I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories, nor do I think for one second that Goldman Sachs is the lone culprit for the numerous financial crises we have endured but I can’t for the life of me figure out why I haven’t heard more about this story in the past few weeks.

Here is a link to the orignial story,  Inside The Great American Bubble MachineMatt Taibbi on how Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression.

Matt was also this week’s guest on The Disciplined Investor Podcast where he discussed that he used Goldman as just a metaphor for the big investment banks but, at the same time, Goldman Sachs was the biggest investment bank that did profit the most…so not really a metaphor.

I just find it interesting that with Goldman Sachs in the news so much lately for their record profits, obscene bonuses and stolen codes that this story doesn’t seem to get mentioned. We are all so ready to believe whatever the mainstream media tells us about the predatory lending practices of greedy mortgage brokers or the evil Bush administration and their corporate buddies, but when an alternate news source points out that both sides of the political aisle are in bed with  a very powerful entity that has in fact been a part of, and profited tremendously, from the several economic crises that have hit the rest of us, We are so eager to wave it off as nonsense or mere conspiracy theory.

Personally, I don’t think we want to know the truth about how the system works. I think we want to believe in the good guy that we can trust. We need to believe that it’s the other guy’s fault and that the government is there to protect us. I think we just want someone to make us believe that everything is going to be OK and that very shortly we can get back to our normal lives. But what do I know, I’m just a moron.

I recently logged on to Upromise to check on the balance and see if I once again reached the $50 threshold in order to request a check to deposit into my daughter’s 529 account. Much to my chagrin, I saw -$21.60 charge to my account from 6/30/09 labeled as an “Offset of incorrect contribution on 08-SEP-08 by CircuitCity.com”

So in the 9 months after purchasing a replacement televsion on Circuitcity.com and receiving the 3% cash rebate credited into our account, Circuit City filed for bankruptcy, wiped out their investrs, liquidated their inventory at infalted prices to pay off their creditors, and then re-opened circuitcity.com and resumed business as usual after “legally” freeing themselves from past obligations…including my $21.60 college savings rebate for my daughter.

I found this explanation on the Upromise Community forum:

Rebecca from Upromise here.  I think I can explain what happened.

The way the online shopping college savings program works is that after you shop with a partner, they send us the amount spent and college savings you are eligible for, and the purchase shows up as pending in your account.

This college savings remains listed as pending until the partner actually gives us the money to put into your account, then the money is funded.  Since Circuit City filed for bankruptcy, they did not give us the money to put in your account.  So, we removed the pending amount as it would never be funded by the partner and therefore you would not be able to access it.

I hope this explanation helps and apologize for any confusion.

Rebecca

Thanks Circuit City! The only reason I purchased anything from you in the first place was that additioanl 3% savings. But knowing you were heading towards bankruptcy you have no intentions of ever sending that money to Upromise, and in turn, my daughter. As a consumer I have no recourse other than to jsut take it, unsubscribe from your emails soliciting my future business, and make sure you never get another penny of my money. Good Ridance Circuit City!

This whole episode, regardless of how miniscule my loss is (especially in comparison to the shareholders), infuriates me the way the companies use the bankruptcy laws to just hit reset, start over from ground zero, and continue to make millions of dollars in the future while those that are hurt by their failures get nothing. The whole system is a joke.

It seems as though every website has an article or post on any number of things you can do to be more “eco-friendly” in honor of Earth Day. But all of these brilliant ideas…everything from the old standards like switching to Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs to the trendy “Buy a $20 stainless steel water bottle“… are merely insignificant actions to attempt to reduce your impact on the planet.

If you really care about our planet and want to make a meaningful difference, the best thing you can do is to simply Kill Yourself. Your mere existence has been slowly killing our planet since the day you were born so don’t you think it’s time you stop being so selfish and do something for the earth that will really make a difference. We all know that mankind is the worst thing that has every happened to our planet and the way I see it there is only one way to fix the problem.

Now please, when you kill yourself don’t do it in the conventional non eco-friendly means that selfish humans have always used such as toxic poisons that will eventually be released into the environment, shooting yourself with a carbon-emitting firearm, or by jumping off a bridge and littering our rivers and streams. The least you can do after a lifetime of murdering Mother Earth is to make your last action on earth be environmentally sensitive. One suggestion is to hang yourself using a hemp rope and have your will (written on recycled paper and with biodegradable ink, of course) stipulate that your nutrient-rich corpse be buried directly in the dirt (sans rainforest-raping casket) beneath a newly planted tree.

Happy Earth Day!

Paperback Swap

April 8, 2009

I never thought I’d say this but, I enjoy reading. I like a good mystery or thiller novel like those from Harlan Coben or Michael Connelly, but I also try to read at least one Personal Finance book a month. After reading a review of How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously over at Get Rich Slowly, I decided to add it to my on-deck stack. My wife and I stopped buying brand new books, for the most part, a couple of years ago, and began using the public library. We’ve also picked up books at Flea Markets and such, but for the past year we’ve bpbsoth gotten the majority of our books from Paperback Swap.

If you never used the service it is basically just what the name implies, a website where you log in and post all of your books you’re willing to swap with others for their posted books. The service is very simple to understand and is free to register and swap books. The only cost is the postage to mail your books to other members, which I’ve never had cost more the $2.58 for Media Mail from the USPS for a larger hardcover book. Most small paperbacks can be mailed First Class for around $2.00. When you mail a book your account receives a credit which you can then use to order a book from another member. It’s easy, convenient and helps clear the bookshelf of books you’ve already read to make room for those you want to read next.

I definitely recommend the service and use it quite often. In the time it took me to write this post I searched for, found, requested, and received an email confirmation that the above referenced book will be mailed to me by another member.

Back to Basics

April 8, 2009

So far I’ve made it through the first 3 chapters of Your Money or Your Life and it felt like those classic scenes in All in the Family when Edith was rambling on and on and Archie would be pretending to kill himself while Edith just kept on talking.  Despite the often overwhelming liberal ramblings in the book, I am going to go through the tasks outlined to caculate my “Life Energy” and then finish the book. However, I also needed a mental break from the book so I decided to dumb it down a bit and read The Richest Man in Babylon and The Wealthy Barber in an attempt to clear my head and get back basics.

Between setting up a budget with You Need A Budget, stressing over debt and listening to Dave Ramsey tell me to get “Gazelle Intense” about only debt reduction, listening to Rob Black and Ric Edelman tell me to never pay off a 30-year low fixed-rate mortgage and instead invest in the market, and all the craziness going on with the economy and the market right now…I feel like my head is going to explode!!!

So for now, I am going to the basic 10% Savings off the top, 20% to Debt, and 70% for Expenses and will consider how to incorporate the myriad of advice/opinions into a plan that works for me.  My priorities still remain paying off our credit card debt and building up our emergency fund but I am not willing to stop contributing to retirement and education savings nor can I focus on just one aspect of my finances at a time while ignoring the others. There are so many important and complicated pieces to the personal finance puzzle, but sometimes the simplest and most basic plan is the best strategy for those times when it all seems to get to be too much.

Citigroup on Facebook!!!

April 3, 2009

No seriously! I received an email from Citibank…or Citigroup…or is it just Citi now?…When did they become the P-Diddy of banks? Anyway, I received an email a couple of weeks ago letting me know that “P-Citi” is on Facebook and I should “Become a Fan”. Inititally I just deleted the email with a scoff and a headshake, but for some reason, perhaps the fact that I’m petty and vindictive, I find myself aggravated that these turds would have the gall to ‘friend’ me when they still haven’t psoted my credit yet.

Out of curiosity, I found the Citi Cards page on Facebook and see that it’s some promotion where they are donating $50 to a charity of your choice if ou sign up for a card through their new app and I felt better about the whole ordeal. Not because of the charitable donations but becasue I saw they have 6,413 Fans and I realized that despite being a moron, there are at least 6,413 people that are dumber than me in the world.

T. Rowe Priceless

March 31, 2009

As a T. Rowe Price account holder, I am truly lucky to be able to receive their quarterly magazine T. Rowe Price InvestorInsightful Strategies for the Informed Investors which offered up the following gems in their most recent issue:

“With the markets down and an uncertain economy, it may be tempting to cut back on investing, pay only the minimum toward outstandng debt, and turn to credit for new purchases. Doing so, however, can be financially detrimental, eroding your overall net worth.”

Oh really?!? Who are these people? Maybe people who have lost their jobs or are making less money as a result of the economy and have few other options, but who would find it “tempting” to consciously just put themselves in this undesirable position. And iIf one’s earnings have remained unchanged then what happened to the rest of the money? There’s no mention in he article about the virtues of increased cash reserves, just senseless statements like above encouraging you to eliminate debt so you have more money to invest in their funds.

Later in the article, Stuart Ritter, a certified financial planner with T. Rowe Price, suggests:

“When reviewing your mortgage options, consider that a fixed-rate mortgage usually provides the most predictability because your principal and interest will not change over the life of the loan.”

Wow, so let me get ths straight Stuart, the FIXED-rate mortgage with an unchanging, or fixed, principal and interest payment is “usually” more predictable than a mortgage with…say…an adjustable rate where no one can predict where the rate will be in the future? I’l have to ponder that one a while to realy be able to grasp its insightfulness, but in the meantime, please jack up the fees on my mutual funds so that you can afford to add additional pages to this invaluable financial resource. I mean 26 pages is hardly enough to convey such wisdom. On second thought, why not just print it on a softer, two-ply, easily torn paper so that this bathroom reader might truly be of some use to me.

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