O, what will all thy riches, pleasures, pomps,
Avail thee now?
Welcome to the 402nd Carnival of Personal Finance, featuring some of the very best personal finance blog posts from around the world! It’s a devilish theme this week: just like our eponymous anti-hero, I found temptation too good to pass up. You see, Dr. Faustus is my favourite play, and I was lucky enough to nab a free blogger’s ticket to go and see a controversial new production at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
It’s an old, old story, but Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus has always been more than a simple tale of a man who sells his soul to the Devil. And for me, as a personal finance blogger, it’s impossible to be anything other than captivated by the value judgements made throughout the play. Faustus sells his soul for four-and-twenty years of all the wealth and power that he desires. What he wants, he gets. Has he struck a good bargain? Hardly: at the end of the play, when his 24 years are up, demons tear his body into pieces and whisk him off to Hell, to burn for all eternity.
One tragedy of Faustus – apart from that pesky eternal damnation – is his dismal failure to make good on the promises of those early years. At the beginning of the play when he has summoned the demon Mephistopheles, one of Lucifer’s right-hand men, Faustus is enchanted by the promises of worldly possessions and achievements that can be his if he trades his soul in. The only limits, it seems, are set by his imagination.
Had I as many souls, as there be stars,
I’d give them all for Mephistopheles.
He goes on to list some of his grand plans: in short, he wants to become great Emperor of the world. And what happens? Over time, his dreams and plans fade away into nothing. They are forgotten. Instead, with all his powers and all he has at his disposal, he becomes nothing more than an entertainer and society magician, clowning with rogues and conjuring a bowl of out-of-season fruit for a greedy duchess. The play moves quickly; those four-and-twenty years flash by, and suddenly there is Faustus, damned and with nothing to show for his deal.
This particular production has ruffled a few feathers because the play’s clunky middle – the section in which a lot of the clowning takes place – has been ripped out and rewritten. It gives the play a distinctly modern bent: this part of the action is set in Vegas and even the President of the USA makes an appearance. (A devil disguised as Marilyn Monroe sings him Happy Birthday. It ends badly.) The demolition and replacement of the original text has raised eyebrows.
To be honest, when I watched this new production I didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other. I know: I’d make a rubbish theatre critic. But to my mind, both versions serve their purpose: to provide some light relief, underline Faustus’ deficiencies as a dealmaker and whisk us through to the stunning finale, which features some of the best lines ever written in the English language.
That said, a cameo from bankers in the rewritten version, queueing after one of Faustus’ Vegas shows to sign their souls over to Mephistopheles for tuppence, raised the biggest laugh of the night. Four hundred years after it was written, with the world still in the grip of a global banking crisis prompted by reckless spending and deals that weren’t worth the paper they were written on, today’s spendthrifts and savers can still take lessons from this refreshed morality tale.
And so to the Carnival of Personal Finance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my Editor’s Picks are the Good Angels. They perch on our shoulders and deliver sound advice, but will we listen to them…?
Editor’s Picks: The Good Angels
O Faustus, if thou hadst given ear to me,
Innumerable joys had follow’d thee!
MD from Start Freelancing Now presents The Art of Quitting : When Do You Finally Cut Your Losses? This is a post about deciding when to quit and move on. Throughout Dr. Faustus, Faustus is given repeated opportunities to change his mind and repent – but as he discovers, the deeper you dig your hole, the more difficult it is to climb out.
Paula from Afford Anything presents Sheer Willpower Won’t Work. Here’s Why. She argues that forcing yourself to quit a habit is futile and that instead, you need to manage your urges rather than fight them.
TTMK from Tie the Money Knot presents Creating an In Case of Death File. This post begins, “Okay, I know that this isn’t the most uplifting or exciting title to a blog post!” But it’s an invaluable post if you haven’t yet made an ICOD (In Case Of Death ) file. Nobody wants to think about it, but we won’t live forever. If something happened to you tomorrow – ripped from limb to limb by demons, say – would your loved ones know where to access all the documents and information to protect themselves financially? TTMK’s list includes a written authorisation for power of attorney, which I hadn’t even considered.
Dr. John Faustus
He that loves pleasure must for pleasure fall.
He may be famed throughout the world as a magician, but at heart, John Faustus is an ordinary chap. He is from a modest background and, before breaking bad, he gets by on his wits and intelligence. What these posts share is that they tackle the day-to-day business of personal finance: the ideas, lessons and challenges that affect us all.
Pete from Intelligent Speculator presents Passive Income Targets – March 2013. Pete is a man on a mission to live off passive income, and he is logging his progress with charts, graphs and plenty of frankness. Definitely worth a look if you would like to follow in his footsteps.
Green Panda from Green Panda Treehouse presents Some Super Fun Ways to Raise Money For Your Cause.
Matt Bell from Sound Mind Investing presents A Very Good Question. His post poses the following question: “If inflation is under control, why does everything seem to keep going up in price?” Matt uses American examples, but the principles apply elsewhere too.
Nicole from Nicole and Maggie: Grumpy Rumblings presents Latte factor vs. big item spending. Some folks argue to cut out the small stuff to save for the big stuff, others recommend sweating the big stuff so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff. Nicole and Maggie argue that both of these can be correct: it all depends on where your utility function hits your budget constraint. What kind of person are you?
FMF from Free Money Finance presents Home Security Plans, and says, “On January 5, a couple was murdered in our sub-division. Three blocks (0.3 miles) from my house. They were an elderly, retired couple enjoying their golden years with hobbies and church activities. Their lives were ended in their home during the early hours of the morning. It was a tragic event for that family and our community. Now we are checking out home security plans.” A sobering post.
eemusings from NZ Muse presents The pros and cons of shift work. There are plenty of both, and shift work seems to be on the rise…
Harry Campbell from Your PF Pro presents Should I Buy a House Now While Interest Rates are Still Low? He notes: over the past few years, many articles I’ve read have repeated the same mantra: “Now is the time to buy real estate.” Interest rates were low and they couldn’t go any lower, whoops, they did. Since purchasing my condo in 2010, I’ve re-financed twice due to mortgage interest rates dropping and although we’re getting closer to 0% than where rates were at 5 years ago, I don’t see any big turnaround in sight.”
Lance from Money Life and More presents Frugal Gilbert Gottfried vs. Extravagant Alan Thicke, which is a post about Celebrity Wife Swap USA. In one recent episode, the two celebrities who swapped wives were Gilbert Gottfried, a comedian and the voice of the bird in Aladdin, and Alan Thicke, the actor who played Jason Seaver on Growing Pains. The focus of the episode was frugality… well, at least as far as celebrities can be frugal.
Jason Price from Family Living Finance presents How to Buy a Used Car Guide. When should you consider a new (used) car? What is the true cost of ownership of owning a car? Here is a guide.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be.
You have to hand Mephistopheles his due: from the very beginning, he is nothing other than frank about the downsides of making a deal with the Devil, and the eternal torments faced by Faustus if Faustus signs. These posts are similarly outspoken: in many cases, the points made are neither pretty nor fashionable, but the conclusions are as honest as they are valuable.
Ironically, in the production I saw, Mephistopheles was played by the actress Siobhan Redmond – who is both pretty AND fashionable. She first appears dressed as a demure nun, but this picture is from the final act…
Mike from The Financial Blogger presents What About The 70 Hour Workweek? How many hours are YOU willing to work, to reach your goals?
Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents presents Penny Stock Debacle: How I Lost $5,000 and You Can (and Better!) Avoid It. He says: “When buying an over-the-counter stock, otherwise known as a penny stock, you must be sure to protect yourself and make sure that when you place an order to buy or sell, that you put a specific price on it. Learn from my mistake!”
Mike Collins from Wealthy Turtle presents Will Playing the Lottery Cost You Your Retirement? A short but sharp post: this is the true story of Mike’s friend Bill, who could probably be retired by now if not for his addiction to the lottery.
Big Cajun Man from The Canadian Personal Finance Blog presents Twitter Financial Tips. His conclusion: the last place you should be trying to pick up hot tips is from a Twitter feed!
Carrie from PT Money presents Dump Your Car Loan and Pay for Your Next Car Loan with Cash. This post aims to help you to understand the car loan debt trap, how to avoid it, and how to pay for your car in cash.
DPF from Digital Personal Finance presents 5 Things to Watch Out For in Retirement Planning. When planning for retirement, a lot of people can get cavalier in assumptions about the future. This post wants to help you to avoid such landmines, and know what to watch out for in terms of your money and your future.
I am Covetousness, begotten of an old churl, in a leather bag: and, might I now obtain my wish, this house, you, and all, should turn to gold, that I might lock you safe into my chest: O my sweet gold!
In one of the great scenes from Dr. Faustus, the Seven Deadly Sins parade before Faustus and tell him a bit about themselves, Blind Date style. You’ll have to guess who is who in the picture above… One of the sins introduces herself as Covetousness. The bloggers below aren’t particularly covetous – well, not as far as I know, anyway – but this small collection of posts all address the conundrum of what to do with your money: when should you lock it safe into your chest, and when should you dole it out?
Mrs PoP from Planting Our Pennies presents Saving Money for Someone Else – Is There A Quid Pro Quo? When you save someone else money, do you expect a cut of the savings in return? Mrs. PoP doesn’t think so, but some apparently do!
vh from Funny about Money presents Counting Our Blessings…with a Grain of Salt. How much do panhandlers make? And how do you respond to panhandling — do you give money to people asking for a handout?
Ray from Squirrelers presents Spend to Save: 4 Car Maintenance Tasks You Should Pay For, and says, “Many of us work hard to save money, but sometimes it makes sense to spend. This includes car maintenance, as these 4 tasks are worth the investment. ”
Rachael from rVoice presents 4 Easy Ways to Reduce Charges on Your ISA. Whether you are shopping around for a new provider or just topping up on your ISA allowance before April, here are some of those charges that can potentially have an impact on your returns.
The Presidents of the United States of America
Here are some of the best America-themed posts submitted to this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance. I must be honest: a LOT of well-written posts get submitted to this Carnival, but so many dwell on 401Ks, Roth IRAs, fluctuations in the American stock market and other subjects that are gobbledegook to most of my readers (the majority of whom are British). The posts below caught my eye, however, because they all have some relevance and takeaways for readers in other countries too.
Clint from Accumulating Money presents The Real Costs of St. Patrick’s Day. St Patrick’s Day brings about parades, parties, wearing green and of course the mythical leprechaun and his pot of gold that everyone wishes were real. But some might do better to pay attention to their own coins because St Patrick’s Day is one of the costliest holidays of the year.
Eric from Narrow Bridge Finance presents Finance Basics: What is a Checking Account and How Should I Use It? A checking account is the most basic personal finance tool, and if you have one it is important to understand how it works, how to use it, and how not to use it. We don’t have “checking accounts” like this in the UK (believe me, it caused me much confusion when I moved to America and had to set up bank accounts there), but many of Eric’s principles apply to our current accounts, which are similar.
Matt from Budget SNOB presents Tips on Minimizing Exposure to 2013 Tax Hike Part 1. I have included it here because I like a cunning plan.
Div Guy from The Dividend Guy Blog presents How Spending Cuts Will Hit Your Portfolio, which details some thoughts on dealing with spending cuts.
Bryan from Gajizmo.com presents What’s A Good Credit Score? A bad credit score, or even one that isn’t excellent, can cost you thousands in additional interest payments if you plan on buying a business, home, or car. This article discusses the different scores, how your credit score is calculated, and the factors that can affect your report. This looks at American credit reports, but much of Bryan’s advice applies to us here in the UK too.
D4L from Dividend Growth Stocks presents 9 Dividend Stocks Trading at a Double-Digit Discount, and says: “Getting a discount of 10%, 20% or even more is awesome. When it is on a big ticket item like a automobile, there are a lot of dollars to be saved and people have been known to drive great distances to receive the discount. Everyone loves a sale! Well, maybe not everyone. When stocks go on sale it seems to depress a large number of market participants…”
Alas poor slave. See how poverty jests in his nakedness. I know the villain’s out of service, and so hungry, that I know he would give his soul to the devil, for a shoulder of mutton, though it were blood raw.
Wagner is Faustus’ student and follower, and these posts are all about personal finance from a student perspective. We’re all learners…
Lynn from Wallet Blog presents Laid off = Back to School? Not so fast… Going to school is a typical fallback position when you’ve lost a job. And a few new initials after your name will make you more desirable once you’re back on the job market, right? Maybe, maybe not…
GD from OneCentAtATime.com presents Cosigning A Student Loan – For Parents. There are many factors to consider before a parent cosigns a student loan. Here is an in-depth look at what families should consider before cosigning any loan, including student loans, and how to find alternatives.
Elizabeth from Women’s Money Week presents How to Create a Plan to Maximize Your Happiness. She suggests that you figure out exactly how much money you need to be your happiest.
Miss T. from Prairie Eco Thrifter presents How to Make Good Financial Decisions. This post is about the idea that if you use a process to make your decisions, you will be apt to make more good ones than bad.
That’s it for the Carnival of Personal Finance #402: thank you to everybody who submitted a post, and thank you for indulging me by reading alllllllllll about my favourite play! Sleep tight. Don’t let the demons bite…
Image credits: programme blogger’s own; West Yorkshire Playhouse.