SUV Tax Break

On Friday I wrote about the popularity of Hummers in Marin County, CA. A megnut reader sends a link to surprising article, which helps explain the preponderance of SUVs in wealthy areas like the Bay Area. Apparently a loophole in our tax laws allows SUV and truck owners a big tax break:

Here's how the SUV tax break works:

Suppose a business owner wants to purchase a $45,000 luxury SUV for use in his business. He or she could write off $24,000 of the cost under section 179 of the tax code as accelerated depreciation. Then the buyer could write off additional depreciation of the remaining $21,000 under a five-year schedule — 20 percent, or $4,200, in the first year.

That's a total $28,200 tax write-off.

The tax credit if you buy a fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle? $4,000.

Job hunting tips or, Why unemployment is so high

I've got a new theory, based on the responses I've received to my Craig's List posting for a software/hardware engineer: It's no wonder we're seeing an increase in unemployment, people seem to have no idea how to apply for a job these days.

Here are some of the things I've received to date in response to my posting (note: posting says attachments will not be read, application requires an essay, company consists of two people):

  • Blank emails with Microsoft Word resumes attached
  • A cover letter beginning, "Dear Richard"
  • Letters beginning, "Dear Sir/Madam"
  • Another saying, "Dear Human Resource Manager"
  • and a response to my, "advertisement…for the UI Developer"

Of the more than 30 responses I've gotten so far, less than 1/3 have even followed the directions to apply. (Those that have though look really great and I'm looking forward to talking with them.) So here's my other theory: if you're currently looking for a job, you have a tremendous advantage over other people out there if you just do a few simple things:

Address your cover letter to the person who will read it

This is an easy one and should only require a bit of your time. Simply call the company and find out the name of the person who's responsible for handling applications for the position for which you're applying. Often the receptionist will be able to give you a name. It shows you've made a little effort and care about the job.

Write a cover letter

Writing a cover letter is the easiest way to distinguish yourself from another applicant. If you've got a standard letter you like to use, spend some time and enhance it for each application you're submitting so the person who's reading it can see, again, that you care about the position and have some knowledge and qualifications for it.

Quality is much more important than quantity

Rather than whip off thirty generic emails to any job listing that might be right for you, take the time to craft five quality responses for the five best listings you've found. Write those cover letters, address them to real people, triple-check your message before you send it (so you don't apply "for the UI position" or call a woman "Richard").

And most importantly,

Follow the directions to apply for a position

I know this sounds harsh but honestly, if you can't follow directions to apply for a job, what makes the hiring manager think you can follow directions if you get the job?

No matter what the job market, just following these simple guidelines should increase your chances of landing an interview, and distinguishing yourself within the applicant pool. Surely if this is something you plan to do for the next X months or years, it's worth taking the time to do it right.

And one more thing, once you do have that interview, don't forget to send a follow-up thank you letter. While these were traditionally done on paper, nowadays if you're applying for a technical position, I think you can get away with email. It doesn't have to be anything fancy: simply thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, ask any follow-up questions you may have, and reiterate your qualifications for the position.

Searching for a new bank

I'm looking for recommendations for a new bank that offers free or cheap online access via Quicken and the Web, and won't make me pay a ton of fees, and won't ding me for local ATM transactions at other machines (though this is lower priority). I currently use Wells Fargo. And I'm crazy for Quicken and always run reports on how I'm spending my money. It turns out I've spent $136.65 in bank fees in the past SIX months with Wells Fargo. Give me a break! 78% of that is online bill pay service fees and monthly service fees. So I'm looking to reduce this. If you've got a good bank to recommend, please do so using the comments. Yes, finally I've implemented comments. Improvements to follow.

Megnut Marketing and Telecommunications Bill

I would like to propose the "Megnut Marketing and Telecommunications Bill of 2002" for consideration by the United States Congress:

Section 1: It shall be illegal for telemarketers to call outside the hours of 9-5 local time for the number they are dialing, Monday through Friday. If they call outside the designated hours, they will be fined $1,000 for each violation, 50% of which goes to the victim.

Section 2: It shall be illegal for financial companies (like credit card companies) to label envelopes with formal-looking warnings like, "Requires Immediate Attention" or "Signature Required" when in actuality the envelop contains some stupid credit card offer and requires no attention at all on the part of the addressee. This section can be summed up: It shall be illegal to make junk mail look like real mail.

I'm sure this bill requires additional sections that escape me now, but this is a start.

Also, I'm going to start referring to ATM's as "automatic T machines" from now on. You should too.