Fred Wilson, a NYC venture capitalist:

As I look over the business plans and projections that these entrepreneurs share with us, one thing I constantly see is a lack of sophistication in calculating the investor’s return.

He explains the “cash flow method” of calculating a Return on Investment (ROI)… assuming you’re able to project your income. As always, there are some interesting tidbits in the comments.

[Via Dan Benjamin]

What USAA did for check depositing, Intuit is doing for tax returns! Their $9.99 TurboTax SnapTax app for iPhone lets you snap a picture of your W-2s, which it uses to autofill some of your data, then you answer some questions & click to file your returns. It’s for California residents only with fairly basic tax return needs, but it sure looks to make them as quick & painless as possible.

There’s a demo video if you want to see it in action.

[Via TUAW]

The Economist:

The most powerful tool, of course, is the interest rate. But central banks are wary of using it to pop bubbles because it risks crushing growth as well. And, with the world economy in its current fragile state, they are rightly unwilling to jack up interest rates now.

But even if governments judge that the risks posed by raising rates now outweighs that of keeping them low, investors still have plenty of reasons to worry. The problem for them is not just that valuations look high by historic standards. It is also that the current combination of high asset prices, low interest rates and massive fiscal deficits is unsustainable.

[…]

Investors tempted to take comfort from the fact that asset prices are still below their peaks would do well to remember that they may yet fall back a very long way. The Japanese stock market still trades at a quarter of the high it reached 20 years ago. The NASDAQ trades at half the level it reached during dotcom mania. Today the prices of many assets are being held up by unsustainable fiscal and monetary stimulus. Something has to give.

I’m all too much of a pessimist already, but I’ve been worrying about this lately.

[Via Jason Fried]

I have stuff cluttering my apartment, my office, my parent’s house, and my thoughts due to nostalgia. It has a negative effect on my productivity and happiness, but what about my wallet?

I know it affects my income due to reduced productivity so I’m working on de-cluttering, but I can tell you exactly what one particular piece of nostalgia has cost me in the last six months: $19. What was it? A savings account. More specifically, my very first savings account. My parents opened it for me at First Vermont Bank and it’s followed me through quite a few mergers and acquisitions since.

Unfortunately, earlier this year it dropped below the $250 minimum when I got into a pinch. I never even realized it had ever acquired a minimum balance. I immediately called my bank, they refunded the fee, and I transferred enough money in to bring it back up above the minimum.

A few months later, I again had to let it drop below the minimum and I haven’t been able to restore it since so had been paying $4 a month in fees. What’s worse? That savings account only had a 0.01% APR, so even trying to keep it at the minimum was only earning me 2¢ a month. I obviously had not been following my own advice.

So, on Monday I closed the account and transferred the remaining $35 into a savings account currently earning 1.3% APR. Had I done this months ago I would’ve not only saved the $19 in fees, but also would have earned higher interest on the larger sum. Better late than never, but stupid nonetheless.

In the face of the worst economic upheaval since the Great Depression, millions of Americans are hurting. The […] interactive map serves as a vivid representation of just how much.

I already feel fortunate to still be gainfully employed, but now even more so. I have quite a few acquaintances who are part of the “more than 31 million people” and my heart goes out to them.

[Via Daring Fireball]

MacHeist is giving away six free apps this week!
Joining in on the fun, 100 developers are putting software on sale.
Use the “OneFingerDiscount” coupon code, and get 20% off.

One Finger Discount currently includes the following personal finance applications for the Mac: Cashculator, Horizon, Chronicle 2, and Moneydance. There’s only one day left and remember that you should click through to aforementioned programs from the One Finger Discount site.

[Via Daring Fireball]

Over a year ago I started out on what I thought would be a slow journey to getting out of debt. I did some initial introspection and wandered off in a random direction. I actually made some progress initially, but I got sidetracked and backslid considerably. However, something recently clicked and it’s given me the tool I needed: getting things done.

I’m a procrastinator so I’m always putting things on the back-burner and telling myself I’ll get to them later. That obviously does not work. My new weapon is—unfortunately, also the slogan for a sporting goods company—telling myself to, “Just do it.”

It took some time for this method to work. It started with switching to cash for purchases of gas & groceries. Then, changing my method of paying bills. It’s about building up a positive habit, so practice makes perfect. A recent change in my daily schedule has made me happier and provided significant motivation to make thinking “Just do it” really stick: getting my dog her morning walk every day. Sometimes the method comes out of left field, but being happy and healthy makes every decision easier.

Most recently, I’ve been getting through monthly bills by the skin of my teeth, so I’ve been trimming unnecessary spending:

  • Auto Insurance – I made an extremely poor decision and purchased a second vehicle a few months ago. What’s worse is that I was paying full insurance on both vehicles even though one is not being driven! A ten minute call to my insurance agent allowed me to lower my payment to only $10 more than I was paying for just one: first, I dropped one down to pleasure vehicle level; second, I upped the deductible on both to $500.
  • Late Fees – I’ve been committed to paying all my bills on time, but last month I managed to let one of my credit card bills slip until the day it was due. I payed it online, but after business hours. I soon found out that I have no grace period on that card when it’s carrying a balance, not even the one day it would’ve taken to clear. It was my fault, but I called my credit card company anyway and explained my mistake. They kindly offered to split the $39 late fee with me.
  • Recurring Payments – I’ve also switched my few recurring payments from my high interest rate credit card that carries a balance to a card with no balance so I’m not incurring extra finance fees every month.
  • Cell Phones – I had switched to UNICEL a few years ago to get better cell service at home and at the office, but it ended up being slightly more expensive than I had calculated. When AT&T bought UNICEL in Vermont, my bill went up even further. My employer now covers the data plan that I need for emergency server management, but it wasn’t enough and I had actually built up over 3,000 roll-over minutes. I just got off a 12 minute call in which I dropped down to a family plan with fewer minutes which just barely covers our usage, but was able to retain my rollover minutes and save $20/month. It’s also now on my calendar to check our usage every 1st & 15th.

For me, the biggest step has been getting to the point where I can tell myself to, “Just do it,” and actually do it. More importantly, this has allowed me to start whittling away at spending so that I can have more ammunition to attack my debt with. You can too. Everyone can build up their ability to tell themselves to “Just do it” and tick off the smaller issues that may be holding them back.

The best part of saying, “Just do it,” is that if you make a mistake, you can rectify it just as quickly as you tried it. Maybe not completely painlessly, but quickly. I’m certainly ready to change my cell phone service back up to a higher level if it doesn’t work out.