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Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

Idiotic Intuit

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

I have been using Quicken for so many years. Same goes with Turbo Tax. I had lot of respect for Intuit, until few minutes ago. These idiots from Intuit completely screwed up Turbo Tax. These people have shown their greed and complete disregard for consumers in their turbo tax product. I bought Turbo deluxe recently just like I have been doing for years. However, Turbo tax deluxe does not allow you to enter Schedule C or D (stock investments or small business data). Instead, it force you to buy upgrade. I used to manually enter the data directly in the forms. Intuit put a total stop to it. The company should have been clear in the way they priced the product. It threw super blow to people who are loyal to the company for years. Shame on you Intuit.

H&R block used this screw up and offer free download for the users who are screwed by Intuit. More details at Wall Street Journal. If you are screwed by Intuit, you have two options:

  1. Call Turbo Tax at 800-445-1875 and ask them to give you free upgrade.
  2. H&R Block is offering a free download of software to people who have already purchased TurboTax Deluxe. (Email SwitchToBlock@hrblock.com and include proof of purchase of the 2014 software.)

UPDATE: Turbo Tax is issuing $25 refunds if you had to upgrade from Turbo Tax Deluxe. More details can be found in CNBC page.

How to keep new year resolutions?

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Most of us write new year resolutions on this day. However, only some of us are able to feel sense of achievement at the end of the year. Here are some tips to make sure you keep and succeed in your resolutions.

1. Make sure your resolutions follow SMART principle. Each resolution should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound. Believe me, if you can’t make your resolution adhering to SMART, you better remove it from your list to save you some frustration down the road.

2. Write positive resolutions. Meaning that, do not write “I will never ever eat that big fat pizza again”. That won’t work! Instead, write “I will eat more vegetables every day”.

3. Be realistic. You know your strengths and weaknesses more than anyone else in the world. Make your resolutions believable… to you!

4. Do some reverse engineering. Set a specific deadline for a goal and work backwards. Plan everything from now to that target date. Weekly plan works better.

These are simple, but proven tips. Try it out. Everyone in MoolaMania wish you and your family wonderful new year and prosperous days ahead! 2015 will be a pretty decent year for U.S. stock market. Plan well and profit well!

How to Protect Your Digital Legacy

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

We discussed about keeping your passwords strong and safe few days ago. It’s great that you choose a strong password and keep it secret. What if you suddenly depart this world and your loved ones do not know the passwords to your bank or stock accounts? Wall Street Journal published an article about this two years ago. You can find that here. If you can, follow the details in that article. Or share your passwords with your spouse or someone who is really really close to you. If you do share your passwords with others, do not just write down all the details in one sheet of paper. Write at least two sheets of paper. In one sheet, write down the usernames of the financial accounts. In another sheet, write down the passwords. Then, keep the papers in separate rooms. Ok, here is the important stuff. When you write down the passwords, do not write the entire thing. Keep it little cryptic and let the person you share with know how to decrypt it.

Let me give an example. If the password is “ILoveYouJane4Life1999”, write down the password as “ILoveYouJJJJ4LifeWEDDINGYEAR” and let your spouse/friend know the meaning of JJJJ and WEDDINGYEAR. You can play around with this basic idea. Come up with some words/phrases/numbers that are important for both you and the person sharing the password. Stick with pen and paper. Do not write down your plain text passwords in a document in your computer!

Unsafe Passwords

If you are bi-lingual, you can add more spice to your cryptic passwords. Sprinkle other language phrases in your cryptic password and let your spouse/friend knows about that too. I am assuming that your spouse/friend knows that language as well. For example, if you and your spouse knows Hindi, your cryptic password will be “IPyarYouJJJJ4LifeWEDDINGYEAR”. If someone breaks into your house and manage to steal both sheets of secret papers, that guy needs to know a lot before he can crack your secret code. Finally… remember to update your papers when you change your passwords for your online accounts.

If you are tech savvy, try tools like Password Safe and share just the master password with your spouse. I would personally stick with pen and paper rather than using Password Safe tool unless I have dozens of bank accounts! Password Safe tool recommends you to copy/paste the username and password from its database to web form. If someone is recording your keystrokes, you are out of luck. I prefer On-Screen keyboard that comes with most operating systems and anti-virus software products to enter the password in the online forms.

Whew… It seems to me that simplest thing would be to get rid of all online accounts!

Low cost internet access

Friday, March 8th, 2013

If you want cheaper or free internet access, check out FreedomPop. It is offering 1 GB/month free of charge to any user who signs up for service. There is a catch though… you need to buy FreedomPop’s $89 home WiMAX router. Not too bad, because it’s a one-time charge. If you want higher data plan like 10GB per month, it would cost $10 per month. “Freemium” is the new marketing mantra. Companies give you something for free and try to influence you to buy more stuff from them. FreedomPop hopes that free users would eventually convert to paid users.

If you watch Netflix at home, you will be better off sticking with your local provider. FreedomPop is only for the users who use Internet only for casual browsing and emails. For heavy users, 1GB data plan won’t last even a day.

Change your password and change it often

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

In the last 5 weeks, almost all major websites were hacked. Facebook and Apple included. There are serious attempts to hack into all leading banks in USA and other parts of the world. If you have online banking accounts, it’s wise to change your password every month. If you live in a country where you don’t have legal protection if your online banking account is compromised, you should seriously think about disabling online banking access. No kidding.

Security company Mandiant identified the People’s Liberation Army’s Shanghai-based Unit 61398 as the most likely driving force behind the recent hack attacks. In response to this allegation, China claims cyber attacks on its defense units originate from U.S. What the hell?!

This crap is not going to stop in the near future. If you stop using internet and emails, you may not need to deal with the spams and hackers. If your job or business or social life demands you to use internet, there is no escape. People like me deal with the spammers and hackers on day to day basis. One of the leading banks sent me email few weeks ago stating that someone used wrong password three times to log in to my account. So, the bank asked me to follow a link to reset my password. I think “someone using wrong password” is the drama staged by the bank. Their system was probably compromised and they were trying to save their face. Some companies like Evernote is very upfront and acknowledge the security breach.

It’s better to play it safe. Assume that the websites you frequently visit can be hacked. Be paranoid and change your password. When you change your password do not keep as “test1234”, “temp999” or “<yourname>123”. Keep your password really strong.

How to get perfect credit score?

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Median FICO credit score is 723 and the possible high score is 850. If your credit score is better than 723, pat yourself on the back.  If not, check out this article from Wall Street Journal. Basically, it boils down to the following:

  1. Pay your bills on time.
  2. Have low credit-utilization. For example, if you have $10,000 credit available to you, use only $3,000 max from that credit line. Wall Street Journal article claims that “you cant have too much credit”. I doubt it. Keep the limit on total credit available to you. Do not respond to all credit card offers that are coming your way. Also, keep the limit on your spending. That should take care of it.
  3. Don’t get into collection mess.

Apartment Rental Fraud

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

If you are looking for a place to rent and happen to come across a rental listing with lower-than-average price, do not jump up and down in excitement. Instead, keep the alert flag goes up in your brain.

Scammers target the users of Craigslist and other classifieds websites and place the rental ad with ridiculously low prices. For example, they put a listing for 1BR furnished apartment for $425 whereas the going rate in the market is $1,000 for similar apartments. The price is the bait. Once you fall for it and send an email to the ad poster, you would get the response something like the one below:

Thank you for the most eloquent response to my listing, I’m the owner of the apartment you are making inquiry of. Actually i resided in the apartment with my family, before i lost both parents in a ghastly motor accident so i had to relocate to Africa with my fathers half brother working in an oil firm in Africa.(W.AFRICA) and presently my apartment is still available for rent which i inherited from my late parents . It includes  utilities like hydro, washer and security, I have my furniture in the apartment. if you which to move in with your furnished items there is a storage area where you can move my furniture’s, no problem. Please i want you to note that i am a kind and honest  young man and also you should know that my parents must have spent a fortune on the property that i want to give you for rent, i will want you to take absolute care of my apartment and I want you to treat it as your own, money is not the most important thing but i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for check up. RENT INCLUDES CABLE, HEAT/AIR, WATER, GAS AND INTERNET!!!

N:B :  You will not be able to see inside of the apartment because the keys/document is here with me, you can only go by it and view from the exterior/surroundings, it’s located in a convenient, safe and good location. You would love to call it a home….

Nice email, isn’t it? If you fall for it and decide to rent the apartment without even looking inside, the scammer will ask you to send money to his african bank account and promise you that he will mail you the key thru UPS. By now, you would have probably guessed what would happen after you send the money to the scammer.

If you are naive and decide to send the money anyway for the fear of losing the super sexy apartment, you will never get the key for the apartment. You may be even surprised to know that the property owner is living right there in the apartment with his parents and have no idea about who placed the rental ad.

Black Friday Deals – Where to find?

Friday, November 19th, 2010

If you are itching to find out what the deals are going to be next Friday, check out the following sites.

Black Friday Ads

Deal Taker

Both sites give the preview of what retailers like Amazon, Target are going to offer next week. I suspect the retailers are intentionally “leaking” this information to have marketing edge.

Five Benefits of 529 College Savings Plans

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

529 College Savings Plans are arguably the best way to fund your children’s higher education, and has long sense surpassed the traditional methods like, Custodial Accounts and Educational IRA’s.

A 529 Plan is an educational savings plan is a plan set up under the IRS code 529, to help families fund their children’s education, and have significant tax breaks. I does not matter what state you live in or what state your child goes to school in; you can still fund his or her 529 plan.

Here are 5 benefits of 529 plans that you’ll want to know about.

Federal Tax Breaks: While your deposits in the plan are not deductable on your tax return it grows tax deferred. When your child is ready to attend college, distributions that are used for those expenses are tax free. It’s not hard to imagine the bite the IRS would take out of an investment that grew from twenty grand to two hundred grand, and that is what used to happen to the old college savings accounts, like custodial accounts. Keep in mind, if you use the money for non college expenses you will be subject to federal and state taxes.

State Tax Benefits: Nearly every state offers the same benefits as the Feds do, but just check in your particular state to make sure. If your state does not offer any benefits at the state level, just switch to a state that does, and you do not have to move to receive those benefits.

You Control the Funds: Unlike the old custodial accounts and Educational IRA accounts, the 529 account does not automatically become the property of the beneficiary. In other words, if your child decides not to go to school he cannot just take the money and run when he turns eighteen. You can hold on to the funds or fund the education of a younger sibling or a relative. Of course if your child does so well he/she gets a free ride in the school they are going to, then you can use the funds to help another child.

Large Deposits are allowed: With the old accounts, there were always the strict limits the IRS put on such accounts when it came to deposits. In many states you are able to contribute $300,000 or more, a far cry from the $500 limit of the old Educational IRA’s.

Flexibility: You have the ability to change 529 plans if you decide the plan of a different state is more beneficial than your current plan. You can do this once every twelve months for the life of the account.

So there you have it, five of the top benefits to the 529 plans. Do your research, determine which plan is most beneficial to you and get started funding your children’s college education.

Related Links: How to save money for college | How to save money on education costs

Does credit check affect your credit score?

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

What happens to my credit score when a mortgage lender checks my credit? The old answer used to be, “your score drops.” Not so any more.

If you are getting ready to purchase a home, or refinance an existing home, do all of your investigation within a thirty day period. The law says your score will only drop one time in a thirty day period if you are getting a home loan or purchasing a car. If you have the first potential lender run your credit on March first, make sure that at the end of the month you don’t allow any other lenders to check your credit. That of course could lower your score, maybe enough to disqualify you from the low rate you could have had.

“But my lender warned me not to let anyone else check my credit or my score will drop.” That’s a common sales tactic to scare borrowers from shopping around; don’t believe it. The next question people often have is, “How much could my score drop if I apply for a loan outside of my thirty day window?”

I had the opportunity to ask a representative from TransUnion that very question and received the following answer. “There is no way to tell for sure.”

Before I could object, he qualified his answer and here it is in a nutshell. How much ones score will drop is dependent on a number of factors. Some of those being; number of revolving accounts open, debt to available credit ratio, length of time accounts have been open, and of course adverse factors like late payments on accounts. Those are just a few factors that influence how much you score will drop.

Be safe, do all your searching for lenders in the thirty day window and you won’t have to worry about your score dropping fifteen points and disqualifying you from the best possible rate you qualify for.

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