Government Shutdown Ends While Woes Continue and More

The government shutdown has ended, the debt ceiling catastrophe narrowly avoided, and the can firmly kicked down the road by about three months.

Yet the woes of the website continue on.

The government has dropped over $400 million on the website and associated processes.

$400 million.

And yet a relatively small percentage of people have been able to sign up.  Those that have signed up have had their information sent to the wrong insurance company or had to have their policies manually adjusted (which eliminates the benefit of the website).

To top it off… despite having spent $400 million on the mostly non-functional website, the government is going to be sued for licensing infringement. The site uses a script that requires copyright information to be used which was subsequently removed at the code level.

Another amazing project by the federal government.

Looking to avoid burning through all your cash excessively (hopefully not $400 million!)? Yea, these reads can help you do that:

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Government Shutdown, Debt Ceiling Crisis, and Links

The United States federal government has been shut down since Tuesday.  Thousands of workers are furloughed, national parks and monuments are closed, and Congress is still getting paid.

What’s worse is this may not be the biggest crisis the US faces this month.

Later in October — or early November at the latest — the Treasury department will hit the “debt ceiling” and max out its credit line.  The debt ceiling is a legal limit placed on the Treasury by Congress that says the US cannot have more than X amount of debt.  That amount right now is $16.699 trillion.

Both parties have said they will have no part in a United States default on debt due to not raising the debt ceiling, so that’s encouraging.  Yet each day that rolls forward means we are getting closer and closer to not being able to make our minimum payments on all of our obligations.  If we default expect widespread chaos in financial markets, Treasury bill interest rates, and the value of the dollar.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Maxing out your credit cards, too? Can’t seem to control how much you spend? Here are some articles to help you out:

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iPhone 5S Sells Out While Blackberry Posts a $1 Billion Loss and Links

What a contrast.

Apple’s hyped iPhone 5S sold out within 24 hours of being launched and won’t be available until October at the earliest. (Supply chain problems, anyone?)

Meanwhile Blackberry, the former smartphone heavyweight, posted a $1 billion loss and announced it will be cutting 40% of its global workforce.

Will Apple be able to avoid the similar fate?  Despite selling out the iPhone 5S many critics have been unimpressed with Apple’s ability to truly innovate the iPhone.  Perhaps that is natural as there is only so much you can do with a smartphone, but where will the next blockbuster product come from?

Don’t sit back on your previous success like Blackberry did. You need to constantly push forward with your finances. Here are some good reads to encourage you to do just that:

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Apple Hype Machine Preps for September 10th Launch of iPhone 5S and Links

The Apple Hype Machine has been running like a well-oiled machine for the past few weeks.

Leaked photos and videos.  Sneak peaks at new refinements to iOS and the iPhone.  Hints at new iPads.

Apple is running into a problem, however.

The prices of smartphones — good smartphones — keeps dropping.  The Google/Motorola team wants to push phone prices down.  There is a discussion that Amazon might give away their future smartphone to get users plugged in to the Amazon ecosystem.

Yet Apple remains stalwart in charging $649 to $849 for off-contract iPhones depending on the amount of memory provided.  That’s why Apple is all announcing something called the iPhone 5C.  It’s a — gasp — plastic version of the iPhone.  Plastic hasn’t been used since the iPhone 3/3G, and it is one of the things that Apple fans have made fun of Samsung for forever.

But Apple needs to reach the lower end of the market to continue to grow, and plastic is cheaper than the shiny metal used in the premium iPhone devices.  Will users bite or will they prefer to get a used premium iPhone on eBay or other marketplaces?

Are you planning to spend hundreds of dollars on a new phone this month? Is that part of your financial plan? These articles will help guide you on your plan:

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Steve Ballmer to Retire from Microsoft and Links

After years of disappointing product launches Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will retire at some point in the next 12 months.

From Windows Vista to Windows 8 to the Surface tablet to the Xbox One getting trounced by Sony’s Playstation, there have been too many products that have fallen flat.  Meanwhile Microsoft’s competitors have become stronger and in some instances completely dominated the marketplace.

To me this underlines the importance of never sitting back on your laurels.  The same holds true for your finances.  Many of Microsoft’s most recent products were a reaction to a competitor’s innovation.  Likewise we can’t wait until something happens to change our finances, we have to think ahead, plan in advance, and start making changes now.

It will be interesting to see what the next person in line brings to Microsoft. Will you let your finances fall into a rut? Or will you start planning ahead using some of these great reads below?

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The US Government is Spying on You and Links

The NSA is spying on Americans under the guise of fighting terrorism.

Through a program called PRISM (and likely others) the government has the ability to capture and store every type of electronic communication you make.  The plan was to use these programs only overseas, but it has been revealed that all kinds of communications of innocent Americans are being tracked and stored as well.  Your phone calls can be recorded, who you called and how long the call lasted is recorded, your e-mail and web browsing can all be tracked (and should be assumed, is tracked).

This is a massive story that should be on the front page of every news website and newspaper in the country, but it is being kept under wraps.

One great example: Lavabit, a secured, encryped e-mail company, recently abruptly shut down.

It was revealed in July that Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who spilled the beans about the PRISM program to a UK newspaper, was a customer of Lavabit’s services.  This led to a surge in new subscribers to the company’s services.

The owner of the one-employee (literally the owner and an intern) company shut the company down and posted a letter on the company’s website saying, essentially, he was asked to do something by the government he felt he could not due and maintain his conscience or his 100% encrypted and secure service.  Oh, and he was also given a gag order so he couldn’t tell the public or his customers exactly what the government asked him to do.  The order was likely from a secret court that you and I, and Congress, will never see.


Later that evening a second encrypted email service, Silence Circle, preemptively shut down.  They figured they were next.

What does all this have to do with your personal finances?
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Detroit Files for Bankruptcy and Links

40% of the street lights in Detroit are turned off to save money.

It takes police about an hour to respond to an emergency call.  The city’s population has dropped by more than 25% since 2000.

Detroit is in trouble.

So much trouble that the city filed for bankruptcy protection.  Currently facing total liabilities of about $18 billion, there just isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel without bankruptcy protection.

Unions are worried about pensions being slashed; involuntary cuts to pensions has rarely occurred in municipal bankruptcies because many of the pensioners still live in the municipality or are still working at the jobs that promised them a pension.

It is a difficult situation.

The city is shrinking, crime is high, and unemployment still sits over 16%.  From a financial perspective there doesn’t seem to be much else to do besides file for bankruptcy.  Despite this the plans to build the Detroit Red Wings a new arena — at a cost of $444 million — is still going through.  The emergency financial manager of Detroit and the state of Michigan agree that it will create jobs, but is it the best way to spend a half-billion dollars?  Only time will tell.

Avoid the dire circumstances Detroit is facing in your own finances. These great reads will help you keep your finances running smoothly:

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