Category Archives: Business

Income Inequality in America

Recently there has been a lot of talk about income inequality in America.  There is some notion out there that it is ‘unfair’ for someone to make a lot of money.  The thing is that there are million of people working hard each day to get rich.  A few million people are entrepreneurs, people who take a risk and start a business, they hire people, come up with new ideas and in the mean time risk everything, and many of them fail, the best ones get up again and try again.  Many of them work for years without getting paid more than the people who work for them, some work a whole year and make nothing.  The stress about the business, the sales, the clients, and mostly about helping out the employees.  Why do they do all of this?  They do this because they have a dream, the dream to building something that will last, something they can give to their kids, and the dream of being rich.

So they work for decades and finally they are successful, they have a system that works and they are making good money, and they are now rich, making more money than any of their employees will earn in their lifetime.  These are the people that the pundits are calling the problem now, they took the risks and made the hard choices to put themselves in that position, and people look down on them for it.   It is a sad day in America where prosperity is a bad thing.

The main problem is that very few are educated now on how the economy works.  America is a great country, there still is a lot of opportunity here.  Someone can start with nothing, not even knowledge and learn in a short time how to do something useful for the economy, they can then work hard, and smart  and become successful in a short span of time.  I love to see how people come from other nations, nations where there is not much opportunity, and it is hard to get ahead, they come here and work hard, work smart and in a few years they are better off than most Americans.  And most Americans resent them for it, sad.

I think that a lot of this comes from the lack of education most Americans have about how the world really works.  Americans for the most part do not travel out side of the US.  In fact only 36% of Americans own a valid passport, and only 6% of Americans, on average, leave North America per year.  It is estimated that only 20% of Americans have ever left North America, and about a third of them did it while in the military.  Once you see how the world works, your understanding of how good things are here in America really changes.

The Philippines is a below average nation in wealth, with a per capita GDP of just about $3,000.  The average American makes more in 3 weeks than someone from the Philippines does in a year.  But they still need to spend on food and housing and many other things.  But no one there has an attitude of this being unfair, and that they should be given something for free.  That is a very American attitude.  They are thankful for what they have, they are happy for the most part, and everyone helps each other out.  If someone is in need the family and community helps them.  When they travel abroad, they come to work, because they know how they can make as much in a day here, as they do in a month there, they work hard, live simply and for that reason they usually have great success in the US and other nations.  If you earn $1000 a month there you are upper middle class.  People look at the wealthy there as something to aspire to become, not something to be taken down.

2015-08-23 10.50.40The attitude there is so much different and better than in the US.  In the US people feel entitled to free stuff, we are raising an entire generation who feel that if they don’t want to work they should have free health care, free food, free housing and free spending money just because they live here.  They feel that if they should bother working that they should make $15 per hour at least.  They have not yet seen the reality of the world.  Most Americans feel they need tons of money because they must have a $500 smart phone, with unlimited data, and they must have a nice big TV along with a big cable bill and of course, the most expensive of all they must have a car.  In almost all of the world a car is a luxury only the most wealthy have.   In most nations car ownership is under 15% of the population.  In our entitled society even the most poor among us feel that they need a car, and of course they should not pay for it.

I am a fair guy, I think that if you really can’t work that you still should be taken care of, I feel that the primary job of this should be done by charity, and that the successful among us should support such charity, but this is being done by the government, and we are forced, with threat of violence to support it, so we have become a less giving society.  I think that widows and orphans should be taken care of, given food and housing.  I think that the really disabled should be also taken care of.  In none of these cases should they be given money that they can spend on anything, but given vouchers for housing or food.  We need to redefine what a disability is, right now anyone with even a minor problem can be called disabled and get free money.  The vast majority of ‘disabled’ people could easily hold a job.  In fact many people who are getting free money from the government do hold jobs, they just work under the table, that is why the number of people working under the table or 1099 is now almost 1/3rd of the workforce, they want to work, but don’t want to mess up their free government money.  We have really gotten ourselves into a huge mess.  The problem is that about 1/3rd of the population is dependent on this system now.

We need to start to see things as they really are.  When you take money from someone who earns it without having the use of it and give it to someone who has it without earning it you are a thief.  You are teaching them both the wrong lesson, you are teaching the earner that they will be punished for doing well, most do it anyway because they still get to keep most of what they earn, but there is talk to make it more and more progressive of a tax if you earn more.  You are teaching the receiver that they can use the government to get them free stuff, that there is no need to better themselves and to work hard, that things will be handed to them.  This also puts the government in a morally wrong position, a position of being the thief, true everyone loves robin hood but he was still a thief.  This is on a much more massive scale.

I have no problem with a well run government to provide for the common defence, to build roads, and provide a good education, safe places to live and places to gather such as parks.  I even think that the wealthy enjoy such things more than others, and use such things to prosper themselves so they can pay a bit more.  I don’t think that there should be loopholes, the government should not use the tax policy to tell people what to do and what not to do.  But most of all I don’t think that they government should be taking money from one group and giving it to others as a wealth transfer.  Did you know that only 34% of our federal budget is spent to actually run the government, all the rest is used to move money around from one group to another.  Now to me that is what I call Unfair.  Some CEO who worked hard his whole life and makes a huge amount of money is ok by my, he worked hard to get there, he is likely providing much more in value than he costs or why would he be there.  But taking his money and transferring it is totally unfair.  Most people who are in favor of such transfers are usually the recipients of these transfers, or they hope to be.

I am sure that many will argue with this essay, they simply see the world differently than I do.  They usually have never owned a small business, have never traveled overseas, or they simply were raised with a different mindset.  People can rework stats and %’s to make almost any argument, all of my stats came from the most common official sources.

Let me close with a story I heard, if you have a bed to sleep in, a toilet that flushes, and a fridge to store your food you are in the richest 23% of the world population, if you have a computer or smartphone, now you are in the richest 17% and if you have a vehicle you now are in the richest 8% of the world population.  There are 6.4 billion people in the world, so 64 million people would make up the top 1%….of those 64 million people over 40 million of them live in the US.  If you live at the poverty line in the US, you are still in the top 5% of the world population.  If you live at half the poverty line in the US you are still richer than over 85% of the people on this planet.  So stop wining, and take advantage of the opportunity this nation provides, literally billions of people would do almost anything to be in your shoes.

2014 Arizona Technology Council Gubernatorial Debate wrap-up.

Today I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 Arizona Technology Council Gubernatorial Debate.  It also was a business mixer for the first little part.  It turned out to be a fun and informative event. 2014-07-09 16.30.45

During the event they had a large screen were people could tweet about the event and they would show all the tweets live and the candidates could read the live feedback during the event.  I was active on the tweet stream, look up hashtag #aztcgovs to see what was said.

There were a few surprises, the first and most shocking surprise was that Doug Ducey canceled at the last minute, many people there wanted to see what he had to say but he was a no show, a lot of people mentioned it on the twitter roll. The next thing that surprised everyone was how friendly the candidates were to each other, it was mentioned a few times that they all had deep respect for each other.  GOP heavys Joe Hobbs and Wes Harris were both there working the room for Frank Riggs.  There were also a group of folks trying to get the word out on Diane Douglas and how she is against common core, I agree with Diane on this issue, and was glad to see them there.

Education was one of the main topics of the night. All four of the Republicans were against common core. Scott Smith said that we needed to raise the bar, higher better teachers and challenge students, a lofty goal but no way on how to do it. Ken Bennett said that we needed to focus on the lowest 5% of schools each year and bring them to average and that if we did that for 4 years we would be one of the top states in the United States.  He also said we should allocate the funds for teachers separately from other district funds so that they get paid directly and get paid more. When asked about school connectivity most of them did not seem educated on the issue and just said that it was needed.  Only Christine Jones seemed to know that 150M was already given for this task and that this amount of money is more than enough to connect every school in the state that was not connected.  It is just that the government bureaucrats don’t have a clue how to do it so all of the money goes wasted.  Multiple GOP candidates said that we need to copy what is working in our best schools and push it out to all schools. Fred DuVal says that we need to throw much more money at the problem of lack of education, and that Common Core is the solution we have been looking for so that our kids can compete in a global marketplace.  I can’t see how dumbing down our schools will help us compete globally, and if money was the answer to educational problems then we would have no more problems. We waste way too much money, and more money just leads to more waste. Fred DuVal ended his talk about education talking about Khan Academy, but he had all of his facts wrong, he said that Salman Khan founded it for his kids, but he has no kids, he founded for his cousin, he also said he sold it to Bill Gates, also wrong, Bill Gates donated $1Million (Pocket change for him, but still a good thing.)  Google has donated at least double that amount.  Fred if you want to use something as an example then get your basic facts straight.

Next they talked about the small business climate. Ken Bennett talked about how we need to remove the personal property tax on businesses, this is a tax that most states don’t have but kills many businesses here in AZ.  It is where you need to pay taxes each year on the equipment that your business owns, such as servers or computers, or machines that make stuff.  This tax is one of the main reasons that many manufacturers choose not to locate here. Removing this law is vital, and Ken Bennett was the only one that addressed it.  Christine Jones talked about all the different rules that small businesses need to address at different levels of government and how it must be streamlined, that businesses need to focus on what they do to make money not dealing with the government, this is something I have said all along.  She also said she will be like Rick Perry of Texas and make it her job to personally call on large businesses to get them to move here.  Scott Smith focused on his history in Mesa of attracting Apple and helping turn around the williams airport and other things.  Frank Riggs says he will personally chair the Arizona Commerce Authority and that will be his prime focus.  He also said that the government is not in the job of choosing winners and losers and he would be against it making grants or loans to businesses and would be against angel investor tax breaks or any rules to make it easier for Venture Capitalists to do business here.   Christine Jones and Ken Bennett both pointed out how these tax breaks and easier rules have generated many times more money for the state than if we did not have them and that they would be in favor of renewal.  Fred DuVal said these grants and tax breaks need to be expanded.  He also said that we should embrace Common Core.

When asked about the EPA and Fed overreach all 5 of them were against it, Scott Smith was strong on how bad the EPA is and that shutting down NGS will replace a small air pollution problem with a Major water pollution problem, because NGS gets us fresh water.  He also said that they simply don’t understand how dusty Arizona is.  He has even gone the the EPA in person in Washington to talk about this.  Ken Bennett segwayed this into other forms of Fed overreach such as his case with them about ID at the Polls.  Fred DuVal waffled a bit, saying that some of EPA things are bad but some are good and that we need to embrace a Cap and Trade system.

The final question was about Arizona’s image in the rest of the nation.  Fred DuVal was quick to pounce on how awful it was, he focused on the 1062 problem.  The others had good ideas how to make it even better, and how to reduce taxes to bring more businesses.  One of them, I forget which one, said that we are in the new a lot because we are a thought leader on a lot of these issues and that others look to us to follow us.  I liked that idea.

Final Wrap Up

2014-07-09 16.42.43After attending this event this is my order of who I would vote for from these 5.

1. Christine Jones, she had obvious passion for doing this, she knew the right things to say and was able to point out the quick and easy solution to many problems.  She mentioned how she helped create many of the rules that govern the internet and how she has worked for years making it free. The negative about her is that she has not been in politics and likely will have trouble dealing with bureaucratic minded politicians, because they are just illogical in their actions.  I did love how she ended her closing remarks about going to “ChristineJones.com, proudly regestered for over 10 years with GoDaddy.com”  I liked that.  She did point out that she is the only one that does not owe favors to any political group.  I personally like the lack of government experience, we need fresh ideas, and they need to come from the top.  Before today she was maybe my 4th or 5th pick from the GOP field, she really has improved from the meetings from last year that we both were at.

2. Ken Bennett, he understands the system and how Arizona politics works, probably more than any of them, he did not seem to have as much passion but after 30+ of these events, with many days having 2 or more, I can see why.  He is a small business guy, and understands change and progress. He said all the right things, had researched positions and would be a great leader for our state.  I almost gave him first place, it was only because of Christine’s passion that I did not.

3. Scott Smith, he told a lot of jokes, was really friendly and his experience as mayor of Mesa has given him some executive experience.  He seems like a nice guy.  I don’t know how well he will work in a large organization like the state government.  He did say he will fight the feds about the EPA.

4. Frank Riggs is a very conservative guy, he also seems like he would be very rigid.  He seems like the guy who’s supporters will tear him up if he compromises on the smallest detail, the problem with that is there is no way to get things done with that attitude.  He did have a good point that he served in the Federal government and that experience would help him work with the Feds.  He also introduced the idea of a  Consumption tax, and he said that such a thing would level the playing fields from out of state businesses selling into Arizona, and eliminate the black market.  I have no idea what he means, or how this would work, and how can someone want a new massive tax and still look for Tea Party support, I don’t get it.  On the positive note he was very nice to me and was the only one I was able to talk to for a few minutes.

5. Fred DuVal supports Common Core, Cap and Trade, and spending a ton more money on education, he has spent years working in the Clinton-Gore administration. He mentioned multiple times about how he would work hard to promote marriage equality and pass laws making all sexual orientations equal.  He is likely going to be popular with those in college and those who have been brainwashed by our liberal school system.  He is the only one here that will for sure be on the General Election Ballot, but lucky for us we are such a red state that I doubt he will have much of a chance.

All in all it was a great event, people were cordial to each other, and I was among friends, knowing many of the people there from other Arizona Tech Council events and AZGOP events.

UPDATE:  They just posted the video of the event.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPwZxj8ZP4o

What is a Real Estate Agent and why do you need one?

As many of you know I have been spending the last few weeks becoming a real estate agent.  Real Estate is very complex and takes a long time to understand all of the different wareal estate flow chart from listing to soldys to own it, work on it, finance it and transfer it.  There are also a ton of government rules and regulations regarding real estate, and then there are industry standards that must be followed so that we all can work together and speak the same language.

So really it is a system, with its own jargon, rules, laws, institutions and much more.  It is really a business ecosystem and it works much the same way that computer ecosystems work in.  You simply need to follow the rules and the format, copy and paste the code, and you have a contract.  There are about 70 different contracts and 100’s of forms to amend or support these contracts. You can think of it much like WordPress and how you can snap in a plugin that you need.  Working a real estate deal is much like this.  After going to all of these classes I now see who the whole system works and it is very elegant and complete.  It is mostly the same across the nation but each state has a few minor tweaks.

real estate agentSo I always resented the cost of real estate agents, heck that is one of the main reasons I want to be one, was to reduce them on my actions.  I have always used an agent for things I have done, even though there was a cost. Now that I am an agent I am glad I did, we have heard 100’s of stories of the pitfalls of real estate.  There are so many ways to mess up, and when you mess up it costs people money and if you are at fault they will make you pay.  The system is so complex, and there are so many rules that it is almost impossible to not mess something up if you don’t get expert help, and often even with expert help things go wrong.

On top of taking care of the system, and making it all smooth for you a Real Estate agent has access to the databases of listed houses. Of course they created this gated database just for this reason, that you need to come to them to access it.  Unless you are an expert, in the US today you really need an agent to make your transaction work without a headache.  This is the advantage that some investors have, and why they can consistently make money, there are too many people who still have problems, and there is a lot of opinions of what something is worth, it is not a totally efficient market.  A good agent can help you find the best deals, and stay away from the overpriced inventory.  There are many good deals to be had, and just as many overpriced duds on the market.

So next time you need to buy or sell a house make sure you use an agent.  And if you happen to live in Arizona give me a call, I will either help you myself or refer you to someone who can.

The Opportunity Fund

There is so much talk on the internet in the world of personal finance (PF) about having an Emergency Fund. I agree that an Emergency Fund is important; you want to make sure that you have enough cash to take care of a stolen laptop, or your AC going out in the middle of summer. There is a lot of focus on building this up quickly; most PF writers say that this is more important than paying down debt, which I also agree. 

But my opinion, another important thing to create is what I call an Opportunity Fund.  This is a fund of special money that you keep aside for in case a really good opportunity comes up.  Opportunities come up much more than Emergencies, so this is the fund that I focused on first. I felt that this fund was critical to future success so I used many of the tactics that people like Dave Ramsey suggest when you are building your Emergency Fund.  Such tactics include Selling Something, and cutting back on expenses, especially those recurring ones that most people don’t really notice, then finding extra income opportunities.

Most PF writers suggest ways with no investment to work hard and make extra income but with an opportunity fund helping out you can supercharge this and quickly pay down debt, build all of your funds up, and if you are doing really good you may even make a business out of your fund.

So I started building my fund about 5 years ago.  We looked for people who needed to sell items quickly, to pay their bills or because they were moving, I stuck with electronics and computers because I knew the market and knew I could flip the items quickly.  Most people who are selling things are not selling to get the most money, most people sell because they need quick money, or want the item gone.  Almost every week I buy a laptop from a parent who took it away from their disobedient child as punishment for something the child did.  Most of these parents have no urge to get the most for their money, they just want the item gone.

I only use the fund to buy things that I am fairly sure I can flip quickly.  I don’t want to deplete the fund so I make sure I can turn the items over and get my original money back along with a nice profit.  Time is money so the longer I think something will take to sell the lower % of my projected sales price I need to get.  My general goal is to double my money in 30 days.

I often buy things that are on huge sales.  I built up my fund the entire summer and early fall my first year because I knew I could take advantage of Black Friday, so when November hit I made sure I sold as much as I could and made this fund as large as I could, then I spent a few days looking over the ads, and I targeted the things that had the largest amount below normal prices.  Anyone can get things for cheap online, so I made sure that I was buying at a price low enough that even if I sold online I could make a large profit.  On black Friday most people look for things for their house, they buy and hold on to these items until they are worthless, so even if you buy at the lowest price you still lose money financially. So many people focus on the TV’s and such but the real money I have found is in the smaller items, the ones that there are no limits on.  My first black Friday doing this I focused on External Hard Drives, that were selling for 40% of normal price, bought a whole cart of them. I found wireless mice for less than 30% of retail price, got over 100 of them, found 32 GB USB Drives for just $9.95 each, still a good buy today, a few years later.  I also got laser printers for $39 each, 22” Monitors for $89 each and many other good buys that most of the people just did not see. (Quick Tip, I use the site ShopLocal to find the best sales on new items.) I then listed these items on craigslist for more than I paid, also called up people I knew and asked them if they wanted any of these, I offered to come over and set up the items and show them how to use it.  I spent $3000 that y

ear, and less than 30 days later I had the $3000 back into my Opportunity fund, AND I still had about half of the stuff left!  I now do this every year, it is crazy the good deals that these places put out on small items, most of these prices are less than the cost to make the item.

CAM00449

But the real, supercharged creation of money from my Opportunity fund came from used items.  I know a lot about computers, so I offered to buy peoples headache computers off of them.  I have focused on laptops, and I have purchased over 150 laptops each year for the last 5 years in a row from private sellers.  By the time 2011 came about I was doing this so much, and needed more room and space that I opened a computer store.  By that time I had built my fund up to over $10,000 along with $10,000 or so worth of computer parts.  So I used it all to move into a store.  I was able to get a very nice store on a shoestring budget, never stopping buying and selling.  I then quickly moved into buying and selling much larger amounts of items.  I depleted my fund to build the store but worked hard and smart to build it back up.  I was putting all of the profits into building out the store, and getting extra inventory, it took a year to finally have in stock all that I wanted to have, then I started building up the fund quickly, once I had enough I quickly became free of consumer debt, for the first time in my adult life. I bought a car for my wife, bought a work truck for the business, then a new SUV for myself.  I also have build up my opportunity fund again.

SanteFe
The Santa Fe, with my truck in the background.

When a good friend of mine came to me trying to sell some items he needed sold quickly to help him with a fine he needed to pay, I was there able to help.  When others needed to borrow money, I was there to help.  When a deal comes across for 300 monitors at crazy low prices I am able to jump on it. When a computer store goes out of business I have the funds to buy all their inventory for pennies on the dollar. When a banner making company wanted to sell their plotter I bought it, now I can make vinyl letters for people, expanding my business.  When a school auction went up I bought 50 chairs and 100 tables, sold 60 tables on craigslist and more than paid for it all, now I have the rest to use and help organize the store.

I am able now, with the combination of a nice Opportunity fund, a large moving truck, a warehouse, staff, and a store to move $15,000-20,000 worth of stuff per month, with only about 40% going into what we buy stuff for, and 30% going into overhead, the other 30% goes into build up the business, giving money away, helping people and saving up to buy our building.  And yes the business has an emergency fund equal to 3 months of expenses, and so does our household.  We have just meet these goals in the last few months, this will allow us to start to really do good things and help people out.

So I have said all of this to show you how thinking different, and building up a fund to take advantage of Opportunity is so important.  Do it in the area you know about, if you are an expert on cars, then buy and flip cars, if you know about guns, there is great money in that, if you know about antiques, I know people who made fortunes in that, real estate works also if you have enough money, if you don’t have enough you can always use other people’s money.  In 2010 and 2011 I did some large deals, and my Opportunity fund was not large enough, I was not shy at all about borrowing the money, doing the deal and paying back the money.   Doing this allows you to follow your passion, to earn money by doing something that you love to do, and of course you can do it as little or as much as you like.  I am sure 80% of the people who read this would never turn it into a business, most people just aren’t wired for that. But maybe you can use this fund to get out of debt, or buy that house you wanted, or even to build one massive Emergency fund, which you can always borrow from when a really good opportunity comes along.

 

The Big Box stores can’t seem to get seasonal right for Arizona.

The Big Box stores can’t seem to get seasonal right for Arizona.

Here in Phoenix we have much different weather than most of the rest of the nation, and every year this leads to tons of odd problems with seasonal items at stores.

214560_K_LA few weeks ago the pump on the swamp cooler for the warehouse of my store went out.  A swamp cooler is a large air blower that sucks air through large pads that are sprayed with water and forces the cool air into your building.  It only works when it is dry outside, and is really only useful when the temp is below 90 degrees or so.  So in Arizona the time of year that it is 75-90 as the high is March-April and again from Mid-September until early November.  We have very hard water here in Arizona so these things usually break about every 2 years; they only are $20 replace and are a 2 minute job so no big deal.

icon_home-depot-vs-lowes

The problem comes in finding them; very near my store is a Home Depot so I went there.  To my surprise they said that they are seasonal items and are only stocked from May until August.  They said that is when it is the right time of the year to use them in the rest of the country and that Home Depot does not sell enough to make them a major item.  My theory is that they don’t sell enough because they have the seasons for it wrong. I called up Lowes and they also said it is seasonal BUT they have a special exemption for Arizona and carry them in different seasons.  One company is smart one is dumb.  I guess I won’t even bother to shop at home depot anymore.


Home Depot is not the only one that has problems with regional seasonal planning.  Wal-Mart seems to also have major problems with this in their clothing section.  Right now it is mid-September here in Phoenix, and so far this month we have only had 3 days where the high was in the 90’s, the rest were all over 100 degrees, BUT Wal-Mart put all their shorts and summer clothes on clearance a month ago and they are sold out, while now half of the clothing section has sweaters, flannel long sleeve shirts and other things that are only worn here from late November until February. 
Maybe that is why Lowes stock grows twice as fast, they are smarter.

Most stores have a problem with this to some level; the solution to this problem would be to have a regional manager who is in charge of seasonal items for each abnormal region.  I often wonder if Wal-Mart sells sweaters in Miami or did they at least figure that out…

 

Free Credit Reporting Sites – Credit Sesame vs Credit Karma

Keeping a good credit score is important to business success. For years now there have been places where you can view your credit scores online, but all of them charged for this service, some gave away free trials but if you did not cancel in full ASAP you would be charged a huge fee, and they made it hard to cancel.  Sites had to charge because the data cost them money, so did building the site.

Check your score for freeAlso for the longest time credit card companies would pay sites who refer them business (ie. Applications) a small commission for doing so.  Finally someone got the bright idea to make a credit score site and is paid for, not by the users, but by the advertisers, the lending  companies who the site would suggest that people use.

Two such sites popped up.  One is Credit Karma, and the other is Credit Sesame.  Both sites offer scores for free, and limited credit information and both offer advice and suggested loans or cards you may receive based upon your credit score.

But Which One is BETTER?

I have signed up with both of these sites a while ago, and I have been using both for months now, both have their pros and cons.  Here is a breakdown of the differences.

[table caption=”Credit Karma vs Credit Sesame” border=”1″]

“”,Credit Karma,Credit Sesame

Founded,March 2008,September 2012

Score Source, TransUnion, Experian National~~Equivalency Score~~this is a score that is usually~~10-15 points less than a normal FICO Score

Data Freshness, Every 5 Days~~I have noted that when they both update on the same day this is much more fresh, Once per month

Design, Clean and fresh blue design, fresh teal design with but much more pushy with the advertising and trying to upgrade you to full credit reports for extra money

Android App, Very nice app with lots of info and is clean, Not nearly as clean with much less data and more ads

Connections, Allows you to get data from some of your credit cards directly to show on the site, Does not do this.

History Feature, Shows a list of all changes from last report and keeps track of it in a feed type log~~they also show a graph of the last 12 months of scores and you can also see last 12 months of balance history of any card, Just a few months of your score only

Best Feature,The See how you compare section,Allows you to enter your financial goals and it will inform you when they find a product to fit that goal.

Worst Feature,They use TransUnion which is not as correct and is more focuses on the east coast way of doing things, You can’t actually see who your debt is with~~it is all just given names like Credit Card 1 and Auto Loan not the real names of the companies~~the information is much more limited

Advice, The Advice is mostly Q&A that is crowdsourced it has quite a few great questions with some really good answers~~There are also 5 Calculators along with 61 articles about credit and a fairly active blog, The advice they offer is all products from their sponsors that may help you go more into debt

[/table]

Conclusion

In summary I think that Credit Karma is a mature all around good tool, they offer a fairly good level of information and allow you to view each open account you have on your CBR in full with history graphs and sometimes it can link to your actual bank to get even more current data (This data does not reflect in your score).  The Advice section is robust.  There is a good focus on the amount of your available credit that you are using, which is one of the most important things you need to focus on Credit Sesame does not show this information at all.

Basically I feel that Credit Karma is a really good tool on many levels, something that can help you out. Credit Sesame on the other hand brings almost nothing to the table except more offers and a lot of advertising.  The only reason to use it is to check a different credit company to see if there are differences.

Why do you do what you do?

Today I have been thinking about WHY I run this business.  Most people spend so much time on how they are going to do things, and What they are going to do.    Today, I wrote this and printed it out and posted it on my office wall, “Focus on Why we do what we do, If you do it for the right reasons What you do and How you do it will fall in line and success will follow.”

When I moved my business to its much bigger location I have only a rough idea of what we would be doing.  I had a few basic ideas of areas where money could be made, because I was already making money in those areas and my old business made money in those areas, but I was open to doing something else.  It turns out that now my most profitable part of my business was something I never did at my old shop.  It now accounts for 60% of sales and over 80% of profits, that is recycling computer products.

Once you know the what the “HOW” is very simple and obvious.  But I am here to talk about the Why….why do I do what I do?  Why am I a business owner and don’t have a job, why do I choose to work with technology?  For me that “WHY?” comes down to a few key things that I believe.

First I loved technology, it is always amazing to find out what is new, and to be able to actually play with it, not just read about it.  By owning a computer store I get the ability to design and build things for clients, forcing me to become an expert many different tech issues.

Next, I must have adventure  I also have found that I don’t like to spend much time on things once I figure them out, and technology is ever changing, allowing me to always be engaged.  For example here are some things I have done in the last month, I took apart a top of the line new Asus ultra-thin laptop to see what was inside, it was amazing how it is more like a Cell phone than a laptop.  I have explored new database ideas for WordPress, and how to import from XLS files to make carts on something that was designed for blogs.  I have had time to play new games. I played a lot with running windows 8 on a big screen TV with wireless keyboard, touchpad.  And the list goes on and on.  Every day is a new adventure, always learning and always teaching.

Next I love to share my passion for tech with others.  Spending time showing someone the new gadget, or the next big thing in the tech world is something that I love.  I also love to help people, to give them tools to make their life and their business better, then I love to see them a few months later and how what I did really changed their life.

Next I love a good deal.  I love to find good deals, I love to share them and I love to give them to others.  It is so fun when I can do something for someone better than they thought it could be done and under the price they thought it could be done in.  The side effect of this is that we have never been highly profitable.  I am always giving people deals and slashing prices.  For me it is often more about the sale than the profit, I have sold many things well below cost to make someone happy.  Recently I have been forced to charge most people a bit more to cover costs.

Those are the reasons I am in the IT industry, but now I think “WHY?” did I do it on my own instead of working for someone else.  Well I really enjoy my freedom, I also highly value spending time with my Family and friends.  I love to be able to sleep in a bit, knowing my shop is taken care of, then spend some time with the kids while they are still kids, and then be able to take them and my wife to work with me.  It is nice to be able to take time off when I need it.  I also like it when people count on me, when I can show someone…”Yes I built that”.

I guess it all comes down to the fact that if you love what you do then it never seems like work.  Most of the time it does not feel like work, it feels like fun.  There are there rare times where I told a client Yes to something I should not have because it is something I don’t like to do or don’t want to learn, and in those cases I have found that subcontracting is a great idea.

So what is your “Why”?  If you are in business, why are you in business, why did you do what you do, and why do you do it the way that you do it.  If you have a job, then why do you work where you work, does it fit in with who you are?  If the main answer to your “WHY?” is money then you will likely never live a very happy or fulfilled life.  Now-a-days there is also a large part of our population that lives off the government, why do you feel entitled to do that?  If you served in the military, or if you are retired after 45 years of work I can see why you would feel that way, but many feel entitled who need neither of these.  Do you feel that you could have somewhere else to serve, to make this world better?

You should work to make the most of your short life here, and doing things with no reason why is one of the easiest ways to waste your life.  Here are some questions that really helped me focus on what is important…Why do you surf the internet so much, do you really need to read Facebook that many times per day, do you really need to watch that TV show, what will you get out of playing that video game.

Watch what you do and see if it lines up with your why.

A Special thanks goes to today’s episode of the Glenn Beck show for getting my thinking about this again.

 

Arizona Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt

Many people have been asking me recently about Credit Card debt and the statute of limitations on it.  This the the amount of time that a bank can used the legal system and sue a customer to collect a debt.  After this time they can only ask but not use the legal system.  It is a complex issue here in Arizona because for many years it has always been Three years but recently things have changed the Arizona State Legislature created a bill, HB2412 to make it 6 years.  It passed on April 11th 2011.  But this bill was so short and so poorly written that it caused a huge amount of lawsuits and problems for the People of Arizona.

This is why…  There is a Federal law that defines all credit cards as “Open Accounts”.

Open-ended Accounts: These are revolving lines of credit with varying balances. The best example is a credit card account. Please note: a credit card is ALWAYS an open account. This is established under the Truth-in-Lending Act:
TITLE 15 > CHAPTER 41 > SUBCHAPTER I > Part A > § 1602
§ 1602. Definitions and rules of construction(i) The term “open end credit plan” means a plan under which the creditor reasonably contemplates repeated transactions, which prescribes the terms of such transactions, and which provides for a finance charge which may be computed from time to time on the outstanding unpaid balance. A credit plan which is an open end credit plan within the meaning of the preceding sentence is an open end credit plan even if credit information is verified from time to time.

And there is STILL on the books this ARS which defines all Open accounts as having a 3 years Statute of Limitations.

ARS 12-543. Oral debt; stated or open account; relief on ground of fraud or mistake; three year limitation

There shall be commenced and prosecuted within three years after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward, the following actions:

1. For debt where the indebtedness is not evidenced by a contract in writing.

2. Upon stated or open accounts other than such mutual and current accounts as concern the trade of merchandise between merchant and merchant, their factors or agents, but no item of a stated or open account shall be barred so long as any item thereof has been incurred within three years immediately prior to the bringing of an action thereon.

3. For relief on the ground of fraud or mistake, which cause of action shall not be deemed to have accrued until the discovery by the aggrieved party of the facts constituting the fraud or mistake.

So if you take both of those together, it would seem that it is still 3 years.  But with the bill passed in April 2011 they only edited ARS 12-548 to read…

ARS 12-548. Contract in writing for debt; six year limitation; choice of law

A. An action for debt shall be commenced and prosecuted within six years after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward, if the indebtedness is evidenced by or founded on either of the following:

1. A contract in writing that is executed in this state.

2. A credit card as defined in section 13-2101, paragraph 3, subdivision (a).

B. If there is a conflict between another jurisdiction and this state relating to the statute of limitations for a debt action as described in subsection A of this section, this section applies.

So the ARS now has conflict within it.  There is also nothing in the bill to “Grandfather” credit card debt that was already out of SOL but now is back within it.  So these questions, as most do, found their way to court and the Judges have decided to lean in the favor of the banks for the most part.  So now people who have old debt are now being made to pay, which will result in more Arizona bankruptcies, and more money leaving our state.  It would have been really nice if the above bill made things crystal clear by REMOVING the part in 12-543 about open accounts, but they did not.

IMHO I think that the limit on Credit card debt should be 3 years because if the bank can’t get their act together in 3 full years people should be free from the worry of the unknown so they can move on a rebuild this economy.

So now people can’t move on, and people are getting aggressive collectors calling them.  And our legal system is filling up with cases that were previously long dead.   This is a great example of a simple rule change that has huge unintended consequences.

As I have been getting into the ARS more and more I have noticed so many conflicts within it where two different things are said in two different ways in two different areas but they both affect the same thing and make it confusing for citizens, and a mess in a legal system.  There is nothing that can be done to these messes with out an act of the Legislature.   It is probably too late in 2012 to do anything about this but there is always 2013.

 

Paypal security

As a business I have a credit card processing account, but if someone wants to process an order over the phone or internet I don’t use my account, I have them send it with PayPal.  I do this for many reasons.

First PayPal has built the most secure system for processing credit cards, if it is Fraud, usually the bad guy will give up once you mention PayPal so it saves a lot of time.  This has save me countless hours of dealing with scammers.

Next, I don’t want to be responsible for having the clients information, with PayPal they never need to tell me anything.

PayPal is the only safe way to take international credit cards.  With PayPal they will be much more fair about a charge back than a foreign bank will be with an American company.

Another reason that this is ok is because PayPal charges 2.9% and my normal company charges 2.8% so the cost is not much more, and well worth it.

There is a small downside to PayPal and that is that sometimes they will favor, unfairly to buyer if there is a dispute, but if you are a good company you should never have those anyway.

You likely have a PayPal account but if not you can CLICK HERE to make one and it will help support my blog also.

 

 

 

Scammers just don’t get it…

Well today I received another check in the mail from what I thought was a scammer.  They did the classic over pay scam.  Basically they emailed my company, asking if we could reload windows and office on 10 laptops.  They never said where they were from but that they would send us a check and send us the broken laptops to fix.  Simply because their email was, bi.courtney97@gmail.com, not at any company I already had a red flag, this “Courtney Badgett” was using a free email account that can be created with no ID verification.  Red Flag 2 was that there was just plain text in the email most companies have a footer, at least these scammers could speak fluent English which is not really too common among scammers.  (If you ever see the word “Kindly” just run, this is a word that all the English as a second language schools teach people but real speakers almost never use.)

It started simply enough

Hi,
Are you capable of repairing laptops in bulk? Let me know.
Thanks

Of course I said yes.  “She” then sent a list of what needed to be done and asked how much.  Then after a day I received this email.

Hi,
Thanks for the information. I’ll have the laptops brought out and ready to be shipped to you, and will have my secretary prepare your check as soon as possible.
Thanks.

Not bad, I thought to myself “I will believe it when I see it.”

Then today I received the check. (Click on it to see it in high res)  The paper was simple and plain and the signature was a stamp, did not really look too secure.  Also the check that I asked for was just $750, this check was for about 3 times that amount.

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I looked up the routing number, and it really was for Chase.  I also called the company listed on the check, VertiFX Technology, but I got the run around there.  Tracked the package to find the origin, here is what I got.

Phoenix, AZ, United States 12/21/2011 12:51 P.M. Delivered
12/21/2011 10:01 A.M. Destination Scan
12/21/2011 7:17 A.M. Out For Delivery
12/21/2011 6:44 A.M. Adverse weather conditions.
12/21/2011 6:40 A.M. Arrival Scan
12/21/2011 4:17 A.M. Late airplane.
Louisville, KY, United States 12/21/2011 4:52 A.M. Departure Scan
12/21/2011 1:59 A.M. Arrival Scan
DFW Airport, TX, United States 12/20/2011 10:38 P.M. Departure Scan
12/20/2011 9:21 P.M. Arrival Scan
Fort Worth, TX, United States 12/20/2011 8:30 P.M. Departure Scan
12/20/2011 7:57 P.M. Pickup Scan
United States 12/20/2011 6:55 A.M. Order Processed: Ready for UPS

 

So the check for a California company came from Texas.  Very interesting. So I was 95% sure now that the check was a fraud.  I happen to have a Chase branch about a quarter mile from our office so I decided to go there and visit them.  Just as I suspected the account was closed recently, they would not say why but they decided that they would keep the check.  So it was all over….or was it….just an hour ago I got this email.

Hello Jason,
I just tracked the check, and it shows that it has been delivered to you today. I already got in touch with the movers today, and I need to pay them upfront for them to ship the laptops to your place, pick-up some other equipments for the office, and pick-up the laptops when you’re done, and that’s the reason for the extra cash on the check. So I need you to cash the check, deduct your repair fees,and go to a Western Union location to send the balance to the movers. Once they have it, the laptops will be delivered to your place to begin the repairs.
Send the balance to the information below:

Name:    Barry  S. Glick
Address:  6801 Otto Rd
City :       Glendale
State:      NY 11385

Deduct the sending fee from the balance and send the remaining to the information above. Get back to me as soon as possible with the Money Tracking Control Number (MTCN), and payment details (sender’s/receiver’s information) , as you have it on the receipt (I’ll appreciate it if you can scan the receipt to me).
Let me know.
Thanks.

So I replied,

I took the check to the bank and they said that it was bad.   Please just send me my amount by western union also.  That would work good.  They kept the check.

That was it.  I doubt I will hear back, but I wanted to blog about it so that Google will find these names and accounts and be able to help out others in the future.  Also I am thinking of calling Barry Glick, I bet he does not even know that he is part of a scam, I bet he is told to just go get money and keep 10% for his trouble and forward the rest, it is the way that these people keep out of trouble.  Other times they would tell the Barry guy to just use the money to buy stuff for them online, that way they get free stuff.  Lots of scams out there, so keep your eyes out.  So far they have tried it on me about 20 times, and I have not fallen for it yet.  Kind of a fun game really.