This blog is a way for me to share hard learned lessons about money with those who are just starting out on their own. I hope it's a way for you to avoid making the mistakes I made, and to benefit from my experiences

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Annual Flower and Greeting Card Extortion Day - A man's perspective

Otherwise known as Valentine's Day.

I hate Valentine's Day.As a man, you are absolutely obligated to buy your wife or girlfriend flowers and a card, and usually a present. Of course, on this day, flowers are easily twice as expensive as normal. I haven't priced it, but I bet the Valentine's Day cards are more expensive than other cards too.

Then of course, there's dinner out somewhere nice.And what's the benefit? After you've paid this extortion, you've fulfilled your duty. Any other day of the year and you get extra credit for doing the above. Today, it's just to stay out of the doghouse.Not only that, but it's a woman's holiday. Men don't want gifts on Valentine's Day. Where's the equivalent holiday for the men? None! We don't get any. How about a holiday where the woman is expected to buy her man a new tool or gadget or take him golfing. And if she doesn't, she's in the dog house!

What a jip.

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Online Storage

The Wall Street Journal had a good article on Online Storage and how about numerous companies are trying to get us to store our important data online as a back-up. Frankly, this is an idea whose time has come. If your computer dies, or you accidentally delete an important file and don't have an onsite back up, or god forbid if your place burns to the ground taking your computer and back ups with it, what will you do? With online storage, you simply fire up the computer, login and retrieve your important data.

If you already pay for virus and malware protection on your computer, paying to back up important data shouldn't be a foreign concept. Isn't that what is really important on your computer anyway?

There are numerous ones offering a taste for free, offering anywhere from 1 to 5GB for free, and then of course charging $50 to $100 a year for much more storage. Here's some I already knew about:

Xdrive - 5 GB online storage for free from AOL. All it takes is an AOL account, which is now free as well. You can designate files to share as well. $100 per year for 50 GB
Mozy - 2 GB for free. Has the virtue of encrypting your data with Blowfish, a well respected ciper, so only you can read your data. $50 buys you all the storage you can eat.
Carbonite - No free plan. Unlimited for $50. Has utility that automatically backs up your documents for you all the time.

There are several others, each with it's own specialty. Also I'd like to mention Yahoo Photos, which allows unlimited photo storage, and the ability to get those photos back at full resolution, although only 1 at a time. Still, it's free too, and you can view, share and order prints as well.

Right now, I'm currently in the process of backing up all my music and documents to Xdrive, and my photos to Yahoo Photos. What great services, and for free if your need is small, or cheap if you have lots to back up.

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National Debt Misunderstood

One of my favorite blogs to read is Blogging Away Debt. This week she posts a guest article titled Consumer Debt vs. Government Debt. How Can We Judge Congress When Our Plastic is Maxed Out?

Gov’t debt is a vastly misunderstood subject, and Ben seems to be just one of the misled.
Simply put, there is no reason this debt EVER has to be paid back. For virtually all of our country’s entire existence, the debt has never been paid back. It’s been rolled over.

Think of it this way. A person starts out their adult life earning generally low wages, and then throughout life as they gain skills and expertise, they continually earn more and more. This represents our country’s GDP.

That same person probably also starts with renting a small no frills apartment, and then throughout their life continually continually rent nicer and nicer homes, at higher and higher rental rates. This is interest on the ever growing national debt. (No home ownership allowed in this analogy, because that builds equity).

Since the nation will never retire, the GDP, and thus the tax revenues, will only continue to grow, and thus the gov’t can continue to afford the interest payments on more and more debt.

Here’s some interesting facts about the national debt:

Interest on the debt now consumes less percentage of government tax receipts than it did during Clinton’s time, despite Bush’s heavy borrowing. How can this be? Because tax receipts have also been growing heavily. In 1998, debt service consumed 14% of tax receipts. In 2006, it consumed under 10%. America’s ability to pay interest on the debt is becoming less of a burden, not more so.

Approximately 40% of the national debt is owed to the government itself. US Citizens own approximately 35% of the debt. The other 25% is owned by Foreigners.

While I would prefer that the federal gov't do a better job of living within it's means, and use debt only in times of recession, disaster, war or investing in building of new national infrastructure, it is not the boogeyman we all perceive it to be. Simply put, it is OK for the debt to grow, and continue to be rolled over, as long as the economy grows along with it, so we can continue to pay the interest.

I highly recommend you point readers to a blogger called The Skeptical Optimist for facts and views on the national debt that you just won’t hear anywhere else. He too is one of my favorite blogs.