Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Dream Trip: Presidential Library & Museum Tour

I wrote most of this about a year ago, although, it wasn't complete. So Once again, here is the updated post, that I originally wrote in July 2008.

One of my goals is to visit every Presidential Library and Museum. Since, not every President has one, it's really not that hard of a goal to meet. There are only 12, unless you count the duplicates. Nixon and Ford have two locations, so if you count both of those then there are 14. Fords 2 are the only ones that are in the same state. Nixon, has one in Maryland and one in California. Of course there are also other museums that include Presidential homes that aren't part of the Presidential Library and Museum System. Such Museums includes George Washington's home and also Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello.

So far, the Presidential places I have visited:

  • Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, GA

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, KS

  • Ronald Reagan Birthplace, Tampico, IL

    There is also the Ronald Reagan boyhood home, in Dixon, IL. OK, so now the list of the remaining Presidential Libraries (& Museums) and Presidential attractions that are on my list to visit eventually. One of which is only about 75 miles from me.

    1. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, CA
    2. Richard Nixon Presidential Museum, Yorba Linda, CA
    3. Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Austin, TX
    4. George Bush Library, College Station, TX
    5. Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Museum
    6. Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, MO
    7. William J Clinton Library, Little Rock, AR
    8. Herbert Hoover Library, West Branch, IA
    9. Gerald Ford Library, Ann Arbor, MI
    10. Gerald Ford Museum, Grand Rapids, MI
    11. Richard Nixon Library, College Park, MD
    12. Franklin D, Roosevelt Presidential Center, Hyde Park, NY
    13. John F. Kennedy Presidential Center, Boston, MA
    14. George H. W. Bush Presidential Center, College Station, TX
    15. Bill Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, AR
    16. George W. Bush Presidential Center, Dallas, TX

    In addition, I would love to get to these other locations that aren't part of the National Archives.

  • Ronald Reagan boyhood home, Dixon, IL

  • Thomas Jefferson's Montecillo, Charlottesville, VA

  • George Washngton's home/plantation (Mount Vernon), Mount Vernon, Virginia

    Of course, I don't know how I would fund such a trip. Still it is my dream. I certainly want to get back to New York, in the near future, and during that trip visit the FDR museum. Perhaps in the near future, I can make it up the road (70 miles) to the Truman Museum for the first time in my life.
    go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.

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  • Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Irwin Kellner: Diet COLA for Social Security recipients - MarketWatch

    Last night, I was checking my Sharebuilder account, when I came across the following article that concerns not just the seniors who are currently retired, but also those of us who hope to retire at some point in the future.
    PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (MarketWatch) -- For the first time in a generation, Social Security recipients will not get a cost-of-living increase in their monthly checks -- not next year nor the year after.

    As you can imagine, this is bad news for the millions of retirees who depend on their Social Security checks for their main source of income.

    Most seniors are struggling to maintain their standard of living in the face of soaring health care costs combined with the drop in the stock market, which has decimated their retirement accounts, and the record low interest rates they get on whatever savings they might have left.

    Because of the confluence of these factors, seniors had been especially looking forward to next year's cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to help them cope. Now they will have to figure out how to live on less.

    The government has been adjusting their monthly checks for 35 years to ensure that seniors don't wind up eating dog food -- as many were forced to do in the high-inflation years of the 1970s, when Social Security monthly payments were fixed.

    But after receiving an increase each year since 1975 to compensate for the rise in the cost of living, seniors won't get a raise in 2010 or in 2011 because the trustees who oversee Social Security are projecting declines in the consumer price index (CPI) -- the basis for these cost-of-living adjustments.

    What is more, some seniors in the Medicare prescription drug program will actually see their monthly payments decline because the premiums are scheduled to rise.

    In today's low-inflation environment, some might see this as much ado about nothing. After all, seniors did get a one-time payment of $250 last spring. And this year's decline in consumer prices combined with last year's 6% COLA adjustment for 2009 gave many seniors' buying power a lift.

    But the issue is more than what happens over the course of this year or next. It has to do with the way seniors' cost of living is calculated.

    Understand that the CPI does not measure everyone's cost of living -- especially that of seniors. Their cost of living is mostly affected by what they spend the most money on: food and health care, such as insurance, doctors, prescription drugs, hospitals and nursing homes.

    These costs are rising rapidly, as has been pointed out time and again in the intense debate over health care reform. For example, while the CPI may be down, year-over-year, medical costs are actually up by more than 3%.

    Indeed, health care costs are one of the few items in the consumer's market basket that did not dip for even one month during the recession. Local taxes are up as well.

    Those items that are pulling the CPI down -- lower prices of cars, homes and energy -- don't affect seniors all that much. The same can be said for computers, cell phones and personal digital assistants.

    If the government is serious about protecting seniors' buying power, it will base its adjustments on increases in their actual cost of living.

    This way seniors will get the real thing -- not a diet COLA.

    - Irwin Kellner: 'Diet COLA' for Social Security recipients - MarketWatch

    Posted using ShareThis

    So why does it affect everyone. Put simply, we all must realize that we cannot depend on social security, we must plan and invest wisely to build a strong savings for retirement. Further, I think when I retire, if not at a point before, I would move all my "risky" investments to more secure investments, to protect myself from another possible collapse in the market after I quit working.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Updated Financial Figures

    I finally updated the financial figures posted in the right sidebar. At the same time, I updated my progress at the No Credit Needed Network and Net Worth IQ.

    Beginning Balance: $19,591.80
    Current Balance: $4,581.85
    Credit Card: $0 (paid off $1,000)
    Home Improv.: $0 (Paid Off $5,000)
    Car Balance: $2,987.88
    Chase Bank (Balance Transfer): $1,593.97
    Finger Hut: $0 (Transferred)
    Attic Insulation: $0 (paid off $500)
    Paid Off: $15,009.15
    go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.

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    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Car Repair

    For the better part of the last 2-3 years, my check engine light has been coming on intermittently. Now, it is becoming more and more steady. Which means it is becoming easier to get it diagnosed. The problem in the past, when I would get the car in to have it checked, the light would go out, translating into them not being able to get a reading.

    Today, I took it by Advanced Auto and got it hooked up to the hand held computer for free. Once I got the diagnoses, I was able to start calling around to get prices. One place wanted to charge me over $200 plus tax to replace the front oxygen sensor. Another place, said they needed to know what type of engine my car had and then hung up on me before I could respond. Finally, I called the Chevrolet dealer and they told me it would be $125 plus tax. So that is where I am heading.

    ****update: When I arrived, the same person who gave me the quote made the call to get the price for the part and there was about a $50 difference between the price the computer gave him and what the parts place told him. That means the repair is now $175 plus tax at the dealer. I will have to wait until next Wednesday to have the cash to get the repair. Oh well so be it. Still I will get it done. It's just that I am about $40 short at the moment. *****

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.

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    Friday, September 18, 2009

    New Siding

    I have mentioned my new siding a little. Now is the time to really discuss it and tell all my readers about it. As you can see in the on the right, when I bought the house a number of years ago, the house was in serious need of repair.  A few months later, the house had a new paint job along with a new porch.  Fast forward ten years, and the water damaged siding was in much more need of attention. Simply painting over it again, was not going to work this time.  Still though, from a distance the house still looked fairly decent (picture 3).  However, once work began (picture 4) the house really began to take shape.  With the finished project seen in the last picture.  Due to my own personal finances, we are waiting until next year to finish the trims, sofets (under the guttering) and bay window area.

    So why did, I chose the company I went with? First they are the largest home remodelers in the country. More importantly though, the siding is durable and has a lifetime guarantee against chipping, cracking, and peeling.  In addition since it is vinyl, I will need to paint the house again.

    Most importantly to me though, is the fact that my walls never had insulation in them.  Before they put on the new siding, the contractor installed insulation over the old siding and under the new (as seen in picture 4). Which means my energy costs should sharply decrease this winter.  Not to mention the home energy tax credit I will be able to claim on my taxes come April.  Which means more money in my pocket. 

    The gentleman, who came and performed the job was first rate.  He was professional and courteous the entire length of the project.  With the new siding, I should be shoe-win for the most improved house next spring. 

    Still though I need to get focused on the next aspects of my home.  Making it more handicapped accessible. Including the porch, parking and moving of the utility room from the basement. 

    Perhaps one day, I can even get the windows replaced even.  However, first things first. 

    ***This is an unsolicited review***
    go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.

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    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Engagement Rings

    The other day, I began casually browsing engagement rings online, I found one for $22 at Yes, I said $22. Of course my biggest concern is that it wouldn't be able to be re-sized to fit my girlfriends petite fingers. Not to mention, the concern that it might turn her finger green, as they say.

    Then Labor Day Monday, after I got off work, she and I went to Chick-fil-a in the local mall for dinner. The reason, they were giving away chick-fil-a sandwiches to those who wore some kind of sports team apparel.

    After our evening meal, we were walking past Zales, and spontaneously decided to drag her inside their store, to look at the rings. We found one that she liked that normally sales for $299 but is on sale for $189 plus $40 for lifetime protection and $10 for a 2 year theft replacement package. I must say, I certainly like that ring from Zales, but at this time is out of my price range. Still, I will have to get the ring somehow. This is an important step in my relationship with the woman, I want to spend the rest of my life with.

    Of course, I will also check out a couple of other jewelers to.

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.

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    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Health Care Debate

    There has been much debate recently over health care reform. So many opinions out there, who do you believe. I certainly believe that we desperately need reform in the health care arena. How though, is the question. No matter what anyone says to the contrary, there will be an increase in taxes to pay for public funded health care. As such, I really don't want to pay higher taxes if I can't drop my employers health coverage in exchange for the public one. Especially, if it is cheaper then the $10/bi-weekly that I am paying currently. Still though, even if I am paying anything at all to taxes to fund it, I don't want to paying premiums to a private company on top of those taxes.

    There is so many proposals, it is hard to decide which to support. As a long time advocate for the poor, I know something must be done. However, the rest of us can't be taxed to death to pay for it. Two of my followers say the best option is to take care of yourself.

    Craig (aka BudgetPulse on Twitter) said,
    Take good care of yourself early and exercise, eat right cause medical costs are expensive.

    Rick Kuhlman said,
    take as best care of yourself or you will pay dearly.

    But, how do you take care of yourself? One option available to some people is flat rate health care, as described on a recent NBC Newscast (see video below).

    Then of course there is the public option.
    “We’re trying to provide choice and competition for individuals and small business owners,” Mr. Gibbs said when asked if the public option was “essential.”

    “The president strongly believes we need to provide choice and competition,” he said. Pressed on whether Mr. Obama would demand that a government insurance program be included in legislation, Mr. Gibbs said that it could be a “valuable component” of any health plan. And asked whether the president would reject a plan that did not include government insurance, Mr. Gibbs responded: “We are not going to prejudge where the process will be.”
    - NY TIMES

    Here is what some readers had to say about health care reform when approached Wednesday.

    Rick Kuhlman said,
    I'm all for it--I paid $0 one year and $120 for dentist appointment the next. $120 in two years now that was affordable--i choose not to have health care for two years--because I had that choice.

    During those two years I cared for myself health wise more than ever! I brushed my teeth and flossed daily--not every other day every single day! never got sick for two years! worked out at gym and at home 3-5 days every week...every week. I felt like a million bucks--so I kept doing it."

    Mike Broemmel said,
    I think reforming the health care system in the U.S. is a top priority. It simply is not working effectively. The vast majority of people without health insurance coverage have not voluntarily elected to go without -- they cannot afford coverage and they need it. I support doing away with waiting periods, I support portability and, yes, I support the public option. This is not some radical proposition. The majority of U.S. Presidents in the past 60 years supported significant health care reform ... and not just the Democrats. President Nixon seriously considered implementing a type of universal health care for the American people. If our agricultural delivery system failed at distributing basic food stuffs to the American people as poorly as the health system has provided basic medical care (both life sustaining issues) people would have been up in arms. There is too much misinformation being spewed about by those opposed to reforming the system.

    Republican Senator Pat Roberts, the Junior Senator from Kansas, was quoted on NPR and WIBW-TV as saying,
    I have taken a hard look at the proposals before the Congress and I will not support ill-considered legislation that hurts those it intends to help. Many of the proposals will have dire consequences for patients – denying access to quality, affordable health care, raising taxes and rationing care. The unprecedented cost of a public plan will have a staggering effect on our economy.

    So what is your opinion? Did you here the Presidents speech last night? Do you agree with him? What is your opinion on making health care more affordable to all Americans?

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.

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    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    Living Without Credit

    Craig (aka BudgetPulse) has the opinion of majority of Americans,
    Living on cash only is not realistic and you need to build a good FICO score for loans and big item purchases.
    However, is that accurate? Many Americans have found that they can live without debt as reported by a recent NBC story. The reasons vary, but thousands, maybe millions have found it can be done. Lets take a look.
    Lisa Brough was forced into a debt-free life by medical disaster.

    Her husband has Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder, and has been unable to work since 1999. The couple, who have three children, saw their finances suffer as a result. They ended up with $50,000 worth of credit card debt as Brough worked two jobs and still struggled to pay the bills and the high property taxes on their home in Westchester County, N.Y.

    “I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ ” she recalled. “He was going downhill, and I had to figure out a way to get out of this. I couldn’t count on tomorrow because I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.”

    In 2005, she took drastic measures. She decided to sell her $350,000 home, pay off all the family’s debt, and move to lower-cost Cary, N.C., where she was able to buy a house for $164,000 house in cash.

    Since then it’s been cash and debit cards only for Brough, 50, who has no debt of any kind.

    How does she do it? She buys secondhand furniture and electronics, gets her husband’s medicines from Canada at cut rates, has a $10,000 emergency fund and thinks long and hard before she opens up her wallet.
    - MSNBC Business Desk
    That comment, she couldn't count on tomorrow is the same argument that Dave Ramsey uses (or one of them) to urge his listeners to go cash only. She took the step to sell a more expensive house to pay cash for a house that was more in price range. Basically, she stopped trying to impress those around her and instead, just bought what she needed.

    JD Roth, who writes the “Get Rich Slowly” blog, says more of his readers want to move in the debt-free direction. “It’s this whole movement back to basics,” he says.
    - MSNBC Business Desk
    Roth continues by telling NBC that the idea may not be so simple (or realistic) for everyone, because they have the mentality of I want it and I want it now. How true that is. However, it is my firm opinion that it is very realistic, but we do need to get rid of the attitude that we deserve everything that we see. We can't have eyes bigger then our stomach, or in this case wallet.

    Indeed, going debt-free is no cakewalk.

    “We have to always plan ahead now and make sure we have the cash,” says Jeff Pelletier, who stopped using credit cards after a series of unfortunate financial events. He lost his job nine months ago producing training videos for a St. Louis company, lost his house to foreclosure, ended up $50,000 in debt and filed for personal bankruptcy late last year.

    Without credit cards, he has been unable to make major purchases. “We’re sort of living hand to mouth,” says Pelletier, who relocated to Boise, Idaho, for a job with a general contractor and is renting a home with his wife and two sons.

    “The thing that hit me the hardest was that plastic has no emotion to it. Whip it out, use it, done,” he says. “Cash is harder to part with.”
    - MSNBC Business Desk

    Yes, big purchases may be more difficult as BudgetPulse mentioned earlier. However, not impossible. Those of us whose grandparents grew up in the great depression know that they scrimped and saved and bought everything, including their homes with cash. They also did a lot of the work themselves, when building those homes to. If you think about it, if you borrow, you pay 2 to 3 times the value of that home or car or whatever you are buying on credit. So to pay cash for said item, can be done, if you save that money instead. In a sense make that interest payment to yourself. For example, on the car, if you can afford that payment of $300-$400/month for 4-5 years. Why can't you put it in a savings? In the time that it would take to pay off the bank note, you could have a savings account large enough to buy 2-3 cars. Then if you keep the car for a minimum of 10 years, better yet drive it until it falls apart. Those 3 cars that you have saved up for, will be the only 3 cars you need in your entire life. Warren Buffett, currently the second richest man in the world, doesn't borrow to buy his cars. He also doesn't drive flashy cars. If he spent his money like so many Americans do, he would not have the money that he does.

    Still, some worry about their credit score, and going debt free will hurt that. No credit history can as bad as having a bad credit history. However Howard Dvorkin, founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc. and author of “Credit Hell – How to Dig Out of Debt,” was quoted in the same article,
    But even if you stop using credit right now it will take eight years before you have no credit history. In any case, the positive impact of being debt free on overall economic health generally outweighs any negatives.
    - MSNBC Business Desk

    I agree, and that is my goal to. I want to be completely debt free. Unfortunately, that will take a little longer for me now, because I borrowed to reside the house. Still, I will get there. I just took a detour.

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.

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    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    BREAKING NEWS: New Sister Site Launched

    (Topeka, KS) Kevin Surbaugh, better known online as the Prince Of Thrift, writes a blog where he discusses a variety of financial topics. The blog, is a collection of his own personal struggles with debt, what he has learned from various personal finance gurus and what he has read/heard in the news.

    This week, Surbaugh officially launched his newest website, . The new website, which he also runs as a hobby provides a link to his blog. However, it also provides links to PDF files for various budget forms. Currently only two forms are included, but Surbaugh hopes to add more eventually. Like his blog the entire site is completely free to the readers. The forms currently available, is one to mail in your request for your free annual credit report, and another to write out your monthly budget. Surbaugh said, he has seen numerous budget forms and they all seemed to be missing budget lines that other forms contained. It was his hope in creating his own form, to bring those various forms into one concise form.

    He said, his reason for these two sites, was to help the readers to get out of debt. It is his hope, that by seeing his own personal struggles (and successes), readers will be encouraged to work towards their own debt elimination.

    go ahead share your thoughts with me now, my ears are open. I'm always eager to hear what you think.

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