Archives For March 2008

Last week, I recieved the following email from Google:

Dear site owner or webmaster of,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here: This appears to be because your site has been modified by a third party. Typically, the offending party gains access to an insecure directory that has open permissions. Many times, they will upload files or modify existing ones, which then show up as spam in our index.

The following is some example hidden text we found at

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In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, we have temporarily removed some of your webpages from our search results. Currently pages from are scheduled to be removed for at least 30 days.

We would prefer to have your pages in Google’s index. If you wish to be reconsidered, please correct or remove all pages (may not be limited to the examples provided) that are outside our quality guidelines. One potential remedy is to contact your web host technical support for assistance. For more information about security for webmasters, see

When you are ready, please visit to learn more and submit your site for reconsideration.

Google Search Quality Team

They were right, a hacker inserted a bunch of hidden urls on my blog*. I deleted them as soon as I found out about it but it was too late. Google had already removed me from their index. The result has been a significant drop in traffic:

Revenues are off too.

I followed all their directions and resubmitted my blog but their website says it could take WEEKS before my blog is back in their index. That stinks. It would have been nice if Google could have given me advance warning before they took such a drastic step. I understand that their system is probably fully automated but I hate the fact that they are so quick to take the action of deleting my blog and so slow to add it back.

Also, it would be cool for Word Press to require some sort of authorization when a template is changed.

Two good things have come out of this situation (remember, I’m trying to practice thanksliving):

1. I upgraded my blogging software. I normally don’t mess with stuff when it’s working. The downtime gave me an opportunity to try something new.

2. Trent told me about a sitemap plugin that is AWESOME! Thanks, Trent.

Finally, if any of you lovely readers have a contact at Google, PLEASE put in a good word for me!

*NOTE: I found the links at the bottom of my page template. You’ll know them when you see them as it will be a long list of links.

UPDATE: Somewhere around 12:00 PM on April 1, 2008, I started getting traffic from Google. This is GREAT news!

To Save or Not To Save

March 31, 2008

There is one basic difference between those who save and those who don’t.

We Savers (if you’re reading this you likely fall into that category) spend much of our free time reading and perhaps even writing about finance. We track our spending, set annual goals, and excitedly check our 401k balances periodically to see how much they’ve increased. Generally Savers would rather have a cushy emergency fund than the latest designer shoes or electronic gadgets.

Non-Savers like to compete with the Jones’, blow their bonuses and tax refunds on luxury vacations, and are comfortable taking on debt if it means having the latest cars, clothes, or toys. They’re much too busy enjoying life to worry about boring things like credit scores and debt-to-income ratios. Generally Non-Savers would rather splurge than put their cash in the bank.

The difference between these two types is not based on personality, education level, job satisfaction, or the ability to understand compound interest. It’s this: Savers value freedom of choice more than toys. This sentence struck me when reading a particularly interesting article on Yahoo! Finance this morning.

Savers often harshly judge their counterparts, righteously classifying them as lazy, indulgent, ignorant, even immoral. But that usually isn’t the case when you meet individuals who lack the motivation to save. I have friends who are hardworking, energetic, good people – who also don’t think twice about passing up a 401k match or financing new clothes – long term! – on a credit card. I, on the other hand, get antsy when my emergency fund drops below $5,000.

This doesn’t make me better, but it does draw a line in the sand with regard to priorities and values. Non-Savers are comfortable living for the moment and having to rely on others if push comes to shove. Savers strongly value financial independence and having options – and they know those things don’t come without some serious financial assets. Savers don’t want their standard of living to be determined by spouses, parents, or the government. They don’t want to resign themselves to jobs just to pay the bills. I for one want to go to sleep every night knowing that if I really want to, I can wake up and start traveling the world.

These are generalizations of course. Many people don’t save because they can’t afford to; others save only because they make far more money than they could possibly spend. But I’m talking about attitude and values, not actual bank balances. Of course then it gets even more dicey – to what extent can we choose our values? Some people go through specific experiences that deeply ingrain values, along with saving or non-saving tendencies – such as living through the Great Depression, or being born with a $20M trust fund.

For the rest of us it may be difficult to pinpoint the origin of the values that shape our savings habits. Whether you choose to be a Saver is likely the result of of a multitude of experiences and beliefs that shape your outlook. It’s interesting to analyze about yourself and an important thing to understand about others.

In any case, it’s important to seek a balance between the two mentalities. It’s no better to live on a shoestring and die with millions in the bank than it is to never save a dime. I’ll be the first Saver to admit to and justify periodic splurges, though my desire for financial freedom usually outweighs my (very real) desire for the latest fashions, to eat out every other night, and to become a regular down at the spa.

I know I might save and save and never actually achieve total financial freedom; and non-savers may be rewarded with good luck and/or handouts. But I sleep better knowing that I’m on my way, that my choices are growing along with my savings, and that no one else has to worry about paying my share.

More from Meg at The World of Wealth

While working on another post, I became reacquainted with Morningstar‘s Investing Classroom, an AWESOME resource for investors. Below is a listing of every class in the classroom series, divided into four categories: stocks, funds, portfolio, and bonds. You can start from the beginning and move your way through or you can just pick a topic that interests you and go from there. It’s very cool.



101: Stocks Versus Other Investments
102: The Magic of Compounding
103: Investing for the Long Run
104: What Matters and What Doesn’t
105: The Purpose of a Company
106: Gathering Relevant Information
107: Introduction to Financial Statements
108: Learn the Lingo–Basic Ratios

201: Stocks and Taxes
202: Using Financial Services Wisely
203: Understanding the News
204: Start Thinking Like an Analyst
205: Economic Moats
206: More on Competitive Positioning
207: Weighing Management Quality

301: The Income Statement
302: The Balance Sheet
303: The Statement of Cash Flows
304: Interpreting the Numbers
305: Quantifying Competitive Advantages

401: Understanding Value
402: Using Ratios and Multiples
403: Introduction to Discounted Cash Flow
404: Putting DCF into Action
405: The Fat-Pitch Strategy
406: Using Morningstar’s Rating for Stocks
407: Psychology and Investing
408: The Case for Dividends
409: The Dividend Drill

501: Constructing a Portfolio
502: Introduction to Options
503: Unconventional Equities
504: Great Investors: Benjamin Graham
505: Great Investors: Philip Fisher
506: Great Investors: Warren Buffett
507: Great Investors: Peter Lynch
508: Great Investors: Others in the Hall of Fame
509: 20 Stock-Investing Tips


101: What a Mutual Fund Is
102: What NAV Is
103: Finding a Fund’s Total Return
104: Mutual Funds and Taxes
105: How to Purchase a Fund
106: Methods for Investing in Mutual Funds
107: Fund Costs
108: Important Fund Documents, Part 1
109: Important Fund Documents, Part 2

201: Five Questions to Ask before Buying a Fund
202: How to Benchmark Fund Returns
203: Looking at Historical Risk, Part 1
204: Looking at Historical Risk, Part 2
205: Gauging Risk and Return Together, Part 1
206: Gauging Risk and Return Together, Part 2
207: Examining a Stock Fund’s Portfolio, Part 1
208: Examining a Stock Fund’s Portfolio, Part 2
209: Why Knowing Your Manager Matters
210: Your First Fund’s Qualities
211: Good First–and Maybe Only–Funds

301: Why Diversify?
302: Building Your Mutual-Fund Portfolio
303: Choosing an Index Fund
304: Choosing Socially Responsible Funds
305: Choosing an International Fund, Part 1
306: Choosing an International Fund, Part 2
307: Examining a Bond Fund’s Portfolio, Part 1
308: Examining a Bond Fund’s Portfolio, Part 2
309: Choosing a Municipal-Bond Fund

401: Shades of Value
402: Shades of Growth
403: Using Focused Funds
404: Style-Box-Specific versus Flexible Funds
405: Mid-Cap Funds: The Small-Cap Substitute?
406: Sector-Fund Investing
407: Using Quirky Bond Funds
408: Bear-Proofing Your Portfolio
409: The Plight of the Fickle Investor
410: Chasing Closing Funds
411: Buying the Unloved
412: Buying Rookie Funds

501: Avoiding Portfolio Overlap
502: Fund Warning Signs
503: Where and Why Asset Size Matters
504: When to Sell a Fund
505: Rebalancing Your Portfolio
506: Calculating Your Personal Rate of Return
507: Calculating Your Cost Basis
508: Is Your Retirement Portfolio on Track?
509: Refining Your Portfolio


101: Steps to a Suitable Portfolio
102: Determining Your Goals and What They’ll Cost
103: How Much Risk Can You Tolerate?
104: Building Your Emergency Fund
105: Determining Your Asset Mix
106: Core vs. Noncore Investments
107: A Simple Portfolio
108: Creating Your Investment Policy Statement
109: How Many Investments Should You Have?
110: Avoiding Overlap When Building a Portfolio

201: How to Juggle Different Investment Goals
202: 401(k) Plans
203: 403(b) Plans
204: Individual Retirement Accounts
205: The Best Investments for Tax-Deferred Accounts
206: The Best Investments for Taxable Accounts
207: Investing in Your Company’s Stock
208: How to Invest for Short-Term Goals
209: How to Invest for Intermediate-Term Goals
210: How to Invest for College

301: How to Monitor Your Portfolio, Part 1
302: How to Monitor Your Portfolio, Part 2
303: When to Sell an Investment
304: Strategies for Selling
305: Rebalancing Your Portfolio
306: Getting More Aggressive
307: Getting More Conservative
308: Adding Mutual Funds to a Stock Portfolio
309: Adding Stocks to a Fund Portfolio
310: How to Withdraw from Your Portfolio in Retirement

401: Variable Annuities
402: Closed-End Funds, Hedge Funds, and UITs
403: Exchange-Traded Funds
404: Using Sector Funds in a Portfolio
405: Investing in IPOs
406: Gold’s Role in a Portfolio
407: Real Estate’s Role in a Portfolio
408: Futures and Options
409: Short Selling
410: Income Alternatives for Retirees

501: Why Bother with Investment Theory?
502: Efficient Market Theory
503: Modern Portfolio Theory
504: Asset Allocation Is “It”
505: Can Foreign Stocks Really Diversify a Portfolio?
506: Value: The “Better” Approach?
507: Measuring Mutual-Fund Manager Skill
508: The Small-Company Advantage: Fact or Fiction?
509: The Demise of Dividends
510: Behavioral Finance


101: Bond Market Interest Rates
102: Bond Duration
103: Buying Bonds
104: Immunization
105: The Process of Issuing Bonds
106: The Role of Collateral
107: Secured and Unsecured Bonds
108: Introduction to Government Bonds
109: U.S. Government Agency Bonds
110: U.S. Savings Bonds

201: Junk Bonds
202: Callable Bonds
203: Collateralized Mortgage Obligations
204: Zero-Coupon Securities
205: TIGRs, CATS, and LIONs
207: Treasury Inflation-Adjusted Securities
208: General Obligation Bonds
209: Revenue Bonds
210: Municipal Bond Insurance

Website, myFICO, is making a big deal that Warren Buffett’s FICO score is only 718. My question: who cares? Seriously, the guy is worth BILLIONS of dollars. He doesn’t need credit. Can you imagine Buffett getting a subprime mortgage because his credit score is low? LOL!

The article then goes on to list three reasons why a wealthy person’s FICO score could be low:

  • Very active user of credit cards with high balances
  • Late in paying bills
  • Credit report error
  • I’m not sure but I think they left out inactivity or no borrowing history. If you don’t borrow and don’t use credit, your credit score will be lower.

    That said, I suppose it’s kind of cool to be able to say your credit score is higher than Warren Buffett’s (if it actually is).

    The passing of my dad has forced me to take a look at my life and the way I’m living it. In my mind my dad died much too soon (he was only 61) and I’m not too eager to follow the same path. None of this would bother me so much if I wasn’t SO MUCH LIKE MY DAD! Although we both put on a pretty cheery disposition, we both are (or were in my dad’s case) pretty cynical about the world around us. Such a worldview isn’t healthy. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t be skeptical of the things around us—as some skepticism can keep up from making bad choices—but I am saying that there seems to be a fine line between skepticism and cynicism.

    The point of all this?

    I think part of my problem is that I’m not thankful enough for the things I do have. Instead of dwelling on all that is wrong with the world and the people in it, I should practice thanksliving.

    What’s thanksliving?

    According to John Marks Templeton’s Discovering the Laws of Life (Affiliate Link), thanksliving is:

    an attitude of perpetual gratitude that will draw good to you. It is based on the premise that “thanksgiving leads to having more to give thanks for.”

    Sir John then goes on to suggest three ways that we can practice thanksliving:

    1. Search for the good and praise it. It’s hard to have a negative and critical attitude if we are looking for the good. That’s not to say we should ignore the bad, but rather seek the good. If we are looking for the good, the bad will fade into the background.

    2. Give thanks ahead of time for whatever good you desire in your life. He then mentions the law of life that says, “Thoughts held in mind will reproduce in the outer world after their own kind.” This goes along with pretty much everything I have read on positive thinking. It’s hard to live the opposite of your thoughts.

    3. Give thanks for your porblems and challenges. This is a tough one! Who in their right mind would be thankful for their problems? This actually makes sense because when go through problems and challenges we become stronger.

    I’m going to make it a point to put these three suggestions to use as I practice thanksliving. I’m sure that the negative attitudes and emotions will creep back in from time to time. But, I’m also sure that if I’m concentrating on the positive the negative will become less important.

    If you watch TV you have probably seen advertisements for Life Lock, an identity theft protection company. Rather than tell you all about the company and what it has to offer, I’ll direct you to a very good review of the company as well as some helpful identity theft tips that I stumbled across the other day.

    It really stinks that honest people must spend their hard-earned dollars protecting themselves from thieves.

    Last month I wrote How Much Will That 401(k) Loan Cost You?. The other day a reader named Mark left the following comment on that post:

    But, I have a different scenario…

    Company match is 100% up to 4% of pay, none thereafter.
    Contribution is at 10%
    401k return so far this year is -8%
    I am over 50.
    Large amount on credit card (CC) to repair Mom’s house for sale – but there it sits waiting for a buyer in this market.

    Rather than take a 401k loan to payoff the CC, I am considering reducing the 401k contribution to 4% so I still get the company match, and get a little extra payroll $$ to accelerate payoff of the CC.

    Once the CC is retired, the percentage would go back up to at least 10% (if not more). Once the house sells, I can put the money back in to the 401k in $5k chunks under “catch-up” provisions.

    Your thoughts?

    My thoughts

    Mark didn’t furnish us with his credit card’s interest rate so it’s tough to say which way makes the most sense financially. If the interest rate on the card is high, then it does make sense to pay if off as quickly as possible even if that means reducing (but NOT eliminating) his 401(k) contributions.

    We also have to assume that cash flow is the main issue no matter how the debt is financed—whether it’s on a credit card or some other loan. So we’ll assume that reducing his 401(k) contributions is his only option.

    So, based on the information Mark furnished us with, I think his strategy makes sense. I like the fact that he is only reducing his contributions to the point where he still receives the full company match. This is very important since it is free money. It’s not likely to be a good idea to pass up a company match.

    What are your thoughts?