linklings, frozen in Florida edition


Four totally unrelated observations before getting on to the link roundups:

One of the best parts of the stimulus package – the best, at least in terms of my own personal situation – was the COBRA premium reduction. As long as I’ve been paying the reduced premium, I’ve felt like I’ve had affordable coverage with a reputable company that’s not tied to my employer. I’ve been able to move from one contract to another without switching doctors or learning a new set of copayment rules. It gave me a glimpse of how I’d like health care to look: not related to my employer, and pricey but not so expensive that it would cripple an average family budget.

The temperatures have dropped slightly in Florida but the high-rise I work in continues to blast – literally – freezing cold air out into the work area. I will need a sweater soon. It’s in the 80s outside. I shudder to think of (a) the cost, (b) the environmental impact and (c) the illnesses it seems to cause – half of the office is sniffling and the other half are coughing. It’s unpleasant in the extreme.

I have been writing two ebooks (slowly) and I found a tool to do so that really surprised me. I am no fan of Microsoft Office, preferring Open Office, but MS Office has some nice formatting tools and I’ve been able to put together what are – to me – pleasing “Webby” looking documents. I am trying to use the e-book writing to spur my own creative thinking for this blog.

Finding writing subjects for the blog has continued to be a struggle for me, but I’m trying to broaden my reading a bit to shake up my brain. I blame, recently, Stephen King and football. King is one of my favorite writers, but for some reason my brain seems to get distracted from other subjects. Same goes for football – if you’re a fan it’s easy in the internet age to do nothing but read football ALL DAY LONG. Reading stats and game analysis crushes a lot of creativity. So less pop culture, more esoteric stuff (new blogs, non-fiction books and more notebooking of my own ideas).

On to some links. I will actually have a second linklings post tomorrow – otherwise this would have been the War and Peace of roundups.

Saving For Retirement? Best Move For Your Retirement Plan: I have put off rolling my 401(k) into an IRA for about six months, and I just started moving it this week. I have no idea why I didn’t go ahead and do this sooner – I can think of no possible benefit to having a dormant 401(k) sitting in a separate account when I have my TD Ameritrade rollover IRA ready to go – plus, they have a bonus if you start a new IRA before December 31st.

Did Mortgage Rates Just Hit Rock Bottom?: Surely rates can’t go much lower, although I’d like to have a 2% mortgage if someone would give it to me.

How We Saved Money when Moving: Having just been through this, I liked these tips (actually this is a post linking to the post on the Quicken blog).

Career Planning Saved My Life: While I’m not as optimistic, I do think getting out of corporate employee life and into corporate contract consultant life was a step in the right direction. That having been said, it was only one step, and I probably have another 5 or 6 steps before I’ll be in a role I actually like.

TFSAs, Self Control and Your Future Self: While this article talks about Canadian retirement funds, the point holds just as true for Americans. I know people might think that the tax penalties imposed on early withdrawals from IRAs, etc. might just be the government once again taking a shot at citizens, but it’s one of the few cases where the taxes are good. If penalties keep people from cashing out their retirement accounts at the first sign of adversity, all to the better.

Stop Feeling Sorry For Me – I’m Frugal, Not Broke: Amen. I feel sorry for myself sometimes, too. I have the money to buy a lot of the things that I feel I want in moments of weakness. I’d like a new Prius or BMW. We could afford it. We could afford a lot of things, and although I get a great deal of satisfaction from driving two paid-off vehicles, just once in a while I wish I could yell at people “I drive a nine-year-old Pontiac but I’m not broke you idiots! It’s just not WORTH buying a new car if this one runs and is comfortable and reliable!”

50% Of Poll Respondents Chose Wal-Mart As Best Symbol Of America.: At least they didn’t choose McDonald’s. I don’t like Wal-Mart, but it’s another case where my values collide with my checkbook and my free time. If I need some pasta, some printer paper and some athletic socks, Wal-Mart is a cheap one-stop solution. I know I shouldn’t go there, but I do, because it’s cheap and convenient. I know that by doing so I’m killing other businesses that sell these products, so it’s a vicious circle. The solution? Maybe I don’t know.

Happier: Another great article from J.D., but I have to pick on one thing. I am getting weary of hearing that money doesn’t increase happiness:

“I’ve also come to understand that part of the problem was that I expected money to solve my problems. I expected money to make me happy. Money and happiness, however, are mostly unrelated. That’s just not how it works.” (emphasis mine – Steve)

I have to say that “mostly” is the key word. Money does solve problems. Having money has allowed our family to weather a long bout of no income with almost no long-term impact on our finances. Having money kept the health insurance going when I wasn’t working. Money lets us eat organic foods and send our son to a fantastic Waldorf preschool (and next year, Pumpkin, our daughter, will go, too). So JD’s point is valid – money and happiness are mostly unrelated – but I think having money helps a lot. Not just in the sense of being able to buy a Kindle, but simply to be able to live a lifestyle (good food, health care, freedom to travel, etc.) that allows all those other “happiness boosters” to mean something.

Plus a few more good articles, but I’m tired of typing…

photo by audreyjm529