Optimizing Credit Cards For Everyday Spending Without Annual Fees (2019)

About 70% of American adults have a credit cardCredit history has become increasingly important since the 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act. But how many people are getting a good deal out of this? A CNBC survey found that 55% of credit card holders carry debt on those cards (an average of $4,293). This can cost thousands of dollars in interest. Collectively, Americans owe more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. FOR ANYONE WITH CREDIT CARD DEBT, PAY IT OFF ASAP. The interest rates are higher than everything except certain personal/payday loans (36-400% interest). Alternatively, a balance transfer to a 0% APR card may buy time.

For those without credit card debt, it’s the opposite: using rewards cards can add up to thousands of dollars in benefits. A survey from CreditCards.com found “57 percent of U.S. adults have at least one rewards credit card. Cash back cards are the most popular (43 percent), well ahead of other types of rewards cards… Nearly three out of every four rewards cardholders (72 percent) have at least one card with no annual fee.” 

Some cards offer zero or sub-par benefits. My first credit card didn’t do anything except build a little credit history. No cash back or other perks. For maximum value, one has to juggle multiple credit cards. So what’s the best strategy? The problem is a lack of one-size-fits-all solutions. Everyone has their own needs and budget concerns, making certain cards more valuable than others due to circumstances. In general, the best place to start is rotating-category cashback cards, and fill in the blanks with cards that don’t have an annual fee. That’s what this post will focus on. Cards which charge an annual fee may have higher value, just evaluate the costs vs benefits and see if it works. I won’t detail all the options of signup bonuses or extras, just cash back for fee-free basic utility. That’s what most people like anyway, according to the above survey.

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Solving Anthropogenic Climate Change

Climate change is an “unsolvable” issue due to the many variables, but let’s take a closer look. The human element (anthropogenic) is something we can change.

The first obstacle is the politicization of the debate and how and facts don’t always change people’s minds. That’s part of why climate change is still a debate. It’s a spectrum of debaters with extremists on both sides, often shouting uninformed or illogical arguments. Not that my opinion is that of an expert—this blog post is me thinking out loud and consolidating recent reading. I like to work out ideas as I go along. This is a complex topic with too many aspects to take into consideration at once.

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Presidential Campaign 2020: Democratic Candidates

There are a lot of people running on the Democrat side, so I decided to make a list and put my initial thoughts on how likely I think they are to become president. I’d make a post for the Republican side as well, but Trump is the only real contender and he doesn’t warrant an entire post. Everyone has a general idea of what he’ll say and do as he campaigns for re-election, and the primary threat to that is the economy according to investors, analysts, and plenty of voters. There is one person running against Trump in the primaries so far, Former Governor Bill Weld, and no one expects him to have a real chance. Also, I’m a registered Democrat, so I’ll have to figure out which person to vote for.

The big test for Democratic candidates will be initial fundraising and support. It’s a crowded field and garnering enough publicity to stay in the top 10 is essential, which means the first step is qualifying for June’s debate. Most of them actually have. The DNC will be limiting the stage to 20 people just in case that many qualify, they’ve increased the thresholds for the third debate. (Which could eliminate half the current candidates.)

The Candidates

Alphabetical order by last name, then their primary political experience:

Michael Bennet (Senator)
Joe Biden (White House)
Cory Booker (Senator)
Steve Bullock (Governor)
Pete Buttigieg (Mayor)
Julián Castro (White House)
Bill de Blasio (Mayor)
John Delaney (Representative)
Tulsi Gabbard (Representative)
Kirsten Gillibrand (Senator)
Mike Gravel (Senator)
Kamala Harris (Senator)
John Hickenlooper (Governor)
Jay Inslee (Governor)
Amy Klobuchar (Senator)
Wayne Messam (Mayor)
Seth Moulton (Representative)
Beto O’Rourke (Representative)
Tim Ryan (Representative)
Bernie Sanders (Senator)
Tom Steyer (No political experience)
Eric Swalwell (Representative)
Elizabeth Warren (Senator)
Marianne Williamson (No political experience)
Andrew Yang (No political experience)

Poll Data


RealClearPolitics poll average for 3/21-4/21, top 10:

  1. Biden 29.2% 
  2. Sanders 22.2% 
  3. Harris 8.2% 
  4. O’Rourke 7.4% 
  5. Buttigieg 6.8% 
  6. Warren 6% 
  7. Booker 3.2% 
  8. Klobuchar 1.6% 
  9. Yang 1.2% 
  10. Castro 1.2% 

RealClearPolitics poll average for 7/27-8/5, top 10:

  1. Biden 32% 
  2. Sanders 17.2% 
  3. Warren 15%
  4. Harris 9.3% 
  5. Buttigieg 5.3%
  6. O’Rourke 3% 
  7. Booker 1.8% 
  8. Yang 1.3% 
  9. Castro 1.2%
  10. Gabbard 0.8% 

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A Year Without (Most) News

In March 2017 I decided to try an experiment: What would happen if I stopped reading the news? (Spoiler alert: I don’t regret it in the least.)

I used to read a lot of news, seek out articles on a regular basis, and even condense it to figure out the essential information. It was a good exercise in critical thinking and analyzing modern journalism. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with staying informed on current events. But after some time, I started to suspect this was a trending-negative experience. Reading every piece of major news didn’t feel helpful. After some thought I wrote “Is Staying Informed Overrated?” – my most popular post so far, which received some interesting responses.

So that month I decided to quit the news. More or less. I would glaze over headlines as they passed by in social media feeds, and I wouldn’t read any articles unless they seemed exceptionally interesting. I didn’t make any effort to watch or read anything news-related. The opposite of what I did for my weekly news summaries on this blog.

Here we are in March 2018 and I’m going to continue my experiment – which isn’t so much an experiment anymore as it is a permanent(?) lifestyle change. I feel better and have more energy/time to devote to things which matter in my life. I skimmed some old news to see if it’s still relevant, and 99 percent of it isn’t. Most news isn’t important and will soon fade from the collective conscious.

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How To Recreate A Top iTunes Song In 60 Seconds (For Free)

From AP News today:

An unusual tune has found its way onto the top 50 on the iTunes charts, alongside Ed Sheeran and Keith Urban hits. The song is completely silent. “A a a a a Very Good Song” costs 99 cents for just under 10 minutes of dead air.

Because I did this same thing in early 2007, I know that it’s a waste of $1 to buy a ‘song’ of pure silence. It doesn’t take much time or effort to create such a track.

Here’s the entire do-it-yourself process:

1. Download the free audio software Audacity and install it. You can choose other software; I just know Audacity is a quick and simple option.

2. Open Audacity and check out the menu. Click “Generate” to see options drop down, and choose “Silence.” (Screenshot shown below for clarity.)

3. Choose how many minutes and seconds of silence you want. Then click “ok.”

4. Export the file in WAV, MP3, or any other format you want. (Windows users can press CTRL+SHIFT+E to export the file.)

5. Load the track into your iTunes library. (I find that drag-and-drop is easiest.)

Congratulations! You’re done. You saved a dollar and didn’t have to navigate the iTunes store.

Addendum: Some people have pointed out that “silence as a composition” has been done many times. John Cage’s 4’33” may be the most popular example.

Are We Living In A Simulated Reality?

People have been discussing this idea for years, and it’s gained more traction as of late. Several articles in 2016 were sparked by billionaire Elon Musk’s comments at a technology conference. “There’s a billion to one chance we’re living in base reality,” he said, among other things.

As one might imagine, the “simulation” idea is a controversial topic. Some people take it very seriously — Tad Friend at The New Yorker wrote “Many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis, the argument that what we experience as reality is in fact fabricated in a computer; two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation.”

Rich Terrile (a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) said that if our universe is finite, it’s computable, and therefore could be a simulation. He adds: “Reasons to believe that the universe is a simulation include the fact that it behaves mathematically and is broken up into pieces (subatomic particles) like a pixelated video game.” This could, however, just be how the universe works. We don’t know.

Skeptics of the “simulation” theory point out that there isn’t any proof to support the idea. There are many arguments for and against it — so who is correct? Well, to be honest, that’s likely irrelevant. But it’s interesting to think about.

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Is Staying Informed Overrated?

I saw a couple of tweets earlier this month from Naval Ravikant, and they’ve stuck with me. Not because they’re particularly enlightening on their own — they’re individual tweets, after all. It’s because Naval’s statements mesh with other pieces of information I’ve seen this year. Together, the sum of this knowledge paints quite an interesting picture.

Oddly controversial statements to make these days:

  • “Be optimistic.”
  • “Staying informed is overrated.”

Yet in certain ways, they make sense. Is it worth taking the time to keep up with the news?

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