Archives For May 2009

This is a guest post by John M. Box, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Education, JA Worldwide. I meant to post this last week while I was on vacation but never got to it. Anyway, I think Junior Achievement is an important program so I’m happy to help them spread the word.

In our current economic climate, many adults are worrying about their retirement funds, job security and house foreclosures. With all the anxiety, people have forgotten about one key group that this situation can greatly affect – America’s teens. Junior Achievement and The Allstate Foundation conducted a poll of U.S. teenagers to gauge their thoughts on the economy, with some surprising statistics:

• More than 50 percent say they talk about the economy with their friends.

• 53 percent of teens surveyed say they’re choosing activities that cost less money.

• Nearly three-in-ten teens (29 percent) said that the economy is causing them anxiety.

• One-third of all teens report less job availability.

• More than three-quarters (77 percent) of the teens polled say that their parents are talking about the economy more than they used to.

• Nearly half (49 percent) said their parents had discussed family finances with them as a result of the economy.

Even though this group may not be watching the five o’clock news, they’re keeping informed on the status of our nation’s economy and adjusting accordingly. What about the teens in your life- how are they dealing with it? Take this as an opportunity to discuss it with them if you haven’t yet.

Programs such as JA Economics for Success, created by Junior Achievement and The Allstate Foundation, teach middle school aged teenagers money management skills. There are also now 12 free downloadable lessons that teach age-appropriate concepts around budgeting, saving, spending and investing.

Stay connected with the latest news going on with Junior Achievement by becoming a fan of the JA Worldwide Facebook page. Find ways to volunteer, stay connected, share your JA story and learn about the latest JA happenings all over the globe. For up to the minute news, follow JA on Twitter at @JAworldwide.

The 2009 Teens and Personal Finance poll was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation the week of February 23, 2009, and surveyed 1,000 U.S. teens ages 12-17 via telephone. Its margin of error is +/- 3.2 percent.

About Junior Achievement® (JA)

Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through a dedicated volunteer network, Junior Achievement provides in-school and after-school programs for students which focus on three key content areas: work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Today, 137 individual area operations reach more than four million students in the United States, with an additional five million students served by operations in 123 other countries worldwide. For more information, visit

The Allstate Foundation

Established in 1952, The Allstate Foundation is an independent, charitable organization made possible by subsidiaries of The Allstate Corporation. The Allstate Foundation partners with non-profit organizations on community initiatives that promote “safe and vital communities,” “tolerance, inclusion, and diversity” and “economic empowerment.” Teen driving and empowering victims of domestic violence have been major initiatives for the Foundation since 2005. For more information visit or

Once again, Larry hits the nail on the head with his latest blog post, ‘The Secret’ is a Total Load of Crap. In case you’re not familiar, ‘The Secret’ is a book that gained lots of attention when it was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I watched part of one of the shows when she was talking about the book and even featured the author. It was enough to convince me that I didn’t want to read the book.

Anyway, Larry Winget, has written a blog post about that book and about the new age philosophy of success. I like this quote from his post:

They [new age authors and gurus] also love to talk about increasing your deservability. Which translates to me into increasing your sense of entitlement. You are not entitled to a damn thing. You are rewarded for your efforts. No effort = no reward. The truth is that you deserve exactly what you have.

Remember that old Biblical saying, “You reap what you sow?” Most people aren’t reaping much these days because they haven’t done any sowing! I grew up in the country where we ate what we raised and trust me when I say that “sowing” is work! Even the reaping is work. But the reaping is the payoff for the work you put out there in the first place. Sadly, many people today are expecting to reap when they didn’t sow a damn thing. It doesn’t work that way.

I agree with Larry: we don’t deserve anything other than what is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Rock on, Larry. Rock on.

In today’s mail came a Visa Black Card invitation. I feel so special! (Please note the sarcasm in that statement.)

Here is what the letter said:

Dear Mr. JLP,

It is my pleasure to invite you to apply for the exclusive Black Card. Limited to only 1% of the U.S. residents, Black Card members are ensured the highest caliber of personal service. Cardmembers enjoy a 24-hour Concierge Assistant, Exclusive Rewards program, and Luxury Gifts from some fo the worlds’s top brands. Made with carbon, the Visa Black Card is guaranteed to get you noticed.

Apply now by filling out and mailing the enclosed postage-paid application. You may also apply online at, or by calling (866) BLACK CARD.

Best regards,

Laura Shaw
Director, Customer Experience

This card has a $495 annual fee! Yes, there are supposed benefits but are they worth $500 per year? That’s a lot of money in order “to get noticed!”

I think I’m going to decline this one. I don’t need a card made of partly made of carbon.

I read the following article in today’s Houston Chronicle:

First-Timers, Pros Vie For Foreclosures

A reader named, NavyPop, left the following comment on that article:

I personally could not bring myself to profit off someone else misery. Nor would I feel comfortable providing that example to my wife and children. The church took it as a sign from God, really? Give me a break.

All I can say is it’s a good thing that not everyone thinks like NavyPop. Can you imagine the shape this economy would be in if no one profited off other people’s misery?

I would be willing to bet that NavyPop has taken advantage of going-out-of-business sales. Isn’t that profiting off someone else’s misery?

Lest you think I’m a cold-hearted capitalist, I do feel for those who lost their homes. I really do. But, the bottom line is that if you can’t afford to keep your house, you have to let it go.

That’s why I like foreclosure auctions. It’s a good way to clean out the existing inventory and get it into the hands of people who will use it. It makes sense.

I just got the following email regarding my GMAC Bank account:

GMAC Bank is now Ally Bank.

Dear JLP,

We told you that you’d be among the first to know about the changes coming to GMAC Bank. We’re excited to fulfill that promise today with the news that GMAC Bank is now Ally Bank.

We’ve kept everything you’ve loved about GMAC Bank—and added more. We’re using 90 years of experience and taking banking in a new direction. Right away with Ally Bank, you’ll enjoy benefits like no monthly fees, no minimum balances, no minimum deposits, plus 24/7 Customer Care Support, online statements and a streamlined web experience.

Our commitment to high rates remains unchanged. We’re always among the highest rates in the country. You can count on it.

And your account/s will stay the same. Be assured that you’ll continue under the same terms you had before. You’ll simply see the improvements we mentioned above, including 24/7 access to your accounts and enhanced online tools.

Get the details today at or check out our FAQs. And remember, we’re here 24 hours a day, every day, at 877-247-Ally

So far, it sounds like everything will remain like it was before–just a different name. We’ll see…

In case you are interested, you can download the list of the 789 Chrysler dealerships that are closing. I found this list on Texas is losing 50 dealerships! Some of them seem like pretty big names.

I have had a plumbing problem for over a year now. I have a pipe that’s leaking. I called a plumber to come out last year to fix the problem and found out through him that the problem was going to require tunneling under my slab foundation. I got a quote to do that job and it came in at $6,700. I was floored! So, I let it go. I know, it’s a dumb thing to do but I just hated the idea of spending that much money.

Well, I finally called a different plumber (from a very reputable company) out to look at the problem and he recommended a somewhat different route and his quote was $4,500 – $4,850. I was smiling inside when he told me this.

Then I got to thinking about it…

Why was I happy with spending $4,500+? I mean, it’s still a pretty good chunk of change and it will put a serious dent in our savings account. And yet, I was happy.

I think I was happy because I’m ‘saving’ $2,000 over what I thought the project was going to cost. I had been trudging along all through last year thinking I was going to be spending nearly $7,000 on the project. I had that dreadful number in my mind and was fixated on it. Then, when I found out the job was going to be quite a bit cheaper, I was very happy!

Funny how the mind works.

I’ll give you another example (not related to personal finance) of how my mind works.

Several years ago, I had gone swimming with the family during the summer. It was extremely hot and sunny that day. We were at the pool for quite a while and then after we got home, I took the dog out on a walk. Well, about halfway through my walk, I got the chills and felt like I had an instant fever. I felt HORRIBLE. Absolutely horrible! That night I woke with a nightsweat. For something like two weeks, I had no appetite and had nightsweats. I was really starting to worry that I was dying…lol.

Well, I finally went to see the doctor and he told me that there was nothing wrong with me. I went into the doctor’s office thinking something was really wrong with me and feeling really sick, and I remember leaving feeling MUCH better! I’m sure there was something wrong with me. I’m pretty sure I had gotten sick due to the heat. I had suspected it the whole time I was sick but I allowed myself to get all worked up thinking something was horribly wrong with me.

Funny how my mind works.