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Savers took a hit in 2008 but the 5-year average looks good.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 1:49PM

If you’ve stashed money in your 401k regularly over the last several years, a MarketWatch story can help you feel good about yourself.

 

A study of the performance of 401ks owned by 6 million consistent savers from 2003 through 2008 showed that:

… average account balances for these workers rose about 7% annually, even including the stock market crash in 2008 -- thanks in part to market gains in the years preceding the crash, but also thanks to workers' and employers' ongoing account contributions.

Now, let’s examine that more closely.

 

We get very little vacation time and we still don't take it.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 10:52AM

This post comes from Nora Dunn at partner blog Wise Bread.

 

Here is a frightening (or enlightening, depending on how you look at it) passage from Wanderlust and Lipstick about the American approach to vacations:

A 2009 survey from Expedia found that 1/3 of employees don’t take all of their vacation time. While this speaks (to a certain degree) to how individuals make personal choices, there might be something else underlying our reluctance to hit the road.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research calls the U.S. the "no-vacation nation." In a 2007 study, they determined that the U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation for employees. That means you can take a job, work your 40 (or more) hours a week, and it’s considered a bonus to be given paid vacation time.
But when we are blessed with vacation time, what keeps us from taking the time off we earn and deserve? According to the Expedia survey, people who don’t take their vacation time do so for several reasons. They hope to receive compensation for unused time, they have a hard time planning ahead or their partner can’t travel during the same time period. What’s worse? One in five respondents admitted to canceling a vacation because of work.

No wonder we have so much trouble balancing work and life.

 

It sounds creepy, but some people recommend it.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 3:37AM

True confession: We made some extra money in college by drinking a prodigious amount of vodka in a hospital setting. By participating in this study, we earned $200, or maybe it was 50 bucks. (The memory was probably damaged by all the brain cells we killed.)

 

Have you ever helped the cause of science to make extra cash? Several bloggers wrote recently that they have.

 

Hank of Own The Dollar, guest posting at Budget Are Sexy, said he made a quick $40 by participating in a study about vaccines. "I was given the money for about 30 minutes of my time, a brief medical questionnaire, and five small vials of blood. Not bad for a half hour’s worth of 'work,'" he wrote.

 

Company's size is mind-boggling.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 3:27AM

Have you seen the e-mail making the rounds that says Wal-Mart's size is so immense that it's mind-boggling and scary? (The e-mail concludes with the statement, "Let Wal-Mart bail out Wall Street.")


It lists some amazing statistics about the recession-proof retail behemoth and, according to Snopes, almost all of them are true, including this one: "Wal-Mart will sell more from Jan. 1 to St. Patrick's Day (March 17) than Target sells all year."

And, in terms of sales, Wal-Mart truly is bigger than Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Sears, Costco and Kmart combined.


But is Wal-Mart truly the biggest company in the history of the world? (Imagine Keith Olbermann saying that.)

 

It's easy to opt out, but just hanging up won't do the trick.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 3:18AM

We're on the Do Not Call list, but we still get prerecorded calls from the likes of "Heather" and her fellow drones. Why is this happening? It's terribly annoying.


Luckily we came across this post by Herb Weisbaum, aka ConsumerMan at MSNBC, while we were researching another topic. He says you can now opt out of these calls -- and can do it quite simply. 

 

You might be surprised.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 3:11AM

Pinyo's wife thinks he's cheap. In his mind, he's frugal. Who's right?


He scored a 20 on the cheap vs. frugal test he devised and posted at Moolanomy. That score indicates that he's neither, but that he "appears to be reasonable" with his spending.


Take the test. It's fun. For example, here's Question No. 6.

You have some old clothes. Do you ...?
  1. What are you talking about? I don't have old clothes.
  2. I donate them when they get a little older.
  3. I turn them into rags.
  4. I am still wearing them.
 

It's easy to do with CDs, but it may require some planning.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 3:05AM

This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.


Plenty of articles discuss the importance of emergency funds and how to set one up, so this is not going to be one of those. I assume that you already understand all that good stuff. (If not, check out these great articles at a Money Blog Network writing project.)


Here I'll discuss a strategy to maximize your emergency fund's interest earnings so you can lessen the pain of not having the funds in an investment account.


The strategy is quite simple and works on the assumption that you are using the emergency fund to cover month-to-month expenses and not an enormous cost that is in the multiples of a month, though it can handle that too.

 

Younger children often prefer simple, cheap toys.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 1:19AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


Over my son’s life, he's received numerous gifts from me and my wife, his grandparents, and his aunts and uncles. We have many toys he doesn't regularly play with, so we've given a few away and have some in storage so we can rotate them monthly, giving him the enjoyment of having “new” toys to play with.


His second birthday is approaching, and we've been thinking about what sorts of gifts are appropriate for him. What would he enjoy at this age? The surprising answer is that almost everything he indicates an interest in is very inexpensive.


This would likely be his gift list if he were writing his own:

 

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