October 31, 2012

FREE - $1.29 MP3 credit at Amazon (FB required)

There is yet another free MP3 credit deal for Amazon.   This one requires use of Facebook.

To get the deal follow this link on Amazon

You have to post a comment from the page to your Facebook account.

Small print :
"Upon successful completion of the Share & Claim action, a $1.29 Amazon MP3 credit will be automatically applied to your Amazon account. Promotional credits must be redeemed by 11:59 p.m. PST on November 2, 2012. Amazon MP3 music is available to customers located and with billing addresses in the United States. You must have an Amazon.com account and accept the Amazon MP3 Store Terms of Use and Amazon Cloud Player Terms of Use to redeem your credit. Limit one promotional credit per customer."

I found the deal via Slickdeals

-- This article may contain referral links which pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

20 page 8"x11" photo book and 100 prints from Snapfish (new accounts)

New customers to Snapfish can get a free 20 page 8x11 photo book and 100 free 4x6 prints.  

It only applies to new Snapfish customers.

I was going to label this 'free' but you do have to pay shipping.  The shipping on the photo book is about $8 and as far as I can tell the photos is about $5.  So its not really free but $13 in shipping is a good price for a photo book and 100 prints.

Note the deal is only good through today.

You can get the coupon by following the link on RetailmeNot 

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October 26, 2012

Best of Blogs for Week of October 26th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week.

PlanetMoney explains  Why A Hedge Fund Seized An Argentine Navy Ship In Ghana
and we learn even nations can't escape debt collectors.

plus PlanetMoney also  shares Income For Young, Middle-Aged And Elderly Americans, In Two Graphs

Not personal finance related at all, but several neat tricks :  99 Life Hacks to Make Your LIfe easier

Apex continues the rental series at FMF with  Real Estate 101: Getting It Rented


October 25, 2012

Manufacturing by Nation for 2010

In 2010 the worlds total manufacturing output was about $12 trillion. The US and China accounted for about a 3rd of total manufacturing. Here is a pie chart showing the worlds manufacturing as split by nation. Note that China only recently passed the USA in this measure. For 110 years the US was the worlds leading manufacturer. Still our $1.8T in manufacturing output is nothing to sneeze at.

I pulled the data from United Nations site.   Note that this is just manufacturing and does not include mining or agriculture.  Also this doesn't show the amount of imports or exports either.

Here is the data in chart format.   Figures are in billions of US dollars.

Now in table format:

China, People's Republic of  $      1,923
United States  $      1,856
Japan  $      1,084
Germany  $         614
Italy  $         308
Brazil  $         282
Republic of Korea  $         279
France  $         268
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland  $         231
India  $         226
Russian Federation  $         209
Mexico  $         179
Indonesia  $         176
Spain  $         170
Canada  $         167
Australia  $         117
Turkey  $         114
Thailand  $         114
Rest of World  $      1,859

18 nations listed produce $100 billion or more of manufacturing and add up to about 85% of the worlds total.

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October 21, 2012

SimpliSafe DIY Home Alarm System Review

We used to have ADT for our home security since my wife had signed up with them when she was single.   Finally we got out of their multi-year contract and we were happy to be rid of it.   After seeing some positive reviews on the net and doing some comparison shopping I decided to go with SimpliSafe for our new home alarm.

So a few months ago I bought and installed a SimpliSafe2 home alarm system.    The  SimpliSafe system is a simple wireless based do-it-yourself home installation with no contract commitment.  The basic alarm monitoring costs just $14.99 per month.  The alarm is monitored with police dispatch.   They use a cellular wireless signal so you don't have to have it connected to your home phone or even need a home phone.   This is a nice feature for us since with the ADT system we were stuck having a landline because the alarm system required a home phone to dial out on.

Great pricing

While companies like ADT often offer free hardware installation, you do have to pay to buy your hardware from SimpliSafe.   However its reasonably priced.

You can get a basic system for about $280 :
1 base station
1 wireless keypad
1 (free) keychain remote
2 motion sensors
3 entry sensors
1 yard sign
2 window decals

$278.92 with free shipping

I opted for the SimpliSafe2 system since it has more features like freeze and water alarm and plans for fire and carbon monoxide alarm.  The total cost I paid for our system was $463.55  That included the SimpliSafe2, 3 door sensors, 2 motion sensors, panic alarm, 2 keychains and a yard sign. 

The monthly monitoring cost for SimpliSafe starts at only $14.99 compared to the $42 and change that we were paying for ADT.   ADT quickly gets the money from the free hardware back by charging you significantly more for monthly service and locking you into a 3 year contract.

If you compare a basic SimpliSafe configuration with ADT you'll save hundreds of dollars over a three year period.  

ADT SimpliSafe
Hardware $0 $280
Monthly $42 $15
3 year total $1,512 $820

Total savings = $692

Thats an apples to apples comparison of features from ADT and SimpliSafe.   You can spend more with SimpliSafe if you want more features.   The SMS text monitoring service is an extra  $5 per month and advanced online monitoring and other monitoring will be $25 total, but our ADT system didn't offer those features.

Super Easy Install
The installation was very easy and the monitors simply stick on the walls.   When you turn on the base station it has voice commands that tell you what to do.    SimpliSafe's site has a 5 minute video showing the installation.   It is really simple to install and get setup and you can do it in a matter of minutes.  
I did have some initial glitches getting the system to be recognized by SimpliSafe and I decided to hoook the unit to our home phone. 

Unfortunately our home has very poor and undependable cellular signal and I think that is likely the cause of the problem we had, though I'm not certain.   I also have to say that one time my wife accidentally triggered the alarm and it didn't seem to call the police.   We're not sure why that happened.  I don't know if my wife ever found the time to call the SimpliSafe people to follow up and try and figure out what happened.  

Limited technical support hours 

One of the negatives I found with SimpliSafe is that their actual phone support has pretty limited hours of just Monday - Friday 9AM to 6PM EST.   Thats not convenient and not very good as far as I'm concerned.   I can't take off time from work to troubleshoot the thing and I went in assuming they'd have basically 24/7 phone support, but I assumed wrong.   Of course the monitoring system is 24/7 but if you need technical support then they are limited to bankers hours.  

- affordable cost
- no contract
- easy install
- portability
- cellular based monitoring
- wireless sensors

- support hours
- glitches when installing

Other sources :
I first recall reading about SimpliSafe at the review at MyMoneyBlog
Here is a YouTube review which shows the actual hardware as it comes in the box.   Another Youtube video shows some home installation.

Overall I would recommend SimpliSafe as I think the glitches we've seen are the exception to the rule and its a great value.

 -- This article may contain referral links which pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

Top Marginal Income Tax rates For Select Incomes over Time

The top marginal income taxes used to be a lot higher.   During WWII the top marginal rate in the USA was 94%.   Today the top marginal tax rate is 35%.     However to hit that top 94% rate in 1945 you'd have to make $200,000 taxable income which is equivalent about $2,500,000 in todays dollars.   Only the very rich were paying that kind of tax rate back then.   For most of us taxable income of $25,000 to $250,000 range is more common.  So to get a better comparison of marginal tax rates over the years lets look at the top marginal tax rate at inflation adjusted rates for incomes in that range.

I'm looking at just the taxable income for a married couple.    I got the historical marginal rates from the Tax Foundation,  for recent tax rates I used the tax brackets at moneychip site and I adjusted the figures for inflation with the BLS inflation calculator.

Here's how it looks in graphic :

Here's the data :

$25k $50k $100k $250k
1930 1.50% 1.50% 3% 9%
1940 4% 4% 8% 19%
1945 23% 25% 33% 56%
1950 22% 26% 38% 62%
1960 20% 22% 30% 47%
1970 19% 22% 28% 48%
1980 18% 24% 43% 59%
1990 15% 15% 28% 33%
2000 15% 15% 28% 36%
2010 15% 15% 25% 33%
2012 15% 15% 25% 33%

 As you can see theres less variation in the marginal rate for the lower/middle income groups.   For inflation adjusted income levels of $25,000 or $50,000 the marginal rate has varied from 20-26% in the 40's to 60's down to 15% for the past couple decades.   The higher income group with >$250k of taxable income has seen rates vary a lot more.   In the 50's their marginal rate was 62% and today its down to 33%.   Before WWII the income tax rates were much lower all across the board.

Keep in mind that I am ignoring deductions and exemptions which would of course impact all this as well.  


October 19, 2012

Best of Blogs for Week of October 19th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week.

GetRichSlowly hosts a readers perspective on Being a landlord: Is it worth it?

Apex at FMF continues their series Real Estate 101: Finding Your Niche
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October 18, 2012

FREE - 8x10 photo at Walgreens

Using promo code TRULYFREE you can get an 8x10 print free at Walgreens.    Use in store pickup to avoid shipping.

The deal expires October 20th.

I saw this deal on Fatwallet

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October 17, 2012

Distribution of Year of Construction for Homes in US

Where I live most of the homes are relatively new since our area is a suburb and has had a lot of growth in the past 20-30 years. The city we live in has had its population double in the past 20 years. Because of this about half of the houses are less than 20 years old. However in some parts of the US theres been much less growth in recent years and/or the housing has been built up nearly 100% for a long time.

I found the age of homes in the  American Housing Survey tables for 2009 data, specifically table 2-1 shows the year the structures were built.

Here's the data graphically :

The numbers are in thousands.   And a simple table :

Year Built
2005 to 2009 5,884
2000 to 2004 8,102
1995 to 1999 7,825
1990 to 1994 5,995
1985 to 1989 7,648
1980 to 1984 6,380
1975 to 1979 11,835
1970 to 1974 9,413
1960 to 1969 13,326
1950 to 1959                            11,771
1940 to 1949                         6,745
1930 to 1939                           4,828
1920 to 1929                        4,331
1919 or earlier                  7,724
Median                                       1974

Note the data is for all housing including owner occupied and rentals.

The median is 1974.  

Homes built after 1980 = 37%
Homes built from 1950 to 1979 = 41%
Homes built before 1950 = 21%

Now we don't see data for 2010 to 2012 but after the housing bust new home construction ground to a virtual halt and I assume a lot fewer homes were built in the past 3 years.

October 15, 2012

Percent of Population paying Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for 2009

Ever hear of anyone you know complain of paying the AMT or Alternative Minimum Tax?   If you live in New Jersey or Connecticut you're more likely to have heard such complaints than if you live in Tennessee or South Dakota.   Nationally 2.7% of the population paid AMT in 2009 but the rate varies a lot between states.

This is data from the IRS for the year 2009.  Its from the SOI tax stats tables by states.   I'm using the 2009 figures since those were the latest that showed AMT.

Here's the data in table form :


State Percent Number
UNITED STATES  2.7% 3,844,217
ALABAMA 1.2% 23,895
ALASKA 1.1% 4,103
ARIZONA 1.6% 41,699
ARKANSAS 1.5% 17,578
CALIFORNIA 4.2% 685,141
COLORADO 2.2% 51,537
CONNECTICUT 5.5% 93,729
DELAWARE 2.1% 8,865
FLORIDA 1.6% 141,118
GEORGIA 2.4% 106,477
HAWAII 1.7% 11,122
IDAHO 1.5% 9,617
ILLINOIS 2.7% 160,561
INDIANA 1.4% 41,535
IOWA 1.7% 23,816
KANSAS 2.1% 27,442
KENTUCKY 1.6% 29,892
LOUISIANA 1.7% 33,875
MAINE 2.0% 12,249
MARYLAND 4.8% 132,676
MASSACHUSETTS 4.5% 141,581
MICHIGAN 1.8% 81,589
MINNESOTA 2.8% 70,575
MISSISSIPPI 1.1% 14,012
MISSOURI 1.8% 47,551
MONTANA 1.5% 7,027
NEBRASKA 2.0% 16,546
NEVADA 1.2% 15,412
NEW HAMPSHIRE 2.3% 14,979
NEW JERSEY 6.3% 265,495
NEW MEXICO 1.2% 10,695
NEW YORK 5.2% 477,166
NORTH CAROLINA 2.1% 87,720
NORTH DAKOTA 1.5% 4,839
OHIO 2.2% 120,055
OKLAHOMA 1.5% 23,342
OREGON 2.3% 40,127
PENNSYLVANIA 2.5% 150,253
RHODE ISLAND 2.7% 13,669
SOUTH CAROLINA 1.5% 30,931
SOUTH DAKOTA 1.1% 4,238
TENNESSEE 1.0% 29,024
TEXAS 1.9% 206,222
UTAH 1.7% 19,029
VERMONT 2.1% 6,791
VIRGINIA 3.5% 130,531
WASHINGTON 1.7% 54,351
WEST VIRGINIA 1.3% 9,764
WISCONSIN 2.1% 55,952
WYOMING 1.2% 3,305

As you can see theres a pretty wide variation in the percentages from state to state.   Most of the difference in ATM rates between states is due to differences in income levels from state to state.   The highest rate is in New Jersey where nearly 20% of the tax filers reports household income over $100,000.   While the lowest is Tennessee at 1.0% where just under 9% of the households are in the six figure range.

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October 12, 2012

Best of Blogs for Week of October 12th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week.

Apex at FMF continues the series with Real Estate 101: Running the Numbers and Real Estate 101: Making an Offer

Planet Money show how College Costs More In America, But The Payoff Is Bigger

DQYDJ answers Which State Benefits the Most from the Mortgage Interest Deduction?

note: I accidentally posted this article early in the week but am now reposting it on the proper date.  So if you're seeing this title twice its not deja vu.

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October 9, 2012

FREE - $2 MP3 credit at Amazon w/ Facebook post

Yet another $2 MP3 credit at Amazon.  

Here is the link to Amazon site for the deal

You do have to post on Facebook to get the $2 credit.     Promotional credits must be redeemed by 11:59 p.m. PST on October 23, 2012.

I saw this one on Fatwallet

 -- This article may contain referral links which pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

October 5, 2012

Best of Blog Post for Week of October 5th

Every Friday afternoon I share some of the more interesting or notable posts that I have seen in the personal finance blogs and other sources for the past week.

MyMoneyBlog shares Recent Investment Returns By Asset Class – September 2012

Bargaineering has details on McDonald’s Monopoly Game Board

Planet Money discusses Why New York Is A Hub In The Global Trinket Trade  and then they show some examples of the products sold there Rubber Ducks And Cheap Watches: Photos From New York's Junk Economy


How Balanced is Your Retirement Portfolio?

This is a guest post from Jenna Smith who is an online blogger who normally writes on the topics of personal finance and business. Jenna often writes on family finance and investment, including the role of investment services like Cavalry Portfolio Services. You can read more writing by Jenna at paidtwice.com

There is nothing more important than planning for retirement. Whether you are in your 20s or in your 40s, it is always the right time to start thinking about how you will support yourself in the retirement years. It is essential for you to think about the way in which you will distribute funds in a Roth IRA or 401(k) account. As you devise your portfolio strategy, here are some tips to consider.

1. If you're young, choose high-growth stocks.

If you are young, then you have time on your side. Think about choosing some stocks that are considered a riskier investment. This does not mean that you should not look into the actual value of the company as well as its debt-ratio. You should still make sure that you are investing in companies that have high value. Just know that you can afford to invest in pharmaceutical, "green" or tech companies. These types of companies are set for high growth in the upcoming decades.

2. If you're older, choose conservative stocks.

If you are in your mid 40s or older, then you should choose conservative stocks for your portfolio. Stay away from stocks that have a high risk. You need to have access to funds during your retirement years, so this should be your main goal. You do not have time to waste in losing funds from your portfolio.

3. Give mutual funds a chance.

Mutual funds can provide you with a great opportunity for growing your portfolio in a safe way. Try to find a mutual fund that has consistently performed in the past five or ten years.

4. Stay away from penny stocks.

Penny stocks are a great trap for people of all ages. Older individuals get lured into the idea of making "fast cash" with penny stocks. Younger people believe that they can keep their money in penny stocks for years and experience growth. The truth is that a majority of companies with penny stocks are going through bankruptcy. You should try to avoid investing in these companies.

5. Research the debt-ratio of a company before investing.

Lastly, always make sure to research the debt-ratio of a company before you put your money into the company. If a company has many outstanding debts, then it may be at risk for filing for bankruptcy.
When you invest, it is essential to keep these tips in mind. You will be able to create a solid portfolio by just remembering to consider your own circumstances. Another tips would be to meet with an investment service. You don't necessarily need to pay someone to advise you on everything, but getting some professional advice might be wise decision.

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October 4, 2012

The Worlds Wealth by Nation

I wonder how many Americans realize we are the wealthiest nation in the world by a wide margin?   The way people seem to talk in the US you'd think we were all broke  or close to it.    Of course our nations wealth isn't in the hands of most of the citizens but as a nation our wealth far exceeds any other nation in the world by a wide margin.

Wikipedia has a list of countries by distribution of wealth and there they show the % of the worlds wealth held by each nation.

Here's a graphic of the nations with the largest share of the worlds money :

The US holds about 2.5 as much wealth as #2 Japan.   We're #1 by a wide margin.

Also notable is the fact that just 5 nations control over half the worlds wealth : USA, Japan, China, UK and Germany.   The 18 countries that hold 1% or more of the money have 80% of the total.

Next time you or someone you know acts as if our nation is broke, think again.

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