Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Two date errors appeared in last week's "Political Awakening" article. The Cuban missile crisis occurred in October, 1962 rather than August, 1961 as reported. Also, Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and not November 23 as appeared in the article. The correct date was displayed in the Day in History section. We strive to provide accurate information in GCFlash and apologize for these errors. Our thanks to the reader who brought this to our attention.
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Kindle vs. Nook
In this corner, the challenger. At 7.5 oz. with a six inch display screen, hailing from Barnes and Noble: the Nook Touch.
This latest version of the popular eReader is a challenger in name only. Most every feature compares identical to the current champ. Battery life was an issue with earlier versions of this device. No longer. You can now get up to two months on a full charge if WiFi is turned off. Leaving it turned on when you're not using it drains any system.
The basic unit stores up to 1,000 eBooks. Memory is expandable up to 32 GB. But Barnes and Noble only allows a percentage of that for third-party content.
The Nook Touch doesn't support audio and only has a hidden browser. But unless you need text-to-speech functions, this isn't a show stopper.
Have a question about your Nook? Get human help at any Barnes and Noble bookstore. They also have exclusive in-store offers for Nook owners.
And in this corner, the champion. At 7.5 oz. with a six inch display screen, hailing from Amazon: the Kindle Touch.
Physical size of this version is only centimeters smaller than its challenger. Kindle held an edge here with previous offerings. Battery life is identical to its challenger as well.
You can use text-to-speech apps and play audio books on a Kindle Touch. Store up to 3,000 eBooks. Memory is not expandable, but are you really going to need more storage than that?
Turn pages easily on a Kindle with a simple tap. No need to reach for a dedicated key as you do with a Nook.
The advantages of any eReader are extensive. These small devices transport easily. No need to drag a stack of books with you on vacation.
Finish one book, download the next without having to run to the bookstore.
If you're using this device strictly to read books, various versions of Kindle are the favorites among those I surveyed. Here's what users had to say:
"I love the 3g feature so I can get a new book no matter where I am. The only thing I would change about it is I'd rather it be backlit so I can read at night in bed."
"I absolutely love it as an eReader. I use it to read books and to listen to audio books. I love that it is compatible with Audible.com so you can store your purchases there and download them when you want to listen to them. I also use the feature that lets you download PDF files onto the device simply by emailing the file to a special email address that is part of the account. Kindle also has the ability to borrow eBooks from my local library. The only thing that is a slight drawback for using it as something other than an eReader is that it is black and white."
The Nook has its fans, too. Here's what some of them had to say:
"I like the convenience of having multiple books available to you without lugging them with you on vacation and the ability to get a book immediately if you need one. As you know, the nook does not have the keyboard but I don't need that on the reader. Some books, however, are not available in electronic format so that is somewhat disappointing. Airlines make you turn it off while sitting on the runway or preparing to land which is often times a long period of time. I also have an iPad but like the Nook better as a reader. In my opinion, it is easier to turn the pages and is a better format to read."
"The Nook is also WiFi, and I have a library on it, which is nice. Easy to read, even in broad daylight. Lightweight and stays relatively charged for a long period of time. Nice size."
"I have older Nook and like it, easier on the eyes than the new backlit screens. I like how easy it is to get a new book."
A lot of people prefer tablets where they can download apps, play games and do most anything a laptop can handle as well as read books. Kindle Fire and Nook Color both stand up to the task. The Kindle Fire is shorter and 1.2 oz. lighter than the Nook Color and offers free cloud storage for Amazon content. Most other features are identical in the two offerings.
One Fire owner tells us; "I chose this device because of the inexpensive cost and its access to Amazon.com. Being an open network device, it has accessibility to almost all apps that are available."
Others are content using their iPad2, such as the owner that explains; "I find it very easy to use, with access to an incredible number of apps. The screen is easily readable. I like the size and the fact that it is relatively lightweight. It is easier to transport than my laptop, especially when traveling. WiFi and 3G are available, but I am well-suited with the WiFi setup, as most places are equipped with WiFi, and I don't care to spend the extra money for 3G. Graphics are super clear, almost in HD."
For others yet, nothing beats the feel of turning a good old-fashioned page. The physical versions will always be popular, providing something for everyone.
Maintaining Your Home
If you are like most people, the single biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime is your home. So now that you are a homeowner, what's next?
After investing so much money in purchasing the home, don't neglect it. You wouldn't buy a car and then never change the oil, right? Well, just like your car, you need to do regular maintenance on your home. Regular maintenance helps you conserve energy and water, avoid expensive repairs in the future, and maintain the value of your home.
First off, let's talk money. Some maintenance will be minor, some major. It is a good idea to set aside an amount each month to cover minor maintenance expenses. An average amount to set aside is 1% of your home's purchase price. For example, if you home price was $120,000, your annual amount to set aside would be $1,200. Divide that by 12 to get the monthly amount to set aside of $100.
For major items, it's a good idea to plan ahead and start saving extra money each month to pay for the upkeep. For example, if you anticipate that you will need a new heater in five years and the estimated cost will be $2,000, divide the cost by 60 to get your extra savings amount of $33 per month. Start saving the extra amount now and you will have the money available when you are ready to purchase the new heater. This way you will not have to worry about trying to scrape it together at the last minute.
Fall Home Maintenance
Spring Home Maintenance
Some maintenance you can do yourself, some you will need to hire a professional to perform. If you are handy and want to give it a try, there are many "do-it-yourself" guides to assist. The Reader's Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual is one of the more popular reference tools. Remember, anytime you can avoid having a service professional come out to your home, you save money.
This is just a basic list of regular home maintenance. You may need more or less maintenance depending on the type of home, type of heating system, type of septic system, etc. that you own. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a Healthy Homes Maintenance Checklist available on their website that is more comprehensive and designed to keep your home maintained in a manner that is conducive to providing a healthy environment for living. The checklist is available here.
My Financial Rule #2:
"Always * always * always maximize ANY contribution that is matched by your employer. Always. No exceptions."
In the past, I have written other articles disputing the dismal United States savings rate that at times in recent years has actually gone negative. The media has hyped the statistic to prove we are a frivolous society, but I have pointed out that the U.S. savings rate does not include savings invested in employer sponsored retirement plans (such as 401K and 403B plans). My contention remains that, if such plans were included in the calculation, the U.S. savings rate would appear far better - perhaps even better than previous generations. Yet, sadly, a surprising number of U.S. workers fail to contribute to such plans. Or contribute only very small amounts. This is foolish.
Back to Rule #2: Why must you maximize any contribution for which your employer provides a match? No fancy calculus needed - the match is free money. Repeat: FREE MONEY. For example, many popular employer sponsored 401K/403B plans provide a match of 50% up to 6% of the employee contribution. To further illustrate the example, if your salary is $40,000 per year, and you contribute 6%, that would equal $2,400 per year. Your employer would match half that contribution for an additional $1,200 dollars. The only way to get this additional $1,200 is to contribute the first $2,400. Anything less is throwing money away. One need not be a mathematician to calculate this equates to an astounding 50% return on you money for the first year.
Some have stated they don't contribute to a 401K because they "have better investment options outside the plan." Nonsense. No investment can safely and reliably produce a first year return of 50%. Because most 401K contributions are based on before tax dollars, there are also significant tax advantages to this investment strategy, but that is left for another article. Another popular excuse has been: "I'll contribute more later, after I am making a higher salary." This is also foolish, for two reasons. First and foremost, you are losing time - once gone never retrievable. Airplane pilots have an old saying, "The altitude you leave above, the runway you leave behind and the fuel you leave on the ground can never be of help to you." Undeniably true. As an investor, you might state the same concept as "The time you leave behind can never be of help to you." Also, undeniably true.
In a coming week, I'll explain the "Gotcha's" of employer sponsored investment plans, some of which may surprise you. But none of them take away from the merit of Rule #2.
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