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A Look Into My 401(k) Plan

By Erik Folgate

I started investing in my 401(k) plan about 14 months ago.  In 2006, my portfolio earned about 11% which is outstanding, well, good enough for me to be happy.  Some of you might think that’s a waste.  But, this is a retirement account, so if it averages 11%, i’ll be very happy.  I invest in 5 different mutual funds.  They are listed below:

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  1. American Capital World Growth and Income (CWGIX)
  2. American Growth Fund A (AGTHX)
  3. Calamos Growth Fund A (CVGRX)
  4. American Europacific Fund (AEPGX)
  5. Davis – New York Venture A (NYVTX)

Don’t Get Too Excited About Your Tax Refund

By Erik Folgate

Around this time of year, I usually hear people boasting about how much money they are going to get back from their tax refund.  The problem with this is that you shouldn’t be getting back a huge refund if you are properly withholding your federal taxes.  Do you really want to give Uncle Sam a free loan on your money for an entire year?  Because that is what you are doing if you are letting the government take more taxes than are owed.  If you are getting back a big refund this year, make sure you readjust your W-4 with your HR department.  It’s much better to have that money go into your pocket every paycheck than let the government hold it for a year.  I understand that some credits and deductions aren’t factored into the W-4 deductions which allow you to receive a refund back, but if you’re getting a couple grand back from your refund this year, there is a problem.

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Starbucks Is Not Making You Poor

By Erik Folgate

If you’ve read enough personal finance blogs, then you’ve probably read enough scenarios about giving up your grande mocha-chino in order to save more money.  I understand the reasoning for being more conscious about controlling the spending on life’s smaller luxuries.  I tend to think in bigger terms when it comes to saving money.  There are a handful of large purchases that you will make many times in your lifetime, and you can save a chunk of money if you control these expenditures rather than how many times you rent a movie in a month.

CARS 

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Pimpin’ Your Ride Is Not a Wise Financial Decision

By Erik Folgate

I’m sure that most of you have seen the show on MTV, “Pimp My Ride”. It’s a great show. Some of the stuff they do to those cars is sick. Some of my personal favorites were the waterfall/river running through the middle of the interior of the car, and another car where they turned the entire trunk into a sweet karaoke machine. Tricking out a car has become wildly popular over the past decade. Honda Civics with 22″ rims, and Eldorados with LCD monitors and playstations installed. Young people love to pour money into their cars, but is it worth it?

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Organizing Your Money – Part 3: Evaluating your 401(k) or IRA

By Erik Folgate

A good habit to get into is to check out your retirement account two or three times per year to evaluate your fund’s performance.  Some geeky investors might think I am in idiot for thinking that checking your retirement account only a few times per year is a good thing.  The reason that I think you should leave your retirement account alone is because I don’t want people to think they can time the market.  Unless you are an expert on the market and you stay up on the countless information about the stock market, you’ll never be able to time it.  In fact, most good financial professionals will tell you that you lose most of your returns when trying to time the market.  If you keep shifting around your money from account to account, then you’ll hurt your investments greatly. 

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Organizing Your Money – Part 2: Pulling and Analyzing your Credit Report

By Erik Folgate

A good habit to establish is reviewing your credit reports at the beginning of each year.  The best part is that it is now free to review your credit report from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax one time per year for free!  Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to view all three of your credit reports for free.  Be aware of other sites with similar domain names that claim to give you your credit report for free, but rather it is a free trial that will charge you money after 30 days if you don’t cancel the membership.  The most notorious site doing this is FreeCreditReport.com.  Here are three things to do when reviewing your credit report: 

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Organizing Your Finances Part 1: Getting Your Bank Accounts In Order

By Erik Folgate

This week, I am going to write a five part series about organizing your finances.  Many people get on the New Year’s resolution kick at the beginning of the year, so I thought this would be a good series to help people get their money in order to achieve their financial goals.  In order for a goal to be achieved, there has to be a strategy.  Strategies must be well-planned and organized or else the strategy is nothing but a theory.  You want to start saving more money, pay down debt, invest wisely, but what is the first step?  The first step is organizing your money. 

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Giving is An Essential Part of Accumulating Wealth

By Erik Folgate

Christmas is one week away, and you have probably been so busy buying gifts and going to parties that you have not had a chance to sit down and reflect on the past year.  Whether you are celebrating Christmas or any other holiday, this season is all about giving.  Giving gifts and giving of yourself is what matters the most for the next two weeks. 

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The 12 Days of Christmas with 12 Ways To Save Money This Holiday Season

By Erik Folgate

  1. Shop online, especially if you are buying electronics.  Online retailers have less overhead, more rebate promotions, and Google Checkout will give you $20 off on your first time using Google Checkout with every purchase over $50.  Many retailers offer free shipping this year as well. 
  2. Pay Cash for your gifts.  I’m talking about paying with cold, hard cash.  Studies have shown a correlation with increased spending when using plastic, even if it’s your debit card.  Plus, if you’re in an environment where you can negotiate price, cash speaks louder than words. 

Marriage and Money: Communication Is Key When It Comes to Managing Your Money Together

By Erik Folgate

My wife and I sat down today and mapped out our expenses for the next 6 weeks based on my pay periods.  We figured out which bills needed to be paid during which pay period, and took the remaining amount of money after all the bills were paid and figured out where that money needed to go.  We are going skiiing in a week, then the mayhem of Christmas, and then my best friend is getting married, so we will have a busy next three weeks.  Sitting down and communicating about where the money needs to go and how much we have to spend on each category will save about 10 or 12 arguments in the next three weeks.  We are both on the same page now, and there will be no surprises when we are spending our money.

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Watch Out For Holiday Scams and Scam Artists

By Erik Folgate

Unfortunately, the holidiays bring out the best and the worst of people.  Scams are most commonly found around the holidays, and consumers need to be educated about what to look out for when going shopping in the stores and online this year.  CNN Money has a good article about which scams to look out for this year. The elderly and young people like college students tend to be the most targeted by scammers, because they tend to be more naive and more desperate for quick cash.
The newest scam lately has been the gift card scam.  Scumbag scam artists are jotting down the gift card number at the store and waitiing a few days until it is activated.  Once the number has been loaded with money, the scammer goes online to use it to buy things on the store’s website.  CNN Money suggests only buying gift cards behind the store counter or ones that require you to scratch off the gift card number.

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Making Money from Blogging (Part 2 of 2)

By Erik Folgate

So, you want to get in on the blogging phenomenon, but you don’t know what to do.  Maybe you have tried managing a blog in the past and it was a failure.  Well, I am not an expert in this field, but I have been doing it long enough to know what works and what will work.  I have not made any real money from blogging, but I do know what other people have done to be successful at making money from blogging. 

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Making Money From Blogging (Part 1 of 2)

By Erik Folgate

Most of you are aware that there are a growing amount of people in the “blogosphere” that make a full-time income from blogging.  I still feel new when it comes to blogging, because I learn something new every day.  Blogging is the media of the 21st century.  I am convinced that it will dominate information for years to come.  The fact that all I have to do is write something and press “publish” without any web coding on my part, still baffles me.  Because blogging has become such a huge information medium, people are starting to capitalize off the popularity.  Advertisers want a part of the blogging community, and they want it now. 

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The Florida Gators Are Going to the National Championship!

By Erik Folgate

I had to give a shout-out to my alma mater, the Florida Gator football team, for making it to the national championship game this January 8th in Glendale, Arizona!!!  Say what you will about the imperfect BCS system, but it is all we have right now to determine a champion.  I am a proponent of a playoff.  Why is it that every other sport has a playoff except college football?  Even high school tennis has some sort of playoff/tournament system to determine a champion.  In defense of the Gators, we won the SEC – the toughest conference in the country.  Also, Auburn got robbed out of the championship game in 2004, so the BCS had to give the SEC a chance at the championship this year.  Anyway, I know this has nothing to do with finance, but I just wanted to say, GO GATORS!!!!!!!!!!

Living Paycheck to Paycheck Will Leave You Powerless

By Erik Folgate

I was driving in the card on my lunch break today, and I was listening to Bill O’Reilly.  He started out the second hour of his radio show recognizing the fact that Americans have a debt problem.  What struck me was when he made the statement that living paycheck to paycheck renders one “powerless”.  Now, the point made was not that we should all try to be rich so that we can flaunt our power.  The point was that we are slaves to the lenders that we owe money to when we are making payments and not being able to save any money.  It caught my attention because O’Reilly said that we are powerless, because we will make more rash decisions and go to more drastic measures when we don’t have any money in the bank.  He used the example that a boss can make you do things that you normally would not do if you had a reserve of money.  An employee that lives paycheck to paycheck must keep his or her job, so employers can take advantage of that.  O’Reilly is not a financial expert by any means, but he brought it up because he covers social problems — and this is a big social problem. 

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