Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 Womens World Cup Review and US Womens Team

Soccer has never been as popular in the US as it is around the world, but it seems to be gaining popularity as of late. I recently began to appreciate the sport with the men's World Cup last year.  It was a lot of fun to see all the different countries competing against each other in the same game. The fact that it is teams from all over the world competing together makes it more interesting than just watching a competition between teams of the same country. Even though the US did not get too far in the tournament, it was still fun to watch.

Which brings us to the 2015 Women's World Cup. Historically the women's US team has done well in this tournament and this year is no different as they have been doing great!  I have been watching the games this year, not only the US games but other teams as well. I find the women's World Cup to be just as much fun to watch as the men's World Cup. The US team has a lot of great players and personalities which makes them easy to cheer for.

Yesterday they played the number 1 ranked German team.  It was a great game with a lot of dramatic moments. It was a close match but the US team managed to pull off a 2-0 win to move on to the final game! They play the winner of Japan / England who are playing today in the semi finals.  Here are some highlights from the match:

The final game will take place this Sunday at 7pm eastern on Fox. I will be watching and I highly recommend everyone check it out as it should be a good game and the US team has the opportunity to win the World Cup!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sleep On It - Tip For Making Wise Decisions

Any time you are thinking about making a decision that may have any significant impact on yourself or others, it is always a good idea to "sleep on it" or wait on your decision until the next day. This is a good idea in most cases because it gives you a little time to process it and makes sure you do not make an impulsive decision.

Often when you are in the moment, you may feel very strongly about something and you feel very passionate about it and want to go through with it right away. While this is ok and you may be able to get some good ideas together, you may end up making a rash decision that you will regret later.

A good example is if you are going to send an important email to someone. It might be for work or personal and you might have a strong opinion on something that you want to express to another person. Often a message like this can cause issues between people especially if they have a different opinion.

If you hold off on sending it and wait until the next day, often you will find the next day you feel differently and might not even want to send the message anymore. The next day, you will be in a fresh state of mind and will not be caught up in the heat of things so you are able to take more of an outsiders perspective and make a better decision.

Of course there are times when even after you sleep on something, you still feel the same way the next day. In this case, it reinforces your decision or thoughts so you know you are on the right track and not just making an impulsive decision.

Next time you are thinking about doing something spur of the moment that may have a big effect on yourself or someone else, be sure to give it a little time to make sure it is the right decision.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Estimated Taxes and Penalty Fees - Quarterly Payments on Income Taxes

I am very good about income taxes and each year I file my taxes well before the deadline. Usually it is a long process but you just have to take it step by step and make sure everything is correct and complete. Over the years I have never had any issues, except for recently when I received a notice for a Late Estimated Payment Penalty.

When I saw this, I was confused and figured it must be an error because I know I filled the taxes well before the deadline. So I called them up and talked with one of the reps who checked on it. She explained that since I had owed over $500 on the previous years taxes, that I was expected to pay the income tax in quarterly payments throughout the year.

This was the first I had heard about this. Up until this point, I had never been in the situation that required taxes to be paid ahead of time throughout the year. I learned that if you are self employed and do not have taxes withheld during the year by an employer, you are required to pay the estimated amount 4 times throughout the year.

The rep recommended that I write to the Department of Revenue to ask for an elimination of the penalty due to the fact that I had no idea about this policy until I received the notice of late penalty. So I wrote to them and sent in the payment just in case they would not excuse it. I am currently waiting to see what happens and will update this entry with the results.

I don't mind paying the estimated income tax payments throughout the year, but I think they need to make it more clear or let you know ahead of time if you are required to do this rather than sending you a late fee 6 months later. I also wonder why they expect people to submit payment 4 times a year, but they only give refunds once a year. It does not seem fair in this case.

Anyway so I took the time to set up the online payments for state as well as federal income tax. It definitely took some research just to figure out how to set it up to make the payments. I got the state set up and enrolled for the federal which takes longer to verify.

It is more inconvenient now to have to keep track of 8 extra payments throughout the year but at least when the April tax date comes around things should be pretty even with the estimated payments already submitted.

Anyone else get this Late Estimated Payment Fee unexpectedly? Should people who are self employed have to pay income taxed throughout the year? Feel free to share any comments below.

Update 6-22-15: So they didn't waste any time cashing the check I sent them in case they would not excuse the late penalty.  I'm not too pleased about that. Hopefully they at least respond to the letter and give an explanation as why it was not excused. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Be Careful With Internet Jobs and Start Up Companies

A few years back I found a website where you could earn money by answering questions. People would post questions and assign a dollar amount to them. Then others would submit answers and the person who gave the best answer would be awarded the money for that question. It was a fun way to earn a little money online.

Shortly after, the site began to develop another completely different idea which was basically a Wikipedia but with more images, videos, links etc. To develop this site, they asked the community to write articles and put together content for it. They picked out the popular subjects and paid people to write up articles for these topics. Users would be paid a fixed amount to write the page and then they would earn a percentage of the ad income generated from that page as long as they were the manager of that page and kept it in good shape.

Quickly everyone figured out which kind of pages made the most money and everyone scrambled to pick them up and claim them as their own. I was in on this whole project early on so I was able to get many good pages and continue to accumulate high earning pages.

Within about a year I was making some good money and it was pretty much passive income because once you had the pages, there was not much you had to do to keep them updated. The community was thriving and everyone was seeing a lot of earnings.

Then after about a year, we got some bad news. The company decided they were going to stop paying the percentage of the earnings to the people who wrote and managed the pages. This was very controversial because in the contract it was explained that once you wrote a page and managed it, you would be given a percentage of the earnings throughout the lifetime of that page.

So all of us who had written these pages expecting continued income were completely thrown for a loop. We went from making a lot of passive income each month to making nothing. The company said they were going to discontinue the profit sharing model and instead pay an up front flat fee for articles written. That would have been ok if they honored the previous agreement up to that point but they did not.

This caused an uproar and most people who were loyal to the website picked up and left. There was even a pending lawsuit in the works for how the site did not honor the agreement it said it would for the writers but ultimately nothing materialized out of it.

Shortly after that, Google made some big changes to their search engine to try to weed out sites which were kind of spammy which the site had kind of become with articles that were just written in order to make money from ads. The site took a big hit from this and their page rankings dropped as a result.

I moved onto another writing website which was ok for a while but nowhere near as good. It is a shame things did not work out, but this is a common occurrence with internet companies when money is involved. Circumstances can change overnight so you have to be careful not to get too invested in just one project or company.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Briefcase on CBS Review

A new show called The Briefcase aired Wednesday this week. It is a reality show where 2 struggling families are each presented with a briefcase containing $100,000. They have 72 hours to decided if they will keep all the money for themselves, give it all to the other family or split it up some way between them. What is interesting is neither family knows the other was also presented a briefcase with the money and is in the same situation deciding what they will do with the money.

Over the course of 3 days they learn more about the other families and what they are going though. They even visit the home of the other family to see how they live. It is a huge decision the families have to make and there are a lot of reasons pulling them back and forth on whether they should keep the money for themselves or give it to the other family in need.

After watching the first episode, I found it to be enjoyable and full of emotion as the families try to do the right thing. It makes you ponder what you would do if you were in the same situation as them. The first instinct might be to keep the money because you don't know the other family's situation but as you learn that they are also in need, you don't want to be greedy especially if they could use the money more.

I won't spoil the end result but is sure will be interesting to see how all the episodes pan out. For example what if one family decides to keep it all while the other family decides to give it all. Then one family would get $200,000 while the other would get $0. I can imagine that might cause a little drama at the end if something like that were to happen!

If I were in the situation, I might split the money and keep $50,000 and give the other $50,000 away. It seems like it would be the most fair thing to do in a situation like that. Of course you never know if there would be some kind of twist with a show like this. For example, what if at the end of the show, the producers said something like, because you choose to give it all to the other family, you are rewarded with twice as much? This show does not do this, but you could easily see them working in a twist like that.

What would you do if you were presented with $100,000 and given the choice of keeping it all for yourself or sharing it with another family in need?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Island on NBC Review

A new show The Island premiered last night on NBC.  It is a reality style show that takes 14 regular guys from all walks of life and puts them on a deserted island without very few resources to see if they can survive.  It can be described as a cross between Survivor, Utopia, and Lost, however there are some elements to this show that make it unique.

For one, unlike other reality style shows, it is not a competition so no one gets voted off.  If someone gets sick or gives up, they will be able to leave this way, but other than that, it is up to the guys to work together to make it on this island.  Another interesting thing about this show is that there is no camera crew with them.  They give the guys 4 main cameras to film with to capture everything that goes on.  From the first episode, it looks like it is edited with other clips like aerial shots, but most of it is filmed by the guys themselves. 

The show is hosted by Bear Grylls who is known for his survival skills. He does some narration but he does not join them on the island. After reading up on the show, it looks like it will be a 6 episode series.  Since there is no winner, it is not clear how the show will end or what will happen to the guys on the island.

I had not heard anything about this shown until seeing the previews for it right before it aired, but it looked good, so I decided to check it out.  After watching the first episode, I have to say it was pretty good!  There is already a lot of drama within the group as they try to agree on what to do, where to camp, where to go, and how to divide up resources.  As things get tough early on, tensions between the group increase making for great tv!

I won't spoil any of the details, but so far it looks to be a good show and I plan on tuning in next week. The Island airs Monday nights at 10pm Eastern time on NBC. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Concert Story

The following is a story from back when I was in college:

One Saturday night my college roommate and I decided to go to a concert with a group of friends. It was at another campus which we had to drive an hour to get to. There were about 6 or 7 of us total; some of which had tickets already, but others, including myself, had to buy tickets when we got there.

So we arrived at the venue about an hour early. We go to the ticket window to get our tickets, but when we ask them, they are all sold out! So now what? We drove to this place, half the group has tickets to get in, but the others do not. The options now were either wait outside for a few hours and do nothing or find a way to get in.

One of the girls in our group knew one of the bands and thought she might be able to get us in. Since she had a ticket, she was able to go in and talk to the band. She came back out and told us they could open up the back and let us sneak in.

Understand, we wanted to buy tickets, but at this point, we were willing to find another way to get in. So we go to the back door, knock, and sure enough someone opens it for us. We were all excited! We marched on in with smiles on our faces. The door was behind the stage and led out to the main floor. So we walk out onto the floor, only trouble is it was completely empty. We stood out like a sore thumb, as group of kids that just randomly emerging from behind the stage.

Needless to say we were confronted by security immediately. They asked to see our tickets and since we didn't have them, they promptly escorted us out the front door. Strike one. But we didn't give up. We put our thinking caps on and tried to come up with another solution.

Someone came up with a good idea. Since we had a few tickets, those with ticket stubs would all go in. Once inside, they would all give their ticket stubs to one person who would then walk them out and distribute them to those of us who needed them. Good idea, but their was one more barrier.

They stamped your hand when you went in the first time so if you left and came back, you had to show your stamp. We needed the stamp to get in. Luckily it was a simple design, just a block letter with black ink. With a quick trial, we figured out you could color over it with black ink, then press it against someone else's hand to make a light copy. Then you could darken the new copy in with the ink pen. We did this and it looked good!

So with our homemade stamps and recycled ticket stubs, we approached the doors. Feeling nervous, but trying to act as normal as possible, we walked up, showed the ticket stub and the stamp and before we knew it, we were in!

By this time the place was packed, so even though there was a slight chance of being noticed, we blended into the crowd. We got to enjoy the concert and we all had a great time!

What we did was not necessarily right and I certainly do not recommend it, but at the time, given the circumstances it seemed like it was ok. We gladly would have paid to get in, but because they were sold out, there was not much else we could do. Also, the place was standing room only so we were taking anyone's seat. Yes, it was a bit crowded, but that's how concerts are. All in all it was an adventure filled night that involved suspense, creativity, and live music from one of our favorite bands!