Review of FirsTrade.com

It has been over a year since I started using FirsTrade.com for my Individual IRA Account.

The basics of FirsTrade.com is that they offer $6.95 Stock Trades, free real-time quotes and research tools. The company has been very good to work with. I have had to call customer service only once, and I had a real person on the phone within 5 minutes…which is acceptable.

FirsTrade.com has a clean, easy to follow trading platform. The only issue that I’ve run into is that when I try to place a market order, I get an error message, and I’m, basically, required to place my order as a limit order. Other than that, I’m quite impressed with FirsTrade.com and have recommended them to friends.

My only suggestion to the company is that they allow you to make a trade order, and view a real time quote, on the same screen. As their software is currently configured, you are sent to a different screen when you request a quote.

For what it is worth, I had been sitting on about 50% cash in my retirement account for almost a year.  I went heavy into the market on last Wednesday after the “mini crash” that we experienced.  I picked up some great companies at pretty nice discounts to what I feel they are truly worth, and I’m hopeful they will grow nicely over the long term.

I would love to have a comment about what you were investing in last week!!!

Happy Trading and Investing!

Is Restaurant.com a Scam?

So I bought my first gift certificate from Restaurant.com today.

What a big, fat waste of time and money!

Restaurant.com advertised that I could buy a $25 Gift Certificate for a small restaurant located near me…The End Zone…in Horton, MI FOR ONLY $10!!!

What a great deal, I was excited to try a new place!  I loaded up my 4 kids, and my wife, and jumped into the Ford Expedition for our mini road trip.

So we get to The End Zone, order drinks, and immediately give our gift certificate to the waitress.  We are excited to try $35 worth of food and drinks (that is a stipulation of the deal, our gift certificate clearly says that to use the $25, we need to spend at least $35…not hard for a family of six!

The waitress frowns and tells me that The End Zone in Horton, MI, DOES NOT participate with Restaurant.com, and that I’ve been scammed!

I WAS MAD!  How does this happen?  Restaurant.com seemed like a legal website.  Are they selling gift certificates to restaurants WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE RESTAURANT OWNER?

Please let me know if this has happened to anyone else!!!

Segway X2

Not much to say about this video, except that technology is amazing!  It has been a big week for my family.  My oldest daughter learned to ride a Segway…and more importantly…a bicycle!  She is very excited to be able to cruise without training wheels.   AND my 4th child and only son started crawling this week, at 7 and a half months old…everyone is getting mobile!  Life is good!

Should I sell my Silver?

Well…I hate to say that I told you so…but I will 😉  As many of you remember, I was buying Silver a couple of years back (Investing in Silver) and it has turned out to be quite a strong investment!

The question now is, at $50 per ounce, is it time to sell my silver holdings and lock in significant profits?

I have a history of selling at the completely wrong time!  Recent Example:

Bought Apple @ $87 per share in about Nov. 2008, and sold it at $175…just to see it rocket to $350 about a year later.

Is silver going to do the same thing to me that Apple stock did?

All the reasons I was buying Silver in 2008 seem to still be in place.  For example, our government continues to print money and kill the value of dollars at an alarming rate!  And I suspect they will continue to do that, as the best way to pay off down our $15 Trillion of dollar denominated debt is to significantly lower the value of US dollars…which means Silver could keep running up.

Anyways, I’d appreciate the input of the financial wizards who visit this blog, so PLEASE, let me know what you think!

7 ways to make passive income online!

If you are like the majority of the population, you love to earn money. There are countless ways of doing so in the world today, many of which can be achieved online. A great type of income that can be made online is passive income. The brilliant thing about passive income is that it gives you the ability to keep earning money on something long after you have done the work or made the initial investment. There are many different ways to make passive income online, and most are easier than you may think.

1. Writing

If you like to write, there are many ways to make passive income online by doing so. Certain sites, like About.com, HubPages, and Triond allow you to publish your writing online and keep getting paid for it, long after you have written the information. These sites make it easy to get your writing published, and you usually make money every time a person views your articles or web pages.

2. Photography

Many people love taking photos, but don’t always know what to do with them once they’ve taken them. If this sounds like you, you should try selling your photos online. Many people, such as advertisers, writers, and graphic designers, are always in need of quality photographs for their projects. They will pay you a one-time fee for photos they want, and can use them however they wish. You can sell photos on your own website, but often times you don’t even need your own site to do so. Many sites, such as iStock, will display your photos for you, but will keep a portion of your sales.

3. Music

If you enjoy making music, you can sell your creations online, much as you would with photographs. Various businesses, websites, and directors are continuously on the lookout for music that would enhance their projects. Again, they pay you a one-time fee for tracks they want, and can use them anyway they choose. You can do this through your own music store website, but many sites exist that will sell them for you for a cut of the profit. You basically keep making money on tracks that you have already created, which is a cool concept.

4. E-books

If you believe you have some information that people would like to know and learn about, you can write an e-book detailing this information. If people are interested enough, they will buy your e-book. There are great benefits to writing an e-book, like not having to wait for a publishing offer, and not having to worry about the physical aspects that go along with real books. You can create your own sales page for your e-book, where you would receive all the profits, or you can sell it through a website like Amazon.com. If you choose to sell it through another site, they will again be keeping a percentage of your sales.

5. Affiliate Advertising

If you have your own website, you can make money by promoting other people’s goods and services on your site. For example, if your website is focused on gardening, you can partner with other companies that you think would be of interest to your followers. These may include gardening supply companies or seed companies. You can place advertisements of these companies on your site, and each time a visitor clicks on their ad and then orders something or fills out a form, you receive a commission from the company you advertised.

6. Drop Shipping

Drop shipping is a fairly simple method for earning passive income online. You basically get paid for selling items that you never physically see. You display the items on your website, and each time someone purchases something, the order gets forwarded on to a wholesaler that physically has the products and ships them for you. Your main job is to create a brilliant, memorable website that catalogs all your products. You will also need a few wholesalers that will work with you. In the beginning, you may have to pay a fee to these wholesalers, but from there on out, everything should be profit. Drop shipping is quite genius because you personally hold no stock of products, meaning you only pay for what you sell.

7. Designing Products

Working with sites like CafePress, you can create various designs, choose what type of products you want your designs on, and CafePress makes them. These products may include t-shirts, mugs, and bumper stickers. All you have to do is promote your products, send your design to the company, and they take care of the manufacturing and shipping of the products you wish to sell. They keep part of the profits from your sales, and you get the remainder.

Guest post from Bailey Harris.

Is Volunteer Energy a Scam?

Believe it or not, I may have a found another company trying to pull a fast one on the hard working people of Michigan.

A couple of years ago I signed up for Volunteer Energy as my natural gas supplier here in Michigan instead of Consumers Energy.  I was told that Volunteer Energy had a track record of saving their customers approx. 15% when compared to Consumers rates.

I was told that my rate would change month to month based on the price that Volunteer Energy paid for the gas they were selling me.

Until yesterday, I had basically forgot about this switch, and assumed that Volunteer Energy was a reputable company and was going to give me the best rate that they could each month.

YESTERDAY, I get an e-mail from a company called Revolutionary Wireless.  This company is apparently a marketing company or sales company that represents Volunteer Energy.

THE SLOGAN ON TOP OF THE SALES MATERIAL THAT WAS SENT TO ME SAYS “START WITH TRUST” This is interesting to me because I did trust that Volunteer Energy was going to give me the best rate on natural gas that they could, each month, in an effort to keep my business and let me know I made a good choice when I left Consumers Energy for my natural gas.

IT APPEARS MY TRUST WAS NOT WELL PLACED.

The sales material I was e-mailed from Revolutionary Wireless lists and compares 15 months worth of Natural Gas prices between Consumers Energy and Volunteer Energy.  FOR EXAMPLE, The sales sheet says that in May 2010 that Consumers Energy was charging $6.8426 per MCF of Natural Gas, but Volunteer Energy was charging $5.49 per MCF of Natural Gas…a 20% savings!  APPARENTLY NOT TRUE FOR ME THOUGH…

I printed off my Gas bill for May 2010 and it clearly says that Volunteer Energy charged me $6.49 per MCF for my natural gas.

I then checked other months, and in April and March of 2010 I was also charged significantly more that what Volunteer Energy is advertising as their rates for those months.

Needless to say, I’m upset and will be calling the company tomorrow.  This seems like a scam to me…telling customers that you charged a certain amount in the past to try to get them to switch over…when in reality, your current customers didn’t receive the published savings…what do you think?

Please let me know if anyone else has had this problem with Volunteer Energy!  It is probably a good idea to check your energy bill today…then leave a comment and let me know…maybe it only happened to me!

Is Edward Jones a Scam?

Several years ago I worked as a Financial Services Rep for a very large company based out of New York.  I was with the company for about 5 years, but of the 20 reps that were hired around the same time as me, only about 3 of us made it past the second year.  Everyone else either left the company or were let go because of non-performance. The amazing thing about the loss of 85% of my training class was that we were TOLD UPFRONT that this would happen…our boss told us that very few people survive the financial services industry past the first couple of years!

This sounds crazy doesn’t it?  Why would a reputable firm hire so many people knowing full well that the majority of them would be gone in two years or less?  TRAIL COMMISSIONS?

Several other reps told me that often financial services companies are happy when a rep leaves, because the company no longer has to pay them yearly commissions on the products that were sold in the past.  I don’t know if this is the case or not, but the whole recruiting process seemed like a whole lot of work to only keep 2 or 3 out of 20 recruits.

ANYWAYS, I tell my story because I know several Edward Jones reps, and from the outside looking in, Jones seems nothing like the company I mentioned above.  Everyone I observe that works at Edward Jones seems to be doing fairly well…nice office, assistant and great marketing.

The reason I ask the above question though is because last year someone I know personally, and considered an extremely successful Edward Jones adviser, was let go from the company for what seemed like a minor misunderstanding. Of course I don’t know all the details, and have never worked for Edward Jones, but I’m interested to know if anyone out there who is reading this blog post has had any similar experiences with Edward Jones.  I’m interested in any feedback on how they treat their reps!

Fun Insanity

So I was reading a really old post from my first blog, and It hit me as just as fun as the first time I posted it…so I’m going to share it with you!

As a disclaimer, I’m not sure who wrote it originally, but if I find out, I will give credit where credit is due.  Now enjoy!

Ways to Maintain A Healthy Level Of Insanity. (Thanks to my wife for forwarding this!)

1. At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point a Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don’t Disguise Your Voice.

3. Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want Fries with that.

4. Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It ‘In.’

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks Once Everyone has Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

6. In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write ‘ For Smuggling Diamonds’

7. Finish All Your sentences with ‘In Accordance With The Prophecy.’

8. Don’t use any punctuation

9. As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

10. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat, with a serious face.

11. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is ‘To Go.’

12. Sing Along At The Opera.

13. Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don’t Rhyme?

14. Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical Sounds All Day.

15. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can’t Attend Their Party Because You’re Not In The Mood.

16. Have Your Co-workers Address You By Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.

17. When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream ‘I Won!, I Won!’

18. When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot, Yelling ‘Run For Your Lives, They’re Loose!!’

19. Tell Your Children Over Dinner. ‘Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go.’

20. And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity…….READ THIS AGAIN AND LET YOURSELF LAUGH A BIT!

2010 Financial Tips Recap

Last January, I gave you my Top Financial Tips for 2010.  Seems to me that it would be fair to recap my personal progress in “Practicing what I Preach” as most people (including me) are usually no great at doing just that.

1.)  Save as much of your income as you UNCOMFORTABLY can!

  • I can honestly say that my family and I actually DID save WAY more in 2010 than we ever have in the past.  We were able to bank over 50% of our take home pay, as well as pay down some debts.  This was accomplished through some very deliberate attempts to not blow money on all the little junk that can add up so quick.  I’m very proud of our saving habits this year!

2.)  Place a bet on US Stocks.

  • Tip #2 also seemed to be right on the money for 2010.  US stocks performed WONDERFULLY in 2010, and early in the year I was able to allocate significant funds from my IRA into about 10 great, US based companies.  I had a couple of investments up almost 100% (CBI being one of them).  I’m hopeful that you took my advice on this one and consulted with a solid financial professional, regarding investment options, early in the year!

3.)  Study IRS tax laws!

  • I’ve got to admit that I didn’t do a great job on this one in 2010.  I worked very hard to understand where I stood with my tax situation this year, but did not spend too much time researching new tax laws or seeking out new tax saving strategies.  I will need to do a better job in 2011 as it appears tax issues are getting more complicated every time Congress gets in a room together.

4.) Work Harder!

  • I’m a big believer there NO-ONE works to their optimal potential…it is just human nature.  That being said, I truly had a great year at work!  I know I can work harder in 2011 though, as the house fire that I had to deal with for 6 months took a significant mental toll on the family.  I’m hopeful that now that we are back and life is getting back to normal, 2011 will be a year of hard work, lots of fun and great rewards!

5.)  Strive to become debt free!  6.)  Be Generous and Be Thankful!

7.)   “Have fun, love people, and drink great coffee!”

  • I truly did work hard on 5,6 and 7 in 2010…especially on the coffee side…we seem to enjoy a lot of coffee here in Michigan!

New Baby

Greetings and blessings from Michigan! I wanted to let you all know that my wife gave birth to a happy and healthy baby boy this week! We are tired, but Life is Good!!!

As many of you know, this is my 4th child, and my first son! We named him Dekker, after my favorite author, Ted Dekker…(look him up, his books are worth a read)!

Little Dekk has three older sisters who are crazy excited to have a brother in the family. My boss put it best this week, I have “Over the Moon” with joy and excitement!

Keep us in your prayers.

Best,

TAM