Selection Sunday and Links

Today is Selection Sunday and college basketball teams around the country are anxiously waiting to learn their fates.

Will it be that coveted last spot in the NCAA tournament?  Or relegated to the NIT?  (Sure, playing in any tournament is nice, but the NIT pales in comparison to the real deal.)

If you are like me and your team is sitting in the first four out list (as of time of this writing) you see a lot of similarity to financial issues.  My team, the University of Tennessee, is on the outside looking in.  They lost in their conference tournament when a win would have likely locked up a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Instead they lost, but even with a loss they aren’t completely out of the running.  They are just reliant on a bunch of other teams losing in order to propel them into one of those last few spots in the tournament.

Don’t we often run our finances this way?

We miss doing things right and do just enough.  We cut corners, and suddenly find ourselves reliant on someone or something else to save us.  That might be a relative lending us money or just hoping that our employer continues to employ us.

Don’t live your financial life like a NCAA basketball bubble team. Take control of your finances with some of these great reads:

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Michigan Takes Over Detroit and Links

File this under things I’ve never heard of.

The state of Michigan has announced it plans to take over the city of Detroit due to massive cash flow and financial issues for the city.  The city government has 10 days to appeal (which I am assuming they will do), but the state seems pressed to take over operations.  In the event the state takes over they will put an emergency manager in place who has the authority to make drastic changes for the city to include voiding contracts with unions.

While the takeover isn’t official, it underlines the point that we all need to manage our finances.

Despite a comeback in the auto industry after the Great Recession the financial situation within Detroit has not improved.  The city has issued new debt to cover its obligations, and we all know how swiping our credit card to pay for things we can’t afford works out.

Avoid spending more than you earn — like Detroit did — with some of these tips:

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Exploding Meteors, Electric Car Problems, Ruined Cruises and Links

It certainly was an interesting week in the news. 

First, you have a cruise ship lose all power and drift for a while in the Gulf of Mexico before two tug boats could slowly pull it back to safety.  Passengers slept on the deck of the ship, had no working toilets, and food started to get low.

Then you have a meteor unexpectedly exploding in the air over Russia with the equivalent power of 20 Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons.

Lastly, you have an aspiring electric car maker sparring with the New York Times’ reporting of its vehicle.

But a piece of news that you might have missed, but is likely more important to you personally: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling launched a Spanish version of its online tool called MyMoneyCheckUp.  The tool aims to help consumers evaluate different areas of the personal financial lives such as planning for retirement, saving money, budgeting, and credit management.

You input some data about yourself and your habits, and the tool gives you a report of things you should keep doing as well as serious risks you are currently taking.

Tracking all four of the above money topics is critical in life. Here are some reads to guide you in some of them:

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Dow Crosses 14,000 and Links

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 14,000 this week.

This achievement was a big milestone for the bull market, yet no one seems to be celebrating too much.  Some traders think the market will begin to cool off while others think the government will work with the Federal Reserve to continue pushing the economy and markets up.

For all the talk of the Great Recession, the Lost Decade of 2000 to 2010, and so forth the markets have done surprising well.  The S&P 500 is up 37%, the Dow Jones is up 36%, and the Nasdaq is up 44% since the beginning of January 2010.

If you had funds invested in the market through a low cost index fund, you’ve probably done well.  And that’s not even taking into consideration dollar cost averaging your investments into the market which would catch some of the lows along the way and drive your returns even higher.

Will the bull market continue?  No one really knows and making drastic portfolio changes based on your gut is unwise.

Focus on what you can control with these articles:

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Stamp Prices Increase and Links

The cost of stamps will rise to 46 cents per stamp on Sunday. 

The US Postal Service is in dire shape; the organization nearly defaulted on payments it is required to make twice last year.  A decline in demand for sending items through the postal service combined with rising healthcare and pension costs has put extreme pressure on the Postal Service.

When is the last time you sent a letter to someone?

Aside from occasional bill payment or sending a birthday card, my use of postal services has dropped significantly.  What will the USPS do as demand continues to drop?  Only time will tell.

When things change financially you have to take action. Don’t wait for a Congressional bailout like the USPS. Take action with these articles:

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Flu Season in Full Swing and Links

The flu season has hit with surprising force this year.

Some are calling it an epidemic while others think it is just a stronger flu season than normal.  Nonetheless it seems to be everywhere across the country.  Some areas are running out of flu vaccinations which isn’t helping matters.  The government has set up a pretty slick website over at Flu.gov to guide you in getting through this year’s flu season.

Be sure to check with your insurance company to see if they cover flu shots.  Even if they don’t most walk in clinics charge about $25.  Compared to feeling ill for 7 days and having to miss work, $25 still seems like a bargain to me.

Avoid feeling ill when you look at your bank account and credit card statements by using these great articles to get better with your money:

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The Power of Passive Investing Book Review and Links

The Power of Passive Investing

As a personal finance blogger I get the opportunity of receiving books about well, personal finance from time to time. I don’t always get to read them all (yet) but some I do while others are moved to the front of my reading list for when I get a chance.  I wanted to tell you about one that’s on my short list to read.

The Power of Passive Investing by Rick Ferri

I haven’t read this book yet but I will soon.  In The Power of Passive Investing, Ferri makes the case for owning only low-cost index funds and ETF’s.  I’ve heard a lot about how active funds tend to not beat the market and that most of us would do better with low-cost index funds (Warren Buffet and Tom Gardner come to mind).

I certainly don’t want to have my returns eaten up by commissions and taxes.  Investing in ETF index funds is something I’ve slowly been doing but I want to learn more.  I was excited to get a copy of this book and start expanding my investing knowledge.
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