Simple Bank Review

I’m happy to report I finally get to try BankSimple, now just called Simple. I signed up for an invite back in March of 2010 and received one about two weeks ago (I believe they started the invite process near the end of 2011). Technically, Simple is not a bank — Simple partners with banks and becomes the friendly layer of customer service in between (we hope). While there is a distinction, for me as an end user it doesn’t really matter much.

Simple has yet to roll out all planned features, but I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far. I transferred a small amount of money to my account to give Simple a try. The transfer time was in line with what I’m used to with other banks. A few days later I received my Visa debit card in the mail. The packaging was nice — definitely had a human touch — and it reminded me a bit of FieldNotes brand packaging.

Simple debit card mailing

So far I’ve only used my card for a few small transactions around town and everything has gone smoothly. I’m primarily using the iPhone App to manage my account, and of course you can do it all on Simple’s website too.

Speaking of websites, I use Mint to manage my money. Unfortunately, Simple is not yet integrated with Mint. I added the account, but Mint says it’s in BETA and currently being worked on. That’s unfortunate, but I’m hopeful it won’t be long until it’s available.

As for the features still to come, there will be an Android app but that’s not out yet. Same for joint accounts and mobile check deposit.

If all continues to go well — and mobile check deposit works as expected — I just might make this my primary bank. At the very least, I expect Simple to replace the other ‘online’ banks I use.

Debt is Slavery Book Review


Debt is Slavery: and 9 Other Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money, by Michael Mihalik. This book is short, to the point, and packed with lots of great advice. I’ve read it three times and I would put this in my top five personal finance books, possibly at number one. I think for someone just getting started with figuring out their debt and finances this is probably the first book to read. It’s short enough to get through very quickly and find some immediate advice and inspiration to get your finances under control.

The book offers this definition of slavery: “The state of being bound in servitude as an instrument of labor” [pg. 23]. Do you ever wake up in the morning and not want to go to work that day? Do you go anyway? Do you go because you really love your job that much or do you go because you owe money to someone (probably many people) and even though you may have a choice of how you’ll earn your money, ultimately you have no choice but to go to work and get that money. Lately, I’ve been dreading Monday mornings as early as Saturday night. I feel trapped and bound to this service by my debts.

“Too many people hate their jobs but are afraid to leave, because they wouldn’t be able to pay their mortgage, credit card bills, car loans, or boat loans. Debt can turn a free, happy person into a bitter human being. Debt can turn you into a slave.” [pg 25].

It’s possible for debt to be good, but debt is still slavery. A mortgage can usually be thought of as good debt, but you still must make sure you can afford the mortgage you are signing up for.

“The word ‘mortgage’ is derived from the Latin word ‘mort,’ which means ‘death’, and the Germanic word ‘gage’, which means ‘pledge’. So ‘mortgage’ means ‘death pledge’. What does that tell you?” [pg 30]

When we spend money, we are really trading our time for the things we buy. We make this even worse when we go into debt to buy things. We are now committing our time in the future to work to earn money to pay for the things we bought in the past. This becomes even more painful if you don’t like your job.

‘Stuff’ ads busywork and stress to our lives. So much stuff we buy we don’t even need. Eliminating unwanted stuff from our lives is an important part of getting control of our finances and getting out of debt.

Experiences are more valuable than stuff. Don’t find happiness only in buying things. You won’t look back on your life when you’re older and fondly remember the stuff you accumulated.

It will be easier to stop buying stuff if we avoid advertising and understand that we are constantly being marketed to and a lot of money is being spent to convince us to buy things.

Make a goal of saving 50% of your income. If you do this, you would have the ability to take a month off from work for every month you work (assuming you’re earning an income from a job and not passive sources). Don’t spend more money when you get a raise. If you keep your expenses the same as before, you can increase your savings exponentially, even as your income may not be increasing at such a high rate.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, it buys freedom. This is my greatest motivator for making more money and getting out of debt right now. I want to be free again.

This book is packed with solid advice, expertly fit into a short, easy to read format. If you’re just getting started with fixing a financial mess in your life, I would buy this book immediately. If you need a little extra motivation and a better understanding of the mistakes of the ‘normal’ American way when it comes to money and work, read this book. I had planned to give away my copy after reading it, but I decided this is one I want to keep on my bookshelf so I have it available to read again when I see bad habits creeping back into my life.

The Richest Man in Babylon

I spent some time cleaning out my book collection today and came across a few favorites that are worth mentioning again. One of which is the The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason.

This is one of my favorite personal finance books and it’s a definite must-read if you are working on improving your finances. Not only is the information excellent, but it’s a short book too (my version is only 144 small pages).

The beauty of this book is that it’s not selling a gimmick or an easy way out. It simply gives you good fundamentals and a simple plan that anyone can understand and implement in their lives.

If you already know to pay yourself first and avoid debt, then you probably don’t need this book. Everyone else should read it as soon as possible. I found it to be one of the best books I read as I was getting started with figuring out my financial mess. This book and Your Money or Your Life are the two that come to mind first when someone asks me where to get started with personal finance.

Omron HBF-500 Scale Review

Omron HBF 500 reviewI’m using the Omron HBF-500 Body Composition Monitor with Scale to track my weight, body fat, visceral fat, skeletal muscle, resting metabolism, and BMI. I really like the scale and I’m happy I bought it. If you aren’t tracking your body fat at all right now, I recommend you buy this or a similar scale that tracks body fat. There are less expensive options if you already own a scale and just need a way to track your body fat, such as the Omron HBF-306C Fat Loss Monitor (recommended by Lazy Man from Lazy Man & Health).

*Note – You need to be between 18 – 80 years old and between 3’4″ to 6′ 6-3/4″ tall for this scale to work for you.

The Omron HBF-500 Body Composition Monitor with Scale is about the size of a typical bathroom scale, but with a little more weight and bulk (hey, just like me!). With a multitude of buttons and a complicated digital display it looks quite a bit more advanced than the average bathroom scale, but don’t let that scare you–it is very easy to use once you get familiar with it.

You need to spend a few minutes configuring the scale before using it the first time. The first step is to set the date and time because the scale stores up to 90 days of results.

Next, you enter some personal information so the scale can track your statistics. This can be done for up to 4 people, and if you don’t want to store data or if you have used up all 4 spots, anyone can use the scale by selecting a ‘guest’ profile. You can also delete profiles and create new ones at any time.

Once you’ve stored a profile, using the scale is fairly simple, although you need to pay attention to the order of operations in order to get correct measurements.

Before stepping on the scale, turn it on with a large button on the back. The display flashes and changes to 0.00 when ready. After the display shows 0.00, and before you step on the scale, lift the display unit out of the scale (the small T-shaped thing) and hold handles firmly. Select your profile number and, finally,  step on the scale. Wait a few seconds for the display to show your weight and begin to flash ‘START’. Then, raise your arms up to a 90 degree angle while holding the display (this all sounds a lot more complicated than it really is).

The scale rates your results in each category, based on your age and gender, with 4 classification symbols “-, 0, +, ++” (0 is normal). And these are saved for 90 days, so don’t worry about remembering everything each time you weigh in.

If you want to quickly check your weight without all this rigmarole, just turn the scale on, wait for 0.00 to display, and step on without grabbing the display unit. You don’t need to select a profile and your weight won’t be saved.


The instruction book is very informative on its own. Take some time to read it, because it describes what each category is, why it matters, and what range you should be in. For example, I had never heard of visceral fat before (it’s fat that surrounds internal organs). Turns out, too much visceral fat leads to high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

There is some debate over how accurate this form of body fat measurement is, but, unless you’re entering some sort of competition, all that matter is establishing a baseline for tracking your progress.

For myself, I was never going to go see a personal trainer or other professional to get my body fat measured, so this scale provides an easy to use body fat measurement at home that I can do any time (this is extra important when you don’t feel too proud of your body in its current shape).

I paid about $65 for the scale at You may not want to spend that much money on a scale, but I would encourage you to get something, anything that allows you to measure your body fat. Omron also makes a handheld fat loss monitor for about $27, which makes sense if you already own a scale and want to save a little money. Or, if you don’t already own a good scale, just spend a little extra andget the Omron HBF-500 Body Composition Monitor with Scale so you can establish a baseline and track your progress over time.