Archives For April 2008

The 90 Days Column ($) in today’s Wall Street Journal has a few pointers for those who are thinking about working from home. Their points along with my thoughts:

Prepare yourself psychologically. If you’re used to being around people, working from home can feel quite lonely.

Take yourself — and your job — seriously. Refrain from slouching around in your pajamas. Getting dressed will do wonders for your motivation. The author even suggests having a specific place in your home for work and use that place only for that purpose.

Avoid isolation. Stay connected with your co-workers. Otherwise it’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind and that could be bad for your future.

Acknowledge your successes. This is a good point. The article’s author recommends throwing a party or meeting a friend for a drink to celebrate an accomplishment.

Reach out to your colleagues. This point seems to go along with the “avoid isolation” point above. I like the idea of trying to meet a colleague for lunch once a month.

Keep your options open. As the article suggests, one of the advantages of working from home is the ability to network with people from other companies to keep abreast of what’s going on in the job market. You never know if an opportunity will open up. Just make sure you’re not networking when you’re supposed to be working.

To those points, I would like to add:

Separate work hours from home hours. Although it may seem like an advantage to working from home, the ability to work at any time is actually a bad thing if you don’t practice some discipline. It takes effort to work from 9AM to 5PM and have family time during the other hours. If you get into the habit of working all hours of the day, it will mess things up. As a blogger, this is an area I struggle with.

Overall, these are some great things to think about if you are thinking about becoming a telecommuter.

After my interview on the Your Turn last week, I was talking with Francis Rose. He told me that he was entering the blogging world with a money blog aimed to help federal employees. I told Francis to send me a link whenever his blog was up and running and that I would do my part to help spread the word. Well, this morning I received this email from Francis:

It’s a pleasure to work with you in my role as Producer of The Federal Drive and co-host of Your Turn on Federal News Radio. I wanted to alert you to my new blog on Federal Computer Week’s web site, called The Pay Check. Here’s what FCW is telling its readers about my blog:

“Francis Rose, producer and co-host of “Your Turn with Mike Causey” on Federal News Radio (AM 1050), taps into a network of experts to give you a better grasp of financial issues. Rose tackles topics of special interest to federal employees and also looks at general financial matters through a federal prism. The Pay Check is one blog it always pays to read.”

Here’s the link:

I want to invite you to read it, comment on my posts, and send the link along to your colleagues and friends who work for the Federal government and might be interested in money matters.

If you have any ideas or questions that you think I should post about, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

All the best,

Francis Rose
Federal News Radio AM 1050

If this post is any indication of what the future holds for The Pay Check, it will be a good read.

If you’re a federal employee or thinking about becoming one, you might want to check his blog out. I will be adding The Pay Check to my Links page and my Bloglines Account so that I can include Francis’ work in my roundups.

Did you know that many retailers are offering 10% bonuses to people who use their tax rebates to purchase store giftcards? So if you give Sears your $600 refund, for instance, they’ll hand you a $660 Sears gift card to spend.

Some of the retailers offering these offers include Kroger, Sears, K-Mart, and Lands End. Wal-Mart is expected to announce a similar plan within days. Some stores (Kroger) will give you change if you only want to use part of your rebate, while others (Sears) require your whole rebate to qualify for the deal.

Liz Pulliam Westin’s Yahoo! Finance article on the subject urges consumers to say “no” to these offers, but it has convinced me to consider the offers instead.

Even if you are planning to save your rebate, you can still take advantage of these offers. You have to buy groceries anyway, for instance, so let’s say your grocery budget is $150 per month (as mine is). I could use my $600 rebate to buy a Kroger gift card, use the gift card for groceries for the next 4.4 months, and put the $150/mo I would be spending on groceries during that time into my savings account.

So I can get a 10% return on my rebate and effectively save it anyway!

Note: Liz does make some good points in her article about the importance of buying American. If you want to do the patriotic thing and spend your stimulus check, then consider the following:

  • Buying American-made products (including groceries grown in the US) from local, American businesses (such as the mom and pop grocer in your town) is the most effective thing you can do.
  • Buying American made products from a non-local American company (like Kroger) is also great.
  • Buying imported products (such as a Japanese-made plasma TV) from an American company is OK too. At least you can feel semi-good for buying it from an American company and supporting our consumer-driven economy during these rocky times.

What are you doing with your rebate check (if you are getting one)?

More from Meg at The World of Wealth

NOTE: The reader-submitted question of the day will begin tomorrow morning.

Should Parents Bail Out Their Kids?

That is the title of Liz Pulliam Weston’s article over on MSN Money.

I can’t remember a time when I ever “bailed out” financially by my parents. Sure, they helped me from time-to-time and my wife’s parents helped us with groceries and stuff when my wife and I were in college but nobody bailed us out. Why? Because my wife and I knew our place. In other words, we didn’t go out and buy things we couldn’t afford. We were responsible for ourselves.

Normally I agree with Liz but her excuses for why today’s kids get into trouble bother me. Check this out:

Most baby boomers had the economic winds at their backs. They graduated into decent job markets and enjoyed strong appreciation of their homes and (for the most part) stock portfolios.

Today’s graduates, by contrast, are a bit more behind the eight ball:

  • A rapidly decelerating economy means college graduates are facing the worst job market in several years.
  • Instead of getting free money in the form of grants to pay for college, they’re taking out student loans — an average of about $20,000 at last count, an amount that’s nearly doubled since the mid-1990s.
  • And then there’s the demon credit card, pushed on college campuses today with a vigor unheard of a generation ago. The majority of students now have credit cards, according to studies by student lender Nellie Mae. The average balance was $2,864 for college seniors in 2004 and $8,612 for graduate students in 2006, the latest years for which statistics are available.

Excuses, excuses. Tell me, what generation hasn’t had obstacles to overcome? Didn’t the Baby Boom generation graduate from college into the inflation-ridden 70s?

I think the root of the problem lies in the fact that today’s kids think they deserve everything right off the bat. There’s no working and saving up for things. At least that’s my perception of today’s society. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I’m being harsh but I think today’s kids need to figure out that everything costs money and that they are going to have to prioritize their finances and make decisions accordingly.

Our kids are still young so it’s tough to say how my wife and I will treat them when they are adults. I’m hoping that they will have a good understanding of their responsibilities when they leave home. I can tell you that if they were to ever come back home after leaving, rent will be due. Hopefully it won’t ever get to that point.

What are your thoughts?

JD reviews Investing 101.

One of FMF’s readers has a credit score question.

Nickel asks if bi-weekly mortgage payment plans are worthwhile.

Now here’s MBH’s thoughts on the topic.

My thoughts: Remember that any extra payments towards your mortgage is money that could be used elsewhere. People tend to only think about the interest saved on the mortgage but forget about what that extra payment could have earned had it been invested elsewhere. Extra mortgage payments are nothing more than an allocation question. If your mortgage payment is $1,000 per month and you pay extra payment each year, that’s $1,000 you could have put somewhere else.

Moving on…

Consumerism Commentary: complaining can save you money. – I agree if it’s done right. If all you do is make the other party angry, your complaint probably won’t get answered the way you want. Always, always, ALWAYS try to be nice.

NCN talks about how he used to manage his finances.

Laid off? Read this before you do anything.

Cut your grocery bills by 80%! – I could cut our bill if I cut out all the fat and quit buying beer. But hey, you gotta live.

The Dividend Guy writes that dividend increases are down and dividend cuts are up.

SingleMa got herself a new job. – Dang that woman moves quickly!

Jeremy rants on Yahoo’s silly advertisement. – You don’t borrow against your house to take a vacation! That’s just stupid!

Last but not least, Ron has some thoughts for those of you who desire to go into management.


I don’t want to alarm anybody, but maybe it’s time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

There’s something about this Wall Street Journal article (free) that really bothers me. I understand his point that food prices are increasing faster than what we can earn from a bank account. It just seems irresponsible to tell people to hoard food, which is going to do nothing but drive prices up even higher and cause panics and other silliness that goes on when people are scared.

I hate to be a pessimist but if prices are this high now, imagine what could happen if we had a drought.

Here’s today’s Question of the Day:

Has the current economic environment (inflation and what not) forced you to cut back in your spending or to change your lifestyle in any way?

As things stand right now, I would have to say no. I am more aware of the prices I pay for groceries as it seems every week I go to the store, I have to pay more. It’s pretty bad when price changes are noticeable from week to week. I suppose inflation will cause us to forgo certain things like a really nice family vacation or something like that but for right now, we haven’t changed our spending too much. I suppose that’s the benefit of not having a lot of debt.

What about you? Are you making any budgetary changes?