Friday, June 30, 2006

What's the Single Attribute Most Important For Achieving Personal Wealth and Success?

What's the single attribute that has helped you get to where you are today? Whether you are a millionaire or millions in debt (hopefully not millions), whether you are in high school or retired. There is no wrong or right answer. Duplicate attributes are fine. For me personally, it's resourcefulness:
Meaning #1: the quality of being able to cope with a difficult situation Meaning #2: the ability to deal resourcefully with unusual problems
I could name a ton of others, but, for me, resourcefulness seems to always pop up as something that has allowed me to excel in my career, schooling, and life. If working smart and thinking out of the box could be combined, resourcefulness would be the resulting attribute. I'll be the first to admit, in a room of academic thinkers, I would look like an idiot. I don't really enjoying reading books--Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (3rd book) being the last book I read--although I do love reading articles on the web and newspapers. But put me in a situation where I have to figure out a way to fix it, and I'll give you a ton of possibilities. So if I didn't have the ability to figure out creative ways to solve problems, I would not be where I am today. I'm not great at standardized tests, but I'm really good at hands on, applied lab work. I tend to see things in a way that others don't. Sometimes that makes me the black sheep, but most of the time it has helped me succeed. What about you? What do you think is the single most important attribute for achieving personal wealth and success? Whether you feel you are already there or are working to achieve success. Just one! It's harder than you think. Attribute, Submitted by (linked to blog if available): - Vision, SingleMa - Resourcefulness, Freedumb

Hey Anonymous, Yeah You...Macs Suck.

Anonymous comments are always interesting. Everytime I see a comment by an Anonymous poster, it gets my juices it going to be critical? Is it going to be an outright bashing? Is it going to be something real? I always hope it's the later...something I can learn from. However, I do get comments that make me wonder if they even read my post in the first place... For example, take this comment about my recent post on tip jars:
At 28/6/06 23:14, Anonymous said... i hope you're joking. don't tip if you don't want to. it's really that simple.
Now really, as if I didn't know that. The point is, the tip jar is excessive. It should be put where a transaction is concluded, not where it begins. It's really that simple. Or take this example, in my post on a deceptive 0% offer, I wrote, "Sure it's my fault for mis-reading the offer, but still it just doesn't make sense." So I get a comment:
At 15/6/06 23:17, Anonymous said... It IS your fault. I would not have waived that. You got lucky.
Did I miss something here? Uhhh, I said, "it's my fault." And finally, in response to my post on commercials I despise...
At 21/6/06 10:31, Anonymous said... The Mac commercials are amazing. What I am finding interesting is how many PC users get upset at the Mac commercials? Is it striking a nerve...? Let's face it. Macs are a superior machine. Hands down.
Let me ask you this, Anonymous, what's your goal in posting something like that? To stir up a childish "PCs are better than Macs" war? Hah, please. The proof is in the pudding(?). Just look around...there's a reason why PCs are much more common...and the reason why Macs now share PC hardware. So hah, Anonymous. Take that! :) (Really, I like Macs...)

Friday! Update: 61 Comments, College is CHEAP, Walking Away, and Of Course...The Housing Bubble

Yes! For many of us US citizens, the long weekend awaits! For those not in the US, hey why don't you celebrate with us! Take the long weekend, tell them Freedumb said so. So let's recap the week...How many savings accounts are too many? It's pretty hard to slip any inaccurate info by the PF Blogging community. Sorry for the slip up with savings accounts, but I did clarify. If you have a dog, plan on getting a dog, be sure to read my story about Brownie and his poop. It's not just about poop. I hate Tip Jars, don't you? Finally, read the dumb perspective on the housing bubble. Now on to the good stuff... LAMoneyGuy suggests we get our "lazy butts up, and start running." I will! As soon as Brownie turns 1.5 years old. :) I have been walking though. Jonathan argues college can be had on the cheap. It's generated a ton of dialog. This is an interesting one by Keith @ Housing Panic. This post has no words, just one image and at this moment 61 comments! Congrats to 2million for having the kahonas to walk away from a closing. Be sure to watch your teens this weekend! They could be texting "Happy 4th" to a few hundred people as SingleMa can attest to. Have a safe and awesome weekend everyone!

Found a Great Article, "Three Things I Did Not Learn In High School (But Wish I Did)"

I recently found an interesting article written by a local musician turned realtor in Hawaii, Jon Yamasato. In his article he talks about 3 things he wished he learned in high school: 1. Humans generally think in the "now," but need to plan for the future. 2. The rule of 72 3. How to set up a budget (knowing where your money goes). It's a great read. Check it out, and tell him freedumb sent ya.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Airline Ticket Purchasing Tip = Cheating the System? My Response To a Comment.

I wrote a post earlier about buying airline tickets, and I received one comment, but it was a good one, from Anonymous:
you actually post tips like this?
I took that comment as sort of a jab at the fact that my post suggests cheating or taking advantage of a site like Expedia or Orbitz, but a comment I appreciate none the less. In fact, so much so, that I'm going to respond in its own post. I definitely don't condone "using" another site simply to, well, take advantage of them. However, I do believe in the mantra, "the marketplace drives all decisions." Even if I didn't post it, I'm sure others have already been doing it. So that being the case, the question becomes, "Is it okay to use _______ travel site for the sole purpose of finding the best price, and then booking it to the airline's site to actually purchase the ticket(s)?"

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To me, the answer is a firm, YES! One of the reasons I blog is to share my knowledge of how I save money, not to benefit an airline or travel agency. If consumers start taking advantage of a service made available on a site like Expedia, Orbitz, etc. and then go and purchase tickets at the airline site, then maybe the business model at Expedia, Orbitz, etc. needs to change. For example, they could charge for the service of finding the cheapest flight. In any event, I definitely don't condone cheating. To me this is not "cheating" the system, as consumers, we are the marketplace for travel sites like Orbitz and Expedia. Thus, if informed consumers start doing this more frequently, than the travel agencies need to make the change, not us. Wouldn't you agree?

What My Dog and His Poop Taught Me About Saving Money...Lessons In Doggie Frugality Maybe?

Sometimes money saving tips are found in the strangest this case Brownie's poop. But this post is not only about Brownie and his poop. It's about a lot of things I've learned in the past 8 months of raising this little monster that I love so much. What inspired me to write this post? Well, this past Sunday, I took Brownie to the dog park. He ate a branch, and I didn't think much of it. On top of that, I later fed him a pig ear. Two things that normally don't cause any problems, although each can cause bowel irratability by itself, the combo just caused double the irritation. Especially bad when large chunks get swallowed, which happened to Brownie. This led to lots and lots of diarrhea and one instance of puke. I took him to the vet yesterday morning, after 2 days of bad diarrhea (a little blood too), and the vet confirmed, I just have to let it pass. It wasn't a full blown obstruction, because if it was nothing would have been coming out. I was relieved. Later that day, I took him to the dog park and a big pile of $#!+ came out...Never in my life would I have thought that I'd be so happy to see a pile of $#!+. It's like I struck gold...uhhh, black gold? I have to update doggie costs later, but yes, this whole incident inspired me to write about the lessons Brownie has taught me, and how some of them relates to money. So here we go.

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1. Everydog has individual feeding requirements. Theoretically you should be able to see/feel the last one or two ribs on your dog without pushing. Don't cheat here. If you feel more ribs, too skiny, feed him/her more. Feel nothing, feed less and exercise more! 2. Dog parks are great entertainment, and often they are free. Your first time there, make sure you observe the dogs and their interaction. If you see lots of agressive behavior go to another park. Do your part, and train/socialize your dog before going to the dog park. There's nothing Brownie hates more than a trip to the dog park when a couple poorly behaved, aggressive dogs are there. Not to mention some vet charges that might ensue. 3. Branches and wood are fun to fetch, but bad to eat! Related to bad treats, read next point. 4. Treats are great, just ask Brownie, but here are three types treats I would strongly recommend against, because they will lead to vet and cleaning expenses due to poop and vomit stains, and possibly even surgery or death. No joke. These tips would've saved me at least one $80 trip to the vet. - Greenies. Yep, these amazingly popular treats in almost every petstore can become your canine's worst nightmare. Specifically the Greenie bones. Trust me, I have pics to prove it. If your dog chews off big chunks of these things, they can get stuck in your dog's digestive track. Vomitting and diarrhea to follow. If you and your dog are lucky, these chunks will slowly pass through, eventually coming out...just like it went in. They put a tiny warning on their packages, that in my opinion is not enough. On the website, the feeding guidlines say this:
Caution: As with any edible product, monitor your dog to ensure the treat is adequately chewed. Gulping any item can be harmful or even fatal to a dog.
If you've ever "monitored" your dog while they chew something, it's not possible to make sure everything is "aqequately chewed." And "Gulping" can be fatal? Better tell 7-11 stores that...They sell "Big Gulps." Yikes. Greenies DO NOT get my approval. Bad Greenies. - Pig Ears. These can be found in almost every pet store as well. They're better than Greenies, but you have to becareful with these too. The good thing is that you can identify potentially hazardous ears by the way it looks before you give it to your dog. Look for "corners" or "points" on the ear that look extra tough. Cut them off. These parts won't get chewed enough, and even if they do, they still may cause problems. Brownie loves pig ears...I'll still be giving him these, but only after I look at them carefully first. - Rawhides shaped like bones. Rawhides are okay, but the rawhides shaped like bones are no-nos. The ends come off because they are just knots. These knots can be swallowed, and blockage can occur. Stay away from these treats if possible. They may cost you dearly. On top of the stains and pains, it could ultimately end your dog's life. Not worth it. If you don't believe me, or if you've always been feeding them these things, then you may have just been getting lucky, or your dog has some good chewing manners... On a side note, treats I recommend are "bully" sticks, flat or rolled rawhides, steralized bones, Charlee Bear treats, and treats with low sugar content. Stay away from artificial sweetners. Fatty treats are okay for dogs. No fat free stuff. 5. On the topic of treats, most dogs love fruits and vegetables. Carrots, celery, lettuce, apples (watch the seeds!), oranges, berries, and bananas are things that I know are okay for dogs. Stay away from Broccoli (unless you like gassy dogs), Grapes, Macadamia nuts, and Cauliflower. Those are the ones I know about, but do some research. You'd be surprised...some dogs have extremely sensitive stomachs. Of course, never any chocolate! 6. Watch out for foods with corn. Corn is a filler that's found in many dog foods, and can cause allergic reactions in dogs. Some dogs never have problems, but others do. They can form them later in life or right away. Brownie did right away. Common symptoms of an allergy is a skin infection, resulting in hair loss, red patches of skin, and lots of scratching. There's tons of stuff out there! Read the ingredients and decide for yourself. You shouldn't see a filler in the top 5 ingredients. But then again, don't read too much into diets...every dog is different. Some do well on Iams, Pedigree, etc. and some don't. There are tons of articles out there on how bad one dog food is, or how good another is, but the truth is if your dog is healthy and likes it, keep feeding them it. Of course, I do believe dog foods that have less preservatives and synthetic stuff, is better, but that's just me. I don't have the proof behind that. But the bottom line with food is that, once you find something that works, stick with it. 7. Crate train! It'll save you from buying replacement furniture. I have no idea how many $$$ of furniture this training tip has saved me. 8. Be patient. The first few months are the most challenging. I have to admit, after the first few months, I was relieved, but now I wish I spent a little more time enjoying the peeing and pooping rather than being so frustrated. The clumsy, goofy, crazy puppy grows up so fast. Although I must admit, I am pretty damn proud of Brownie graduating 3rd from his puppy class! 9. Take your dog to obedience school. Look for a class offered by a registered non-profit rather than a for-profit organization. Non-profit classes are better because the trainers and other involved are often lifetime pet owners that really are into dogs. They are not out to make a buck. 10. Finally, a tired dog is a good dog. Walk with your dog, take your dog to the dog park, take them to the beach, play fetch or frisbee in the backyard...almost every behavior problem can be lessened or resolved by simply spending quality time with your dog. It'll also keep you from spending money on something you don't need. I never thought I'd learn so much from an animal. When I get a house, I think I'm going to look for another canine family member to join our family. Be ready when that time comes for Poop Stories v2.0. And remember, you can only hear financial poop stories on

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My Home: The Dumb Perspective On "The Housing Bubble"

Sure feels like I'm still in a sellers market. Just saw a house, looked pretty good...6 days on market, and it's sold. I've written about it in the past...the freaky, scary, world economy ending housing bubble, but let's take another simple, logical view at the housing prices because I just don't understand what's going on. With all this press about housing prices going up, yet the bubble bursting, what's a prospective house buyer or seller to think! Definitely not "buy now!" Right? Let me give you the dumb perspective. Here are the facts, at least relative to my location... - Median housing prices are generally going up. - Average days on market is increasing. - Interest rates are going up. - More "non-traditional" loans are being taken out. There's something there that just doesn't make sense... If interest rates are going up, then less people can afford loans, means less people buying. Thus more homes available, thus increase in the average days on the market..


Also, folks with non-traditional loans are feeling or going to feel the pinch in a few years. Thus more homes available, thus increase in the average days on the market. More non-traditional loans are taken out because people can't really afford what they want to buy. So far everything makes me at least. Now it gets fuzzy...what explains the increase in median housing prices then? My guess is, as Alan Greenspan would say, "irrational exuhberance." What do I mean by this? Sellers still think they can get premium dollar for their homes, and buyers are still buying! Buyers are taking out non-traditional loans. If you're telling me that housing prices will continue to rise, you've got to be kidding me! Here's a link to that lists the Honolulu, HI as one of the best places to live in 2005. In it, you'll see "Median household income (per year)" = $50,974. You'll also notice "Median home price" = $280,771. Their data must have been from around 2003. That's the only time median household prices were around $280k based on data from the Honolulu Board of REALTORS. Well in 2005, that sites reports median home prices of $590k! Now if we take dumb math, and consider, if the median household income in 2003 = $51k (I'll throw in an extra $26) and median household prices in 2003 = $280k, then in 2005 the median house hold income should have increased to $107k. Uhhh, I don't think so. So, how are people affording these homes? Credit and more credit. That's the only explanation. Folks, we are just setting ourselves up for a major economic slap to the forehead. The sky is falling, the sky if falling! But then who listens to chickens? Am I just being dumb? Or maybe the housing bubble paranoia is the real bubble. Please tell me...I want to buy a house already...I hope I don't lose a few readers because of the advertisment in this post...I love irony.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How Many Savings Accounts Are Too Many Savings Accounts?

So I'm debating whether to open a Citi eSavings account. On top of that, they have a 6 Month CD @ 5.5%, but I worry that having too many savings accounts hurts my credit and opens me up for more potential fraud. Right now, I have 3 savings accounts, 2 checkings accounts opened. How many savings, and checking accounts for that matter, would you open? How many do you have open? EDIT: I'd like to clarify that it's not the savings accounts that hurt credit, in fact having accounts opened for long periods of time may actually benefit your credit score. Rather it's the hard credit check that sometimes happens, depending on who you are opening the account with, that actually would lower your credit score. Also, to clarify "opens me up for more potential fraud," I mean that having more accounts means more "holes" that could be attacked.

A Horrible Trip To the Car Dealership. I Almost Lost It.

This story includes threats to call the police, 3 levels of dealership management, key theft, and something very close to extortion. About 4 years ago, shortly after I moved to California (I'm back in Hawaii now), I wanted to buy a more economical car, so I went to look at some used cars at the Honda dealership near my new apartment. As I looked around, I found a used Acura Integra. Manual transmission, fairly low miles, not a bad sticker price, decent condition, and most importantly, more gas efficient than my SUV. I took the car on a test drive, and the horror story begins. I didn't have a plan before I headed into this dealership...I just wanted to "look around." I really didn't think I'd buy anything. I was pretty naive about the whole auto buying process. Never did I think I would go through what I did. After the test drive, I thought, this car is not bad. So I told them, "Yeah, I'm interested." So we go inside, sit down, and out comes the "grid." The first set of numbers are all worked out, and they said the car was $14,500 (or so). I forget what my monthly payments would be. They haven't even pulled my credit yet. Hmmm, not interested. So they asked, am I trading in? I said, "Most likely." They then asked if they could have my keys to appraise my car, and I gave it to them. Didn't think much of it, actually. This was the biggest mistake of the night. Once they invest in looking at the car, coming out with a $$$ value, they will try everything to sell you the car. Well, they came back with a revised offer, giving me something like $17,000 for my SUV, so if I went ahead with the deal, I would leave with another car and a check for $2,500. I thought, "That's not too bad...I wonder if I can get more." Well, now I looked interested. It just got worse. They asked the classic question, "What would convince you to take this car home today?" And I gave them a number, $13,000 for the car, and $17,000 for my trade in. Five minutes later, this "manager" comes out and says, "Sorry, we can't do that, but we will give you the car for $14,000." I thought, "Wow! $500 more dollars. /sarcasm" I still didn't feel comfortable. I made a few calls, and everyone told me, "Don't do it. You can easily find other cars for less." I agreed. I went back, and told them, "You know what? Sorry, but I'm not interested. I'll come back later." Now this is where it gets ugly. The salesman says, "Hold on, let me go and see if we can work out an even better deal." Again, five minutes later he comes back, this time with the dealership GM. The gm says, "It's your lucky day! We need to make this sale happen. We'll give you the used car for $13,000, and pay you $17,000 for your trade-in." Uhhh, salesman, did you not hear what I just said earlier? Some conversation goes on, and they said, "Why don't you think about it." I said, "No thanks, I'd like to go." Continuing to disregard my statements, the guy keeps blabbing away. Finally I said, "Can I just have my keys?" The guy says, "Sure." Twenty minutes later, still no keys. At this point, it's late, and I just want to go home. The gm comes back and tells me, "You sure you don't want to do this? Is there anything I can do?" And I replied, "No, I'd like to go home...where are my keys?" To that he said, "It's coming." Another twenty minutes passes, and at this point, I'm pissed. So I go up to the GM, and said, "Where's my keys?" He said, "It's coming." And that's when crap hits the ceiling. I said, "Listen, I want my keys right now, or I am going to call the police." To that he replies, "I'm getting it right now, just hold on." Already huffing and puffing, I waited a few more minutes. Finally, the salesman pulls me on the side and says, "Look, let's just go in and fake like you're filling out the paperwork, and I'll get the keys, and you just go." I couldn't believe it! Is this really happening to me in a dealership? So we go in and sit down. He grabs the paperwork for me, and I continue to fill it out while he steps away to get my keys. I wrote some things on that form that would not be appropriate for my blog. It was harsh. Five minutes later, he brings my keys to the table. I was relieved to get my own damn car back! Finally, he says, "Just hold on a few minutes until my GM walks away..." I said, "Okay." Then he tells me, "Alright, go. Sorry man." And I leave. That was by far the worst dealership experience ever. This Honda used car dealership is in San Jose. If you'd like to know which one, email me. Anyone else have a horror story to share? On second thought, the dealership was Capitol Honda Used Car on Capitol Expressway, San Jose, CA.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I Hate Those Tip Jars @ [put name of establishment here]! A Rant Letter.

Dear [put name of establishment here], Everytime I visit your establishment, I see a little jar that says, "tips...thanks!" On top of that, if I pay with a credit card, sometimes I am faced with another line right before the total that reads, "Tip: ___________." Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate great customer service, but this "tip" thing is just getting a little out of hand. When I buy my coffee, I don't think a simple, "Hi, how are you doing?," "Do you want room for cream?," and "Anything else for you today?" deserves a tip. Come on, I mean I'm already paying you at least 50% margin on what I'm buying! At a restaurant, service entails seating, taking my order, filling my drinks, cooking, bringing my order, cleaning up, desserts...Now that, I think, deserves a tip, but come on, taking my order, my money, and giving me my change back does not deserve a tip. So please, [put in name of establishment here] make it policy to remove these "tip" jars from your stores. I feel bad because some of your employees "expect" a tip, which to me is just ridiculous. Or at the very least, put it by where I pick up my order. Not at the register after you've just taken my money. I haven't even received my order yet! Thank you. Sincerely, Freedumb P.S. (Tips...thanks!) -> ------------END LETTER If you (blog reader) are interested, It's Just Money has a post on tipping guidelines.

If I'm Not Blogging For Money, Why the Ads?

I wrote awhile back on why I blog, and the conclusion I came to is that: 1. To share my knowledge of finances. 2. To gain insight from others, aka get criticism/feedback, on my financial decisions. 3. To log my financial journey, like tracking my net worth. 4. To hold myself accountable. But none of it includes making money, so why the ads? Well, let me be honest, I do want to make some extra cash if I can. Is it important? No, but it sure is interesting. From choosing ad providers to choosing the layout. What works? What doesn't? It's like a little experiment. So I don't blog to make a profit, but it does add to the incentive to keep blogging. Sorry, I'm not willing to take the Paranoid Brain challenge, but that is an interesting proposition. Maybe when I get bored of it... You probably noticed that I make subtle changes to my blog every so often. If you see anything you don't like, let me know. This blog is a work in progress, and if there was ever a more appropriate to slap the "under construction" tag on something, this blog is it, actually all blogs are right?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Thank You: Dad

Since Father's day just passed, I figure it would be appropriate that the first in my new series called, "Thank You," is about my dad. Credit to FMF's post "Being Thankful" for kicking my butt and doing something I should've done a long time ago. Where do I start? My relationship with my father has never really been great. He's constantly nagging, giving me unsolicited advice, getting overly angry (tempered), and generally unwilling to accept blame, but everything he does he does with the premise that it's for my good, and although tough to take at times, I guess deep down inside I appreciate it. Even though I don't actually reciprocate the way I should...Hey what would you do if your dad keeps telling you to save your money when that's all I think about! He just doesn't get that. But hey, for putting me through school, giving me the opportunity to travel, teaching me how to catch crabs, giving me the resources to pursue my interests, and giving me, uhhhh, just about everything else... Anyway, breaking through the surface tension like Mento's dropped in bottle of soda, THANK YOU DAD.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Ethics of Free Refills...Am I Wrong?

Here's the story. I'm driving by McDonald's, and I decide to go in and buy a drink (24oz). I leave, and then as I make my merry way to my destination, I've realized I've downed the entire cup of Coke. A few minutes away from where I've got to go, and what do you know, another McDonald's. The thought pops up in my head, "Hey when I'm dining in, I can get free refills. Does that mean I can walk in and fill up my cup?" Well, I did. Before you jump all over me for being so cheap, I just bought the soda a few minutes ago... My take, yeah, I should probably buy another drink, but I mean there are no clear spelled out rules on refills right? If I leave the establishment, I know I'm supposed to buy another drink, but it's not written on the walls in McDonald's or anything. What do you think? Am I wrong?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday! Update: UHNWI, Reality, a Circus, and Vs. ING...

When was the last time I posted my Friday! Update? Sorry, I'm not one for routine...I'm very random if you haven't noticed already. That doesn't mean through the course of my "Friday! Update" vacation, I didn't find some great posts... If you haven't read my post on Bullying, please check it out. Also, I've posted my salary...sort of... LAMoneyGuy over at It's Just Money digs deep into the idea of Market Timing. The amount of detail and data that backs his argument is intriguing. Punny Money talks about the 10 greatest money saving inventions ever. It's a great read... Nothing like mother - daughter bonding at the circus...And if SingleMa is writing the post, you know it's going to be exciting...Check it out. If you've ever wondered, "Does make sense?" Then you'll want to check out this post by John @ MBH...Calculation vs. ING. With everything that goes on in PF Blogging, real people exist behind each and every blogger deals with much more than just money, and it's called life. Law's Finance asks a question that many of us ask ourselves everyday...How to find time... And finally, nothing like starting the weekend just imagining what it must be like to be an ultra-high-net-worth-individual...30+ million dollars...oh the pain. Read about how long it will take TraineeInvestor @ A Private Portfolio to accomplish this goal. Have a great weekend!

Updated Doggie Costs. Food, Treats, Salmon Oil, and Glucosamine + Chondroitin Supplement

I haven't updated my doggie costs recently, but that doesn't mean I've been neglecting Brownie. Dog Food (Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul): $35.00 Treats (Bully sticks, yeah weird that I just wrote about another kind of bullies): $12.00 Wholistic Pet Salmon Oil (32oz): $36.00 Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM (Triple Flex, For me and my dog actually): $30.00 / 150 pills The Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM supplements are good for bones and joints...Labs (and other large breeds) are prone to hip/elbow dysplasia, so I'm giving it to Brownie just in case... Total cost to date: $4,220.79 Updated here...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Got My Auto Insurance Renewal Notice - Saving $164.00!

Woot! Am I happy when my bills go down. My auto insurance decreased from a $651.00 / 6 months to $487.00 / 6 months. Awesome! Thank you AIG Hawaii. The reason? My speeding ticket has finally been removed from driving record. The actual penalty for the ticket is nothing compared to the pain from the insurance company. Check out how much it has costed me...

How I Found My First "Real Job" and How Much I Got Paid...That's Right I'm Posting My Salary.

As a fairly recent college graduate starting salary is probably one of the main factors I looked at when deciding what I wanted to study--along with my interests and job availability. I admit it, money was a deciding factor in my degree. Hey, nothing wrong with that...financially, what makes sense? But in the end, money didn't win out. My passion for teaching and a rewarding career is what won out...for my degree...but I ended up in a computer job even after all the planning... Why am I revealing my starting salary? It's my salary from many years ago, so it's not as relevant today (i.e. My coworkers finding out is not as bad). Is it close to what I'm making now? I leave that for you to discover. I can let you know that I currently work one full-time job and hold a part-time job as well. So hah, now figure out my salary.

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Originally, I had wanted to become a teacher. A high school biology teacher. And I will one day! But what eventually happened is completely different from what I thought would happen. Life has its funny ways, doesn't it? I had tons of experience in computers. I worked my entire college career at the university help desk. Not to mention an internship doing various computer related duties, a computer repair job during high school and working a major computer retailer for one summer. The help desk gave me experience with computers and with customer service. I also took computer programming classes. If you can't tell, I enjoy computers. I never intended to make a career out of it though...maybe a side gig consulting or a few projects here and there, but not a career. Well, in my senior year, a friend asked me if I wanted to come along with him to a career day event the following week, and I said okay. I worked on my resume, dressed up a bit, and went to school. We went to the career day event and there was my future employer. That's how I got my first real job--the job I still do today. Keep in mind this was during the dotcom boom. I do software support for a computer company. I graduated with a minor in Computer Science. My major? Nutrition. Starting salary: $61,500.00. My job: Software Support (officially a Software Engineer) This is why I believe that work experience >>>>>>> Your degree. Anyway, there you have it. Why nutrition? A couple of reasons: 1) My scholarship required majors in certain areas, and 2) it was a pre-med program, which offered me another option of pursuing med school if I wanted. Don't send me nutrition questions though, please. Trust me, you don't want my advice. :) I guess in the end, I really went into college pursuing a degree that left me with as many options as possible. I knew the gist of what I wanted, but I don't mind riding the wave per se. I guess I just go whereever life takes me. I don't enjoy support, but it's livable, especially with the flexibility it is providing me. Do I see myself doing it for the rest of my life? No...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Made a Few Changes, "Off Topic: Bullying and How It Affects Me."

I've made some changes to my original post with additional resources and ways to help. Hope you can sign the petition.

Off Topic: Bullying and How It Affects Me

Definitely not a financial topic, but one dear and near to my heart. I don't know where to start. Media focuses on kids that go on rampages (ex. Columbine), but we never hear stories about the kid who committed suicide or the kid who grew up forever altered, lack of self-esteem, lack of confidence, lack of socialization skills, forever marred and unable to meet their full potential because they were not picked on, teased by their "friends," etc. But bullying is far more than that, from something as "small" as not being picked to play games, not being included into lunches, or not getting that invitation to a birthday party. When you're young, it doesn't matter. Even the smallest thing feels like a two ton rock falling on you. Just Google, "Bullying & Suicide," and you'll see stories that will open your eyes. Read this story about Ryan Patrick Halligan. Watch Ryan's video. He was victim of "cyber-bullying." Or Jared Benjamin High who was a victim of bullying at school. For both, life ended MUCH too early. As I get older, I realize bullying takes a whole other form typically stereotyping, plain old arrogance, inability to accept other people for who they are. As adults, we generally don't pick on individuals anymore, but rather we bully a group, a personality trait or something we don't agree with. We argue, not for the purpose of bettering each other, but to win, to make the other a loser, to belittle the other side. We forget that not everyone understands, not everyone is blessed with the same brain, not everyone is as experienced. We can only hope to educate and grow together. Maybe this seems foreign to you, or you can't imagine it being that important. If that's the case, I ask you to take a look at your childhood, were you on the other side and didn't even know it or right in the middle between "cool" and "not cool." Are you where you are today, maybe because you were on the other side? Maybe you had a group of friends that made you feel accepted? Maybe you just never noticed the fat kid, the nerdy kid, the different kid? Maybe you were blessed with a strong mind and never was bothered...but as kids, I know the vast majority just want to fit in. Play, have fun, make friends... If you're a parent, I urge you to look at your child. Regardless of whether they are the victim or the offender, to address it and help your kids understand the damage done. I count myself as lucky, but even today, almost 30 years old, far removed from the lunch bells, cubbie holes, and P.E., I still have memories, memories that hurt. It shapes who I am today, and guides every decision that I make. I try everyday to include, not exclude. I survived, but growing up shouldn't be about surviving, especially in society today where we have so many luxuries. Maybe we just need to remember. If you need someone to talk to, I'm here, financial.freedumb [at] If you need more information, here's a start...American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry - Children and Depression. There's tons out there though. If you want to contribute to the cause...Here are a few organizations that you might be interested in or Finally, sign the Federal Anti-Bullying Laws Petition.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Plan Z. What If I Lost My Job?

I recently wrote about how I would meet my 2006 goal, or probably not meet my goal would be the more appropriate description, but what if everything went south, and for whatever reason I lost my income source, my job. What would I do? I'm not sure...I've thought about this a little, but it's a serious question. Am I emotionally prepared to handle it? Financially prepared? What are my backup plans? Financially, I'll be okay. I have enough funds to last awhile, but if unemployment lasts long enough, it will eat away at my funds for my future home. Frugality takes on a whole new meaning. Emotionally, I think I'm ready. I don't particularly enjoy my job right now, and have been thinking of other things I could do. But the truth is, I'm not really prepared for it. How would I gain a new income source? Can I find a new job? Should I go back to school? Here are some ideas I have should I lose my job: 1. Start my own business. I do have some ideas that I've just never pursued fully. Including an online business selling various items from Hawaii. 2. Go back to school. I've thought about this one a few times too. I do want to pursue an MBA and/or a degree in secondary education. 3. Teach. Something I've wanted to do since my high school biology class. 4. Join the Peace Corp or AmeriCorp. Actually this is one idea that I would love to do. It'll become much more difficult as I have more responsibilities, so I could consider this something to do ASAP. With a family, house, dog, etc. it would be much more difficult to leave. What would you do if you lost your source of income?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Free "Avoid ID Theft" Kit

Okay, this is interesting...I have no idea what this kit includes. From the site:
FCIC is the help desk for everyday life–and we'd like to help you! Avoid ID theft with a FREE package of publications about credit and identity theft. The package includes publications on credit reports, credit scores, preventing identity theft, and more. To get your FREE ID theft package and a FREE Consumer Information Catalog listing more than 200 valuable consumer publications, just fill in your name and address below. I just signed up...will post more details when I receive it in 4 weeks. I never heard of a government agency with the acronym "GSA" actually.

Buying Airline Tickets? Why Airline Sites Have Made Orbitz, Expedia, etc. Obsolete.

If you're buying airline tickets and have been buying them from sites like and, read on...

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Sites like Orbitz do provide the convenience of being able to shop multiple airlines at once. You can also add hotels, car rentals, etc. But prices are always higher at these sites due to the convenience fees. If you want the best deal shop the airline's website. I have yet to find a cheaper flight on the travel site, but hey I could be wrong. Find out for yourself...check out one of the sites and compare. This could be a secret sites like Orbitz and Expedia don't want you to know, but if you find a date you like, go to the airlines website, and purchase your tickets there...I bet the price will be the same minus the convenience fees! On top of that, you can find some additional deals only available through the airlines websites, like $xxx off deals, last minute specials, and bonus mileage. So there you have it...I do not own any airline stocks.

Commericals That I Really Enjoy...Priceless.

Commericials should convince you to buy. For whatever reason, whether you just like the few seconds of entertainment provided, the value of the product, the principle behind the company, whatever it might be, the commercial should "sell you." I wrote about commercials I despise...this time, I'd like to write about commericals I've enjoyed. - Funny and/or gives me useful information. Mastercard - Priceless commercials really hit home for some reason. Well done IMHO. American Express - The one by M. Night Shaymalan was really good. I liked it. Almost like mini movies...great idea. Probably not as effective, but entertaining. McDonalds - Always positive, puts a smile on my face. Toyota - I like Nissan automobiles, but I got to admit, those Toyota truck commercials work. The meteor-proof, resilient trucks... Vytorin - Yeah, I really like these commercials. They are educational and catchy.

Carnival Of Personal Finance - Special Birthday Edition

Check it out over at Consumerism Commentary! The first birthday of the COPF.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Commercials That I Despise...Grrrrrrrrr.

For the most part TV ads are entertaining, especially since the superbowl ad craze began anyway. However, some just, well, piss me off, and make me want to boycott the products rather than support them. I especially hate ads that promote consumer ignorance and/or play to the uninformed consumer, put down other companies, don't tell you what they are selling, are plain old pointless. Here are some of them... Apple - The recent ads with the Mac and PC guy just stirs up some real bad feelings. I'm a PC user, so of course, you can say that that is the reason why, but I've never held resentful feelings towards Macs because I always thought they were good computers too. They do especially well in certain areas. Now that Apple introduced these commercials, I am an Apple hater. I can honestly say I will never purchase an Apple product for life since they want to stereotype PC users so considerately. Pepsi - I am just bothered by the commercials where the Coke can gets smashed. I'm not sure why. Sympathy? I will go out of my way to look for Coke products now. Burger King - The one with the "bucking chicken" just irks the hell out of me. What is that? Not to mention the disturbing "king" dude. Volkswagen - That new one with the "fast" devil dude...disturbing and irritating. On the flip side, there are commercials that I really like...I'll post on those later.

Kiplinger's Subscription, 3 Years, For $5.00!

This is a pretty good deal...I've never read Kiplinger's too much, but I always see them referenced. Go ahead and subscribe! You'll need to use the discount code to get $40.00 off...not too shabby. Regular subscription for 3 years costs $44.91, or $1.24 per issue, instead you pay $0.14 per issue. When you look it that way, WOW! If Entrepreneur Magazine is more your taste, that's $6.00...just use the $30.00 coupon. Not sure when this hurry. I'm not sure if you can get both magazines.

How Am I Going To Meet My Goal? Part 2

I needed to think about this more. Earlier this week I wrote about it, but it deserves more thought than that...Let's say on average, I save a conservative $4,000.00 a month, $5,000.00 less than what I need to save. The actual amount doesn't matter, the bottomline is I need to figure out a way to turn less money into more. This means, I'm going to hit $65,710.00 out of the $100,000.00 goal I set. How the heck am I going to actually hit $100,000?!?!


In my original post, I said:
I am planning on: - Reshifting my 401k investments into an aggressive fund towards the later part of this summer. - Cutting expenses. - Sell some stuff on eBay.
But what does each mean? Reshifting my 401k investments into an aggressive fund. Well this one is pretty self expanatory I think. Cutting expenses. Alright, how am I going to cut expenses? Well, for one, I'm going to eat out less. I'm going to have to focus on buying groceries to make lunch. Cut back on the smoothies and coffee. Instead of Starbucks, I'm going to McDonalds. Like my philosophy on loosing weight, which is to cut back, not completely change the diet. For example, if you're making dinner, take your normal choices and portions, then put some back. Sell some stuff on eBay. Hah, this is going to be fun. I have so many junks in my place. I might soon need a waterfront property to store it. ;) I've also gone ahead and reviewed My Luxuries. Unfortunately, I can't cut out much there...I can't give away my dog. So don't even suggest that! :) I could cut my subscription, but the amount I save because I don't go out exceeds the amount I spend on the subscription...I already minimized from the 3-out to the 2-out subscription reducing the fee by about $5.00/month. I could start getting real drastic, but at this point, I don't think that's called for...yet. Don't worry, I'll warn you when I start re-using underwear.

My Home: Finding a Realtor...Or Not. Buying a Home Myself.

I recently wrote My Home: Finding a Realtor, and I thought, "Wait a minute, why do I even need a realtor? Maybe I can do this myself?"


Why would I want to do that? Well, I wrote the main factors I'm looking for in a realtor, but the fact is, how do you find a realtor that's "trustworthy?" I have no clue...It's hard enough finding true friends, nevermind a friend in a specific industry. That brought about the thought, what if I just buy on my own without a realtor. From what I've been able to find, it is possible, but does it make sense? Maybe. If you're really good at negotiating, then maybe you can negotiate the price down half of the commission normally reserved for the buyer and seller agents. And if you have resources, like a real estate lawyer and a mortgage broker. Might be nice to have some experienced folks in real estate just for advice too. Here are some links I've found... Bottom line, it depends. For most situations, as a buyer, getting an agent is probably better. I say probably because it's largely dependent on your skills as a negotiator and how resourceful you are.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

My Home: Finding a Realtor

So I'm beginning the process of finding a realtor. I've asked my friends and family for references, including a few folks I've met on my own. My main concerns for a realtor are: - Honesty and openess. I want one that is willing to disclose full client list, and is willing to disclose previous transactions. - Short client list. Proven transaction history. I don't want to be at the end of the list when a listing comes that fits my needs. - Patient. My realtor must be able to tolerate my personality. I like being updated and being able to contact my realtor without the feeling of pestering them. - Trustworthy. If I'm willing to disclose my income and my personal goals with this person, I hope that the same can be reciprocated. I don't want a realtor that would hide a good deal so that they can benefit from it. - Full time realtor. I've contacted a few realtors to setup appointments. Hopefully within a month or so, I can have someone to call on should I find a property that peaks my interest. On another note, I just thought, what if I don't get a realtor at all? Buy on my own? Is there any benefit? Look for a post in the future...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Talk About a Swing! DOW 1.83, S&P 2.12%, NASDAQ 2.79%

Just when I thought things were looking dreary, two strong days of gains in the broad market! Well, well, well...some positives make me feel a little better. Now to wait for the official fed moves and 2nd qtr earnings news. That should get me invest or not.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How Am I Going To Meet My Goal? $63K Left To Go!

Jeez, I'm way off target. At this rate, I'll need to increase my monthly networth by $9,000 just to meet my goal! Yeah, ummm, highly unlikely. So what am I going to do? Well, I do want to shift my assests into more aggressive investments, but right now is just not the time for me. I do not feel comfortable making the jump at this moment. However, by the end of the year, I do feel I may make the move. With inflation worries, lower earnings expected in second half of 2006, housing worries, it just doesn't seem right right now. I may just shift my retirements assets to more aggressive funds and leave my non-retirment money alone for now. So really, I probably won't reach my goal. So the alternate plan? Save as much as I can. Hopefully I can hit at least 75% of my 2006 goal. I am planning on: - Reshifting my 401k investments into an aggressive fund towards the later part of this summer. - Cutting expenses. - Sell some stuff on eBay. I hope this market stabilizes soon. I want to make my next move already! Patience is the key word...and that's gotta be one of my worst traits.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Suddenly I Am a Genius! I Didn't Invest Last Month...

The market is hurting, and procrastination has made me feel like a genius for a day or two...That's odd. :/ I planned to do a major asset re-allocation just last month, but didn't. Mainly because I didn't do enough homework to determine what to invest in. Well, come June 13, the market has taken a dive...although my proposed stock investments, would have still only lost 1.22% or $583.00. Now the question is when to get back in. I'm thinking I may just shift my retirement investments to more aggressive investments rather than investing my cash.

Step Right Up. Get Your Degree! We Offer 30 Year Loans Too!

Having a degree is supposed to increase your earnings through your lifetime by one million dollars. Not bad right? Well, not if you graduate with a six digit loan. In an article on, a graduate student, Palazzolo, graduates from Rutger's University with $116,000 in loans. Absurd! Another example taken from the article:
Angela Schneider, 26, graduated last year from Simmons College in Boston with a master's degree in social work and $118,000 in student loans. To make her monthly payments of $800, Schneider has taken on a part-time job providing in-school therapy in addition to her full-time position as a medical social worker. She's living on a tight budget that allows her $70 a month for entertainment.
Granted these folks are graduating with a Masters, but still. $70 monthly entertainment budget?! For how long? And finally:
Routsong decided to return to school to get her master's degree as a nurse practitioner. She looked into nursing programs at several community colleges. All had two- to three-year waiting lists. She entered an accelerated program at the University of San Diego, a private school, that will enable her to get a master's in three years. She's borrowed $65,000 and expects her loans to top $165,000 by the time she graduates. Her student debt, she says, occupies a place in the recesses of her mind.
That last line just gets me. It occupies a place in the recesses of her mind? Like an afterthought, when it should be one of the main issues BEFORE deciding what to pursue. If it doesn't make sense, like in this case, to me it doesn't, then I think you have to formulate another game plan. If this is really what she wants to do, then there are others ways to do it. I'm not saying it's easy to find other ways, like getting your company to help pay for some of the expenses, but it's possible. Blogs has some interesting comments...One day, I hope my blog has this much reader interest! Hah. Bottomline: "Go to the best school (with the best program of study you're interested in) that you can AFFORD."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Housekeeping Done

I mentioned housekeeping about a week ago, well, unfortunately, some blogs are being removed. It's sad to see these blogs removed, but if the authors are still reading, I wish them the best! If you come back, please let me know.

Waterfront Property From $100/Month In Hawaii and Get Your First Month Free!

It's a "studio." Just need to add your own bathroom, kitchen, and other living necessities...oh and no windows from your "room." :) Okay, I understand people want to store stuff. They are willing to pay to store extra stuff (Stuff they will probably never see or use in their lifetime, in my opinion). As Everybody Loves Your Money points out, "Paying to Store C-R-A-P." Well this one takes the cake, a beautiful location, over looking the ocean, close to the beach is becoming a, you guessed it, self-storage location! Check it out. This is not the only one to take prime real estate in Hawaii btw, there's one close to a major mall and concert hall opening up, there's one by the University, there's one right smack in the middle of downtown. I need to open a self-storage location up! Talk about passive income.

My Home: If You Believed Housing Prices Would Come Down...What Would You Do?

If you believed that housing prices will come down within a couple years, but you found a pretty good deal on a house at the right price, would you go for it? Or would you wait? I've heard lots of arguments. It's an investment, and you can't time the market. There's only so much land, prices will always go up. And many more... Or, would you hold out until a specific date? In my situation, summer 2007. After thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that sometimes that saying opportunity comes once in a lifetime leads me to make decisions that are not always in my best interest. The fact is opportunity is always there, you just have to find it. I'm going to hold out. I can accept my decision should housing prices go up, but I think I would have a harder time accepting if I bought and prices went down.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gonna Do Some Housekeeping. Cleaning the Blogroll.

I'm planning on doing some blogroll housekeeping. I wish I could keep everyone on the list, but it is a little long. My plans are to remove blogs that have not been updated in the past month when I check them. I'll post blogs that have been removed. If you want to be added back on, just let me know.

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Home: Prepping My Credit Score

One of the first things you should do as you embark on the journey of buying a house is getting to know you're credit score. This will tell you if you are on track to get the best rates available. A score of 720 and above is considered to be in the upper tier, based on my meeting with the loan officer at my credit union, and you should have almost no problems getting the best rates with a score like that. I'm not sure if there are even better rates to be had if your score is, say, 800+, but it doesn't hurt. I'm know my Experian credit score is 762 right now, but I'm not sure about the other 2 credit agencies. My credit union told me that they take the 3 scores, and look at the middle score as the one they use to establish my loan. I'll have to work on that. In preparation, I've decided to limit my credit inquiries to only essentials. This means no more 0% credit cards for awhile. I'm also targetting January 07 as when I'll pay off a majority of my credit card debt, which is at 0% right now. One credit card has 0% set until midyear 07, so I won't pay off everything. My main goal is lower my debt to credit limit. Too high of a ration, hurts my credit score. So far, that's my only plans in place. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to resist a two year 0% offer though!

Do You Know What To Do With Your Money When Retirement Comes?

All this talk about saving for retirement, but no one really talks about after you've saved your money, then what? Do you take out one big lump sum? Do you take out a couple percent? This article Know when to break the retirement investing rules,, has some specifics on what to do...First two are known, but the last one struck me as most interesting...First two being:
1: You'll need 60% to 80% of pre-retirement income to keep your current standard of living once you retire.
2: Tap regular accounts before tax-deferred ones in retirement.
Here's the last suggestion...
3: Withdraw 3% to 4% of your portfolio a year, then adjust upward for inflation.
I never really knew the specifics of how much to take out...A specific amount puts the other suggestions into perspective.

Friday, June 02, 2006

How Do I Grow My Net Worth Without Revealing My Income...

This is going to be tough...I don't want to reveal my income for various reasons, the biggest being the potential discovery of who I am by my work colleagues. I just posted my net worth, so I figured it be appropriate to discuss how I save...without revealing my income. - I live with my parents. Yes, in Hawaii, it is not uncommon to see many generations under one roof. It's just the style of living here. Thus my expenses are limited--gas, mobile phone service, cable, auto insurance, etc. I don't pay rent. I've offered... - I work from home, thus my gas and maintenance costs are very low. - I am pretty thrifty always looking for the best deals. However, I do go on an occasional splurge, as demonstrated this month. I restrict my splurge purchases, or try to anyway, to things that I've wanted for at least 6 months. I also buy things on sale if at all possible and practice the art of tease shopping. - I use my credit card for all purchases, rarely using cash. This saves me close to 1% on almost everything. - I eat out at places I find coupons or there are specials at. - I like to do "free" entertainment activites like fishing, going to the beach, taking my dog to the dog park... Some areas I need to work on: - My investment growth. - Eating out less. - Spending...who doesn't! So there you have it. How I save without revealing my income.

05.2006 Net Worth [+$3,287.72, +1.72%]

The theme of this month? Getting over my luxuries. Coming out positive is good, but considering the percentage, I'm way off target to hit my goal for the year. This month was a month of expenses: - Additional expenses for airfare. - A couple new toys, as detailed here. Including a new fishing reel which was not mentioned. - A fair amount of driving this month, meant more spent on gas. I also shifted a bunch of cash from my savings to my investment account. It's not invested yet, but will be soon. Read my posts on asset reallocation. June and July should be a good months. No unusual expenses expected, however, August is going to be bad.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Your ID Is Stolen. That Sucks. Now What? 9.3 Million Victims.

Hope this never happens to anyone, but what if it does? How will you know? What do you look for? Who should I call if you think something is wrong? Tons of articles advising you on what if your credit is stolen telling you to call your credit card companies, credit bureaus, banks, etc. But what if you think you're just being too cautious? STOP. You can never be too cautious. Here are the steps I take to prevent my ID from being stolen: - I use the government's gift of a free annual credit report. And take the time to look through your entire history to make sure nothing seems out of the ordinary. Your credit report will often contain numbers to the reporting financial company, so call them if you have any questions. - I monitor my online account activity on a weekly basis. Credit cards, banks, investment, etc. I try not to let anything slip. - Don't submit your financial or personal information to any sites linked from emails if at all possible. - Discard personal information securely. Shred, burn, destroy all personal information. I've debated just throwing things away, and I admit, I do sometimes. When I get lazy, I'll rip a credit application in about 6 pieces and throw some of it in one trash can and the rest in another. - Call my financial institution whenever there's a question mark. Should I find something suspicious, I would immediately track down exactly when and where that happened, and then take the appropriate steps to stop it. Here are some quotes taken from an article on
Study results indicate that consumers who spot fraud online suffer an average theft of about $500. Consumers who wait for paper records and suffer ID theft suffer average losses of $4,500.
So monitor your credit card and online account statements! So your ID is what?
Also promising, she said, was a result showing average consumer time spent dealing with personal records cleanup from ID theft is now 28 hours, down from 33 last year.
Do you have 28 hours, which probably doesn't account for everything, to talk to someone over the phone explaining to them that you are, well, you? Remember,
"The fact is that nobody is more effective at preventing and protecting fraud than the individual," he said.
Here are some references in case ID Theft strikes you: And you may be interested in Credit Monitoring services. Also, check out this post by Frugal @ My 1st Million At 33.