Selling stuff online if you are a kid

So I tell my son he should sell stuff online and earn some cash, rather than me re-selling his video games, books and music for him.  Constraint one: I don’t want to give him my financial account passwords or otherwise link my accounts to his seller accounts.  My son is 14.

1) Most online banks won’t let you open an account until about age 16, or they will only let you open a savings account.

2) Paypal will let a child open an account, but it must be linked to a checking or credit card account before you can do anything with it. (See #1) Paypal will let you open a subaccount of an adult account,  but this subaccount appears to be unable to pay ebay fees.

3) Half.com will not pay you unless you can accept ACH payments, presumably via checking account and doesn’t accept paypal.

4) Amazon.com auctions will not accept paypal for paying fees or receiving payment.

5) Things like visa BUXX appear to be only for making payments.  I haven’t check to see if BUXX cards can be used for paying fees on ebay, amazon or half. BUXX certainly can’t be used to receive payment.

So it looks like to keep my account separate from my sons, I need to set up under my name, address, etc, an entirely new checking account, paypal account, ebay account, amazon account, and half.com account and then give the logon credentials for those to my son.  What a pile of work!  Then in 2 or 4 years, I have to shut all these accounts down and trasfer them to accounts set up in my son’s name!

Someone stole my credit card number!

And they tried to charge $600 on it for some sports related thingy. Fortunately a watchful robot caught the transaction, denied it, called me and the whole card has now been canceled.

This just helps remind us how evil check cards are. If it was a check card, the bank would have let the transaction go through.

My experience also demonstrates how bills by email are somewhat of a mixed blessing. My email account over the years has become deluged with email. In the last few months I’ve been unsubcribing to everything. Still, after I logged on to check the rest of my credit card accounts, I noticed that I got hit with a late fee! It seems the email notification of my bill didn’t make it to my conscious mind.

Word to the computer savy– only do paperless billing if you are a convenience card user (i.e. pay your bill in full every month). Sign up for automatic payment. Check your bills periodically for fraud, and budget busting. Don’t rely on email for bill notifications. Close extra credit card accounts– not because they hurt your credit score, but because they require too much attention to monitor for fraud.

Skyrocketing eletricity prices in Virginia.

My electric bill went from $40 a month to $160.  At that rate, the eletric company will own me by January.  $50 of that is because the forgot to send me my bill for the previous month (Dominion eletrics own admission that they screwed up, I doubt they will undo the penalties on my account like they promised)  That leaves $110 for electricity when it usually is $40, and last August it was $90. I can’t believe how expensive the air conditioner is.  Anhow, time to turn it off.  Fortunately, my building has plenty of cold water for showering (no hot water, but that is a different story).

Frankly my dear, I don’t need a house

New York Times says rent to buy ratios may be back in line.  I don’t believe them.  For example, my apartment in Arlington would cost $300,000 plus, not the $200,000 that a rent to buy ratio of 17 would imply.  (And historically for the 80s and 90s, 10-14 was a more typical ratio) If anything, the rent to buy ratio in slums may be back in line.  This is very exciting news for unemployed winos and gang members, but not exciting for the middle class.

Arlington County Myth: Renting is throwing money away on a house, after all the rent could be paying down a mortgage three times over your life.

Arlington County Truth: Renting costs less than the interest on a house. In other words, the money you are spending on rent isn’t enough to reduce the size of a mortgage and associated costs of homeownership.

Arlington County Myth: Prices have stabilized, the bubble is over, it is safe to buy again.

Arlington County Truth: Arlington county residents who bought at bubble prices can put off reality until they have to sell and they don’t have to sell any time soon. As long as Arlington County housing prices are detached from fundamentals (regarding rent to buy ratios and house to income ratios), the bubble is on going. A slowly adjusting bubble is still a bubble.

News: Lots happening

Icelandic Meetup.  The nations first Icelandic meetup has also had the first two successful meetups.  By that I mean more than 0 RSVPs.

Swedish Meetup.  The Swedish meetups are now entering a steady state, about 2 meetups per month.

Job.  My inter-job vacation is over. I started my new job.  So far, I think I made the right decision.  Today I went to a 1 day software conference and got a free lunch box.  This will come in handy as I will need to start packing my lunch again.

Writing the Technical Resume

Advice culled from Niniane Wang
- For a project mention tools used, problem solved
- Don’t include rinky dink stuff along side impressive accomplishments
- Use metrics, not adjectives (wrote 5000 lines of code vs wrote lots of code, double execution time vs made application perform faster)

Advice from me
- Don’t list any technologies on your resume you never want to work with again. If you don’t want to get solicitations about COBOL jobs, don’t mention you know what COBOL is. If developers don’t take a stand against legacy code, then we are doing a serious disservice to our customers.  Friends don’t let friends write COBOL.

- Describe the skills earned at jobs you liked in detail. Describe jobs you didn’t like vaguely. You will be sought out for the job that was described in detail.

E Trade Credit Card Rewards

The etrade credit card has a rewards system. Unfortunately, the online catalog is broken, unusable, crap. Fortunately, the web site and catalog can be avoided entirely:

To redeem points:

  • Call 1-800-250-7734
  • Tell them you want a statement credit, currently $50 per 5000 points

I have no idea if they have merchandise that translates to more than 1% money back, but to save myself the hassle of dealing with this program, I’m willing to take the risk.

The mcrewards.net program looks like a third party program. If any banks are considering using it, I recommend that they run the other direction, unless of course they despise their customers, which I suppose is not an uncommon sentiment in the financial world.

Exchange Traded Funds

I’ve just finished an article about exchange traded funds. If you have enough money, get an index mutual fund instead. Transaction costs will sometimes be lower with an index fund versus one that requires a trading commission. BUT, if you are a micro-investor, say investing very small amounts as an alternative to putting a thousand bucks into a low interest rate saving account, you can sometimes buy ETF’s more cheaply. Then you can avoid the low balance fees you’d get hit with if you’d bought a index mutual fund. Also, one brokerage lets people buy ETFs efficiently. ETF are also cheaper if you are outside of the USA and don’t have access to US mutual funds.

In the end, you will still have to sit down with Excel to dicide how best to invest your $100 a week.

Etrade- A review

Good:

It’s online. That goes without saying.

Cheap transaction costs. If you have enough money to be investing, you probably have enough to qualify for the free checking, near 0% etrade index funds, high interest rate savings account, and ATM card reimbursements. Transaction cost should be everyone first consideration in looking for a financial services provider.

Single stop financial services shopping. While I think single stop is overrated for many things–it helps with the accounting to have all the banking type services in one place. When I have a separate account for checking, credit cards, stocks, savings, etc, I have way to many passwords to remember, way too much exposure to identity theft, etc.

Two factor identification. To get into my account you need to have something and know something. Hackers in Chelabinsk will not be able to rob me whilst sitting in their underwear eating dried herring, they would have to find me, mug me and torture me to get the necessary bits to steal my money.

Bad:

Customer service. Email brings out the incompetence in customer service representatives. Etrade is a good example of that dynamic. So far, it takes an average of two emails to get them to understand my request. They have managed to muck up the names on my checking account, when I tried to deactivate automatic investing, they deactivate only half of my automatic investing–they deactivated the funding part, not the buying part.

Credit Card rewards. The worlds most dilapidated and painful to use online rewards catalog. It is truly a million times worse than a PDF. Obviously no that works at Etrade uses the company credit card or they’d know about this broken rewards site and fix it. I am starting to miss my Amazon.com card.

The Etrade rewards site is a very old looking Java Servlet application that is optimized for Netscape and MSIE 5. The website runs not at all in MSIE7 and Firefox 2.0 It has no option for just listing the rewards. The search capabilities appear to be broken. It is unusably slow. And it is in an Iframe that requires left right scrolling. If nothing else, it is a good example of why you shouldn’t write a website optimized for as single browser, shouldn’t use Iframes and should use Java Servlets (and what ever java goo is behind it) only if you do performance testing.

Debit Cards. Debit cards are evil. They are not much more than a way to facilitate identity theft. Apparently it was too hard to steal identities and clean out people’s accounts using ATM cards, so Etrade, and many other banks, now offer only Visa Debit cards to help the mafia drain the accounts of the little people like myself.

Given that Etrade doesn’t have physical branches very close to me (except for one in DC), I still have to have a debit card if I plan to ever get cash out of my account. Knowing that, it was surprising how hard it was to wring a debit card from the unwilling hands of Etrade. I know that I hate debit cards, but seeing that it was Etrade that thought they were such a great idea, you’d think they’d be more willing to give them to their customers.

Oppenheimer Cares about your privacy, Bank of America Doesn’t

I live in an appartment, I get tons of mail everyday, much of it not for me, but for the last 50 residents of my apartment. Many of these incorrect mailings are financially related–bank statements, pension statements, credit card applications, debt collection dunns, and so on.

I tried marking them “Return to Sender” but the mail man refuses to take them (lazy bastard).

I’ve started emailing some of the senders and kindly asking them to update the address of the previous resident to the return mail address so that the loop can be closed more efficiently.

Steaks of Omaha– no problem.

Bank of America– three requests, they are only capable of sending robo-mail, which ironically has the name of different humans on each response.

Oppenheimer Funds– they agreed to stop sending me some strangers mail! Kudos to Oppenheimer.

I don’t understand why a financial institution wouldn’t stop sending mail to somone upon request from the new resident of an apartment.