Deals For Opening ING Direct Orange Savings And Electric Orange Checking Accounts

October 30, 2008

Recently I blogged about opening a National City checking account with a $150 bonus (conveniently they are now offering a $200 bonus). I also provided a brief overview of online savings accounts. After paying my down payment, I’ve decided to open a few checking accounts and online savings accounts to determine which accounts work best for me. Also, I plan on using each account to save for different goals, which are yet to be completely determined. Making extra money with account opening bonuses never hurts. ING currently has an offer for bonuses of $25 and $50 if you open a savings and checking accounts, respectively.

ING Direct Orange Savings Account

ING has a standard referral policy for new customers, that if you open a savings account through a referral link from an existing customer with an initial deposit of at least $250, you get $25 and the referrer gets $10.

The first step is to fill in your personal information, which includes the following: name, address, email, SSN, phone number, DOB and a security question. Next, you create a Login Pin similar to a pin for a debit card. This login pin is needed with your customer number (provided at the end) to gain access to your account.

The next two steps consist of agreeing to various online documents. First, you commit to receiving paperless e-statements, which enables online accounts to provide such high interest rates. Second, you agree to personal account disclosures, that the SSN is your own, you are not subject to backup withholding and that you are a US person.

The final step is to enter bank information for your initial deposit. Enter the routing number, account number and deposit value ($250 for the $25 bonus).

Your funding deposit will be taken from your bank account without confirmation, however, you can not withdraw funds until ownership of your bank account is confirmed. To confirm ownership of the bank account, ING uses the standard small deposit method. You have 60 days to verify your linked bank account or your ING account will be closed and your initial deposit will be returned.

During the enrollment process ING makes it easy to enroll in an automatic savings plan. The plan allows for money to be automatically withdrawn weekly, biweekly, monthly and on the 15th and last day of the month. You provide the start date, end date (which is optional) and the recurring amount.

The final step is an information review where you confirm all of the information that has been entered.

Congratulations, your account is now open. This probably takes about 5 minutes if you’re not trying to write a blog entry at the same time. Make sure you print out or make a copy of the page that displays your customer number as it is with the Login Pin to allow entry to your account, which is done at ingdirect.com.

ING Direct Electric Orange Checking Account

ING is currently offering a $50 bonus if you have an existing ING savings account and open a checking account. To take advantage of this deal, do the following:

  • Follow this link
  • Open an Electric Orange checking account with code: EM227
  • Gain access to your MasterCard Debit Card
  • Make 3 signature-based purchases with your Debit Card within 45 days of opening your account
  • You will get your $50 bonus, 50 days after your account has been opened

The ING Electric Orange checking account is worth opening for more than just the $50 bonus. It offers a n interest rate of 1.50% APY if your account balance is below $50,000. If you’re balance is between $50,000 and $100,000 your APY is 3.05%. If you’re balance is over $100,000 your APY is 3.50%.

Note: The account must be opened by 10/31/08 to get the $50 bonus. I have so far been unable to open a checking account with this deal because my savings account is not confirmed. Hopefully, my savings account will be confirmed by the end of the day Friday and I will be able to open a checking account and get the $50 bonus.

After playing around with the functionality of the website I will do a review of the ING Direct Orange savings account. For now enjoy your $25 and $50 bonuses if you were lucky enough to get both.

If you like what you have read please consider signing up for automatic updates via e-mail or RSS


Opinions On Student Loan Debt

October 28, 2008

Awhile back I read an article about student loan debt from Yahoo! finance and saved it as an article to re-read and write about. The article starts out with a horror story about a master’s student who had $140,000 in student loans and only managed to find a job paying $35,000. A story like this is strangely reminiscent of the current subprime mortgage mess. A young adult takes out loans despite not having the means to repay them. I imagine the student loan credit market will feel the effects of the subprime disaster. If fully educated adults make poor borrowing decisions, I can only imagine young adults will make even worse borrowing decisions. What follows are my opinions on student loan debt.

Plan your College Financing

Just like any other major purchase, you have to research and plan it out. You have to examine every option. What are the costs of state schools vs. private schools? Are there any scholarships available? What are the financial aid packages? What is the projected starting salary for your intended career? Taking out student loans of $30,000 to $40,000 is most likely one of the top 5 most expensive purchases for your entire life. Make sure you put in the same type of research you would as if you were purchasing a house or car.

The Purpose of Higher Education

The article states that college grads make 60% more than those with a high school diploma. Higher education certainly opens doors in your career that might not be possible otherwise. Higher education is for making career paths available that were previously unavailable. Higher education is not for doing what everyone else is doing. I had numerous friends go to college and return a year later with no idea what they wanted to do. They ended up enrolling in the local community college and finding a career path that made them happy and then attending college with a well thought out career path. It’s unfortunate that going to community college is looked down on in our society when it is the financially sound decision for confused young adults.

Assessing Earnings Potential

Student loans can be smart financial investments. I elected to attend a private institution instead of the local state school. The costs would be significantly greater, which would result in my taking out student loans. I was able to pay off my student loans prior to any interest accumulating and am gainfully employed in a career that I enjoy. I knew prior to committing to student loans that my earnings potential would be significantly increased by attending the private school in my instance.

It is extremely important to weigh the potential of increased earnings with the potential downside of 20-year loan payments. When assessing the decision to attend college and take out student loans, it is crucial to be able to determine the future earnings potential as a result of earning a degree from that institution. This should be strictly a financial decision.

Types of Student Loans

The type of student loan is an important detail when assessing the financial package. I took out Perkins loans for the first three years of college. The fourth year I paid in full what was supposed to be a Stafford loan. Perkins loans do not begin accruing interest until after a grace period, which is post-graduation. My Stafford loans had fees associated with them that were large enough that it made financial sense to pay them off with internship earnings. Most federal loans do not begin accruing interest until after graduation. Private loans, on the other hand, begin accruing interest the minute you incur the debt. A friend of mine was forced to take out private loans, which resulted in large amounts of debt when he graduated. It is extremely important to know when your loans begin accruing interest.

Graduate School

I have put significant thought into graduate degrees. I personally feel that graduate degrees should only be pursued if they are completely necessary to open a new career path or significantly advance your career and increase your salary. Also, I will most likely try to find a company who will pay for a portion of my graduate degree, if not the entire degree. Taking on significant student loans for graduate degrees can push retirement goals back instead of bringing them closer to reality.

Conclusion

I was fortunate enough to be able to pay off my student loans before they started accruing interest. According to this article, others have not been so fortunate. I’m hoping that this subprime mess will be a learning experience for both borrowers and lenders of all kinds of debt. Not only should people only take on mortgages that they can afford, but young adults should not take on student debt that will have negative effects on their personal finances for 20 to 30 years.

If you like what you have read please consider signing up for automatic updates via e-mail or RSS


Investing Basics From Morningstar

October 27, 2008

For what seemed like an eternity, my savings were directed into a money market fund for a down payment on my condo. Now that I have closed on my condo, I will be directing my savings towards maximizing retirement accounts. Currently, I have my retirement assets (Roth IRA) in a Vanguard Target Retirement Fund. I do not have an asset allocation plan because I don’t have enough assets to meet minimum requirements and maintain a diversified portfolio. As soon as I have enough assets to diversify even minimally I will do so. For this reason I will be doing a lot of research on asset allocation and investing in general.

Most of my investing knowledge comes from books that are listed in the right-hand column of the web page and websites such as Motley Fool and Investopedia. I recommend “The Four Pillars of Investing“, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” and “Common Sense on Mutual Funds” for investing basics.

Recently, I stumbled upon a stellar investing tutorial by Morningstar. Morningstar calls it an investing classroom that focuses on four topics: stocks, funds, bonds and portfolio. The stocks, funds and portfolio catalogs have five different course levels. The bonds curriculum has only two different course levels. In total, the investing classroom offers 172 different courses.

Each course has a mini five question quiz to test your knowledge. If you get enough quiz questions correct you are rewarded with a free 60 day Morningstar Premium subscription.

So far, I’ve completed 66% of the courses on the 400 course level for stocks. I have greatly increased my knowledge of investing with regards to evaluating stocks and accounting. The books that I mentioned above did not really get into individual stock valuations as they mostly recommend index investing. If you’re looking for a great, free resource for stock valuations and individual stock investing check out the Morningstar investing tutorial.

If you like what you have read please consider signing up for automatic updates via e-mail or RSS


Quicken Online Review

October 27, 2008

Recently, Quicken Online has switched to a free service in order to compete with other free account aggregators. I have never consistently used an account aggregator to manage my personal finances, I have mostly used the Excel and file folder method. I gave Mint a shot when it first arrived on the personal finance scene, but I stopped using it when I couldn’t import my Capital One Money Market Rewards account. When Quicken Online changed to a free service I decided to give online aggregating another shot.

Set Up

Follow this LINK and click on the Start Now button. Conveniently, if you have a TurboTax, Quicken.com or QuickBooks user ID already, you can use that same ID. To register you have to provide an email address, user ID, password and security question. It also asks for your year of birth and zip code to tailor financial advice.

Now all you have to do is add all of your bank, credit card and investment accounts. To add an account you can either type in the bank name or select it from a most used list. Once you’ve selected the correct bank, you have to provide your online ID and password. Also, if there are security questions from the bank’s end, you have to correctly answer those to proceed. It’s the exact same process as signing into your online account.

After adding at least one account, you can either add another account or begin using Quicken Online. I entered my checking account, money market rewards account, two credit card accounts, Schwab account and Vanguard accounts.

Home

The home page keeps track of all of your accounts in a column on the left-hand side that is divided into three segments (at least for me): bank accounts, credit cards and loans, and investment accounts. Each section has a total and there is a total balance that sums up the three sections. This is the most useful tool in my opinion. It will make my monthly financial updates significantly easier to keep track of. Also, it’s a great way to make sure that accounts that are no longer in use, but are still open do not incur random fees or begin to accumulate interest.

The home page also has a tool for bill pay reminders, which I will most likely not take advantage of. I don’t have any problems paying bills on time and most of my bills are automatically paid. There is a pie chart that keeps track of spending for the previous rolling month. There’s also a tool that displays your money in, money out and the difference between those two numbers for the previous rolling month. These two tools are not exactly useful for me upon first glance as it considers my down payment an expense. Apparently, I have overpaid in the last 30 days by over $40,000 and my pie chart is 95% Misc. Expense. There is a way to change the time range that is displayed in these tools to any value desired under one year.

My Transactions

The my transactions page has all of the transactions for all accounts that occurred in the time line selected. Each transaction includes the date of transaction, account, payee (ie. Mcdonald’s), category and amount. This page has potential to be very useful, however, it does a poor job at first of categorizing the transactions. My paychecks are categorized as “transfer in” instead of paycheck. The categories may be changed manually and new categories may be formed.

Track Spending

This page breaks down where you are spending your money. It has the same pie chart from the home page. There is a bar chart that breaks down your total spending by month. Also, there is a list that sums up the expense categories. This page will be more useful once I manually correct the categories.

My Budget

The my budget page tracks selected categories for budgeting purposes. Goals are entered for a given category and the amount spent already for the month is tracked. At the top the overall expenses and goal is tracked. I have never used a budget and I do not foresee myself using one in the near future, however, the functionality of this budgeting page appears to be good.

Other Features

Quicken Online provides mobile and email updates and reminders. You can have balances and transactions sent to your mobile device either daily or weekly. Weekly summaries can be sent via email. You can have bill reminders sent a desired number of days prior to the due date to either your email of mobile device. You can also have alerts sent to your email or mobile device if your checking account dips below a certain level, a large expense is made or your credit card account goes over a certain limit.

There is a community section that allows you to post questions for other Quicken Online users to answer. I haven’t surfed around this section yet, but it appears to be a nice way to have any questions answered by experienced users. Also, there is a blog run by Quicken Online that will keep you updated with changes and upgrades.

Security

The security of Quicken Online is very similar, if not the exact same as online banks. I’m not sure how this whole online security works, but here is what the website says:

We rely on advanced, industry-recognized security and virus safeguards to keep all your financial data private and protected. With password-protected sign in, firewall protected servers, and the same encryption technology (128-bit SSL) used by the world’s top financial institutions, we have the security elements in place to give you peace of mind. Quicken Online is a VeriSign Secured™ product.

Good enough for me.

Overall

The simplicity and quickness that an account can be set up was extremely encouraging. It was nice to see all of my accounts were fully covered by the service. The major down fall is the inability to automatically and correctly categorize my spending. I will most likely continue using Quicken Online as it is very nice to have all of my accounts aggregated in one place.

If you like what you have read please consider signing up for automatic updates via e-mail or RSS


Overview of Online Savings Accounts

October 23, 2008

I recently signed up for a National City checking account to take advantage of a $150 deal, which has now increased to $200. I had never used a checking account other than Harris, which has been my only checking account I was in middle school. I wanted to check out the pros and cons of some of the other brick and mortar banks in my area. What better way to evaluate a bank than by first-hand experience?

I have also been looking into various online savings accounts to take advantage of the interest rates for some of my short-term savings goals. I’m sure the different savings accounts have different pros and cons, which is why I will most likely be opening a few savings accounts to find the bank that suits me best. The following is an overview of the top online savings accounts from my initial research.

ING offers an online savings account with a 2.75% interest rate. ING has no fees and no minimums. The FDIC coverage is up to $250,000 as per the recent increase. ING offers direct deposit and an automatic savings plan. ING also offers CDs that are easy to set up and ladder through an existing savings account. The CDs offer interest rates of 3.5%, 3.75% and 4.25% for 6, 9 and 12 months, respectively. Also, ING offers an electric orange checking account an APY of 1.5% for account balances below $49,999.99, 3.05% for account balances between $50,000 and $99,999.99 and 3.5% for account balances of $100,000 or more. ING also gives you $25 for opening a savings or checking account from a referral.

HSBC offers an online savings account with a 3.00% interest rate. Similar to ING, HSBC has no fees, minimums and is FDIC covered. Only $1 is required to open an account. HSBC also offers direct deposit and automatic savings plans. HSBC offers CDs with interest rates of 4.0%, 3.6% and 3.7% for terms of 6, 9 and 12 months, respectively.

FNBO offers an online savings account with a 3.25% interest rate. There are no minimums or monthly fees. $1 is all that is required to open an account. FNBO offers CDs, however, the rates were not quickly found on the website so I got lazy and stopped looking.

Dollar Savings Direct (DSD) offers an online savings account with a 4.00% interest rate. There are no monthly fees, however, you have to maintain a $1,000 account to maintain the 4.00% interest rate. If your account drops below $1,000 there are no fees, but your rate drops to 1.00%. DSD is FDIC insured. It appears as though DSD is a spin off of Emigrant Direct, which has a 3.00% online savings account interest rate.

EverBank

EverBank offers a checking account called FreeNet that has a promotional 3-month interest rate of 4.65% for the first $99,999.99 deposited. After the bonus period, the interest rate drops to 3.51%. A FreeNet checking account has a $1,500 minimum opening balance. If your account dips below $1,500 a monthly fee of $4.95 is charged. FreeNet offers free unlimited check writing. EverBank reimburses $6/month in non-EverBank ATM fees. EverBank pledges to keep the yield in the top 5% of competitive accounts.

Summary

There are a variety of options available for anybody interested in opening an online savings account. I will most likely open savings accounts with ING and DSD in the near future. After doing so, I will post reviews based on my experiences with the banks.

If you like what you have read please consider signing up for automatic updates via e-mail or RSS


10 Steps to Retire a Millionaire

October 22, 2008

As I was checking the damage for the day from the stock market, I stumbled upon an interesting article detailing 10 steps to retire a millionaire. The ten steps provide a good outline for retiring as a millionaire, which is something I would love to do sooner rather than later. The steps are as follows:

  1. Set the goal
  2. Start saving
  3. Get aggressive
  4. Prepare for rainy days
  5. Save more
  6. Watch your spending
  7. Monitor your portfolio
  8. Max out your options
  9. Catch-up contributions
  10. Have patience

Set the Goal

Setting a goal is the first step towards accumulating a million dollar nest egg. Just like you can’t run before you walk, you can’t successfully retire with a million dollars if you do not make it a goal. From my cross-country experiences, my best seasons came when I set realistic goals and then worked hard to achieve them.

Start Saving

Half of the battle is starting. If you don’t start saving, you will not have money to invest. If you don’t invest, you will miss out on a huge portion of your possible nest egg. Due to the power of compounding, most of your retirement money will come from interest. Don’t be afraid to start with as little as $25 a month. You have to start somewhere.

Get Aggressive

This step refers to the fact that keeping money in a savings account or in bonds will not generate large enough returns to achieve the goal of retiring a millionaire. Investing in stocks, both foreign and domestic. Diversify your portfolio with riskier small cap stocks and emerging market funds.

Prepare for Rainy Days

An emergency fund is crucial for accumulating savings. High interest debt will erode your savings and severely diminish your overall returns. Emergency funds provide a cushion in case a rainy day emerges.

Save More

Do not be content with your current saving pace. When you make more money, save more money. If you want to save more, try to find other ways to supplement your income. Take up some self-employed work like tutoring kids in your area of expertise. Who knows, you may even stumble upon a successful and satisfying full-time line of work.

Watch Your Spending

Watching you spending goes along with saving more. If you spend less, there is more to save. Creating a budget is a great way to track spending and reduce unnecessary spending.

Monitor Your Portfolio

Rebalance your portfolio to maintain an acceptable level of risk. From everything I have read it is a good idea to rebalance your portfolio every year or two. It prevents your portfolio from becoming too risky and forces you to sell high and buy low.

Max Out Your Options

The best options to grow a nest egg are in tax advantaged accounts like IRAs and 401k’s. If your savings allow it, maximize your contributions to your tax advantaged accounts and if there is any money left over dump it into taxable accounts. If utilizing taxable accounts is a reality for you, make sure you invest the correct funds in the correct accounts. For example, bonds that are exempt from federal and state taxes should not be kept in tax advantaged accounts.

Catch-Up Contributions

After surpassing the golden age of 50, contribution limits increase. Take advantage and continue maximizing your tax advantaged accounts.

Have Patience

Becoming a millionaire does not happen over night. Most of us will not win the lottery. A lot of us will never make $100,000 in a year. A million dollars sounds like a lot of money and it is. The only way to achieve this goal is to invest as much as you can as early as you can. Compounding is your best friend and time can be your worst enemy.

Overall, the best advice I can give you regarding saving towards retirement is to start as early as possible. Let time be your friend and not your enemy.

If you like what you have read please consider signing up for automatic updates via e-mail or RSS


Deals on Omaha Steak Burgers and a Sony PS3

October 22, 2008

Omaha Steaks Deal

Now that I have a mortgage to pay, I am trying to save as much money as possible while grocery shopping. For this reason I have been trying to get a better understanding of the CVS ECB and Walgreens rebates madness. At these drug stores, I’m trying to buy things that I normally buy at the grocery store with as little out of pocket money as possible. While researching the CVS deals for this week, I stumbled upon a great deal on ground steak, which is certainly something I would normally buy from the grocery store.

The first step towards this great deal is to sign up for Geico privilegesHERE. There is a link in the upper right hand corner of the web page that says “Register and Save With Omaha Steaks”. You provide your name, email address and zip code. Registering for Geico privileges allows Geico to “send information about products and services that may be of interest to you”. You are not required to be hold Geico insurance or sign up for anything Geico related. I imagine you can ask to be removed from any further mailings after you receive your first one. After registering for Geico privileges you will receive an email with a link to a code that will be used shortly.

Second, follow this link and submit your email address. Submitting your email gives you 12 free 4 oz burgers. You can either begin shopping directly from that web page (after you decline to refer friends) or you can start shopping through a link provided in the email confirmation from Omaha Steaks.

Once you have your code from Geico and are registered for 12 free burgers, you are ready to begin shopping. Access the Omaha Steak webpage by one of the two options mentioned above. At this point you can add anything you want to the cart. You have 12 free four oz steak burgers coming your way and a $25 gift card from Geico to work with. I decided to buy 8 five oz steak burgers to keep my costs to a minimum.

After completing your shopping click on checkout. It should show your free steak burgers as well as whatever else you selected. Input your billing address, shipping address, credit card info (or paypal) and gift card code. My balance came out to be $1.98!!! Happy eating.

PS3 Deal

Also, I have been frugally purchasing furniture and other items for my condo. I have one DVD player and a ps2, which doubles as a DVD player, usually. I say usually because it struggles to play DVDs every now and then. I use my regular DVD player in my bedroom as I like to watch episodes of Scrubs or The Office before I go to bed. I was relying on my ps2 to be my DVD player for my family room. Due to the lack of consistency from my ps2, I began searching for other options.

I decided on a ps3 for numerous reasons. Obviously it plays ps3 games, which I don’t plan on buying, instead I will borrow them from my friends who have had ps3 systems for over a year. Also, it doubles as a Blu-ray/DVD player. I don’t own any Blu-rays, nor do I plan on buying any in the near future. I do, however, hope to use services like netflix and blockbuster total access to rent Blu-ray discs.

Sony is offering a Sony Visa Credit Card that gives you a $150 credit after your first qualifying purchase of $299 or more. A qualifying purchase is any purchase over $299 at an authorized Sony retailer (including Best Buy, Circuit City and Amazon) within the first 45 days of account opening. Also, you can qualify for 12 months of no interest on qualifying purchases of $299 or more. Qualifying purchases are the same as described for the $150 credit.

Conveniently an 80GB ps3 is $400, which qualifies you for the $150 credit and 12 months of 0% financing. The ps3 will end up costing $250 plus tax, which is a great deal for a Blu-ray and state of the art video game player. Coupling this $150 credit with my $150 for opening a National City checking account, and the ps3 will cost $100. It’s important to note that the Sony Card has no annual fee and the 45 day period to make the qualifying purchase covers black friday.

Conclusion

I was pretty happy to find this deal from Omaha Steaks as meat is one of the most expensive items from my grocery shopping (right up there with giant bags of mozzarella cheese). Also, I hate paying full price for video game systems, which is usually why I wait a few years to frugally buy anything related to video games. The steak burgers and ps3 will be welcome additions to my new place.

Props to Catherine Wheels for finding the Omaha deal.

If you like what you have read please consider signing up for automatic updates via e-mail or RSS