Cable TV is undergoing some strange turns lately but it is a good indication that cable TV has become relatively worthless.   I keep seeing commercials from Comcast and AT&T which highlight the benefits of their service.

For Comcast, it seems to be how many shows you can record at once which seems to now be four.  Really?  You have enough free time to watch four shows?  Presumably, if each show is an hour that’s four hours of TV to put on your “to watch” list and that’s just one day.   If there are seven days in the week and you’re recording 4 shows at once per day then that’s 28 hours of TV shows in one week.   Are Comcast customers clamoring for this nonsense service?   How much TV do these people watch?

For AT&T, it seems watching TV everywhere anywhere with either that wireless receiver so you can take your $3000 65″ LED TV outside in the patio to watch your favorite show or Mark Cuban walking around with his ipad watching TV every step of the way like a stoned idiot.

Let me give both Comcast and AT&T customers a hint, you can watch most of the shows from around the world on a little box called a ROKU with subscription to HuluPlus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.    These three services will cost you less than $25 per month (assuming you already have internet) and there is no need for a “magic box” that you can take outside to your patio or one that can record 5x shows at once.    And while I haven’t tried Chromecast, the new FireTV from Amazon or some other new products, I’m sure they offer way more than either Comcast or AT&T.

 

 

 

This is a Public Service Announcement: Stay the HELL away from KeeperSecurity.com.    Here’s the story….

For the past couple of years, I’ve been keeping my password set on my iPad on an app called Keeper HD.  The app worked well and I kept it up to date regularly.  Well a couple of weeks ago, the app stopped working cold.  No notice, no rhyme or reason why the app stopped working but it stopped working.    You can read the comments here and this was once a 4/5 star app but it’s dropping fast and within the next month it will probably be a one star app and this group of idiots will end up filing for bankruptcy.

After desperately trying to contact tech support I finally got a reply that basically stated the following: “The free version does not include Sync and Cloud Backup capabilities, we cannot guarantee that data is unaffected by software updates, device replacement.”

So what I’ve been able to piece together….the company decided they wanted to force everyone to mandatorily provide an email and create an online account for their “service” and subsequently disabled/killed/messed up the old application in iTunes leaving hundreds if not more stranded and unable to access hundreds of passwords.   Hey, it’s a free app so what did you expect?  No support, No help, No care in the world because it was a FREE app and you get what you pay for right?

Essentially, if you were using this app to manage your passwords you are now officially screwed.  I have started the slow painful process of manually recovering password by visiting websites and going through those annoying questions and answer sessions x 100 times.

There is an old saying, “Burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice, shame on me” so consider this a fair warning about this or any other FREE app you may be using to secure your passwords.   Also be weary of a company that insists on storing your passwords in the cloud – haven’t there already been dozens of reported hacking incidents into credit cards, banks, and other “secure”  cloud spaces and now I’m supposed to store my passwords there?  Get real!

Keeper You Suck!

After many decades of better than normal vision, I am now finally in need of glasses.   I actually bought a pair of nice reading glasses a couple of years ago through my optometrist and was just SHOCKED to learn the glasses I ordered were $600.  While insurance paid for most of it, I thought it was still ridiculous that glasses should cost $600 so I decided I would search for a cheaper alternative online.

I ended up finding several low cost internet shops and settled on Zenni Optical for their somewhat good reviews.  Big Mistake!  While the glasses only cost me $70, they are barely useable.   There is a large distortion on both lenses.  I complained to Zenni Optical and they did give me an RMA number but when I recently got the glasses back, they’re still unusable.   This is after waiting weeks for the first bad lenses to arrive only to follow that up with several more weeks of waiting for the same horrible lenses.

I am wearing them right now and I might as well be looking through Coke bottles.    Lessons learned here is don’t get ripped off by low cost glasses.  I’ll probably just go to Costco next time and get a new pair from their through my insurance program.

ZenniOptical.com sucks!

For the last two years I was a Sprint customer with four iPhone 4S devices in our family.   Unfortunately, those phones did not work to well when we visited France, Spain, Italy or the half dozen other places I flew around the world over the year.  While voice service worked sporadically, data was absolutely horrible on Sprint.

I essentially had enough with the international problems but was considering renewing with Sprint simply because I was already there but then lo and behold, T-Mobile offered something I could not pass up – free international data on their plans!

I immediately switched after waiting weeks and weeks for Apple to deliver four new shiny apple iphone 5s devices. With my new service working as awesome as possible even working perfectly when landing in Sweden late last year I started to think about what I could do with my old iPhone 4S devices.

TmobileRocks

I posted a “For Sale” sign on our company’s intranet to see if anyone was interested.  Much to my surprise, I got 12 interested parties wanting the phone but ONLY if they were T-mobile compatible.   Unfortunately, these phones won’t work on T-mobile and will ONLY work on Sprint or some convoluted international networks.

I ultimately did find someone that wanted to purchase two of the phones and then someone else that wanted the third but I still have a fourth phone sitting on my desk now idle.   Had these phones been T-mobile compatible, they would have sold immediately.   The good news is that if I want to upgrade in a couple of years, I know I’ll be able to sell these iPhone 5S devices in no time.

Sorry Sprint, but I won’t ever be coming back to you, your CDMA branded phones have little value in the resale market and that ultimately costs me money which has to be factored into the money equation.

Tmobile will you marry me because it’s looking like you’re gonna be rich.

I’ve used eBay on exactly two occasions to purchase something and only because I was desperate and Amazon didn’t have something I needed desperately in stock.   The first was 2004 and the last was in late 2013.  I know the exact times because I keep very good records and both experiences have been absolutely horrible.

I don’t remember the first time but it must have been something bad enough to keep me away for nearly 10 years but this time I’m going to document my experience here so I’ll look back at why I should never repeat business with these clowns again.

For Christmas, I received a Phantom Quadcopter and a GoPro camera.  If you want to see the cool things and fun you can have with this thing head over to YouTube and type Phantom+GoPro.     In any event, after a few days of playing with my Phantom, one of the locking nuts flew off along with the rotor blade causing my Phantom to come tumbling down from the sky and crashing into the ground.   Fortunately it was only about 15 feet off the ground when it happened and the Phantom received little damage sans the rotor.

Unfortunately, I lost the locking nut for the rotor when it flew off.  It was a small little nut and while I had spare rotors, I did not have any spare locking nuts.  The bird would not fly without the locking nut.    The counterclockwise nut is/was out of stock on Amazon and still out of stock to this day…

I found a couple of the nuts on ebay from two different vendors and desperate to make sure I get some, I ordered from two different vendors a set of four nuts.    Keep in mind that I ordered these nuts right after Christmas a couple of days after it crashed.   Fast forward a couple of weeks and I’m still waiting.    I tried emailing the vendor but was surprised to get a message from ebay that I had already, “exceeded the maximum number of messages I can send per day.”   Seriously, I had sent a message two minutes earlier to describe my problem then forgot to mention a couple of things and was going to send a follow up but I’m done and need to send a message some other day.

ebaysucks

WTF kind of experience is this at eBay?   To this day, I have no idea when I’ll get my nuts but it doesn’t matter because shortly after I placed the order, I drove 180 miles to a hobby shop that had them in stock and loaded up on them and some new rotors that don’t require the locking nut.

Contrast this against Amazon.com where I’ll have virtually anything I order delivered in two days with no need to send messages, wait a day or two to communicate with the vendor, and know when I’m going to get something delivered.

People think eBay saves them money until you realize the hours you waste trying to track down something is a huge waste of time/money in of itself.

So long eBay, as soon as I get my merchandise, if ever, I’m throwing my account away…..

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably are aware that it is now illegal to sell or import traditional incandescent light bulbs. The “old” bulbs typically cost a little over a buck and had a bonus of generating a little heat to warm your house during the winter. The new bulbs are either compact florescent containing things like mercury or LED bulbs which have their own toxic substances within.

As bad as the mercury and other things are however isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the new bulbs cost a lot more money. The premise of the new bulbs is that they will last a lot longer than the old bulbs but that has not been my experience.

It seems for me, I’m having to frequently change the new light bulbs in two areas of my home. The first is the bathroom where these bulbs rarely last over a year. Perhaps the constant turning them on/off in the morning and in the evening is too much wear and tear? The second areas is the kitchen dining area where we have breakfast and dinner every day. This is another area where we constantly turn the bulbs on and off. I’ve probably spent more money replacing the bad bulbs than I have save with their energy efficiency and I now have to turn the heater on just a little bit higher because the bulbs don’t generate heat!

I’m now on a mission to get to the bottom of the longevity of these bulbs. I’ve taken a Sharpe and written the date on the base of the bulb of when I installed it and will compare that to when the bulb dies in the hopes of understanding what the problem is with these bulbs.

Me thinks it’s one huge scam!

The latest travesty from the IRS seems to be limiting 401k contributions to the same amount as last year at $17,500 with no adjustments for inflation. Did I miss something where inflation was put on hold this year?

Here is an historical look at 401k contributions for the last few years:

2005 – $14,000 for 49 and younger and $4000 more for those 50 or over
2006 – $15,000 for 49 and younger and $5000 more for those 50 or over
2007 – $15,500 for 49 and younger and $5000 more for those 50 or over
2008 – Same as 2007
2009 to 2011 – $16,500 for 49 and younger and $5500 more for those 50 or over
2012 – $17,000 for 49 and younger and $5500 more for those 50 or over
2013 – $17,500 for 49 and younger and $5500 more for those 50 or over
2014 – same as 2013

If I go back to 2005 and apply a simple 3 pct inflation adjustment to the original 2005 contribution limits and used that as a basis then the 401k limits should have been

2006 – $14,420 and $4,120
2007 – $14,852 and $4,244
2008 – $15,298 and $4,371
2009 – $15,757 and $4,502
2010 – $16,230 and $4,637
2011 – $16,716 and $4,776
2012 – $17,218 and $4,919
2013 – $17,735 and $5,067
2014 – $18,266 and $5,219

The overall trend does not bode well for the average retiree. The IRS limits are trending downward not in favor of the average worker when factored against inflation for the last four years. For 2014 the variance from $18,266 to $17,500 is $767 in income excluded from 401k contribution on an inflation adjusted basis.

So now let’s take a look at the social security wage limits.

2005 – taxes on $90,000 of income
2006 – $94,200
2007 – $97,500
2008 – $102,000
2009 – $106,800
2010 – $106,800
2011 – $106,800
2012 – $110,100
2013 – $113,700
2014 – $117,000

Interestingly, if I take the 2005 amount of $90,000 and apply a 3 pct inflation adjustment, The 2014 value is magically $117,430. It seems when it comes to social security income taxes inflation is alive and well!

When it comes to helping taxpayers save money using 401k, the US government screws the taxpayer. When it comes to taking money for social security, the US government screws taxpayers yet again.

And now you know why I won’t be voting for donkeys next election cycle!

I got my paycheck stub today and while I have one more pay period before the end of the year, I couldn’t help but notice that when I add up Federal Income Tax, Social Security, and Medicare taxes, it tallies up to a whopping $45,000.  This is just the tax on my paycheck, there are all sorts of other taxes and fees I’ve paid throughout the year and it’s painful to see so much money go down the drain.

Of course, this doesn’t include my wife’s income either which is another huge chunk of money but that’s not even the worse part!   The worst part is that I will have mandatory stock exercises starting in 2015 which will only make the tax situation far worse.

The key of course is to tax plan this year and next and it doesn’t help that I’ve got a kid that will be starting college soon and will need financial aid.  So far, things are not shaping up too well and I’ll hopefully write about some strategies in the near future.

How would you handle a 25% increase in monthly health insurance premiums?  That was the topic at lunch today when one of my co-workers (contractor) stated that his family health insurance policy was rising from $750 per month to $940 per month.   I pointed out the obvious, “How do you expect 40 million uninsured people to suddenly get insurance without someone somewhere paying for it?”

Somewhere out there is an insurance company raking in $12,000 per year out of my co-worker.  That’s $12,000 that won’t get spent on iPads, iPhones, televisions, furniture, new carpet, new kitchen, or anything else that will drive the economy.   The $12,000 will be spent on $200 aspirin, $4000 X-Rays, and a bunch of mis-priced, mis-allocated capital investments and operational expenses at a hospital somewhere that wants a cut of the action or into the hands of insurance companies.

I think most people were thinking the “government” was going to pick up the tab for Obamacare and then people realized that the “government” is nothing more than “we the people” so the working people are now subsidizing and providing “free” health insurance to the non-working or working poor.

I’m really curious to see what the next few election cycles are going to bring and I think the economy will head for a disastrous Obamacare driven financial collapse  in 2014 when we start seeing the full effect of this policy and premiums continue to go out of control.

With several recent deaths in our circle of family and friends of people all in their 50′s, coupled with the fact that my kids have grown from zero to teens in a blink of an eye, I’ve made a concerted effort to visit more of the world over the next few years as quickly as time allows.   If there is one thing I’ve done my entire life is to learn from my mistakes but learn even more from the missed opportunities and mistakes of others.

Do you think you’re going to live through your 40s? What about your 50s?  Are you saving up for retirement to enjoy that trip to Paris?   Well I certainly wish you the best of luck but if you want to go to Paris or Rome or Bangkok but I would suggest you don’t wait till tomorrow when today will do!

As for me, I’ve been down to South America three times, Europe twice, and a few places in the U.S. this year and my travel plans for next year will take me to Japan, Europe and maybe South America next year.

 

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