Money Beagle’s 2011 In Review

It seems like just yesterday that we kicked off this year.  All in all, it was a great year and I thought I’d take a look back at some Money Beagle highlights from 2011.

January

We kicked off the year planning for the move of Little Boy Beagle from the nursery to his new room.  It took a lot of work, but we got it done and he’s been settled in his room for many months! We were bummed to learn that Costco effectively raised their prices on baby formula, taking away their price advantage which had made them our number one choice for our first (we ended up using Target brand formula for our second).

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Benefits Of Mortgage Insurance Plans

Many home buyers who purchase a home also buy some form of mortgage insurance. There is private mortgage insurance and general mortgage insurance. Private mortgage insurance is an extra insurance that offers protection for a lender and for a buyer too. Private mortgage insurance helps to protect in the event of a default of payments. It is used in most home purchases. General mortgage insurance can help you in dealing with the loss of a job or a change in your financial situation. Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits that come with purchasing mortgage insurance.

 Lower Down Payments Requirements For Homebuyers

A 20 percent down payment was the industry standard for most homebuyers for a number of years. Saving this much money can take a really long amount of time. For example, you would have to save $50,000 to purchase a home worth $250,000. This would make it almost impossible for many individuals to buy a house. Private mortgage insurance reduces the amount of time that it takes for a borrower to get a mortgage. Borrowers may only have to come up with 5 to 10 percent of the purchase price in order to get in a home. This makes the dream of home ownership a reality for a larger number of people.

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Things You Must Have When Choosing A Bank Loan

There are a number of different reasons that you may need to go to a bank for financing. It could be to purchase your first home, fund a small business, or borrow money for your kid’s college. Whatever the reason for your loan request, you need to be prepared with the right information if you want to get a loan approval. Let’s take a look at a few of the things you need to have when choosing a bank loan.

Knowledge of your financial situation

You will need to take an assessment of your personal financial situation. You need to know exactly how much money you have coming into the house versus how much money is being used for expenses. Lenders will take a look at your debt to income ratio to see if you can afford the loan. You need to know the amount of money that you are looking to borrow and how long it will take you to repay the loan. This way you can select the right loan length. You should also be familiar with your credit score since it will determine the exact interest rate that a bank will charge you.

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With 401(k) Rollovers, It’s Not The Amount That Matters

When I started my first job out of college, it didn’t pay a lot of money.  I kept expenses low by splitting an apartment, driving my five year old car, and generally living the cheap, bachelor lifestyle.  As such, I was still able to contribute a few bucks to my 401(k) plan.

When I say ‘a few bucks’, I literally mean a few bucks.

Not only was retirement the last thing on my mind, but I wasn’t making enough to really be able to contribute a great deal.  The little bit I did contribute grew to a couple of hundred dollars.

I stayed at that first job for almost two years, at which point I realized it was time to start making more money.  So, I took a job that offered an almost 50% increase.

After a few months, I got a check in the mail from my old employer.  I guess I had received a letter or two telling me that I could roll my 401(k) over into my new employers plan or an IRA, but I didn’t do anything about it, so they sent me a check.

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We Did It! We Bought A Camper!

Last month (I can’t believe it’s been almost a month already) I revealed that we were thinking about buying a camper.

I’m proud to say that we finally did!

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because we basically got it and parked it for the winter, but I am sure that I’ll have lots of pictures to share once we start going on trips next year.

We had initially considered purchasing a pop-up camper simply because it looked like it would afford us a good camper at a good price.  One of those was definitely in our price range, but when we started thinking about it, we ended up going a different direction.

We ended up going with a travel trailer.  It’s a 23 foot Jayco Feather, from 2004.  The camper itself was in impeccible condition.  Everything looked new and the mechanics all seemed to be in order.  Jayco is built very sturdy so we had pretty much narrowed it down to wanting one of those.

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5 Ways To Avoid Phishing Scams

My wife got an e-mail over the weekend saying that her Citi Dividends credit card had been ‘restricted from use’ due to ‘suspicions about the address on file’.  It then gave the address on file.

It wanted her to immediately log into her account and was nice enough to give her a link to do so.

The entire e-mail looked legit.  Except that none of it was.

She had me go look at it, since I do all the work with our banks and credit cards and such.  I took one look at the e-mail and realized it was an attempt at phishing.  The link that was provided for logging in did not point to Citi’s website.  It pointed to a different site that I’m sure would have happily collected any login information we would have entered, and used it for illicit purposes.

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A Lesson Learned In High School: Be Prepared For The Inevitable

There was a high school teacher with whom I clashed almost from day one.  I really didn’t like the class and the teacher, unfortunately, made it clear that you could get under his skin.

So a few of us did.

We didn’t do anything out of routine mischief, but it was enough to annoy him to the point that we got punished from time to time.  Nothing we did was serious enough to get detention or sent to the vice-principal’s office, but I did get used to his punishment of choice:

Writing that ‘stupid sentence’.

For whatever reason, the teacher thought it was fitting to have us write ‘Familiarity Breeds Contempt’ as a punishment.  It wasn’t the first teacher in my time to assign sentences (though I honestly think it might have been the last), so I got used to it.

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The Best Job I Never Took

When I was graduating college in 1996, I was armed with a business degree and a good deal of knowledge about computers.  Jobs were pretty plentiful at the time, so I was hoping I wouldn’t have a problem finding a job.

I knew the starting salary range that I would likely hit having seen many of the jobs out there that had come through campus interviews during our last semester.  I figured something in the $25-30k range was what I was to expect.

So, when you hear that I got a job offer for $35k for a job where I sailed through the interview process, you probably figure I took it, right?

Wrong.

And you probably think I’d lost my mind when I told you that I took a job for $27k, right?

Probably.

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I Still Can’t Justify Walking Away

Last year I wrote a post outlining why I think people who haven’t lost their income should pay their mortgages regardless if their home values have gone down.

I’ve seen this topic resurface over the last few weeks.  It seems that more and more people and bloggers are leaning towards saying that ‘It’s OK’.  A lot of this had to do with a financial planner’s story of how he went through this with a Las Vegas home.

Since it’s been awhile, I thought I’d reconsider it and see if my opinion has changed.

Short answer: It hasn’t.

See, Ninja at Punch Debt in the Face wrote how his opinion has changed, largely because he now sees it as the bank and customer entering into a deal, but that people and businesses break deals and end contracts all the time.

If it were that simple, I would be 100% in that corner.

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Make Your Voice Heard

If you watch TV, you almost certainly know what Nielsen ratings are.  Long story short, they’re the numbers that drive whether or not your favorite (or least favorite) shows remain on the air.  The numbers aren’t perfect, but they are taken from a large enough sample of households that fairly accurate estimates can be taken.  These numbers not only impact whether a show stays on the air, but what type of commercials you’ll see and the like.

The Internet is just a powerful force these days as television, maybe even more so.  It stands to reason that there should be a standard way, along the line of Nielsen ratings, to measure traffic.

Turns out, there is!

It’s called the Alexa ranking system.  And you can be part of it by installing the Alexa Toolbar.

While it’s not perfect, the Alexa ranking system is a fairly accepted way of measuring and ranking the popularity of websites.  Sites of all sizes, genres, and age use the Alexa ranking system as a measure of how they’re doing on the Internet.

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