November 26, 2014

My FICO Score HIstory

I've got access to my FICO score for free via both Discover credit card and a Barclay bank credit card.  I occasionally check the scores to monitor them and I've got over a years worth of history recorded.

There has been a little fluctuation in there but in the past 14 months my score has stayed within a 10 point range so thats not really much movement.


November 25, 2014

Citibank 5% Cashback Calendar for 2015

I got an email from Citibank about their 5% cash back categories for 2015.    Here is the table from the email :

Nothing too exciting for me personally.   But I suppose I could use this to get some Home Depot gift cards at 5% off in the spring.


November 23, 2014

One Month of Unlimited Talk, Text and Data for under $15?

 While browsing in the cell phone area over at Amazon I saw a link to a T-Mobile SIM with a $70 unlimited talk, text and data plan for $10.40. 

You can find the SIM here : $70 T-Mobile Prepaid SIM Card Unlimited Talk, Text, & Web

 Shipping is another $4.49 so its just under $15 total.

So you can get a full month of unlimited cell phone use at 4G for under $15.  Thats an awesome deal!

In the details they say that they can move your number but not an existing T-Mobile number.  I'm assuming this is a deal where the person selling the SIM is getting it for virtually free and coming out ahead on the deal and T-Mobile is more or less giving away the first months service to gain a new customer in the process.   I can't help but think this looks a little shady though.    The reviews on the Amazon page seem almost all positive, but thats not conclusive proof since reviews can be faked.

I see another similar deal for a SIM :

$50 T-mobile Prepaid SIM Card Unlimited Talk Text and Web

But with that one theres at least a couple 1 star reviews from people saying that their credit wasn't honored or that its from an unauthorized dealer.

Bottom Line :  I don't know if this is a rip off or a good deal.   Probably best to avoid it though as it doesn't pass the "too good to be true" test.

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

November 21, 2014

Best of Blogs for Week of November 21st

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

Ritzholz says you should ignore Tony Robinns financial advice and Trade Against a Self-Help Genius

Moneybox gives us America’s Awful College Dropout Rates, in Four Charts

DQYDJ tells us about Net Worth in the United States: Zooming in on the Top Centiles


November 20, 2014

Double Cash back at Ebates

Right now Ebates has double cash back for a number of major retailers with their Holiday Deals.  Current list is below :

Sears 6%
Ugg 9%
Kmart 6%
Lancome 10%
Macy's 6%
eBags 12%
Toms 10%
ULTA Beauty 8%
JCPenney 6%
Sephora 8%
Dell 4%
Lands End 6%
Home Depot 3%
American Eagle Outfitters 4%
The Body Shop 8%
Groupon 6%
Walmart 2%
OshKosh 5% 40%
Amazon "up to" 4%  (applies to clothing, sports/outdoors & music instruments)
Ashford 6%
Kohl's 6%
Ebay "up to" 5% toys & hobies and health & beauty, other categories 1-4%.
LivingSocial 6%
Nortstrom 6%
Under Armour 8%
Bloomingdales 6%
HP 5%
Neiman Marcus 8%

I don't know how long these vendors will have double cash back.  To check the status go to Ebates and then click on the 'Double Cash Back Stores' link in the header.

Standard Ebates blurb:To get the cash back you need to be signed up with Ebates.  Then simply go to Ebates to get the referral to the the store before you do your shopping.  I also get a referral bonus if you use my links to sign up with Ebates

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

Small Business Day Saturday from American Express is Nov. 29th - UP to $30 credit

American Express is again running their Small Business Day on the Saturday after Thanksgiving or Nov. 29th.  

From the Amex site :
"On Nov 29, use your registered Card to spend $10+ in a single, in-store purch at a qualifying small business on the Shop Small Map at and get a $10 statement credit. Limit 3 statement credits per registered Card. Registration is limited."

You have to register your Amex card on their site first, but doing so is pretty simple.  I just logged in then saw the 'offers' and clicked on the button to add the deal to my card. 

The Shop Small Map site will tell you what local merchants are participating.
In the past when I looked at the merchants nothing really interested me enough cause me to make a trip.   But this year I found a brew pub, bakery and toy store all in a shopping mall a few miles from our house that offers the deal. 


November 10, 2014

Our for a few days

I'm going to be busy for a few days so I won't have any posts for a bit.    I"m not sure how long it will take but I expect to at least be back by next week.


November 9, 2014

American Household Debt Components 1989 - 2014 : Mostly Housing

One of the points made in the Survey of Consumer Finances for 2013 report Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2010 to 2013: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances (PDF) is that debt levels are down in 2013 from 2010.   Thats good.    I decided to look closer at the figures for debts in the SCF.

The Survey of Consumer Finances Table 16. has data showing the composition of debt in the USA.   Here's a graphic of those %' distributions of our nations families debts :

(click image for full size)

Immediately obvious is how much the debt for primary home loan mortgages overshadows all other forms of debt combined.    70% of our debt is home mortgages and another 12% is a combination of home equity loans and other residential loans (presumably rentals and/or vacation homes?). 

I'd also like to point out how this chart illustrates the horrible looming disaster that student loans pose to American families.    What you can't see how awful the student loan bubble has become?   Well yeah I guess it is kind of hard to see compared to that giant blue bar for home mortgages.   Isn't it?   Well the education debt level has gone up considerably in the past 20 years, no doubt about that.   As of 2013 the education debt accounted for 6.6% of American debt and back in 1989 it was just 2.4%.    On the other hand in 2013 vehicle loans are only 5.1% of our debt and in 1989 they were 10.6%.   Hmmm.    I guess I don't think thats bad that we've decided to pay for educations instead of new cars... but I suppose thats a personal opiniony kind of thing.

To get a better look at how the debt distribution looks, I'll show the figures excluding loans on primary residences :

(click for full size)
Its a bit easier to see the growth of the light blue education debt bar there.   But its still not really standing out much versus the other forms of debt. 

November 6, 2014

Homeownership Rates by Nation

In the US homeownership rates are now around 65%.   How does this compare to other nations?   Is our 65% a "good" figure?  Or is it too high or too low?   

I pulled the numbers off of Wikipedia and made a chart :

(click image for full size)
Sorry its hard to read the nation names there but if you click the image you can get the full size chart.

Compared to most nations the US homeownership (red) rate is relatively low.    I don't think this means too much.   I don't think homeownership rates really reflect the strength of a nations economy or qualify of life.  Compare Norway (purple) and Germany (green) both nations have strong economies and high  living standards but Norway has 85% homeownership and Germany is at 53%.   In fact more often than not the nations with stronger economies have lower homeownership rates, but thats a generalization with exceptions like Norway.   In general I'd assume that homeownership rates can be based on the cost of housing versus the income levels.   Homeownership may also vary based on how the nation handles debt and its cultural attitudes about housing.   


November 4, 2014

Credit Card Debt Levels 1989 to 2013

Here's a bright side in the Survey of Consumer Finances from 2013:   Credit card debt levels are down and fewer families hold credit card debt.

 Here's a chart showing the percent of households that have credit card debt and the mean debt for families with credit card debt:

(click image for full size)
I got the figures from Table 13 out of the SCF historic tables.

Here's a table of the figures I pulled from the SCF :

% with debt mean debt
1989 39.70%  $   1,800
1992 43.70%  $   2,300
1995 47.30%  $   3,000
1998 44.10%  $   4,100
2001 44.40%  $   4,100
2004 46.20%  $   5,100
2007 46.10%  $   7,300
2010 39.40%  $   7,100
2013 38.10%  $   5,700

So in the 3 hears from 2010 to 2013 the average debt dropped $1400 and 1.3% fewer families  have any credit card debts.   Good job America.


November 2, 2014

Do You Have to Repay a 401k Loan Immediately If You Lose Your Job or Quit?

One of the commonly cited problems with 401k loans is that if you end your job at the company then you'll have to pay back the loan in full.    That could be a real big problem if you're laid off unexpectedly and then presented with a bill to pay off a sizable loan at the same time.  

But is this rule mandatory?   Well no.  Its not really a rule in general. 

My employer does NOT require us to repay 401k loans after ending your job.  

There isn't anything that I can find in the 401k laws or rules that actually says this is a rule.  So its just up to the employer policies.     I am guessing that most employers do require 401k loans to be repaid when the job ends.   I say that given how almost everyone states this policy as if its a general rule.  However I don't have any information on how prevalent this rule is so I am just saying that based on assumption.  

To know if 401k loans from your plan are required to be paid in full when the employment ends the only way to know is to check with the 401k plan administrator or documentation.


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