TaxAct Premium Online for $11.90

Tax season is coming and I saw this deal for TaxAct that I’m going to try this year. Pretty much you just have to register using the link below and you’ll lock in a $11.90 price including Federal and State e-file. You don’t pay anything until you e-file.

Lock in $11.90 price for TaxAct Premium Online

I’ve used TurboTax Deluxe Online (need Schedule C) in the past because I got it for free through State Farm, but it’s only offered to their banking customers now. Problem is TurboTax is really starting to jack up prices for State e-filing. TurboTax Deluxe with State is about $55 at Amazon and H&R Block’s At Home (formerly TaxCut) is a little cheaper. The problem is they charge you $30 and $20 respectively for a State e-file on top of the purchase price. Even if they go on sale for $35-40 you’re still looking at $60-70 to do both e-files.

I’ll give TaxAct a try this year and maybe test my return in TurboTax as a direct comparison. Nice thing about the online versions is you can plug in your numbers and see the results without having to pay for anything.

How to lose $620,000 in 5 years

It’s really simple, just buy this place in the middle of a massive cheap money binge:

10085 Lesterford Ave Downey, CA 90240

Date Event Price Source
Oct 27, 2010 Listed $350,000 MRMLS #M10113549
Aug 27, 2010 Sold (Public Records) 
This home was foreclosed and bank-owned.
$847,667 Public Records
Sep 15, 2005 Sold (Public Records) $970,000 Public Records
Aug 06, 2004 Sold (Public Records) $715,000 Public Records

Someone was actually able to get close to a $1,000,000 loan for this place. That’s about a $4500 a month payment before property taxes and PMI. Who wants to bet that this mortgage got bundled into a security now owned by Fannie and Freddie. The banks, brokers and Realtors© were able to push all the risk off to the taxpayer while reaping big commissions. This was done at the direction of Congress to loosen lending restrictions in the name of “affordable housing”.

Hey the upside is you can get this place with graffiti included for cheap now.

What the housing bubble looked like up close and personal

Price trend of Quill Condos in Downey using data from Redfin
Price trend of Quill Condos in Downey using data from Redfin

I thought it would be interesting to look at the sale prices of condos in the condo complex where we rent in Downey, CA. The graph speaks for itself. Prices in Southern California were completely out of touch with reality. Look at the bubble in the early 90’s. Prices only went up by 50% and then declined for 6 straight years. In this last bubble, prices increased nearly 350% between 2000 and 2007. Much of those gains have been wiped out in 2 years since the bubble burst.

This graph is quite useful because it is comparing identical units (~300 sq. ft. max difference) in close proximity to each other. Expanding the comparison to Downey as a whole would introduce comparisons between dissimilar homes in substantially different neighborhoods. It doesn’t make much sense mixing the large sprawling homes of Northeast Downey in with the tiny houses south of the 105.

Does anybody really believe prices will continue to trend upwards with high unemployment, shadow inventory twice the size of what is listed and the upcoming wave of Option ARM recasts? Good thing Congress extended the $8,000 credit, wouldn’t want housing to be affordable.

California Tax Refunds Finally Going Out

I filed my taxes before they passed a budget so I knew I’d be waiting around for my refund to come through. Checked on my Refund Status and it said it was processed on 3/17 and could take up to 10 days for direct deposit. Checked my checking account today and saw my refund had been deposited. Next year’s taxes won’t be so rosey, especially if you have kids. Speaking of California’s broken government, the May election is coming up so The Blarg and I will be posting on the propositions sometime soon.

Throwing around the idea of writing a personal finance book

I’ve mentioned the idea about writing a personal finance book to a couple people, but I thought I’d get some feedback from all of you. I’ve become a bit of a personal finance nut over the past year and it took me a while to figure out what was relevant to me as a 20-something and young investor. I sifted through a lot of information and found things that I think people coming out of college or starting a career would want to hear. I want to write what I wish I had a couple of years ago: a book that explores important personal finance topics in an easy to understand way.

The outlining I’ve done so far has the book broken into one part on saving for retirement and a second part on more general personal finance topics. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but each topic discussion would be concise and useful. For example, I would cover Roth and Traditional IRAs, the differences between the two and then provide enough analysis to help the reader figure out which fits them best. I think a big goal of the book would be to help people get a grasp on their financial situation and make smart, informed decisions with their money and about their future.

At this point I think a book would be the best option to contain everything I’m planning to cover. I thought about writing a running series of blog posts, but the topics are going to be tied together enough where it would be annoying to have to constantly say “remember what I talked about in this other post”. In a book format I’d know exactly what the reader has already read. I’d be able to build upon previous ideas and really tie things together when it comes to talking about strategies and the bigger picture.

So I guess my question is, would you be interested in reading a book about personal finance and investing targeted at a younger crowd who still has 30-40 years until retirement?