit in mind; if someone can put it in a box, it can be made in the kitchen. If the majority of the food you eat is coming from a box, you are in every way spending a fortune's worth of wasted money without even realizing it. Never mind the numerous negative health issues associated with eating pre-prepared foods, like high sodium, loads of fillers and preservatives...the list goes on. Moreover, the time you are trying to save in the kitchen might just be due to the fact that you have to work more because your dollars aren't going far enough to keep in step with what you're spending.

If you've ever wanted to know what the vicious cycle looks like, folks, well there it is.

As I've stated before, most of the principles behind the Law of Averages and the daily consumption rate are about small, fractional savings we can achieve on a day to day basis just by tweaking a few of the things we do in our daily lives. Thinking outside the box and cooking meals from scratch is about hundreds, if not thousands of dollars saved on your grocery bill each year. And that's no joke. That's an extra house payment or extra dollars for a better car. It's more money to put into a savings or investment account. It could even be a long-awaited-for vacation you thought you didn't have the money for.

Whenever I go into the grocery store I make it a point to see what the prices are for all of these so-called convenience foods. I marvel at what people are paying for this stuff and wonder to myself, if people really knew what they were paying for the food they were buying, if they actually took the time to break it down, would they still buy the pre-prepared food item?

Here are just a couple of examples in order to illustrate my point. A bag of Pasta Sides® is 4.5 oz. and sells for around $1.20 each. That's around $4.27 per lb. for noodles. And you say you can't afford to eat a steak every day? Betty Crocker® specialty potatoes are sold in an average size of 6 oz. per box, depending on the variety, for around $1.89 each. That's $5.04 per lb. for potatoes. How much does a 10 1b bag of potatoes cost?

I think most people have the impression that the most expensive food item on their plate is the meat. When you look at it in real terms, it would appear to me the meat's the least of your worries. If you're not willing to pay the price for filet mignon, why in the world are you then willing to pay $5 per pound for potatoes?

Next installment scheduled for Thursday, October 22, 2009, "Part Four: Freeze Your Access."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

PART TWO: BRINGING HOME THE BACON


WHEN IT COMES TO MONEY, DON'T LOSE INTEREST

In the saving lifestyle, every penny is important no matter how small it may seem to be, and you're going to hear me say this over and over again. Still, it's true that not everyone thinks so. I can't count on my hands how many times I've walked up to a change machine and found a pile of pennies sitting there because someone thought they were worthless. I'll grant you that by themselves and in the short term a handful of pennies won't buy much, if they can buy anything at all. But they are far from worthless.

Interest earned on a bank account is to me the equivalent of hanging onto my pennies and putting them into a jar, with the exception of the added benefit of compound interest, of course. Conversely, any money that you have in a bank account that is not earning interest is the equivalent of leaving your pennies on top of a change machine. You're leaving your pennies behind for someone else to scoop into their own pocket.

When you deposit money into a checking or savings account, you are essentially extending a short term loan to the bank. They can use that money for a multitude of purposes, including making money. If you ask the bank for a loan, they'll charge you a fee in the way of interest for that. So why would you want to offer your bank a short term loan for free? That said, there are three things that you should be doing here.

First, if you are paying any fees whatsoever to use your checking account I suggest you shop around for a free checking account. In fact, these are so common nowadays I'm not sure why anyone would choose otherwise.

Second, make sure that that free checking account also pays you interest. If you are loaning your money to someone they ought to be paying you something for the privilege. These are commonly referred to as "rewards" accounts or "plus" accounts. Banks have all sorts of names for these so you'll have to do a little research. Of course, you can also look for a money market checking account. Typically these offer slightly higher rates of interest. Still, I don't particularly care for them because often times money markets have all sorts of rules and stipulations, such as maintaining a minimum balance. That money I have to maintain in the money market account could potentially be making better interest somewhere else, so it's actually costing me money to keep it there.

There are myriad checking rewards or checking plus accounts offered in the marketplace that offer you unlimited access to your money and pay you interest regardless of your balance. So shop around. Keep in mind it's your money, not theirs. You should be able to do what you want with it.

And third, if you are earning interest on the money in your checking account, why not get just a wee bit more interest out of it by using a bill payment service? Most banks now offer this for free as well, mainly because it saves them a ton of money not having to process cumbersome paper checks. The way I see it, the beauty of bill payment is multi-fold. First, you can schedule a payment to be disbursed on the exact due date. It may seem minuscule on the surface, but even one extra day of interest earned on that $100 you need to pay a bill is valuable money in your pocket. This is sort of like the equivalent of getting just two more brushings out of that tube of toothpaste we were talking about last week. Second, you save money on a stamp, as well as the cost of the paper check itself.

That's it for me this week. But before I go, for those who still wish to leave their pennies behind, may I extend to you a thank you in advance of your next leaving? I'm quite delighted to relieve you of their burden.

Next installment scheduled for Monday, October 12, 2009, "Part Three: Think Outside the Box on the Road To Riches."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

DOCTORS AND NURSES WILL NOT WALK OFF THE JOB

There's been so much talk in this supposed health care debate about doctors walking off the job and nurse's leaving the profession in droves if the Obamacare Bill passes, it's almost painful to listen to. It's also a bit far fetched if you ask me. Besides, isn't it also a bit irrelevant what the medical professionals decide to do based on whatever bill eventually makes its way into law? Anymore than it was relevant what people thought the effects would be if we would have allowed the auto-industry to fail? Or the banks? For most of the American people that seemed as irrelevant as what would happen to the CEOs of these companies, or what would happen to the workers themselves.

The truth is, this argument detracts from the real issues surrounding health care reform and only, in my view, seems to serve as either a scare tactic or a threat. Or it could simply be just one more mask for a lack of real debatable ideas; in this case on the republican side.

For me the facts are clear. Doctors, and the medical professions in general, are among the highest paid in the country. Even if you start whittling away at that pay, it would still represent an attractive wage. It would still be a line of professions that people would aspire to. And at the end of the day, just like the smoker who threatens to quit if they raise the tax on his smokes just one more time; he never does, and the medical professionals won't walk off the job either. Besides, to do what? Retire? They'll likely have to retire at about 60% of what they earned on the job. To leave for another profession? Again, to do what? To make better money? They are in the highest paid profession.

To me it just doesn't make any sense. We've got real issues here with this bill that need hashing out, and that is where we need to place our focus. And I ask again, why aren't we talking about those loopholes and frauds?