Archive for December, 2008

Wallet Phones

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

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wallet phoneWhat’s your idea of a bad day? Imagine leaving home without your wallet or purse? Does this sound like the makings for a very bad day? If it does, perhaps you should read on to discover why things might not really be as bad as they sound.

A Japanese company called “DoCoMo” has created “wallet phones” and is now actively marketing them throughout Japan. These actual cell phones are the size of a credit card and are fitted with a special computer chip which allows users to not only use the phone for things we’d ordinarily use one for, but all allows them to pay for things using their cell phone. Wallet Phones can currently be used just like credit and debit cards all over Japan to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines, pay for purchases in stores and restaurants, vending machines and arcades. It is anticipated that in the near future, owners will be able to check in with their airlines, pay for train rides, rent videos, and even have their office keys built into their cell phones.  Drivers license information could be encrypted into the chip on the phone.While the technology has not quite made it into the United States just yet, it is expected to do so shortly. Wallet phones will be able to be used the same way as a debit cards and can hold more than one credit card. The functionality will provide owners with an easy and convenient way to organize their lives including their financial information at the palm of their hands.

Many people already rely heavily upon their SmartPhones as a way of maintaining their emails, calendars, contact information, to-do lists, appointment setting, photos, music, and of course phone calls. The new wallet phone will take it a step further to allow everything to be incorporated into one simple machine which fits in the palm of your hand, therefore eliminating the need to carry a separate wallet. Now, about getting that tube of lipstick to fit in the cell phone, you’re on your own! In the meantime, look for a Wallet Phone coming to a store near you soon. That way, instead of worrying whether you forgot your wallet or purse at home, you won’t want to leave home without your phone. But hey, look on the bright side, it’s one less thing to remember, right?

Remote Deposit Functionality

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

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remote depositHave you ever been a few days away from pay day, short on cash, but needing to buy something? We’ve all been there. And face it, most people have done what has been coined as “floating a check” at some point in their lives. You know what I’m talking about; with little to no money in your checking account, you write a check for the amount of your purchase knowing it will take a few days for the merchant to cash the check and the check to make its way from the merchant’s bank to your bank and come out of your account. While risky, this action has made it possible for many Americans to make it from paycheck to paycheck with the things they need. However, thanks to a new technology called “remote deposit” the days of “floating checks” may soon, if not already, be over.

Previously, merchants accepted checks in their store and made daily or weekly deposits at the bank by manually grouping all checks received and calculating the deposit. They then drove to the bank where a teller would confirm the deposit and sometimes place a one to ten days hold on items to ensure they were processed as “clear”, or ensure that there were enough funds in the originators account to cover the amount of the check.  Merchants are unable to access any of the funds that have been placed on hold for the set amount of time. Sometimes it could take days for checks to travel from various banks around the country.

“Remote Deposit” is a technology which makes making bank deposits much easier and faster for merchants. In the store, clerks accept personal checks, business checks, and money orders from customers. They run each item through a small machine which scans the document and records a digital image of the front and back of the document. The image is then grouped and through the use of specially designed software, deposited into the store’s bank account through the Internet. The new technology makes it possible for merchants to access their money faster, eliminate trips to the bank, and makes handling checks much easier for merchants.

As we become a more globalized society, banks have begun to accommodate our lifestyles by providing us with technology that suits our needs quickly and efficiently. The new Remote Deposit technology makes it easier and faster for money to travel. With this technology, writing a check is now almost as fast as swiping a credit card through a terminal. Essentially, the two technologies work much in the same way. While the number of checks written each year in the United States is declining, due to the increased use of credit and debit cards, there are still over 40 billion checks written each year. This new “Remote Deposit” feature makes it easier and faster for these check transactions to take place. However, it also eliminates the time lapse in between the time a check is written and the time it is cashed, to allow for extra deposits to be made.

How Technology Affects Our Money

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

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money technologyToday’s modern technology offers us a multitude of money management methods. We are constantly offered easier ways to pay at stores and while not as numerous, several options are available with regards to how we receive our money. We’ve always been able to pay with cash and checks as well as several forms of plastic including credit and debit cards. But today, new technologies are available that make paying even easier.

Imagine being able to pay for goods and services with just the touch of your finger! A company called “Pay By Touch” has developed a scanner that is currently being used in hundreds of supermarkets throughout the country. Customers do not have to carry credit cards, cash, or checks with them because they are conveniently able to go through the check-out line, scan their finger print, enter a phone number and select a bank account or credit card to pay for their groceries with. Customers do have to complete a short enrollment process prior to being able to utilize the program. Upon enrolling, their unique fingerprint is scanned, and an encryption program converts it into forty unique points and keeps the information confidential. When the customer touches the special scanner, the forty points are recognized and the transaction can take place easily and quickly.

Another new “contactless” technology called “Blink” makes it possible for customers to simply wave a card within four inches of a reader and within a second or two, receive a tone or a beep when their payment is complete. Nothing exchanges hands with anyone and no signatures or pin codes are necessary. The technology works by a Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) tag inside of the card. The tag contains information about its owner including account numbers and balances so that it can charge the correct account, similar to the way a debit card works. The cards contain the same security levels as a regular credit or debit card and special coding is used to scramble the customer’s information so it cannot be stolen. This new technology makes paying faster and easier by an estimated 53% in comparison to swiping a credit card and 63% faster than paying with cash. It has become popular with convenience stores and quick-serve restaurants as these stores aim to get customers in and out as quickly as possible.

Another way technology is affecting how we handle our money is in the ways in which we are paid. Today, most employers offer at least two forms of payment: Check or Direct Deposit. Another new technology gives yet a new option for payrolling employees, this is especially important in a nation where 12 to 15 million individuals still don’t have a bank account. Typically, employees who do not have a bank account are forced to go to a supermarket or check-cashing store to receive their pay. These stores usually charge a convenience fee for their services. In the 1990s however, Payroll Cards were invented. Similar in looks to a regular debit or credit card, these cards allow employers to send electronic signals to the cards which represent the amount of money the employee is supposed to receive. The card then works as a “pre-paid debit card”. Utilizing these cards are cheaper that issuing paper checks. It is also safer than a paper check because they are less likely to be lost or stolen and are easily replaced in the event of either of these options. In addition, employers are able to save money because they don’t have to pay for postage or other expenses associated with mailing paper checks to their employees.  

What Happens to Defaced Currency?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

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defaced currencyIt is illegal to purposely deface, mutilate, impair, diminish, falsify, scales or lightens any coins minted or “coined” in the United States of America. However, the U.S. government will replace worn out or damaged money if three-fifths of it is still identifiable. Two-fifths will earn the bearer half the face value; less than that gets nothing. Every year, the U.S. Treasury handles over 30,000 claims of destroyed or badly damaged currency. But what happens to money that becomes unrecognizable or “mutilated” through unintentional means?

There are numerous ways that currency can become “mutilated”. The most common causes are fire, water, chemicals, explosives, animal, insect, or rodent damage, and deterioration from burying paper currency. If more than half of the money is identifiable and evidence relating to what happened to the remainder of the money indicates that it was completely destroyed, it is possible for money to be replaced however, special steps must be taken to ensure the authenticity of the currency and the condition of the remaining portions of the paper bills. Special experts are employed by the Treasury Department to examine mutilated currency. These individuals carefully investigate all mutilated money received and are responsible for okaying the writing of a Treasury check for the value of the currency as they determine to be redeemable.

It is important to note that paper money can become badly soiled, defaced, disintegrated, worn, and torn through the ordinary exchange of hands. If more than half of the original note is left and special examination of the note is not required, the money is not considered mutilated. These funds can be taken directly to a bank and exchanged for a replacement. The money is then sent to the Federal Reserve Bank to be exchanged for new bills. The serial numbers of the worn-out money are recorded and then the bills are destroyed. Damaged coins are returned to the Treasury for re-minting, meaning they melt them down to make new coins.  Mutilated currency however needs to be mailed or delivered to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., with a letter indicating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated. Special care should be taken to ensure that the bills are left in the same condition they were in when found.

While it is comforting to know that there are measures in place to protect currency from losing it’s value through unintentional mutilation or defacement, one should take every precaution possible to protect our currency. After all, as taxpayers, we do pay for the minting and printing of all currency and coinage in the United States. Try to keep money safe by avoiding letting your wallet run through the washing machine, or leaving money lying around where it can be damaged. Also, please don’t write on bills ad this may cause them not to work in vending machines or not to be accepted meaning they will need to be replaced sooner than ordinary.

Thrifty or “Green”?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

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greenFirst of all, I must confess. I try my best to save a dollar wherever I can. I clip coupons every Sunday. Shop when my local grocer offers double and triple coupons, try to eat out less, but the generic peanut butter, and lower my thermostat by a few degrees to save costs on heating. But has anyone other than me noticed lately how all of a sudden being cheap thrifty, can become trendy, if we call it “going green”?  I mean, have you heard some of the latest trends? Dumpster diving? You’ve got to be kidding me right? Thrift Stores are no back in style? Reusing another person’s trash has become a phenomenal feat because there’s less waste in the landfill.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against doing what’s good for the planet. I recycle my cans, my paper, my plastic and basically anything that my local municipality allows. I even have my own garden to grow vegetables free of pesticides. I switched my lightbulbs out for ones that supposedly use less energy and I’ve even stopped using the plastic bags at the grocery store when it’s not necessary. And while I accept that the days of just throwing everything away to end up in a landfill are over, I cannot help but wonder why there are those among us who seem to be taking this whole “green” thing to the extreme. However, it’s illegal to be caught digging through a dumpster. Besides, who knows what you could stumble upon in one of those smelly things!

This brings me to my next thought, is it possible that times have gotten so bad in the midst of our economy that ordinary working folks are actually being forced to search for items in the dumpster in order to make ends meet? I don’t want to seem insensitive as I know there are many Americans among us who have been forced out of their jobs through lay-offs and cutbacks and I sincerely offer them my condolences to them. I know that there are many others who have lost their homes due to foreclosure and again, I sympathize with this awful situation. Yet I cannot understand what motives other than sheer desperation would force someone who has a seemingly ordinary life with a job and a home and a family to search for their next meal in a dumpster.  Again, I don’t mean to sound insensitive as I know there are those who cannot afford to put food on the table and warm clothes on the backs of their family, but from the stories I’ve read online, many Americans are turning by night into dumpster diving savages! When asked why, they say they’re doing our planet a favor and keeping “perfectly good items” out of the landfill.

So my question to readers is: what’s driving perfectly sane people to jump inside of dumpsters? Is it really because they feel that their doing so is going to make the planet better for our children? Or is there another motive below the surface? Perhaps it curiosity of the unknown and bringing out their inner treasure-hunter. I’m eager to hear your thoughts. 

Last Minute Christmas Gifts on a Budget

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

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money christmas treeTime is running short…only a few days left until Christmas. While many are rushing from store to store picking up last minute gifts, others are worried how they can afford to make their dollar stretch as far as possible on gifts this year. If you’re still trying to decide what to give someone in your life, here’s a few last minute, dollar-stretching ideas:

Always a good idea for everyone a gift of food offers endless possibilities. Candy and cookies, breads, sweet breads, muffins, an entire meal or even a mix; taking the time to prepare  something with your hands in thought of someone will show them just how much they mean to you. One of my favorite quick and easy gifts is taking a package of Oreo cookies and dipping them in white and milk chocolate separately. Then you can dip them in sprinkles or coconut or other toppings or just set them on wax paper to dry. Whatever tickles your fancy, your friends and family are sure to love this special treat. Another favorite food gift of mine, is my tradition of cooking an entire meal for my family during the holiday season … it frees up time for them, and it’s fun to get together and talk and relive memories we all share together.

Another great gift idea at the holidays is pictures. Pictures give us memories of special times in our lives. There’s no better gift than a memory to bring a smile to a loved one’s face. Frame a picture of yourself, your family or just your children. Give friends pictures of special moments shared between you. Everyone loves a great photo. Frames can range from exquisite to simple depending on tastes, but regardless the true gift is in the memories shared.

Homemade coupons make a great gift and don’t cost a lot at all. Remember as a child the coupons to Mom for a Hug and a kiss? Updated versions of those coupons can be just as fun…and special for the recipient. Try giving someone a coupon for a home-cooked meal on a busy night or a day spent together watching movies at home. Sometimes simple things go further than anything you can spend money on.

Try visiting stores that might be going out of business in your area to score extra savings on great gifts for those in your life. Many stores are having sales right now as they try to eliminate their inventory, many with discounts up to 70 and 90% off. You’re sure to find something for someone on your list and the savings will be great!

Finally, how about a donation on behalf of someone you know. What a great way to do something good for others and still give gifts that is meaningful for someone on your list. Think of causes that might be special to the person you’re giving on behalf of and look for local charities to donate to on their behalf.

In conclusion, there are lots of great, inexpensive last-minute gift ideas. It just involves getting a little creative and thinking outside the box. Good luck and have a great holiday!

Has Las Vegas Luck Run Out?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

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dollar vegasThe current global recession is affecting cities across the globe. With the holidays fast approaching, many thoughts ordinarily turn to travel. But on the brink of a global recession, many families are staying put and avoiding costs wherever possible. No stranger to holiday travel, the thought of spending the holidays at home just didn’t seem right to me. Several months ago, I found a great deal on airfare and now I plan to embark upon a trip to the once a recession-proof oasis of Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s right, Sin City! But it seems that even Vegas can’t seem to escape this recession.

Over the years, Las Vegas has grown as speeds so fast that even frequent visitors had trouble keeping up with the growth. Conventions and the entertainment industry have made this desert oasis and beacon for global tourism. In fact, since the 1970s, Las Vegas has remained recession proof. Yet one question, remains on the minds of most Las Vegas Loyalists, “how will this recession affect Sin City”?

Veteran Vegas travelers, my spouse and I are no strangers to the Las Vegas Lights. This trip however, we expect to be a little different. Not only did we receive drastic discounts on airfare and hotel rooms, we’re still plan to make changes on our own in order to protect our nest egg. We’re packing a little lighter to avoid airline luggage fees and leaving more cash at home than we ordinarily would. We were able to score a great room at the Bellagio with a view of the fountains for less than we paid for a room at the same hotel without the view of the fountains back in August. However, one thing I’m quite confident of, the slot machines and the lights will still be on the gambling capital of the world when we arrive this week.  We’ve already purchased tickets to see two well-known shows on the strip and there were no discounts available on those.

In a city where money will get you whatever your heart desires, it’s difficult to imagine Las Vegas not incurring some sort of substantial slow-down in the days and months to come. With tourism as the nearly sole industry in this desert city, Las Vegas is known for its growth and expansion. Already, over 20,000 construction jobs have dried up in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has launched a new $12 million three-month national campaign in order to attempt to entice conventions to Las Vegas and the dollars spent within them. The city’s convention business has been slipping in recent months as several annual conventions have seen fewer attendees and shorter stays among those that are attending.

So how will our upcoming trip to Las Vegas fair in the midst of a recession? Only time will tell. There’s still a lot to do in Vegas that doesn’t involve gambling. You can bet that we will take advantage of the “Duece’s” public transit line offering $5 bus fare all the way down the strip and onto Freemont Street. We’ll take in our shows, gawk at the Bellagio fountain and enjoy the free laser-light display on Freemont over three blocks of roof covering the street.

How to find your own hidden money?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

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hidden moneyDid you ever think that you might be able to find hidden money right under your own nose? What would you do with an extra $1,000-$1,500 per year?

America is all about convenience, but how much is “convenience” costing you? Little indulgences you enjoy on a daily basis might be putting a bigger strain than you realize on your wallet.  Here’s how to add an easy $1,000 to your bank account:

Skip the Starbucks: (okay, you can still have it on special occasions) But seriously, coffee you make yourself is nearly free in comparison to the high priced lattes. Skipping the expensive name even just one time a week can put an extra $200 per year right in your pocket!

Eat out less: I know it’s cliché, but the truth is, spending $5 a day on lunch at McDonalds really adds up. By bringing your lunch, it’s possible to eat for around $1.00 a day. If you work 200 days per year, this results in a savings of $600 per year right into your wallet! Not to mention the added health benefits by skipping the fattening fast foods!

No more bottled water: Not only is it bad for the environment, bottled waters costs $1 a pop or more. By installing a filter for your tap, you can save over $200 per year!

Get a library card: A new novel costs around $30 in the bookstore and can be bought in a used bookstore for $5 to $10. If you read a couple books a month, go to the library and check them out for free. Total savings of $500 per year or more!

Drink wine at home instead of the restaurant: You can usually buy the same bottle of wine for what restaurants/bars charge for the glass. Enjoy it in the comfort of your own home with friends and family and save big!

Clip Coupons: Coupons are easy to clip and many people are able to save big bucks by strategically using coupons for things they already buy. While savings will vary by the time you invest, simple changes like shopping on days when your local grocery store offers double and triple coupons can mean big bucks back in your pocket.

Save on Dry Cleaning: While some articles of clothing must be dry cleaned, the truth is, not everything has to be. Use your good judgment to determine what can really be washed at home. Another option is to wear things more than once before having them cleaned. Many people who work in an office don’t dirty clothing with just one wear. If a clothing article isn’t really dirty, why have it laundered at the price of several dollars per item?

There are many other ways to take a look at little indulgences that really aren’t necessary. Take a look at your weekly spending to determine what unnecessary spending you can cut back by keeping a log of all your expenses for at least one week and then evaluating what you really need versus what is a nice to have. You can thank yourself for your “sacrifices” by rewarding yourself in a year with a fantastic vacation or a great pair of shoes fully paid for by your savings!! 

Dollar Bill versus Dollar Coin

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

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dollar bill versus dollar coinThe United States Mint has made several attempts to introduce a coin which would replace the dollar bill. Each time, the end result has been mass production of coins which end up stored in vaults due to lack of demand. Many other countries, including Australia and our neighbor Canada, have replaced their “dollar bill” with a coin version. So why do Americans prefer the bill over the coin so much?

The U.S. Mint pumps out 3.4 billion fresh single dollar bills each year. The truth is, dollar bills wear out in about 18 months while the coins last approximately 30 years. While each coin is more expensive to produce than a bill, the difference in time spent in circulation would mean the overall cost of having a dollar coin instead of a bill over time would be much lower. With this huge of a difference, wouldn’t it be more economical as a nation to utilize the coins? In 2002, the Government Accountability Office stated that our nation could save $500 million a year in production costs if we switched to coins instead of bills. Given the fact that taxpayers could save several hundred million dollars per year just by implementing the dollar coin and phasing out the dollar bill, wouldn’t the appeal to everyone? So just exactly how much is it worth to be able to have a dollar bill instead of a dollar coin?

The many advantages of a dollar coin are not only from a tax savings perspective. Vending machines would be more accessible as individuals are more likely to put coins in a machine instead of dig out a dollar bill. Coins are better for the environment than bills. Less paper is used to print them, the last longer than bills, and less energy is spent producing them. Coins are also easier than bills to count than bills since they don’t stick together and they can be weighed, whereas the bill cannot. Coins are also healthier than bills. Since they aren’t fibrous like the bill, they don’t absorb as many germs or dirt. Coins are washable by simply running under soap and water, but bills are much more difficult to clean without risking damage to the bill.

Current complaints regarding the dollar coin are that it is too close in size to a quarter. People also do not like the added weight in their pockets compared to a dollar bill. Since paper money can be folded and shaped to fit nearly anywhere, it is easier to carry than the coin. Other disadvantages would include the upgrades required to implement the new coins.  Many cash registers and the aforementioned vending mentions would all require equipment upgrades in order to be able to accept the new dollar coin. Counterfeiting is much easier to regulate with bills than coins since new technology allows for special inks, watermarks, and paper. Coins are much easier to counterfeit, therefore, perhaps a savings in created in the form of economic stability.

All in all, there are both advantages and disadvantages to each form of money. However, given our nation’s current financial struggles, the American people may begin to push for every dollar savings they can which could result in a look at the bottom line. In addition, as the “Green Initiative” spreads, the idea of the coin may go further from an environmental perspective. Yet, the fact remains, many attempts have been made to implement a dollar coin into circulation without success. Americans are just hesitant to adopt this new standard and it could remain a difficult sell. Only time will tell what the future of our money looks like. 

United States Secret Service’s Role in Currency Counterfeit Prevention

Monday, December 15th, 2008

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US Secret ServiceMost ordinary U.S. citizens might not associate the Secret Service with our Nation’s currency. In fact, perhaps one of the best known services of the United States Secret Service is protecting our nation’s leaders, especially the President. However, the Secret Service plays a vital role in protecting our currency and in turn, our economy. Currently a division of the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service is responsible for two very distinct areas of responsibility. First, and notably the most well-known, Secret Service Agents serve in protective roles as to preserve the safely of our nation’s leaders and their families. Second, and less publically noted, the Secret Service is responsible for the prevention and investigation of crimes involving US currency and treasury bonds.

In 1865, the U.S. Secret Service was first established for the specific purpose of combating the counterfeiting of money.  At the time, it was reported that one-third to one-half of all the currency in circulation in the U.S. was counterfeit. In fact, in the midst of the Civil War, with somewhere around 7,000 different bills in circulation, it became almost impossible to detect a counterfeit bill from a legitimate one. Therefore, the United States Secret Service was born in order to prevent any further damage to the nation’s struggling economy.  

In 1967, the agency took on additional responsibilities which included investigating those suspected of perpetrating frauds against the government and also served other role of investigating a broad range of crime areas including everything from robberies, murders, the Ku Klux Klan, non-conforming distillers, land fraud, smugglers all the way to illegal gambling.  

Today, the Secret Service is now a division of the Department of Homeland of Security and although the roles assumed by the Secret Service in its early days have since been passed on to other agencies including the FBI, ATS, and IRS, the Secret Service retains primary jurisdiction over all areas of counterfeit U.S. currency and treasury notes as well as its special duty of protecting the president, first lady, and other U.S. dignitaries. The agency also tracks suspicious individuals and steps in to access local crimes when necessary.

One of the oldest crimes in our nation’s history is counterfeit money. Although today’s money has many more preventative measures in place to protect our currency, counterfeiting remains a very real danger for our nation’s economy. In fact, due to modern technologies available to thieves, such as photographic and printing equipment, it has become easier and easier for thieves to commit counterfeiting fraud, therefore, requiring the Secret Service in combination with the U.S. Mint to enact more and more security features into our nation’s currency.

Due to the nature of its role, many details surrounding the Secret Service are kept “secret”. Many of the agents’ identities are kept confidential for their own protection as well as the protection of their job duties. In fact, even the wives and families of some secret service agents do not know their husbands and fathers as Secret Service Agents. Whereas, many agencies require uniforms of their agents, the Secret Service uniforms are designed to blend in with the role they are performing and can range from tuxedos to business suits to jeans.

In conclusion, the United States Secret Service plays a crucial role in the safety of our nation. It protects some of the most important persons in our nation all the way from the President and First Family, to other political figures and embassies. However, its role in protecting our currency is perhaps as crucial to our economy as any other role assumed by the agency. 

A Backyard Full of CASH???

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

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dollar cash goldAs we enter into what is expected to be one of the largest recessions in our nation’s history, individuals throughout the United States are faced with the question: “what should I do with my money”? During the Great Depression, many individuals hid cans of coins in their backyards due to their mistrust of the banking institutions. More and more individuals have lost confidence in our current banking system and have begun to question the safety of one of their most safely guarded possessions: money. But what is the best way to protect one’s cash?

Over the years, we’ve all heard of random places to hide money: under the bed, in the freezer, buried in the backyard, in the Bible but where is the best place to put it? My grandmother hid cash for years in the back of her closet between some old quilts that were never used. No one knew about this until after the passed. My husband’s grand-father hid his money throughout his home. He told his widow from his deathbed to throw nothing away in that house without fully going through it. Still to the day, she’ll be going through some old book or other item and stumble upon a $100 bill. Perhaps this was his way of always making sure she was taken care of, but more than likely; he felt it was safer than putting his money in a bank. A close family friend is said to have “millions” of dollars buried in his backyard under a fig tree and while I don’t know if it’s true or not, it does make for a good legend. I’ve often wondered if upon his death, anyone will visit his backyard with a shovel to look for buried treasure!

Of course, burying cash in the backyard is nothing new. During the Great Depression Era, it was common for folks to make “treasure maps” and place their valuables in the ground in coffee cans or old metal boxes. Today a “Ziploc” brand bag, placed in a piece of PVC pipe is a common way to bury cash five feet into the ground. In fact, there’s even an “invention” floating around on eBay called the “Midnight Gardner”. The device is actually a simple twelve by four inch capped, watertight PVC pipe which is said to hold as much as $4,000 in gold, silver, or cash.

Is it a good idea to bury cash? Some say it’s not as the paper money will lose value due to inflation. These individuals recommend investing in gold bullion and burying that as it will hold it value better than cash. There are those that say if the economy got to the point that money invested in banks was gone, that paper money would hold no value either. Others still insist that burying money/gold/etc is a bad idea because it can be easily forgotten or lost. Then, there are those that say that any attempt at “playing it safe” and pulling money out of the economy only worsens the effect of the recession.

In the end, I’m of the opinion that what to do with money is a personal decision and should be made by each individual with regards to what they feel is the safest route for them. As for me, I’ve got a personal stock of cash that I’m seeking a place to hide away for a “rainy day”.

The United States Twenty Dollar Bill

Friday, December 5th, 2008

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twenty dollar billDid you know that the highest denomination of bank note most frequently used by Americans on an everyday basis is the the United States twenty dollar bill? It is indeed, and this is largely because the twenty dollar bill is arguably the only banknote dispensed by the Banking Auto Teller Machines, or ATM, in the United States. This is probably because it would cost the banks more money to modify these machines to become compatible in dispensing other type of bills. The United States twenty dollar bill is also the most used denomination for withdrawals and cashing in checks.

According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the average life span of a twenty dollar bill in circulation is twenty-five months or two years, before it succumbs to wear and tear and needs to be disposed and replaced. It is also said that twenty dollar bills are just a little over one-fifth of all United States paper currency produced today. These bills are delivered in violet straps by the Federal Reserve Banks for dissemination into public circulation.

The portrait of the seventh United States President, Andrew Jackson, is depicted on the obverse side of the bill, although his actions towards the Native Americans during his tenure leaves a lot to be questioned on the suitability of his representation of the twenty dollar bill. This also fuelled one of the bill’s many alternate monikers,  the ‘Jackson’. The twenty dollar bill is also known as a ‘double sawbuck’, a ‘twenty banger’, and a ‘twomp’. Apart from President Jackson, other famous historical figures, from Presidents to Statesmen, and even American businessmen, that have graced the twenty dollar bills are Alexander Hamilton, Stephen Decatur, James Garfield, Daniel Manning, John Marshall, Hugh McCulloch, George Washington, and Grover Cleveland. President Andrew Jackson became the permanent fixture on the twenty dollar bill from the year 1928 onwards. The visual rendering of the White House is also featured on the reverse side of the bill.

First appearing as a demand note, the twenty made its debut in 1861, and it subsequently evolved with the many classifications and categorizations of the United States currency system, from United States note, national bank note , gold certificate, silver certificate, treasury coin note, and to the current Federal Reserve bank note it is today.

The current series of twenty dollar bills we see today was released on October 9, 2003, and it comes with a light background shading of green and yellow. The oval border previously surrounding Andrew Jackson’s portrait was not included in the new design, with background images of eagles and such added in. The oval border was also omitted out on the riverside side of the bill where the White House is now featured. Scattered all around the reverse side of the bill are also a lot of small and faded numerals of twenties, and this design is formed in the EURion constellation, a pattern of symbols found on new banknote designs since 1996. The pattern is said to be instrumental in preventing counterfeiters using color photocopiers to forge dollar bills. 

What Is A Dollar Bill Made Of ?

Monday, December 1st, 2008

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dollar made ofEver wondered what your dollar bill is made of? Do you know why money doesn’t disintegrate when left in the washing machine? That’s because paper money is more cloth than it is paper! In fact there is no paper at all, or even wood, used in any of our dollar bills. Paper money is made out of rags of paper, also known as heavy paper. These rags are cotton and linen fabrics beaten together to create cotton and linen fibers, making it really sturdy and durable.  

These rag fibers bond together more strongly than that of the fibers found on normal paper. Note that normal paper is made out of selected cellulose fiber which comes from trees, and these cellulose based paper absorbs water immediately and falls apart when so, as opposed to rags made out of cotton and linen fibers which molecule structures don’t break down easy. These rag fibers are fundamentally unaffected by water, its composition is so strong that it remains unaltered upon immersion in water or most liquids. The concoction of materials used is also much more resilient than normal paper, it resists wear and tear, and also does not contain the usual agents that makes ordinary paper glow slightly under an ultraviolet light. Paper money or banknote paper is also sometimes impregnated with polyvinyl alcohol or gelatin to give it that extra strength and durability.

Paper money is basically composed of 25 percent linen fibers and 75 percent cotton fibers, and red and blue synthetic fibers of various lengths are distributed evenly and consistently throughout the paper like material. It is said that prior to World War I, these fibers were made out of silk, but the practice was quickly discontinued because it wasn’t cost effective and practical.

Most banknotes these days are made using the mould method in which a watermark and thread is incorporated during the material forming process, mainly to thwart currency counterfeiters. To keep up and stay ahead of currency forgers, paper money today has also become so high-tech, and the newer designs include state-of-the-art technology like Cornerstone, Platinum and Optiks, all of which increases the strength and security of paper money.

Manufacturers of banknote paper were also swift to recognize the problems associated with dirt and they developed a special paper with a thin layer of varnish on the surface to repel them. Recently, the composition of materials used in producing paper money has also changed dramatically with the introduction of synthetic technology, which comprises an impenetrable network inside the cotton fiber structure, supporting the banknote and intensifying its mechanical stability, Newer products like Synthec and Diamone Composite has also responded to this call and the growing demand for higher mechanical stability of the paper, making paper money more resistant to wear and tear. Consisting of 80 percent cotton fiber and 20 percent synthetic fiber, Synthec based paper money lasts longer and is more flexible. Some countries around the world have also adopted polymer, which is basically soft plastic, to replace the traditional cotton and linen composites.