Merry Christmas to all Thousandaire readers!
The Kevin McKee Christmas
Last night I had dinner and Christmas with all of my mom’s family. Because I live 600 miles away from St. Louis, I really only get together with all of my mom’s family once a year at Christmas. It’s one of the best nights of the year for me.
I woke up this morning and watched my niece open a bunch of Christmas presents from Santa (and none from me), and now I’m on the way to go spend time with more family. This is when I will exchange presents with all of my immediate family. I’m a crappy Christmas shopper so I hope nobody is expecting anything great from me!
Tonight I’ll go to my best friend’s house for some dinner and then we’ll see a movie. It’s pretty much the same Christmas every year, and I never get tired of it. The only thing that would make it better would be to have Tag here with me.
So that’s the annual Kevin McKee Christmas. Rinse and repeat next year and every year after that.
Merry Christmas if you celebrate it and happy “Everything in America is Closed Except Walgreens Day” if you don’t.
And to all of my readers/fans/stalkers/government spies monitoring this website for potential terrorism activity, I truly appreciate you coming here and reading what I have to say. It means so much to me that I can write something there is at least one other person who wants to read it. If you’re one of those people, you make me happier than I can express.
I’m on vacation from my real job all week, and I’ll definitely take a few days off from blogging as well. I’ll have a few new posts up this week, but don’t expect a full slate of stuff. In the meantime, I’ll be furiously writing songs and thinking about my 2012 goals in the hopes of making 2012 a much better and more musical year for Thousandaire.
Carnival of Personal Finance at Young Adult Finance
Yakezie Carnival at My Personal Finance Journey
Carnival of Financial Camaraderie at My University Money
Totally Money at Invest It Wisely
Festival of Frugality at Help Me to Save
Canadian Finance Carnival at Canadian Finance Blog
Carnival of Wealth at Control Your Cash
Carnival of Financial Planning at Skilled Investor Blog
Back when I used to write about fantasy football, I was always terrified of people reading my old posts. Basically, my job was to predict how well professional football players would perform in their NFL games. I was wrong. Frequently.
If anyone ever decided he didn’t like me, he could just read any one of my old posts and find predictions I made that turned out to be wronger than a mullet on a little baby girl. Awesome side note: “wronger” is a word!!!
Luckily I don’t make many predictions on this site. While it’s possible that I’m wrong sometimes, it would be very hard to actually prove it. The one exception would be stock picks, most of which were made by The Hoff. For the few picks I made, let’s just say that the amount of money I’ve lost in the stock market is way more painful than any ridicule someone might give me for my less than wonderful predictions.
However, I did make one prediction a few months back and I think it’s a good time to revisit whether I was right or wrong. My prediction: The Durbin Amendment would harm consumers while it lines the pockets of business owners.
The Durbin Amendment STOLE Your Rewards
Back in March I wrote about how the Durbin Amendment Wants to Steal Your Rewards. It put a cap on interchange fees for debit card purchases, meaning the banks make less money; therefore, they can’t pass any rewards along to their customers.
It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that debit card rewards were going to disappear. It’s a pretty logical result. However, just to prove consumers lost this benefit, here are a few examples of debit cards that discontinued rewards programs here and here and here.
The theory behind the legislation was that retailers would pass those savings along to customers. I’ll quote Rachel Wolf in a CNN article I quoted half a year ago:
“Because retail is such a competitive industry, any savings retailers get they are going to pass along to customers, because if you don’t offer competitive prices, someone’s just going to go across the street to the competitor.”
So now that the Durbin Amendment is in place and we’ve all lost our debit card rewards, let me ask my price conscious readers: Have you seen prices drop?
You haven’t? Interesting…
The Durbin Amendment was never about doing what’s right for consumers. It was always about one thing.
The Durbin Amendment Succeeded at Taking Money From Consumers and Giving it to Retailers
Let’s review what happened thanks to the Durbin Amendment
- Consumer rewards from banks for their debit card purchases have been eliminated
- Consumers pay higher banking fees; banks blame Durbin Amendment for fees
- Consumers pay higher prices for retail goods
- Retailers make higher profits thanks to lower interchange fees and higher prices
- Retailers “thank” Dick Durbin and other politicians for doing such a great job at writing laws*
*Organizations like the National Retail Federation and businesses like 7-11 have publicly praised Dick Durbin for this amendment. I’ll let you decide whether or not you think there were any undisclosed monetary “thank you’s” sent his way.
The Durbin Amendment was incredibly successful at taking money from consumers and using it to line the pockets of executives for big retail business.
I’m no genius and I saw this coming a mile away. The politicians who voted for this garbage did it knowing full well that it would result in taking money from average Americans and giving it to business owners.
And there’s no turning back now. If you repeal the amendment, retailers are going to say, “Ahhh!!!! Expensive interchange fees!!! Must raise prices!!!” and banks will pretend like nothing happened (just like the retailers did this time) and decline to pass the savings along to customers.
What happens when the government tries to legislate who wins in a “free market”?
The consumer loses.
This week’s Whatever Wednesday submissions were pretty light. I’m thinking it’s because of the holidays. Or maybe it’s because I didn’t beg this week like I usually do. Just remember, I’ll write about anything you want me to as long as you tell me what to do on twitter or facebook Tuesday nights.
Let’s get started with the first of two suggestions this week.
I have to believe that Jana’s question was prompted by this video:
I don’t always watch Saturday Night Live Weekend Update. But when I do, I prefer Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon.
Why? Amy Poehler is not even remotely believable as a news anchor and Seth Meyers just isn’t all that funny. Tina Fey has a special place in my heart for being ridiculously hilarious, and Jimmy Fallon has the perfect demeanor of “I think he could be serious… oh, nope, that was hilarious.”
With that being said, I grew up on Colin Quinn as my Weekend Updater and he’s still the best in my book.
I love goals. Here’s my favorite one:
I also like setting goals. I think it’s important to drive towards something. In fact, I think the setting of goals is much more important than reaching them.
For example, I made a goal a few months back to do one music video every month. After I made that goal, I put out my first full length music video in almost a year.
Have I lived up to the once per month objective? No. But have I done better? Absolutely. And doing better is thanks to setting that goal.
Here are a few of the goals I set in 2011 and how well I did against them:
- Contribute 6% to my 401k, max out my Roth IRA – Done
- Get $8k closer to The Hoff in net worth – $3k away with one month left
- Learn Spanish – Let’s just say I know a heck of a lot more Spanish now than I did before. I’m not fluent, but I’m working on it
- Don’t Suck at Golf – I broke 100 on 18 holes for the first time ever. I’m not a good golfer by any means, but I’m definitely not as terrible as I used to be
- Eat Better – I went from eating 0 veggies to eating some veggies. That’s better, right?
I didn’t meet all my goals, but I did alright. To be honest, I didn’t do a great job of setting goals at the beginning of the year though. That’s gonna change next year.
The new year is coming up and it’s time to start setting goals. I don’t like “New Year’s Resolutions” because no one ever does those. I prefer calling them goals.
I don’t have a complete list ready yet, but here’s what I have so far:
- Make $12k (or $1k a month) outside of my regular job – This could come from this website, other online ventures, babysitting or selling body parts. Anything that’s not my day job is fair game.
- Make 8-12 Music Videos – I want to do one a month. At the very least, I should be able to do 2 every 3 months. Cross your fingers for me.
- Contribute 6% to my 401k, max out my Roth IRA – Easy peasy.
- Be mostly FLUENT in Spanish – I better get to work on that Rosetta Stone…
- More to come…
Like I said, this is a work in progress. The question is, are your 2012 goals a work in progress? You only have 10 days until it’s time to start making progress towards them!
Holy crap! Christmas is [insert number of days until Jesus' birthday] days away and I haven’t gotten anything for [insert distant family member that you probably shouldn't be buying a gift for, but feel obligated for some reason] yet!!!
I’ve done it. You probably have too. Christmas shopping is hard.
But it doesn’t have to be.
What if I told you that there’s one present that is good for about 97% everyone you know? Except in rare circumstances, you will be completely prepared for Christmas, birthdays, and any other occasion where you find yourself needing to give a gift.
This is going to blow your mind, so make sure you are sitting down…
Make Christmas Presents for Everyone
Remember when you were 6 years old and you wanted to give someone a present but you didn’t have any money? What did you do?
You made one.
I remember nailing five pieces of scrap wood together into a “breakfast in bed table” that I gave my mom. I gave it to her with breakfast and everything one day and she pretended to love it. Heck, maybe she even did love it. But the point is I gave her a present and didn’t have to buy anything.
Now obviously no one wants a crappy piece of furniture made from scrap wood (especially if it comes from an adult), but you can still make presents for everyone. And the best part is you can make everyone the same present.
Find a Hobby You Can Give Away
About a year ago I had this brilliant idea. I’m going to learn how to make homemade soda. I bought all the equipment, purchased some ingredients, and found myself a homemade soda recipe book. I used all that stuff to make a gallon of root beer. It was absolutely terrible.
I was so discouraged that I haven’t tried again since. But imagine if I had kept trying. Imagine if I actually came up with a homemade soda recipe that was actually delicious. You better believe I would be making tons of it, bottling it up, and giving it away as Christmas presents.
I could spend a few bucks and create a homemade label with my face on it. Then I’d make the soda, slap on a label, and give everyone a six pack of Kevin McKee’s Sassafras Specialty.
It would be fun to make, cheap, and (as long as it’s good) something people actually enjoy.
Homemade soda is just one option. There are lots of homemade drinks (wine, beer, interesting combinations of Kool-Aid) that you can give away. If you have a hobby of making crafty stuff that doesn’t look like it was made in a 2nd grade art classroom, you can give your arts and crafts away as home decorations or ornaments. Maybe you make super-delicious cookies and you can give those away. Anything you can make that doesn’t suck is fair game.
It doesn’t really matter what it is. Just learn to make something kinda cool, package it up to look pretty, and give it away to everyone. It removes all the stress out of, “What should I buy for [someone]?”
Bad news guys.
No music video this month for the second month in a row. I know, I’m terrible!
Bad Music Video News
I’m in a Christmas Concert at my church on Wednesday. Monday is our final normal rehearsal, Tuesday is the dress rehearsal, and Wednesday is the performance. Friday night is date night where Tag and I are going to see Les Miserables at the local Opera Theater. On Saturday morning, I fly home to St. Louis (and away from all my recording equipment) and won’t return for a while.
My only chance to do a video will be on Thursday, and I just can’t sing, audio edit, record the video, edit the video, and all the other stuff I need to do in one night.
So I just have to make sure I commit to more videos next year. You are free to yell at me (again) in the comments. I need to figure out a way to pump these out faster. I’ll work on at least writing the songs over the break while I have some time off my day job.
Join the Money Pros Index Fund Challenge
If you missed it yesterday, there is an Index Fund Challenge where you pick three stocks for the whole year of 2012 and try to make the most fake money. Your goal is to pick the best stocks out of everyone, or at least beat the Money Pros (me and six other personal finance bloggers).
Worst case scenario, you’ll almost certainly beat me. My investments this year have been… well… less than awesome.
If you want to play, join here.
I Was Consumerist-ized!
Not to brag or anything, but The Consumerist is one of the biggest personal finance sites on the web. I don’t know that I would actually call it a “personal finance” site because it has a more specific niche of helping consumers either save money or warn readers of companies with horrible customer service.
Well, the Consumerist linked to my post about saving money on car insurance. Exciting!
Carnivals This Week
Carnival of Personal Finance at 20 and Engaged
Yakezie Carnival at Broke Professionals
Carnival of Financial Camaraderie at My University Money
Totally Money at Help Me to Save
Canadian Finance Carnival at Canadian Finance Blog
Carnival of Financial Planning at Skilled Investor
Do you like picking stocks?
I do. I like it best when I pick the right ones, but just picking them in general is fun.
If you think you can pick stocks better than a bunch of personal finance bloggers, you should join the Money Pros 2012 Index Fund Challenge.
Enter the Money Pros Index Fund Challenge
It’s simple. You pretend to buy $1,000 worth of three different stocks (you will buy fractional shares of the stock and ignore trading fees) on January 1st, 2012. If the stock accumulates dividends, they will be reinvested in that stock. On December 31st, 2012, the person with the largest gain is the winner.
That’s it. The winner gets bragging rights. It’s just supposed to be fun.
Again, if you want to join, just sign up here and put in your three stocks. See if you can beat the Money Pros (me and six other personal finance bloggers).
My 2012 Stock Picks
As far as my picks, I haven’t completely decided on all of my picks, but I do know one of them is going to be Pizza Inn (NASDAQ: PZZI). I’m pretty excited about Pizza Inn because it’s a Dallas based company and they in the first stages of rolling out a new type of pizza restaurant.
It’s basically like a Subway where you can customize your personal pizza as much as you like. Then they throw it in the over and it’s ready in two or three minutes. This restaurant is to pizza as Subway is to sandwiches and Chipotle is to Mexican food. I have a lot of faith in this business model, and right now is a great time to get involved in the company.
For my other two picks, I am considering AGNC (my favorite REIT with a huge dividend payout), Citigroup (my favorite bank), CPY (owns Sears and Walmart photo studios, has a huge dividend, and has a very depressed price), Sprint (I really just think this stock is on sale). Or I might find something else. I have until Dec 31st to completely decide.
If some of these sound good, you may want to add my picks in your submission. If you think they are stupid picks, then make your own and beat me!
Disclosure: This post is not a recommendation to invest in any of these stocks. Consult your financial adviser for investment advice. I own shares of AGNC and C and am considering purchasing PZZI, CPY and S.