Friday, August 25, 2006

No more Citi Dividend Rewards

Just received a letter from my primary credit card company, Citi Dividend Rewards. As of October 13, 2006, this card will no longer provide 5% cash rebate on supermarkets, drugstores, and gas stations. The 5% will now become 2% on those purchases but will also include convenience stores and utlities (excluding phone).

AARRRGGH! I started researching any other possible 5% cash rewards credit cards but they are few and far between. In fact, I have yet to find a suitable alternative. Discover cards offer 5% cashback only on certain types of purchases. American express has a cash rebate card that will offer you 5% on everyday purchases, 1.5% on everything else AFTER you spend $6500. The whole point of having a visa/master card rewards card is that this is accepted everywhere.... whereas AMEX is not as readily accepted.

Citi Diamond Rewards still offers the 5% rebate but you get it in the form of Thank You Points which you can only redeem with their Thank you Network. They do have a student loan rebate that equates the points you earn to as if you were getting a 1% return (i.e. 2500 points = $25 rebate in student loan).

What to do now? Would appreciate any suggestions... For now, I will still use my American Express True Earning Costco Reward card as the primary but I still want to add a Visa/mastercard reward card that will give me 5% rebates on gas.
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cheap vs Frugal

I'm really having a bad year... this past weekend, I was riding my bike, minding my own business when this Neanderthal, weekend-warrior, ape-like, a-hole tried to pass me on his bike. Problem was that he didn't know what he was doing and ran into me causing me to fall... subsequently causing me to break my clavicle. I had to call 911 and was taken to the nearest emergency room.(I had my first car accident... not at fault... earlier this year). Needless to say, I can't wait until 2006 is over.

Kind of a long introduction to get to my point which is... there is a difference between being cheap and being frugal. I consider myself frugal...I try to find deals when they are available, save money, etc... but buy quality items for things that are important to me (for example, I would much rather buy soft toilet paper that is more expensive than the newspaper-like shit they have at walmart).

How does this relate to my recent accident? One of those things that I think the majority of Americans skimp on is healthcare. I have a PPO plan which gives me options in terms of seeing people out of network.. it's a bit more expensive than an HMO plan but there aren't as many limitations (to see specialists, etc.) It's amazing to see people pay extra for that warranty on their car or extend the warranty on an ipod... yet have the shittiest healthcare plan that limits your options in seeing who you need to see (i.e. HMO plans). What I think is that most people, especially young people in their 20s and 30s, feel that they are healthy and don't need medical care.... probably true for most people but you just don't want to be at the mercy of your healthcare plan in times of medical need.

With my recent car accident and biking injury... I suddenly feel more vulnerable than I felt in my 20s when you feel nearly invincible. While I skimped (and probably shouldn't have) on my car insurance plan by not purchasing collision coverage... I'm sure glad that I have pretty good health insurance.

I recommend doing the same thing the next time you purchase an extended warranty for any product. Think about your healthcare plan and ask yourself is this really what want when you're lying in bed in an ER hoping that the injury or sickness you have is not serious.
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bogleheads and other books

I just checked out a book from my local library called, "Bogleheads Guide to Investing" which is written basically by a few super-DIEHARD John Bogle fans. I've read several different investment books over the years and would rate this as one of the best. A bit on the basic side, it's a great starting-off book for those that are in their 20s/30s just about to embark on the adventures of investing. I just wish I read it about 4 years earlier. Surprisingly, the book is pretty thorough and delves into such issues as saving for college, using a financial adviser, thinking about wills and trusts. So a nice background book that will give you a nice foundation for good assett management. And the book doesn't read like a Vanguard marketing pamphlet either.

I would add this to a list of my favorite finance books. Others include:
1. Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein
2. Common Sense on Mutual Funds by John Bogle
3. Millionaire Next Door By Stanley and Danko
4. Irrational Exuberance (2nd edition) by Robert J. Schiller
5. Unconventional Success by David Swensen.
6. Articles in Paul Merriman's website under the tab, "Buy and Hold"

My wife always says that I am so "undiversified" when it comes to reading these books because as you will see, the general premise of these reading materials are similar. Is it possible to be closed-minded in supporting passive investing and indexing? Call me one-track minded.
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