June 27, 2017

No, Most Americans Aren't Totally Broke

Over on The Simple Dollar someone asked about an article on CNN with the headline of "6 in 10 Americans don't have $500 in savings"     The QA exchange on that was someone asking if that is real and Trent saying he believes it.

I don't believe that 60% of Americans don't have $500.

It seems that we're told by the press over and over that most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck or don't have $1000 or $500 or $X in the bank or similar things.    I've generally accepted this in stride as most people probably do.

But here's the big problem with that claim.    Its based on a survey from Bankrate that asked people how they'd handle an emergency bill.   But I can't find any real details on how the question was asked.   If they just asked "how would you pay for a $500 -1000 emergency expense?" and the answers were just a list of items like savings, credit card, cut spending, etc. then you'll get some wrong results there.   I personally would use a credit card and I'd answer that way.   The article then assumes (wrongly) that I don't have $500 in savings.   But I use credit cards for most everything to get my bonus points.

Survey of Consumer Finances of 2013 has a lot of data on personal finances.    They say specifically how many people have checking and savings accounts and what the mean and median balances are.   93.2% of people have accounts and the median balance was $4100.   That means that 46% of people have over $4100.   This specific data directly refused the idea that 60% (6 in 10) of people don't have $500 in savings.

I'm sure that there are is an unfortunately high amount of people in the nation who don't have $500 available.    But its not 60%.


June 22, 2017

10% CashBack for Walmart at Ebates

Ebates currently has 10% cashback on purchases at Walmart.

Good way to get an extra 10% off of whatever you buy at Walmart.

I think this is just a daily double cashback deal so it may be gone by tomorrow.

Standard Ebates blurb: To get cash back from Ebates you need to be signed up with Ebates.  Then simply go to Ebates to get the referral to 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.

June 21, 2017

Gold Investments Have Done Poorly Lately

Around the recession we heard a lot about gold as an investment.   I'm not hearing that much about it lately.

Here's why:

click for full size, source: Yahoo Finance
Gold has lost over 20% of its value in the past 5 years while the stock market is up over 75% in that same time.

If you'd bought gold almost anytime in the past 8 years you'd be losing money on it versus simply putting your money in a bank account.    If you'd bought gold between 1995 and 2005 you'd have been lucky to beat a savings account.      If you were lucky you bought sometime before 2005 and sold around 2010.   This isn't the kind of pattern for an investment that you'd want.  It takes extreme luck to do any better than beating a simple bank account.


June 16, 2017

500 Amazon Coins ($5 value) for $1 at HumbleBundle

The current E3 digital ticket game bundle on HumbleBundle has 500 Amazon coins included at the $1 purchase level.  500 coins would cost you $4.90 to buy at Amazon so this is basically $5 worth of app purchases.    You can get the bundle for as little as $1.   Of course you can pay more if you want to donate to the charity in question too.    There are some video game items too but it looks like "digital content" or downloadable content more than full games.

Note :  Make sure you've got a good use for Amazon coins.    Their app store doesn't have everything and theres plenty of free alternatives.    Some of the games I like aren't on Amazon at all.  


PSA : Credit Card Sign Up Bonus Gotcha To Watch For

I've been rotating through new credit cards to get sign up bonuses for a while now.   I've been targeting the best cash bonuses or at least cash/ travel bonuses.   Over all this has worked great for me and I netted over $2000 in various rewards in 2015.  

Unfortunately I just struck out with a Capital One Venture card.    Annoyingly it was my mistake that lost the bonus but I think its a slight trap anyone could fall into.     I signed up for the card in January of this year.    The sign up deal is that you get 40,000 bonus miles when  "once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months".    OK thats easy enough and I've done this kind of spending deal on several cards before.   But no.

Make sure you figure out when the clock starts and what the exact time period is to meet a sign up bonus.

Some cards start the period on the day you sign up for the card.

Today I added up the spending on my first 3 monthly statements and I'm a bit over the minimum required $3,000 at about $3,025.   So I should get the bonus right?   No.    The clock for the bonus spending requirement started the day that I applied for the card.   The clock did not start when I got the card.   The clock didn't start when the statement periods started either.      I spent my $3000+ in the first three statements and missed the deadline by two weeks.    So that is annoying.  Lesson learned.    At least I can do is pass on the heads up to maybe help someone else from finding the problem.


June 13, 2017

$5 per Month Cell Phone Service from Speedtalk

Speedtalk has a $5 monthly plan for cell phone service.   You can get their preloaded SIM at Amazon for $5 plus $4 shipping.

The service level includes 250 minutes OR 250 text or 250MB data per month.   So its pretty limited, but for $5 its a pretty decent offering for light users.

You can also get 12 months of service from Speedtalk for $60 at Amazon with free shipping.    That works out to $5 per month and the shipping is free.  However it does NOT have rollover so the monthly allotment is use-it-or-lose-it.

Speedtalk is a reseller that uses the T-mobile network.   I haven't used them myself.

-- This article contains a referral link which will pay this site a commission for purchases made at the sites.

June 6, 2017

Effective Federal Funds Rate for 60+ Years (1954 to 2017)

The St. Louis Fed's FRED database has historical info on the federal funds rate

Wiki says that "In the United States, the federal funds rate is the interest rate at which depository institutions (banks and credit unions) lend reserve balances to other depository institutions overnight, on an uncollateralized basis."

Here's the graphic - click the picture for a full size version:

(source St. Louis Fed )

Seemed to me the trend was gradually going up and then peaking around 1980 then going down.   I used Excel to plot a (polynomial) trend line :


June 1, 2017

How much Does High School Quality Matter In College? Lots.

I've no doubt that the quality of your high school matters in preparing you for college.   But how much does it typically matter?     I went searching for studies that looked at it and I found : the report Can You Leave High School Behind?  (link to PDF)   It looked at data from University of Texas Austin students.  

In Texas they've had a program where the top 10% of all high schools are admitted to UT automatically.    This means they get a good distribution of students from high schools of varying quality.   And it gives them a lot of data about >25 thousand students who came from varying quality high schools and then went to UT.    Looking at the grades in UT for those kids they can see what the correlation is between high school quality metrics and college performance.

In short:    If you go to a good or bad high school does it reflect in your college GPA?

The answer is YES.   Definitely.

Here's a excerpt from the study that illustrates :

"As an example, we estimate a predicted GPA for a simulated student with high school characteristics from two different campuses – one of the highest-ranked and one of the lowest-ranked high schools in the Houston area. Our simulated student is female, Hispanic, age 18, and has a mother with a high school diploma, family income between $20,000-40,000, and $1,000 in unmet financial need. Graduating from the high-performing high school, this student’s estimated freshman year GPA 3.21. Graduating 23 from the low performing high school, her estimated GPA is only 2.30 – a difference of over 1.6 standard deviations."

So they modeled that an specific student would end up with a 0.9 GPA difference if they'd' gone to a good high school versus a bad high school.  

Thats a pretty big swing.    I'd consider a 3.2 GPA in college a success and a mere 2.3 GPA to be a failure or at least a pretty mediocre performance.

Of course the study is just looking at averages.    A kid from the worst high school could go on to ace college and win a Nobel prize and a kid from the very bestest high school could flunk out of college and end up a homeless drug addict.    But on average... the quality of high school is reflected in the average grades of the students who go on to college.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin