Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan

Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan by Frank Abagnale

This book can help you to learn everything you want to know about protecting your personal information. Abagnale, a former counterfeiter and now consultant to the FBI and many large financial institutions around the world, gives an inside look at the various types of identity theft and how to reduce the likelihood of it.

He goes into technology oriented identity theft schemes such as pharming and phising as well as discussing more low tech methods such as dumpster diving. It's highly recommended that you shred any personally identifiable information prior to throwing it away. Looking through a person's garbage though it might seem disgusting but is an actual method some thieves use to steal a person's identity. Abagnale also advises mailing bills from an official Post Office box rather than raising your mailbox flag which also alerts a potential thief that there might be information worth stealing inside. Another tip is to always choose to opt out when a financial institution sends you a privacy policy. This helps prevent the spread of your personal information and the potential for it to be stolen.

Surprisingly, personal information such as social security numbers is still used on some driver's licenses or as employee ids. One should avoid this when possible due to the windows an SSN can open for a thief. Abagnale also recommends limiting your usage of checks due to the large number of hands and eyes that will handle it throughout the processing. A dishonest person along the way can grab this information and either sell it or use it himself.

Abagnale indicates that the most important thing one can do in guarding against identity theft is to pull your credit report from the three major credit reporting institutions. (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) This can be done for free at annualcreditreport.com.

To help insure against identity theft, one may consider an insurer such as Zander Insurance Group's identity theft insurance.

One minor downside of the book is the author's promoting of his own products or products he endorses throughout the book. While they may be good resources to help in fighting identity theft, it seemed at times to be a sales pitch rather than an informational resource.

Overall, I learned several tips and had reinforced the need to be conscious of giving out personal information and guarding it from prying eyes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury

This is a classic text used in many university classes on negotiation. The authors help explain how to use principled negotiation rather than the traditional positional negotiation that many use. One story illustrates that illustrates this is of two children arguing over an orange then decide to compromise and split it in two. It turns out that one wanted to eat the fruit and the other wanted the peel to bake with. Principled negotiation would have born out the actual desires of each with the result of both getting exactly what they wanted. As people negotiate any variety of things, they should consider the motivations of the other party and what they might want out of it. Getting to the root want/need is key in truly understanding the other party and can help avoid adversarial positions. If approaching the negotiation as a sort of joint effort rather than this for that, a more positive outcome may result.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

This book is Miller's account of walking through life in his twenties and moving from Texas up to Portland, Oregon. He comes to a greater understanding of his faith through various experiences including friends he meets at Reed College, known to be one of the most liberal schools anywhere. His writing breaks out of the mold of the traditional Christian style of writing and looks at things from a post modern type of viewpoint. He's not afraid to dig down and explore why do we actually believe in what we believe rather than simply accepting because it's something we've grown up with. He has a way of making beautiful word pictures just like the title Blue Like Jazz. I enjoyed his honesty and authenticity of admitting struggles and failures and recognizing that he's a broken person as we all are. I recommend it as a perspective towards Christianity outside of the standard recipe for Christian literature. You can also check out the website at www.bluelikejazz.com

Gas Prices

Well, gas prices have reached astronomical levels approaching highs last seen around the time of Hurricane Katrina. In an effort to help readers of the Wisdom of Dre find the cheapest gas available, we offer
this website
. Simply plug in your zip code and it will tell you the lowest gas prices in your area. Prices are usually updated every day or two.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Emergency Fund

What is an Emergency Fund and why exactly do you need one? Pure, plain, and simple Murphy's Law states "if something can go wrong, it probably will." One may hope emergencies will not occur but they are a part of life and one would do well to plan for them. It is sometimes referred to as a rainy day fund and serves the function of providing a source one can draw upon in financial emergencies.

Experts vary on the recommended amount of an emergency fund but a general consensus is 3 to 6 months of living expenses. The expense part is specified because salary includes tax with holdings, automatic deductions placed in a retirement account, or other items not included if a job loss occurs. To determine monthly expenses, track your expenses during an average month and then save for the emergency fund accordingly.

The financial expert, Dave Ramsey, recommends saving up a $1,000 emergency fund first to make it more manageable. 3 to 6 months of expenses can seem an overwhelming amount of money to save but with a $1,000 safety net, one will have the ability to pay for an emergency such as an alternator going out on a car without feeling pressured to incur debt.

Once the $1,000 is saved, it is highly advisable to pay down debt as quickly as possible to further secure your financial life and make things easier if ever losing a job. If a job loss is looming on the horizon, one may choose to go ahead and quickly muster the 3 to 6 month fund.

You want to be able to pay for the essentials such as food, housing, clothing, and transportation. If you become unemployed, you may need 3 to 6 months to search for a new job. Having the emergency fund allows you breathing room and the ability to search for a job without the stress of dealing with financial issues. Unemployment benefits may be applied for but it is best to have your own emergency fund in place as these benefits will eventually run out and may not be enough to cover basic living expenses.

Be sure not to dip your hand in the emergency fund cookie jar. It is intended for EMERGENCIES. A vacation is not an emergency, Christmas is not an emergency (last time I checked it always happens on December 25th), that new shirt/dress/shoes at the store are not an emergency. An emergency means an event such as unexpected medical bills, auto accident, job loss, or a water heater going out.

As far as where to store your emergency fund, you'll want to keep it in something very liquid (meaning you can get to it quickly). This should be something such as a savings account at a bank or money market account. Keeping it in one of these accounts will allow you to earn a bit of interest as well as separating it from funds actively available in a checking account.

Remember, emergencies will happen. Will you be prepared?

See www.daveramsey.com for more solid financial advice.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Last evening on my flight from Atlanta to Kansas City, I got to watch a thunderstorm in the distance. It was mostly cloud to cloud lightning but was very cool. Kind of like fireworks but better from a natural sense. I guess you could consider them to be God's fireworks.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Word of the Day

argot: a specialized idiomatic vocabulary peculiar to a particular class or group of people, esp. that of an underworld group, devised for private communication and identification. -Dictionary.com An argot might something specific to a particular profession such as lawyers discussing briefs, affidavits, or summary judgement. It might also refer to a hobby group like runners talking about doing speed work, their PR (personal record), or split times. A somewhat related word is lexicon but I'll let you look that one up.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Amazing Grace

A few weeks ago, I saw the movie "Amazing Grace" in the theater. It's one of the best movies I've seen recently. The basic plot centers around William Wilberforce who was a key driver of the abolishment of slavery in the British empire during the late 1700s and early 1800s. The title comes from Wilberforce association with the writer of the hymn "Amazing Grace." John Newton was once a slave trader who came to the point of salvation and eventually became a rector at a church. He acted as a sort of mentor for Wilberforce and encouraged him in his crusade. I highly recommend checking it out.

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