Friday, May 28, 2010

Blogroll Update

I have recently cleaned out and updated my Blogroll (Blog List) in the sidebar. Blogs are sorted with the most recently updated blog at the top. I regularly read posts in my blog list, and I like that I can quickly tell which blogs have been recently updated.

I am removing Retiring Early and Finance Puzzle from the Blog list because they appear to be dead blogs. I have also added a "Links" page which is directly below the PFStock header. This page contains blogs that don't have a traditional blogroll. These blogs have been moved to the Links page: Moneymonk, Growing Money, and Saving to Invest. Realm of Prosperity has inexplicably removed its link to PFStock, so I am deleting this blog from my list.

Being listed in the PFStock blog list can be a benefit, especially to new PF bloggers. Once listed on the blog list, your blog will be linked from every page PFStock has published since 2006. That will translate to hundreds of links to your blog.

You can have your blog listed for FREE at PFStock, if you have a bona fide personal finance blog. Please Email me (my contact information is listed in the sidebar) about exchanging links. Since I regularly read posts from blogs in my blog list, this would automatically increase your readership. Note that I do not currently link to commercial, real estate, or multi-level marketing blogs.

Only personal finance blogs that are written by individual bloggers on a not-for-profit basis qualify for a free listing in the blog list. Blogs and websites that do not qualify for a free listing may inquire about the advertising rates offered for PFStock sponsors.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Good Riddance Beal Bank

Several years ago, I opened a checking account at This online bank offered a checking account with a decent interest, and the bank would reimburse ATM charges if you made a withdrawal from a "foreign" ATM. I later opened a Pot O' Gold Money Market account with them, and eventually had tens of thousands of dollars at Umbrellabank.

Fast forward to December 2009, when Umbrella Bank (a division of New South Federal Savings Bank) was taken over by Beal Bank after being closed by the FDIC. At first, Beal Bank tried to reassure customers that everything was business as usual at the newly acquired bank, stating in a letter to account holders that "Your ATM/debit card will continue to work, and bill paying will work as it has in the past."

Just last month, I received a packet of material from Beal Bank essentially saying that they were eliminating all Umbrella Bank Checking accounts, and that ATM cards, bill payments and checks would no longer be honored as of May 10, 2010. This was the first time I had heard about this change.

So with less than three weeks notice, they sent me scrambling to find other places to put my money. I was especially annoyed because I used Umbrella Bank's online bill payment services. I had to setup another bank account to handle those payments. To make matters worse, it seemed that when Beal Bank eliminated online bill payments, they also eliminated online transfers, making it much harder to get your money out of Beal Bank once the conversion was completed.

Well, to make long story short, I finally got the last of my money out of Beal Bank, and I can now confidently say "Good Riddance!" to Beal Bank.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Review: Personal Capital

I was asked to write a review of the book "Personal Capital: Foundational Concepts of Capitalism" by J.L. Eaton. The book is approximately 200 pages, and was self-published by the author through The text serves as a good introduction to personal finance. In the introduction, Mr. Eaton spells this out, saying "This book is written for those who have recently joined the professional workforce after finishing college and who are just starting out in the respective careers."

The book contains five main sections covering these topics: Basic Economics, Debt, Taxes, Real Estate, and Investments. Drawing upon such works as The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko, the author builds a case for accumulating investment assets and reducing debts. The author covers some of the most basic of economic ideas, such as The Rule of 72.

The author defines the term "Personal Capital" to represent the value of your investment assets minus all debts owed. This roughly corresponds to what most of us would refer to as Net Worth. However, he specifically excludes non-financial assets such as televisions, DVD players, laptops, desktop computers, and the like. Also excluded from Personal Capital is one’s primary residence. In addition to an extensive discussion of real estate, the author devotes a major section to the treatment of taxes. There is a lot of good information here, but one caveat that I can give is that some of the information is dated. The book was recently published (at the end of 2009), but the author often references tax rates and rules for 2008. As we all know, tax regulations are moving targets that change almost every year, so his numbers may not be current.

There is a section about securities that mostly cover bonds, and leaves only a short discussion of stocks. As the writer of a stock investing blog, I had hoped that the author would give a more detailed treatment of stocks. However, I understand that he has a broad topic to cover, and cannot get into every detail. The book is written in the style of a research paper where the author highlights the main points of each topic by drawing upon other writings. He makes generous use of footnotes throughout the book that refer to such texts as The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach, and Warren Buffet’s Letters to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

The general financial advice given is solid and straightforward. It should not surprise anybody with a basic understanding of personal finance. Thankfully, there are no get rich quick scams presented in this book. The author does a good job of covering a lot of material within 200 pages. Unlike popular finance authors like Robert Kiyosaki, and David Bach, Mr. Eaton hasn’t trademarked any buzzwords like "The Cashflow Quadrant". So, I don’t get the feeling that he is trying to sell me something else (like another book or audio program) when I’m reading this book.

Overall, I think that the author’s target audience may benefit from this well-written book. You are not likely to find Personal Capital at your local bookstore, but it is available through for $14.99. It can also be purchased as a PDF file download (ebook) from for only $6.

J.L. Eaton lives in Northern Virginia (near Washington DC) with his wife Marci. He maintains the Capitalism Curriculum website.