Money To Live

September 6, 2008

Review: On My Own Two Feet

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On My Own Two Feet – a modern girl’s guide to personal finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar

Though you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I admit that I bought this book based on the title. Isn’t that a goal for a lot of young women coming out of college – to be on their own two feet.

On My Own Two Feet covers the standard topics in introductory personal finance books – budgeting, credit, saving, investing. It does it with a friendly and straightforward tone.

I gave copies of On My Own Two Feet to cousins at a family gathering. The book spurred several conversations, which I will write about in the coming week.

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August 30, 2008

Review: www.fool.com

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The Motley Fool (www.fool.com) is a great website about personal finance. Its mission is to “to educate, amuse, and enrich.”

The site offers information about investing, saving, taxes, and much more. Reading the articles always makes me smile. For example, the section on taxes is called “Death & Taxes,” a reference to Ben Franklin’s quote

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

If you are looking for information about a specific company, the Caps & Quotes section provides basic information as well as financial statements for publicly traded companies.

A popular topic in PF is the “emergency fund,” a stash of cash that can cover 3-6 months of living expenses. I like The Fool’s take on this topic – think about how much you need, how you feel about risk, and what expenses are looming on the horizon. Three caricature scenarios are given, which lay out how many people use emergency funds.

The Motley Fool discussion boards are active. In the past 24 hours, 5 people have weighed in on the savings from canning your own plums.

August 23, 2008

Review: Essentials of Accounting

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Essentials of Accounting
by Robert N. Anthony and Leslie K. Breitner

If you ever wanted to learn about accounting (or, more likely, need to because of a job), this book is a great place to start.

As studies show, the best way to learn is by interacting with new material. Most accounting books encourage passive reading, so to really learn the material, you will need to take notes and make your own examples. Essentials of Accounting is a work book with hundreds of fill-in-the blank exercises. It also has exercises to create accounting forms from scratch.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about accounting. I especially recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed filling out worksheets in elementary school. 🙂

August 9, 2008

Review: Grindhopping

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Grindhopping: Building a Rewarding Career Without Paying Your Dues by Laura Vanderkam

Students at top universities frequently take high-paying entry-level jobs, and they are not passionate about their day-to-day work. Maybe in 5-10 years of “paying your dues,” those who stick it out will get their hands dirty with the fun and interesting work.

Instead of building a career the standard way, Vanderkam says to hop over the grind and build your career around your passions. Her main point to identify your passion and get someone to pay you for doing it. She writes great case studies of young people who do what they love in spite of opposition from family and big risks from starting a new business. She gives useful suggestions (“always be your own boss” and “think projects, not jobs”) and insight into common concerns (how to get health insurance). She gives advice on how to get by financially in the early years of a new business (the words “ramen noodles” are used a lot).

One of the most interesting parts of the book is about advanced degrees and the use of adjuncts in higher education. Vanderkam says not to pursue an advanced degree unless it is necessary (i.e., M.D. and J.D.). An adjunct is hired by a university to teach one or a few classes at a time. It is a temporary position with no formal guarantee of work from semester to semester.

Universities boast of the high percentage (some even boast 100%) of classes taught by faculty, but the truth is that lots of universities hire a lot of adjuncts (REFERENCE). To someone on the academic job market (a lot of the people I know), this is bad news. It is cheaper for a university to hire adjuncts than create another tenure-track position. Some might call it as outsourcing within the United States. What Vanderkam says, though, is that this is good news for everyone without a Ph. D. Ever wanted to teach at a university but did not want to spend 5 to 10+ years in school earning what might qualify you for food stamps? You might be able to teach as an adjunct.

I interpret her advice more about business school than a research based graduate program. Without a Ph. D. in biology, it is difficult to get lab space to run experiments about your passion, such as finding a vaccine for HIV. During the two years it would take to complete business school, though, you could start your own business and learn hands-on from its failures and successes.

I left Grindhopping feeling a little disappointed because I do not have just one passion. My passions include personal finance, reading, practicing yoga, and math. Now I am reading Marci Alboher’s One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success to learn what it means to be a “slash.”

Note: I considered a “thumps up, thumbs down” rating system for book reviews. This would never work because I would give 95% of the books a thumbs up. I am too nice.

August 2, 2008

Review: The Week (magazine)

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I used to read Time, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal regularly, but this reading has largely been replaced by a single magazine, The Week, which bills itself as “All you need to know about everything that matters.”

Rather than hire a legion of reporters to cover news around the world, The Week quotes news articles, columns, and editorials from US and international media, toeing the copyright line (or maybe they pay a royalty? I question that). The Week also covers fun and frivolous news in the Only in America section.

In case you have not studied geography since the fifth grade, articles are written surrounding a map of the world, with a line pointing to where the action took place.n

If you are paying for several news sources, consider The Week to cut down the time you spend reading the news and also to pay less in subscription fees. I heard a rumor that it is possible to get The Week for a year for only $20, but I have not been able to get this deal.

July 26, 2008

Review: www.irs.gov

Filed under: review,taxes — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
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Perhaps one of the most anxiety-inducing websites is www.irs.gov. But it doesn’t have to be.

These are some of my favorite features of http://www.irs.gov.

The search tool. Use the search feature to find easy-to-read information about anything related to federal taxes. When I search “deduct taxi,” the top hit is a page explaining that the cost of taking a taxi to the doctor is deductible (helpful for parents in NYC who do not want to take a sick baby on the subway).

Links to free tax prep software. A number of web sites help you prepare and file your federal tax return at no cost. Be aware that these sites will often charge you to file your state return, though. Check out your state’s taxation webpage because many states offer free web-based programs for filing.

Information about EFTPS. EFTPS is an electronic system for paying taxes. I recommend that anyone who pays quarterly taxes check this out. It keeps a complete record of the tax payments for the year.

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