Interview with Kelly Whalen of The Centsible Life

January 11, 2010

- See all 763 of my articles

No Comments

Our continuing, albeit erratically paced, series of interviews with other bloggers sends reporter Scoop Chevelle to the wilds of Philadelphia in search of Kelly Whalen of The Centsible Life.

Scoop: Hello, folks. I’ve just flown to Pennsylvania and boy am I tired. Being chased by an angry mob can really wear you out. Apparently the Liberty Bell is only for decoration and is NOT to be actually rung. What’s the point of having a bell, then? Well, I digress. Today, I come to you from the Steel City, home of the reigning Super Bowl champion Steelers.

Guy on the street: Dude, Pittsburgh is the Steel City. You’re in Philadelphia.

Scoop: Oh. Is Philadelphia a suburb of Pittsburgh, then?

Guy on the street: Are you crazy? Philly’s bigger than Pittsburgh – and Pittsburgh’s clear on the other side of the
state!

Scoop: OK, then. Today, we come to you from Philadelphia, which is famous for not being the home of the Super Bowl champion Steelers.

Guy on the street: (grumbling in disgust): Yeah.  That’s what we’re famous for. Not the constitutional convention, cheese steaks, or Rocky. We’re known for not being home to the Steelers. Knucklehead.

Scoop: (completely oblivious): Today, we come to you from the living room of Ms. Kelly Whalen. Good morning, Kelly.

Kelly: Welcome.

Scoop: In the last several months, you have been nearly impossible to ignore in the media. You have been featured on the Today show alongside Jean Chatzky, as well as appearances in local media outlets. You’ve also picked up gigs writing for Consumerism Commentary and Moolanomy, in addition to your work on The Centsible Life. It seems like everything you’ve touched during the last year has turned to gold.What’s the secret to your success?

Kelly: Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Scoop: How did you come up with the name for The Centsible Life? Did you consider the Dollarsible Life, since that name would have 100 times the value?

Kelly: I wanted something that was a play on words. Of course I didn’t think that it might be difficult to spell. Dollarsible isn’t a word, Scoop.

Scoop: With 4 kids and the responsibility of running a household, when do you have the time to write articles for three different web sites? Are you one of those zombie types of people who only need a couple hours of sleep every night? Do you write articles while you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store?

Kelly: I find pockets of time when the kids are playing nicely, or after they go to bed, or occasionally I leave Mr. Centsible in charge and head to Starbucks.

Scoop: Of all the articles you have written, are there a few special ones that stand out?

Kelly: I have 3 favorite articles. This article talks about the balance between being a mom and doing what you love. I wrote a guest post for Bargaineering about daycare from a stay at home mom’s perspective. And my most heavily visited article is Kids and Allowance, where I tackle how not to go broke when you have kids.

Scoop: What lies ahead for you in 2010? Do you have any advice for bloggers who are just getting started?

Kelly: I’m currently celebrating my one year blogiversary at The Centsible Life; with a ton of giveaways. I expect 2010 will be a big year, and have plans to create an exclusive newsletter, and start writing an e-book. For bloggers who are just getting started I recommend following people you admire, basically stalking them. In hindsight I wish I had thought more about my goals with my blog versus jumping in with both feet.

Scoop: They call Pennsylvania the Keystone State, but really, I see as much Budweiser and Miller in stores as Keystone. Also it seems a bit silly to nickname your state after a beer. Hey, I like a beer in a can that tastes like beer in a bottle, but I wouldn’t name my state after it. So what’s up with the moniker?

Kelly: I don’t know. I prefer wine anyway.

Scoop: Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of The Soap Boxers?

Kelly: Thanks for having me!

Scoop: Thank you for your time, Kelly.

Kelly is a long time friend of The Soap Boxers. Be sure to check out her blog at www.thecentsiblelife.com

If you visited The Soap Boxers just to see the interview with Baker, feel free to look around a bit. Browse the archives, subscribe to the RSS feed, or simply come back again tomorrow. We offer a full money back guarantee. If you read us for a week and don’t like the content, we will refund 100% of the purchase price. RSS subscribers gain access to my two fiction eBooks – look for the “free ebook of short stories” link in the RSS footer (just to the left of the copyright information).

Interview with Baker from Man Vs. Debt

November 12, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

No Comments

In Today’s segment of The Soap Boxers, we travel to the faraway land of New Zealand to chat with Baker from ManVsDebt.  Due to the inherent danger in falling off the edge of the world, Kosmo has delegated this trip to beat reporter Scoop Chevelle. 

Scoop (to camera):  Wow, I just flew in from America, and boy are my arms tired!  I have been sent here to track down Baker.  After failed attempts to locate the correct Baker at six different bakeries, I took a moment to re-check my instructions.  It turns out that Baker is the name of the person I am looking for, rather than the occupation.  I always mess up some mundane detail.  Finally, at long last, I have located the man they call Baker.

Scoop (to Baker):  You have had quite a whirlwind experience, Baker.  You left Indiana for the green pastures of Australia.  You were quickly kicked out of Australia and sent to live in New Zealand.  Where are you headed if you get kicked out of New Zealand – Tokelau?

Baker: Thailand, actually!  But only for a couple months.  After that the sky is the limit.  Well, we probably won’t stay in the sky for long actually.  We might tour the good ‘ole fashion U. S. of A. or explore all Europe has to offer!  Ask me the day before we leave.  😉 

Scoop: In the span of about six months, you have gone from virgin blogger to a veritable rock star in the world of personal finance bogging.  What is your secret?  Is there any truth to the rumor that you slept your way to the top?

Baker: Actually, I didn’t sleep.  And that’s how I got to what you call the “top.”  Haha, seriously though it’s been a lot of work.  My secrets are to try my earnest to put out compelling content (not just a post for posts sake), be as transparent as I possibly can (people seem to enjoy that), and network with as many and as influential bloggers as I can!

Sounds easy, but it takes a lot of hard work, frustrating hours, and wasted time on Twitter.  And that’s just to get to the point I’m at now, which I’ll quickly point out is nowhere close to the top!  I’m just trying to get on the B-list.  😉

Scoop: There have also been allegations that you have been outsourcing some of your writing and violating child labor laws in the process.  Fess up – how much of the content is written by Milligan?

Baker: Haha, actually while Milligan is yet to type anything coherent on the keyboard (she could write for Ezines probably), she inspires a lot of the content.  She’s the reason Courtney and I began our battle against debt.  Staying home with her is the catalyst that led me to start the blog, too.  And she’s our motivation to keep chugging along and trying our best to take advantage of the moment.

So really, she plays a big part whether she knows it or not!

Scoop: You have recently formed a militia at ManVsDebt.com.  Are the authorities OK with this?  Are you currently looking for people who are proficient with specific weapons?  I shoot a pretty mean arrow from my crossbow, and I got mad skillz with the slingshot as well.

Baker: We are an equal-opportunity Militia.  Seriously, though, I’m trying to carve out a space for the most passionate members of the community to be involved in a deeper way.  These are the biggest fans and people that actually care about the direction of Man Vs. Debt, which is flattering!

I do my darndest, to find opportunities to give back with special information, book giveaways from publishers that contact me, and by giving them a say in the future decision of the community.  I feel honored to have a special list of people who are ready to fight!  😉

Scoop: As part of your minimalist goals, you keep a list of your possessions on your site.  Some of us have noticed a rather disturbing trend.  You left Indiana with five pairs of socks – but this has been sharply reduced and you now possess only three pairs of socks.  Holy cheese balls, Batman – what’s happening to your socks?

Baker: Are you stalking me?  Haha, seriously though I just threw out a couple pair that were long overdue.  It’s summer now here, so I wear my Keen sandals as much as I can now.  I’ll probably have to buy some more for running though soon!

Scoop: OK, we’ll get serious for a moment.  What advice do you have for someone who is just getting starting as a blogger?

 Baker: This is a big question, but I’ll make it as quick as possible.  First, find a topic that you are so passionate about that you feel like you could write for 4 hours a day for the next 5-10 years. This is the MOST important step.  Doesn’t matter what the topic is …  you can make it work if you are passionate on this level.

Next, write compelling content not just average content.  Too many bloggers think they have to post everyday, 3 times a week, or 3 times a day.  There is no prescription.  Only write as often as you can consistently be compelling, sometimes this is 3 times a month, in rare cases in can be twice a day.

Lastly, network UP.  Pick out the big guys and go after them.  Support their “pet” projects, buy their products and do reviews, respond to them on Twitter.  Once you’ve established a small connection, reach out to them in e-mail.  Send them a fully written, editing, and pre-linked post that you’ve researched and know their audience will like.  Aim high, don’t spend time guest posting on blogs with the same influence as you.

Oh, and cross your fingers and hope to get lucky…  You’ll need a bit of that too.

Scoop: OK, one final question.  If this is New Zealand, what did they do with the old Zealand?

Baker: It’s in name Heaven beside its friends York and Hampshire.

 

Baker is a long time friend of The Soap Boxers.  Be sure to check out his blog at www.manvsdebt.com

If you visited The Soap Boxers just to see the interview with Baker, feel free to look around a bit. Browse the archives, subscribe to the RSS feed, or simply come back again tomorrow. We offer a full money back guarantee. If you read us for a week and don’t like the content, we will refund 100% of the purchase price.  RSS subscribers gain access to my two fiction eBooks – look for the “free ebook of short stories” link in the RSS footer (just to the left of the copyright information).

Saturday Stew

July 11, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

2 Comments

With the slotting of the weekly columns on Wednesday, Wednesday Wisps are probably going to be few and far between. Until the schedule is completely shaken out, Saturday Stew will take its place. Just like Wednesday Wisps, there will be a bunch of small ideas in the stew.

Baseball

Hermsen

Twins prospect B.J. Hermsen grew up a hop, skip, and a jump from my hometown. Iowa is, I’m fairly certain, the only state that has summer baseball for high schoolers – other states have it in the spring. This makes is fairly unusual for Iowa kids to get drafted very high, because they peak later than the other players, simply because the schedule is later (in fact, the season is still ongoing when the MLB draft occurs).

Last year, Hermsen dropped to the 6th round. He likely would have been picked higher, but he was also a stud quarterback in football, and there was uncertainty that he would sign. Well, the Twins offered him $650,000 and Hermsen signed.

At long last, Hermsen made his minor league debut on June 24. How did he do? He tossed six perfect innings. The bullpen closed the deal and they finished with a combined no hitter. Not a bad debut. Hermsen probably hated to come out of the game, but as a young kid who almost certainly was on a pitch count, the Twins front office probably would have fired the manager if he had pushed him too far in his pro debut!

How did he do for an encore? Not bad – he allowed 2 runs (1 earned), 4 hits, and a walk in 5 1/3 innings – pushing his ERA up to 0.79 for the season.

Hynick

And speaking of great pitching performances, Rockies farmhand Brandon Hynick was the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week for the week ending July 5. He pitched in one game during the week, and threw a 7 inning perfect game. The teams were completing a suspended game that day, as well as playing another game, hence the shorter games (it is relatively common for minor league teams to play 7 inning games when there is a double header). It still counted as an official game, though – the 9th perfect game in the storied history of the PCL. The kicker? He did it at home, in the sky high altitude of Colorado Springs. If you think the air in Denver is thing, go to Colorado Springs some time!

Bluffer vs. Bargain

In January, I wrote an article entitled The Bluffer and the Bargain, highlighting Jason Varitek and Andruw Jones.  The gist is that I thought Varitek had overplayed his hand and that Jones  was a great pickup for the money, since the Dodgers were picking up nearly all his salary.

Nearly six months later, how are these guys doing?

Varitek is actually having a pretty good year, with  12 homers and a .825 OPS (through July 7).  This means I’m wrong, right?  Well, no.  In January, I said that he had put himself in a bad position by declining arbitration and would likely not sign for more than $5 million – half his 2008 salary.  What did he sign for – $5 million.  And most people felt that the Red Sox could have squeezed him a bit more.

Andruw Jones signed a $500K deal with the Rangers (don’t feel too bad for him, as the Dodgers are also paying him the remainder of a 2 year, $36 million deal he signed befor the 2008 season).  Jones has been a part time player and has been a bit up and down over the course of the season.  As I write this article on July 8, Jones just launched his 3rd homer o the game – bringing his season total to 14 homers in 160 at bats.  Bear in mind that a lot of players have around 300 at bats already.  This is great production from a $500K player.  Well played, Rangers.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson died with  a reported $400 million in debt, but also with substantial assets, including the rights to his own music and the music of other artists (including a share in the music of The Beatles).

I have a thought on a way for the estate to raise cash on pay off the debt.  Incorporate the major assets – form Michael Jackson Entertainment, Inc.  Then have an IPO.  Jackson fans – as well as other investors – could own a share of Jackson’s assets.  With the outpouring we have seen since Jackson’s death, what sort of money could an IPO raise?

Cars

I was discussing the auto industry with a friend of mine as we enjoyed lunch at the outside grill at Nelson’s Deli in Cedar Rapids (great burgers and brats!).  I began the conversation with this rather unconventional thought – “If we took all the money that was spent on research and development and infrastructure for cars and planes, we could build a nationwide teleporter network.  We’d only need one pod  per city block, since they would only be in use for a few seconds at a time.

After Dave nearly spit Coke all over the table, he countered with a rational idea.  “How much cheaper would cars be if they didn’t include a warranty?”  At first, this seems like a crazy idea.  Who would buy a car without a warranty?  Warranties are a big reason why people buy new cars.

But take a deeper look at this.  Warranties, of course, are not free.  Car companies build the cost of warranty repairs into the cost of the car.  Basically, you are paying for the expected average cost of warranty repairs.  That doesn’t sound too bad, right?  Except that since warranty work can only be performed at authorized dealers, they’re building in the cost of dealership labor and OEM parts!  If you’re like me, you know a guy who can fix things with cheaper, non-OEM parts, as well as cheaper labor.  And my guy is just as good as the dealer (in some cases, clearly better than the dealer).

I don’t see this idea actually gaining any traction at all, simply due to the huge financial risk when it comes to cars.  Perhaps, though, there’s room for a warranty that only covers major repairs – perhaps with a $500 deductible.  How much money would this shave off the sticker price?

Who was Ponzi?

July 9, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

3 Comments

In the wake of the Madoff and Stanford scams, “Ponzi Scheme” is a term that gets thrown around a lot.  A Ponzi Scheme is a fraud in which one set of investors is paid off with money collected from the next set of investors.  In other words, I take $10 from Amos on Monday.  I take $10 from Bob and Barb on Tuesday and use this money to pay interest to Amos.  I take $10 from Chris, Casey, and Clara and Wednesday and use this money to pay interest to Bob and Barb.  Everything works very nicely as long as each successive group of investors is larger than the next (or until the authorities figure out what is going on).  Ponzi schemes can expand more rapidly when investors reinvest their profits rather than collecting them in cash.

The Ponzi Scheme  is named after its most famous perpetrator, Charles Ponzi.  Today, I’ll tell you a bit about Charles Ponzi.  However, the accuracy of the information is questionable, mostly because Charles Ponzi deviated from the truth quite often, and it could be difficult to separate his lies from the truth.

Ponzi was born in Italy in 1882 and immigrated to the United States in 1903.  When the ship arrived in Boston, he had just $2.50 in his pocket.  You shouldn’t feel sorry for young Mr. Ponzi, though – the reason why he had so little money is because he had gambled away the rest of his savings during the journey across the ocean.

Ponzi worked odd jobs, eventually landing a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant.  Ponzi worked his way up to being a waiter, and things were beginning to look up for him.  Unfortunately, Ponzi was supplementing his income by short-changing the customers and stealing from the restaurant.  His employer was not pleased with this behavior, and Ponzi was jobless.

Ponzi moved to Canada and became an assistant bank teller at a bank in Montreal.  The smooth talking Ponzi worked himself up to bank manager.  Unfortunately, this job ended when the bank went belly up and the bank’s owner fled to Mexico with the remainder of the bank’s assets.

Ponzi was nothing if not resourceful, though.  He wrote himself a check from the checkbook of a former customer of the bank and quickly found himself behind bars.

After getting out of prison in 1911, Ponzi moved back to the United States, where he was soon arrested for his involvement in a plan to smuggle illegal Italian immigrants into the country.  (Hey, is anyone else noticing that Ponzi is building a rather lengthy rap sheet?)

Interestingly, Ponzi’s trademark criminal endeavor had its roots in one of the few legal ideas Ponzi ever had.

Ponzi became aware of an International Reply Coupon.  These don’t exist any more, but I’ll try to explain them.  Basically, if you were in the United States and wanted to send a letter to Italy, you might purchase an International Reply Coupon (IRC) to include with your letter.  Your Italian recipient would use the IRC as postage.  Essentially, this was courtesy similar to sending a self addressed stamped envelope today.

The aspect that interested Ponzi is that IRCs were purchased at the postage rate in the purchaser’s country, but could be used for postage in any country, even if the postage rate in that country was higher.  For example, let’s say that postage in Italy was 25 cents and postage in the US was 50 cents.  Someone in Italy could buy an IRC for 25 cents and include it in a letter to the US.  The US recipient could then use the IRC for postage, even though US postage was 50 cents.

Ponzi’s plan was to purchase IRC in countries where they were priced low and sell them in countries where they were priced high.  For example, purchase 1000 IRCs in Italy at 25 cents each ($250) and sell them in the US for 50 cents each ($500) – a tidy profit on your investment.  This is a concept called arbitrage and it is perfectly legal.  (For the Seinfeld fans among you, this may conjur memories of Kramer and Newman making a run to Michigan with a mail truck full of aluminum cans).

Ponzi had his relatives in Italy purchase IRCs.  Ponzi ran into difficulties attempting to redeem the coupons, and eventually stopped handling the coupons at all.  However, he told everyone that his company was indeed buying and selling the international reply coupons and making a sizeable profit – but the redemption method was a secret.  Ponzi would make you 50% profit in 45 days or 100% in 90 days.  The early investors reaped big profits and told their friends, those friends told others, and the scheme was off and running.  At its peak, the scheme was taking in $250,000 per day – in 1920 dollars!

Were some folks skeptical of Ponzi’s promises?  Yes, of course.  When a writer claimed that such returns could not possibly be achieved from legal activities, Ponzi sued him for libel – and won a $500,000 judgment! 

Eventually, all good things must come to an end.  The Boston Post hired Charles Barron (the man whose name adorns a financial magazine to this day) to investigate Ponzi.  Barron’s findings?  That 160 million IRC must be in circulation in order for Ponzi’s claims to be mathematically possible.  Unfortunately, only 27,000 actually were in circulation – and the US government indicated that there was no unusual activity with IRCs.  Clearly, Ponzi was not telling the truth.  The Post won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing Ponzi’s scheme.

When Ponzi’s scheme eventually imploded, he took down six banks.

Ponzi was sentenced to five years on federal charges of mail fraud (for sending information to investors through the mail) and served three and a half years.  He then faced state charges in Massachusetts for larceny.  The slick talking (and broke) Ponzi acted as his own attorney.  In his first trial, he won an acquittal on ten charges.  A subsequent trial resulted in a conviction on five other charges, and Ponzi was sentenced to serve between seven and nine years.

While on bail, Ponzi attempted to sell Florida swamp land to investors.  He jumped bail on that charge and attempted to flee to US by ship.  He was captured in New Orleans and was sent back to Massachusetts to serve out his prison term of seven years – interestingly, with no additional prison time for jumping bail.

After Ponzi was released in 1934, the US government had him deported to Italy as an undesirable alien – it turns out that Ponzi had never actually become a citizen.  Benito Mussolini gave Ponzi a job in the finance section of the government.  (Seriously, Mussolini – are you reading the papers?)  Ponzi eventually (gasp!) fled the country with money from the Italian treasury.

Ponzi died in poverty and poor health in Rio de Janeiro in 1949.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

Wednesday Wisps

July 1, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

5 Comments

The big news story of last week was the death of pop icon Michael Jackson at age 50.  News accounts have indicated that Jackson left behind $400 million.  Jackson’s estate does, of course, contain some valuable assets.  Most notable is his music portfolio, which includes his own music, as well as a portion of royalties from The Beatles.  The day after his death, 9 of the 10 most downloaded iTunes albums were Jackon’s.  This also underscores the ability of digital content providers to be able to seamlessly adjust to spikes in demand.  If stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Sam Goody sold out of Jackson CDs, they would not be able to satisfy the demand until they were able to restock.  Since the demand will likely dissipate as time passes, they will likely lose some of the impulse sales.  Digital providers such as iTunes are immune from this.  iTunes can’t “sell out” of a CD.  They just throw more hardware into the iTunes Music Store to handle the spike in volume.

Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff was sentence to 150 years in prison.  If Madoff serves the entire sentence, he would be 221 years old when he is released.  Essentially, the judge gave Madoff a life sentence.  Madoff will likely spend his remaining years in a medium security prison (a prison with bars on the windows and a fence) rather than a country club of a minimum security prison, due to the length of the sentence and the corresponding flight risk.  The judge also ruled that Madoff must also forfeit $171 billion.  It seems impossible that such a large amount will be recovered.

Minnesota finally has a winner in their Senate race.  The state supreme court unanimously declared Al Franken to be the winner, and challenger Norm Coleman has given up his fight.  The win by Franken mkaes it easier for the Democrats to invoke cloture (a procedure to end a filibuster and force a vote on an issue; 60 votes are required for cloture).  I have a question, though – does Franken get paid the salary of a Senator for the last 8 months?  Or does the money that was allocated to his salary go somewhere else (Chrysler, perhaps?).  I wrote a humorous article about the Minnesota Senate situation a couple of months ago.

Another Airbus jet suffered a deadly ocean crash.  This time, a Yemeni jet plunged into the Indian Ocean with 153 people on board.  At the time this story was written, one child had been found alive, and authorities were hoping that other survivors would be found.  The Airbus jet involved is this crash is a different model that the Brazilian jet that crashed on June 1, leaving no survivors.

South Carolina governor Mark Sanford admitted having an affair with a woman in Argentina.  This came to light after Sanford recently was unreachable by his staff.  As it turned out, he was in Argentina at the time.  Many politicians include Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, have called for Sanford to step down.  If Sanford does step down, Bauer would stand to gain the most.  He would become governor, and this would greatly aid his 2010 run for the office, as he would be elevated to incumbent without being voted into the office.

Manny Ramirez will rejoin the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, after a 50 game drug related suspension.  Ramirez has played 5 games in the minor leagues in an effort to get back into playing shape.  I disagree with this aspect of the suspension.  Some would argue that preventing a player from playing in the minors during the suspension would essentially turn a 50 games suspension into a 55-60 game suspension.  My opinion is that if the player can’t hitting the ground running on day 1 after the suspension, that’s his problem, not mine.  He should not be allowed to play any games during the suspension, whether it be in the minors or majors.

Interview with Lazy Man

June 25, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

2 Comments

Today, we interview Lazy Man from the personal finance blog Lazy Man and Money.

Kosmo: Lazy, come on in and take a seat. Hey, hey, take those shoes off. I apologize for the condition of the furniture. We’re on a tight budget and got most of this stuff at yard sales. Can I get you something to drink? We haven’t been able to afford a refrigerator yet, so we can’t offer you anything cold.

Lazy Man: It’s good to see I’m not the only one saving money at yard sales. A glass of tap water would be fine, save your drink money for a fridge.

Kosmo: You definitely have an interesting nickname. How did you acquire it? Were you a Lazy Boy when you were younger? Do you spend countless hours in your hammock in the summer? Have you found yourself watching hours of C-Span because you’re too Lazy to change the channel? Are there piles of dirty laundry in the middle of your bedroom? Spill the beans – America wants to know!

Lazy Man: So many questions in one question, here goes… As a child I certainly was Lazy. However, I wouldn’t call myself a Lazy Boy as that’s a registered trademark of another corporation. I actually don’t have a hammock. I’ve been in negotiations with the wife to get one for about 4 years now. She’s worse than Scott Boras! I go out of my way to avoid C-Span at all costs just to stay clear of that issue. I tend to put the pile of dirty laundry to the side. I have also have a pile of clean clothes.

I chose “Lazy” after a principle in Software Engineering, my career at the time. It’s generally considered smart programming to delay computation until a result is required. When I preach the “Lazy Way” of doing things, it’s more about the efficiency. I always say that if necessity is the mother of invention, laziness is the father of efficiency.

Kosmo: What made you take the plunge to become a personal finance blogger? Do you also disperse personal finance advice to your family and friends, or are your blog readers the sole privileged recipients of your vast knowledge?

Lazy Man: I was at the dentist and read a Business Week article about how anonymous bloggers are sharing their networth on the web. One person in particular caught my eye, Boston Gal’s Open Wallet. Having lived in Boston all my life at that point, I gravitated towards anything Boston-related. After reading her site for a couple of months, I figured that I should document my quest to acquire all the world’s wealth.I pretty much reserve my financial advice to readers. It turns out that people don’t often like to receive advice on how they should handle their money from me.

Kosmo: You have been blogging for 4 years now. You have a fairly large audience and are able to earn a decent amount of cash from blog related activities. Did you have a particular moment or event when you knew that you had crossed the threshold from novice blogger to successful blogger?

Lazy Man: Whoa, don’t make me old, I’m only at 3. You presume that I’ve crossed the threshold to successful blogger.  Success can be measured in a number of ways. I presume you mean financially successful. I think when I had my first $1000 month from blogging, I realized I was on to something.

Kosmo: What sort of advice do you have for bloggers who are just starting out? What are some pitfalls they can avoid or obstacles they will encounter along the way? What steps can they take to increase their likelihood of success?

Lazy Man: I have about 20 posts of blogging advice already written. I’m just afraid to publish it because I’m not sure I can maintain another blog. For now, I invite everyone to contact me about any specific questions they might have. I hope a lot of people do because it will kick my ass in gear to formalize and publish what I already have written. I aggregated some other bloggers blogging tips at Advice for New Personal Finance Bloggers.

Kosmo: Much of the subject matter in the personal finance blogosphere seems to center around good financial advice. On the other side of that coin, people should also make an effort to avoid really bad decisions. What are some of the worst personal finance decisions a person can make?

Lazy Man: I’ll give you a couple of bad ones:

  • Reach into your wallet or purse. Pull out all money you have in there. Set it on fire.
  • Buy as many depreciating investments as you can… especially expensive ones like boats and cars.
  • Subscribe to as many services as you can. Never use them.
  • Start smoking. Do I get bonus points for the bad health advice

Kosmo: OK, now that we’ve covered the serious stuff, let’s get the scoop on the man behind the blog. What’s on your iPod right now?

Lazy Man: It’s been about 3 months since I’ve seen my iPod. However, my Palm Pre has The Beatles, Portishead, The White Stripes, Radiohead, and System of a Down.

Kosmo: How do you unwind after a long day of blogging. What are your hobbies?

Lazy Man: There’s time to do stuff besides blogging? Here are a couple of hobbies

  • I spend an hour or two each night acting as my dog’s chew toy.
  • I’m big into wine tasting. My tastebuds are pretty poor and I have almost no sense of smell. That makes me really bad at wine tasting. I also break all the rules and have white wine with red meat and red wine with white meats.
  • I have the world’s largest collection of sea shells. I keep it scattered on beaches all over the world. Maybe you’ve seen some of it…
  • I like steal Steven Wright jokes and pretend they are my own.

Kosmo: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

Lazy Man: I would be a cheetah. I’ve always thought they were cool.

Kosmo: Is there any truth to the rumor about Scarlett Johansson?

Lazy Man: You know, everyone always gives the no comment when situations like that arise. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m just going to say it straight out: It’s true.

Kosmo: You make no secret of the fact that you are a Boston Red Sox fan. Do you consider the Red Sox to be the true 2007 champions, considering that a bevy of bad calls handed them a tainted World Series victory?

Lazy Man: Look, the tuck rule was in the rule book the whole season. In fact it’s still in the rule book today. I don’t know why people can’t understand the basic rules of the game.  Oh wait, you said 2007 Boston Red Sox…

Kosmo: You are an anonymous blogger. You guard the secret of your identity so closely that not even your dog knows about your alter ego. It must be stressful living with such a big secret. It would be a big weight off your shoulders to reveal your identity today, on The Soap Boxers, in front of a crowd of readers …

Lazy Man: I’ve thought about not being anonymous any more. All the biggest personal finance bloggers are not anonymous. I also don’t go into my net worth any more like I used to.You are right it would be a big weight off my shoulders to reveal my identity on The Soap Boxers today.

Kosmo: Thank you for your time, Lazy Man. Reader: if you haven’t had a chance to visit Lazy Man and Money, hop on over – www.lazymanandmoney.com. Lazy Man blends insightful personal finance advice with some interesting stories from his personal life. Lazy Man and Money is definitely one of my favorite blogs.

If you visited The Soap Boxers just to see the interview with Lazy Man, look around a bit. Browse the archives, subscribe to the RSS feed, or simply come back again tomorrow. We offer a full money back guarantee. If you read us for a week and don’t like the content, we will refund 100% of the purchase price.

Serial killer profile: Bundy and Nightstalker

June 11, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

2 Comments

There are a couple of non-fiction subjects that I study in great detail.  One of them, not surprisingly, is baseball.  The other is true crime and forensics.  This might seem like an odd combination, but the great baseball historian and analyst Bill James also has a fascination with crime.  Today, I’ll begin a multi-part series where I introduce you to some serial killers from the past.

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy had a confusing childhood.  He was raised by his maternal grandparents, not realizing until later that his “sister” was actually his mother.  Bundy studied psychology at the University of Washington.  At one point, he worked on a suicide hotline.  Bundy was eventually accepted into law school, although he eventually dropped out.

From the late 1960s through the mid 1970s, Ted Bundy murdered dozens of young, attractive females.  In 1975, Bundy was arrested for an attack that he had committed in 1974 (the victim fought back and survived).  In 1977, Bundy managed to escape from custody twice in a span of six months.  After the second escape, he traveled from Colorado to Florida.  On January 15, 1978, Bundy killed two women and injured two others in a sorority house at Florida State University, using a wooden club as a weapon.  Unfortunately for Bundy, he left behind a bite mark on the buttock of one of the women, Lisa Levy.  A month, Bundy was arrested for driving a stolen car.  A search warrant was obtained allowing authorities to obtain an impression of Bundy’s teeth.  Experts were able to match the impression to the bite mark left of Levy’s body.  Bundy was found guilty of murder in 1978 and died in Florida’s electric chair in 1989.

The Nightstalker

In 1984, the Nightstalker began to terrorize Los Angeles.  The Nightstalker would cut phone lines, break into he house, and immeditately kill any adult males.  He would then rape any women and children (boy and girls).  At one murder scene in 1985, he used lipstick to draw a pentagram on the thigh on one victim, as well as on the wall.  This led police to believe that the killer may believe that Satan was telling him to kill.

The police caught a break when one of the Nightstalker’s victims was able get the license plate number from his getaway car.  The car was stolen, of course, but police were able to lift a partial fingerprint.  Unfortunately, Los Angeles had only begun to  computerize their fingerprint records.  The fingerprint records for most criminals were still on paper.  Only criminals born in 1960 or later were in the computerized system.  The computer found a hit – Richard Ramirez, born in February 1960 – just making the cutoff to have his prints in the computerized system.

The photo of Ramirez was soon all over the television.  Unfortunately for him, he was out of town.  When he came back into town and stopped at a convenience store, the other  customers immediately recognized him.  They were in a predominantly hispanic area, and the hispanic population was very upset at the negative publicity that Ramirez was bring upon their community.  Several citizens attempted to stop Ramirez as he tried to flee, eventually inflicting a pretty decent beating upon Ramirez.

Ramirez ended up going to trial three times.  During the first trial, a juror fell asleep.  During the second trial, a juror was murder – in a completely unrelated crime.  Finally, Ramirez was convicted during his third trial, which was interrupted by frequent bursts of satanic comments from the accused.

It wasn’t all bad news for Ramirez, though.  Ramirez exchanged leters with many people after his capture.  One of them ended up marrying him.

Wikipedia and The Casebook of Forensic Detection (Colin Evans) were sources for this article.

All the news that fits, we print

June 6, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

No Comments

David Carradine

David Carradine, most famous for his roles in Kung Fu and Kill Bill during a long and successful acting career, was found dead in his hotel room in Bangkok.  He was 72.  He was found hanged, and the police are saying that it was a suicide.  Carradine’s manager and wife are very skeptical and believe that foul play was involved.  I would tend to agree with the foul play angle, although we’ll certainly find out more about this in the coming days.

Ocotomom

Nadya Suleman, a/k/a Octomom, is calling Jon and Kate Gosselin “attention seekers”.  We see a lot of case of hypocrisy in the world today, but this one has to take the cake.  In case you’re one of the two people who doesn’t know, Jon and Kate (plus eight) are having marital problems.

On the topic of Nadya, the Octo family will be featured in a reality show.  Nadya’s autobiography will also be on the shelves soon.  My suggestion would be to boycott everyone involved.  I plan to boycott all companies that advertise on the show, and well as the publisher of the book.  I buy a lot of books, so my boycott could hurt the publisher a bit.  Vote with your wallet.

Missing plane

An Airbus plane traveling from Rio De Janeiro to  Paris dropped off radar and is presumed to have crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.  Searchers thought that they may have found the wreckage earlier this week, but authorities now say that the wreckage is not from the aircraft.  I am a bit curious about what the wreckage IS from.  I’m hoping that the plane simply landed on a remote island and has not been able to open a line of communication, but that seems rather unlikely.  The locator device within the plane’s “black box” will only emit a signal for 30 days – after that point, it may be impossible to find the plane.

Cars

GM filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week and has been selling off some of its brands.  Hummer was sold to Chinese company Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., Ltd.  and Saturn will be sold to Penske.  Pontiac and Saab are still on the block.  The core GM will see its ownership change – 60% of the company will be owned by the US government, 12.5% by the Canadian government, 10% will be owned by creditors, and 17.5% will be owned by the UAW.  It is expected that the governments will only be short term investors  until a more permanent buyer (Fiat?) can be found.

Obama in the middle east

President Obama is in the middle east this week.  He gave a speech in work he advocated both sides working together, rather than letting our difference define us.  Peace in the middle east is a tall order – if Obama can establish lasting peace, clear room on Mt. Rushmore!  I think it would be great if people COULD get beyond their differences.  We’re on the earth for a short time – why waste so much of it squabbling?

Andrew Carnegie: The Man of Steel

June 4, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

2 Comments

Today I will profile the Man of Steel himself, Mr. Andrew Carnegie.  Carnegie is probably my all time favorite billionaire, as he donated much of his fortune to libraries.  Given that knowledge is power, libraries are a cornerstone of society and serve to improve the lives of future generations.  Those who donate to  libraries serve as a benefactor to many, but those who benefit must work (read) to reap the benefits of the gift.

Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835 in Scotland, where his father worked as a  weaver.  After falling on hard times, the family emigrated to Alleghany, Pennsylvania in 1848.  Carnegie was soon hard at work in a cotton mill.  A couple years later, he became a telegraph messenger boy, where his hard work caused him to rise quickly through the ranks of the Ohio Telegraph Company until he is the superintendent of the Pittsburgh branch of the company.  He moves on to work at Pennsylvania railroad and eventually becomes the superintendent of the company’s western region.

During his youth, Carnegie had the good fortune to be given some opportunities that others might not have enjoyed.  Colonel James Anderson allowed Carnegie and other boys to borrow books from his private library (which Andrew take great advantage of) and one of his bosses at the railroad company helped him with his first investments.  No doubt that Andrew remembered the help he had received, and that this was a basis for his philanthropic philosophy.

A large chunk of Carnegie’s early wealth was gained by investing in railroad-related companies.  After the civil war, Carnegie turned his energies to steel.  Carnegie Steel was able to efficiently mass produce steel rails from railroads and also controlled suppliers of all necessary raw materials.

Carnegie was an incredibly successful business man, but also found the time to write several books and contributed to several magazines.  He often wrote about social subjects.  While Carnegie always had philanthropic intentions, he began donating sizeable chunks of money in his 1840s, beginning first with gifts to his home town in Scotland.

In the 1883 the first “Carnegie Library” was opened in his home town of Dunfermline, Scotland.  Carnegie funded a total of 3000 libraries in the US, spread across 47 states.  He also funded libraries in foreign countries – in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Fiji.

The libraries, though, were just the tip of the iceberg.  He funded the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University) and, of course, Carnegie Hall.  He donated ten million dollars toward the construction of the Hooker Telescope at Mount Wilson.  He gave money to Booker T. Washington’s Tuskeegee Institute.  He funded construction 7000 church organs.  Perhaps most interestingly, he attempted to by independence for the people of the Philippines.  The United States had purchased the Philippines (along with Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam) for twenty million dollars at the end of the Spanish-American War.  Carnegie offered to pay the same amount to the US government in an effort to gain independence for the Philippines.  Unfortunately, his offer was not accepted, and the Philippine-American war resulted.

Andrew Carnegie was the second richest man in the world – second only to John Rockefeller of Standard Oil.  When he died, only a small fraction of his wealth remained – he had given the rest away during his lifetime.

Oh – the “small fraction” the remained … it was thirty million dollars … in 1919 dollars.  Not surprisingly, his estate was donated, as well.  Some of our current billionaires (such as Warren Buffet) do their best to follow in Carnegie’s footsteps.  Let’s hope that more of them join in the philanthropic works.

Wikipedia was a source of information for this article.

Profile: Ryne Sandberg

May 7, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

2 Comments

Ryne Dee Sandberg was born on September 18, 1959 in Spokane, Washington.  The son of an undertaker was an all-around great athlete in high school (at the same time that fellow Spokane athletes Mark Rypien and John Stockton were leading their own Spokane schools).  Many expected Sandberg to attend Washington State University to play quarterback, where he had signed a letter of intent.

The Philadelphia Phillies drafted him in the 20th round of the 1978 draft in hopes that he would change his mind.  Sandberg did indeed decide to play baseball.  He came up through the Phillies minor league system as a third baseman.  This presented a bit of a challenge for Ryno.  To say that his path to the majors was blocked was an understatement.  Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt manned the hot corner for the Phillies.

Prior to the 1982 season, the Phillies ran into problems negotiating a contract extension with shortstop Larry Bowa.  The talks eventually got contentious enough that they decided to trade Bowa.  They found a willing partner in the Chicago Cubs, who were willing to give up their own shortstop, Ivan DeJesus.  The Cubs wanted a young prospect in the deal, as well.  Phillies GM Paul Owens was hesitant to trade Sandberg, but the Cubs insisted on having him, and the Phillies’ own scouts were not particularly optimistic about Sandberg’s chance of success.  This trade became the counterweight to the Lou Brock – Ernie Broglio trade in Cubs lore.

Sandberg was the starting third baseman for the Cubs in 1982 and finished 6th in the Rookie of the Year balloting.  The Cubs acquired third baseman Ron Cey that offseason and decided to try Sandberg at second base instead.  Sandberg excelled at his new position, winning a Gold Glove (the first of nine consecutive) in his first year at the position.

In 1984, Sandberg came of age. In the defining game of the year for Ryno, he hit dramatic home runs in the 9th and 10th innings of a nationally televised game that Cubs would eventually win in the 11th inning against their hated rivals, the Cardinals. Impressively, he hit both home runs off Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter.  

After hitting a total of 15 homers in his first two seasons, Sandberg smacked 19 (a pretty decent number for the time) in 1984, while also accumulating 19 triples.  He hit .314 and stole 32 bases in 39 attempts (his third consecutive season with 30+ steals).  He led to Cubs to a division title and to the very brink of the World Series.  Sandberg was honored with the National League Most Valuable Player award.

Sandberg quietly worked on putting together a Hall of Fame caliber career.  He was the dominant second baseman of the 1980s.  In addition to stellar defense (at one point, playing a record 123 consecutive errorless games) he also set a record (later broken) with 277 homers as a second baseman (he had 282 career homers, but 5 were hit as a third baseman).  He also brought speed to the table, stealing 20+ bases in 9 different seasons, topping out at 54 steals in 1985.  Sandberg also hit 20+ homers in 6 different seasons.  In 1990, he set a career high with 40 homers while driving in 100 runs and batting .306. 

Sandberg’s power numbers dropped in 1993 (9 homers) and his hitting deserted him nearly completely in 1994.  Sandberg had lost the desire to play, and retired from the game.  Although Sandberg has stated that he was not having any marital problems at the time, there are some very prevalent and unsavory rumors regarding Sandberg’s first wife.  If these rumors are based on fact, a lack of focus would be completely understandable.

In 1996, a newly remarried and rejuvenated Sandberg re-joined the Cubs.  He hit a lackluster .244, but hit 26 homers.  After one more season in 1997, Sandberg called it quits for good.  The missing seasons of 1994 (he retired after playing just 57 games) and 1995 cast some doubt about Sandberg’s Hall of Fame chances.  However, Sandberg was elected in his third year of eligibility, squeaking in with 76% of the vote (75% is needed).

Sandberg was always a big hit with the fans, being named to 10 All Star teams. Ryno was a quiet star, never seeked out the media attention. Off the field, he has been a big supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes foundation.

Sandberg has aspirations of some day becoming a Major League manager.  In 2007 and 2008, he served as manager of the Cubs’ low-A team in Peoria, Illinois.  Peoria drew record crowds at home and on the road, as fans all over the midwest clamored at the chance to get an autograph.  A friend of mine was able to procure an autograph for my collection.  In 2009, Sandberg is serving as manager of the Cubs AA team in Tennessee.

Older Entries