Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bill Could Limit Credit Card Fees, Interest Rates

video from Fox 4 News- Kansas City

The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights:
  • Protects cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases - credit card companies must give cardholders a 45-day notice of any increase.
  • Prevents cardholders who pay on time from being unfairly penalized
  • Protects cardholders from due date gimmicks
  • Shields cardholders from misleading terms
  • Empowers cardholders to set limits on their credit
  • Requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments
  • Prohibits card companies from imposing excessive fees on cardholders
  • Prevents card companies from giving subprime credit cards to people who can’t afford them
  • Requires Congress to provide better oversight of the credit card industry
  • Contains NO rate caps, fee setting, or price controls

  • ---
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    Certified Financial Counselor

    It has been suggested by readers of this blog, that I might consider becoming a tax preparer or financial counselor. Time to attend the classes would be a problem for me. So would the cost. H & R block tax preparer classes cost around $600, as I remember from the last time I checked. Financial counseling classes, from what I have seen, are $1500-$4000.

    Still, I have been thinking more and more, that maybe I should do both these. If I became a CFC, I could offer tax preparation during tax season, while focusing on financial counseling the rest of the year.

    I'm sure, I would eat up the curriculum of a subject I've come to love.
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    Rich Dad Coming To Kansas This Week

    One of the first financial tapes I listened to, was Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad's "Choose to be Rich" series. A set of CD' that I had bought off of Ebay. Then came his "Retire Young, Retire Rich" CD set. Then I started listening to the two men that got me motivated to get out of debt. John Cummutta and Dave Ramsey.

    Well, now comes the next step, in the Rich Dad education. I know from his series that he doesn't discourage credit cards, but Ramsey quotes him on occasion, indicating, that he does have some value worth listening to. Because of that, I was eager to find out what his free seminar that his team was advertising here in Topeka was. So, I called the number advertised and am planning to attend Thursday.

    It will be great to see what I can learn, plus the free flash drive; at the end of the meeting, will be a great asset to.

    The bestselling series of Rich Dad books include:

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad
  • Rich Dad's CASHFLOW Quadrant
  • Rich Dad's Guide to Investing
  • Rich Dad's Rich Kid Smart Kid
  • *Rich Dad's Retire Young Retire Rich
  • Rich Dad's Prophecy
  • Rich Dad's Success Stories
  • Rich Dad's Guide to Becoming Rich Without Cutting Up Your Credit Cards
  • Rich Dad's Who Took My Money
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad for Teens
  • Rich Dad's Escape from the Rat Race
  • Rich Dad's Before You Quit Your Job

  • He also developed the board game Cashflow 101. A board game I would love to get a hold of, along with the board game wits and wagers. The later game, that Dave Ramsey advertises, I know is available at target. Not sure where to purchase the Cashflow 101 board game.

    * = books I own (happens to be the audio format)
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    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    Child Actor Hits Hard Times

    If you weren't in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe this weekend, you missed out on a chance to get a piece of television memorabilia history. That's because a child actor, who is broke was selling off his belongings at a garage sale at his home.
    Cash-strapped former "Eight is Enough" and "Charles in Charge" star Willie Aames is selling off his belongings in suburban Kansas City.
    - Topeka Capital Journal

    A production crew from VH1 filmed the sale for a TV reality show. (see the video from Kansas City television)

    Aames has fallen upon hard times. He filed for bankruptcy last year and his home is in foreclosure.

    Items on sale included antiques, artwork, a piano, deer head mounts and TV and movie memorabilia.
    - Topeka Capital Journal

    It is sad to see the actor I grew up knowing as Tommie, to be having such hard financial times. However, he is indicative of the way Americans as a whole live. Simply put, he (and most Americans) spend more then he (they) make.

    We must stop using the credit cards. We cannot be buying more house then we can afford. That is why Dave Ramsey has it right. Save up your money and pay cash for everything.

    Yes, it can be done. Get that car paid off, and never borrow again. If you can afford that car payment for a car (many think they have to borrow), then you can make that car payment to yourself and let compound interest work for you. Instead of paying the holder of your car loan (or mortgage or whatever loan) 2-3 times as much, pay it to yourself. That means in three to five years, when you would have your 1 car paid off you would have enough saved to buy two cars. Then keep the car for 5-10 years (or until you run it in the ground) then pay cash for the next car from the money that you saved. Think about it, you could pay cash for a bigger house in half the time (or maybe a 3rd) that it would have taken to use credit. All it means is that you delayed gratification. Which in turn means you made yourself richer instead of the bank.

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    Friday, March 27, 2009

    2 weeks in - How Am I doing?

    Two weeks ago, I made a commitment not to buy any groceries (except milk and eggs) until after my trip to New York. I did have several readers concerned I wouldn't be eating enough veggies. I certainly have plenty of vegetables in my cupboards. Usually, I just open a can of corn, baked beans, pork & beans, or peas and either fry, bake, or mash some potatoes.

    Last night though, I fixed up a box of Au Gratin potatoes (yes I love potatoes), a can of peas and fried a hamburger patty that I had in the freezer. The only basic 4 food group not represented was bread, in my dinner. Although, I did have a bowl of instant oatmeal for my breakfast yesterday morning.

    Likewise this morning, I will also have a bowl of oatmeal. Think, I might take left over Au Gratin potatoes and peas to work with me. Not sure what I will fix (or heat up) tonight though. Will worry about that after work.

    I did have 3 times in the past 2 weeks, when I broke my commitment and ate out. Went to chick-fil-a on Monday and got a chicken sandwich, yesterday, I went to a meeting over lunch at Perkins and ate their "classic egg" breakfast and as I mentioned on Twitter last week, I ate lunch at McDonald's one day.

    My cupboards are getting barer, I have about:
  • 19 envelopes of instant oatmeal
  • 7 boxes of Au Gratin potatoes
  • 7 cans of baked beans
  • 2 cans pork & beans
  • 9 cans peas
  • 2 cans cream corn
  • 1 can corn
  • 4 cans of yams
  • 3 cans cranberry sauce
  • 1 jar apple sauce
  • 5 jars peanut butter
  • 1 can large Lima butter beans
  • 1 jar grape jelly
  • 1 jar homemade pear honey
  • 1 can fruit cocktail
  • 8 cans condensed tomato soup

  • and that's not mentioning the unopened box of pancake mix or the bit of macaroni noodles I have. So I should have plenty of food to get me through past the target end date. One thing, I have done, is not open another can, until I finish the leftovers of the previous can of vegetables.

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    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Buying Groceries At Auction?

    Last night, I was reading Tricia's Blogging Away Debt. In the post dated yesterday, she talked about an article, that she found on Yahoo News. Like her, I had not really heard much on the subject the article was talking about, but I was intrigued and went to the article for more information.

    As consumers seek relief from the recession and spiraling food prices, grocery auctions are gaining in popularity as an easy way to cut costs. The sales operate like regular auctions, but with bidders vying for dry goods and frozen foods instead of antiques and collectibles. Some auctioneers even accept food stamps.
    - Yahoo

    Hmmm, OK, so I have seen an auction have such an auction for a close out of a store or restaurant, but nothing on a regular basis as the article suggests.

    The increased interest has fueled growth in the auctions, which can be found in at least nine states from Oklahoma to New York.
    - Yahoo

    I am not sure how popular they really are. I didn't find any of these auctions (in a search on the internet) in my area or even in the New York area.

    If I could find one, it would be interesting to check out. I have known for a long time that there are month (even years) of life left to food after the sell by date. So, I am not afraid of that. Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that in the same article.

    Some of the goodies have wound up here because they're out-of-date. But the auctioneers stress that they're still OK to eat. The Food and Drug Administration does not generally prohibit the sale of food past its sell-by or use-by date — manufacturers' terms that help guide the rotation of shelf stock or indicate the period of best flavor or quality.
    - Yahoo

    There you have it. Best flavor or quality, NOT, spoiled. It is a shame to waste such good food. That reminds me, I need to drive to North Topeka and check out the grocery surplus (if it's still open).
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    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Another Year

    I had almost forgot, until Teena in Toronto posted a comment the other day. It has been three years, since I started this blog. On March 25, 2006 I made my first blog post for this blog. It was inspired after listening to John Cummuta. At that point, I had not listened to Dave Ramsey. Well now, I have materials and software from both of these personal finance guru's and really enjoy learning from both of them.

    So how will I celebrate my third blogoversary? Not much differently then my usual days. I did take some pineapple upside down cupcakes to work yesterday, just for the heck of it.

    Today, is my day off from work and I need to do some house work. However, I also have an appointment with the tax preparer to get my taxes done. In addition, I will be going to my fourth and final annual credit union meeting for the year. Here's hoping I win one of the prizes at this years Credit Unions United meeting

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    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Buried Treasure - Whose Is It?

    There is a battle in Spain. After, some treasure hunters found some sunken treasure minus the ship, off the coast of Portugal, Spain has said it should have been left alone. Spain says, it is a graveyard, and should not have been disturbed.

    The hunters contend there was no ship just approximately 100 yards of treasure scattered about. So what do you think? After seeing the interview, whose treasure is it?

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    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Wrestle Mania Sucks

    Last night, I had tickets to "Wrestle Mania." Tickets I won on twitter from @49news.
    'Even though I am not a wrestling fan, I went to the event. At least part of it. After about four matches, I had enough and came home.

    I was amazed how close my tickets were. While I didn't have floor seats I was only in row C in the stands. The seat gave me a great view of the action. One thing I noticed is that in person the wrestling looks even more fake, then on TV.

    The most interesting match was the second match. That was when the (so called) Glamazon's boyfriend started talking about how she (the Glamazon) had been training him and beefing him up. He then (surprise surprise) issued a challenge to wrestle any of the superstars in the back. Cold Stone Steve Austin took him up on the challenge.

    For those that will eventually see this match on TV, I will just say, it was very interesting.

    Still though, I am not a fan and won't be looking for it on TV. After seeing this thing in person, I am more convinced that it sucks.

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    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    5 Ways To Save Money

    This morning, I happened to watch "American Morning" on CNN, instead of my usual news sources. So, this morning Jeff Yeager, author "The Ultimate Cheapskate," discussed the five things families can do to save up to $20,000 per year. I eagerly awaited to hear if any of the advice would apply to me. Being a 40-year old single guy, but I laughed at the $20,000 bit. I lived for much of my life with a total income of less then 20k.

    1. Get rid of your cell phone.
    Well, he claimed the average monthly bill was $100+. That seems high to me. I have 1000 minutes, that I never, ever go over and only pay about $40/month which might get up to $55 on occasion once the taxes and other fees are added.

    2. Get rid of your second or third car.
    Well I only have one car, and would ride public transportation, if there was better public transit in this little city on the Kaw. I have considered getting a second vehicle (a pickup) so I could haul recycling again. Even thought, of getting a van and offering some curbside recycling for a few neighbors and friends. However, my main concern with the 2nd vehicle, is if the recycling would make it cost effective. I however, could not fathom three vehicles.

    3. Stop eating out.
    Makes total sense. Even Dave Ramsey encourages people that are in debt to stop eating out. It is a proven fact that you can eat your own food at home cheaper then purchasing food made by someone else and even the cheapest local dive.

    4. Stop buying new clothes.
    I have been considering doing this for a while now. I even found a video (actually a series of youTube videos) that discuss this very thing.

    5. Don’t pay for college room and board. Seems like a great idea, but what if the state college is 100 (or more) miles away? As would be the case for many here in Kansas.

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now.

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Better For The Environment, Better For You

    This past week (and continuing through tomorrow 3/17/09) there has been a fantastic deal on laundry soap. I usually, don't talk about about bargains in my local market, especially since I have a worldwide audience, but this product is a product I believe in. I believe in it so much, that I am NOT being paid for this post. It is simply my own thoughts.

    This product is made entirely from plant based and biodegradable products. Which means it is great for the environment. If it's better for the environment, it's better for you, because it doesn't have those harsh chemicals that other laundry soaps use. It has quickly become the laundry soap of my choice.

    So what is this fantastic bargain that inspired this post? Well, a 20-use bottle normally sales for $4.39. However, the sale ending 3/17/09 at the Apple Market grocery store in Topeka is $2.50. However, that's not all. Thanks to coupons provided to Keep America Beautiful (which I am a member of), and taped to the bottles you can get the bottles of Arm & Hammer Essential for $2 each when you buy 2. Now that's a bargain that a thrifty person like myself can handle. I will be buying a case or two myself.

    What a better way to celebrate St. Patrick's day, then going green?

    There is another group of products in the Arm & Hammer Essentials line of products. Unfortunately they aren't on sale currently, but they are fantastic for the environment to. The best part they will save you money. Unlike other cleaners, this line of multipurpose and degreaser (window cleaner also available in some stores) doesn't sale you the water, just the chemical.

    The starter kit comes with an empty bottle and 1 refill cartridge. You fill the bottle with water and then insert the refill. When the bottle is empty, you simply purchase a refill and reuse the same empty bottle. At the same Apple Market, these bottles (and refills) have the coupons for $1 off each of these. So, if you are in Topeka, stop by and pick up your bottle(s) of Arm and Hammer Essentials line of products and make your household better for the environment and save yourself some money at the same time?
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    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Remembering $1/day -- My New Commitment

    Yesterday, I heard ABC's Good Morning America that was going to have a story of a woman that ate on $1 a day. This is something I had done a couple of years ago. My experiment was chronicled at budgeteating.blogspot.com. Unlike my experiment which lasted 90-days, hers was only for 30-days.

    I didn't get to see it, as I had to leave for work, so I looked it up upon returning home from work and a meeting. It got me to thinking. Which brings me to a conclusion. I will make the commitment right now, that I will not buy any food other then milk and eggs between now and when I go to New York. I have plenty of food in my cupboards and freezers to accomplish this feat. So I will eat nothing but what I have in supply here at the house.

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    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Credit Unions From A Members Perspective

    If you hadn't noticed, it's March now and that means, in Kansas at least, that it's time for the annual meetings for the various credit unions.

    As you are probably aware from the massive promotions (over the years), credit unions are not-for-profits, and owned by the members that they serve. That means they answer to their customers (aka members) rather then some board of directors (like banks do).

    So once a year, each credit union organization has an annual meeting and invites all the members to come. The meetings are usually brief. The purpose of the meeting, is for the members to elect the particular credit unions board. Occasionally, the meeting may be considered for the weightier decision of whether or not the organization should merge with another.

    From there the meetings vary, but in one way or another they all have door prizes. Educational credit Union that I attended last night gives a gift to everyone as they leave. Tucked inside is cash in varying amounts.

    If you are lucky enough, you will get a $50 bill. If not, you still get at least get $5. (see picture for what I got)

    Later in the month, another credit union that I am a member of gives out prizes by playing bingo. Another does it similar as ECU did last night, but there they give the prize to you as you enter. However, there the cash is only to a lucky few. Actually, if you are lucky enough to find a colored piece of paper with your gift, then you get to turn it(the paper) in at the end of the meeting for cash.

    Finally, the fourth credit union I am a member of has drawings. Upon entering you are given a kids or adults ticket (based upon your age) and at the end of the meeting, they hold two sets of drawings (one for the kids and the other for the adults).

    The Credit Unions I am a member of & their meeting dates:
    Educational Credit Union (ECU) March 11
    Credit Union 1 of Kansas (CU 1) March 19
    Kansas Super Chief (KSSCCU) March 23
    Credit Unions United March 25

    If you are fairly new to this blog, you may be wondering, why I am a member of 4 credit unions. The answer is simple. Instead of having budget envelopes laying around my home, I have budgeting accounts.

    There isn't much in any of these accounts (at present), but now that I am on the verge of debt elimination to becoming a saver, that will change. I am looking forward to seeing these accounts grow. Especially, that emergency fund, which my initial goal (after getting back my $1000) is to get it up to $5,000. Ultimately, I want at least 6 months income in each of these accounts.

    In addition, I would like to see $1,000 each year in my Christmas Club account (currently at $60.02).

    Another thing to help my budget that I would like to take a look at is a health savings account. ECU announced last night, that they will be developing those.

    Will that kind of account work for me? I don't know, but I would like to discuss this with them.

    This years gift from ECU (as pictured) was a LED flashlight. As you can see (in the picture) I was lucky enough to get $20 with mine. hooray.

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    Saturday, March 7, 2009

    My Wasteful Spending Needs To Be Controlled

    It has been a while since I have updated my progress towards being debt free. I still am confident that I will make it this year. However, I am the type of person that tends to like to spend, in fact some would call my type of spending as "petty spending."

    For example, Friday night, I was going to buy toilet paper (on sale $3.88), scrub brush ($4.99), 3 packages of dishwasher soap (on sale $3.98 each) and scrub pads ($1). The total came to just over $20. I only had $9 in my account so I had to put back 2 of the packages of dishwasher soap. Since, I still had TP at home I put the 9 roll package back. Finally, the biggest want rather then need was the 4.99 scrub brush. This is one of those brushes that you fill with dish soap, so that it will dispense as you need the soap. I think it might save money, but do I really need it? In the end, because of my balance on the debit card, I only spent $5.36, but had the money been there I would have had some real wasteful spending.

    I really need to change my spending habits. I have made great strides over the last 3 years in reducing this debt, but now that spending needs to change.

    Perhaps, my trip to New York City is a little premature, but I am going to reward myself for these 3-years of sacrificing. This week, I canceled my side trip to the FDR museum in Hyde Park, NY. The reason was the train schedule back into New York City. It would be 2:30 or 3:00 before I got back, thus wasting a full day on the train. Meaning, it would be almost impossible to spend do much of anything in NYC that day. It means my dream of visiting all 13 Presidential Libraries and Museums will be delayed, but that is the breaks. However, I think I will now be able to see both Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building.

    One of the most recent changes, I have added, to keep you informed is, using twitter to update my status updates on Facebook as well as Twitter. This will help me keep you informed even when I don't have enough to post about.
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    Great NBC Video On The Economy

    Just watched a great video from NBC's Today Show talking about the economy and lopw martket prices in the stock market. During the discussion, my home town of Topeka, is pointed to as a bright spot. The reason? They had more ribbon cuttings in January then a year ago. Take a look, very informative.

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    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Depleted Emergency Fund

    Yesterday, I blew the right front tire on my car. Which meant I had to replace it. At first, I thought I would have to drive on the donut for a few days, but then I decided that I would go ahead and deplete my emergency fund and get the tire replaced. I now have a brand new tire on the car. Hopefully, I won't have to do that again for a while. Especially since, I have now replaced both tires on that side in the last month or two.

    I do need to get a spare tire to put in the trunk and a good jack (preferably a hydraulic one).

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    Both Parties Question Eliminating Deductions

    Well, it seems President Barrack Obama is facing a challenge from his own party now. That's right, even Democrats are questioning the Presidents plan to eliminate or at least reduce tax deductions for those over a certain income, according to CBS News.

    President Obama's proposal to limit itemized tax deductions for high earners is running into opposition from key Democrats in Congress who worry that charities and the housing market would be hurt.

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus questioned Wednesday whether the proposal was viable, a day after his House counterpart also expressed reservations.

    Not surprising, since the richest members in Congress are the Democrats and not the Republicans. They don't want to lose those deductions.

    "I would never want to adversely affect anything that is charitable or good," the New York Democrat said.

    Republicans have been even more critical of the proposal, saying it would reduce charitable donations at a time when many charities are struggling.

    I'm sorry, but charities are always struggling and if you are only giving for the deduction, then you are giving for the wrong reason. Heck, I remember when donations to political campaigns were tax deductible. Yet, there are more donations flowing into those campaigns then ever before, even without the deduction.

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    Sunday, March 1, 2009

    Billion-Dollar Whoops

    ABC News reports this morning,
    Even the world's best-known investor couldn't get it right in 2008, apologizing to his shareholders for doing "some dumb things" with their money.

    What? Even the oracle of Omaha wasn't able to get it right last year? That seems impossible. Then again, it reinforces how bad the market is, and that everyone, even the richest and wisest was touched by this market down turn.

    Billionaire Warren Buffett said in his annual letter to shareholders that while last year was a bad year for all investors, he made some mistakes that he now regrets.

    "I made some errors of omission, sucking my thumb when new facts came in that should have caused me to reexamine my thinking and promptly take action," Buffett wrote in a letter released this (Saturday) morning.

    During 2008, the price of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway stock fell from $90,343 a share to $77,793.
    - ABC News

    OK, that is a wise man, when he is man enough (and honest enough) to admit that he makes mistakes. So many people in the business world, especially those in management, think and act like they never make mistakes and that their way is the only way. They may have good ideas, but most of them are to stuck on themselves to admit they make mistakes. I respect Buffett even more because of his honesty.

    Joel L. Naroff, president and founder of Naroff Economic Advisors, apparently agrees with me. He was quoted in the article as saying,
    Buffett is doing the right thing by acknowledging what went wrong.

    "I think that's the way a good investor should operate: recognize you made some mistakes, see what they are and try to correct them going forward."
    - ABC News

    In his letter, which I look forward to receiving in the next few weeks, he recalled 2008 was a brutal year for everyone in the market.

    He added: "The watchword throughout the country became the creed I saw on restaurant walls when I was young: 'In God we trust; all others pay cash.'"

    Naroff said that it's a prime example of how bad things are in the economy when someone like Buffett stumbles.

    "I think when somebody as astute as Warren Buffett has problems, I think we all have to recognize that this was a real difficult year and hopefully next year won't be nearly as bad," Naroff said. "His performance was not nearly as bad as the indices did, so he outperformed them."

    Buffett's predictions for 2009 aren't much rosier. He said he expects many of Berkshire's companies to be impacted by the recession and earn below their potential in 2009.
    - ABC News

    So what does the so called Oracle predict for this year?

    "We're certain, for example, that the economy will be in shambles throughout 2009 -- and, for that matter, probably well beyond -- but that conclusion does not tell us whether the stock market will rise or fall," Buffett wrote.

    The Omaha-based company owns major stakes in many household brands including American Express, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Procter & Gamble and The Washington Post. Buffett said, though, that it was Berkshire's insurance and utility groups that produced strong earnings in 2008 and helped prevent further losses. He said the two groups have "excellent prospects" for the coming year.

    Take Berkshire-controlled GEICO, now the nation's third-largest car insurer. Buffett said when he thinks about the opportunities for GEICO he feels like a hungry mosquito at a nudist camp.

    "Americans are focused on saving money as never before, and they are flocking to GEICO," he wrote. "In January 2009, we set a monthly record – by a wide margin – for growth in policyholders. That record will last exactly 28 days: As we go to press, it's clear February's gain will be even better."
    - ABC News

    The article then delves into his mistakes:
  • ConocoPhillips - Berkshire increased its stake in the company from 17.5 million shares in 2007 to 84.9 million shares at the end of 2008.

    "I in no way anticipated the dramatic fall in energy prices that occurred in the last half of the year," he said. "I still believe the odds are good that oil sells far higher in the future than the current $40-$50 price. But so far I have been dead wrong. Even if prices should rise, moreover, the terrible timing of my purchase has cost Berkshire several billion dollars."
    - ABC News

  • Foreign Banks

    Buffett also spent $244 million on shares of two Irish banks in 2008 "that appeared cheap to me." By the end of the year, they were worth $27 million, an 89 percent loss. The shares have dropped even more since.
    - ABC News

    Overall I have to agree with Diane Swonk, we all knew these numbers were coming, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. No matter, how we invest, whether it is in our 401k's, simple IRA's, 403b's or privately in individual accounts, we all took a hit. However, the market will eventually turn and we will gain our money back. This is the time to put dollar cost averaging to work and purchase more in the market, so that we can get back as much as possible before retire. As is always the case timing is the key and for those that are near retirement, there isn't as much hope as those with more time. Still though, there is hope, it just takes wise and informed investing. However, the downturn has proved that nothing is 100%.

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now.