Those Crazy Russian Drivers

Taking a little break from personal finance, I thought I’d talk about some things that amuse me of late.  One of the biggest things I’ve recently been turned onto is Russian Car Crash videos.  You can find thousands of them on Youtube, just start typing Russian Car, and it’ll come right up.  Here is a channel that I’ve found is one of the more entertaining.

The reason that there are so many from Russia is that, from the sounds of it, just about every driver installs a dashcam.  I guess insurance fraud is rampant over there, so companies will offer discounts when drivers install a dashcam.

The other reason is that, from what I can see, Russians simply haven’t picked up on the nuances of driving just yet.

Here are a few themes I’ve noticed about crashes:

  • Turning from any lane is apparently something they do.  Unfortunately, this seems to lead to many crashes with drivers not turning.
  • Every tire on our two cars and trailer have been changed over the last 18 months. I’m pretty sure that all of them plus every other tire with worn tread is sent over to Russia and installed on cars there.  It seems that losing control is altogether too easy.
  • Russian drivers seem to have a theory about driving in the snow, that if you drive faster, you might get done with driving in it sooner.  Alas, all this extra speed seems to lead to many, many accidents.
  • People in Russia seem to stop their cars in the middle of the road for any reason.  Why bother pulling to the shoulder when you can stop in the middle lane of a three lane highway instead?  What’s the worst that could happen?  Just countless accidents from other unsuspecting drivers having to swerve out of the way!
  • It must be perfectly normal that some drivers careen down a busy city street at three to four times the speed of any other car, because the number of accidents that take place with this scenario is very unsettling.
  • Apparently crashes take place so often that, after a crash happens nearby, other drivers and pedestrians simply go about their business as if nothing had happened.

Other observations:

  • There are a lot of trees in Russia, but I’m not sure what they actually do.  None of them seem to ever hold leaves as it always appears to be wintertime there.
  • I’m pretty sure I can swear in Russian now.  I wouldn’t know what I was saying, but after hearing some words repeated over and over, I have a pretty good idea.

Readers, are there any Youtube channels that you just can’t stop watching?  What do you think of crazy Russian dashcam videos?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Just How Many More Years of Jim Cramer Must We Put Up With?

My mother-in-law is very close to retirement.  She actually gave her notice and then very nicely agreed to work a bit longer when they didn’t find anyone to replace her by the time she was set to leave.  But, her clock now is ‘any day’ and I know she’s looking forward to it.

This past Christmas, my father-in-law gave her a present, a little countdown clock that counted down the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds to her official date.

It reads zero now, and I’m wondering if we might possibly send it to Jim Cramer and have him program it.

Because, seriously, if there’s one person whose retirement I cannot wait for, it is Jim Cramer.

I’m not sure who gave this guy a microphone and who dictated him some financial wizard, but by now anybody that has ever invested money into the market in the last 15 years probably knows who he is.

I seem to remember him first coming out during the 1990’s tech boom and at the time, he was kind of entertaining.

Now, he’s just annoying.

Let me count down the ways in which I dislike Jim Cramer and hopefully will see his retirement announcement soon!

  1. He’s loud and obnoxious – You want to be on TV, you have to stand out.  I get that.  But Cramer is just annoyingly loud.  He never does or says anything calmly!  People are likely nervous enough about their money being in the market, I just can’t see why people want to follow someone that just adds anxiety where no more is needed.
  2. He’s a know-it-all  – When you’re good at something, you have a right to boast or act like an expert, but to cross the line to think that your past success means that you know more than every other person on the planet is outright ridiculous, yet that’s what Cramer does.  And, he has been wrong quite a bit, but simply changes his story after the fact to make it seem like his words were twisted.  Stand up guy, I’ll tell you!
  3. mb-2015-08-retireHe instigates herd mentality – Reading message boards on the market, I can’t tell you the number of times someone started their post with “Cramer said…”  It’s scary.  Nobody should have the control over peoples minds that he does.  The average dope (my shortened word for people who are willing disciples of Cramer) may not be an expert in the stock market (and I know I’m not), but Cramer gives way too many people the option to not even try to learn anything about what they’re doing with.
  4. He probably scares small children – Well, I have to believe that this is true, anyway.  He scares me and I’m pretty hard to scare.
  5. He exponentially oversimplifies things – Years ago, I did a lot of the computer work for a small financial adviser firm.  The one owner was OK about talking investments, and one time I brought up a stock, said that I’d heard that it was a can’t miss stock, and what did I think?  He pulled up the news, looked at it, and then pulled up a bunch of charts.  Everything went over my head but that was my first learning of technical analysis and chart reading, two things that real experts do.  He then brought up charts and such on the market and explained how that all fit in.  I stood there for 30 minutes, had most of it go over my head, and only then did he give the recommendation that… wasn’t a good stock.  And it turned out he was right.  When I later pointed that out, he said “Well, yeah, even after that I got lucky.  I stay in business because I get more right than wrong, but I do get some wrong.”  Cramer makes it sound like it’s easy and that what he says is a sure thing, and sadly too many people believe that.

As you can tell, I really don’t like him and have no appreciation for him, but I also know that he’s one of the most recognized names in the investing community, so he has to be doing something right.  Whatever that is, I want no part of it.

Want to join me in setting up a Cramer Retirement Countdown Clock?  Who knows, maybe that’ll be the next can’t miss opportunity in the market?  Now, wouldn’t that just be ironic?

Readers, what do you think about Jim Cramer?  Love him?  Hate him?  Rich or poor because of him?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

I Declared War On Our Basement

Over a year ago, I wrote about a plan to take on clutter, and while we tackled many of the items mentioned, we didn’t get to all of them, and in some areas, the reduction was just window dressing.

The major area where this applied was our basement.

Our basement has slowly been cluttering out of control for quite some time.  Despite some de-cluttering of targeted areas, the overall growth in clutter was winning.

I started to realize that we were losing the battle here, and unfortunately, that only made the problem worse over the last few months, because of the natural tendency to quit trying altogether if you know you’re fighting a losing battle.   Simply put, I knew that de-cluttering the basement would take some major time and effort, where simply rearringing a shelf here and there just wasn’t going to do.  But I kept putting off and putting it off  until a later day.

Well, I’m proud to say that day has finally arrived!

Last week, I had some time in the evening and decided to see if I could start making a dent in the basement.  I picked a corner of the basement that had a bunch of shelves containing a hodge podge of things like:

  • Party supplies
  • Assorted bowls and baskets that don’t fit in the kitchen
  • Assorted small appliances that we use rarely or not at all that don’t fit in the kitchen
  • A stash of boxes for wrapping presents used mainly at Christmas
  • Coolers
  • Outside swimming pools, slides, and other similar items
  • Unused camping equipment
  • Board games

I spent about an hour and a half going through this.  I learned long ago, when my dad would make me clean out my closet as a kid, that the best way to tackle a cleaning effort and do it right was to take every single item down, which forces you to touch, deal with, and re-organize every single item.

It was painstaking it worked.  In the end, just on the first days result, I was able to accomplish the following:

  • Consolidate party supplies that were spread across four or five different shelves all into one.  The success here was demonstrated a couple of days later when my wife sent me downstairs for a couple of plastic cups, an expedition that would have previously taken 5-10 minutes and had me tearing into at least 3 boxes.  This time I was down and back up with cups in hand in less than 60 seconds.
  • Elimination of quite a few things that were broken or that we won’t use.  The trash bucket got a good deal bigger and we have started a nice donation pile.
  • Consolidation and relocation of gift boxes.  Keeping gift boxes is a nice idea, especially since you rarely get them anymore.  Still, some boxes were not in any shape to be given away, and others were sizes that we probably didn’t use.  I was able to really reduce the size of the area that they take up, and since we only use these boxes around Christmas, I moved them to areas in the shelves that were harder to get to, instead keeping the prime shelf space for more frequently used items.
  • I went through the swimming stuff and found two old kid pools that were leaky or missing plugs.  Away they went!
  • I consolidated our camping stuff and also found some items that we’d borrowed from my in-laws years ago.  I gave some of it back, and other stuff that they didn’t want is now gone!
  • At the end of the first day, I’d freed up 20% of the shelf space previously occupied.

Day 2 has also been complete.  We have a pallet in the corner of the basement, as well as some other shelves, where all kinds of kids stuff had been located as we grew out of it. Things like the baby swing, crib sheets, high chairs, baby carriers, bases for the carriers to be used in the car, play yards,  and all sorts of other stuff were here.  We had boxes for things that will never go back in boxes (wagons, scooters, bikes, etc.).  In the end, it was apparent that this corner of the basement was where we put anything to do with the kids got shoved over here.

Out everything came.  And some of the results here were:

  • Lots and lots of cardboard removed and collapsed and ready for recycling
  • Consolidation of ‘keepable’ items that can either be given to family members, friends, or later sold
  • Threw away carriers and car bases that were past their ‘expiration’ date
  • Consolidation of baby toys and such that can be sold or given away, freeing up half of a shelving unit
  • Free space for additional toys that will likely be added to the area during the eventual clean-out of our play room, which is one of two finished rooms we have in the basement.

So far, these two areas addressed one wall of the basement and the surrounding area.  That area looks great.  The floor is cleaned of scatter.  Things on the shelves look organized.  If someone asks where something is, I can find it, and getting to anything doesn’t require tearing through something or having a pile of boxes teeter over in the process.

It’s pretty awesome, and now that I’ve started, I know that I’ll finish.

For me, having success in a project like this is all about getting started.  Once I get started and see some meaningful results, I have enough momentum to get me through.

Stay On Top Of Clutter Before It Takes Over

Things weren’t this bad but it wasn’t looking good!

I wish I’d taken some before and after pics but honestly, the before pictures would have been too embarrassing to post.

I’m estimating that I’m about 20% of the way through.  I think it will take about 10 nights, at about 1.5 hours per night, to go through.  I plan on moving through one area at a time and addressing each area.  I’ll do a night here or a night there, and there will probably be some working around the trash schedule, as once I fill the bin for the week, I pretty much stop until the next collection!

One thing that could complicate things is that as I get to an area, I may realize that I want to completely move things around.  For example, I have a desk that I use for storing work tools and such.  It’s present location works, but I’ve thought about moving it elsewhere, which might require me to move a couple of shelves around.  I suppose a long term plan would be more ideal, but I really don’t see too much of that, so I’m not all that worried.

I’m really excited to get through the rest of the project.  After the heavy lifting, though, will be the really hard part: Keeping it organized for the long term!

Readers, when have you last gone through a major de-cluttering effort?

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Should We Consider Giving Our Kids An Allowance?

Hopefully my readers can weigh in on this one:

Our kids are 6 and 4 and we have started talking about whether we should consider giving them an allowance.  Both kids definitely understand the concept of money, so far as that if you want to buy something that you have to pay for it.  Our oldest definitely understands that you have to have enough money to buy something.  He even gets the concept of debit cards, in that the money is in the bank, and that the card means that they’ll take it out.  We haven’t gotten really into credit cards just yet, but that’s just fine with me!

But, both of our kids love ‘buying things with their own money’.  When there’s a toy that they really want, they’ll often offer to pay for it with their own money.  And, they do!

So far the source of the money has largely been from birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, or other gifts of money, and so we’ve been thinking about adding an allowance.

Some of the questions floating around my head:

  • Are 6 and 4 old enough to give an allowance?   (Initial answer: Yes, based on their basic understanding of money so far, and I also think that having an allowance would lead to opportunities for us to teach them even more lessons).
  • If we started with the oldest, should we start a smaller allowance?  (Initial answer: I’m thinking yes but am open to thoughts).
  • What would be appropriate amounts?  (Initial answer: I’m thinking that maybe tie it to their ages, so $6mb-201403stacks and $4.  If both receive an allowance, I definitely feel that the older should get more, at least at this age).
  • Should it tie to chores?  Right now, our kids are expected to do basic things like clean up their rooms, help make their beds, and such.   I’m not sure if, at this age, it makes sense to tie an allowance to this.   On one hand, you want to encourage them, but on the other hand, I don’t want money to be their sole inspiration for doing the work.
  • Assuming it did get tied to chores, would it be that you earned the allowance if you did chores or if you lost the allowance by not doing them?  It seems like a subtle difference, but it’s actually reward vs. punishment, which are very different.
  • Do you force saving or encourage it?  Our oldest loves Lego and he always has his eyes on certain sets.  He’s very good with math and numbers, so I would expect that he’d have no problem saving up, but I’m sure he would also be tempted along the way to buy smaller sets or other things.  And, our four year old is just starting to grasp savings.  Just wondering to what degree you encourage it, or do you let them learn it on their own?
  • What about giving?  Is it too young to introduce the concept of giving?  Do you make it mandatory?

As you can see, an allowance at our house would be something we would try to use as a learning tool and also to create opportunities for our kids to learn more about money.  We also want to strike a balance between respecting that it’s their money and that they can do what they please, but encouraging them to make good decisions with their money (or learn from the bad ones).

Readers, any thoughts from parents that have gone through or are going through this?  Please let me know your thoughts and advice.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.