AUTHOR’S QUERY

Any of you go through personal bankruptcy? How did it go? On balance, are you glad you did it? Have you got any tips for those considering it? I would appreciate any stories you care to tell.

CREDIT CARDS

Mary Ann Campbell: ‘Recently, one of your readers recommended a site for credit card offers. I want to recommend the best site I’ve seen for useful credit card information and education: cardratings.com. The site offers 8,250 consumer reviews of over 750 credit cards…the most available I’ve seen. Also, their message board is answered by very sensible and knowledgeable responders. Full disclosure, I admire the site’s creator. His name is Curtis Arnold. He is a young man who accumulated over $40,000 in credit card debt while in college and graduate school. He created the website out of extreme anxiety just knowing others had to share his level of despair and frustration. Sure enough, it became a hit. Banner ads allowed him to pay off ALL his debt. He volunteers to speak to my college classes and several others around the state. Curtis warns college students to NOT sell their financial soul for a free Frisbee or T-shirt. His personal story gets their attention. His website gives them assistance.’

Joe Cherner: Last year, one of your readers suggested getting a Nextcard/Amazon credit card. Great reward program! $20 amazon.com reward for every $1,000 purchased with credit card. I racked up the reward points! Yesterday, I went to redeem my reward points. The bank FAILED. Out of business. Amazon says too bad. I lose all my points!’

☞ Actually, Amazon is going to honor your reward points. But this also makes me think of MBNA, which has been offering people 0% interest for six months – in my super-fortunate case, on a $100,000 cash advance. That’s like a $2,000 gift, and one that I’d get to keep even if MBNA went broke. Yesterday they announced they had added 6.3 million new credit card accounts in the first six months of the year – mine was one of them – and I have to imagine that they gave away a lot of free money to do it. In my own case, it’s likely I will just cancel the card once the 0% interest ends in January, and I have to wonder how many others there will be like me. If you happen to own MBNA stock (symbol KRB), this could be a concern.

LES CIGARETTES

Joe is the guy who’s brought the tobacco industry to its knees. Well, OK, one of the guys. But surely one of the most annoying. (I am annoying as well, so I mean no disrespect.) He forwarded me this amusing AP story. Hard to imagine 500,000 French folks failed to intuit the gimmick and called . . . but apparently they did:

French Smokefree TV Ad
The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) – TV viewers were alarmed. A commonly consumed product, they were warned in an ad, had been found to contain frightening toxic substances.

Not surprisingly, half-a-million people called the toll-free number for information, jamming the line.

The unnamed product was the cigarette, and the health institute that dreamed up the ad said it was a big success.

“Traces of cyanuric acid, mercury, acetone and ammonia have been found in a product regularly consumed,” read the ad.

The toll-free number was flooded by callers. At one point Sunday night, some 460,000 people called at about the same time . . .

Tobacco is the leading cause of avoidable deaths in France as it is in the U.S. To send one of Joe’s EZ-letters in support of a smokefree issue, click here.

JUST DON’T EXPECT TO GET YOUR SECOND LIGHTER PAST SECURITY

Yesterday, one of you told of having your second butane lighter confiscated at airport security – it was fine to take one on (see Wednesday‘s column), very possibly thanks to the tobacco industry, always concerned for our well-being, and its influence on the current administration.

Well, Walter Williams recently went to town on the stupidity of searching Al Gore at the airport. It’s a funny piece, and quotes some senators who said, yes, they felt he (and they) should be subject to search like anybody else. Williams point was that of course their airport screening should target certain groups; of course it should not be random.

I disagree with Williams. Yes, of course, searching Al Gore does nothing to make us safer. But there is another, subsidiary issue that should not be ignored. It seems to me that 75% or 80% of the searches should be of the suspect types, but that, yes, it may be worth patting down the other 20% or 25%, even U.S. senators and Al Gore – nay, especially senators and Al Gore – to give the profiled groups at least the sense that we recognize the awkwardness of this. It is a way to show that we are willing to share at least a little of the frustration they must feel. In reality, this may mean we search 100% of the Arabs and crazed-looking Brits and only 3% of the white businessmen. But it still shows we don’t feel good about profiling, even though, in a situation like airport screening for terrorists, we obviously need to do it.

DICK DAVIS #25

Regular readers will know I’ve been irregularly parceling out Dick Davis’s words of wisdom from a speech he gave this past winter. You like his comments so much, I fear running out. After this one, there will be only 10 to go. In light of yesterday‘s column, this one is particularly apt:

Item 25: Why Markets Go To Extremes

Both the market and individual stocks go to extremes. They go higher or lower than they should based on fundamentals, because human emotions such as fear and greed are not bound by reason. The ‘greater fool’ theory allows the rubber band to stretch further and further. That theory says in effect, ‘I know it’s crazy to buy at these prices but the fever is contagious and I’ll be able to sell my stock at an even higher price to someone who is a greater fool than I am’. The ‘pros’ also contribute to the mania. Mutual fund managers are highly competitive and have a dread of falling behind. They may reason that stocks are overvalued, but more powerful is their emotion – namely, fear of missing the rally and worry about their own job security. Both bull and bear market extremes are easy to recognize. But how far they will go or how long they will last is unknowable.

AUTHOR’S QUERY

Don’t forget: I would appreciate any bankruptcy stories or tips you can share. Have a great week-end. Use sun screen.

 

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