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A good place to start is by drawing a financial network map.

By Karen Datko Jan 25, 2011 9:57AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Longtime readers of Bargaineering will know that in the last year I've been aggressively consolidating our financial accounts in a quest to simplify my finances. It seems fitting that, for Spring Cleaning Week, our second post of the series should be about how to consolidate all the financial accounts you've accumulated in the last few years.

In an ideal world, you really need only one checking account, one savings account, one credit card (although that's debatable), and one brokerage account. We, of course, don't live in a utopia; we live here. 


It doesn't take long for financial accounts to accumulate like knickknacks on your bookcase or mantle. A change in job adds a 401k, a change of address adds a new bank, and before long you have a dozen financial accounts you don't even use every month with a few bucks here and a few bucks there.

While most of the battle is in simply getting it done, I think a few tips I picked up may help you in your quest.


Wealthy blogger touched a nerve by writing about her cost-cutting measures after she and her husband purchased a multimillion-dollar home.

By Karen Datko Jan 24, 2011 7:33PM

"Austerity Mum" blogged -- until recently -- about the hardships her family faced after she and her husband bought and began remodeling a very large London house.

  • No vacation trip to the Maldives.
  • No more purses for her. However, her husband -- known only as the "Chief Spending Officer" -- has put up a fuss to keep buying handmade shirts. Prada isn't good enough.
  • He did agree to have his Berluti shoes resoled, rather than replaced.

"I even cancelled the helicopter transfer from Nice to our hotel in Ramatuelle this Friday," she wrote, according to one news report. "Then reinstated it, then cancelled again ... watch this space."

Austerity Mum has been unmasked in the British press as Lisa Unwin -- wife of Ashley Unwin, the highly paid head of PricewaterhouseCoopers' consulting business in London. Lisa Unwin, who killed the blog, defends it as tongue-in-cheek, meant to entertain and amuse. It seems the former corporate communications director and now stay-at-home mum had recently taken a creative writing course.


Not everyone thinks it's funny. 


A new report details the vast underground market for personal and financial data, which offers everything from credit card numbers to fake ATM machines.

By Teresa Mears Jan 24, 2011 2:59PM

We've all heard about people who have fallen victim to identity theft.


But what happens to your details once they are stolen?


Rather than use your credit card, the thieves may sell it in a vast black market, which conducts much of its work in shadowy underground forums but sometimes is brazen enough to advertise on Facebook or Twitter. The worst? Your stolen card number can yield as little as $2.


In an investigation that sounds like an episode of "Law and Order," a Spanish security company sent its researchers undercover to plumb the murky depths of the black market in stolen credit cards, bank account numbers and other financial data. You can read their report (.pdf file).


'Having to be the adult of your parents isn't easy, but sometimes that's what's needed.'

By Karen Datko Jan 24, 2011 11:54AM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


As more of my friends enter middle age, they're talking less about how to care for their kids and more about how to care for their parents. Our mothers and fathers are nearing (and, in some cases, surpassing) 70 years of age, and not all of them are financially prepared.

A GRS reader named Shauna recently wrote with a typical scenario:

My husband and I are in our early 30s and finally getting our finances in order after years of piling up debt. We both have parents who were never particularly good with money, and they've entered their early retirement years with no savings or assets to speak of -- no houses, no savings, no emergency fund. We're looking down the road, and realizing that we will probably be financially responsible for all of them at some point in the not too distant future. Do you have any advice for us?

Actually, I don't have any advice for Shauna. Why not? Because I'm in a similar position, and I have similar questions.


Suppose you're choosing between 2 cars. One qualifies for free gasoline for life, while the other requires you to pay $10 or more per fill-up. Which would you buy?

By Stacy Johnson Jan 24, 2011 10:16AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


Despite competition from tablet computers like Apple's iPad, e-readers are still making major inroads. According to Gartner Research:

Worldwide connected e-reader sales to end users are forecast to total 6.6 million units in 2010, up 79.8% from 2009 sales of 3.6 million units, according to Gartner Inc. In 2011, worldwide e-reader sales are projected to surpass 11 million units, a 68.3% increase from 2010.

One of the most popular e-readers is Amazon's Kindle. While nobody outside the company knows exactly how many Kindle e-readers Amazon is selling, one thing's for sure: It's a lot. In fact, it may be more than Gartner estimated in the press release above. According to this Bloomberg article from Dec. 21: Inc. is likely to sell more than 8 million Kindle electronic-book readers this year, at least 60% more than analysts have predicted, according to two people who are aware of the company's sales projections.
Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimated, on average, that the company would sell 5 million Kindles in 2010. Last year, Amazon sold about 2.4 million Kindles, said one of the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the company doesn't disclose Kindle sales figures.

The popularity of e-readers may wane as tablet computers like the iPad -- also suitable for e-reading -- cannibalize the market. Apple sold nearly 7.5 million iPads in the last three months of 2010 alone. Still, if the research above is correct, e-readers like the Kindle will continue to do well through 2011 and beyond. 


But I can't see why anyone would buy a Kindle.


Search giant prepares to test Google Offers.

By Karen Datko Jan 21, 2011 5:55PM

This post comes from Truman Lewis at partner site


It wasn't long ago that Google was trying to buy daily-deals website Groupon. But Groupon spurned Big G's advances, and now Google says it is about to start testing Google Offers, a local coupon service that will function much like Groupon.


Google Offers is being called "a new product to help potential customers and clientele find great deals in their area through a daily e-mail."


Banks are taking longer to foreclose and they're slow to sell reclaimed properties. Result: A housing market stuck in low gear.

By Karen Datko Jan 21, 2011 4:25PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.

The "shadow" inventory -- the backlog of homes lost or soon to be seized through foreclosure but not yet for sale -- has grown astronomically, to a 44-month backlog.

Here's what that means: At the current pace, it'll take at least three years to sell all those houses and condos when they eventually go on the market -- if buyers can be found and if the homes are still in saleable condition. Here's a CBS News report on the mounting danger and cost of neglected properties.

It also means three more years of uncertainty for all of us:

  • Three years of suppressed -- and depressed -- housing prices. 
  • Three years more to wait before you can put your home on the market without competing with abandoned, run-down foreclosures. (These days foreclosures are a quarter of home sales, nationally.)
  • Three years of limbo for defaulting homeowners whose banks start foreclosing, then fail to follow through. (This MarketWatch story illustrates the consequences for one homeowner.)

If you believe some of these oft-repeated financial tips, you may also believe that a watermelon will grow in your stomach if you swallow a seed.

By Karen Datko Jan 21, 2011 1:09PM

This guest post comes from Len Penzo at Len Penzo dot Com.


It's been said that if the palm of your right hand itches, you'll soon be coming into money. On the other hand (seriously, no pun intended) it's also been said that if your left palm itches you'll soon be paying out money.


Don't laugh. There are folks out there who actually believe this stuff.


What is funny though is if you do an Internet search, you'll find there is no consensus at all regarding which palm is which; some sites proclaim it is actually vice versa.


Of course, I'd expect such confusion emanating from what is essentially nothing more than an old wives' tale.


Beware of financial rules of thumb

If you ask me, a surprisingly large number of financial rules of thumb are actually nothing more than gussied-up old wives' tales too. In fact, they're almost as crazy as those itchy palm notions.


That's not to say that all financial rules of thumb are completely bogus, but some are more dubious than others because they are often based on misguided conventional wisdom or generalized ratios that are intended to work for the average person. As such, they should always be taken with a generous serving of salt. To prove it, here are a few examples:


1. Red cars are more expensive to insure.

If you buy this, you may also believe: If three people are photographed together, the one in the middle will die first.



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