Surveying Things With Opinion Outpost

I saw a few bloggers mention that they earn some money taking surveys through Opinion Outpost, so I thought I would give them a try.

I have been a member of the Pinecone Research Study group for awhile.  They’re pretty cool, though the survey opportunities seem pretty limited.  I think with Pinecone, I average about one paid survey a month, maybe a little higher.  At $3 a pop, it’s nice, but it doesn’t add up to much.  It’s pretty much covered the renewal costs for my blog.

Opinion Outpost was easy to sign up for.  You need to fill out a bunch of informational surveys, the results of which you use to provide information on your demographics, interests, and habits.  This is used to filter out surveys which may not apply.

There seem to be quite a few surveys.  The process is fairly straightforward.  I receive an e-mail anytime there’s a potential opportunity for a survey.  I can either click on the link in the e-mail or logon to the site, and it will list all active surveys that I haven’t responded to yet.  This is useful in the event that you need to do some catching up.

Read moreSurveying Things With Opinion Outpost

Life (And Money) Lessons Learned From Fantasy Baseball

I’ve been in a fantasy baseball league for six seasons now.  It’s a ‘keeper’ league, meaning that we carry some of our players over from year to year.  This means that identifying talent early and knowing when to hang onto it is key to success in the league.  With the league in a pretty mature state, success comes through a combination of identifying young talent, drafting well, trading well, and making good pickups throughout the year.  Few teams are successful without having a mixture of all of the above components.

  • Applied Lesson: Keep a balance in life (balance your work life and your personal life) and in financial decisions like investing (keep a balanced portfolio)

I’ve had a very successful run in our league.  Knowing that I was joining an established league and knowing the setup, I knew walking in that I would probably not be able to compete for the first two years.

  • Applied Lessons: Know what you’re getting into.  Set targets and goals based on realistic expectations.  Had I said ‘I want to win it all the first year’, I might have quit.

Read moreLife (And Money) Lessons Learned From Fantasy Baseball

Soundtrack of Life

Taking a day off from personal finance stuff….

I was looking through my MP3 collection, which is 98% stuff that I have from ripping my CDs.

I came across songs that I love to listen to and evoke some great memories.  If you can’t tell, a good part of my musical history is stuck in the 90’s, but that’s cool with me:

  •  Bawataba – Kid Rock – Listening to this song always makes my blood flow and makes me want to pump my fist.  Awesome energy here!
  • Return to Innocence – Enigma –  I just love this song.  I actually didn’t find this in my collection but heard it on the radio a couple of weeks back.  This song (and the video) are just amazing.
  • Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins – I loved the Pumpkins back in the day and this was probably the song I remember most from the time we went to see them in concert.
  • Here I Go Again – Whitesnake – This song was like it for me for a while in the mid-80’s.  It just got me charged up and still makes me smile when I listen to it.
  • Funky Cold Medina – Tone Loc – Tone Loc had a short flame but he had a couple of gems, and this is the one that makes me laugh every time as his ‘Spanish fly’ has awful results every time
  • Amazed – Lonestar – This was the song that my wife and I did our first dance to as husband and wife, as a Lonestar concert she invited me to opened the door to our relationship.  This will always hold a spot special in my heart because I’ll always be amazed by her!
  • Sandstorm – Da Rude – This was a popular song right around the time we were going out nightclubbing most often.  Hint to all those who are getting married soon: It’s a great song for the DJ to play as he introduces you at the reception.
  • Peter Gunn Theme – Blues Brothers – For some (awesome) reason, my dad let me watch The Blues Brothers movie as a kid.  Even though it was filled with cursing, crime, and general debauchery, I loved it.  Oh, come on, that’s precisely why I loved it!  And I still turned out OK!  Still, this song reminds me of what is still one of my favorite movies to this day (thanks, Dad!)
  • The Freshmen – The Verve Pipe – They were a local band for years before they ‘hit it big’ for a brief time.  They played at our college right before this song took off.
  • Summertime – Will Smith – I have to admit, most of the stuff he talks about in the song (playing basketball, cruising, etc.) are not things I do, but even so, this song epitomizes the awesomeness of summer more than any other!
  • Zoo Station – U2 – Achtung Baby was one of my favorite CDs, to the point where during freshman year of college I was known as ‘the guy who played that U2 CD all the time’.  This song opened up the album, what I consider one of the greatest I’ve heard.
  • Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve – Great song that makes me want to learn how to play the violin every time I hear it, a feeling that goes away moments after the song ends!
  • Lie In Our Graves – Dave Matthews Band – Makes you think about ensuring you live life to the fullest!
  • Cry Little Sister – The Lost Boys Soundtrack – I went with a friend and his family to an amusement park a few hours away, and played this song over and over again on my Walkman during the ride down.
  • Shine – Newsboys – Just a great, great song that often gets me motivated to start going to church again when I find myself slipping out of the habit.
  • Cure For Pain – Morphine – I was in a relationship once that got me very little in the way of good, but one thing I did get was introduced to Morphine, a band with a unique sound that was cut short when their lead singer passed away unexpectedly during a concert.
  • Rest Stop – Matchbox Twenty – When this song came out, I was dating a girl, and I joked that one day she would dump me this way.  She laughed and said she never would.  A few months later, she did.  I started trusting my instincts when it came to dating a lot more after that.
  • Who’s That Man – Toby Keith – Who knew Toby Keith would ever be so big, with this being one of his first hits and one of my first introductions to the fact that country music could be cool?  Plus, I have always seen it as a little poke at the ‘my dog, my wife, and my house are gone’ that country got a reputation for, all while putting on a fresh spin.
  • South Side – Moby – A number of years back, I had some friends over for the 4th of July, where we grilled, drank, laughed, talked, etc.  There was a lull where Moby was playing, and we all just seemed to sit and reflect on things.  I’ve had more than one person tell me that Moby reminds them of that moment.
  • Disneyland – Five For Fighting – This and the next few are just because
  • Run Around – Blues Traveller
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
  • Captain Jack – Billy Joel
  • Rock of Ages – Def Leppard
  • The World I Know – Collective Soul
  • It Takes Two – Rob Base & DJ Easy Rock
  • Superman – Crash Test Dummies
  • Find The River – R.E.M. – This is the last song on one of my favorite albums ever (Automatic For The People) and I’ve always saw it as the most fitting song to close an album ever.  I would love for it to one day (a long way away) be played at my funeral.  But for now, I’ll leave it, fittingly, as the last song on this list!

Any of these bring back some good memories for you?

Your Mortgage Is Debt, Too!

I see it all over the place.  On TV.  On blogs.  In news articles.  It doesn’t matter.

When talking about debt, mortgages seem to get glossed over.  The focus always seems to be on ‘non-mortgage debt’.

While this is good, the fact remains that you still owe on your mortgage.  It’s still debt.  And, chances are, for most that have a mortgage, it’s the biggest debt and/or the biggest monthly payment that you have associated with debt.

So, why might mortgages get ‘left out’ of the debt discussion?  Just speculating here:

Read moreYour Mortgage Is Debt, Too!

Things I Wish ‘They’ Would Invent

There’s always things that you look at and say ‘Why doesn’t somebody figure out how to….?’

Of course you don’t want to be the one that actually invents it, but at least you thought about it.

Here are a few that have popped into my head lately:

  • Batteries that don’t leak – I remember circa 1980 opening up my favorite little handheld video game (it was a little Pac-Man game shaped like the Pac-Man games in the arcade) and finding it full of leaked battery juice.  It never worked the same after that.  Fast forward 30 years, and I still open up things like remotes, flashlights, radios, and find that they are leaking battery acid.  We’ve seen a lot of apparent advancements in battery technology over the last thirty years where they have extended the life way beyond what they used to.  How about spending the next thirty years figuring out a way so the darn things don’t leak?
  • Cooling systems that cool properly – The second floor of our house, and more specifically our bedroom, heat up really fast.  I’ve turned off every single vent on the first floor except one that doesn’t have a knob on the register or baffill in the basement, so all of the cool air goes upstairs.  It doesn’t matter, the upstairs still resembles the inside of a furnace during the middle of most hot afternoons when the A/C is running
  • Carpet padding that doesn’t suck – We have pets and a toddler.  Stains (and puke) happen more often than you’d care to think.  When things happen, we clean it up, and the stain goes away.  Awesome!  Only to come back in a few weeks.  Not awesome!  When the carpet cleaning guy comes to do his thing, the answer is always ‘Oh, well it got in the padding, so it’ll just keep coming back up.’  Really?  Can someone please get on this one?  I mean, if the stain can get down to the padding, can’t we figure out a cleaner that does too?  Hello? McFly?  Hello?
  • A cell phone plan that makes actual sense – They do it on purpose and they admit it.  They offer a plan that contains the right amount of minutes or texts, but doesn’t include data.  To get data, you have to sign up for the plan that contains an extra kajillion minutes, only a fraction of which you’ll ever need.  Absurd!
  • A hot dog that fits the bun (or vice versa) – I remember a commercial from the 80’s where this apparently taken care of, but from what I’ve seen, we’ve gone back to square one on this one.
  • The end to mail in rebates – “Just give us the money now, OK, but we promise we’ll give it back later.  Really, we pinky swear!”  Enough!
  • A Wall Street investor that isn’t a crook – Well, OK, well I guess some things are just always going to be wishful thinking!

What other ideas do ‘they’ need to come up with?

The Writing Free Check

I don’t write too many checks anymore.  Most of our bills are paid electronically.  We use our debit / credit card for most of our purchases (paid in full every month of course), and use cash sparingly.

The times I find that I write checks are for things like:

  • paying property taxes
  • paying for services around the house that don’t take credit
  • charitable contributions (even most of those are going to credit these days)
  • paying family members back

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve paid for anything in a store with a check.  So, imagine my disappointment when we were at Wal-Mart a couple of weeks ago, and I saw the person in front of me pull out her checkbook.

Read moreThe Writing Free Check

It Was November of 1943

As you may recall, my grandmother passed away last year at the age of 95.  She had a nice, long life, and was relatively healthy until near the end.  She lived alone in her own apartment until a few months before her death.

I was blessed to have been named as a beneficiary for a small life insurance policy that she took out.  I received the paperwork for it the other day, and found that the original policy had been taken out in November of 1943.

The more I sat and thought about it, the more that just absolutely amazed me.

Some facts about 1943:

Read moreIt Was November of 1943

The Worst Part About Living In A Neighborhood Is The Neighbors

We bought our house in 2007.  Since then, just like in most places, the value of the house has declined quite a bit, to the point where the 20% we put down, thinking it would be a safe cushion, has been erased.  It sucks seeing that much money just up and vanished, but at the same point, I love our house.  I love the inside, I love the yard, the deck, I love our bedroom and just knowing that we have somewhere safe for all of us to be.

We bought a house in a nice suburban neighborhood.  It’s in a nice city.  It’s not the ritziest neighborhood nor is it in the ritziest city, but I’d classify it as respectable.

With that type of neighborhood, it still flabbergasts me at some of the things you see from the neighbors.

For example:

Read moreThe Worst Part About Living In A Neighborhood Is The Neighbors

Do Any Of Us Have A Chance In The Stock Market?

Ever since the ‘flash crash’ in May, where the markets dropped 10% in a matter of minutes only to recover most of it back in just a sudden fashion, I’ve been spending a little more time watching and understanding the market.

What I have found I don’t like.

It seems that computerized trading has taken over the market.  In fact, this computerized trading is blamed for the ‘flash crash’.

It also seems that computerized trading is responsible for most of the trading activity that exists.  So, when you look at the volume of shares traded across a market like the Dow or Nasdaq, chances are most of the billions of shares traded are not done so by humans, but rather by computers.

It turns out that many of the large investment houses have set up computers, with super duper secret algorithms, that perform many of the trades that take place.

I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Actually, I am.

I don’t like it.

Read moreDo Any Of Us Have A Chance In The Stock Market?

Five Steps For Entrepreneurial Success

I’ve never had the guts to go for it on my own in terms of running a business.  I have enjoyed working, at different points in my working life, for a couple of different solo business owners, so I found the list of five steps for success, as presented in Business Insider by self-made billionaire Richard Branson, very interesting:

1. Hire passionate, excellent people.
2. Never forget that your employees make your business.
3. Don’t concentrate on mistakes — focus on praising great things, instead.
4. Have fun.
5. Don’t be afraid to just go for it.

Here’s my take on each:

Read moreFive Steps For Entrepreneurial Success