My Take On The Market Outlook

I am going to make a fool of myself by making some predictions about the market. Despite that I may have a wrong stand, a wrong stand is better than having no stand. After all, one must take a stand of what he believes in. Here is my take on the market outlook:

  1. US dollar began to move lower against major currency since Fed Bernanke’s comment on possible pause of interest rate. I think US dollar will move lower slightly in the three months. EURUSD may be contained below 1.29, and USDJPY contained above 110. But if looking further out, it may move even lower because of slowdown in the economy.
  2. US bond market probably has begun its long term bear market since last winter in 2005, abeit moving very slowly. It will move lower once Fed re-start its hiking later possibly in October to contain the inflation caused by energy cost. Eventually, 10 year treausry may move to 5.5% by the year end. That is going to add another 0.5% to the current mortgage interest rate. Bonds are destined to fall whether it’s because of heightend inflationary expectation or increase in the short term interest rate. Bonds may rise a little once US economic slowdown is obvious, but the rise in bonds will be somewhat offset by the fall in the $US. The slow descent of bonds will prevent housing market bubble to have a serious correction. The actual price of housing may not begin to correct in full force until 2008. For now, I expect housing price to be stagnated, because for people who can’t afford monthly payments, they will refinance to extract the last bits of equities to pay for monthly payment.
  3. Gold spot price may keep moving higher slowly. The intermediate high may be made in the next three months or the next six months. It is slightly possible for gold to exceed $750 this year, but more probable to exceed $700. However, precious metal equities may not follow through as much, as to non-confirming the high in physical market.
  4. US stock market in general may make new high due to heavy monetization, IF oil price does not rise too much too fast. I believe that the stock market correction due to the slowdown will be minor, while the correction in precious metals and commodity in general will be severe (> 30%). It will be a major washout of weak hands, and may be the last buying opportunity before an even more sustained rise.

Wild factors to watch out for:

  1. Worsening situation in Iran may most likely help oil and gold price to move higher.
  2. Hurricane season is coming. It will help pushing oil and gold price higher.
  3. US and/or China economy slowdown will bring down red-hot industrial material and energy sectors. Precious metals will be affected, but not as much, because they will be supported by lower US dollar. Emerging market equities may take a substantial hit.

Overall, I believe that US Fed is going to engineer majority of market behaviors to a gradual and shallow slowdown by heavy monetization. But the only things that US Fed cannot do is to print more oil. It will loan as much gold as it can to the gold shorts, in order to contain the rise in the gold price. However, all other metals including silver will keep marching forward by more percentage rise than gold. Eventually, it will end with heightened inflation, and of course, a somewhat subdued core inflation rate due to all the current and/or future fudgings. The goal of US Fed is obviously to reduce the debt burden on both US government and individuals by debasing $US. However, their assumption of a corresponding wage rise due to inflation may be less realizable this time. US wage rise will be less than the true inflation rate. More jobs will simply be exported to oversea.

Got Your Silver Coins Yet?

Silver coins? If you think I am a weird thirty-something high-tech professional, then I must be doing it right.

For a long time from 2002 to 2005, I couldn’t find any good silver investment vehicle back in Asia where I’m originally from. At that time, silver spot price was just below $5 an ounce. Last summer of 2005, I finally found a good place to purchase at http://www.kitco.com/. It was their perth mint silver certificate. Since I was cost-conscious, I shopped around for the commission that I would be paying. I later found just a handful of other places that sell perth mint. The next thing was how much spread I would be paying between bid/ask. It took a while to figure this out, but I finally got around my ways to calling Perth Mint Program in Australia. Talking to the representative, I found out that the spread is more than 3%, which seemed to be too much for me. One of the problem with investing in silver is that it is less liquid, and therefore has a bigger spread. Furthermore, since the minimum of $10000 US seemed to me to be more than what I wanted to put into silver, I decided to call off my purchase when it was just $7.25.

By the time when I finally found out about first-time special deals from online coin stores, the silver price has gone up to $10 in early 2006. I didn’t want to put too much money in, since the spread and premium over spot silver is even higher. At this point, I just wanted to have some small amount of silver to balance with my physical gold holding. Since I have never seen any silver eagles, I bought from two online internet stores: http://www.preciousmetals.com/, and http://www.universalcoin.com/. This way, I can compare the silver coins that were sent to me from the two stores. I paid almost $11 per coin, about some 10% premium over the silver spot price which however included some minting premium.

When the postman delivered my package, he keeps asking, “what’s in this small package? It’s kind of heavy for such a small package.” I simply smiled, knowing that he probably would not understand why (or at least in such a short time). Yup, I got total of eight rolls, 160 American Silver Eagles at home, paying no storage fee whatsoever. And in less than 3 months, silver zoomed up to $15, but has recently corrected to about $12. Me, not worried. (Boy, before I get the chance to publish this, it went backup up to $14 again.)

I can’t explain this feeling about silver coins to you unless you are also holding the coins. For the first time in my life, I was holding these silver coins in my hands, feeling its weight and brilliance, and it’s just about $10 a piece. Money used to be just a mathematical number in the bank or brokerage accounts to me. But by holding these silver coins, I realized that it’s real stuffs, real money. I would trade $10 paper bill for such a piece of coin ANYTIME. Don’t give me the face from Alexander Hamilton. Give me the Eagle.

My Wife’s Shopping Tips

Sometimes I am simply blown away by my wife’s creative saving tips when shopping. If you don’t know that merchandises at Costco are not cheap, then you are in the second league after her. My family don’t use the Costco executive card to get the 2% savings, because we cannot justify 2% with our low amount of purchase. To breakeven on the additional $55 that we need to pay (from $45 to $100 for the executive card), we need to spend at least $55 / 2% = $2750 a year. Even if we spend $2750, we need to save an average of 1.6% on the price to justify the $45 basic membership card.

Okay, here are the tips from the Frugal’s wife:

  1. Grocery shopping with coupons: When she buys grocery, she scan through ads first, and pick out the on-sale items that she wants. Then she matches the on-sale items with whatever coupons she has clipped. Also, the grocery stores (like Ralph) that have do double-coupons are the more preferred stores. This process takes some minutes at home. But we probably never walked out of grocery stores with at least 35% savings from the regular price.
  2. Stocking up: She stocks up on-sale items (with coupon savings) for the future (on a limited basis). She also pre-shopped for gifts throughout the low seasons in the year.
  3. Limit Costco’s purchases: When buying at Costco, you must understand that you are getting quality products at a reasonable price. Less quality products in general will cost less at other stores. And on-sale items at other stores can often beat Costco’s price. But the biggest saving that you can get by not buying at Costco is that you don’t end up buying more than you need. Either you throw away the additional quantities on what you cannot consume. or you stock them up and put away in no-man’s land such that you cannot find it when you need it again. However, Costco has regular saving coupons mailed out, and those are really good-priced items.
  4. Placement of the coupons: Leave the coupons in the car, and restaurant coupons in the wallets. Often you can’t find the coupons when you need them. Since you don’t go out without your car or your wallet, you won’t go out without the coupons this way either.
  5. Clearance: Pay attention to clearance items/clothing in department stores. They are often very inexpensive as in Walmart, Target, Mervin, or Old Navy. But the qualities are much better.
  6. Timing: Time your purchases throughout the seasons & holidays. If you are buying a new car and don’t mind getting the current year model, August is often the clearance time on current models. At the end of August, school clothes & supplies often go on-sale. October is the best month for pre-holiday shooping, or you can wait after Christmas and New Year, and stock up on all kinds of bargains. Also buying clothes off-season will save you some bucks too.

Oh, I have a shopping tip of my own too. For those husbands out there, when you buy stamps, DO NOT buy those beautiful Disney stamps. I repeat, DO NOT buy those disney stamps, because your wives will love them and won’t allow you to use them. Postage may increase to more than $1, and she still won’t let you use it. But DO use those stamps as a frugal, but romantic gesture.

By the way, I didn’t know a lot about #1 grocery shopping tip until I shopped grocery alone once. That day in the supermarket, I grabbed several items quickly and checked out. When I paid my grocery bill, I was a little shocked. I only bought some 6 or 7 items, and bill was more than $20. I was more used to walking out with 5 or more big bags, and paying maybe $50 or $60. So I rushed home and told my wife: “dear, the inflation is REALLY picking up. Look, this cauliflower cost almost $4. That is outrageous.” And then she told me that it was because they were not on-sale. Whew, I thought inflation was some 20% on food items, :)

My Two Millions at 28

If I made it through 2000 dot com bubble, the name of my website would be My Two Millions At 28, www.2millionsat28.com. I was once a multi-millionaire on paper. The after-tax value of my stock options if I had the chance of exercising them was more than two million dollars. And guess what happened, two millions became zilch, nada, after stock market crashed. I didn’t see a dime or a penny out of it.

The stock market bubble was such an emotional experience for me and my colleagues at work. Although I knew that the dramatic rise of NASDAQ to above 5000 in such a short time in 2000 was not sustainable, there was not a day that went by without me wishing secretly that I could cash out my stock options. After all, it’s money. And it’s A LOT of money.

My anxiety actually began even before I started working for the dot com company. I hoped to begin my first day at my new company when the stock price of my new company was lower so that my option strike price (which would have been the market price) could be lower. I waited, and timed the market. I was almost making my new boss annoyed by not signing myself into the new company after I got the job offer. After the first sign of the market weakness, I made my inter-state move. Then I lived in my friend’s house, and kept waiting still for a good entry. With the high volatility of the stock market in 2000, the stock price of my new company was soon 20% under the all time high. I thought after all these patience, it was finally paying off somewhat. On the day that I joined my dot com company, I checked the stock price in the early morning at 7:30am PST. It dropped by another 5%. I told myself that this was good enough, and decided that I would start my new job that day.

But on my first day at the new company, I had the lesson of luck. Although the stock price dropped by 5% in the early morning, it rallied all the way to the close, and was eventually closed up by 16%. Since the option strike price only used the market closing price, on that single day my fortune changed by more than one million pre-tax dollars for the worse. I had my early wake up call the first day of my new job. With all of my foresight, planning, and execution, I just could not beat my luck. I never lost a million dollar (of potential option income) in a single day. I cannot describe how fatefully frustrated I felt that day.

Fortunately, my option strike price was set at a lower level because of the delays in my option granting process. While most of my colleagues were exhilarating because of the new found wealth, I was more sober. I wished very much that the party could last long enough until one year of option lockup period was up. But I had learned my lesson on the first day of my job. It was simply beyond my controls. It was my luck, whether it was good or bad.

On the day of my company stock hitting all time high, I went home and told my wife: “hey, we are multi-millionaires now. More than two millions to be exact. Do you want to go out for a celebration?” My wife was skeptical of what I said, especially when I proposed to go to McDonald’s for our celebration. In my mind, I was quite clear that this paper wealth was not real unless I grabbed it firmly in my hands.

Because of my correct but stupid foresight, I did not buy a single family home like some of my colleagues did. Instead, I bought a small condo on my super-low dot-com salary but with hefty dot-com stock options. Thinking back, being smart is not nearly useful as being lucky. Buying a big house would probably have returned much more, and tax-free too.

After all said and done, most people at this dot com company did not get the chance to exercise their options. Many of my colleagues were depressed and felt the total void of losing multi-millions. It was such a year 2000 of seemingly gaining and losing millions. It was MyTwoMillionsAt28 not meant to be. The gift of Millions was up to God I believe. But saving dimes and pennies is up to me.

Add to del.icio.us Digg it Flog it Seed it

Cautions On Rich Dad: Robert Kiyosaki

Many thanks for one of my readers, BlueDaze, for posting this link in the comments:

http://www.johntreed.com/Kiyosaki.html

If I recall correctly, I visited this very same link probably three years ago, when Kiyosaki only had his very first book on “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. I got all the negative information on Kiyosaki, which I never thought could be possible.

About Rich Dad’s books, I have only read his first book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. The only things that I walked away from is a good, but basic summary of how everyone makes money. I must say that he was quite good at putting these things together as four quadrants of E/S/B/I (employee/self-employed/business owner/investor), and explained the cashflow & taxes of each quadrant. But it was nothing new to me. The rest of the pages is simply not helpful in getting a person to become a better B/I, or even a better E/S for that sake. A couple of my friends are so enamored by his books and him, and even lent his books to me, and talked to me about his books constantly. My only reaction is almost puking. The Bible says NO IDOLS. If you have ever contemplated on that commandment, it really means no idols of ANY kinds, whether it is a wooden statue, or a singer, or a book-writer, or any persons, or any physical thing. I think no one should ever adore another to an exceeding extent.

Robert Kiyosaki has a lot more books after his first one. When I am in the bookstore, I never want to lay my hands nor my eyes on those books, so that I won’t waste a second. In fact, I did pick up the Rich Dad’s series of OPM: Other People’s Money by Lechter because I was going to write a negative article on the book. Actually, it turned out to be so much different than Kiyosaki’s empty talk. Tagging the book as Rich Dad’s series is really degrading Lechter’s book.

Unfortunately for the unwitting readers, this guy, Robert Kiyosaki, pretty much speaks of anything possible that can happen, and of course, these readers will be even more enamored by his “correct” prophecy. Any valid predictions should always be properly stamped with the predicted timeframe. If you don’t give any timeframe, or give a wide timeframe, you will most likely eventually be correct. Just let time approach infinity, and all kinds of things can happen.

Kiyosaki’s negativity towards E or even S is simply not correct. A good education and good grades in school will give you a good paying job. With a good salary and a saving habit, you can go very very far (as I myself have demonstrated, saving $360K in 9 years). If there is anything that I regret not doing is that I should have listened to my parents, and given more thoughts to becoming a medical doctor. If you know how much medical doctors can make, you will not be complaining to be a S (self-employee). The savings that can result from the high salary or self-employee as being a doctor are probably 2X to 5X of my savings. That really makes a huge difference.

To all the young people who are still in school, I advise: To become wealthy, you need to start with first penny, and start with solid learning in school. Don’t think that you can study later. Life does not give you the luxury of going back in time. The only time that you can study in school is NOW or probably never. Going back to schools after having a family is extraordinarily difficult and only put unnecessarily emotional and financial stress on yourself and your family. Mathematically speaking, studying to become a medical doctor or an accountant or a lawyer, has a much higher probability of becoming a (multi-)millionaire, comparing to daydreaming of becoming a successful business owner, or winning the lottery.

Engineer Salary In Silicon Valley

The following 2006 salary numbers are from http://www.salary.com. (Took me a long time to pull all these numbers out). The salary is defined as total cash compensation (cash + bonuses). From my personal contacts & experiences, the numbers seem to be fairly accurate. All the experience levels are defined as follows:

  1. Level I: 0 to 2 years experience after Bachelor’s degree.
  2. Level II: 2 to 4 years experience
  3. Level III: 4 to 6 years experience
  4. Level IV: 6 to 8 years experience
  5. Level V: 8 to 10 years experience

A master’s degree I believe counts as 1 or 2 years of work experience, and a Ph.D degree counts as 2 more years of experience beyond the master’s degree.

I have used San Jose metropolitan area, and only looked up job titles related to IT, software, and hardware because they’re the more commonly held positions. Other good sources of salary surveys include http://www.engineersalary.com/, and IEEE salary survey which you need to sign up. Somehow http://www.engineersalary.com/ was giving a smaller salary number.

Job Title

25% percentile

50% (median)

75% percentile

Software Engineer I

57054

64261

71759

Software Engineer II

69680

78013

87687

Software Engineer III

82257

91992

102755

Software Engineer IV

99007

109277

121146

Software Engineer V

108396

118815

129968

Software Engr Manager

107251

144540

168786

Programmer I

54352

61471

69101

Programmer II

63227

71120

80328

Programmer III

79794

90449

101798

Programmer IV

93145

104937

118120

Programmer V

101645

113366

125687

Network Engineer I

61185

70121

81522

Network Engineer II

72530

84018

96087

Network Engineer III

88818

102424

115711

Unix Administrator

86539

101505

117370

Webmaster

68356

81674

98782

Electrical Engineer I

59568

65512

71383

Electrical Engineer II

70396

78463

86313

Electrical Engineer III

82583

94489

107386

Electrical Engineer IV

99243

106999

114990

Electrical Engineer V

115228

124574

134377

Hardware Engineer I

53110

58237

65744

Hardware Engineer II

62075

70848

78601

Hardware Engineer III

74289

85399

94336

Hardware Engineer IV

84128

91916

102182

Hardware Engineer V

94660

103215

118742

Design Engineer I

60769

67821

77379

Design Engineer II

74834

82994

96126

Design Engineer III

95297

108677

127039

Design Engineer IV

113352

124909

148304

Engineering Manager

110482

128783

152304

Engineering Director

163910

178921

203392

If there are any missing entries, such as Design Engineer V, it is because it is not available. The last two entries, Engineering Manager and Director didn’t seem to be specific enough. I expect that the data may be mixed with all kinds of engineering.

After my recent salary raise, it appears that I am still underpaid by about 10% to 18%, which will take a 11% to 22% salary increase to adjust to the market. Obviously, it is fairly unlikely to get such a big salary raise from the boss. The fastest route of adjusting your salary to the market price is still changing jobs.

Add to del.icio.us Digg it Flog it Seed it

Comparison Of Cashback Credit Cards

The credit card issuers got more competitive again since the last time I shopped around. Because the average cost for Visa/Mastercard transactions is about 1.7%, and can be almost 3% for small merchants, I always thought that getting mostly 1% cashback out of 1.7% total on my Citi Dividend Platinum Select Card is pretty good already. I just found out an even better cashback credit card offered by Emigrant Direct. Here is the summary of some credit cards (all zero annual fee) that I think are worthwhile mentioning:

  1. Citi Dividend Platinum Select Card: 5% cashback on gas/drug/grocery, and 1% on everything else. $300 max rebate per year. Cash rebate can be paid out once it’s more than $25. I currently have two cards because I usually run out of the $300 yearly limit. At 5%, you only need to have $6000 of gas/grocery bill to reach $300. (The term of this card has been changed, and I have replaced this card by two other cards in another post.)
  2. TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express (AMEX): 3% for restaurants, 2% for traveling, and 1% on everything else. Annual fee waived with Costco renewal. Since Costco does not accept Visa/Mastercard, I also have this card. Two other American Express (AMEX) credit cards, AMEX Costco Cash Rebate and Blue Cash have tiered structure, and you will need to spend $11000 and $13000 a year separately to beat a flat 1% cash rebate card. Above those spending levels, you get only 0.5% extra back.
  3. EmigrantDirect Platinum MasterCard (issued by Juniper Bank): this is my new find. It will pay a flat 1.40% cashback if your average daily balance of your EmigrantDirect Savings Account is at least $10000. Otherwise, it’s 0.50% cashback. It pays every six month, and goes into your saving account directly. I called EmigrantDirect, and have confirmed that the cashback will not be lumped in as part of the bank interest money on which you will need to pay tax. Since EmigrantDirect Savings Account earns 4.65% APY, this is really a no brainer deal.

Why is that I’m only interested in cashback credit cards? Other credit cards such as airline credit cards may end up giving you a slightly better value. However, accumulating airline miles or reward points is simply not straightforward enough. The credit card company can always change the reward schedule of airline or redemption point to their benefit. I prefer a simple straight deal of simply getting cashback.

P.S. I got most of my pointers from www.creditcards.com. It’s a pretty easy website to navigate, if you are interested in any other kinds of credit cards.

My Dividend Investing

I recall filling those questionaires provided by financial advisors, asking whether I like more income investing or more growth investing. Initially, I didn’t really understand the question. I told the financial advisor, “you know, I just want to have good return. I don’t really care whether it’s from income investing or from growth investing.” She said I was funny, but I was dead-serious. Now I understand that income investors want to have current interest or dividend income, while growth investors want to grow capital gain. But the underlying assumption by the financial service firms is that both will make money, and you just kind of pick and choose the way of returns. Well, I wish investing is that easy.

I just finished my most complicated tax return last month. I got $11775.91 dividend, of which $10008.58 are qualified dividends. I’m fully utilizing Bush’s dividend tax cut, preserving most dividends as qualifed dividends. For those who are not familiar with the dividend tax cut, a qualified dividend is taxed at 15% or 5%, unlike ordinary dividend which is taxed at marginal income tax bracket which can be as high as 35%. Your holding period must be more than 60 days within the 120 days of ex-dividend date to qualify for the lower dividend tax rate.

How did I receive so many dividends? I definitely didn’t have more than $200K invested in the dividend-paying stocks. 5% of $200K is $10K, but my dividend stocks usually pay out closer to 10% (ranges from 7% to 15%). If you just have $20K invested in such stocks, you would have gotten $2000 to $3000 assuming a 10% to 15% yield. It’s not a lot, but surely beats the paltry 2% local bank yields.

The primary reason that I want to invest in dividend stocks is to reduce the overall volatility of my portfolio. Most people adjust bond allocation to reduce portfolio volatility. However, I have basically zero bonds because they are losers’ bet in an inflationary environment. I believe long term bonds of 10 years or greater are guaranteed to lose money after inflation. Stocks are hedges against inflation, while bonds do the best in a deflationary environment. The dividends of stocks can go up along with inflation, while the interest payout of bonds are fixed.

Trading dividend stocks can be tricky because most of them are interest rate sensitive. I didn’t realize this until I lost almost 20% in a stock when US Federal Reserve began interest rate hiking in 2004. After that, I can pretty much quantify the effect of interest rate on a dividend stock:

yield premium (or risk) = current yield – safest yield (usually as 10-year treasury bond yield).

The yield premium for a given stock is usually fixed but can change gradually. When Fed started to raise interest rate in 2004, the forward expection of safest yield suddenly jumped. Since the yield premium is about the same, it means the current yield must increase, and therefore the stock price had to fall. Let me use an example. If a stock is paying 7%, while 10-year bond is trading at 4%, the yield premium is 3%. Assumes that the expectation of 10-year bond goes from 4% to 5%, the stock should be yielding 8% instead of 7%. Assumes that the stock usually pays out $7 of dividend, and trades at $100 (7% yield). Since the absolute amount of the dividend doesn’t increase immediately, and is still $7, to get to 8% dividend yield on the same stock, the stock needs to fall by 1 – 7% / 8% = 12.5%, to $87.5. At $87.5, a $7 dividend will give you 8% dividend yield.

Once there was a Smith Barney financial advisor who attempted to trick me out of my dividend stocks to be invested with him, and told me that they trade like bonds. Well, yes, he was right, but not right enough. I immediately told him that some of my dividend stocks yield more than 12%, and at a 12% yield, the stock will just fall 7.7% for a 1% interest rise in treasury bond. And if I was getting 12% yield, I wouldn’t care about the 7.7% fall, since I will still net 4.3% positive return.

Most of my dividends come from foreign stocks. Part of the reason is because US stocks simply don’t have good dividends to beat inflation rate on an after-tax basis. The other reason is that dividend payouts in foreign currency will increase in value when $US fall. Furthermore, your capital in foreign stock which is based in foreign currency will also preserve its value when $US falls.

Furthermore, most of my dividend stocks have at least one of the following characteristics:

  1. The company is growing, and dividends are increasing.
  2. The company is in an industry that will benefit from inflation directly, such as energy production companies. On the other hand, utility companies such as Edison, which are unable or slow to pass the inflated cost to customers, are not a good bet.
  3. The company is based in a country with a strong currency, but their products must either have a strong pricing power in the global market, or localized in the local economy. Otherwise, a strong currency will only raise the cost, without a corresponding increase in the revenue.

I will follow up this post with other types of “dividends” which are either legally tax-free, or close to tax-free. Have you ever filed federal tax Form 8271 Investor Reporting of Tax Shelter Registration Number? If not, maybe you have missed out something. Man, is this the secret of wealthy people or what? Receiving cash payout like dividends, but without paying much taxes at all! Finally, I found out about these deals in the last three years.

Readers’ notes: Here is the entire dividend investing series.

  1. Master Limited Partnership – Great Dividend Savers
  2. Royalty Trusts – Get Paid Royalties w/o Paying (Much) Taxes
  3. REIT as an Alternative Dividend Investment
  4. List of High Yield Dividend Stocks (Up to 18.6%)
  5. Foreign Taxes Withheld Problem (this is not part of the series, but most likely you will face the same problem.)

A Trip To Other Personal Finance Blogs

I am a relatively new blogger, and have been too busy blogging. The past two weeks I decided that I want to pay some tributes to all of my fellow personal finance bloggers, all of them are both my dear fellows and my fierce competitors. In fact, I really wish that I had more time to visit as many sites as I could, and read as many articles as I could. Unfortunately, time is the only one thing that you just can’t buy more. I have been really staying up late until 2am, and getting up really early in the morning, sometimes 5am for either my 9-month old baby or for my blog. My wife said that this will be one of the most stupid and/or the least profitable venture that I undertake in my life. I kind of agree, but still hope to prove her wrong. Yeah, so far, after 49 posts almost daily in about a month and half, I have finally earned some $5 from AdSense. I don’t even want to calculate my hourly rate on that. However, I’m pretty proud of myself of what I have achieved so far on my blog.

Actually, I must confess here that I should have visited all of my fellows’ sites long time ago, and more often too. But I rushed my website out before April 17 tax deadline, because I had been working day & night for almost two months on perfecting my java codes to get the tax, housing, and retirement calculators to work. I simply don’t want them to “miss” the tax deadline, and be left in oblivion. Well, you know what happened. Limbo is where they belong, as least right now. Once my PF site was up and running. It’s like there was no turning back. It’s post after post after post, and daily scratching of my head and hoping that another great white rabbit will jump out. Is this the blogger’s life or rather no-life? Well, as you can see from my website, that there hasn’t been much time spent on graphics or aethestic appeals and very few ads. But since this is a blog, I am determined to be disciplined, and stick to roughly one post per day no matter what. I will fix up my website as time goes on. Okay, enough of my confession, I want to share my random personal finance web surfing with you:

Hey, Clint, if you’re still out there, my sharing proposal to you still stands. I haven’t deleted the account that I created for you, and you know the password. Send me an email if you lost it and need it.

I admire every site that I have visited or will be visiting. All the PF bloggers out there are the most hard-working people that I’ve ever encountered. Having coming so far as to have a PF website, already puts the owners of the blogs as one of the rarest breed among the general population. I will collect the best articles on various PF sites, and put out a link post as time goes on. But if you are in the list of pfblogs.org, you can surely count on my visit. Big or small, new or old, I admire you all. (On my last count, I still yet to visit 59 PF sites that have pfblog star attached to it. And I haven’t counted several hundred others that don’t have stars.)

P.S. By the way, I sincerely apologize to anyone who is offended by the name of my website. I never intended to piss off any of my dear fellows. It was simply a marketing whiz based on a true story. And for the lack of a better name, I picked it. As you are aware of, there are so just certain financial words and permutations. And so many creative names are already picked and assembled. Mine probably ranked quite low for the creativity.

Shady Tactics: Check Your Receipt

I’m not sure if supermarket business is now so tough that Vons/Pavillion/Safeway are resorting to some shady tactics. I have been running into instances where the shoppers can easily end up much bigger bill than expected:

  1. Very similar items that are not on-sale will be placed together with on-sale items. Unless you read the description of the item closely, you will often pick up the items that are not on-sale.
  2. On-sale items are very specific to sub-types under the same brand. If you pick up orange juice instead of grape juice for OceanSpray brand, you won’t get the sale price.
  3. Mis-placed tags or mis-placed items will cause you to pick up items that are not on-sale, when you think that you are getting a good deal. The description can match very closely, except for the brand.
  4. Prices are simply not correct at the check-out.

If you don’t check your receipt and/or roughly calculate what you are buying, 9 out of 10 times you will walk out the store with a bigger bill without knowing it. There are no other ways besides checking your receipt and read the price tag description carefully when you shop.