linklings, apparently-I-read-a-lot-on-the-internet-this-week edition

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As the title of the post implies, apparently I read a lot of stuff on the internet this week. I’ve found that ditching Google Reader in favor of the desktop software FeedDemon has made it easier to scan through articles and pick out stuff I actually want to read. I’ve installed that and Raven (for blog editing) on my USB key, making it a bit easier to capture and write up items for the blog. I am definitely not moving in the “cloud computing” direction – sometimes it helps to have desktop software.

The Entrepreneur Fund: One Year of Projected Expenses: I think most books/posts/etc. I’ve read on the subject say that you must have, at a minimum, one year of expenses saved up before launching a business. It sounds daunting, but I think it’s doable. We could live for more than a year off our savings if we ratcheted down our lifestyle (got rid of cable, etc.)

Trick or Treat: Creating a Frugal Halloween: Some good tips – I like the PlayDoh idea. I have noticed that Halloween seems to be exploding in popularity, probably because marketers see that there is much, much more to be sold than for Thanksgiving.

Poll: 47% of Households Will Not Owe Taxes in 2009 – Is That Fair?: Are taxes SUPPOSED to be fair? I think the concept is largely unfair. A large portion of my taxes go to support things I don’t support – wars, certain social programs, pork, etc. So if you get past that, then you can worry about people who don’t pay. But I can’t get past the fact that taxes are almost inherently unfair.

SEP-IRA Retirement Plan for the Self-Employed: Part of a longer series about retirement plans for the self-employed: some good info on something that I, at least, don’t know very much about.

Don’t drop that egg!: I just recently started listening to Dan Miller’s podcast and reading his blog. This was an enjoyable post on the idea that sometimes you fear things so much you can’t even see other opportunities.

Quizzle Offers Free Credit Score and Report: It’s nice to see that you can obtain your credit score in more and more places. It used to be such an (expensive) hassle to find out your score.

Price-Placebo Effect: Are You a Victim, Too?: Yep, if I tell you a bottle of wine costs $250, you’re probably going to think it tastes better – just as most people would tell you a store-brand cereal tastes worse than Kellogg’s. The mind is a weird thing.

PayPal Discourages Use of Credit Cards: Seems reasonable enough – I’m surprised sometimes that they don’t ban them altogether. Surely the fees eat into PayPal’s profit margin.

Results, Results, Results: My resume isn’t as strong with “action” words as it should be. Another to-do item.

Family Finances: How Is Your Financial Status?: There’s a link to an interesting tool that judges your financial health. Our family comes out A+ in every category except retirement savings – mostly because this year we haven’t put aside our savings yet. I decided it would be prudent to wait until we’ve closed on the house purchase to make sure we have plenty of cash on hand.

Accidental Frugality – Can You Live on Half of Your Income?: Yep, you can. Will it be enjoyable? Maybe not. Having been part of a DINK (dual income, no kids), moving to SI-DK (single income, dual kids – sorry, no very catchy), I can attest that you can. You may THINK you can’t, but in reality you can adjust to any income level, up or down.

Finding Affordable Self Employed Health Insurance: I’m working on this right now, actually – I’m on a mission to find an affordable plan. My current thinking is a high-deductible plan in association with an HSA, which would allow us more control over expenses (and perhaps a tax benefit), but even that remains awfully expensive. I just have a dream that someday I can get a health care plan that is completely unattached to my employer/clients/etc. I understand it’s expensive, but I’m tired of being in a constant state of flux (changing employers) or dread (contract work without benefits).

How Often Do You Check Your Portfolio?: Be oblivious. I just checked my portfolio for the first time in a few months as we started the mortgage process. I’m a long term investor – other than rebalancing my funds, I’m just not worried about it.

The Neutral Fallacy: There is No Sideways in Life: I’ve heard variations on this before, but the basic idea is this: in almost anything you do you are either progressing or declining. There is no real stasis. You are either moving forward OR you are not. You are either staying fit OR you are not. You are either getting richer OR you are not. There is no “well, I’m hanging in there, wealth-wise”. Continual improvement is an exhausting idea, but in most parts of life improvement is the only positive choice.

Self control. Willpower. I Need Me Some of That!: Ugh. Sounded too much like me. I have the ability to focus – like anyone else, I can get “in the zone” on tasks and hammer away at them single mindedly. Sometimes. But far too often I’m not really “into it” and can easily spend hours flitting from one thing to another. “Oh hey, look, I need to do the dishes. Let’s check for glasses in the living room. Oh hey there’s that book I was looking for. I’d better put it up. Hey, there are my juggling balls on the bookshelf. Haven’t done that in a while, wonder how my juggling is? Oops, dropped one, oh, rolled over to the patio door. Hey, there’s a beach towel out there. Oh, shoot, I need to turn the dryer on in the laundry room.” You get the picture. Online I’m even worse, sometimes.

10 Scary-but-Exciting Reasons to Work for Yourself: I know, I know, I am an e-myth dope, I confuse my skills with my abilities to be an entrepreneur (i.e. just because you can cook doesn’t mean you’ll be successful owning a restaurant) but I do enjoy thinking about being Mr. Work-for-Meself-Man. And see, I continue thinking about this by reading articles like this one: 5 Steps to Optimize Your Freelance Job Search

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  • About income taxes, Steve. If we needed 100 percent agreement on everything our tax dollars were spent on, nothing would be spent (and that would be bad). A substantial part of my tax dollars are spent on things I would prefer they not, but at some level I have to trust the people (legislators, government bureaucrats, etc.) who are authorizing and spending them are not into wholesale theft. If you can't believe there is value in the system in general, you may as well find a deserted island to live on.

    I do have more of an issue with the percent of people who don't pay income taxes. There are a lot of arguments both ways here, but I would like to think that people care more if they have “skin in the game.” No matter what your income (to an arbitrary level that is probably a lot less than 47 percent), even if you're only paying $100, you may care more about what wars are being fought, and what highways being built.

    And yes, I realize that this percentage doesn't include payroll taxes, which every legitimately working person pays, but they result in highly targeted benefits.

    • @Curmudgeon: That was more or less my point on the taxes – since we're already in a system where you have to accept some unfairness in how it's spent, then it almost follows that it's unfair in the way it's collected.

      And the people who don't pay income taxes certainly end up paying in other ways – sales tax, payroll taxes, etc. It would be an interesting experiment to have a one time “everybody pitch in $1000 this year to build a new airport outside New York” assessment and see if that motivated people to complain. You're probably right that it would.

  • I've had a SEP for about 18 years now, and my biggest problem is not my ignorance, it is that of the banking and financial community, and of the IRS. Every time I care to make a deposit into my SEP, I have to budget at least two hours to explain to the bank representative what a SEP is, why I have one, what I can contribute, and what they have to do. Then they call up the home office for procedures, only to talk to others who require the same explanations.

    It gets worse. I've been to financial advisors who are clueless about the savings options open to the self-employed. I've had to explain to IRS auditors (thanks in large part to my SEP, I get audited almost every year) what the rules are for a SEP.

    The fact of the matter is that our society and our rules do not recognize self-employment as a legitimate way of earning a living. I've actually had IRS representatives tell me that they always authorize an audit for anyone filing a schedule C.

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  • Thanks for including my article and for pointing out MyDollarPlan's series on self-employed retirement plans. Hadn't caught that one, but it's excellent. 🙂

  • @Curmudgeon: That was more or less my point on the taxes – since we're already in a system where you have to accept some unfairness in how it's spent, then it almost follows that it's unfair in the way it's collected.

    And the people who don't pay income taxes certainly end up paying in other ways – sales tax, payroll taxes, etc. It would be an interesting experiment to have a one time “everybody pitch in $1000 this year to build a new airport outside New York” assessment and see if that motivated people to complain. You're probably right that it would.

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