Friday, February 23, 2007

Induction cooktop or not

We are making plans to potentially refinish our kitchen. This means new cabinets (and a slightly different footprint), new countertops, new sink, and new appliances. We are pretty solid on the color/company of cabinets with Thomasville Cherry Brierwood and are also set on Quartz countertops although perhaps not yet set on the color. The sink is not a pretty exciting decision, but the appliances are...

I have a tendency to want to stay away from GE and Kenmore appliances...because they are fairly commonplace. But, I decided the first thing I would discover are which features I would like in each appliance. Most were pretty simple, but ranges have been giving me the toughest time.

The hottest topic of debate in my mind today is induction vs a regular smoothtop cooktop. Induction cooktops are the latest technology which uses electromagnetic energy to heat the pan while maintaining a cooler cooktop. Many popular things like electronic toothbrushed use induction to charge. The only thing heating a cooktop of an induction cooktop is the pan which has been heated. This means the cooktop doesn't get to "burn your hand" hot and kids are safer. But its expensive...add another $1500 compared to the cost of a freestanding range to get an induction cooktop AND a under counter convection oven. So, $2500 vs $1000...thats a pretty big deal. It uses less energy and won't burn someone.

If you told me today Anna would be burned by a smoothtop model..I would by the induction based cooktop in a heartbeat. But. since you don't hear of it happening too often, I am not sure I should worry about it. I wish I had statistics as to how many kids get burned by smoothtop models.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Brand names or products

Heather and I were considering how brand names infiltrate our are some brand names we use, even if we aren't using the brand in question...

Saran wrap

Modern day brands still coming up:

Other possibilities:
Pergo (I have noticed people use this for any fake hardwood flooring)

How did this start? We opened a new thing of Saran brand saran wrap and noticed it worked better than the knock off brands and we usually call the knock off brands Saran wrap...but they don't deserve that title :-)

Anyone have others?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My daughter..

I have yet to post the reason for my 4 month leave of absence from blogging or pictures of the beautiful girl who stole my heart. i think its about time to toss a couple of pictures out here.

This is the latest, from Thursday Feb 15:
Play Time in the Exersaucer

And from the day before for Valentine's day:
Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 16, 2007

Savings rate gets worse...

Sadly, the poor savings rate of the US public, a negative 0.4% in 2005, got even worse in 2006. It is now 1% according to the Commerce Department. The savings rate is typically, as I understand it, the amount of after tax income that people save. So, it being negative means the average person in the US is spending 1% more than their after tax income!

Here is an article on it. Here are some quotes from the AP article:

"[T]he Commerce Department reported Thursday that the nation’s personal savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative 1 percent, the worst showing in 73 years."

"The 1 percent negative savings rate in 2006 followed a 0.4 percent negative rate in 2005. There have been only four years in history that the savings rate has fallen into negative territory. The other two were 1932 and 1933 during the Great Depression."

Its funny, I don't remember seeing this make the headlines I would expect. This is a pretty serious problem....and sadly its our children who will pay for it.

Lending laws..more...

Wow, I missed this link in the mortgage nanny article I referenced from Forbes earlier. Check out some of these stats:

Countrywide Financial:
42% of its mortgage portfolio consists of pay-option adjustable-rate mortgages, in which borrowers decide each month how much to repay and can face negative amortization of the loan.

Washington Mutual:
33% of its loans through the third quarter of 2006 were pay-option or interest-only loans that tend to result in higher default and foreclosure rates.

Do either of those companies sound like they are focussed on helping people own homes? Maybe for the other 58-66% of the customers?

Frutmost, the best customer service ever

Upon reading this, I was reminded of the best customer service I ever received...

We had a wonderful experience with the owner of the company Frutmost. We had enjoyed their smoothies before from a Super Target, but one sunday when we bought one the thing had fermented, exploded over my wife in our car. We were so upset by the bad experience that my wife sent an email in to the company. Within a couple of hours, the owner of the company (on a Sunday, remember) had gotten the email on his blackberry, looked us up in the phone book, and called us to apologize and offer to send us free product, pay for dry cleaning, and pay for our car to be cleaned. Her clothes didn't need dry cleaned and the car was not so bad, but we took him up on the free product. On Tuesday we received, packed in dry ice, Multiple types of Frutmost and guacamole meals from the other food manufacturer he owned. It was the best customer service I had ever experienced or heard about.

Other issues with the lender laws changing..

Will any lender be able to give a 50 or 55 yr old anything but a 10-15 yr mortgage? Anything beyond that, they may sue and say it doesn't meet their retirement goals. So, I wonder if this will just give the lawyers more money and have all the lenders make you sign things that you understand what you are doing....or will the lenders reject certain people like the 50 to 55 yr old who wants to buy a new house. It sure will be interesting...

Raleigh, #1 city for jobs

Congratulations Raleigh...Forbes has released their annual best cities for jobs and Best first jobs for college grads They name Raleigh the #1 city for jobs and, my job, Software Engineer/Developer the #5 job. Awesome!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Lender (mortgage) laws reworked -- The mortgage nanny

Have I gone liberal? I read this article today and I am so glad that the Democrats are looking to rework the lending laws. This is great...but does it mean I have gone liberal?

Primarily, this bill will put responsibility on the lender to ensure the loan they are giving is suitable for the people. Normally I would disagree with a bill like this. Mainly, I would have, in the past, disagreed with this for two reasons:
1) I don't want the government interfering with private business with more laws.
2) This seems to open up for more potential lawsuits, which means we will all pay it in our mortgages.

Now, first let me say my mother was in the mortgage business for about 10 out of the last 11 years. So, nothing personal against the people...but the majority of mortgage brokers are all about one of two things:
1) Making as much money off people as possible.
2) Helping create an ownership society, where people can own a home instead of rent.

That may sound overly simplistic...but I honestly believe that is it. If a mortgage broker is in the latter category, they surprisingly align with many conservative values. Conservatives are about an ownership society...letting people have the money and developer wealth on an individual basis. If they are helping people, this won't be a burden to those people.

I believe that the majority of the mortgage brokers are in the first can I make the most money off people. I have been appalled by stories from friends lately of what people are offered. Here are some examples:
- A friend was offered an 80/15 fixed/adjustable mortgage for 6/8% APR...when that fell through, the broker magically found a much better alternative... a 80/15 fixed/fixed for 6/7% APR. If you don't know what these mean, feel free to write me and I will clear it up.
- Another friend closed on a house a month later with a 75/20 fixed/adjustable for 6/9%. Why 75% and 20% instead of 80%/15%?? The only thing I can figure is the mortgage person found a way to make more money.
- Another friend thought they were getting their dream home....but after they closed on an interest only mortgage and can't afford to pay principal...they realized they all they can do is hope the house prices in the area go up.

I have noticed other tricks the more my friends by homes. One lender, Bank of America, is offering a 100% mortgage at 3/4 of a point over the going 30 yr rate...which means instead of paying PMI or a split mortgage until 20% is paid off...they will pay that 3/4 point for 30 yrs or until they refinance. How is that justice? Their monthly payment is lower...but the overall life of the mortgage is higher.

The bottom line is, as I see it as a late 20s guy whose friends come to him for financial advice from time to time...a lot of my friends have been or are potentially getting fleeced by the lending industry. This is not creating an ownership society.

So, back to my original I becoming liberal? No, I don't believe I am. Like it or not, people are not well informed enough to know how the lending industry works and the lending industry does it on purpose. I support the current lawmakers making the government a bit bigger in this particular case because I believe that these laws may allow people to save and own more in the long run....and thats important to me so that when my generation is old, my daughter doesn't need to pay high taxes in order to support my generation which is blowing all of their money and won't have enough money or own enough later in life.