We Need a Will

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My wife and I have been making do with a pair of old, do-it-yourself wills that I prepared using an old version of WillMaker (formerly from Nolo Press, now an Intuit product). To give you an idea of just how old this software is, it’s not even Y2K ready — the last time I updated our wills (about four years ago) I had to manually edit the output file to change the year from 1901 to 2001. Anyway, things have changed dramatically for us in the past few years. Both our finances and family have grown. In fact, our two youngest kids aren’t even mentioned in our wills. Thus, it seems like it’s time for an update. (more…)

Top 15 Commenters

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Just a quick note to let y’all know that I’ve created an automagically updating list of the top 15 commenters in the right side bar. Right now Jose Anes has the lead, but FMF is a close second and jim isn’t far behind. Note that getting your name on the leader board gives you a link back to your site (or another link back to your site if you’re already in my links section). So there you have it. Go forth and comment.

Note: The rankings are based on the name that you use when you make a comment so, if you’re interested in getting/staying on the leader board, then you should be consistent from comment to comment.

Double Your Pleasure With Citi Credit Protector

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As I’ve noted previously, Citi offers a Credit Protector signup bonus of $15, as well as $50 worth of rebates for remaining a member when you try to quit. As I’ve done in the past, I cashed the $15 signup check (which started a free 30 trial of the Credit Protector service), and then promptly called to cancel my membership once the welcome packet arrived. Once again, they offered me the rebate deal to remain a member and, once again, I accepted. Since this is one of my ‘dormant’ cards (i.e., I’ve maxed the rewards and am waiting for next year before using it again) taking the deal is a no-brainer — the fees are based on the closing balance each month, and no balance = no fees. (more…)

The Top (and Bottom) Jobs in the US

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CareerJournal.com has posted a list of the ten best and ten worst jobs in America. Given that their criteria included things such as income, stress, physical demands, outlook, security and work environment, it’s not terribly surprising that the ‘best’ list is full of mostly white collar, office-type jobs whereas the ‘worst’ list is riddled with physically demanding, labor-intensive jobs. In reading through the list, I was pleased to see my job near the top of the ‘best’ list — and even more pleased that I happen to agree with that assessment!

More on (Moron?) Leaky Toilet Repair

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As much as it sucked to have to fix our leaky toilet twice, doing it a third time actually wasn’t that bad. When I wrote yesterday that I had fixed the problem, I spoke too soon. Last night when I returned from work my wife informed me that the throw rug in the bathroom was wet, and that the leak didn’t seem to have been fixed. When I went to investigate more closely, I realized that I hadn’t fixed the entire problem… (more…)

The Fine Art of Fixing a Leaky Toilet

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Few things in life suck more than fixing a leaky toilet on a Friday night. But re-repairing it the next day certainly isn’t any better… The other day I noticed that we had some water leaking out from under the toilet in our kids’ bathroom, and it soon became apparent that the wax ring that seals it to the flange had somehow sprung a leak. I’m still not sure exactly how it happened, but my money is on the kids using it as a step stool. My three year old in particular gets up on it and then leans across the counter to the sink. I’m guessing that, over time, the lateral pressure from this loosened things up. Anyway, I digress…

I should first mention that I highly recommend the Home Depot “Home Improvement 1-2-3” book for anyone looking for a simple, clear, and straightforward home repair reference. I picked one of these up on a whim when we bought our house three years ago, and I’ve used it numerous times, particularly for minor plumbing issues. Then again, you can also find pretty much anything that you need with a quick Google search, so a book is far from necessary when it comes to stuff like this.

Okay, back to the story… The good news from all of this is that there wasn’t any water damage, and nothing particularly nasty had leaked out. I started the repair by shutting off the water and then draining/pulling the toilet. Next up was a quick run to Home Depot.

If you’ve never repaired a toilet then you’re probably not familiar with the many options that you have when it comes to wax rings. There’s the standard wax ring, the wax ring with a plastic ‘funnel’ in it that helps to direct the “contents” down the drain pipe, the polyurethane reinforced wax ring with funnel, and the new-fangled wax-free rubber bowl gasket. These range in price from about a buck for the plain wax ring up to $5ish for the rubber gasket.

Although I’ve used the non-reinforced wax ring with horn in the past with great success, I went against my better judgment and opted for the rubber gasket this time… Why not, I thought, it comes complete with a 10-year warranty, so it must be just what the doctor ordered for a high traffic commode. Right? Wrong.

I got home, ran a bead of caulk around the base of the flange (no sense risking water getting into the ceiling below if the problem returns), scraped the old wax off the bottom of the commode, cleaned it up, dried it, attached the gasket and replaced the commode. Sounds easy enough, but dropping the toilet back onto the bolts and hitting the flange more or less blind isn’t exactly a picnic.

I’ve read that you should put drinking straws over the anchor bolts to make it easier to line them up with the holes in the base of the commode, but I’ve found that straws are actually too flexible to help much, and many drinking straws are too thin to fit over the bolts. If only I had a toilet truck to ease the process!

With that done, I jumped in the shower, cracked open a beer, and enjoyed the rest of the evening. I then awoke Saturday morning to find a small(ish) amount of water around the base of the toilet. That high-faluttin’ rubber gasket was leaking! So…

I once again drained and pulled the toilet, and then headed back to Home Depot to return the crappy (no pun intended) gasket and to pick up the wax ring(s). Note here that you should always buy two wax rings — it’s incredibly easy to wreck one by putting the toilet down off center, and you don’t want to have to head back to the store mid-repair. Of course, buying two ensures that everything will go smoothly, and you’ll end up with an extra. But for less than $2.00 it’s worth the investment.

Back at the house I had a brainstorm. Straws suck for lining up the anchor bolts, but what about a Bic Round Stic ballpoint pen tube? They’re not only sturdier, but they fit over the bolts perfectly. So I quickly disassembled a pen, cut the tube in half, and then had an ever better brainstorm… Instead of putting the tubes over the bolts from the get go, I inserted them up through the bolt holes from below. It’s a bit hard to imagine if you’ve never repaired a toilet, but I couldn’t easily take a picture.

Anyway, the residual wax from the old ring was enough to hold the tubes in place so they stuck down ready to help me the toilet up with the bolts. Once I had the ring stuck to the bottom of the toilet, I slid it into position. I had it tipped forward (toward me) to keep the wax ring and tubes off the floor, and I slowly lowered it down (with my wife’s help) while aligning the tubes with the bolts. Once it was in place, I pulled the tubes off the bolts, squashed the ring onto the flange by sitting on the toilet, tightened the bolts, and I was done.

Total cost: $1.29 (+ tax) for the wax ring — I splurged and spent the extra $0.30 to get the one with the built in funnel — plus a couple of hours of my time. If I hadn’t opted for the rubber gasket (which I ultimately returned), and had gone straight to the tried-and-true wax ring instead, I could’ve done in little more than the time it would’ve taken me to arrange for a plumber.

The Salary Theorem

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Postulate 1: Knowledge is Power.

Postulate 2: Time is Money.

As anyone who has had a physics class knows: Power = Work / Time.

And since Knowledge = Power (Postulate 1) and Time = Money (Postulate 2)…

It is therefore true that: Knowledge = Work / Money.

Solving for Money, we get: Money = Work / Knowledge

Thus, as Knowledge approaches zero, Money approaches infinity, regardless of the amount of Work done.

A Penny Saved is Two Pennies Earned

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In his book The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need (an excellent read, by the way), Andrew Tobias spends a chapter talking about the fact that, after you factor in state, federal, social security, and sales taxes, every dollar you earn is only worth about $0.50 (depending on your tax bracket).

Thus, he argues that Ben Franklin had it wrong… If it a certain amount of income translates into half that much in terms of buying power, then a penny saved is much more than a penny earned. In fact, it’s worth upwards of $0.02 in extra earnings. So if you’re looking to improve your bottom line, think twice about those frivolous expenditures. It’s far more efficient to fix your finances by spending less as opposed to earning more.

Kids & Money: Learning to Save

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I just ran across a report from Montana State University on teaching your kids about finances. It’s a bit over a year old, but it’s short and worth a read. According to the article, only 7% of parents think that their kids understand financial matters (however that’s defined) and 30% of kids report that their parents never discuss saving and investing with them. They go on to suggest some good topics to discuss with your kids, including how and why your family saves as well as the difference between wants and needs. They also link to a great site on teaching children (and adults) how to save. It’s definitely worth checking out.

US Petroleum Reserve Nearly Full

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According to a recent AP report, the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve is nearly full for the first time since its inception 30 years ago. This is definitely good news, as it gives the country a bit of added security in the event of a future supply disruption. But will the end of stockpiling in August help to soften demand for oil, thereby reducing prices? (more…)