Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blogroll - Link Exchange

I have added a blogroll to the sidebar of PFStock.com. I actually use Blogger's "My Blog List" feature which shows blog names with the title of its most recent post. Blogs are sorted with the most recently updated blog at the top. I regularly read the posts in my blog list, and I am looking to add more blogs to my blog list.

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. Thanks.

Note: You will also receive an entry in the H&R Block At Home Giveaway if you add PFStock to your blogroll.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

H&R Block Giveaway Contest

The folks at H&R Block have provided me a copy of H&R Block At Home Deluxe (retail value $45) to give away to one of my lucky blog readers. H&R Block At Home was formerly known as TaxCut. This giveaway is for a new Deluxe (Tax Year 2009) version of H&R Block At Home which includes tax preparation for both Federal & State returns. That should be adequate for most people to complete their own taxes. Although the software includes free federal e-file, you may have to pay extra if you want to also efile a state return.

I have decided to hold a random drawing for the software. You can have up to three chances to win the prize:

1) Any reader can post a comment below describing your best tax or money saving tip.
2) For an additional entry, web site owners can link to this post, to let other know about this contest.
3) Lastly, my fellow bloggers can add PFStock to your blogroll (must be accessible from blog's main page) for one more entry in the drawing.

There is one more step. Since Blogger does not automatically collect contact information, and I allow anonymous comments, you will need to send me an Email message letting me know that you posted a comment, created a link to my post, and/or added PFStock your blogroll. (My E-mail address is in the sidebar of my blog.)

This drawing is limited to US residents. The software requires Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Mac OS X 10.4.11 or greater. The winner will be picked by random drawing among the valid entries received by February 12th. I will contact the winner to get their mailing address, and I'll pick up the cost of postage. (Note that the software come in a sealed retail box, but it got a little bit crushed when it was mailed to me.) Good luck to everyone who enters!


See also: When Will I Get My Refund?
Note: H&R Block At Home software was provided for review by H&R Block. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, January 18, 2010

IRS e-file – When Will I Get My Refund?

If you are wondering when you can expect to receive your tax refund from the IRS, they have a publication where you can look this information up. If you used IRS e-file, the information is listed in Publication 2043 for 2010. For people who efile, this publication is printed in both English and Spanish.

I copied a portion of the table below which shows when your federal tax refund should be deposited in your bank account (by direct deposit), or when your check would be mailed if you e-filed and your refund was accepted within certain dates.

Transmitted and accepted
(by 11:00 am) between…
Direct Deposit
Paper Check
Jan 15 and Jan 21, 2010 Jan 29, 2010 Feb 5, 2010
Jan 21 and Jan 28, 2010 Feb 5, 2010 Feb 13, 2010
Jan 28 and Feb 4, 2010 Feb 12, 2010 Feb 19, 2010
Feb 4 and Feb 11, 2010 Feb 19, 2010 Feb 26, 2010
Feb 11 and Feb 18, 2010 Feb 26, 2010 Mar 5, 2010
Feb 18 and Feb 25, 2010 Mar 5, 2010 Mar 12, 2010
Feb 25 and Mar 4, 2010 Mar 12, 2010 Mar 19, 2010
Mar 4 and Mar 11, 2010 Mar 19, 2010 Mar 26, 2010
Mar 11 and Mar 18, 2010 Mar 26, 2010 Apr 2, 2010
Mar 18 and Mar 25, 2010 Apr 2, 2010 Apr 9, 2010
Mar 25 and Apr 1, 2010 Apr 9, 2010 Apr 16, 2010
Apr 1 and Apr 8, 2010 Apr 16, 2010 Apr 23, 2010
Apr 8 and Apr 15, 2010 Apr 23, 2010 Apr 30, 2010
Apr 15 and Apr 22, 2010 Apr 30, 2010 May 7, 2010

While it may be interesting information to have, this is the federal government that we are talking about. I've heard some anecdotal stories about the IRS taking a lot longer to process refunds in 2009, so I would take the information with a grain of salt.

Updated table: When Will I Get My 2011 Tax Refund?
See also: Has Anyone Received Their Tax Refund?


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mint.com Versus Yodlee

A commenter on my recent post about Yodlee's account aggregation service mentioned another website called Mint.com. I have known about Mint.com for some time, but I've never used them for account aggregation. Another commenter mentioned that Mint runs with a Yodlee backend and provides a "pretty user interface" on the front end.

To give credit where credit is due, it looks like Peter Hazlehurst (Senior Vice President at Yodlee) has once again resurfaced. I have said that Yodlee's customer service is fairly responsive, and they have corrected the problems I had experienced with missing and duplicate transactions in my Bank of America and Chase accounts. I also have not received any "Account Error" messages since December 10th, so I take that as a good sign.

Getting back to the topic, can anybody who has used both Yodlee and Mint.com tell me what the advantage and disadvantages of each one is? What do other readers think? Thanks.

See also: Does Anybody Use Wesabe?


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Backward Investor

Would you rather make 18% in a year on your investment or lose 33% in a year on your investments? Believe it or not there is a subset of investors who would prefer to lose 33% rather than gain 18% on their investments. Let me clarify. The Standard and Poors (S&P) 500 index went down 38.49% (excluding dividends) in 2008. This past year, in 2009, the S&P 500 gained 23.45%. There is a subset of investors who strive to "beat the S&P 500." This perverse group of people would be thrilled to have lost only 33% of their money in 2008 because they would have beaten the S&P 500 by over 5%. This is referred to as "generating positive alpha". (If you didn't invest in the stock market at all and ended up with a 0% return, you would have beaten the S&P 500 by 38% in 2008, and generated 38% positive alpha by doing nothing.) In either case, I didn't exactly see many people celebrating their investment portfolios in 2008.

By contrast, these same folks would be bummed out to make only 18% on their investments last year in 2009 because they would have underperformed the S&P 500 by more than 5%. I don't know about you, but I would happy to make 18% in a year on my investments, and would feel ashamed if I had lost 33% in my investments (regardless of how badly the rest of the market is doing). The truth be told, I used to compare my stock performance against the S&P. After I saw how ridiculous that comparison can be, I don't do that anymore. This reminds me of the "keeping up with the Joneses" comparison in personal finance. My advice is not to constantly compare your portfolio performance with the S&P, Nasdaq, or your neighbors. Instead, strive to improve your own position year over year.

My final comment is directed to those who still believe that comparing against the S&P 500 index or investing in S&P 500 index funds is a good idea. For the 10-year period ending on December 31, 2009, the S&P 500 index lost 24.1% (excluding dividends). That ought to give you something to think about.