It’s official. The thing that retailers like Ebay have been fighting for so long (Amazon initially was against it, but threw in the towel, but now supports it, who knows why but I smell a tiny fib there), the internet sales tax, has passed the crucial first vote in the Senate. It still has the House vote to endure and pass, but it probably will pass that as well, albeit reportedly not as easily.
Here’s the whole problem as described by the “brick and mortar” physical stores that complained about the inequity of online taxes in the first place. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that state governments just couldn’t wait to get their mitts on the sales tax money they were missing out on for all those online sales that were across state lines. That is of course except for states that don’t charge sales tax in the first place (I need to seriously move to one of these states).
First off, brick and mortar stores complained that online shopping gave online retailers an unfair advantage over them. This is because they say people favor online shopping simply due to the fact that no taxes are usually charged. Never mind the fact that online shopping is super easy and convenient and you can find just about anything you need to buy, in any color and size on the internet. I’m sure that has nothing to do with it!
They have lobbied for years to get state governments to enforce a nationwide sales tax online so that the playing field could be evened up a bit. In addition, you have a lot of states who are going broke thanks to horrible budgeting and poor management and leadership, and they also want to get their hands on all that lost tax revenue as well.
All of this during one of the worst and most prolonged economic downturns in recent history. The government has now decided that bureaucracy and needless red tape that does nothing but introduce headaches to business owners is the way to go.
This on top of Obamacare is really forcing companies to change the way they do business, and I dare say that none of it is good for Free Enterprise, Capitalism and Innovation, three of the things that I feel make the US head and shoulders above all others, and the three things that once made our economy so strong and so REAL!
Now, for smaller retailers and businesses, this is not such a huge thing (at least for now, they’ll probably eventually go after all of us). That’s because the law will only apply to businesses that make sales of a million dollars or more per year. At least there’s that.
In addition to the “unfair advantage” that physical retailers say they have online, I have to add something else to my point here. I really don’t think that people are going to not shop online and go to a physical store instead. I think that big businesses like ebay and Amazon will offer better incentives. In short, like all great businesses that know how to evolve, they will simply pivot and adjust to this and make it an advantage instead of a setback.
However, you really need to take the money and seriously consider what it could do for you if you put it aside in an emergency fund, or invested it for example instead of spending it on material things or a vacation. Sure these things are fun, but if you have a million other necessities you’ve been putting off, then those should go first.
The most ideal situation of course, is putting the money away in an interest bearing account for a rainy day. It is estimated that over 90% of the population does not have an adequate savings cushion should either of the two in a working couple situation lose their job, the family would be able to self-sustain for six months.
This is why so many people lost their houses during the Great Recession. Most Americans don’t have a backup plan and when they lose their jobs and start to receive the paltry backup pay that unemployment offers, they struggle and often times don’t have enough for bills and the mortgage. Since something has to go unpaid, and most parents don’t want to starve their kids to pay bills, the mortgage is one bill that starts to seem dispensable when this occurs.
When I look back on my past financial fortunes, which included an internet business that really took off and did extremely well (better than I ever expected actually) for a few years, I really WISH I would have saved a lot of that money. You just never know when the rug is going to be pulled out from under you and unfortunately no one has the crystal ball to prepare for it.
So, human nature dictates that we will spend the money as we get it. It’s easy to say we wouldn’t do it, but this is exactly why so many people who’ve won the lottery end up going bankrupt. You see how many people around you you’d like to help out, you tend to start wanting to buy nicer gifts for everyone on occasions.
You end up eating out more, buying higher grades of furniture, of this and that, and before you know it, you’re again living outside of your means. In the case of lottery winners, they usually blow their money on luxuries they thought they always wanted only to find that they don’t really need them and that they don’t really make them any “happier”.
Of course, poverty doesn’t make you happy either. But somewhere in between does, and that’s what a little return from Uncle Sam can bring – peace of mind instead of some trinket you’ve been wanting a while.
It is SO easy to blow your entire tax return when you know you’re getting back a good bit of money. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it was really hard for me not to take all of my delayed gratification I’d been so good about maintaining during the year thanks to a drastically reduced income for the year and just buy everything I’d been needing (sometimes just wanting) for all that time.
I really thought that I would have stopped receiving the constant solicitations for mortgage refinancing a little sooner than this, but alas I have not. My husband and I have been getting piled up with mortgage refinance offers disguised as notifications from our actual mortgage lender, JP Morgan Chase, in the mail for well over six months now.
These notices all tout the recent government backed mortgage program that is allowing banks to refinance mortgages for people in order to help make their homes more affordable, or to sort of bail people out of mortgages that have them under water.
I’m not exactly sure what the terms of this government program look like on paper, but it’s clear that the banks feel more free to lend money because they all say that the solicitation is due to new government guidelines, which means that somehow the government has (once again) subsidized something that may actually hurt our economy more in the end.
The last one I received, I have to admit, was pretty tempting. The interest rate they said I might qualify for was almost ridiculously low, and the amount of savings they said I might get per month was well over $500 off the mortgage amount. Very tempting, especially since we’ve felt particularly “House Poor” lately and have been experiencing some difficulty in making our normal mortgage payments thanks to drastic changes in my business income.
I keep throwing the solicitations away though, determined not to fall into the refinance trap again of endless paperwork for not a lot of payoff in the way of monthly savings. I also don’t want to reset the clock again on the mortgage to thirty years when we have at least six years in the house.
That’s probably the biggest reason. I hated how the last time we refinanced our primary mortgage, number one they were not able to combine it with our secondary which was the main reason we were doing it in the first place. Number two, they kind of misled us a little on the final amount of the mortgage payment.
In the end, for all the paperwork, the appraisals, the meetings, the appointments and all the rigamarole that went along with the refinancing boild down to less than a hundred dollars a month in savings. If I had known that, I never would have even tried it.
Like Pavlov’s dog, I still remember the burn of that initial refinance and the almost instant regret I felt after signing the papers, and I don’t want to leap into that fire again with people who seem to only want to make more money off me at any cost.
I know that many people have to still be receiving these types of solicitations in the mail, and many of them are probably just as tempted as I am. I wonder if, in the end, the tempting figures they put forth are even possible or if this is just merely a ruse to get you to talk to them and for them to make thousands and thousands off the interest and closing costs and other ridiculous costs and fees they make off of you.
Part of me really wanted to follow through with one particular company who promised no closing costs and no appraisal fees or any of that. I thought at least that sounded fair and equitable. After all, why would I need to pay all those costs when ultimately they would be making a ton off of me by refinancing and extending the term of my loan again?
As you can see, I have a pretty sour attitude toward mortgage refinancing. However I didn’t have the best experience with it myself, and it proved to be a futile move for us. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense for anyone.
It really depends on the numbers and your particular financial situation, so you need to carefully crunch the numbers yourself before making the leap. Do it on your own time, instead of being pressured to sign the papers with someone from the bank so that you have the time to adequately process and understand the ultimate numbers on your own.
I don’t know about you, but I have held some of our money for retirement in the GLD fund, or SPIDER gold ETF, which indexes the commodity price of the gold and aims to mirror it. It’s one of the most liquid and easy ways to “own” gold without physically owning it.
I’m pretty well aware by now that there are merits to owning physical gold that I don’t get by owning it this way, but unfortunately this is the easiest way to get a piece of the gold price action without actually buying the precious metal and storing it at my home, which I’d be worried about doing 24/7.
It’s also the easiest way to get the exposure to gold through mine and my husband’s 401k financial plans since it is traded just like a stock or mutual fund is and we both have self-directed plans where we can place trades on our own. I’m long gone from mutual funds because I believed so strongly in precious metals as a backup to our fragile economy and in my opinion, soon to be failing dollar currency.
I consider myself somewhat more educated than the lay person when it comes to economics, stocks and finances. I owe this to my father, who was a stock broker for many years in my youth, and who got me interested in the topic when I started to have a few bucks myself to invest when I started working at a large company with a great 401k plan.
After all what better way to learn than when you have your own money to invest? It’s really an incentive to learn quickly and be good at it, right!?
I’ve always known that above all else, I want to be able to retire from Corporate America well before the “accepted” retirement age, so I’ve have a very vested interest in both mine and my husband’s retirement funds doing well.
I never really cared much about the day to day movements in our investments because we are still fairly young for our investments to grow, and I’ve become relatively disciplined in not “panic selling” or moving investments around because of large one day drops or other factors that could have influenced a stock or investment I own.
That being said, owning gold has been the biggest roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on. It takes an iron gut and iron will and conviction to hold on to an asset that has been as volatile as gold has been over the past year or so. On Friday, the headlines were screaming that this is the end for gold, and that it was only going to go down further from here.
You had Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest investment houses, calling for an end to the bull market in gold and telling people to actually short the price of gold, which essentially means you are betting the price of gold will go down even further.
It’s not easy to hold an investment when it take a dive of several percentage points in one day. However, I still have the firm belief that our dollar will be devalued in the future and I’m willing to stomach these roller coaster prices in order to wait it out.
Just how long is the wait though is the question. If I knew that, I’d obviously be a lot richer than the average person This whole thing could still take a few years to completely unravel.
I remember a time when I was able to comfortably swear off the use of credit cards almost completely. And when I did use my credit card, I either made sure it was my debit card and not a “play now pay later” card, or I made darn well sure that I paid that sucker off every single month without question, racking up no interest debt at all.
There’s a huge reason why I’m so gun shy when it comes to credit cards. When I was in my early twenties and attending college (and yes I was working too, but sometimes that just didn’t pay all the bills I had coming in and pay for me to have some college fun too!), I really let loose with the credit cards.
Then, when I got out of college and was barely making any money even though I would often be working two jobs just to support myself, a car payment and a rent payment and utilities, I could not afford to make my rent if I didn’t use my credit card even for basic necessities.
If things like car repairs or major bills came up, I couldn’t fit them into my budget while still maintaining my other bills, so I would often resort to putting these items on my credit cards. Well, as you can imagine, and as it is so easy to do, I racked up quite a hefty credit card debt between about 4 or 5 cards.
I ended up having to meet with some folks at Consumer Credit Counseling, which is a really great nonprofit who can help people like me dig their way out of credit card debt by making deals with creditors and lowering payments or consolidating them so that your interest wouldn’t consume you every month.
Long story short, I worked hard and made my payments every month and dug out of it. It was hard work, but it really paid off to know that I was going to get out of the mire I’d gotten into with credit. I learned my lesson and vowed to only spend money that I had, not all on credit to some creditors who made a fortune off my interest alone.
And I did succeed for a while doing that. Then, the past year hit. My business really took some serious hits from some search engine changes that negatively affected my side business. I suddenly found that I was struggling to pay my bills and started to resort to using my credit card to make purchases for things like wedding gifts, food and other things that you just can’t seem to get out of.
I imagine that’s what all the other people are finding themselves doing now. The latest report is that more people are spending money via their credit cards now than they have in a long time. This is a huge change from how things were working shortly after our 2008 financial meltdown.
People really seemed to swear off credit for a while after that. Our government could learn something from those people instead of spending this stimulus money left and right that will really hurt us later on – just like credit card interest hurts people down the line for some instant gratification and false security.
The statistics are showing a huge increase in plastic use, and the thought is that people are starting to feel a little better about their financial situation. However I disagree because I know for me personally it’s really not a choice, I kind of have to. I suspect this might be a lot of the reason too, not just that American are suddenly feeling wealthier.
It is true that people tend to use plastic more when they feel like they have more money, but it’s also true they use it out of pure necessity. Maybe I’m taking the negative view here, but from what I’ve seen lately I still feel like it may be an economic issue of necessity and not so much that people are feeling more secure and frivolous. What are your thoughts?
I’m still getting a few of those mortgage refinancing offers trickling in after the government announced its massive program to help back refinance programs aimed at helping Americans who are under water in their homes get a more affordable refi rate. I resisted all of them. Let me tell you why.
I already did the refinance thing one time, and I really don’t think it was that great of a deal, at least not for me personally because of the psychological aspect of it.
I foolishly did it only about three years into our mortgage, and I feel that I should have just stuck with what we had. The major reason that I even got a quote from the bank that holds our primary mortgage (we have two, a primary and a secondary) is because I was really more interested in combining the two mortgages than anything else.
Here’s the thing with refinancing. I think it can be a great deal for a select few that are in certain circumstances or who happen to have spotless credit and get a great deal with no closing costs or any other fees associated with the transaction at all. I know a few people who were fortunate enough to get those deals, and they got refinanced at a really great rate and much lower payments.
I even know a couple who refinanced and got a lower payment even as they simultaneously condensed their loan down from a 30 year mortgage to a 15 year! That’s a great deal, and no doubt was the right move for them.
However, lots of people like myself are sort of suckered into doing it when it’s really probably not in their best interest. I only saved less than $100 per month on my payment, and my bank wasn’t even able to condense our secondary mortgage into our primary, which was my main goal so that I could get a lower interest rate on the secondary mortgage because it was ridiculously high.
I was under the impression that my actual payment would be reduced by much more than $100. Yes, I was naive, and didn’t know that when they quote you, they quote you MINUS the insurance and property taxes that are all rolled into your mortgage payment via an escrow account that is usually arranged by your primary lender.
Here’s the other rub. You start over. So if you had a thirty year mortgage that you were 7 years into, you reset at thirty years again when you refinance. Sure, it may be at a lower rate, but you really have the consider the fact that you will again be paying primarily interest on your loan for about the first five years of the new mortgage.
These are all really psychological factors for me. It’s more about knowing I won’t be locked into another long term “commitment” so for me it’s more worth it to know that I have less time, now about six and a half years into our mortgage, than I would at resetting at thirty years, to be committed to the sometimes-albatross that hangs over your head when you have a mortgage payment.
There was national attention just a short while ago on the problems that the tiny island of Cyprus was having with their banks virtually on the point of insolvency thanks to them lending so much money to the debt strapped Greece that is still having major financial problems and rampant unemployment.
Much like the problems here in the US, the Cyprus problem is one of deep debt, and they have run out of options to solve this crisis in any easy fashion. Russia turned them down for aid, and the EU has put strict guidelines on which they will give any aid to bail out the Cyprus banking system. And who can blame them.
The first proposal was a very unpopular one. This was to tax bank deposits by 10%. The deal was struck down by Cyprus officials, no doubt in response to severe backlash from depositers. To prevent a run on banks, the Cyprus banks remained close on holiday for the entire week as this mess unfolded.
The sad thing is that this is what may happen here in the US when people realize that our problems of runaway debt are just as bad if not worse, and will have likely compounded even more by next year as we continue to print money on top of money to try to inflate our way out of our problems.
Sure, the FDIC insures deposits in banks up to a certain amount, but guess who the FDIC is funded by? The very government that is practically bankrupt now, if not for the printing presses firing up every month with billions of dollars in some sort of buybacks, sales and other various ways of creating money out of thin air.
This whole mess is exactly why we have invested heavily in precious metals like gold and silver. I still have a feeling that these types of problems are right on their way to the US. They’re actually already here, it’s just that the US happens to look better and more appealing than the European Union and other countries that are spinning out of control at the moment.
Our day will come, and when it does we really need to have our personal financial ducks in a row and protected as best we can. There’s no telling how the government is going to tax us to get the money they so desperately need to fund their bankrupt programs and simply to keep paying themselves to remain as an organized union.
So while we may be looking at Cyprus with pitying eyes, this soon enough will probably be the United States after we’ve kicked the can down the road for too long and our errors finally catch up with up for spending way more than we make. Much like this would catch up with catastrophic consequences for any person, it will be no different for an entire nation and government that has been spending more than they make for years.
Having children is a very personal decision. It is one that I did not take lightly, but one that rather I kind of fell in to just because I never found that I had the strong nesting instinct that so many other women say they had in wanting to have children and that absolute certainty that their life would not be fulfilling without them.
I don’t know exactly why the maternal instinct never fully kicked in with me, it’s probably a real combination of factors. Many people I know say they think I’d be a great mother, and I do think I would be. However, there is always that part of me that wonders what I would sacrifice if I did have them and how I would be affected if I couldn’t be around them as much as I wanted to.
I’m sure this is the same conflict that many women have who want to have a career, or in my case, want to be an entrepreneur while also trying to maintain a full time job. Parenting is a juggling act, and it all depends on where your priorities lie and what type of life you want to have with children in the decisions you make.
There has been a lot in the news lately about work life balance, and motherhood and career in particular since mothers are given the spotlight. Even though we’ve come a long way as far as feminism and equal parenting, the mother is still always the one who is expected to be the primary caregiver and nurturer in many cases. There are exceptions of course, but moms are usually the ones who feel the pressure to be superwoman.
Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook came out with a book called “Lean In” that discusses motherhood and career and she encourages women to really be aggressive and take control in their careers. She got a lot of backlash because some feel her message is telling women to forego the family and the children and not feel so guilty and just go for it in their career like men do, even if they do have families.
I agree with parts of her message, but I disagree in other ways. That’s because I don’t think this message applies to all women. I can’t tell you how many women tell me they are perfectly happy to be stay at home mothers and watch their children grow up. For many women, THAT is the ultimate idea of success and that it fantastic if they are able to do that. I give them kudos, because sometimes I think full time parenting is harder than any corporate job to be honest!
What might feel right for one woman may feel totally wrong for another. Go with your gut instinct and do what you want to do. If you’re the ultimate career woman who isn’t so sure about kids, but you feel some odd societal pressure to do so, don’t feel guilty about not having children or pressured into it.
If you’re a woman who has a career and enjoys it, but also prioritizes motherhood and family, don’t feel at all guilty for not going for the bigger positions with more authority or pay, you do what makes you feel the happiest and most fulfilled!
Marissa Mayer garnered a lot of attention when she became the first pregnant CEO of a major company, taking the helm of the beleagured, once-great search engine Yahoo. I, as a woman was really excited to see this happen.
If you have ever seen her speak, she is just a really engaging, whip-smart and seemingly decisive person who has a great deal of passion for what she does. I can see why Yahoo wanted to get her over on their side from Google where she was a very valued asset, and offered her such enticing incentives to do so.
She made some interesting changes that seemed much in line with how Google does things, in an effort to boost morale and create a better working environment. She began offering free food for example, and some other little perks like that which just make life a little easier while at work.
Then she did something that made big news. Big controversial news to be precise. The media had a field day over it actually. And I hate to say that I think if she were a man, and didn’t just have her first child, this would not have made nearly the news that it did.
She revoked regular WFH, or working from home privileges. Other than the occasional working from home for the plumbing guy to stop by, the regularly used working from home privilege was no longer in force. Of course, this prompted outrage from many of the telecommuting advocates, as well as from the employees themselves who so often used this privilege.
However, if you look at the flip side, you had some ex employees of Yahoo saying that it irked them that the telecommuting was being over used and milked by so many. You also have a company that is in danger of closing for business because they are having such a tough time competing in the important and lucrative search space with their biggest competitor Google, from which Mayer comes.
She made the RIGHT decision for the company at this time in my opinion. I’m sure this is not a decision she took lightly. She probably looked at what was happening, saw the jobs that really were not conducive to working from home when a company is trying to collaborate and become innovative again, and realized that it’s not the right time for people to be physically separated.
Being together in times of reorganizing or collaboration is actually really important to be able to become creative and innovative again. SO kudos to her for taking this and running with it. If people quit, this may actually be part of the intention, to cut dead weight whose main priority is to be able to telecommute instead of the opportunity to again put the company on top.
My feeling is those that stay will be handsomely rewarded when she turns the company around!
I just recently traded in my 2005 Honda CRV for a Jeep Patriot that I got for a solid deal. My car payments are right around $250 which is affordable, but still not as good as having no car payment since my Honda had been long paid off for a few years. It was wonderful having that one less bill every month!
However, my Honda had a lot of miles on it. It had about 170k when I traded it in, and a lot of little things started to go wrong with it. I needed about $2500 in work plus new tires to get it in top condition, and I just wasn’t willing to dump all that money into a car with that many miles on it. I must say though, that little car got me through thick and thin!
One thing I always made sure I did was get oil changes regularly and also get scheduled tire rotations and tire pressure checks. These are so important because your tires really wear a lot better when you get them regularly rotated since they tend to wear unevenly. Tire pressure is also important because it protects the integrity and strength of you tires and helps prevent against deflation and rupturing.
When I traded it in, they really gave me a great deal on my trade in price toward my new Jeep. I was very pleased with it. They even remarked on what great care I must have taken of the vehicle! So, even though it was in need of some maintenance, apparently the cosmetic parts were good and the biggest deals like the engine and other major working parts were in good shape.
I had the car for almost eight years and it really had almost no major issues. I had to take it to the dealer once because the company recalled a hose that was bad in all the year make and models that I bought. That was probably the biggest issue I ever had. This is why I still remain a loyal Honda fan.
I just had to go with something less expensive this time and a domestic car because they are cheaper to work on and my husband and his dad will know how to work on it a little better than they did on my Honda. All in all I’m very pleased with my Jeep Patriot so far.
It’s a solid little SUV and gets good gas mileage. Most of all I feel safe in it. I’ll hate having payments to make again, but hey that’s life and when you drive 45 minutes one way to work, you need to feel good about your car!