Authors Posts by Brainy Smurf

Brainy Smurf

I'm three apples high and nearsighted. I like yellow-haired smurfs, robot invasions, sarcasm, and anything where the secret ingredient is love.

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Back on July 23, 2013, I mentioned Bitcoin on this site for the first time.

Shame I didn’t buy any of it — it was around $107 back then.

So, fast-forward 8+ years and I’ve finally added crypto to my finances. My timing could not have been worse — I started in November of 2021 (at it’s peak, roughly $60k per Bitcoin, to date) and then promptly lost nearly 50% of the value by mid-January 2022.

Serves me right.

Even still, I’m staying the course — purchasing $250 of Bitcoin each month and two $100 bi-monthly purchases of Ethereum.

It’s enough to build up a decent sum over the course of year…but small enough that I’m not anxious when it looses 20% of it’s value on any given day.

Okay, fine. Just a little anxious considering I’m *still* carrying some pretty significant credit card debt.

That said, I’m confident in admitting that I missed the boat with crypto. I didn’t understand it a decade ago and, frankly, I still don’t fully understand the attraction.

I can almost guarantee that, in ten years time, I’ll say the same thing about NFTs.

Yeah, I’m not touching those. I just don’t understand them.

I’ll regret it, I’m sure.

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Always on the hunt for an easy way to make passive income, I dipped my foot into the realm of peer-to-peer lending back in February of 2016.

Ironically enough, I’d started researching peer-to-peer lending back then in search of a loan to help finance the construction of our garage, which I still haven’t talked about here on PIAC, but instead ended up being a lender rather than a borrower.

So, at the onset, I put in $1000 with Lending Club and funded 40 different loans in $25 increments. I picked roughly half of them myself and used their “auto” process to pick the rest of them.

It took around three weeks for it fully “invest” all of my money — partly because I’d set the “Automated Investing” to only invest in sure thing loans.

Sure thing loans don’t offer the greatest return for the lender but you can be certain to get your money back. As a result, it’s a little tougher to get your foot in the door for those.

Things were great for the first few months, even threw a bit more money at it — stuff like Adsense income and PayPal balances from selling little things on eBay and stuff.

Grand total, I invested $1689.40.

It felt good, making far more in interest than any savings account with 40+ loans in the portfolio, there was movement nearly every day of the week.

My first month, I’d made $1.86. The next month, I made $9.35. Month three brought in $11.21 followed by another $12.24 the following month.

No, not huge money, but quite nice returns (and quickly) on such a small investment.

I was re-investing my interest gains to fund move loans along the way and, yeah, I was like, “Damn, I shoulda jumped on this train years ago!”

And then I had one loan fall into it’s grace period.

Before long, it was 30 days late.

Another loan followed. And another.

Three defaulted.

Another one was charged off.

Yep, the wheels were falling off.

All of my interest that I’d been thinking of as “easy money” was suddenly disappearing due to deadbeat borrowers. And the negative side of things seemed to be picking up steam.

One month I made around $10 in interest…but lost $68 due to loans being charged off.

Yeah, that wasn’t what I had in mind when I jumped in…I was losing money, like, fast.

Before long, I noticed that the loans that weren’t being paid back we predominantly the ones I’d selected manually…and mostly loans with higher rates.

I knew there’d be additional risk in funding a higher rate loan…but not to the degree that an entire year’s worth of experience showed me.

Now, almost two years in, I’m almost back to even.


My $1689.40 investment is worth $1692.14.

So those early returns in the first few months that had me all excited have turned out to be $2.74 of “profit” over 21 months.

Yeah, that’s bad.

I’ve made 13-cents per month. You don’t see the peer-to-peer lending sites advertising those kinds of returns!

The reality of it is that it’s actually worse than that as I currently have two loans in my portfolio that are currently over 90 days late.

Pretty sure I’m not seeing another dime on those.

And those two fine folks still owe me back $39.57 in principal alone. So, yeah, I’m not not “really” up $2.74… I’ve actually thrown $36.83 out the window…and the rest of my money is far from a sure thing.

That’s what sucks about peer-to-peer lending.

There are so many borrowers that look good on paper to an inexperienced (and naive) guy like me but, in hindsight, I should have known there was little chance most of them would pay their loans back in full.

The “idea” of nearly doubling your money was a marketing gimmick I fell for.

But there is a bright side to all of this, see, I’m not naive to it anymore.

The past 21 months have taught me how to more wisely select my loans and while the returns aren’t as great, and tons of them pay their balances off early (hey, like I would!), so I’m not making as much as peer-to-peer lending sites want you to think you can make, soon, I won’t be losing money either.

To date, I’ve earned $254.90 in interest. Making roughly $12/month on such a small investment is a pretty solid return. My initial goal was always to re-invest the earnings and get a snowball rolling. That’s still the case.

The flip side is that I’ve also lost $255.82 in unpaid loans.

On those, I lent out $300…and only received back $44.18. That money is gone.

And that makes me angry…but I was also able to isolate what types of loans cause me to lose money…and they’re dead to me.

The New Strategy

They had me fooled for the first year or so but no more.

It’s gotta be a 36 month loan and less than $15k. The purpose of the load also has to be credit card payoff or loan consolidation. Most importantly, they have to have qualified for an interest rate under 12%.

I won’t touch loan requests for medical expenses, major purchases, home improvement, or car loans with a 10 foot pole.

And with the criteria above, I also don’t need to worry about past delinquencies or credit scores at all cause folks with those issues don’t qualify for personal loans at rates under 12% anyway.

I knew all of this going in…I just didn’t heed my own advice.

The last 45 loans I’ve funded (dating back to March of this year) all followed my “new” criteria (36 month term, under $15k, sub-12% rate, and not for something stupid).

Guess what? Every single one of them is current and making me money.

So, once the junk loans I funded originally have run their course — another year or so, I presume — my defaults will be few and far between.

You know, like I’d expected all along.

Bottom line, you can earn some nice returns on a small investment using peer-to-peer lending. Just don’t get lured into thinking you can pull in 15% returns…or you’ll get burned.

So while I’m not exactly thrilled with my ride so far, I’m not pulling my money out either.

There is money to be made.

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Net Worth Update

Well, being that it’s been two years since I last posted an update, I know I’m not taken aback by the HUGE sways in the chart over there.

I mean, a lot has happened over the past two years…and my finances certainly show that.

Let’s start at the top… My checking account balance is dreadfully low. I’m still on one of those plans where if my balance drops below $1500, I get charged a $14 maintenance fee.

With so many “free checking” options out there, I should probably inquire about switching the type of account I’m on as it’s been a monthly trend for me to drop below that threshhold — though I must admit, I’m not ususally *this* low.

That said, my spending has changed drastically since November of 2015. DRASTICALLY. I’ll share that news soon.

Regarding savings, yep, you’re seeing that correctly. My stash in savings dropped 6-figures…but it was money well spent. Remember that garage I fantasized about for years? Well, we built it. And it cost a lot.

The “Lending Club” line is new. Much like my experiments with stocks and i-bonds in the past, I dipped my toe into the peer-to-peer lending pool to see if it there was any easy money to be made.

The answer to that question is…no. But I will say, after 18 months or so in the game, I’ve figured out what not to do…so my tiny earnings will no longer disappear due to loans offered to deadbeats.

As for stocks, yes, somehow the $9 I had in my ShareBuilder account two years ago is still worth just $9. Actually, it’s $8.92. I rounded up.

And my 401k is on the up-and-up. I’m sure President Trump is who I should give the most credit to, huh? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Ever.

Oh, the credit cards. For someone that’s dug themselves out of $30k in credit card debt, fully documented on this site, not once…but twice, I’m sure it’s hard to fathom that I currently find myself nearly $40k in credit card debt alone today.

Well, that garage we built was expensive…and we didn’t finance any of it (besides the second mortgage we took ouy years in advance) so I was using the plastic exclusively for a long time.

The good news is that the garage is 98% complete and 98% paid for. The fact that I’m only $40-thousand in the hole as a result makes me feel pretty okay. I’m in pay down mode now. You’ll see. Stick around for the ride.

You’ll notice a couple of lines for auto loans. Well, those are new too.

See, my trusty Scion xA (that I paid off in 2008) left me stranded a few hundred miles from home a few weeks back and I had to buy a new (to me) car in a hurry.

Then, this past week, the Swagger Wagon my wife drives (that we paid off in 2015) was hit by an uninsured driver. Wonderful.

Still waiting to see if it’s going to be repaired…our insurance company is taking their sweet ass time but I think the writing is on the wall — we’re going to “add” two auto loans within the span of one month.

And the mortgage balances are what they are.

Truthfully, I thought a two year gap would show more progress but the fact that I’m sending minimum payments in — wisely, I might add — is likely to blame.

Once that credit card debt is gone, Mortgage 2 will be the primary target. It’s currently my largest monthly bill coming in at $573.48…and I hate it.

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So, during the three or four months that this site was hacked, it wasn’t pushing people towards malware sites or anything.

I just want to make that extra clear.

It was, instead, pushing *all* of my traffic to a specific website in Ukraine that “sells” completed term papers.

All of that is cleaned up now, nothing phishy going on anymore, and we’re back and indexed on Google again, which is great, but I couldn’t help but notice that a sizeable amount of the traffic coming in via search query, of late, has been led here via search entries such as:

  • Best Website to get Essays
  • Narrative Essay High School
  • Best Personal Essays
  • Admission Essay Writing Services
  • Describe my Best Friend Essay
  • Personal Narrative Essay Writing
  • Andy Warhol Marilyn Essay
  • Write my Summary for me
  • Research Paper on Barn Burning by William Faulkner
  • Order Argumentative Essay
  • Buy litrature [SIC] review
  • Sentinels Statistics Project
  • Custom Essays
  • Home Work at Low Prices
  • Research Paper Online
  • Advanced Accounting Assignment Help
  • Report Writing Online
  • Do My College Homework

Those came in just last night, like, within the past 18 hours.

So, yeah, I’m quite certain I’ve never written a post regarding any of those topics that.

Well, besides this one.

So, if you landed here looking to have someone write a paper for you about Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portrait, at the last minute, sorry, you’ve come to wrong the place.

My advice would be to just write it yourself cause, honestly, any paper you just “purchase” has likely been sold hundreds of times and plagarism is just too easy identify these days. Too easy.

Not worth the risk, so put down your phone and GET TO WORK!

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Recently, I had to purchase a car on short notice and a quick trip to CarMax solved my situation — same day.

Great experience all around.

When it came down to do the financing, the first question I was asked was “How much are you going to put down?”

They didn’t seem taken aback when I said, “Nothing” but, well, I could tell I was being judged.

I’m sure they hear something along those lines all the time…so I followed it up with, “Always better to use someone else’s money…”

Evidently skeptical of my ability to pay, they proceeded to tell me that the larger the down payment, the better the finance offer would be and how it would lower my monthly payments and, well, you know all that stuff that they use to pressure you to get a larger sum of money up front.

Yeah, not gonna work with me. Besides, I didn’t have a dime (or checkbook) on me.

When they submitted my loan inquiry (via computer), I got the vibe that they thought, yeah, we’re not getting a sale today.

No one is going to finance this deadbeat that came walking in here looking to buy a car in under 30 minutes with nothing down…

As the hourglass on the computer continued to spin from top to bottom for over 5 minutes, they asked me, “Are you sure your mortgage is only $498 per month?”

It was one of the few questions they’d asked, besides my social security number, that they’d use to check in on my ability to pay.

“Wow, it’s never taken this long…”, they exclaimed and even followed with “you should put everything out up front, they’ll find it if you don’t” as if that was the reason it was taking so long for a response to be returned.

Yeah, they were totally convinced I’d wasted their time, I could tell, even asking if I’d reconsider making a down payment under the guise, “It makes the loan more attractive to the lenders we use…”

At this point, while I too was begining to sweat it, I was still confindent in my ability to qualify for a loan. Extremely.

Following an epic 10 minute wait, where I had started to think the computer had just frozen — boom!

A loan offer was displayed.

I could tell by the salesman — and his trainee watching the entire process — that they thought something was wrong.

Not only was it from CarMax’s in-house Auto Finance department (and not some bank I’d never heard of) but it didn’t make sense to them.

The top line on the screen displayed a loan of $19000 at a rate of 0.99% for 36 months.

I’m no loan shark and I’ve never been involved in the auto sales industry, but I’m pretty certain that’s a pretty sweet offer for a used car loan.

As they were preparing to click and accept the loan, I stopped them and asked if I could push it out to 48 months. Or even the max, what was the max?

They cautioned me that extending the term may lower my monthly payments but the rate on the loan offered would jump — it would be a poor decision to turn down the *AMAZING* rate offered sitting on the screen.

I went in to my “offering financial counter-advice” mode and explained that cash flow *is* everything.

My primary goal today was to buy this car with ZERO money of my own and to secure the lowest the monthly payment possible…

Since this a simple interest loan being offered — I’d already confirmed that as well as the lack of a pre-payment penalty — the term of the loan holds no weight, nor will the higher interest rate (relatively speaking — as long as it doesn’t jump 10% or something).

With a longer term, I’ll have the added flexibilty of a lower monthly payment (which means MORE cash in my pocket each month) and still have the option to pay it off, as I plan to, in 36 months, 48 months, or whatever without any penalty.

Reluctantly, they turned down the offer sitting there on the screen, thinking I’d been offered a rate I didn’t qualify for anyway, and set it to seek a loan with a 72-month (the max) term.

Less than 30 seconds later, another offer displayed on the screen from the same in-house lender.

72 months at 3.9% and a minimum monthly payment of $300.76.

Offer accepted.

Twenty minutes later, I drove out of there in a new (to me) car without spending a dime.

So, here’s the deal…

Going in, I knew that my Experian Score was 846 out of 850.

I can not stress enough how having good, err, great credit is.

It’s so rare these days, it seems, but I’ll tell you, it opens such better financial opportunities and, frankly, a boosted self confidence walking in too.

I’ll admit, I was a little worried as it took so long for an offer to come through but I knew, without a doubt, that I’d qualify for a loan.

A good loan.

Had I accepted the initial offer, 36 months at 0.99%, my monthly payment would have been over $525 per month. I don’t recall the exact amount but I sure as hell wasn’t going to pay over $500 per month for a used Ford, that’s for certain.

The offer that I did accept with the longer term and higher rate landed me a monthly payment of just over $300 per month.

Still a sizeable sum, yes, but a sum that allows me an additional $200 per month to do with what I please.

Wanna know the crazy part?

If I happen to send them that extra $200 each month, in addition to my $300 minimum payment, I’ll have the car paid off in 40 months — just four months longer than the original offer.

To me, having the ability to “cut” $200 off of my bill anytime I please is well worth an additional four months of payments on a loan…three years from now.

So, the moral of the story?

Great credit may earn you super low rates…but don’t get fishhooked by the rate!

Yes, your credit history earned you that rate…but you can do better!

Push the term out, use the savings to add to whatever it is you’ve been doing that earned you that credit score, and you’ll end up paying off the loan years early *and* have more money in your day-to-day finances to make additional wise manouevres.

This is the best piece of advice I wish I’d learned before figuring it out on my own.

Yes, yes, I know people “payment” shop when looking to buy or, worse, lease a car but it’s what you do with the savings you gain from the lower payment that makes the difference.

Ideally, you want all of your required monthly payments to be as small as possible so as to maximize your available cash at all times.

I wrote a post back in 2015 that nails it on the head when it comes to paying your debts back effectively and efficiently.

Never allow yourself to become a slave to your debts — you can set the timetable and payment schedule.

If you’re disciplined enough, you really can have your cake and eat it too!

Look at me — I have a new car, a low payment, and cash in my pocket.

Can’t get much better than that, can it?

History repeating?

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Nancy Zieman

So, this morning, I read the news that Nancy Zieman died yesterday.

She was the star and host of a television show called “Sewing with Nancy” that aired on PBS for years and years and years and years — a show that I’d first learned of in 1987 while I was in middle school.

Back then, all junior high school students were required to take an “elective”, like Industrial Arts, Home Economics, or Art, or whatever, but since I was in the band, I was exempt from this requirement since band already counted as an “elective”.

Most kids in my situation — those in band or chorus — just took a study hall or open period.


No, I was a full schedule kind of guy so I signed up for “sewing”.

Now, before you start thinking I brushed elbows with Public Television royalty, no, Nancy Zieman was not my sewing teacher.

But, on the rare day that we’d have substitute teacher, they’d roll in the big A/V cart with the TV and top-loading VCR and play an episode of “Sewing with Nancy” for us.

We’d sit and watch, totally uninterested, and then poke fun at Nancy’s crooked mouth or how she appeared to never, ever, blink for the next few weeks as any middle schooler would as we sewed together stuffed mallards and eagles and things from patterns clearly targeted towards kids.

I’m almost certain some of the pattern packages we were able to choose from even had her face on them. In my 7th grade sewing class, she was kind of a big deal.

I’d always assumed she’d had a stroke or was maybe blind and had two glass eyes or something but now, having read her obituary, I now know that it was Bell’s Palsy that caused her facial paralysis.

Anyway, though I’d only seen her show maybe twice…and that was over 30 years ago now… I never forgot her.

When I saw her face, in a tiny blurb on a website this morning, aged 30 years (though you could hardly tell), I knew exactly who she was and spent much of the day in a google/wikipedia wormhole learning more and more about her.

All told, it hit me far harder than it probably should of. Moreso than the other recent deaths of Robert Guillaume, Roy Halladay, or Tom Petty — all much, much bigger celebrity names.

I guess, first, it’s the realization that people from my own “youth” that I don’t picture as being “old” are, in fact, old enough to be kicking the bucket — Nancy was 64, so older than my dad was when he died — but also cause she seemed like a nice lady, you know, doing something she loved and getting paid for it.

I kinda strive for that — doing something I enjoy and making a living doing it. And being nice too.

I’ve no doubt that she was aware of the snickering going on within her semi-forced target audience (of students) but you gotta give credit — she didn’t care.

I mean, really, she looked like someone’s Mom, hosted a sewing show on PBS, talked a little funny, and never blinked. She didn’t have any of the traits of a 1980’s celebrity — easy fodder for middle schoolers.

But you know what? She was still taping episodes as recently as September. You’re clearly doing something right if you can last that long on television — even PBS — and I’m certain she was probably living quite comfortably as a result of her “hobby” turned business.

It really sucks that she passed away.

Of anyone, Nancy Zieman should’ve been able to sew into her 90’s.

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Wow, this place fell apart, huh? So, seems like the site was “hijacked” a few months ago, redirected to all kinds of unusual foreign sites and subsequently de-listed from Google so…there probably isn’t anybody reading this post but that’s okay. I’m writing it anyway.

So, first things first, I’ve eliminated the issue where someone was nefariously stealing my traffic and reputation. A few years ago, I’d be all bent out of shape over something like this — we were pulling in nearly 8000 visits per day for a while there — but now that I’m old, eh, I can let it slide. I’ll take the 35 visits per day — 34 of which are probably me — for now.

Google finds good content and I still think the site is overflowing with good content, good advice, some great typos, and some pretty silly remarks that are timeless. We’ll be listed again soon, I’m sure.

Now, I know that this place kinda transitioned from a Finance blog — which were all the rage a decade ago when I started — to more of a Mommy blog (even though I’m a dude) but that’s what happens when you have kids. In my case, three of them.

For real, they take over your life. Even financially.

So, just to get everyone back up to speed, I feel like I should re-introduce myself.

My wife and I live in central Connecticut and have three kids, born in 2009, 2011, and 2015. If you’re interested, I’m pretty sure I documented their arrivals pretty thoroughly in the archives of the website.

Since the start, my finances have been the main topic covered — specifically paying down debt while also building wealth.

Through the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m really, really, really good at paying down debt but not so great at growing savings.

Living debt free is so much more appealing than being rich. They seem like they’d be connected…but they’re more different than you’d think.

I suspect the reason behind it — my preference of “being” in debt — is that it’s easier to set, and work towards, a goal of “not owing anybody anything” than it is to just have the most commas and zeros in your accounts.

For that reason, as of right now, I find myself deeper in debt than I think I was way back in 2007 and 2008. I’ll give everyone an update on where my finances are with a long overdue Net Worth report shortly.

Another topic I covered quite frequently were home renovations. My house is over 125 years old and, subsequently, has required some, ahem, updating. Costly updating.

For years and years (and YEARS!), I went on and on about the 3-car garage I imagined on my property. Well, guess what?

During my hiatus, we built that garage! Hooray!

It’s not done yet — still needs interior painting, a new driveway, and a bathroom to be finished — and it hasn’t come without it’s own set of drama…but it exists.

Pictures and updates on that are also in the pipeline.

In more recent news, and related to my finances, my trusty 2005 Scion xA died on me a few weeks back. Mustered 142k miles out of it before I was forced to abandon it, err, sell it to CarMax three states away from home.

I’ll have to share that story here as well which, as it was happening, caused me great anxiety but now it all seems pretty funny.

My spending habits have also changed, I think, since I last reported. Sure, I still spend stupid amounts of money on that dumb hockey jersey hobby but NOTHING like I used to.

That spending has been replaced by spending money on hockey tuition for my kids. Good investment? Terrible investment? Is it even an investment? I have a lot to say about that, as well.

And on the front of always trying to add little bits of passive income here and there, I’ve started using those peer-to-peer lending websites — Lending Club, specifically. No, not to borrow for myself, but to lend to others.

It’s been an learning experience, now nearly two years into the process. I can see the value in it but I went about it all wrong at the start so I’m just barely breaking even.

For real, would it kill people to pay back their loans?

I’m far to naive in thinking “most” people pay their debts back. So, yeah, I’ve gotta cover that too.

I guess I’ll leave it at that, for now.

Oh, and if you read this, please leave a comment just to let me know you’re out there!

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Net Worth Update

November 2015 Net Worth ChartOnly a few weeks late with this…

Pretty good month that was greatly swayed by the recovery of the markets that caused my bottom link to tank last month (and the month before).

That (out of my day-to-day control) nonsense aside, I had a good month.

Granted, it was also a month with three paychecks which also swayed the numbers, I still spent less than I paid back on all of my open credit car accounts — one of which I paid off.

I’m thinking I should resurrect my monthly spending reports to really make myself more accountable for my spending.

Really, shame is a great motivator. I truly hate having to explain my frivolous expenditures when, deep down, I know exactly how frivilous they are…

I also want to show off how much fast food I’ve been eating.

It’s crazy.

Can You Dig It?


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