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Below you'll find my personal blog
with my own random thoughts.


All information is accurate at the time of posting. Be sure to consult your tax or other financial advisers before making any major financial decisions. Talk to your doctor before changing diet or exercise. Any suggestions are given in good faith based on my own life experiences. Your results depend on a number of factors and cannot be predicted or guaranteed.

I Can No Longer Recommend Ing Direct

posted Nov 29, 2013, 1:37 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Nov 29, 2013, 1:47 PM ]


For years I have recommended that my friends and family bank online with Ing, especially when they complain about overdraft and other fees at their banks. Sadly I can no longer recommend Ing Direct. Here's why...

Ing Direct was acquired by Capital One and is now known as CapitalOne360. After spending most of this year with CapitalOne360, I can confidently recommend them just as I have Ing in the  past.

Why am I bringing this up now?
  1. I wanted to experience life with CapitalOne360 before I could honestly recommend it.
  2. Right now is the best time to join because they are having their annual Black Friday sale and are giving away the most money for opening an account.
Banking online is not for everyone, but for me it works perfectly. I'm not suggesting you give up your brick and mortar bank. They provide services that no online bank can. CapitalOne360 is the perfect place to start that second account to sock away money for a rainy day, or even for a sunny one.

I used to work for a bank, so I know how their business model works. They are worth more when they have more of your money. They train their employees to take all your money. Yes, it's your money, but they use your money to make even more. Then they charge you fees.

More than one friend has complained to me about bank fees. Bank customers complained to me about bank fees. That's how banks work, right? Bank fees are a fact of life. Overdraft fees are the worst, especially when you get more than one at a time. Overdraft fees tend to come in bunches. We have all mixed up our math at one point or another.

CapitalOne360 does not charge fees. They pay you for the privilege of holding your money. That's how it should be. I agree with this so strongly that in 2011, I gave up my Wells Fargo account and now bank exclusively with CapitalOne360. I make check deposits with my phone and get cash at more ATMs than your bank likely allows.

Most will not be able to do this, but it doesn't hurt to try CapitalOne360 and take advantage of the following Black Friday deals.
  1. Open a checking account by 12/2/13 and earn $125.
  2. Open a savings account by 12/2/13 and earn $75.
  3. Open a kids savings or Money account to earn $25.
  4. Open Share Builder or take out a home loan for other bonuses.
  5. Refer a friend. If two people use my referral link: CapitalOne360 by 12/2/2013, I get $100. Same goes for you.
Keep in mind, these accounts are all free and do not charge fees. They pay you interest. Isn't that how it's supposed to be? Thank you for using my referral link.




Now I Have an iPad

posted May 5, 2012, 5:49 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated May 5, 2012, 9:43 PM ]


In my last post, I shared how I learned from my dad about looking past marketing, packaging and other B.S. in order to make the best decisions with spending money. I closed by saying that I have held out on buying an iPad because I didn't need one. I could think of a thousand things I'd rather spend money on than one of these.

I say one of these because I'm typing this post on it. My boss must have seen that last post, or perhaps nature or God was working in mysterious ways. The very next day after I posted, she sent me a message to tell me that she never uses her iPad and sees no need for it, concluding that it would be better off with me. (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU if you are reading this one)

Now that I have had it for a few days, I do see it's value. That doesn't mean I would have rather spent my own money on it though. While it is an awesome communication and entertainment device, I don't think it's a must have for every household. 

My HTC Droid Incredible that I got for free with upgrade (well I got the replacement for it on eBay for $80 after it shattered) does just about everything the iPad does and fits in my pocket. These are strong arguments against dropping minimum $500 on one of these aside from the larger screen. 

These are a few things I like better on my HTC Phone :
  1. Sharing. I had no idea that iOS made it so difficult to share things (aside from on Twitter). On Android, wherever you are, you can hit "Menu" and "Share" to post links, videos, photos and more to any number of social networking sites or even mail apps. iOS will share to mail as well, but through the main mail app only, not a third party app like Gmail or Yahoo. By the way, as of today, there is no Yahoo Mail app for iPad anyway. 
  2. Integration. Mac people will like that their iOS device syncs well across the Apple lineup. As a Google based person, I like how Android syncs well with everything Google without even trying. All my pictures, videos and music are synced with the cloud without taking up valuable space on my phone . Yes there is iCloud for Mac, but their limits for free storage are much lower. 
  3. Ease of use. I must be joking, right? An iPhone is the most basic smart phone out there. The apps all show up on your home screen. They're simple to add and even easier to delete. I say android is easier because of features one level up from the basics. Everything from setting musical ringtones to syncing contacts with Facebook is much easier on Android.
  4. No iTunes. Google took my iTunes account to the cloud. My entire music library is available on my phone without worrying about how much space I have available. No updating my iTunes! 
My iPad lock screen:
My iPad lock screen posted to Twitter.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the iPad"s large screen and massive selection of applications. In addition to choosing from more apps, iOS users tend to get the most popular ones well ahead their friends on Android. I remember seeing friends on Words with Friends and Instagram a year before I had access to those apps on my phone . That argument alone may be enough to sell you. 

Bottom line is that I'm more than happy to be able to choose from either. I'm glad my phone is Android so I can continue to share with ease, and I'm glad to have an iPad in order to have access to the hottest apps and to see what my daughter sends me in emoji characters. ✌

The Gentleman's Rant


Yes, I hate it. Yes, I must have one.



The Dukes of Hazzard, Kmart and My Dad

posted Apr 27, 2012, 5:11 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated May 5, 2012, 6:04 AM ]


When I was my son’s age (6 or 7), my world was The Dukes of Hazzard. I had Dukes toys, bed sheets, a birthday party and more. There was just something about that orange car, the General Lee, flying through the air. I can hear it now. “Yee Haw!”

General Lee by Johnny Cash

Every time we visited a store, I enjoyed looking through the toy section (still do). I can recall so clearly to this day one trip to Kmart with the family. While my mom and brother were in another aisle, I was admiring a Hot Wheels sized General Lee. I had plenty of Hot Wheels and loved playing with them all the time, but I had no General Lee in my collection. I immediately wanted it and showed it to my dad.

If you have read some of my other posts, you may recall that my dad was pretty good with money. He may have had some flaws, but finance was not one of them. His sound saving and investing has helped take care of my family to this day, nearly 25 years after his passing.
Insurance for Your Children from GerberLife

Well, my dad thought this car I was enamored with was the silliest thing in the store. Because it was a General Lee, it was priced much higher than other cars, and he did not see the difference. “You want this little thing?” he questioned. “It’s just a little car. Why would you want to spend so much for this?”

Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe it was the way he was asking, but I did want that little car. I thought it would be a perfect fit in my collection. I had visions of soaring over my other cars and zooming around dirt tracks in our backyard. “Yes. Yes I do want it. Please?”

He got a little frustrated at that point and proceeded to rip open the package. Then he held the car up to me to show me that once it was open, it wasn’t so special. It was just another toy car. I slowly understood what he was saying, but my little heart was broken. Didn’t he understand how I felt about the Duke boys?

What he showed me was that in the grand scheme of life, we have to look past all the packaging and merchandising to see what we were really spending our money on. If we bought that car and never opened it, it may have been a good investment. I was going to play with it until broken or lost. That made it a liability. My dad thought like Robert Kiyosaki’s "Rich" Dad.

The Dukes of Hazzard was a masterfully crafted piece of marketing. The entire program was designed to keep viewers tuned in and buying merchandise. Why do you think the car was orange? Look how memorable it was and is. Even as an adult, I was excited to see one at the Johnny Cash Festival a couple years ago:
I also had a thing for Daisy Duke’s Jeep and have had my own Jeep for nearly 20 years now. I guess their master plan worked.

A few years ago, I watched Season One of the Dukes of Hazzard on DVD. It was fun and nostalgic to revisit the old show. Looking back now though, I can see what my dad saw. It really was pretty cheesy.

Has the world gotten increasingly commercialized since this early 80s hit? In short, yes. We are surrounded not only by advertising messages from companies looking for our dollars, but also by entertainment options that focus on well to do characters, fictional and non, who seem to have an endless supply of money. Not just reality TV, which as we all know, glorifies the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but also casual radio, TV viewing or websites. Characters and hosts casually mention the restaurants they ate at the night before or the latest products they can’t wait to get ahold of.

What are we supposed to do? I try to see it all the way my dad did. I try to look past the marketing, the fancy wrapper, the jealousy and the hype. I try, but sometimes I just want an iPad (for example). I don’t even like Apple that much. I can hardly tolerate iTunes for more than a few minutes. I can’t explain it. Lucky for me, I can still think back to that day in Kmart and tell myself that my life is fine without one.

UPDATE: As of two days after this post, I now have an iPad. Go figure.


My Anniversary

posted Apr 26, 2012, 3:32 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Apr 27, 2012, 11:27 AM ]


Today is my 14th wedding anniversary. As I look back through those 14 years and the five years we were together before, I recall so many fun memories. Yes, there have been ups and downs, sicknesses and health, richers and poorers, but we continue stronger than ever to this day.

We know that relationships are daily commitments filled with countless decisions. We both understand that our relationship will be only as good as the effort we put into it. As Paul McCartney told Chris Farley, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

OK I know that line came from before that. Just a comedy homage to Mr. Farley.

Our song from our movie:



Our song comes from the movie we saw on our first “unofficial” date. The Proclaimers “I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)” from Benny and Joon. Funny how the lyrics make more sense the older we get...

When I wake up yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you
When I go out yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who goes along with you

If I get drunk yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you
And if I haver yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's havering to you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

When I'm working yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's working hard for you
And when the money comes in for the work I'll do
I'll pass almost every penny on to you

When I come home yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who comes back home to you
And if I grow old well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's growing old with you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

When I'm lonely yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who’s lonely without you
When I'm dreaming yes I know I'm gonna dream
Dream about the time when I'm with you.

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/onehitwonders/imgonnabe500mileslyrics.html

Saving and Spending Early in Life

posted Apr 25, 2012, 9:26 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Apr 25, 2012, 10:11 AM ]


In an earlier post, I left off with my teenage savings account accumulating $25 per month but going nowhere. My mom started me on the right path by setting me up with the account, but I never picked up on how or why to save. Hey, what teenager would?
Before long, I was transferring money back to my checking account to cover teenage expenses. I saw the meager savings totals and questioned the point of it all. Whenever I got a lump sum of money, I was quick to spend it because I had no base savings to add it to.
I really have no one to blame but myself for this start in life. I guess no matter how many times we're shown something, we still do need to make our own mistakes and learn our lessons. Seems like personal pain or struggle sticks better than lectures. Back then I thought it was all about wearing name brand clothes or driving new cars and didn't care about the long term costs of each dollar I spent. 

I can't believe how excited I was when Jack Weber Nissan "let me" drive home in my new 1994 Sentra SE-R. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I had it made living at home, paying no rent and actually told people I would rather drive a nice car than live in a fancy house. What was I thinking? My job at the time barely covered the car payment, gas and insurance! I'll probably elaborate on this experience later on.

Now I know that I can own nice things, with a sound financial plan. The pain of paying extra for things taught me the value of saving and owning over borrowing to get what I can't afford.

What are you saving for?

Some people simply save for the sake of saving. Let's say you've gotten past step one and figured out a budget to save $100 per month or some percentage of your income. What inspires you to stick to it? What happens if your neighbor gets the latest model of this or that, the new housing development in that nicer part of town finally opens their beautifully decorated models? What if word gets around that you have a little money put away, and someone needs just a little help to get by. Nothing kills a savings plan faster than a new loan payment or a family emergency. It's too easy to fall back into "paycheck-to-paycheck" mode, struggling to get by.


With knowledge, support and discipline, anyone can attain financial freedom (yes, even working for "the man").

First, educate yourself on ways to save money, either by cutting expenses or, heck, why not by increasing your income? Look for budgeting books at your library. By the way, libraries are perfect for cutting costs! Researching the web for knowledge doesn't cost money either.
Remember: Google is your friend.

Beware of advertising on most websites. Plenty of examples on this very page! You could easily click your way deeper in debt looking for financial freedom! A favorite free budgeting site I use, Mint.com, lets you plan and monitor your spending.  

Mint.com  is a good start for support, but you need people behind you as well. Be sure your family is on board and stick with advisers who look out for your best interests - not those of the bank or insurance company!

Finally, the key to it all is discipline. Remember, YOU have the ultimate say of what you spend your money on.

Don't be a "Slacker!"


In future posts, I'll break down ways to increase knowledge, find support and stay disciplined, including sharing how I found trusted advisers who helped me as well as a few who were looking out for their bonuses.
Recommended Reading:
Rich Kid Smart Kid: Giving Your Child a Financial Head Start

What Would You Do With Apple's $100 Billion?

posted Apr 24, 2012, 8:38 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Apr 25, 2012, 10:13 AM ]


I know, in order to spend $100 billion, first you have to make that $100 billion. I guess that makes it easy for us "have nots" to tell them what to do with it.

If you're a shareholder, you most likely would want that money back before spending it on something from the video below, but it can be fun to dream!

Personally, I'd suggest they make iTunes a little less annoying. Seems like I need to update every time I log in. Ha ha!

In the meantime, keep having fun with your iPads, iPhones and iPods.

What would you do? Share with me in the comments below.



Why Does Your Money Bucket Leak?

posted Apr 22, 2012, 9:07 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Apr 25, 2012, 10:13 AM ]


Don't feel bad if the following happens to you, because it happens to most people. You finally commit yourself to save money by putting it in the "money bucket" (your savings account). You know, it's the one you signed up for when you got your checking account. Maybe a New Year's resolution or a nice big tax return inspires you to begin, but for some reason, the pattern doesn't last long. Soon your money bucket springs a leak and becomes a fund to tap into when unexpected expenses arise. Soon those unexpected expenses become regular ones.

Why does your money bucket leak?

It leaks because it's a flawed system! Your savings and checking accounts are linked. When the bank sets you up with an automatic savings plan (ASP), they say they want to help you save. That's partially true because they want all your money (more on that later), yet easy access to your funds sets you up to fail at saving. ASPs are a great idea, because your savings grow while you sleep.

One of my favorite quotes from Ronco's rotisserie cooker is, "Set it & forget it," but most people don't follow through with the second part. They set it and spend it.

Your savings account becomes an extension of your checking account. When an unplanned expense arises, it's too easy to dip into savings to cover costs. By socking away a little at a time, I've saved hundreds, even thousands in the past, only to spend it on the latest electronic wonder or a vacation I couldn't afford. Hey, I didn't call it my business VacationTax.com for nothing!

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Think about a time you committed to saving. Maybe you had a goal or a big purchase you were planning for. What did you end up spending the money on? Where is it now?

Of the countless reasons people stop saving, two stand out as regular causes of the leaky bucket:
  1. Lack of a savings plan
  2. For those who do plan, failure to stick to budgeted expenses.
Without a plan it's easy to get discouraged. What are you saving for? Retirement? You may want to re-think your strategy...here's why: 
My first ASP set up by my bank (when I was 16 years old) automatically transferred $25 from my checking account to my savings account on the 15th of each month. Why did the banker set me up with this? Not to help me save for retirement, a car, college or anything at all. He was helping me get a free savings account. That's right, my banker, my trusted adviser in his suit and tie, wasn't really advising me at all. Bankers are there to open accounts. I was saving, but how much could I possibly save at $300 per year?

What do you do when your trusted advisers don't have your best interests in mind? How do you plug the leaks in your money bucket? Subscribe or keep checking back for more!

Comments

Recommended reading:
The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich

Getting Rich Working for the Man

posted Apr 20, 2012, 11:31 AM by Jeff Wagner


Five O'clock World


The other day I read a newspaper article about a 60 some year old lady going through a world of trouble because of her increasing health insurance costs. On her fixed income from Social Security and other sources, any change means giving up something in life. She already gave up going out for dinner and movies as well as so many other "luxuries" we may take for granted. She didn't have much left to sacrifice! I rarely read the newspaper to avoid sad stories like this. I know it's supposed to call you to action to fight the big evil insurance companies, but I looked at it a different way. 

Get 20% off $25 in movie tickets when you use your Visa Signature card.

I don't subscribe to the paper. I read the article at my mother's house, so I immediately thought of my own mom. Last month she celebrated her (ahem) 60th birthday, but she already retired a few years ago. No she didn't leave work for some injury or layoff or anything like that. Her passive income allowed her to cover her expenses, so she figured it was a good time to leave. Before you think she was blessed to work in some high paying career, I want to let you know she worked for 30+years as a grocery checker.

Don't get me wrong; I have tons of respect for that position. My grandfather was a butcher, my uncle delivered cookies, and my dad sold anything from Dolly Madison cakes (remember those) to linoleum & carpet. I come from a line of worker bees, but these jobs, with all their little rewards and perks here and there (think free cookies), are monotonous, labor intensive jobs. They all performed well on the clock, but while many of their coworkers lived paycheck to paycheck, they were planning for their future.

I haven't yet mentioned that my dad passed away nearly 20 years before my mom retired. Most of my financial knowledge comes from the 12 years or so I was lucky to have my dad around. He was a good dad, maybe not the best parent in the world, but he was practically a genius with money and investments. Sure I wore shoes from Payless ShoeSource©, but I'll trade that any day for struggling in old age.

In future posts, I'll share more tips from the rich, but the realistic "retire early" ideas come from the foundation he laid that helped a widowed single mom retire ahead of schedule. That's really what you want, right? To have your passive income outweigh your expenses, so you can retire from the workforce forever - All from working for "The Man."
Recommended reading:

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!



Money Traps

posted Apr 19, 2012, 9:29 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Apr 19, 2012, 9:35 AM ]


For most of us, the best way to accumulate wealth and attain financial freedom is (believe it or not) by working hard, saving what we earn and investing wisely. Yes you can get rich working for "The Man." People think you need to start your own business, win the lottery or luck into some inheritance to become financially secure. Not only is that not true, you could end up the opposite of rich if any of those happen to you...as long as you can avoid the "money traps."

I've met quite a few business owners, and the majority work tirelessly and continuously on or in their businesses. One of my closest friends invested his life savings into a few investments, including his own retail store. Business started out OK, but as the economy turned, he had to work more & more. Last year he had to lay off his one employee and now works full time at his shop. He works more than ever for less than ever and has lost the ability to nurture other investments. Financially free people don't need to work for their businesses. Their businesses work for them.

People think winning the lottery or gaining an inheritance brings financial freedom. How often have you heard the sad but classic tale of the lottery winner who lost his fortune on bad investment or ill planned purchase? Fast fame often accompanies fast riches. Friends and relatives find you before you realize how much money you have. They may even sincerely believe they have the answer to riches aside from a somewhat small investment from you. I don't want to focus too much on this path to riches because it's the least likely. My goal with even mentioning these is to make sure you invest as little as possible here. Building wealth on a budget takes every dollar you can get your hands on.

With knowledge, support and discipline, the rest of us have a chance for financial freedom too. The problem with those of us who are fortunate to save a little, something comes along to take it away. People approach us all the time with financial needs or investment ideas; however, we tend to notice them most often when we have a little to invest. Sometimes our own wants & needs come up. We easily become the proverbial fool who is soon parted with his money. Those who go into debt for these wants & needs suffer worse. Is instant gratification worth paying double or more?

I compare this to a leaky bucket. We think if we save our money in a bucket, we'll eventually add enough to retire or be financially free, but the math never adds up. How can you save enough to be rich if A. your budget doesn't allow you to save, or B. Whenever you manage to save a little, an expense seems to suck it all away? The money bucket leaks!

Don't give up on me yet! I know the picture seems bleak, but as we continue, you'll learn that you can debunk the myth that you can't get rich working for someone else. In fact, you'll learn that it's the most surefire way to do it!

The first leak I recommend you fix is your bank. If your bank is not paying you to hold your money, you need to find another bank. Once I had a free account at a bank that rhymes with Bells Cargo thanks to a deal with a former employer. When I left the company, I also left that bank because I didn't want to pay for something I had been getting for free.

I moved to Ing not just because they offer free checking, but because they PAY interest on checking. That's right, they pay me for my checking account. I used to work at a bank, I know how much money they make off of your money. They should pay you because it's your money. Do your own homework. Google is your friend. Just type "Free Checking."

In a future post, I'll share a little more about why I love  Ing. If you want to get a head start there, they offer a $25 bonus to open an account. Submit the comment form below, and I'll send you a referral link.

Comments


Recommended reading:
The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich



What's Up With This?

posted Apr 18, 2012, 5:36 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Apr 18, 2012, 5:48 AM ]


So here's another guy telling you how to get rich quick. He wants a few dollars (anywhere from $5 to $5,000) to share his secrets with you. You do your homework and learn that this guy has made a fortune in real estate, casino gambling or selling his internet start-up. What a great person to learn from; a regular Horatio Alger. Do you wonder why if this person is so rich & living so comfortably, is he selling you some book or seminar?

Maybe he’s not so rich. Financial planners get paid to advise you how to invest your money. I would assume they are doing well because they're following their own advice. But what about if they're just starting out? I've had friends try their luck at brokering stocks and the like. It's a lot more like "Pursuit of Happyness" than "Wall Street." As for that tycoon, that's just the rich getting richer. That course or book you bought just made it happen a little more quickly.

I have no motive other than to share and perhaps help. I sell no products that help people become financially secure. I do have some ads, but that's just me trying to cover costs...maybe a few pennies here & there. I'm a salesman, a web marketer, and a one time tax preparer. One thing I know a lot about is how not to get rich. I can share those ideas like crazy.

I do remember a time in my life when things were going pretty well. I was young and financially secure, but there were a few key decisions that I made, that impeded me from being set for life. I can pinpoint one or two events in my financial history that would have given me the financial freedom my family deserves, but I chose the opposite.

Life has taught me some valuable yet painful lessons. In this blog, I plan to share these lessons with the world in hopes of helping others make sound financial decisions. Pretty much everything you do in life comes down to a decision. I'm talking about decisions like eating well, avoiding drugs, driving safely and so on. Of equal importance should be deciding to use money wisely.

This says it all:

Not just saving money for the sake of saving it, but making it work for you. Knowledge, support and discipline will lead to financial freedom. Do you want a wake up call? Where were you financially 10 years ago? Where are you now? What have you changed? If you change nothing, where will you be in 10 years? How about 20?

With this post, I'm launching  online workshop of getting (as Robert Kiyosaki puts it) out of the rat race. This is not a get rich quick plan, but it most definitely is a get rich plan. If you want to try it your way, no problem...I hope I've helped a little. If you want to see what my experts and I have to say, stick around. Check back often for updates!

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