Oh no you didn’t (Mom Ninja Post)

You all are in for a real treat. I will be out of town from August 6th through August 20th. As much as I would like to blog while I’m on my honeymoon, I imagine I’ll be having a lot more fun doing “other things”. I’ve got some awesome guest posts lined up for you over the next two weeks. Many days, I’ll be publishing two articles, so be sure to check back around lunch time. See you all on the 22nd!

It’s a little earlier than expected, but today I bless you with a guest post from the infamous Mom Ninja. She hooked me up with an incredibly humbling story. Give her some shout outs and positive feedback in the comments below and I bet we can convince her to write again. On to her post…

Dad ninja and I married when we were young, 19. We had our
family early as well, first kid at 21. I was truly fortunate to stay at home
and tend to all the little ninja’s while Dad Ninja had to go to work
everyday.

I would always jokingly tell people we have a 50/50 marriage. He is
responsible for the credits and I am in charge of the debits.
While people often thought this was a joke, sadly it was true.

I came from a family with no money so I had no clue how to handle it or what
its truth worth really was. Financial freedom? I’d never heard of that.

So While dad was off toiling at work everyday, I would take the kids to the park, shopping, and even to Disneyland! This plan worked well for sometime,  that is, until our family grew. Which meant our expenses also grew. I found myself having to decide weather to pay a bill or say
no to my children. Unfortunately, I chose poorly.

I love my husband and would never cheat on him, at least that is what I
thought, until I heard the word Financial Infidelity. I had to sit back
and realize I was guilty of that. Dad Ninja can have a bit of a temper so
it was just easier to leave him in the dark. Now don’t get me wrong, his
temper would consist of a little yelling, a drive in the car to calm down
and then some silent treatment, but it was too much for me to bare so I just
would not tell him about our finances and would juggle what was paid and
what was not paid.

This all came to a head of course when something as simple as a phone call,
that was answered by the mister, informed him we were late on a significant
bill. You guessed it, he confronted me with the bill and I had to admit my
Financial Infidelity on the spot. I felt DIRTY. As if I had let him and my
whole family down. Well, after a few shouts, a long drive, and some silence, we talked
everything out. Got back on track. And I’m happy to say 29 years later he still
comes home to me after a long day at work.

So, whether you are just starting out or have been together a while, don’t make the same mistake I did and
think it’s ok to avoid the confrontation. You have to be faithful in all aspects of your marriage including financially. While it may be harder to wait for something it is always better to discuss it and avoid the mistakes I, and many others, have made.

Now, think for a moment was there any thing in your past that made you
unfaithful in your spending….no judging here but really think about
it, I don’t mean gifts or engagements rings but things you know the other
person would be surprised to find were not handled correctly.

Hook a Ninja up

So this blogging thing takes quite a bit of work. I usually spend about an hour or so each night writing the content for the next mornings post. Sometimes I can pump stuff out in 30min, and other times, writers block kicks in and two hours later, I’m left with a bunch of blah.

I don’t mind writing one article a night, but if I was doing any more than that, I’d have quit this blogging thing a long time ago.

Seeing that my wedding is just three weeks away, I’m in desperate need of your help. I will be taking a total of 12 weekdays off for wedding stuff and the honeymoon. This means between now and August 4th, I have to come up with 12 articles to fill those days.

I’ll just be honest. There is no way I have the time, nor the desire, to sit in front of my computer and pump out an extra twelve posts before I fly to Seattle. I’m hoping some of you can hook a Ninja up and maybe provide me with a guest post for while I’m gone.

It’s pretty common amongst the blogging community, to help another out when they need it. I wrote this guest post for PFfirewall about the cost of a fetus, and this article about Debt Douchisms for Mr. Credit Card. Just last week, Girl Ninja lost her blogging virginity and shared her side of the wedding planning process.

Maybe you can help me out as well and shoot me over a sweet article? I do have a few requirements, however. Your post has to be original (not published anywhere else), it can’t be super lame (because I don’t want lame people reading my blog), and it DOESN’T have to be about personal finance (although I’d love it if it was).

Mom Ninja has already stepped up to the plate, and wrote an INCREDIBLE article about financial infidelity that will be published Monday August 9th (keep your eyes peeled for this one), so I really only need 11 more people to help out.

If you have another blog, I’d obviously make sure to link back to your website and hopefully get some traffic your way. But even if you don’t have a blog, and are just a loyal PDITF reader, I’d  still love to see what you can come up with. I’d need any submissions (via email) by August 1st, to ensure I have enough time to format/edit/stick-figurize your post.

If you are interested in submitting, drop a line in the comments below and let me know! Oh, and if more than 11 people are interested, that is GREAT as I can always keep some guest posts in my arsenal for all those late nights when Girl Ninja and I will be…ya know…playing Monopoly 😉

If I don’t get enough volunteers, you will be forced to stare at this picture everyday until I return back from Operation Honeymoon…

If you need a little personal finance fix this morning, check out my special Saturday blog I did. It included my first Radio interview and I’d love to get your feedback on what you thought!

Taxes are funny!

Today’s post is a guest article from Matt Robinson. He is a tax accountant who has been helping taxpayers with major IRS tax debt problems for over 11 years now. His firm specializes in tax debt settlement and resolution. Seeing that taxes are generally a boring subject, I asked Matt if he thought he could bring a little smile to my readers this morning. Here’s what he came up with…

Putting A Smile to the Dreaded Tax Season: 10 Humorous Tax Stories

Nobody looks forward to April 15th, other than the majority of tax professionals who earn a living because of complicated tax codes. With that said, there are quite a few funny stories that I have read or encountered that should put a smile on your face.

1. Here is a great recent news story: Aaaron Zeff is the owner of Harv’s Metro Car Wash in Sacramento, California. Last month, two IRS agents showed up at his place of business requesting payment for back taxes. Aaron’s onsite manager was surprised. He was surprised not only because two IRS agents showed up at the Car Wash, but because they said the business owed 4 cents from the year 2006. The total tax bill with penalties and interest totaled $202.35. Yes, penalties can destroy your life if you fail to pay your taxes, especially if you do not file. In reality, did the IRS really need to send two IRS agents to collect $202.35?

2. Here is another recent news story: Diana Peffer, of Omaha, Nebraska received a letter from the IRS this year. When she went to open the letter, it said she owed a total of 4 cents in back taxes from the year 2007. It probably was an automated letter created by the IRS computer system because no one in their right mind would spend $5 dollars to get three cents back. Do you think she should send the IRS a 4 cent check so that they could send her a 1 cent refund? You make the call.

3. This news story is from this year as well. Genevieve Motola of New York gets a $5,700 tax bill from New York State. She’s 82 years old and it is unclear why she would receive such a large bill. It turns out the bill was from 20 years ago when she closed her store G&P Ceramics, Inc. Wow, hopefully this is not a sign that New York is about to go bankrupt, is it?

4. Although not as recent, this story needs mentioning. Cynthia Hess, AKA, “Chesty Love” of Indiana, was an exotic dancer who tried to deduct her $2,088 breast implants. The IRS rejected her claim and she sued the IRS in U.S. Tax Court. She won the case actually. She was able to prove, that the breast implants that left her with a size 56FF, allowed her to make money than she otherwise would have. No comment.

5. One of my friends, who is a CPA, always has a couple good stories for me. Tara, from New York, NY is an exotic dancer. She goes to see my friend  to file her 2009 taxes, but could not find her W-2. In this case, you would use Form 4852 to estimate your earnings and withholdings. She says she is not sure what she made but it is “definitely” between $7,000 and $10,000 for all of 2009. Yeah, and I am “definitely” going to be the next billionaire.

6. Sara P, of Orlando, FL  (a single, recently divorced, mother with two-children) attempted to file her taxes for her first time. Her ex-husband had always filed her taxes before so this was something new for her. She went to see my friend for help and as my friend tried to eFile her Federal tax return, he got it kicked back because there was a problem with the birthday for one of her sons. She insists that he does not know what he is doing and the birthday is correct. Anyway, she called my friend back a few days later and tells him she had remembered the wrong birthday for years. Really?

7. This is one crazy story. In 2008, William Magdalin of New York City, made regular deposits at his local sperm bank. After he made quite a bit of money, he tried to offset his earnings by taking a tax deduction for his “efforts.” He took it all the way to the US First Circuit Court of Appeals. Yes, he lost.

8. This is clever. A doctor tells a man with emphysema to exercise more. Therefore, he installs a swimming pool and tries to deduct the cost of the swimming pool. Surprisingly, the IRS agrees to the deduction because it was for medical purposes. The IRS allowed the man to take the deduction (which was really only the difference between his total cost and the value the pool added to the property).

9. Pet Food is Tax Deductible …Sometimes. A couple owned a junkyard and fed a bunch of stray cats. The couple argued that the cats were used to ward off snakes and rats that were living in the junkyard. The couple took the case to court and won! The IRS agreed that the cats kept the property safer for customers. Interesting.

10. This is a great story to end with. William Halby, a lawyer from New York, last year lost a tax deduction case in U.S. Tax Court. He tried to deduct $100,000 in expenses for prostitutes and pornography he paid for from 2004 to 2005. He argued his deductions were medical expenses and were justified as part of “sex therapy” because he was depressed and alone. The court ruled in favor of his deduction. No, I am kidding. The U.S. Court denied the deductions because not only is prostitution illegal but because no doctor would recommend such a thing.

– HAHAHA. Gotta love them taxes right? Thanks Matt for providing some, rather interesting, tax stories! Anyone out there have any random tax deduction stories they have heard through the grapevine?

Things consumers and credit card issuers did that made us want to punch each other in the face!

This is a guest post by Mr Credit Card from www.askmrcreditcard.com. His site has lots of credit card reviews. If you are looking to apply for a credit card, head over to his site as he has got the best credit cards recommendations. Today, Mr Credit Card is going to write about things we have done that made credit card issuers want to punch us in the face, and also things they have done that make us want to punch them in the face.

Before I begin, I just want to thank Ninja for allowing me to guest post on this blog. I always get a kick, and laugh my hearts out when I’m here. I hope you will find this post useful and interesting.

Credit card companies (during the last year and the half) have done some nasty stuff that simply wants to make us punch them in the face! In this post, I am going to write a few details on some of their actions. But I’ll also tell you how stupid they have been, how we have taken advantage of them. What we did probably made them want to punch us in the face.

Backdrop – The real backdrop to this really started with easy monetary policy of the federal reserve. After 9/11, and the recession following the tech bubble, Alan Greenspan began an era of loose monetary policy. This eventually fed into the easy credit access to consumers. General Motors started it off with its buy America program. Zero percent financing for autos became the norm.

Easy financing spread to credit cards – But soon, easy financing spread to credit cards. Because public companies are judged by their quarterly results, one of the key criteria that investors watched for in credit card issuers was how many “new customers” they added. Well, to increase new sign ups, credit card issuers resorted to a whole hoax of new tricks.

Followed the auto’s zero financing deals – Since the average consumer already had a few cards, it was pretty difficult to get folks to sign up another card. So credit card issuers started offering balance transfer credit cards that offered 0% deals just to switch from your existing card to theirs. Their theory was that once consumers transferred their balance, they would continue to use their cards after their balance transfer period ended. But they were wrong. Consumers were savvier and simply took advantage of these deals. They just simply rolled over to a new 0% offer. Since many of these offers did not charge any balance transfer fees, and transferring a balance was as simple as filling in an online application, consumers did not remain sticky customers. So essentially, issuers lost lots of money on these deals. They simply wanted to punch us in the face with this one.

Cash rebate temptation – Card issuers also became over generous with their offers. They began offering too good to be true terms for their cash back credit card offers. They offered generous 5% terms for expenses like gasoline, supermarket and drugstore spending. But the problem was that consumers were smart. They used only these cards for stuff that paid them 5%. Because there was no annual fee on these cards and and consumers paid in full, these cards were not profitable at all. Here are some example of cards that saw that rebate payouts decline.

Citi Dividend Card

  • 5% on gasoline, supermarket and drugstore. 1% on everything else. cap at $300 in rebates you can earn.
  • 5% then became 2%
  • Citi DIvidend was discontinued a year ago!
  • Now Citi has Cash Returns card paying 1% rebate for everything you spend on the card!

Chase Rebate Cards

  • Chase Cash Plus – same as Cit Dividend – 5% on gasoline, supermarket and drugstore. 1% on everything else. $300 cap on rebates you can earn.
  • Became 3% rebates instead of 5%.
  • Discontinued card and launched Chase Freedom with 3% rebates.
  • Chase Freedom now only pays 1% rebates but 3% on “rotating categories”.

But we consumers did not just take advantage of the cash back credit cards, we took advantage of the gas credit cards that issuers came up with. Lots of them offered 5% rebates on gasoline at any station. So guess what we did? We used gas cards only for gasoline. We earned 5%, paid no annual fee, paid in full. All the credit card issuers wanted to do was to punch us in the face because even earning 2% from merchants did not cover up the 5% they were paying us.

These days, many of these perks have been scaled back massively. But with the financial crisis hitting us, credit card issuers did many things that really made us want to punch them in the face.

They lowered our credit limits – Credit card issuers have lowered the limits of many consumers. Lowering credit limits for late payment is one thing. I can even accept lowering the limits if you have not used your cards for ages. But lowering them below your present balance and charging an over the limit fee? That really makes me want to punch credit card issuers in the face. Here is a very recent comment I got on my blog!

They increased their interest rates – Credit card issuers have increased interest rates of many folks. Some have even got rates as high as 29%. If that is not loan sharking, what is? If you have been late for your payments, I could perhaps understand this. But issuers have raised rates across the board for almost everyone. I do not carry a balance, so I don’t care. But for folks who do, see their interest rate rise could mean doubling of minimum payments. There are many folks looking to punch these credit card issuers in the face.

Increasing minimum payments on balance transfer deals – Since many are stuck offering silly 0% deals, they are trying to recoup by increasing the minimum payments. So rather than paying 1% or 2% of your balance, some credit card issuers like Chase have increased minimum payment for some folks to 5%. That easily more than doubles someone’s minimum payment.

Don’t let them punch you in the face

Here’s a few tips for being ahead of the credit card issuers.

  • always pay on time
  • use all your cards even if it is on a pack of chewing gums
  • do not carry any credit card debt – if you do, get rid of it asap
  • set up autopay so that there can be no excuses for any late payment
  • if you only rely on your business credit cards for your credit lines, get some lines from your local bank
  • if issuers are stupid enough to offer great deals, take advantage of it because they may not last forever!

Get your grubby hands off my money

Todays guest post comes from a loyal Punch Debt In The Face commenter. David is a student of personal finance, economics, and he is one bada$$ mother lover. He’s done some writing of his own before, but is currently in between blogs. If you like what you read I guess you’ll have to subscribe to my feed to keep track of his comments 🙂 

There are a lot of articles that tell you how to keep your bank account safe, but do you know what to do when it’s been compromised? I didn’t – until last Saturday.

I was checking my account (like I do almost every day), to see if some transfers had finally processed. I keep track of all my accounts in a spreadsheet, and it bugs me when my total doesn’t match the bank’s.

Imagine my surprise, when all the transfers had gone through, but the total still didn’t match. Then I saw it. There was a mystery $20 charge. At first, I thought “$20? It’s probably nothing”. It was a nice, round number, so maybe I had forgot about something. An ATM trip, perhaps. Then I looked at the charge more closely, and it was from an out-of-state store, that I definitely did not visit or order from. So what to do now?

I called up my bank, and explained the potentially fraudulent charge. I say “potentially”, because the charge was still pending, and had not cleared yet. The representative I spoke with was friendly and attentive. However, I did not like his advice. He said that since the charge was still pending, there was nothing he or I could do about it. There was always a chance it was a mistake, and would be reversed. I asked again if there was anything that could be done. He said no. I thanked him and ended the call.

I wrote down the time that I called, along with the name of the representative I spoke with. From what I had read on the Consumerist, it was important to have these details if I had more problems and needed to call back. But I realized I didn’t have the representatives last name, so I decided to call back and speak with someone else. I’d probably get the same advice, but at least I could get their full name.

Then it hit me. If I was so nervous about my account being hacked, why didn’t I just cancel my checking card? I called my bank back up, and said that I had reason to believe someone was using my card number and wanted to cancel it. “No problem.”, they said. I’d have a new card in a few days.

If I had listened to the first representative, I would’ve had to wait another four days (from Saturday until Tuesday) to take action if there indeed was someone using my account. That would’ve meant four more days for someone to utilize their unauthorized access to my account. Luckily for me, the charge was reversed – it was just an accident. But I still learned some valuable lessons from this.

1. If you don’t get the answer you want, try again

This applies anywhere in customer service, especially with money. No one will care about your money as much as you will.

2. It’s important to check your accounts regularly

The sooner you know about someone stealing from your account, the sooner you can stop it, and the better the response you’ll get from banks and merchants.

3. If you do think someone has accessed your account, take every possible step you can to keep it from happening again

This is one of the few times with money that it would be best to make a knee-jerk reaction and go too far. Did I need to cancel my card? Maybe not. But the inconvenience it caused me pales in comparison to the trouble it could’ve caused me if someone really was stealing from my account, and I waited four days.

4. You do need credit cards in case of emergencies

I was out of town when I had to cancel my bank card. Luckily I had a credit card with me. A credit card that I will pay off in full at the end of the month, of course.

So that’s my story about the time I almost was a victim of credit card fraud. Luckily for me, it turned out to be nothing. You may not be as lucky though – make sure you know how to recognize fraud, and what to do when you spot it. Otherwise, you might be giving a crook a free four-day pass to your money.

Thanks David,

Spreading some PF love

Today I am honored to present you with a guest post from my boy Manshu. Manshu runs the blog OneMint where he focuses on personal finance, investing and economics. If you enjoyed his post today take a minute and subscribe to his feed. Now on to the post…

How the recession changed my mind on an Emergency Fund

I didn’t believe in emergency funds before the recession, but all that has changed now. While I won’t be stock piling underwear like some people, I do keep a lot more money in my savings account these days because of the recession.

There were three things in particular that changed my outlook on emergency funds.

1. Everything crashed: When the shock came, stocks plummeted, oil crashed, and you all know what happened to real estate. Cash was king and only those with cash or gold felt secure. Most of my personal assets were tied in stocks, and if I had really needed any emergency funds, I would’ve had to sell them at a big loss.

My initial rationale for keeping very little cash: It doesn’t pay dividends or grow like stocks do. But the recession taught me that cash doesn’t crash. I now keep about six months expenses in cash and while it pays very little interest, it is comforting knowing I have that much money readily available.

2. Six months doesn’t cost that much: When I first started contemplating an emergency fund, I decided six months was adequate. When I calculated how much I needed for six months savings, I was a little surprised at how small the amount looked. I thought I was missing something. But it looked small simply because I added up what I thought my monthly expenses are, and not what they REALLY were.

When I was doing my calculation, I didn’t add the $50 I spent on a Wii game or the $70 on Amazon prime, and numerous other little things like that. I really didn’t need all these things and they seem quite wasteful to me now. Looking at the difference between the cost of needs and wants motivated me to not only save, but also cut down on my spending and keep a close eye on where my money is going.

3. Anyone can lose their job: The unemployment statistics continue to get worse as each month passes and a lot of seemingly “secure” jobs have vanished. When I saw a good friend, who was always top of his class and worked really hard, lose his job at a large insurance company – it struck home that ANYONE can lose their job. You can be the most important resource for your company, but if your company itself goes bust, what good are you then? This was a big jolt; I realized unemployment can happen to anyone and all should be prepared for these kinds of emergencies.

The recession is severe and harsh, but it is also a great teacher. It gives you an opportunity to develop good financial habits and be better prepared for the rest of your life.

Thanks Manchu,

Making love with other PF blogs…

So last week I was unable to post because I was out of town on a little business trip. I was stuck in a hotel that didn’t have internet access, so I reached out to a fellow PF blogger and asked if he would guest post for me. My man Jesse at Pffirewall hooked me up with a great article.

Well this week. Mr. Firewall decided he wanted to have a baby. Yesterday morning, he got what he asked for…a daughter (even though he probably was hoping for a boy). Obviously he has been pretty busy being at the hospital with his wifey and supporting her through the birthing process, so he asked if I could return the guest-post-love and provide some material for his site today. You know I had to pay him back so I wrote a fun little article about the cost of bringing a human being in to the world. The result…

…kids are expensive! Check it out here .