Feb 6, 2015

Intuit TurboTax Problems Increase

Many - maybe most - advisers say we should wait until the end of March before filing income tax returns. Software changes initiated by software provides to correct bugs or adjust the software to new government requirements sometimes continue to be made all the way to the end of March.

As I have been pointing out to friends for the last few months, TurboTax and Intuit have been taking a bad beating at Amazon for the decision to delete certain features from TurboTax Deluxe and force people who need it to spend an extra $20 or so for TurboTax Premier: (http://amzn.to/1KoLvvQ)

The bad reviews were even mentioned in a recent article at the New York Times.

Now Intuit seems to be responding. There is a $20 rebate in effect at Amazon, so you could get Premier for the same price they were originally charging to Deluxe.

Other problems remain, however. For one thing, fraudulent returns being filed with TurboTax are being discovered: Fraudulent Tax Returns.

Will this ever end?

Oct 21, 2014

Your 401K or Other Investments: How much should you keep in cash?

Brett Arends gives us a nicely written reminder that needs continual repetition:

...your long-term investment returns will overwhelmingly depend ... upon just two things: asset allocation - how you spread your money between investments like stocks and bonds - and the value of those investments when you buy them.
He then reviews the evidence behind this assertion and gives some hints about how to make those two factors work in your favor.

When the markets look really bad, should you go entirely into cash? For example, think of the financial crisis of 2007-2008. How much should you keep in cash during such tough times?

Maybe more than you think.

Even during bad times, Arends suggests, 40% cash was about the most bearish a long-term investor would want to be.

Access article from here.

Jan 18, 2014

Cloud Services Like BittorrentSync Do Not Play Well With TrueCrypt: Experiments

Imagine yourself preparing for a business trip on which you will need a large number of sensitive files when you arrive at your destination. Being a sensible person, you're not comfortable having unencrypted sensitive files on your laptop, so you store the files in a large TrueCrypt container with state-of-the-art encryption.

When you open your laptop to use the sensitive files at your destination, you find that all the needed files are missing – none of them were properly synchronized to the laptop. Worse yet, you get home and find out that all the files created for the trip on your home desktop had been permanently destroyed!

Road warrior, you are screwed!

I very narrowly avoided having that happen to me during preparations for an upcoming trip. This post will alert you to things I learned that might help you avoid having such things happen to you. I discuss:
  1. Encryption tools
  2. Synchronization tools and issues
  3. Major problems with existing synchronization tools – BitTorrentSync-Beta and other cloud services

Encryption Tools

There are dozens of ways to effectively protect sensitive files on computers that you use at home or

Jul 25, 2013

Austerity leads to Papal Fiat

Stacy Meichtry reports on yet another manifestation of the frugal lifestyle Pope Francis is bringing to the Vatican:
On his first trip to Latin America, history's first New World pope grabbed headlines with his decision to ditch the bulletproof Mercedes-Benz popemobile for a silver Fiat Idea for his inaugural drive around Rio de Janeiro. More-Affordable Popemobile
Oh, well. Hope he keeps the Ford Focus.

Jul 13, 2011

Chicago Tribune: Realty trade group overreported Chicago home prices

Chicago Tribune reporter Mary Ellen Podmolik has apparently caught the Illinois Association of Realtors publishing misleading information about condo prices in Chicago over the last one to three years. Maybe even longer.
The Illinois Association of Realtors said Monday that the median price it reported for home sales within the city of Chicago was inflated in May and mistakes in its reports may go back more than three years...The state Realtors' group acknowledged the errors after the Tribune, acting on a tip, questioned the accuracy of the May report. The group believes median prices for both condos and detached single-family homes sold within the city contain errors..."It's not just May," said Mary Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Association of Realtors, adding that the mistakes appear to go back at least through January. "We're trying to figure out where the bug occurred. We should have caught it. We pride ourselves on having accurate data. We want to make sure there is 100 percent clean data."

The size of the Realtors' errors is statistically significant, at least based on the May median price for condo sales wtihin the city. In its official report that has now been discredited, the trade group previously said that the median price of an existing condo sold in Chicago in May was $299,000, compared with $271,150 recorded in May 2010. In fact, the median price was $243,000, compared to a year-ago price of $265,000, according to data from Midwest Real Estate Data LLC, the multiple listing service for the Chicago area.
Frugal Ben does not like articles about quantitative information that bury the numbers in text. Here is a table which extracts data from the Tribune article to summarize its conclusions:

Feb 10, 2011

James Hillman Still Provoking Leftist Fashionistas

Throughout the early 90's I attended a number of seminars with James Hillman. Watching him work with symbols and dreams was a transcendent experience -- he was acutely sensitive to the needs of the dreamer, brilliant in his ability to parse obscure images and amazing in his talent for forming links between inner experiences and the culture that enveloped one. When he talked about the psychic underpinnings of popular culture, he was superlative in his ability to articulately parse subtleties. He pops into my head every time someone asks me who might be the wisest man I ever met. Got some recent email with an article about Hillman's critique of the left (to which he actually belongs).
It's clear everyday that the left and the right are in a marriage. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly talked obsessively about MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, and Olbermann talked obsessively about O'Reilly; they were locked in a marriage. And for all that the liberals want to mock Glenn Beck, he is talking about American history and political theory that the left neglects...Even MSNBC is "leaning forward." But I'd like to see it lean backward, which is what the word reflection means. What, for instance, is in the shadow of these fixed ideals? One thing that's being ignored is history. In a certain way, the liberal world has been lax about standing for true American history.
Sadly, I am reaching an age at which one is just delighted to learn that a man you admire is still kicking it, but he is the same provocative guy now that he was in his late 60's when I first met him. The link came shortly after I scanned a controversial book about the growing number of rich progressives who intend to channel their fortunes into the betterment of society. The book touches upon some of the same themes that Hillman raises. Prominent in these themes an implicit comparison made between a social reformer and a soldier: The progressive reformer who disrespects money is like a Marine who disrespects the rifle. Both of these warriors are condemned to failing to achieve their missions. The lesson here seems to be pretty straightforward: Forget the academic fashionistas who educate our kids to despise their middle-class roots. Unless our most altruistic young people learn how to arm themselves with the financial means to affect the balance of power, we're not going to get a better world.

Feb 7, 2011

Do Football Fans Support Attacks on Press Freedom?

Superbowl is over and disgruntled fans who were denied their seats are mostly back home, still grousing. What did these fans expect from the business owners? Fairness and consideration? David Carr reports on a threat to a Washington newspaper:

Back in November, when Daniel M. Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, was pilloried at length in a piece in the Washington City Paper, a local weekly, he had a number of options: He could have ignored the article, contacted the newspaper and asked for equal time or corrections, or he could have used his bully pulpit as the owner of both a pro sports team and a number of local radio stations to respond.

Mr. Snyder chose none of the above, instead commissioning David P. Donovan, the general counsel of the Redskins, to write a letter to the owners of the newspaper that included the following paragraph:

“Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation and defend himself and his wife against your paper’s concerted attempt at character assassination. We presume that defending such litigation would not be a rational strategy for an investment fund such as yours. Indeed, the cost of the litigation would presumably quickly outstrip the asset value of the Washington City Paper.”...

The article was an instant cult classic among long-suffering Redskins fans...

Neither Mr. Snyder nor his executives ever got in touch with the newspaper or its editors, preferring to try to exercise leverage on the hedge fund that owned it...

Something to think about as you stake out a position for the upcoming strike/lockout? Frugal Ben Says: As long as it's free, enjoy your football on your big-screen TV. Forget about the "Who's supposed to pay for producing all this content?" argument. Let 'em suffer like the newspapers! Eventually the owners, like the publishers, might get it right. Donating your dollars to these guys by going to the stadium makes you a sap. More from football blog