Archives For June 2009

I made a boo boo.

AT&T mailed me one of those Visa Rebate Cards for my BlackBerry Curve. I think it was originally for $99 or so. I used the card a couple of months ago but still had a balance of $8.19. I tried using it again but got the remaining balance wrong, thinking it was $8.91 so the transaction didn’t go through. I called to get the correct balance and found out it was $8.19. I put the card in my closet and sort of forgot about it until this morning.

I pulled it out and tried to use it only to find out that it expired on the last day of May!


I’m a little surprised at how quickly the card expired. I don’t remember for sure when I got the card but I think I received it after the first of the year. It seems like the expiration date would be longer than a few months.

Now, had it been a paper check, I would have deposited it into my bank account and the money would have been mine free and clear. I never liked paper checks. I thought the rebate card would make things easier but I found it to be a hassle—especially if it takes more than one transaction to use up the card.

Anyway, LEARN FROM JLP. Use those rebate cards quickly. Don’t allow the companies to keep your money!

UPDATE: I guess I’m not the only one complaining about the AT&T Visa Rebate Card.

For every four borrowers that received a mortgage payment reduction, one ended up falling behind again.

Okay, I guess the optimistic way to state that would be to say that the mortgage payment reduction program has had a 75% success rate (still that’s a “C” if you were using a grading scale). There’s also no guarantee that more recipients won’t fall behind. I think we would have been better off to just let the market work this mess out and allowed those who couldn’t afford their homes to move on with their lives instead of dragging this mess out longer.

The good thing we can take from the article mentioned above is that the housing market appears to be stabilizing. Let’s just hope that unemployment doesn’t hinder a recovery.

A friend of mine is looking for hot dog bags for a function she is helping with. I googled “hot dog bags” and this entry for Sam’s Club popped up. I noticed that there was one one-star review for the product by someone named “Editor”:

These are represented as a “bag”. They are not a BAG. They are open on one side and one end. Very disappointed in this order. This is a waste of my money. I will try to get a refund.

Right below this review, was this response from Sam’s Club:


In the industry this is commonly referred to as a bag, and depending on your needs, this may, or may not, be the bag for you. However, because of your review we thought it best, in order to better clarify the description, to add a picture featuring the hotdog “in” the bag. Feel free to contact us at 888-746-7726 if you’d like to return these to us. Thank you for your input!

That’s pretty cool if you ask me. That’s excellent customer service.

Poor Ruth Madoff…

June 29, 2009

She has to face living off $2.5 million.

I really feel sorry for her. Please detect the sarcasm in that statement.

This will sound cold but I think she should be impoverished like so many of her husband’s clients were. I think we have to assume that the assets owned by the Madoff’s were acquired through fraud and should be sold off to go into the general fund to pay back shareholders.

Oh well, I guess we should all rejoice in the fact that she will no longer be living the high life. Although a lot of money by most people’s standards, $2.5 million is but a drop in the bucket for someone used to living in the lap of luxury like Mrs. Maddoff was.


One last thing…do you think it was possible that she had no idea that her husband was running a scam? I’m not sure on this one.

The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that the personal saving rate was 6.9% in May, which is the highest it’s been since 1993.

One would think this is a good thing. But, in a consumer-driven economy such as ours, saving money is a bad thing—at least in the short run because savings represents money that could be used to stimulate the economy.

The personal savings rate can be defined as…

Personal Savings Rate = (disposable income – consumption) ÷ disposable income


Disposable Income = personal income – tax payments

From what I can tell from my reading, consumption is the amount spent on autos, other durables, nondurables, and services. That means that 401(k) contributions must be a part of the personal savings rate. Call me crazy but 6.9% seems like a fairly low number for personal savings if it includes retirement savings.

My family is saving way more than 6.9% of our household income (including retirement plan contributions). What about your family? Has the current economic situation inspired you to save more?

NOTE: If I’m wrong here, please enlighten me. I think I might have slept through some of my economics courses in college.

I read about this Kimberly Strassel column about Safeway’s health plan last week and meant to mention it but forgot.

As recently as 2004, Safeway was suffocating under health-care costs growing at 10% a year. Mr. Burd, who had long been intellectually and politically drawn to the health-care issue, decided it was time to hit the restart button. He blew up the company’s existing health-care structure and replaced it with one that embodied market principles — choice, responsibility, competition and price.

Today, Safeway has accomplished what Washington claims is the goal: The company’s per-capita health-care expenses have remained flat, compared to the near 40% increase experienced by the rest of corporate America over the past four years. This has not been done by cutting care or shifting costs to employees. Nearly 80% of the 30,000 nonunion Safeway workers who take part in the program rate it good, very good, or excellent.

Here’s how the plan works:

The Safeway plan has two main parts that work in tandem. The first involves giving employees a financial stake in the system. Safeway demolished the traditional PPOs and HMOs that encourage consumers to be cavalier about costs. The company today fully pays for an array of primary and preventive visits and tests. But beyond that, employees have skin in the game. The company deposits $1,000 each year into a “health reimbursement account,” which workers can use to pay for care. The next $1,000 in expenses is the employee’s responsibility. After that, employees pay 20% of costs up to a $4,000 maximum.

The article mentions that one of the pitfalls of traditional health insurance is that the employees have no skin in the game (other than their premiums), which leaves them little incentive to keep costs low. I agree with this assessment and think it’s the main reason healthcare is so expensive. I think health insurance has helped drive healthcare costs higher. Insurers negotiate with doctors and hospitals to get better rates, which means those who don’t have health insurance must pay more, which means rates must increase, which makes healthcare more expensive…

Anyway, I’m sure Safeway’s plan has pitfalls but I’d rather us try something like this than go for some kind of government-sponsored (socialized) plan where individuals have little incentive to control costs.


they probably are into multi-level marketing…lol.

Several weeks ago I was standing in the business section of my local bookstore. I glanced up just as a woman walked by. I went back to looking at the books. A couple of seconds later I see someone coming down aisle. I look up to see that it is the woman who just walked by. I keep looking and finally she asks, “What are you looking for?”

“Ah, I’m just browsing while I wait,” I replied.

“Oh, I’m currently reading Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,'” she told me.

“That’s funny,” I said. “I was just re-reading that book the other day. In fact it’s sitting on my nightstand right now.”

Well, it took of all of five more seconds before she launched into her into spiel about how she worked with people to help them reach their goals and stuff—standard multi-level marketing b.s. I told her that I had heard of her company (Primerica) and had actually attended A.L. Williams (which was the early Primerica) meetings when I was a kid.

Once she found out that I wasn’t interested in her company, the conversation dwindled down to nothing and I left.

Anyway, I must visit bookstores too often because this has happened to me more than once.

Do you have any multi-level marketing stories to tell? I’d like to hear them.