Monday, September 29, 2008

Ten commandments for Bloggers

Heard about this on the news today, and had to find it. The Evangelical Alliance has designed 10 commandments to help Christian bloggers to keep on the straight and narrow paths through cyberspace.

Ten Commandments for Bloggers



1 You shall not put your blog before your integrity

2 You shall not make an idol of your blog

3 You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin

4 Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog

5 Honor your fellow-blogger's above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes

6 You shall not murder someone else's honor, reputation or feelings

7 You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind

8 You shall not steal another person's content

9 You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger

10 You shall not covet your neighbor's blog ranking. Be content with your own content

Some of the spelling was British-English and I corrected it to American-English, otherwise the text is quoted word for word from the original source.


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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thoughts on the Economic Crisis

Given the recent turmoil in our financial markets and the ongoing negotiations around a bailout package for Wall Street, it's not surprising that much of the debate last night focused on the current economic crisis (instead of the planned foreign policy). Very early on, after starting this blog, I have been criticizing predatory and unsound lending.



During the debate Obama acknowledged foreclosures as the root of the financial crisis and has pledged to help homeowners. That of course should be a no brainier, so not much kudos to him for getting that much right.

Whatever the solution to this mess is, a bipartisan approach that includes help for ordinary homeowners who are on the verge of foreclosure, and not just the big financial institutions. Specifically, any bailout proposal must include provisions that assist struggling homeowners, including greater access to loan modifications and a change in the bankruptcy law to allow homeowners to restructure their mortgages in bankruptcy court as is allowed with vacation homes and yachts. It is my belief that we also need to make stricter regulations that would outlaw or severely limit such predatory products as ARM's, payday loans as well as other products that take advantage of the very people that they purportedly are suppose to help.

As ordinary taxpayers we are being asked to bail out financial institutions that caused this crisis. This is crazy. Main Street is being asked to foot the bill, if this going to happen, it should also reap the benefits as well.


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Friday, September 26, 2008

Digital Converter Isn't Saving Money Like It's Suppose To

The other day, I mentioned that I was having problems with my digital converter box and rabbit ears. In case you missed it, the problem is this. There are 4 stations in Topeka and the digital converter can only find two of them PBS (11.1, 11.2 & 11.3) and NBC (27.1 & 27.2). I cannot seem to bring in CBS and ABC, both of which are located physically closer to me then the NBC station. In actuality, the 27.2 station is really CW, but it is owned by the local NBC affiliate. There is also a local FOX affiliate, that is currently owned by yet another company that I am not pulling in either.

A friend of mine, on the east side of town is able to get everything except the ABC and FOX affiliates. Digitally, he can get seven channels to my 5 and the ABC affiliate he can't pull in digitally, he was able to get analog with only the rabbit ears.

Not sure, what to do to fix this problem. I would love to disconnect the cable and just have the the local channels through the digital converter. Anybody have any ideas? How can I correct this problem? I want to save additional funds, but must get at least the local ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS affiliates.

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WaMu Becomes 13th Bank Failure

On Thursday, federal regulators moved in and seized Washington Mutual (WaMu).
Unlike many of the 12 bank failures that the FDIC has overseen this year, the J.P. Morgan-WaMu transaction isn't expected to impact the agency's national deposit-insurance fund. It wasn't immediately clear how the transaction would be structured to avoid the insurance fund taking a hit.
- Wall Street Journal

This failure marks the largest bank failure in U.S. history, Washington Mutual's. buyer will be J.P. Morgan Chase.

While the exact structure of the transaction wasn't immediately known, J.P. Morgan is expected to acquire Washington Mutual's deposits and branches, as well as other operations. The deal isn't expected to result in any hit to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s bank-insurance fund, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Some analysts have worried that a WaMu failure could cost more than $20 billion.

Federal regulators have been heavily involved in orchestrating the transaction, which comes as WaMu grapples with its bad mortgage loans. Regulators were hoping to fend off a collapse of WaMu, which, with more than $300 billion in assets, would mark by far the largest banking failure in U.S. history.
- Wall Street Journal


  • --- All of WaMu’s deposits, including those above federal insurance limits, will be acquired by JPMorgan, so no depositors will lose money. Deposits totaled $188 billion as of June 30 but the sum is smaller now because of recent outflows.
    - LA Times


  • I am still considering moving my Grocery fund from WaMu to a local bank, Topeka based Core First Bank, which recently expanded to Denver. Although, I would be interested in what JP Morgan-Chase might offer me.
    "There will be no interruption in services and bank customers should expect business as usual come Friday morning," FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in a statement.
    CNNmoney.com

    Of course, I am more interested in the credit side of the terms, which seem a bit more fuzzy.

  • JPMorgan also is buying all of WaMu’s assets, meaning its outstanding mortgages, other loans and credit card business. So WaMu borrowers now will become JPMorgan borrowers.
    - LA Times
  • Since, I transferred my Fingerhut debt to a 0% WaMu card, this will be one that affects me. I called customer service and they said no comments were being made at this time. After further questioning, they didn't have any information.

  • All of WaMu’s 2,239 branches nationwide in 15 states will become part of JPMorgan’s Chase retail bank system.
    - LA Times


  • The big question I have. Will JP Morgan change the name on WaMu branches? or will they keep the WaMu name, like they did when they took over Bear Stearns earlier this year?

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    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Possible WaMu Suitors Reluctant To Absorb Bad Debts

    According to the Wall Street Journal, SeekingAlpha.com, MarketWatch.com and others

    WaMu is now in talks with private-equity groups. Apparently Washington Mutual (WM) has approached private-equity firms such as Carlyle and Blackstone (BX), to gauge their interest in a potential takeover, according to sources close to the companies.

    Additionally, WaMu continues to explore other options, include a sale to another financial institution,
    though Santander (STD) has now dropped out, and TD Bank (TD) seems largely uninterested. JP Morgan (JPM), Citigroup (C) and Wells Fargo (WFC) have conducted some due diligence, but are reluctant to absorb WaMu's loans. This morning, Fitch noted there is an increased likelihood of a partial sale - leading to greater uncertainty for debt holders.
    WaMu, which has 2,300 branches, has a 98 percent chance of defaulting on its debt over the next five years, according to credit-default-swap traders.


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    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    2 Newest Panels to be Dedicated

    I have been lax about getting this updated this year. So busy at work and all. However, I must get this posted, as it so critically important.

  • 1. We are now on Facebook, join us there to help keep on up with the updates.

  • 2. We will be dedicating the next two 60-foot mural panels on Sunday Sept 28, 2008 @ 1 pm. Everyone is invited.
    20th and Western
    Gather in the back ExpoCenter parking lot on Western.

    A dedication ceremony for the 2008 installation at the Great Mural Wall of Topeka will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of S.W. 20th and Western streets. Two 60-foot murals, titled "Central Park" and "Free Fair," will be installed.

    Speakers will include Shawnee County Commissioners Vic Miller and Sylvia Ortiz and lead mural artist David Loewenstein. The event is coordinated by the Chensey Park Neighborhood Improvement Association.
    - Topeka Capital Journal
  • Politics or the The Country First Takes Front Page on Economic Front

    Today, as the economic future of America continues to look bleak, the two candidates for president, took very different strategies.

    First, you have one candidate, that says he must put the Country first and suspends his campaign to return to Washington to help hammer out a plan to help solve the country's economic problems.

    McCain said he's temporarily canceling campaign events and advertising to return to Washington and join talks on the Treasury's plan for the U.S. financial system, and urged his Democratic rival to join him in an urgent meeting with President Bush and congressional leaders.
    The Arizona Republican also called for the first presidential debate, scheduled for Friday evening, to be delayed as lawmakers continue to hammer out modifications to the plan.
    - MarketWatch.com


    Meanwhile, the other candidate is putting politics first and is still campaigning, at least in terms of Friday's debate. Has said he would not suspend his campaign like McCain did.

    But Obama said that Friday's planned debate at the University of Mississippi should go on as planned to tell voters how he and McCain plan respond to this crisis.
    It's "important to communicate to the people where we need to go in order to pull out of this thing," the Illinois senator commented. Obama added that the public needs to know the candidates can manage several issues at once.

    - MarketWatch.com


    The topic for the debate was to be foreign policy, not the economy. As of yet, there has been no change to that topic according to CBS News with Katie Couric.

    While, I don't think this is a time for partisan bickering, I have problems with some provisions of the plan as it currently stands. Quite frankly, those provisions, I am quite surprised are reportedly supported by a so called conservative (President Bush). What, in particular do I have a problem with? That would be the U.S. Government taking an equity stake in the companies it bails out. That to me sounds to much like socialism.

    The massive rescue plan is facing skepticism in Congress as members seek assurances that it will work as intended. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have been pushing for the plan on Capitol Hill for two days.

    McCain said he's confident that lawmakers and the administration can come up with a compromise plan before markets open Monday.
    - MarketWatch.com
    Both candidates are to jointly meet with President Bush at thew White House tomorrow (Thursday). It will be interesting to see what kind of plan the trio can come up with.


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    Hectic Day and Tune Ups

    Yesterday, was one hectic day. From the moment, I got up, I was on the run. First, I was off to my work place, to pick up my paycheck. After which, I had to run the check to my credit union, where I paid $200 towards my car loan.

    Back home, and I sit down at the computer to set up payments of $40 each towards the electric, gas, cell phone and cable/internet bills. (Man I wish I could get the rabbit ears/digital box pull in more then 2 of the 5 local stations. I mean NBC is nice, but I like CBS and ABC to. PBS, that is 2 blocks away is nice also, but still CBS and ABC are must have's to. But, I am getting sidetracked.
    Next was getting my car tuned up , where I ate 2 bags of free popcorn in the waiting room at the dealership. Then straight to a neighborhood meeting, followed by a planning meeting for the dedication of the newest panels of what will be the largest mural wall in Kansas (and believed to be 2nd largest in the country).

    After that, it was time to go to work. Four hours into my shift, I buy a quart of chocolate milk and TV dinner for a meal at less then $2.50. Finally, my 10 hour work day was over, and I was back home to relax and enjoy a day off.
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    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    And Then There Were 12 (Failed Banks)


    The number of bank closures continues to climb. After, a weekend, free from bank closures, the announcement was made yesterday, that the FDIC had taken over the 12th bank this year.

    According to a statement from the FDIC, the assets of Ameribanks Ohio offices have been transferred to Citizens Savings Bank, and Ameribank's three Ohio branches will reopen Saturday as Citizens Savings Bank branches. While, the banks offices in West Virginia have been transferred to Pioneer Community Bank, and Ameribank's five West Virginia branches will reopen Monday as Pioneer branches.

    As of June 30, Ameribank had $115 million in total assets and total deposits of $102 million, according to the FDIC.


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    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Retirement Savings


    Since, starting with the new company, I have invested $333.88 in my retirement account. Yesterday, I logged into my account before going to bed, to see what kind of hit I have taken with the current down turn in the market. The answer, I have lost $35.27, leaving me a current balance of $298.61.
    What, will happen to my account today? Who knows. Since, I actually wrote this at 11 pm Wednesday, and posting it at 5 pm Thursday, I have no idea, if the market will drop further, or if the market will rebound. Of course, I hope for the later, but as I said in my 8am post, Don't Panic, I'm not going to worry about it.

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    Don't Panic

    With the stock market dropping, like a rock over (more then 800 points) the last three days, some are prone to panic. As we seen in the classic movie, It's a Wonderful Life, it was the two people (financial institutions) that didn't panic, that survived the bank rush of the the 20's. Now we are seeing banks that survived the Great Depression crumble and being bought out.

    The news is concerning for many Americans, but Washburn University economics professor Dmitri Nizovtsev says the worst thing to do is stop spending money.

    "That would be the worst thing because that's when the economy collapses," Nizovtsev said.

    The stock market is based heavily on consumer confidence.
    - KTKA-TV49


    Nizovtsev explained, that if we as ordinary people stop spending money, we could be in for even more bad days.
    "Many bad things in the economy in the past were caused by people, regular people, overreacting."
    - KTKA-TV49
    As you seen in the movie clip above, the people that panicked were the ones that lost everything, while people like (the fictional) George Baily, who kept their head, even when it looked bleak came out on top.
    It's the same thing that happened in the housing market. Still, in the wake of all this alarming news of bailouts and bad stocks, what should you do?

    "As silly as it sounds, I'd say nothing different from what they were doing," Nizovtsev said. "I think people should keep going with their lives, keep living their lives the way they did before this alarming news."

    Nizovtsez says ups and downs in the economy are cyclical and he does expect the economy to rebound and actually get bigger. Of course, that will only happen if people don't panic.
    - KTKA-TV49




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    Update on WaMu


    The other day, I posted about concerns that WaMu could be the next big bank to fail. Now, the bank has put itself on the auction block. Looking for a buyer to take over the bank.
    The New York Times, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, said an auction of the bank was already under way, and The Wall Street Journal reported that Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc. expressed interest in a takeover. Also citing unidentified sources, the New York Post said the possible buyers included JPMorgan Chase & Co. and HSBC Holdings PLC., as well as Wells Fargo.
    - Kansas City Star

    Reportedly, the sale began several days ago. I am not sure, I like the idea of WaMu becoming a part of the British bank that also owns HFC (Household Finance) which itself, is reportedly troubled by the high risk loans that it has issued.

    Over, the years, I have thought it would be great to have a banking account at Citibank. Still, would that be the best move? Then there is the reported interest by JPMorganChase, to me that would be less palatable then Citibank being the new name on the banking giant. That brings us, to final name mentioned and that's Wells Fargo. Certainly a bank that has been around forever, in this country and seemingly strong. I would find it as acceptable as I do the Citibank possibility. Whichever bank makes the purchase, I believe it should be a complete merger, eliminating the Washington Mutual, which gives the false impression that it is just a bank in the state of Washington.

    Perhaps, the best thing would be for Citibank to purchase WaMu's credit card division and Well's Fargo to purchase the bank deposit's. Said another way, split WaMu's assets amongst two purchasers, whoever they might be. Anyway, that's my thoughts on it.
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    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    My FICO is on the Rise

    Today, I logged on to the WaMu site, to check my information. For the first time, since I rolled my Fingergut debt over to WaMu's 0% transfer offer, my credit profile was available. As many of you know, I don't get to worked up about my FICO score. I have even called those that do "worshiping at the altar of the FICO." Since, I don't plan to borrow ever again, what do I need to worry about it for. However, I have talked about it, and the last time I did my FICO then was at 612. That was before the mortgage and old WaMu card was paid off. Well today, when I logged in, my FICO, according to their credit profile was 630. I am still below the national average of 678, but I am certainly out of the poor credit range.



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    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Couple Pays Off $18,000 in Credit Cards

    In Sunday mornings paper, I was excited to read about a local couple that paid off their debts and are now debt free. Their story is an inspiration.
    With 17 credit cards, this Topeka family accumulated $18,000 of debt. They were determined to climb out. Six years later, with credit counseling, they are debt free. See how they did it, vowing now to pay as they go.
    - Topeka Capital Journal

    One of the big problems, like many of us was that Amy and Andy Green ate out often. They also drove a sport utility vehicle that cost more than $900 a month and made every day purchases with plastic.
    By 2001, Amy Green was pregnant with the couple's third child and they were suffocating under a mortgage, student loans and $18,000 in credit card debt. One financial adviser feared they might have to declare bankruptcy.
    - Topeka Capital Journal
    But after being featured in a Jan. 13, 2002 article on money and debt, the Capital Journal teamed the greens up with counselors from Housing and Credit Counseling and GTrust Financial Partners.

    The program worked. The Greens paid off their credit cards in July 2007.

    "It was just a sense of awe," Amy Green said. "That weight had finally been lifted."
    - Topeka Capital Journal

    A growing number of Topekan's and American's have been getting out of debt with help of Dave Ramsey, Consumer Credit Counseling, John Cummuta (as I started with), and a number of other financial gurus and advisers.

    Average credit card debt among indebted young adults increased 55 percent between 1992 and 2001 — to $4,088, according to Creditcard.com. The Greens said they were typical college students, racking up credit card debts in a lifestyle of borrow today, pay tomorrow.
    - Topeka Capital Journal
    Of course, what the Greens and others like them found out, is it won't be easy. Like the quoted credit counselor said, you didn't get in debt over night, and you won't get out of debt overnight.
    Here is some wise advice, for those who wish to get out of debt,

    1. Write down all debts, including credit card debts, student loans, mortgages, car debts and interest rates.

    2. Figure out monthly take-home pay and basic living expenses. Is there enough money leftover to pay off credit card debts within five years?

    3. Stop using plastic and pay with cash only. Pay off high-interest debt first. Eliminate behaviors that produce debt.

    4. Sell assets, such as boat, guitar, tools, extra car, baseball card collection and extra furniture to pay off debt.

    5. If you don't have the capability to pay off your debts on your own, call someone who can help, such as Housing and Credit Counseling.

    SOURCE: Richard Salmen, GTrust

    Since July 2007, the money the Greens had been applying to credit card debt has been going into savings accounts. One account is for vacations and trips.

    "I do not miss the credit cards," Andy Green said. "If we don't have the money in the bank, we don't buy it. If we're going to Disney World, we're going to have the money for it."

    In August, they went to Georgia for the wedding of Amy's brother. They visited Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon to see the graves of Allman Brothers band members and took pictures of the Civil War graves and the Jewish burial ground.

    Best of all, they said, the trip, like their consumer debt, was paid in full.

    "I have my integrity," Andy Green said. "I paid my debts."





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    Trash in Your Gas Tank?

    Remember several years ago, when the Back to the Future movies was hot stuff? Remember the scene, when Doc came back from the future and started digging in Marty's trash, and putting it in the Delorean's gas tank?

    Well, now, that may soon be possible. That is the claim of a press release from Byogy, of Bakerfield, CA.
    One thing the world has too much of is trash. How to dispose of the many tons of trash again and again is a major problem for many cities. If trash could be made to serve a useful and biofriendly purpose everyone would come out ahead. Well, that is exactly what Byogy, a Bakersfield, California enterprise, is gearing up to do.
    According to the same press release, the gas produced could be done for less then $2/gallon with no subsidies or tax credits.

    The company will be able to produce 95-octane gasoline from trash (including manure, garden and landscaping waste as well as food waste) at a cost of just $1.70 to $2.00 per gallon, without any government subsidies or tax credits. In addition to reduced cost and lessened dependency on foreign oil supplies, this fuel has the advantage that it can be painlessly integrated into the existing gasoline distribution system, without any changes to infrastructure or modifications to vehicles on the road. “This green substitute for conventional gasoline,” claims Daniel L Rudnick, CEO of Byogy, “is the Holy Grail of biofuels.”
    I say, bring it on. I like this idea, and if we can have cheaper gas, and depend less on foreign oil. Which in my book is a huge plus.


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    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Debt Continues To Fall



    My Debt continues to fall. It is amazing and exciting to see how my debt continues to fall. Of course the number doesn't include my IRS debt, which I have a deferral agreement with. As soon as I get my debt balance down, I will then start paying off the IRS, so that I will be completely debt free.

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    Is WaMu in Danger? Stock Reaches Junk Status


    Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not Washington Mutual will fail or not. If it fails, it would be one of the largest. Heck they advertise in areas where they don't even have branches. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of people (including myself) have signed up for banking services over the internet. In fact, I use the related debit card as my "Dave Ramsey" grocery envelope.

    As investment bank Lehman Brothers fights for its survival, some wonder whether the U.S. mortgage crisis will take down another major financial institution: Washington Mutual.

    WaMu "is the next most likely candidate to have major issues and run into a Lehman-type situation," said Jaime Peters, an analyst with Morningstar in Chicago.

    "They got into subprime lending, they got into ARMs [adjustable-rate mortgages]. Their home equity book is quite large, and these losses are building and building and building on their balance sheets and they simply do not have the capital to absorb these easily," Peters said.
    - ABC News

    So what is the problem?
    In July, the bank reported a $3.3 billion loss for the second quarter.Since April, the bank's share price has plummeted some 75 percent from $13.15 to under $3 by the end of the day on Thursday. That closing share price, however, was up 22 percent from the day before.
    - ABC News
    Although WaMU is trying to put a positive spin on it, by saying that they (WaMu) expects to see fewer loan losses in the third quarter. However, is that, just a denial of reality by a company that doesn't want to worry the public or admit that their business practices is less then perfect? Maybe. The S&P report, downgraded WaMu's outlook from "stable" to "negative."

    "This outlook revision is due to the increasingly challenging housing and mortgage markets and their related impact on WaMu's core mortgage franchise," the report said.
    - ABC News
    OK, so the S & P isn't persuaded, but who should we believe?
    Douglas McIntyre, the editor of the financial Web site 247WallSt.com, said that worries about Lehman -- which posted a third-quarter loss of $3.9 billion today and announced strategies to shore up its balance sheet -- will hurt Washington Mutual.

    "Anytime that one of these institutions either fails or it does a bunch of things and does not get 'better' in the eyes of the stock market, psychologically it does some damage to the other weak sisters," McIntyre said.

    McIntyre said that WaMu could recover if the housing slump eased. Until then, the bank, he said, could buy time and cover its losses if it raises capital from new investors, such as sovereign wealth funds or investment entities owned or controlled by individual countries.

    But McIntyre and Peters agreed that finding new, willing investors for WaMu would be tough.

    Because of Lehman's woes, "we're getting a very up and close and personal example of just how much difficulty troubled companies are having raising capital," Peters said.

    The chances of WaMu finding a "white knight," she said, are "getting lower by the day."

    Even if WaMu is able to secure more investments, Peters said, most shareholders can still expect to see their holdings plummet.

    And if WaMu is unable to weather the mortgage crisis, she said, then the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would step in to take over the bank just as it has with other failed banks.

    But McIntyre said that a WaMu takeover might be too big and expensive a job for the FDIC alone. The corporation, he said, would likely receive support from the U.S. Treasury Department.
    - ABC News

    So really, we as the general public don't have any real answers, but if the bank fails, will we still have our accounts? Or will we have to shop around for another bank to serve our needs? Perhaps, I should consider pulling my money out now, and find a local bank to serve as my grocery envelope. I don't want to, because of the great interest rate, but I also can't wait several weeks or months to get a check from the FDIC, if they can't find another bank to swallow WaMu. Then again, maybe all the worry and hype is for nothing, but shouldn't I be proactive? Shouldn't we all?

    In fact, as I was putting the finishing touches a new article shows up. Reuters reports:
    Washington Mutual Inc shares fell on Friday after the largest U.S. savings and loan projected another big write-down for soured loans and was downgraded to "junk" status by a leading credit rating agency.

    At least four analysts cut their price targets for the thrift, though Goldman Sachs & Co raised its rating to "neutral" from "sell."

    Washington Mutual shares were down 16 cents, or 5.7 percent, to $2.67 in pre-market trading. Through Thursday, the shares had fallen 34 percent this week and 92 percent in the last year.


    As I add a few extra paragraphs, and change the title of this post, it appears that the market doesn't believe WaMu.
    In an unusual move to quell investor anxiety about its survival prospects, Seattle-based Washington Mutual late Thursday released third-quarter projections six weeks early and said it had ample liquidity. The thrift has said losses from home loans could reach $19 billion through 2011.

    But Moody's Investors Service lowered Washington Mutual to below investment-grade status, citing "reduced financial flexibility, deteriorating asset quality, and expected franchise erosion." Fitch Ratings also downgraded the thrift.


    Apparently though, according to the same Reuters article,

    Washington Mutual said it expects to set aside $4.5 billion for loan losses in the third quarter, down from the second quarter's $5.9 billion. It also said it expects about $2.7 billion of loan write-offs.

    The outlook suggests that Alan Fishman, Washington Mutual's new chief executive, will next month report the thrift's fourth straight quarterly loss.



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    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Setbacks May NOT Have To Much Affect on Debt Retirement


    I never mentioned it on this blog (though I did at KevinsView.com), but late Thursday (Aug 28) night or early Friday (Aug 29) Morning my computer crashed. I mean totally crashed. Even though, I was saving up to make a huge payment on one of my debts, I quickly ran out to the Anti-Christ, ummm I mean Wal-Mart at 6 am and bought a computer (an Emachine) for $320. I really hate spending that kind of money and I really hate having even stepped foot into a Wal-Mart. A store that sells foreign goods made in foreign factories and does everything thing they can to create the illusion that they are cheaper so that they can but Americans in local stores out of work. But, I am getting sidetracked, this post is not about the evils of Wal-Mart.

    I needed the computer as quickly as possible, because I was expecting to be among the first to break the story of who John McCain's running mate was. Instead, because of the sit up time and such, I became the one of the first to answer just who is Sara Palin. The first Republican female candidate for VP that some sites are referring to as a MILF for VP. Not sure, with my morals, if I should be offended or find that funny.

    Even though, I was able to leave my small emergency fund alone, it took away from the saved money that was to help wipe out the Fingerhut debt. Still, I expect to have that paid off by the end of the year. Shoot, I know I can't (except for a miracle), but I would love to have the car paid off by the end of the year. Looking at the numbers, if they hold up, it could be possible, that I would beat my July target date, and even have all my debt paid off by the time I celebrate my third blog-aversary.

    Now, that I have a new computer, I need to get a flat screen, so that I can save space on my desktop. I also need to purchase that new toliet, that I mentioned before, but all that will come in time. First I am focused on debt retirement, then I can make those improvements, including getting central air installed.


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    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    My Hassle with a Store Ended up as a Gain for Me




    Last night, after I got off work I drove to the downtown Walgreen's. No we aren't putting lipstick on a pig, but the purpose for this 10:30 PM visit was to put my media card in the kiosk and get prints (of the vandalism) and get a CD of the images on my digital camera so that I could actually upload them to my computer (I am planning on purchasing a $40 reader that will plug into my USB port, so I don't have make such trips, or wait on the pics). Since, I wasn't going to drive back at 11 pm, I chose the latest option of 3 am. However, when I arrived at 8 am, the machine hadn't printed my pics and had lost them. So I ended up having to bring the media card back (luckily I hadn't deleted the pics) and upload them again. They manually download the pics, so that I only had to wait five minutes. They then didn't charge me for them and gave me a $20 gift card for the hassle.

    While I was there the 2nd time this morning and uploading the pics again, a lady who also had been in last night to get prints from a CD for a court date today, also found her prints were no where to be found. In both cases, the pics were basicly crime scene photos. Makes me wonder, if there were anyone else who ended up having problems.

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    Monday, September 8, 2008

    Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Finally Fall

    After weeks of rumors and speculation, the two troubled mortgage giants fell. The Federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Sunday (Sept. 7, 2008).

    Summoned to separate meetings on Friday with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and other top officials, the two mortgage giants were told they could either agree to a government takeover or one would be foisted upon them.

    "We have the grounds to do this on an involuntary basis, and we will go that course if needed," Mr. Paulson told senior executives at the two companies, who had little idea such a move was coming, according to three people familiar with the meetings.
    - Wall Street Journal





    However, was it really the right thing to do? The Journal said that there was no fear of an imminent collapse.

    There was no dramatic trigger, nor was there fear of imminent collapse. Instead, the sweeping government intervention stemmed from a growing realization by Treasury and Federal Reserve officials that the two companies couldn't survive in their present forms, and that any collapse would be devastating to the economy.

    Basically, the takeover was because the Fed's felt the public had lost confidence in the two companies. The cost of this bailout is estimated at $200 billion, so again, I ask, if a collapse wasn't imminent was such an expensive bailout (at taxpayer expense) wise?




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    From Vandalism to Golf Sized Hail


    Last night, I came home from work after 10 hours at work, to find someone had painted graffiti and thrown paint on my shed. Before, I called the police to report it, I checked with a neighbor and found out that they had seen it, and had called the police, when it was happening. Her son, knew 2 of the 3 kids involved.

    I then called, with the information that I had, and was told that the earlier officer didn't make a report because it was water colors. Apparently, as I explained to the dispatcher, he ignored the can of wall paint that was just thrown on the shed. After, the officer arrived (an officer I happened to know personally) we determined that several little bottles of paint (all the paint containers were left here) weren't water colors, but model paint. Yes, there were the water colors, but that was a very small part of the paint.

    The officer, then went across the ally and talked with the kid that lived the closest. The kid (age 9) and his father came back over and the father and officer talked to the kid, exposing the lies the kid had told his father. He had told dad, that some kids threw paint at him. Eventually, the other 2 kids (ages 10 & 11) were found in the park (across the street from where the 9 year old lives) and were brought over and their parents were called. Eventually, the kids were informed how serious it was, and how charges could be charged against them, but that the owner (me) was be nice and would make them clean up their mess. They then went to work last night in using paint thinner to wipe off excess paint and then paint over the area with paint primer. The kid across the ally's father said his son would be back tonight to put a second coat on it.

    Then this morning, I was awaken by the weather radio, a severe storm warning was being issued for a storm that was right over my area of town. The rain was already coming down pretty good, but the weather bureau said quarter sized hail was possible with this storm. Not long after, I started seeing pea sized hail. Thinking the we had escaped the worst, I moved own to other things. However, a few minutes later I started hearing huge thuds. Going back to the door, I see that there was gold ball sized hail in my yard. The weather gal on the TV later said, that there had been reports of hail the size hen eggs (about 2" in diameter). Since, it is still dark out, I have not been out to see if there was any damage. Hopefully, there wasn't.


    ***UPDATE: After, it became light outside, I went out and looked at my car and found only one small dent in the roof of my car. Thankfully, it wasn't worse then that. ****
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    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    Another Bank Shuttered

    According to the email that I received from the FDIC, another bank was shuttered at the close of business on Friday Sept 5. That makes 3 banks in 3 weeks. The ninth since April.

    Yesterdays bank was Silver State Bank of Nevada. It will reopen Monday morning as branches of Nevada State Bank in Nevada and National Bank of Arizona in Arizona.

    As with previous takeovers, customers are assured they can still access their funds via checks and/or atm/debit cards.

    According to the press release.
    As of June 30, 2008, Silver State Bank had total assets of $2.0 billion and total deposits of $1.7 billion. Nevada State Bank agreed to purchase the insured deposits for a premium of 1.3 percent. At the time of closing, there were approximately $20 million in uninsured deposits held in approximately 500 accounts that potentially exceeded the insurance limits. This amount is an estimate that is likely to change once the FDIC obtains additional information from these customers.

    Silver State Bank also had approximately $700 million in brokered deposits that are not part of today's transaction. The FDIC will pay the brokers directly for the amount of their insured funds.

    Customers with accounts in excess of $100,000 should contact the FDIC toll-free at 1-800-523-8177 to set up an appointment to discuss their deposits. This phone number will be operational this evening until 9:00 p.m. PDT; on Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. PDT; and on Monday and thereafter from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. PDT.


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    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    Finance Fiesta #13 - Bank Troubles & Money Management

    I am particularly excited to be hosting my first carnival. Especially one that is still young, the Finance Fiesta #13. Especially since 13 is my favorite number, and is also the date of my birth (July 13). So, without much further ado, lets get to the carnival.

    Editors Pick
    Earlier this week, I wrote about ways to protect yourself, if your bank collapses. I even included some banks that are expected to be on that list. Well, Tanesha Morgan wrote about one of those banks, in her post Lay Offs Abound At HSBC Mortgage posted at Personal Finance Analyst.
    Speaking of banks, Phil for Humanity gives us a Retirement Calculator <<> posted at Phil for Humanity, to help us determine if we have enough saved to retire.

    However, Debt Repayment, is the key first move, if we want to retire successfully.
    Del Sandeen presents 3 Reasons to Run from Debt Settlement Companies posted at Fiscal Liberty. While, I loosely follow the Dave Ramsey plan, who would disagree with much of she has to say, I have to agree with the reasons she gave. However, like Dave, I wonder why, if we aren't going to use credit anymore. Which brings us to
    Responsible Use of Credit , Michael Geoffrey presents Why You Should Think Twice About Canceling A Credit Card posted at Debt Smackdown. Again, as a follower of Ramsey, I'm not sure I agree with him, but there are a variety of ideas and I have an open mind and will listen to the various thoughts.
    Next, Jim brings us his » List of Cards with 0% Balance Transfer Offers for 12 Months posted at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. I personally, did accept a 0% offer from a credit card company, and used it to transfer my fingerhut debt to it, so that I would ensure that I wouldn't have anymore interest, as get that debt paid off by the end of the year.
    Our next look at credit cards, is a view from nickel who presents The Best Cash Back Reward Credit Card posted at fivecentnickel.com. While at the same time CreditAddict asked Are Frequent Flyer Credit Cards a Good Deal? posted at CreditAddict.

    As we leave the world of credit cards, we move to the world of Money Management, where
    AMIT GOYAL says we canhave NO MORE SHORT TERM CAPITAL GAIN TAX LIABLITY. posted at OM. Nezt up, Michael Cohen presents Short Squeeze On The Horizon For Luby?s (LUB)? posted at Stock Investment, in which he discusses his holding in the Texas based restaurant chain. I never ate there, but I remember a few years ago, when they had a restaurant here where I live in Kansas.

    Now, lets move away from stocks to some meat and potatoes. BTG looks at Consistency: Good For Your Health and Your Money! | Bridging The Gaap posted at Bridging The Gaap. I would agree with you BTG, and I can positively say Dave Ramsey would be proud of your assessment to.
    Now, for the article, I had the most fun reading. Perhaps, because of love of politics, but I found it very interesting. I also find it interesting, that I am editing this, while I have the convention on, much the same as LAL did, when she wrote Is $250k/year Rich? posted at LivingAlmostLarge.
    Now, it wouldn't be a personal finance blog, if at some point there wasn't a post that took up the topic that William Blake presented, in his post, Discipline Yourself to Spend Less over at Becoming Debt Free. Next, Silicon Valley Blogger became the newest PF blogger to take a look WaMu Free Checking: The High 3.3% APY May Be Worth A Look posted at The Digerati Life. I made the plunge a few months back. I now use the debit card with that account, for my food budget. Instead of carrying one of Dave Ramsey's envelopes full of cash to the grocery store, I have this one debit card specificly funded, each payday for my groceries.

    Now, to finish up with checking accounts Mr. Banker gives us a closer look at the ABA Routing Transit Number posted at Best Interest Rate Banks.



    That brings us to today's Career related post as Cyberslacking tools presents Cyberslacking tools on-line posted at Glowicki ProBlogger - Blogging Tips. Are you a cyber slacker? As a boss in my workplace, I would hope not, because you are paid to work, not surf the net.
    Finally, our last post, didn't fit any of the other categories us with
    The Smarter Wallet's presentation of 7 Frugal Tips To Clean and Care For Your Clothes posted at The Smarter Wallet.

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    Who Will Be Next?

    There has been two bank failures in two weeks. Colombian National (Topeka, KS) on August 22 and Integrity Bank (Alpharetta, GA) on August 29. Before that it was First Priority (Bradenton, FL) on August 1. Leaving me to wonder with so many bank failures who will be next? What bank will be taken over by the FDIC, come this Friday Sept. 6?

    I know it may be pessimistic, but with 117 banks on the FDIC watch list, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility, that another bank could be ordered closed this Friday.


    There is word though that a California Credit Union was taken over by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The NCUA is the Federal agency, that is the credit union version of the banks FDIC. So perhaps, that will be this weeks takeover. I guess time will tell.
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    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    Bank Failures: Protect Your Cash Today!

    In April, financial planner, economist and financial writer David McPherson said that bank failures were a "rare occurrence," that very few of us born since the Great depression, needed to worry about. Well, now he wonders, if he needs to rethink that position. Since April, there has been eight (8) bank failures. The most recent bank failure, I had heard about was Colombian Bank, here in Topeka. However, there was another one this past Friday(Aug 30).

    The latest failure came Friday when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation seized control of Integrity Bank of Alpharetta, Ga. Integrity's five offices reopen today as branches of Regions Bank, a major Southeastern regional bank that assumed Integrity's $974 million in deposits. That means depositors will have full access to their money, even if their accounts exceed FDIC insurance limits.
    - ABC News
    As David points out, it is clear, from FDIC's announcement several days ago, that this won't be the last one either. With 117 banks listed on it's problem list of troubled banks. While, the FDIC won't publicly name those 117 banks, experts have put together a list of probable banks. The list includes, Bank of America, US Bancorp, HSBC and Washington Mutual. However, the list didn't include Integrity Bank, so I am not sure that I would completely trust it. (To see the complete list of banks that have already failed, click here.)

    The first step, for us as consumers is to make sure all of our funds are safe.
    Given the current turmoil in the banking industry, there is no good reason you should leave a single dollar uninsured by the FDIC or the National Credit Union Administration.
    As most depositors know, the basic insurance limit on bank deposits is $100,000 at a single bank. That is why, I personally would never have more then $50,000-$75,000 at any one bank or credit union. However, David says it is possible to have up to $500,000 at a single financial institution and still be insured.

    This can be done by utilizing multiple account ownership categories, since the $100,000 insurance limit applies by account category.
    That doesn't mean savings, checking and CD accounts.

    That means one person can be insured for up to $100,000 for a single account and another $100,000 in a joint account with a spouse or someone else. Other ownership categories include payable-on-death, irrevocable trusts, and corporate accounts.

    Also, there is a $250,000 insurance limit for IRAs and other certain retirement plans containing bank deposits, rather than mutual funds annuities or other securities sold through a bank.

    If you hold more than $100,000 in any combination at a single bank, I'd suggest you visit the FDIC's Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator at www.fdic.gov/edie. It is an online calculator that will help you to be sure your deposits are fully insured.

    One final note,
    If the FDIC cannot find another bank to buy the insured deposits, one of two things can happen. One, the FDIC can transfer assets to a newly created bank it runs until a buyer is found. The other alternative is the FDIC can issue checks up to the insured limits directly to depositors. That process usually will not take more than three business days, says the FDIC.


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    Do Something Worthwhile To Help


    With Hurricane Gustav having hit the New Orleans area, Democratic presidential candidate Barrack Obama text messaged supporters and others on their list to make donations to the Red Cross. At the Republican Convention in St. Paul, MN the message was flashed across the screen..

    Now, I am going to urge all my readers to do the same thing. Give $5 to the Red Cross by texting "Give" to 24357 (2HELP) or give more by calling (800) 435-7669 or click on the above link. These funds will help our fellow readers, bloggers, Americans and simply fellow human beings in the gulf region devastated by Gustav. Thank God, this one wasn't as bad as it could have been.

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