Saturday, December 29, 2007

For the Best List of CD and Savings Account Rates Bankrate is No Longer the Winner

I have been a big user of Bankrate to find high paying savings accounts and CDs, but no more. A couple of days ago I found Bank Deals. I like the site better than Bankrate for a number of reasons. First, it appears to be more comprehensive than Bankrate -- it even includes local credit unions. Second, there appears to be no axe to grind. On Bankrate some banks pay to be listed while Bank Deals generates his revenue through adsense ads, clearly marked sponsored links, and donations. The next time you are looking for a new savings account or CD I highly recommend you check out Bank Deals.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Glasses Are Expensive! Trying a Cheaper Alternative.

Well it's time for me to go see the eye doctor again and I scheduled my appointment yesterday. I am confident that my prescription has changed since my last visit, so that means I'll be needing new lenses. Since I only have one pair of glasses, I figured I had better go ahead and get another pair as a backup. However, the thought of paying $350+ for a new pair of glasses was terrifying me. I decided to do some research on cheap eyeglasses available on the Internet when I stumbled on Glassyeyes, a fantastic site all about buying glasses on the Internet complete with reviews of popular sites. I also found the Eyeglass People who will gladly take my old glasses and put new lenses in them for less than I would pay at the retail store. I am going to try both buying a new pair and lenses online and see how it goes. I will report back about my experience, but this looks to be one of the bigger money savers I have come across.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Should I Stick With Countrywide Savingslink?

Countrywide Financial is clearly a company in trouble, and why shouldn't they be? They are the nation's largest mortgage originator and we are in the midst of one of the biggest housing declines since the great depression according to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. However, Countrywide also offers the best savings rate of anybody out there with their FDIC insured Savingslink account. I can't exactly afford to lose my savings, but a 5.3% APY is pretty darn good so what should I do about it?

First, determine how much FDIC insurance your account has. This is easy to do by using the calculator available here. The general rule is that each person on the account is insured at up to $100k per institution. So if a husband and wife have a joint account they are insured up to $200k at that institution. My advice is never to put more than the insured limit with any one institution.

Next, think about how willing you are to have your money locked up. If this is money that you could need at the drop of a hat you need to keep it with an institution you are confident with. For me, Countrywide doesn't qualify right now. I think there is at least a 5% chance they could go bankrupt. Wells Fargo on the other hand is as safe as they come (but their savings rates are a lot lower). So the way I view Countrywide right now is that as long as I am below the FDIC insurance limit and as long as I know I don't need the money there tomorrow, it is ok to capture their 5.3% APY. Why am I not 100% confident that the FDIC insured money will be available at the drop of a hat? Because I think if this housing debacle gets really bad and Countrywide and Washington Mutual, and a couple other large banks go under I think it may take the FDIC a little while to sort out their payments. To be fair when Netbank went under the FDIC insured funds were avaiable the next day through ING who bought the accounts, but nonetheless I prefer to be modestly paranoid.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Best of Armchair Fiduciary 2007

According to Google Analytics which I use to monitor traffic on Armchair Fiduciary for free here are the most read posts of 2007 (so far):

1) Wells Fargo PMA, the best financial combo package around? (146 views)

2) Should I Pay Down My House Early If I Can? (130 views)

3) How to Invest Your 401k: A Generic Guide. (115 views)

4) Got Loose Change? Thinking of Going to Coinstar? Forget about it. Save yourself 9%. (110 views)

5) 8 Random Facts About Arcmahir Fiduciary (103 views)

Thanks for making 2007 a great year and don't hesitate to suggest posts you'd like to see in 2008 in the comments!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Should I Loan Money to a Friend?

There is no easy answer to this question. In general, the Armchair Fiduciary's opinion is that you should not, especially if this is an emergency loan to keep someone afloat. Instead suggest to your friend that they go to and try to get a loan there. Prosper is a neat site where anybody can borrow or lend. The reason I would not make an "emergency" loan is simple. If your friend needs such a loan they have not managed their finances well so far and you should not expect that to change overnight. Indeed, all that is likely to end up happening is that you will lose your money and the friendship will suffer as a result. If they go to Prosper, the market will set a price that is fair for their loan and then deal with collecting on the loan (instead of you). You should not feel guilty saying "No," to an emergeny request like this, especially when you offer a helpful solution like Prosper instead. Indeed, your friend has overstepped his bounds in this request and saying no is merely restoring balance to your relationship and making sure the friendship will remain intact in the future.

The one time I might conisder making a loan to a friend is if they have a very well thought out pre-planned business venture. Even in this case be sure there is a legal document verifying the amount of the loan, the terms, and the length of the loan. Many budding entreprenuers have needed capital to get started and I view this as a legitmate request. Be sure to see the business plan laid out on paper and use common sense; don't support a venture you don't think will work.

Have a different opinion? Hit me in the comments.