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Data Breach: Louisiana Office of Student Financial Aid

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Here is a big heads-up for anyone who attended college in Louisiana or was a Louisiana resident when they completed the FAFSA. The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Aid has disclosed that their data storage contractor (Iron Mountain) had lost backup data media in mid-September which included names and social security numbers. According to LOSFA, the following persons could be affected:

  • Anyone who has a Louisiana College Savings account (START Saving Program).
  • Any resident of the state of Louisiana who has completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Anyone who has completed a FAFSA and included a Louisiana postsecondary institution as an institution to which FAFSA data should be sent.
  • Anyone who has applied for or received a Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) Scholarship.
  • Anyone who has applied for or who has received student financial aid in the State of Louisiana.

For more information on the breach, the official notice from LOFSA can be found here.

To search the database to determine if your information was included, check here.

October 16, 2007 Posted by | News/Trends | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who visits Slickdeals.net and Fatwallet.com? It may surprise you!

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

Frequent readers of my blog know I am a big fan of Slickdeals.net and FatWallet.com. I reference deals I have found there all the time. I even did a long write-up comparing the two in the early days of this blog. But who really uses these sites? Is it just a bunch of folks scraping to get by who deal to save every penny they can?

Based on the demographic information provided by Quantcast.com, most of the audience of these sites is solid middle-class in income. Slickdeals is ranked higher than FatWallet (#3599 vs. #5533), but in most ways the demographics are very similar. The audiences of both sites skew slightly male, have more than average percentages of households with annual incomes in the $60-100k range, higher than average percentages of 25-34 and 35-44 year olds, as well as higher percentages of users with college and graduate level educations. Both sites also have much higher than average percentages of Asian users: Fatwallet at nearly three times the average and SlickDeals at nearly 3.5 times the average. You can find the profiles here and here.

This paints the picture of the average user of these sites being middle to upper-middle class, as well as relatively young and well-educated. Certainly not the type of person struggling to make ends meet. It may be surprising to many, but is consistent with the observations of the book “The Millionaire Next Door”, which illustrates that most millionaires in this country don’t flaunt their wealth and are actually more frugal than the rest of society, which helps explain how they amassed their wealth in the first place.

In case anyone is curious, this humble blog is also listed on quantcast.com as well! Based on this report, we are burning up the charts with over 2000 unique hits per month and are ranked at #684,364 overall!

September 7, 2007 Posted by | Deals, News/Trends, Tips | 10 Comments

Here’s Your (Dollar) Sign!

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

In my opinion, one of the funniest comedians out there is Bill Engvall. Bill is probably best known for co-starring with the likes of Jeff Foxworthy in the various “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” shows and movies, as well as his hilarious signature schtick “Here’s Your Sign”.

Well, Smart Money did a profile and interview with Bill Engvall, which you can find here. While I don’t think Bill will be writing any personal finance books anytime soon, the article is an interesting read. You can definitely tell that fortune and fame have influenced his spending habits, but it is pretty interesting to read his perspective on the role of his wife in managing their money. To keep him in check, Engvall’s wife serves as the financial gatekeeper, tracking every penny that the couple spends. “If it wasn’t for her, I think I’d own just a Corvette and a broken stereo,” says Engvall.

I think one of the most interesting quotes is his best money advice. “Never buy any new technology the first year it comes out. Let somebody else be that sucker.”

July 16, 2007 Posted by | News/Trends | Leave a comment

Economic refugees from the state of Louisiana

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

The inspiration for this post is from what on the surface is a pretty light and off-topic comment to my recent post about my eBay crap:

Stumbled upon your website today and then was looking at your recent posts, clicked on your ebay items and say your name at ebay is lsutigerfan…Go Tigers! Originally from LSU and now in Orlando.. waiting to go home one day! Good luck with your blog here.

Normally this type of comment would be the type to bring a smile to your face but not something worthy of its own posting in reply. However, being originally from Louisiana myself and having just helped my brother-in-law (also from Louisiana) and his wife move into their apartment here in Houston, I thought it would be a good opportunity to post about what I call the economic refugees of Louisiana.

Nowadays when you hear about people from Louisiana that have settled elsewhere many assume that we were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and had to start our lives anew because we had nothing left there to go back to. There were many that were in that situation, and our hearts go out to them, but I am talking about others who left Louisiana not due to the damage caused by a natural disaster but the damage caused by the disaster of the state’s reputation of political corruption and poverty. Louisiana was going down the tubes well before Katrina. And with the destruction of infrastructure and the continued political leadership of such characters of Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (you can’t run a state like you do a tourism campaign), the indicted US Rep. William Jefferson, and Mr. Chocolate City himself Mayor Ray Nagin, we are certainly not on the road to an improvement of that situation.

I left Louisiana in 2001 upon graduating from LSU because I couldn’t find suitable employment in Louisiana. My wife left Louisiana in 2003. My oldest brother-in-law left in 2006, the next oldest moved out just a few weeks ago for the same reasons. Of my friends from college, only one has stayed in Louisiana. All of the others left Louisiana upon getting a degree to pursue opportunities elsewhere. So many LSU graduates have left Louisiana for Houston that there is now a Houston and a North Houston LSU Alumni Chapter, as a single chapter could not meet the needs of all of the alumni here.

The issue has been noted amongst columnists and journalists in Louisiana for years. In 2002, The Baton Rouge Advocate ran a twelve-part series discussing the loss of the best and brightest of Louisiana and the impact it would have in the years to come. Unfortunately their archives online don’t go back that far so I can’t post it here, but it is a great read for anyone interested in the subject. There was also a column by Dr. Chris Warner on PoliticsLA.com in 2003 discussing the topic, which is linked here. One of the overriding themes of the piece is that one of the big factors in the exodus is the lack of jobs, which was explained with the following:

Chief operating officers of firms looking to locate or relocate their business operations normally focus on four distinct areas of location criteria: 1) An equitable tax structure that does not overly tax business; 2) A well-educated work force; 3) A quality of life that is attractive for the firm’s upper-level managers and their families, 4) and a sound infrastructure that enables them to transport their goods and services efficiently.

In Louisiana, it is debatable whether or not we have any of the aforementioned criteria for business location met.

A couple of interesting quotes from the article:

Chief Legislative Fiscal Officer Johnny Rombach: “Right now, the 22 to 30 year olds are the ones leaving Louisiana. However, during the next 5 to 10 years, it’s going to be their retiring parents–the baby boomers—who will be leaving. People stick around in Louisiana for basically two reasons—the jobs they have, and their families. Many of the boomers’ kids have already left the state. Where do you think the parents are going to go once they retire?

Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer: “An entire generation now—it’s been over 25 years since the rise of Edwin Edwards in Louisiana–and we continue to see the net migration of our brightest professionals; of people voting with their feet. In many ways, Louisiana is a better state to live in, than to work in.”

That Louisiana is a better state to live in than work in is a sentiment shared by many of us originally from Louisiana. The people and culture of the state of Louisiana make it a wonderful place to live, but it is hard to take advantage of that when you are paid 20-30% less for the same work as you would be in Texas, if you can even find work.

“Waiting to go home one day”, as my reader said. Many of us feel the same way, but until there is something for us to go home to, we’ll be waiting it out elsewhere a LONG time.

June 5, 2007 Posted by | News/Trends | 2 Comments

AICPA: Americans 25-34 “Not Financially Prepared”

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

I was reading in the January 2007 issue of the Journal of Accountancy this morning (yes, I realize it is May, I’m just that far behind on my reading) and found an interesting write-up of a study of the savings habits of 25-34 year olds. While the AICPA study found that in the last forty years average income for households headed by someone 25 to 34 had increased by nearly a third in 2004 dollars, savings and asset accumulation has not kept up. Interestingly enough, the median real net worth of Americans in this age group fell drastically from $6,788 in 1985 to only $3,746 in 2004. The mean real net worth only increased slightly from $25,115 in 1985 to $26,109 in 2004.

The executive summary published by the AICPA sums it up pretty well,

“The workforce of tomorrow is not financially prepared for the world they will live in.
Many are clearly relying on the solvency of federal programs. Many feel they can wait
until later to worry about the rest of their lives. This generation needs to be encouraged
to be more financially responsible about their future. Saving is not just about retirement.
It is about taking control of life and having the flexibility to deal with the many challenges
and opportunities ahead.”

My message to those of my generation: GET YOUR CRAP TOGETHER! Stop spending every dime you make and then some on material junk and then expect your family or the government to bail you out. I certainly don’t want the government stealing more of my money in the form of taxes to support you later on because you decided to piss your money away today on that new Mercedes you can’t afford or the overpriced designer clothes you had to have. Practice a little bit of self-control, stop worshiping at the altar of material things, and take some responsibility for your future! I’m saving my pennies for my family’s comfort down the road, not yours!

May 4, 2007 Posted by | Basics, News/Trends | Leave a comment