Have You Heard Of Discount Brokers?

With the advent and growth of the Internet over the course of the past two decades, discount brokers have become ever more common. Discount brokers have opened the door to investing in stock to a wider swath of people than ever before. Indeed, with the broad availability of discount brokers in this day and age, nearly anybody with even a minimal amount of money to invest can afford to access the stock market.

In addition to being less expensive than a traditional broker, there is one primary distinction between the traditional derivation and a discount broker. A discount broker does not provide an investor with advice. Rather, an investor must do his or her own research and make his or her own decisions regarding the buying and selling of stock. Although this can lead to an overhaul of information, this also increases your chances of success.

People interested in this type of investment resource need to understand some of the essential elements associated with a discount broker. The following are tips to keep in mind when making your decision:

1. Online Platforms

A fundamental consideration to keep in mind when looking for a discount broker is the online platform provided for an investor. The online platform will be the portal used by an investor when he or she desires to buy and sell stock, to access real time information about the market and to conduct research. As a result this platform needs to reliable, easy to navigate and user friendly on all fronts.

2. Reduced Account Fees

A discount broker charges lower fees than the traditional alternative. There are differences between the fees charged from one discount broker to another. As part of making a selection, “shopping around” is always great advice in order to compare and assesse from one discount broker to another.

3. Analytical Capabilities

Because discount brokers do not provide advice to an investor, you absolutely must have access to reliable analytical data associated with a stock of interest. Although a number of reputable resources exist for this type of data, in the end it is important that the discount broker selected is able to provide an investor with comprehensive sound data to rely on.

Copyright 2014 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.

How I Hope To Celebrate My Birthday

One of my favorite moments of summer was in June, my wife and I went to see Lionel Richie.  I’ve written about him before on this blog, and when my wife surprised me with tickets earlier in the year, it gave us something to look forward to.

As the concert date neared, it started getting a little buzz and it came out that the concert was also his birthday…and it was his 65th birthday, so a pretty nice milestone.

You always wonder if the event would be acknowledged, or if he’d prefer to just keep it private.  All of that was put to rest within a minute of him taking the stage when he yelled “GUESS WHAT??? IT’S MY BIIIIIIIRTHDAY!!!!!”

mb-2014--08birthdayOf course that received a ton of cheers and he then went on to celebrate and put on a great show.  I know that artists put on show after show, and each audience likes to think that the artist connects with their audience more than others, but the celebration of his birthday was one of the best concerts I’ve seen and you could tell he was having a blast.  Even one of the newspaper reviews the next day commented that the celebration seemed to give the concert a little something special.

Since then I’ve thought about what made it great, and there were two things that made his concert birthday celebration awesome:

  • He had fun – You could tell he was just enjoying the celebration, telling stories about growing older and things he’s seen through the years, and just keeping a genuine smile on his face.
  • He brought everyone else in on the fun – He wasn’t just enjoying himself because it was his birthday, he was enjoying himself more by making the audience enjoy themselves.  He fed off of it, the audience fed off that, and it just kept getting better and better.  He even went over curfew by 15 minutes or so (it’s an outside stadium with homes nearby), which at $1,000 per minute fine, worked out to a pretty good chunk of change (though for him it’s a drop in the bucket).  Still, as the clock went over, he said “I’m having so much fun, we’re going to keep on going!”

I’ve been to a lot of concerts and that was probably the best one I’ve been to.  Not because of the music (though that was awesome too) but because of the energy.

So, why am I writing this?  Oh, did I not mention…..IT’S MY BIIIIIRTHDAY TODAY!

And while I’m a bit younger than Lionel Richie, it’s a milestone as I’m hitting the big 40!

I wrote this in advance because I’m off camping, but I am planning on a good birthday, especially with my wife and kids, simply because I want to enjoy the day, the celebrations, and I want them to enjoy it, and let the fun feed off of each other!  One old singer taught an old man a lesson, and hopefully as you read this, I’m living the lesson learned!

Copyright 2014 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.

How Checking Our Grocery Bill Saved Us $14

My wife usually takes care of the grocery shopping.  On days when she does the shopping, I always come home and asked to see the bill.

It’s not because I’m checking up on her or that I’m questioning any of her choices, it’s just I have a pretty good eye for spotting errors.

And you’d be surprised how often I find them.

Just last week, I found a whopper that, had I not taken a look, would have cost us $14.

The Bill Seems High

My wife was talking about the grocery trip and how everything went (most notably, a worker from behind the deli counter offered my kids free ice cream…yum), when she commented that “the bill seemed pretty high”.

At $66, it was actually lower than usual, but it was also a smaller trip than most weeks, as they weren’t having great sales on many items we often stock up on, and we didn’t buy any meat or other ‘high priced’ items.

She showed me the bill, and I started looking through line by line when I noticed a line for $14 for cherries.

I incredulously asked her, “You spent $14 buying three-and-a-half pounds of cherries?”  We don’t usually buy cherries, even when they’re on sale, so this seemed crazy.

She ripped the receipt from my hand, looked, and said “No, I didn’t buy any cherries at all!”

What Fruit Most Closely Resembles A Cherry?

She started looking through the rest of the bill and noticed that there was no charge for another item that she had indeed purchased.

What fruit is small and red and could probably be mistaken for cherries by a rushed cashier?

Red grapes.

Red grapes were on sale for $0.99 per pound.  The cashier gave a quick glance, entered in the code for what he thought it looked like, and moved on.

Full Refund

My wife called the store (Meijer) and explained what had happened.  The person answering the phone apologized, gave my wife his or her name and logged it in a book, so that my wife can just go in, take the receipt, and get a refund.

The best part is that they said that they wouldn’t just give the difference, but that they’ll give us a refund for the full line item.

So, not only do we get the mistake corrected, we’ll also end up with free grapes.

All because we took the time to look through our bill.

Quite Frequent Though Less Costly

You might be wondering how often we find mistakes.  I’d say at least once per month.  Sometimes I’ll find that something appeared twice, only to find out that we only got one.  The dreaded double bar code scan.

Other times, we might find a missed store promotion that did not get applied, even though we purchased everything exactly as required.

Rarely does it work out anywhere near $14.  Usually it’s a mistake of a few dollars. I believe that the mistakes are honest mistakes.  I don’t think the cashiers have any interest in trying to overcharge or double charge.  I just think that most of the time they are going so fast trying to get through the many customers as quickly as possible that they make mistakes.

It’s our job as customers to make sure that we check for mistakes.  Ideally, we’d be able to catch the mistakes as they’re being rung up, so that my wife would have noticed the charge when the cashier entered it, but with two small children to manage, it’s not always possible.

So, if you can’t check in the store, make sure to check when you get home, otherwise it’s not the store making the mistake, it’s you!

Readers, what mistakes have you caught on your grocery or other store receipts?

Copyright 2014 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.

Someone Has To Buy That New Car That You Buy Used

One of the things that I enjoy reading and have even made mention is that the best decision when it comes to buying a new car is to buy a used car.  This offers a few benefits to your bottom line, including that it will be less money, that you’ll let someone else handle the massive up front depreciation, and so on.  I’ll stop there as that’s not the purpose of this article (but here’s a great article to read if you want to know more).

I agree 100% that this is the best financial decision for money savings, but the fact is that not 100% of people can follow this advice.

Nope, there has to be someone that purchases that car the first time.

Every used car out there, whether it be a gently used car that’s as good as new, or a rusted out beater, was once new, and someone paid the ‘new car’ price.

Think about that.

Next time someone tells you that they’ve got their eye on a new car down at the dealer, maybe you should hold off before advising them to buy a used car instead.

After all, that could be your next used car, and someone has to buy it, right?  Maybe you offer to drive them right down to the dealer…and in return, they give you a call when they’re ready to sell!

Copyright 2014 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.

If a Tree Falls in My Yard… Will Homeowners Insurance Cover It?

We all know that homeowners insurance protects your home and its contents, but what about outside your home? Are trees, landscaping, and outdoor furniture all covered under the same umbrella as the house itself? After all, a fallen tree or a smashed fence after a bad storm can be just as expensive to remedy as a broken window or damaged roof. How do you know what’s covered? Let’s take a look at some typical home insurance policies and see what they cover outside of the home.

Fallen trees cause millions of dollars in damage to homes every year. If a tree falls and damages your home, you’ll almost certainly be covered. Even if it’s your neighbor’s tree, just about any homeowners policy will pay for repair to your house caused by fallen trees or limbs. Most other structures such as detached garages or fences usually will be covered as well.

Note that not everything in your yard will be covered, however. If a tree falls and destroys a children’s play set or an above-ground pool, a standard home insurance policy might not pay for replacement or repair unless these items were specifically added to the policy in a rider. You can read more here.

But what about getting the fallen tree out the yard? If tree does damage a covered structure, your insurance will probably pay a limited amount towards tree removal. If a tree falls and damages nothing but the ground below it, you’re probably on the hook for the total cost of removing the tree or limb. The cost of tree removal is usually capped at around several hundred dollars, too. So if ten trees fall and one of them damages a covered structure, you might end up paying quite a bit out of your own pocket to have them hauled away.

Many homeowners policies also have liability coverage, so that if guests are injured in your yard you’ll be protected from lawsuits to a certain extent. Some policies specifically cover liability from dog bites. So if Fido bites a kid crossing through your yard, you won’t have to worry about being on the hook for excessive medical bills or other lawsuits. Be sure to read the fine print, however. Certain dog breeds that insurers consider overly aggressive, such as pit bulls and Rottweiler’s, will not be included in the dog bite liability clause.

Another thing that insurance companies won’t cover is liability for injuries from trampolines. Many companies will flat out refuse to insure homes that have a trampoline on the property. The reason is that they are so incredibly dangerous. In just 2009 alone, trampolines caused nearly 93,000 accidents which required a visit to the emergency room!

Read up on your homeowners policy to see exactly what kind of outdoor damage is covered. If you live in an especially forested area, make sure you have the right kind of coverage to protect your home. Given enough storms and bad weather, it’s only a matter of time before a tree falls.

Copyright 2014 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.

Consider Epoxy Grout For Your Bathroom Remodel

Every once in a while I look around our bathroom and dream wistfully of a ‘down to the studs’ remodel.  Then, I realize that there’s no functional need to re-do it, and the costs are prohibitive.  But, regardless, I still think of new fixtures, a luxurious shower, improved hardware, and big tiles (as opposed to our white ones).  One of the things I can’t stand about new bathroom jobs is how quickly the grout often gets dirty and wears out. As it turns out, your standard grout is cement based, and while cement is a hard substance, it absorbs water slightly.  This means that dirt and such that comes from the water in your bath ends up making it dirty, and the wetter areas lead to cracking.

Epoxy To The Rescue

One of the ways to address this is to avoid using cement grout.  The best alternative to this and becoming more popular is to use epoxy based grout.

Benefits of Epoxy Grout

Epoxy offers a few distinct advantages over the cement counterpart in terms of grout:

  • Waterproof – Epoxy is completely waterproof so it will not take on any water.
  • Easier to clean – Since the water does not lead in any dirt, the dirt will not absorb into epoxy grout, keeping the look fresh for years after installation.
  • Stands up to chemicals – While normal grout can often be cleaned, the harsh chemicals required to get all the dirt from the grout can end up weakening the grout, leading to failure.  Although you shouldn’t need strong chemicals to clean epoxy grout, you can be assured that whatever your cleaner of choice, epoxy grout proves much more resistant to breakdown from any chemical or cleaner.

Why Not More Widespread?

With these advantages, the first question I asked was why the entire world hasn’t switched to epoxy grout.  The biggest reason for many is that it’s more time consuming and more difficult to install than cement based grout. Time: Epoxy grout takes longer to setup than cement grout.  Since it takes a few passes to get the joints filled, the common approach with cement grout is to mix a batch, go through and lay the grout. By the time you’re done, often enough time has passed for the first pass to set up, so you can just keep using your batch.  Epoxy takes longer to set up, so not only is there more time in between coats, you also have to mix multiple batches, resulting in more pre-work. Difficult:When you’re installing cement grout, if you get some on the tile, it’s not that big of a deal.  Just wipe it off before it dries and you’re good to go.  Epoxy grout does not simply wipe off, as it will leave a haze on your tile that is difficult if not impossible to remove. While an amateur or semi-pro can often lay cement grout, an epoxy grout installation is best left to a professional.  Megasealed is a great option and they have more information on their website about the benefits of epoxy. Epoxy definitely doesn’t sound easy, but the benefits sound like they make up for it in many ways.  Since a bathroom is expected to last for many, many years, I would definitely consider epoxy as it stands to make up for the extra resources needed up front. I’m only dreaming of a new bathroom for now, but if you’re doing more than that, give epoxy grout some consideration as part of your planning.

Copyright 2014 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.