Presidential Trivia Time

A collage of various people appearing on United States currency

American presidents have been appearing on United States currency for almost 200 years now. Over that time designs have changed, denominations were introduced and removed from circulation, and the entire American economy has switched how it is backed. From starting with the silver standard, then to the gold standard, to being backed by no precious metals during the Civil War, then to a bi-metal standard, and finally to the gold standard again with the Gold Standard Act of 1900.

Several types of banknotes have been issued by the U.S. government over the years, with multiple types of banknotes even being circulated at the same time. Federal Reserve Notes were issued in 1914 and have been the only type of banknotes issued since 1971, which is the last year that United States Notes were issued. The present denominations of U.S. currency in production are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. U.S. coins are currently made in six denominations: cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, and dollar. In honor of Presidents Day, here is a little bit of trivia regarding the POTUS that appear on those notes and coins:

  • Most Common: Our first president, George Washington, appears on the $1 bill. The average lifespan of these bills is just 22 months, thus their production accounts for approximately 45% of all U.S. paper currency.
  • Most Misunderstood: Thomas Jefferson is depicted on the $2 bill. Due to the bill’s low demand a very low number are printed. Since it is so infrequently seen in circulation, this has led to confusion among many as to the bill’s legitimacy as legal tender. The Treasury Department receives so many inquiries about this bill that they have included it on the FAQ portion of their website.a screenshot of treasury.gov explaining that $2 bills are valid legal tender
  • Still Standing: Ulysses S. Grant adorns the $50 bill, and has since 1913. This is despite two separate attempts by Congress to replace his likeness with that of Ronald Reagan.
  • About Face: President Abraham Lincoln’s profile graces the U.S. one-cent coin, and has the distinction of being the only person depicted facing right rather than left. According to the Treasury, they have no explanation for this and suggest it was a decision made by the original artist.
  • Isn’t it Ironic?: The $20 bill depicts 13th president Andrew Jackson, a fact he might not be too fond of. Jackson actually cautioned America to abandon the paper money system in his farewell address. Whoops.
  • Marching Forward: Franklin Delano Roosevelt has graced the dime since January 1946, just 11 months after he passed away. But why the dime? FDR founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to help eradicate polio, the foundation had huge success with a campaign asking people to mail in just a dime to help support the cause. You may know the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis by another name though: The March of Dimes.
  • Hair Raiser: After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Congress moved quickly to honor him. Originally intending to replace Washington on the quarter his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, nixed the idea and less than a year after his death half-dollar coins bearing his likeness were issued. However the first proofs made were not met with the former First Lady’s approval as she felt the coins made JFK’s hair stand out too much. Changes to the dye made the president’s hair appear less prominent and the coins were released to the public. Those proofs became known as the “accented hair” half-dollars and are now quite valuable among coin collectors.
  • Double Duty: Several presidents appear on both paper currency as well as coins. President Abraham Lincoln has the distinction of appearing on both the $5 bill and the penny; and George Washington is on the $1 bill and the quarter; while Thomas Jefferson resides on the $2 bill as well as the nickel.

 

While we’ve focused on presidents appearing on currency and coins in production today, here are some bonus tidbits for you

  • Three historical figures share the distinction of having their likeness on United States money today: Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Sacagawea. Franklin appears on the $100 bill, and was of course one of America’s founding fathers, a noted inventor, author, scientist, and diplomat. Hamilton appears on the $10 bill, was another founding father, famous for writing The Federalist Papers, and was the first Secretary of Treasury. Sacagawea appears on the dollar coin, she was the Shoshone interpreter who was vital in guiding the famous Lewis and Clark expedition.
  • Despite having never been president, Benjamin Franklin has the distinction of appearing on the largest bill, as production of the $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills ended in 1959.
  • As mentioned above there have been two attempts to replace Ulysses S. Grant with Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill. In total however seven pieces of legislation have been introduced to put President Reagan on U.S. currency. Twice on the $50 bill, twice to replace Hamilton on the $10 bill, once to replace Jackson on the $20 bill, once to replace JFK on the half-dollar, and once to replace FDR on the dime.
  • President Woodrow Wilson made his appearance on the $100,000 bill. This note is the largest denomination of currency ever produced. It was used only for official transactions between Federal Reserve Banks and was not circulated among the general public.

Despite being a relatively young nation the currency of the United States has a long and interesting history, too varied to cover in this blog post. For example, did you know that Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (and namesake of Marshall University) John Marshall was once featured on a $20 Treasury Note and a $500 Federal Note? It’s true! Also other presidents have been featured on U.S. money, including James Madison, Grover Cleveland, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Recently the Treasury announced they were redesigning the $10 bill and launched TheNew10.gov to accept feedback and keep the public updated on their progress. Since the process of selecting portraits and designs of U.S. currency falls under the sole purview of The Secretary of the Treasury this level of transparency is unprecedented and of great interest to numismatics. If you are interested in learning more about America’s money we recommend visiting the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website at https://www.treasury.gov and your local library.

Classic “Dadisms” About Money

Fathers Day Tools

Dads tend to have a funny way of expressing themselves don’t they? I chalk it up to the fact that most dads have a repertoire of favorite sayings they always use. You know the ones, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” or “Rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine” and the always classic “Don’t make me turn this car around!”. These oft-spoken phrase are known as dadisms and for Father’s Day I thought I’d share a few classic dadisms that pertain to money…

  •  Money doesn’t grow on trees you know. Score one for old dad because money, in fact, does not grow on trees. I can hear all the smart mouths out there saying: “But paper comes from trees and money is made of paper so there!” I know they’re saying it because it’s what I said to my dad whenever he told me this. Well it’s knowledge time kids: today’s American bills are actually made of about 75% cotton and 25% linen. So go easy on your dad, he’s just trying to impress on you the fact that money doesn’t come easy, and you don’t want to waste it.
  • Do I look like I’m made of money? A classic dadism. No dad, of course you don’t look like you’re made of money, because as your child I would also then be made of money, and therefore wouldn’t need to bug you for $20 so I can run to the comic book store. This is of course just another weird way that our fathers were trying to get us to think about money more critically, instead of just buying every shiny thing that caught our little eye.
  • Were you raised in a barn? or Are you trying to heat/cool the whole outside? Ah, this one may be my favorite. Anyone who didn’t close the door fast enough, or left it open because they “were just going to be a second then I was going right back outside dad! Geez!” probably heard this tried-but-true favorite of dads everywhere. What we fail to understand as children (well, one of the many things) is the concept of utilities. “You mean we don’t just get unlimited water and electricity for free? Yeah right dad, pull the other one.” But once we get a little older, have our own place, and are paying our own electric bill we quickly understand that our wise dads were just trying to get us not to waste money. (Special mention goes to moms for their variation of this phrase that applies to kids who stand with the refrigerator door open for extended periods of time trying to figure out what they wanted to eat.)
  • If it were easy then everyone would do it. Another very popular dadism but this is just the plain and simple truth. Thanks dad, for helping us all learn that hard work and perseverance is what will get us ahead in life.

Even if it might sound like gibberish or the insane ramblings of an over-worked, middle-aged man on the brink, more often than not dads actually do know what they’re talking about. They just have a weird way of getting the message across. So be thankful our dads passed these phrases along, many of us will be using them on our own kids one day.

13 Money Superstitions for Friday the 13th

friday 13th

Friday the 13th is the one day (or more than one depending on how the calendar falls) when everyone seems to get at least a little superstitious. The date is so famous (infamous?) that it even has two words to describe the fear of it, and boy are they doozies: friggatriskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia. Good luck saying that five times fast. Anyway, we all know the most-common superstitions associated with Friday the 13th: don’t let a black cat cross your path; don’t walk under a ladder; breaking a mirror will bring you seven years of bad luck; etc. Well, people tend to be very superstitious about their money also, so let’s take a look at 13 common money superstitions.

  1. See a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck!
  2. If you always pick up burnt matches instead of leaving them to lay then money will come to you.
  3. Write with green ink (never red!) and money will flow from your hand.
  4. Fold a new dollar bill lengthwise and you’ll keep your money.
  5. Keep a penny wrapped in paper in your pocket and money will continue to find you.
  6. If you mend or sew on clothes while wearing them you will always be poor.
  7. Peel an onion and burn the skin then money you are sure to win!
  8. If your left palm itches and you rub it on wood then you’ll receive money by the end of the week.
  9. If you see a shooting star and say “money” three times before it’s gone then riches will soon be yours.
  10. If you find money on the first day of the year and keep it, then you will have money throughout the rest of the year.
  11. If your initials spell a word it means you will be rich.
  12. Placing money in the right-hand pocket of new clothes will ensure you have money. Placing it in the left means you’ll have no money as long as the clothes last.
  13. Giving an empty wallet as a present will bring bad luck to the recipient.

This list just barely scratches the surface of all of the money superstitions I’ve heard over the years. For example, I recently heard one that says sorting your money according to denomination is supposed to bring good luck, but I’ve always done that because of my OCD, not because of luck.

Know any other money superstitions? Share them in the comments below…

7 Tips For Banking Safely On Your Smartphone

I bet it would fit in MC Hammer's pocket as-is.

I bet it would fit in MC Hammer’s pocket as-is.

Our smartphones today make the computers of yesteryear look like children’s toys.

Their average processing power, storage capacity, functionality, and (of course) portability would astonish early computer developers. From Angry Birds to Instagram, to Gmail and Skype, our phones do it all these days.

The advent of online banking in the mid 1990’s took the logical leap to our mobile devices as well. Who wouldn’t want the convenience of checking their balance or paying a bill from the palm of their hand?

However, as with any new technology there arises the potential for abuse. Many of the same techniques used by hackers and cyber-criminals to steal information from your personal computer are being used to do the same to your smartphone. Thankfully, just as there are many ways to safeguard your home computer, your smartphone has a great deal of options for security too:

  1. Use Passwords/PINs. All of the major smartphone operating systems offer the option to lock your phone until you put in a PIN, a gesture combination, or some form of password. This option should be one of the first things that you do once your new phone has been activated. Make sure that the PIN you choose is not something easy to guess. 1234 for example is a pretty common choice. Also make sure that you do not choose a PIN or gesture combination just because it is easy to input. Many people will choose one that is easy to input in a flash. These gestures are easy to guess as well because of their ease-of-use.
  2. Set Your Phone to “Time-Out” Sooner. The number one battery drain on our smartphones these days are our ultra-sharp, pixel dense, high-definition screens. So by setting your phone’s screen to time-out after a minute or so of inactivity is a smart move for saving your battery life, but it also has added security benefits. Should you set your phone down and walk off without it (an all too common occurrence) anyone who happens upon it will have access to your phone’s contents. However, if you set your phone’s screen to time-out after a minute or so of inactivity, and have activated a password feature on your phone (see above) then anyone picking up your phone will need to have the password to access it. Some of you may think it is such as hassle to have to slide your screen open every time you get a text, but think of the hassle it will be to have to reclaim your credit score from fraudulent charges because someone stole your phone and was able to easily access your information. Which seems worse?
  3. Find My Phone. One great way to safeguard your smartphone’s data is to never let it out of your sight, but how realistic is that? As mentioned above, the frequency with which people will set down their phones and walk off without them is astounding. (Just ask any waiter or bartender.) Thankfully smartphones today come equipped with the latest and greatest bells and whistles, like GPS. Using the functionality already found on your smartphone you can easily locate your phone should it be misplaced or stolen. iPhones use the app Find My Phone; while Android phones have many options in the Google Play Store, the app Where’s My Droid seems to be the most popular; Windows Phone is perhaps the simplest of all since it requires no app to download and no setting to turn on, just go to this page on WindowsPhone.com and follow the instructions.
  4. Update. Update. Update. Keep your phone up-to-date by installing your operating system and app updates, as well as your phone manufacturer’s firmware updates. When a loophole or security breach is discovered in an app or your phone’s OS, the fix is sent out in the form of an update. Make checking your phone for updates part of your daily routine. It only takes a few moments, and that is a lot less than you could spend if your personal information gets hijacked.
  5. Consider Antivirus Apps. Well known antivirus makers like AVG, McAfee, Symantec, and more have made their antivirus software in app form for your mobile devices. There are free ones, paid ones, some might even come bundled with the antivirus software you purchased for your desktop. If you think of your smartphone as a tiny, handheld computer (which it is) then you realize that antivirus apps make a lot of sense.
  6. Be Wary of Open WiFi Networks. Free WiFi is like a godsend if you don’t have an unlimited data plan or if you’re in an area with poor cell reception. How else are you going to share your beautifully cropped, eloquently filtered piece of art that was the cappuccino and Panini you had for lunch? Seriously, I’d like to know because I’ve been there. Well, an unfamiliar WiFi network is a prime way for an unscrupulous individual to grab your data and information, or send some piece of malware your way. If you don’t know who is in control of the WiFi you are about to connect to then it’s probably best to just let it go until you get back to more familiar territory.
  7. Use Bluetooth with Caution. Like WiFi, open Bluetooth connections are a great way for hackers and identity thieves to grab control of your device and its data. This even has its own fun-sounding name: bluesnarfing. However there is nothing fun about what this entails. By connecting to your device’s Bluetooth connection, one is able to retrieve information from your phone or send harmful programs to it. Thankfully today’s Bluetooth protocols have made this more and more difficult for people to pull off but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Simply turning off your Bluetooth connection when you’re not using your Bluetooth-enabled headset or other devices will help minimize this risk.

Our smartphones are amazing things. The handheld communicators of Star Trek are in our pockets and purses today, but they do so much more!

Captain James T. Kirk

“Spock…can you…hear me…now?”

With a plethora of apps it’s easy to carry your virtual life in your phone. To paraphrase Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben: “With great convenience comes great responsibility.” Using your smartphone to do your banking is a perfect way to save time and energy, just be certain that you take the proper precautions.

Now excuse me, today’s the day I finally get past level 147 on Candy Crush Saga.

 

Have you ever used your smartphone for banking or to make purchase? If you have any extra security tips to share please do so in the comments below!

More Financial Lessons We Can Learn From Star Wars

The Star Wars logo.

®Lucasfilm/Disney

Last year for Star Wars Day we discussed a few things that the franchise can teach us about finance. Well since there are three new movies on the horizon, we thought we’d revisit the topic and see what other pearls of wisdom we can learn from “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”. So here are four more financial lessons we can learn from Star Wars…

  •  Keep An Eye on Your Finances/Credit Report. In Attack of the Cones we learn that Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had ordered, and paid for, the production of a clone army on Kamino. This was done without the consent or knowledge of either the Jedi Council or the Galactic Senate, but it was done in their name! Imagine if Sifo-Dyas had defaulted or not paid in full? What would that have done to the Council’s credit score? Speaking of which, it’s important to check your credit report at least once a year. Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act of 2003 (or FACTA), the federal government has made sure you can do this for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. The three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, can also provide you with credit reports but they do offer paid credit monitoring services as well so be mindful of what you’re signing up for. If the Jedi Council had checked theirs, maybe they would have seen the order of a clone army in their name and been able to stop the ensuing war before it ever happened.

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Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Housewife holding bucket with cleaning equipment

Here in the Ohio River valley spring is in the air. It’s time to start thinking about cookouts, walks in the park, gardening, and…spring cleaning. It’s always struck me as a little odd how spring cleaning became a thing. If we spend the whole winter cooped up in our homes why don’t we just clean them then? I mean you’re stuck indoors so  But I digress. Spring is a time of renewal, and with it comes a renewed determination to clean up our homes and lives. Spring cleaning doesn’t (and shouldn’t) just apply to your home. It also applies to any other part of your life that might be a bit messy, including your finances. So let’s take a look at a few reasons why getting our financial houses in order this spring can be a big boost…

  1. Being Organized Saves You Time & Trouble. Do you have a drawer stuffed with receipts? Is your desk swamped with paperwork? Set aside some time to specifically file and organize your financial documents; whether this means putting them in a filing cabinet, using binder clips, color-coded tab folders, or whatever you like is up to you. Whatever works best. You will soon find that having your finances organized neatly and orderly will make going over them far less daunting.
  2. Your Financial Awareness Will Increase. During the process of organizing and filing you will get a good idea of where you stand financially. This is a great time for review and reflection on the services you pay for, and a great time to trim some of the fat from your expenses.
  3. Going Paperless Saves. While you’re getting organized you can take it one step further by taking your financial life digital. Having your statements delivered to your email and paying bills online not only saves paper waste, but it saves you time, effort, and money spent on postage. The convenience this provides you will make you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
  4. Being Organized Can Help Keep You Safe. Organizing all of your financial documents helps you know where they are, what information they contain, and what you can get rid of. Your financial documents likely contain sensitive, personal information that identity thieves would love to get their hands on. Use this as an opportunity to shred some of the old documents you don’t need anymore before tossing them out.
  5. Less Chaos & Clutter Can Relieve Stress. Studies have shown that being organized can help one feel more relaxed and increase peace of mind. The ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui is rooted in having an organized and clutter-free home.

These are just a few reasons for getting motivated and adding your finances to your annual spring cleaning. It’s a great time to look at your budget, savings, debts, and everything else that concerns your money. Take the time to sit down and figure out which direction you want to be headed, and whether or not you are, in fact, headed that way.

Do you “spring clean” your finances? Have any tips to share? Leave them in comments below…

6 Smart Things To Do With Your Tax Refund

Pink piggy bank with a dollar bill in the slot

Tax Day. Two of the most dreaded words in the English language. So ominous that even Benjamin Franklin famously remarked in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy that “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Tax Day in the United States has long been derided and viewed as something awful, and for good reason. It’s tedious going through all of your receipts. It’s frustrating trying to navigate the labyrinthine tax code. The fear of an IRS audit looms large in today’s society. And let’s not even talk about the feeling you get when you have to write that check to Uncle Sam. *Ugh*

Despite all of the negative connotations Tax Day has earned, this is not necessarily the case for everyone. According to IRS statistics, it would seem that in 2012, around 70% of taxpayers received a refund. If you are the lucky recipient of such a windfall then the bigger question is: what to do with it? It’s no secret that retailers want that money, and will offers sales and deals to get you to part with it. While the urge to splurge on a big-ticket item like a new TV, smartphone, tablet, or some other toy or gadget is quite tough to resist, let’s look at a few things that you could do with your refund instead…

 

  1. Set Up An Emergency Fund. This is perhaps the most important, and easiest, thing you can do with your refund. A good rule of thumb for an emergency fund is to save approximately three months worth of living expenses. So tally up all of your bills for a three-month period and you’ll have a great starting point for your emergency fund. The critical thing to remember about an emergency fund is this: only use it for emergencies! Don’t use the money for something frivolous. Only use it for things like repairing your car after an accident, paying medical bills after an injury, or paying bills if you find yourself between jobs.
  2. Pay Down Debt. After you have an emergency fund established paying off debt is the best thing you can do. Carrying a lot of debt (student loans, car loans, credit card etc.) is a big drag financially and emotionally. So this tip is to simply use your refund to pay off some of that debt. Choose one of your higher-interest debts (since that interest is only adding to your debt) and put your refund towards the balance. You will save money in the long run by paying less in fees and interest, while reducing the amount of debt you owe.
  3. Make Home Improvements. Take a look around your home. Do you need any repairs? Perhaps a new roof? Maybe you could use some new appliances that are more energy-efficient? Whatever the case may be, putting money back into your home is a good investment. You can increase your property value while increasing your comfort level all at once.
  4. Set Up A College Fund. Invest in your children’s future by using your refund to establish a college fund for your kids.
  5. Donate To Charities. Giving to charities frequently is hard if you’re on a budget or carrying a lot of debt, so your refund can be a chance to change that. Choose a cause meaningful to you and your family and make a generous donation. Remember you can claim the donation on your taxes next year.
  6. Start Your Business. If you’ve always wanted to be your own boss then put your refund towards making that happen. If you already run your own business then reinvest your refund in your business to help it grow, increasing your income for years to come.

 

This list is just a primer, there are many sensible things you can do with your refund. Always remember to take a moment to look at your financial situation and determine your own best course of action.

 

Are you getting a refund this year? Let us know what you’d like to do with it in the comments below…