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Combining our Accounts

June 22nd, 2006 at 06:25 pm

New city. New game plan.
We figured we'd try this whole joint checking and savings account thing since we really didn't want to open separate accounts here.
SO's initial worry was that he wouldn't know how much was in the account at any given time since he always checked online, but I assured him that because we're both very diligent about checking accounts electronically that we really shouldn't have any problems. We'll see... Smile
Keeping the new checkbook in the office drawer... he has an ATM card, I usually stick to the "Die Broke" method of getting my cash out once a week.
Found out we'll be getting some extra tax money back which is fantastic since prices on the west coast are about 20% HIGHER than what we're used to. Fresh food is much cheaper, however, which will hopefully influence our cooking efforts! We still rely on too many prepared foods... (Bisquick, canned soups, Rice A Roni).
Ice cream here tastes much better than our old town. Why is that??? Lucerne is WONDERFUL. Even the milk tastes better. YUM!
People are fantastic here (for the most part). The only grumpy people we've encountered was close to the water at a restaurant down from Pike's Place... the wait staff were probably tired of the tourists... little did they know that we're now locals. he he
Anyhow, won't be going back.
When we do end up eating out, we'll be staying away from as many national chains as we can avoid (DS loves SUBWAY which means restricting access may cause tears...feigned and real) since there are a TON of restaurants I really want to try out.
This place isn't great for my pocket book and I need to find the cheaper places to buy groceries, get oil changes, etc., etc., but all in all, I'm in love.

Jorge

BOOK: A Must Read

June 12th, 2006 at 08:45 am

"Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes - And how to correct them" by Bary Belsky and Thomas gilovich

This is one of the most informative fabulous books I've read on the psychology or mental accounting of money. HIGHLY recommend.

Another nice read: "Not Buying It-My year without shopping" by Judith Levine. Not worth buying, but a nice library check-out.

Transfer assets / New account

June 7th, 2006 at 02:39 pm

Maybe I should lay off the financial publications, but just finished "Coffee House Investor" and decided to bite the bullet and open up a Vanguard account.
Finished paperwork today with my signature guarantee to transfer my IRA at TIAA-CREF to V.
Perhaps I should have waited until we're at our new address... unfortunately, I was having nightmares about losing paperwork, so this way it's done. Smile
Picked up DS's new glasses today... they make him look VERY handsome. Will need to get some sort of strap to keep them around his neck for all of the sailing expeditions this summer. No sense in dropping $250 worth into the lake!

Mutual Fund Research/Misc

May 31st, 2006 at 08:33 am

Spent a few hours on Fidelity.com last night looking at mutual funds for my pension $$ I should be receiving any day... (and then send off to Fidelity to join the other retirement stuff). It'll bump my retirement fund savings to $11k/$12k which isn't a lot, but better than nothing! I need to allocate a little better if I'm going to live through these big ups and downs in the market... maybe some bonds instead of NO bonds... I hadn't purcased any bonds before because I thought I was strong enough to stand the risk of all stocks... but watching my portfolio this last week has really made me think "BALANCE" - I need to balance my portfolio.

With the house money in a few weeks, I'll probably place it in Vanguard, in a nice index fund with low management fees and no 12b1 fees, but then I'd have a little at TIAA-CREF, Fidelity AND Vanguard which I don't think is too smart. The thing is that I love my Social Choice fund and the other growth fund at CREF and my retirement stuff was already at Fidelity, so I kept it there and I haven't opened anything at Vanguard, yet, but I love their index funds. Unfortunately, Fidelity charges $75 per transaction which makes me cringe. Oh, what to do, what to do. The cash that I'm not putting into the Roth will be around $10k and it'll go into ING until I get a handle on what to do with it.

I've probably already posted on my worries about this money, but it's something that is still hanging over my head... I don't want to screw up... since:
a) I'm not working
b) this is the last windfall I'll probably get in a loooonnnngggg time
c) I need a "girl's safety net" to feel comfortable
d) doubtful that I'll inherit any money
e) doubtful that I'll be making any significant money in the next couple of years since I'll be home with the little one



Back to the research.

Ah, and the credit card is back in the dungeon of our closet since I had started spending a little on it... $100 for summer shoes for DS and I which we needed, but I don't ever, ever want to have a credit card balance again. EVER! Which means cash, baby. Being in credit debt rebound is tough.

When should financial institutions be held accountable?

May 24th, 2006 at 02:10 pm

My SO got me a European charge card from his bank the other day so that we can use Euros for the coming year from his bank account over there. (This is the year we'll be making about half of our salary for education pursuits).

It got me thinking again about the book that had the 50%Needs, 30%Wants, 20%Savings strategy that I've been using for the last year. Pregnancy has affected my brain, so I can't remember the title, but it's a great book. Smile

Anyhow, the writer's talk about how in the 1950's a person COULDN'T really go over their credit line, and COULDN'T spend more than 25% of their income(or so) on their house and the banks WOULD NOT loan the money for a new car that they didn't think you could afford (using much stricter guidelines than they do now). Etc., etc., etc. Their point was that "fixed" expenses were much much lower than they are/can be today. Hence, many people are in straight jackets because of their fixed expenses.

Back to this charge card thing... SO tells me that I have a credit limit each month, but that the bank automatically takes the payment out monthly and pays the card off in full. He didn't have to sign up for this, they just don't have "credit cards" where he's from, they have "charge cards" like the American Express card that HAS TO BE PAID OFF and if you don't have the money, they revoke the card. That's it. End of story. Is this why Europe has a higher savings rate on the whole than we do? Which brings me to the question at the title of this entry, at what point should financial institutions be held accountable?

Isn't this a little hard on the individuals who borrow this money to be in such financial difficulties? How does it affect a person/family's quality of life if they're in debt up to their eyeballs? Yes, I know, people need to take responsibility for themselves at some point, but that would mean they'd need to be educated as well... kind of like those hazardous messages on cigarettes. If a person hasn't been taught, how are they to KNOW? It took me a long time to get out of debt. What would life have been like if I hadn't gotten into debt in the first place... ? Did it kill me to eat macaroni and cheese dinner 4 nights a week because my house payment and credit card bills took up almost all of my paycheck? Nooooo.... and it's my fault. I just wonder for the rest of our kids, our future, "what if?" What if companies were forced into more reasonable borrowing percentages? And what if credit card companies were required to have higher minimum percentages on the balances owed? The list is endless and this is long. I just got that charge card application in my hand and had to wonder how it is that we're going to compete with the rest of the world when we as a people have no savings.

J
P.S. Contrary 1 - couldn't figure out how to send a private email like the old set-up on the site. I'll keep looking. And baselle... I don't get the emails when comments are posted, but see above. I'll keep looking. Smile

Help?! Moving to Seattle - need info

May 23rd, 2006 at 04:33 pm

If anyone has recommendations for life in Seattle, we'd love to hear your comments. We're relocating and will be living just NE of downtown (not too far). Since everyone on this site tries to get the best bang for the buck, we're wondering who you use for:

-cable internet (faster than DSL)
-renter's insurance
-electric
-car insurance
-which brick and mortar sp? bank (low fees, no monthly fees, etc.)
-anything else?

We don't have cable and won't start when we move...and I think gas and garbage will be paid by the landlord. I've never been to the Northwest, so have no idea which companies to even start looking at. Someone from that area sent me an email from Comcast.net, so I'll start there for cable internet, but golly, there's a lot! AND.. it doesn't help that we're already going to be paying double in rent what we're paying for our mortgage. Life in the big city, I guess!

Thanks for reading!

In Love with Larry E. Swedroe

May 23rd, 2006 at 08:07 am

When I first saw, "What Wall Street Doesn't Want You To Know" on the shelves of my local library, I passed it over for something I felt would be a little more interesting.
Then, a friend brought Sedroe to my attention later in the week over coffee. "It's a good strategy, you should read him."

So, I did.

And I'm in love. I've read a lot of books on why index funds are the best things to invest in, but I never felt that I had the back-up information to support that claim.

Now, I do.

Too bad my parents, who are very much interested in "choosing the right stock" and "making money!!" by trying to time the market, etc., etc., etc. haven't read him as well.

Bummer that my money is in Fidelity where index funds aren't flouted and active trading is. Will have to check out to see if I can buy other funds that aren't Fidelity and see how much the fees are going to be to buy them.

Pension Info and Retirement

April 16th, 2006 at 03:21 pm

My (old) employer just sent me forms to fill out for my pension. I was floored that I had acquired $4,500 in the 5.5 years that I worked there since I was expecting more like $1,000. Excellent because I only managed to save about $6,500 on my own in the company retirement account and it's only up to about $6,900 these days. (They had no match since they offer the pension). The pension money will be a really nice addition.
DH needs to sign in front of a notary since I'm opting out of the annuity ($11/mo. for the rest of my life and $5/mo. for DH LOL) and rolling over the pension to my TIAA-CREF account. I had added $800 into my traditional IRA for 2005, and had thought I would transfer it over to Vanguard, but I think I will give it some time. There's so much going on right now that I kind of just want expense stuff settled.
I will be completely debt-free in June this year and it will be the first time since I was 18 years old with my first car loan. We'll be renting on the west coast for the year and since our house is sold... just need to wait for the closing date. Wow. It feels so great to have a little bit of money stashed away.
Turns out that I only have ~$14,000 in retirement accounts, but that's okay because I'm trying very hard to build up money in other areas. Now that I haven't been working for a month and won't probably be working for awhile, it's going to be tough, but DH will be supporting us on his salary and when the baby comes, I'd still like to work a few hours each week tutoring or whatnot.
Having been gone for a month has allowed me the great opportunity to see my house in a new light. I've started sorting through my bookshelves again and I'm setting things aside for a garage sale or donation. No sense in taking my college textbooks with us since i haven't opened them in almost ten years and there's no sense in moving things that I really don't have an attachment to.
My ex sister-in-law gave us some baby blankets and I think I'll keep all but one of them... it's knitted and very pretty, but I just don't like things that are scratchy and have holes in them. And... there's probably someone out there who would be thrilled to have a knitted baby blanket.
Finished reading "Being Peace" and Thich Nhat Hanh says that people who choose to have children should try to find ways of contributing and helping the world. I agree with this. We could have adopted, but DH would really like to have children from his own gene pool... not sure, yet, how to contribute, but in the meantime, I'm definitely recycling more (office paper is a pain to recycle in our town, but I think it's my responsibility to make the effort) and instead of dumping our old paint cans in the garbage can like I know many people do... we'll be taking them down to the hazardous waste department.
It really is a lot of work, but golly, I look at the impact we're having on this world and frankly, I'd like to leave as small of a footprint as possible.
I also finished reading "Good in Bed" since it was recommended by Laura and I can second the recommendation. It may have been hormones, but I cried during the hospital parts. I think most people can relate.

Saving for the future and beyond, Jorge

Managing my $ and I bought the bag

April 10th, 2006 at 03:38 pm

Thanks, Kashi - I think you're right and I bought the bag. It really is fabulous and I've never seen a bag like it.
Back in the U.S. is interesting. I've spent almost $100 my first day home. Ouch! Had to change the title for my car, $14, faxed an important document long distance, $6, took a friend to lunch $12, bought two donuts $1.90, allowance to DS $10, developed photos $30, and a few more things. Crazy how the cash flies out of one's wallet.
Received a nice surprise in the mail from the grandparents... and have set up a deposit to ING in two days after the check clears.
The buyers for the house would like us to fix two things on the house (they just had it inspected on Friday). One is some sort of backdraft on the water heater and the other is to call an electrician to fix a couple of wires that aren't connected to anything on the fuse box. Hopefully the fixes won't cost more than $150.
Tired, and ready for bed already.

SOLD! & Shoulder Bag - Dare to Spend?

April 5th, 2006 at 02:26 am

SOLD THE HOUSE!!! Yes! We sold the house! Okay, so the ink isn't dry, yet, and won't be until two months from now, but at least we've got an offer that's legally binding! Woooohoooooooo! Just a few more hoops to jump through: the inspection, the appraisal, and the buyer's financing. I guess all that spruce up work really helped, eh? The house was only on the market a couple of weeks, but I suppose it is that time of year. Ohhhh, what a relief.

So... onto the spending stage of this entry...

Since arriving in this city, I've been using a shoulder bag that is huge... it's actually DH's, but my purse doesn't have a long enough strap to place it crosswise on my body and DH's bag does. This city has an amazing amount of pickpockets and thieves (there are even signs posted in the Hertz rental agency to beware of professional pickpockets) and having a person's bag crosswise is helpful to deter... they could still cut it off you, of course, but why make it easy for them??
I've been in search of the perfect bag that has a long strap, is square-ish, has lots of pockets to put things, and is well sewn...
After looking in two different countries and countless windows and stores, I have found my bag. Having such good taste as I do (ahem) it is of course way out of my league... 100
Oi. Other bags I found that were less well-made, but still stylish were between 50 and 60. Bags that weren't very stylish but would get the job done were about 30, but they didn't have any little pockets or zippers to sort things...
Do I buy the bag? We'll see. I found it yesterday and may go back to the store today to check it out again. It's in this beautiful aqua blue and very very cool. My grandmother always said to buy quality when you buy bags, shoes, belts and coats and then you'll always be sure to get your money's worth. Hmmmm...

Spending Today

April 4th, 2006 at 07:27 am

Fellin' good with a 50 note still in my pocket. I spent 10.30 on groceries yesterday and ate in for supper. Spent 1.20 for the bus last night and this morning... 2.10 for some rolls and a big bottle of water for lunch today.
Brittany asked if I used any software to track my spending and the answer is, "not really." I tried Quicken a few years ago and screwed it up so much that I didn't want to try again. I have used Excel to track my spending and find totals, but that turned out to be cumbersome as well. Today, I keep my networth and account information locked up in an Excel sheet that I tally up monthly or more on average and this seems to work well for me. I have my budgets for house and personal also within my Excel worksheets as well as my goals for the coming year and next five years. And... I keep a list of wants... so that when I feel the desire to spend more than $50, or am just feeling rich, I can take a look at my wants list and figure out what to spend it on... I think this helps to spend money on things I really desire instead of something I see in passing. It works the other way, too. When I see something I want and it costs a fair bit of change, I place it on the want list. It'll be there tomorrow or the next day if I really want it. There are so many places to buy things nowadays!!!
To track spending, I usually just use a pencil and a small notebook. The notebook also has rough guesstimates on what things cost in the grocery store so that I can compare before purchasing. I think this is a good habit.
Cash is also my friend. When I used the credit or debit cards more, I always spent a heck of a lot more money. When I take my cash out every week or two weeks, I know exactly how much I have left to spend. Works great!
There is a teacher I met here who wears their clothes at least 4 or 5 times before washing them. How very different from the US, eh? She's from the U.K. and just seems to feel more comfortable with not spending so much money on washing clothing... it doesn't get all that dirty during the day while teaching students and she changes clothes when she gets home to save the good stuff. What a fantastic way to live!
In the U.S., it seems that people are expected to not wear an outfit if they wore it the week before or something. Silly. Clothes are just clothes and I would assume that if you don't spend your money on clothes, you have a heck of a lot more in your savings account!!!! Ha!

Jorge