Monday, January 30, 2017

When the dust settles

In 9 years when I wrap up this financial experiment, where will I be?

I have a plan and I have good intentions so all will be okay right? - not exactly.  

Each day, week, month I need to be moving towards my goals.  My actions need to reflect not only who I am (know thyself!) but also my desires and plans and hopes for the future.

I need to reflect on my actions, on my thoughts (buy! buy! buy!) as well as continuously tweak to do my very best to hit my goals.

None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes.  It is always easy to do with money.  But absent anything kray-kray, I'm pretty sure that at the end of these 9 years I can look back and be proud of what I have consistently tried to do.

How about you?  At the end of this year where will you stand?  Will you be proud of your accomplishments?  Will you be proud of your thoughts and actions?

It's an interesting question that is relevant to our finances, our goals and our lives.  Those who fuck up are usually vilified in some way and rightly so.  (Note:  Having to take a huge step down in retirement pretty much sucks and yes you will hate yourself when it happens.)

We all have the benefit of history and other people's mistakes or misdeeds (or evil deeds).  Facts about what has happened previously exist and are out there for a reason - to prevent people from screwing up.

Banning people based on religion sounds familiar because it is a form of targeting people based on religion (we should all know that this has happened before and it NEVER turns out well).

It leads to hatred and violence.  It leads to acceptance of hatred and violence by too many.  We need only look to the Muslims that were killed or hurt in the mosque attack in Canada.  This is very very reminiscent of the attack in the church in South Carolina.  Color of skin, religion...The timing of this horrible tragedy in Canada is not surprising.

I used to travel for work with a young man who was Muslim and whose parents were born in another country.  Several of us would be traveling typically but while we would usually be traveling on the same day, we would often be on different flights.  Still we were at the airport together often enough.

This young man was stopped every single time.  Not just stopped and searched but taken into another room.  Every single time.  He had a good attitude about the horribleness of it.  Me, not so much.  I would panic each time it happened.  All you needed is some *cowboy* from CBP that didn't want to follow instructions and who didn't care that you were respectful and here legally.  I cannot imagine what it was like to be him or to be his parents.  Every single trip I always made sure someone was on his flight - this way at least a co-worker could alert the company if he didn't get released in time for his flight.

And today I am observing two men at my office who have to work with each other but now can barely tolerate each other.  Let's call them Bill and Sam.  Bill voted for Twump; Sam voted for Hillary.  Bill kept his support quiet until Twump won and then it was all in your face.  Yes they most certainly did have a very loud confrontation.  

Today, however, Bill could hardly look at Sam.  Bill is white, in his late 50s, makes really good money (and has for about 15 years).  He is close to retiring and was not happy with how the market reacted while under Obama and felt that Trump could really energize things.  Bill's focus was entirely on himself.  For me this is not unusual as a lot of the men I work with are just like Bill and voted for Twump for similar reasons.  But you don't get to cherry pick only the supposed good stuff of candidates and today Bill was faced with having to see and work with Sam, a Muslim who was born in this country (like his parents).  Bill isn't anti-Muslim or racist.  Still he voted for Twump regardless of the campaign Twump ran.  I wonder how soon their next business trip is.

When the dust settles it will be very interesting to see which side people were on and are on.  

I know the majority of the U.S. will be on the right side.  But how large of a majority will we be.  How many of us will stand up and support American values which include diversity and acceptance that this nation includes (and is loved by) people of various races and religions and gender orientations and sexualities?

I hope there will be a lot of people who can look back in a year and be proud.  Sixty million people voted for Twump, a man who includes a fascist in his inner circle of advisors.  Sixty million people didn't care about this.  There is still the possibility that they will change their minds.  Conversely, they may look back when the dust settles and feel proud of their decision.

But as history has shown us at least once, future generations will not look kindly on those who have supported fascists and targeted people based on their religion or skin color.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Let's Get Real - Math, Money, Savings, Numbers

I'm gonna be honest here - nothing pisses me off like people who bullshit.  

[Side note:  I once told an interviewer that he was full of bullshit.  He laughed.  He was a salesman and considered it a compliment.  We had a nice conversation afterwards but I made it clear I didn't want the job.  In reality I didn't want to have to work with him.]

And a lot of politicians are FULL of bullshit.  So while this isn't an anti-Twump rant per se, it is a rant about what is going on in my sphere of the world which happens to include Twump headlines.

As a conservative, I honestly do not think the politicians that are in charge of Congress and the WH have the interests of all Americans at heart.  And by ALL I mean the minority that voted for Twump and the majority that didn't.

Who cares the most about your money?  Who cares the most about your future?


So what are you doing about it?  If you are placing your hope in Uncle Sam, you shouldn't be.  Yes the government has a very important role and even more important tools in its toolkit that can and should help the millions of people in this country.

But do not just sit back and accept what is being told to you while you wait for the riches and jobs to come rolling in.

You too have a role to play and part of that role is to question, question, question and then question some more.  Now that does not just mean questioning the government, the politicians, the news you are reading but also yourself, what you believe and why you believe it, what actions you take and why you take them.

Learning to question is a very important skill.  It is one that is and can be taught in schools but it is not always one that is learned.

With questioning you must learn to decipher arguments and logic and lies.

There are no such things as alternative facts.  There are facts, there are feelings.  Just because you feel like you are worth a million bucks does not mean that you are.  There are facts and there are opinions.  Just because you believe that the U.S. is in a cycle of decline does not mean that it is.

Feelings and beliefs are often emotional.  Emotion is not logic.  Just because you *feel* safe, does that mean that logically you should keep your home and car unlocked?  Or better yet hand out copies of your keys?

Many reading this will say "of course not" - it sounds ridiculous.  And yet many still lead lives and make many decisions based on feelings and beliefs ignoring logic and facts.

It is very, very important to separate facts from everything else. 

If you sat next to someone and all they could do is talk about themselves, always turning the conversation back to themselves, what would you think?  Is this someone who thinks about you?  Cares about you?  Or is it someone who appears to be focused only on themselves?  
[This is something that Twump does consistently.]

If something goes up, must it come down? We are in a bull market (stock market) and for over 90 quarters the market has gone up.  This seems great.  Until we know the fact is that on average the market only goes up for 50-something quarters.  Does this mean that the market will not go up next quarter or for the one after that?  No.  But it does mean that there is a high probability that the market will go down (and soon).

A simpler question (and asked without judgment) - do you know what average means?  Do you know what high probability means?  Many people do but many also do not.  When we read or listen to the news, a lot of words and phrases are tossed about.  If you don't know what they mean, look them up.  You don't have to mention it to anyone if you are embarrassed.  A good online search will give you the definitions.  Or find a site you like and ask a question.  Ask anonymously if need be.

Now a comment about taxes on imports.  Twump supporters want to build a wall and Twump has the brilliant idea of taxing Mexican imports to find the funds to build that bloody wall.  So let's say Pru is located in Mexico and I want to sell something to you, an American.  The price of the item is $100.  We make a deal and are both happy.  Twump says hold up - that is gonna be an extra 20% import tax.  20% of $100 (100 x 0.20) = $20.  

What do you think I do?  Do you think Pru just nods and says okay sure I'll sell it for $100 and then give Twump $20 and lower my profit by $20?  

HELL NO!  I raise my damn prices.  I raise them high enough to cover the cost of the good, the profit that I want AND the import tax.

And who exactly ends up paying for that bloody wall?!  You do - the American consumer!

You can all say that you won't buy anything from Mexico then.  Hmmm....okay....personally I love fruits and vegetables and a shitload of those come from Mexico....meh!  Who needs fiber?

Or even better we'll just grow more ourselves.  California makes great fruit right?!  Yeah and they have a lot of foreign (ahem Mexican) labor too.  What does that mean?

The point is that every decision made, every action taken is going to have an impact and there is a good chance that impact will hurt people who don't have a huge amount in the bank.  (Question, question, question.)

Ask yourselves why someone who doesn't know you, wants to help you.  In other words - what is in it for them?  Most are looking to gain something for themselves even if it is just being noticed.  A few are kind enough to truly care.

If a mortal claims to be your savior - Seriously, seriously think before accepting such a thing.

Let us all send positive thoughts into the universe if Twump tries to force our intelligence and military personnel to use torture.  Because I don't even want to think of what will happen to our service men and women if they are captured.

Politicians throughout the world rely on the masses (that's you and I) not understanding, not questioning and believing regardless of the former.  It's the only way they believe that they can govern.  But that simply isn't true.

Read more!  Ask more questions!  Stop blindly accepting!

Remember who cares the most about your money and your future - YOU DO!  Play an active role and don't swallow just anything that is told to you. 


Happy Lunar New Year! Time to keep saving!

Super exhausting week and  weekend!  But here are some links for reading:

PF Wisdom from the Year of the Rooster

5 Steps to Take Right Now for a Financially Strong 2017

Funding 40 Years of Retirement
*can't imagine this but we must plan for it eh!

A Grumpy Old Man's Guide to 401(k) Investing

Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Well now...and so it starts

We knew it was going to happen and now it has.

The ignorant and scary Twump is now officially the President of the United States.  I still cannot believe the imbeciles and deplorables that voted for him. 

Twump and his cronies are now off to Make America White Again, couched however it is in various coded phrases.

Simply disgusting.

In an effort to protest, donations were made to the American Civil Liberties Union (on Friday - at 12:01 p.m. I clicked donate!) and to Planned Parenthood (on Saturday in honor of the women marching/gathering in DC) because both of those organizations have their work cut out for them.

[Pru raises a fist into the air!]

I did not join the march in DC as originally planned.  The person I was going with flaked as usual (didn't actually think she would flake on this to be honest) and I didn't want to travel down alone since I wasn't sure what to expect.

Small actions on my part but more will happen.  It's all a bit new so I'm exploring still.  Also looking locally - it is so important to either build a strong community or do what you can to maintain it so that no one is marginalized and all are helped.

The future is uncertain.  The deplorables of this country who claim to be "real" America have given the middle finger to all that is good about this country.  In his first speech as President, Twump gave the impression that this country is burning.  The country that is the world leader (currently) is not a country that is burning...yet.  

But we shall see.  His nominees for his cabinet and administration will be confirmed.  They lack the experience and the knowledge to do the job but will oversee billions of dollars.  Let's see what happens to healthcare (repeal the Affordable Act - let millions go without healthcare - do it!), or to education (no more public school education! yay!  parents who themselves are not that well educated can get vouchers to charter schools that do not have to meet any sort of standards - well that will make this country great! and all those schools can have guns in them to fight off the grizzlies!), to HUD (who needs housing? no one!).  Oh wait.  Did I forget about the Treasury - yup put someone in charge that foreclosed on deplorables and nondeplorables alike and ended up a billionaire (don't forget foreclosing on that 90-year old woman over a 27 cent discrepancy - yay!!!!).  

Muslim registries - so creative!  What will President Hitler Twump and Vice Hitler Twump think about next?!  Oh! Oh! Oh! I know!  Maybe they'll become obsessed with stars.  (And those who might wear a pink star can instead perhaps go through conversion therapy - then they can change the color of their star!)

Sigh.  I can't wait to see Make America White Again in real life - not just in the history books. 

Gonna be a *great* four years.  Save.  Invest.  Save some more.

Do without if it means you can save some more.  Vanguard's thoughts:

Vanguard's investment tips for 2017

Right now we have no idea what is around the corner.  While that is usually the case, it feels particularly poignant today.  Brexit, Twump, Le Pen leading in the French polls.  Focus on what you have to do to get your financial house in order and prepare for a rainy day is probably the best advice.

Today if someone offered me a seat on an arc, I'd probably accept.  Tomorrow, it's right back to being frugal and smart and thinking ahead.

And deplorables - remember you are not welcome here.  Find a troll (or frog) site where you will be in better company.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Looking ahead, making transfers and cut cut cut

Hopefully everyone's week is off to a good start!

I have spent this long weekend tackling my budget deficit and nearly succeeding.  I'll have to see my other January paycheck to know what I'm really working with so must wait for that.  This has largely consisted of me cutting down some of my variable expenses.  I will need to get smarter with food purchases and look for free/cheaper entertainment.  

Speaking of food it is amazing how much money you can save if you eat at home, consistently cook a lot from scratch (for most things), eat less meat, etc.  I have spent the past couple of days figuring out food for the week, trying to make certain things ahead of time that I can store in the freezer and thinking ahead for next week so that there is some coordination with my grocery shopping and cooking efforts.

It is not easy is always the conclusion I come to.  You need to be organized and just keep at it.  It is all about consistency.  ( most things in life...)

I also transferred some money to one account (2nd home) that should go through tomorrow me thinks.  Transferred some money to the brokerage account (about $400) and have written the check for the mortgage payment (and over-payment) so that will clear this week.

And with that I feel somewhat accomplished.  Now to relax for a couple of hours and then head back to work!

Good week all!


Friday, January 13, 2017

Frugal Friday...errr Fail?!

Okay folks today was not good. 

Well it was in the sense that it was Friday and I am facing a long weekend ahead of me - those two things are always good.

But today was also my first paycheck of the year.  And it was significantly below what I was expecting.  Like over $100.  That means I am likely facing a shortage of about $200 or so a month since I get paid twice a month.  Ugh!

This means my budget needs to be revisited and tweaked, tweaked, tweaked.  

Now I'll be honest, part of this is my own doing.  I am investing a lot via my work retirement plan.  Basically I am front loading it because I may leave my job in six months.  If need be, I can reduce those contributions.  But I would prefer not to.  

There are not too many areas for me to cut further since most of my paycheck (after paying the fixed expenses) goes towards savings for future known expenses.  But I will find places to cut.

This was already going to be the year to get creative.  Well for the next six months I might as well be an artist (a starving one most likely, lol!).

All I can say is this is life.  Figuring out how to work around challenges and just making it work.  Sometimes it's fun and sometimes it's not.  Still we move forward.

Have a good weekend!

Weekend Reading - The Wisdom Edition

Every now and again I know that I repost the same links.  Part of this is forgetfulness and the other part is because I reread the article and think that is great!  

All of these links definitely fall into the "that is great!" category :-)  New year, new us! 

Knight Kiplinger's 8 Keys to Financial Security

Financial Decisions That Will Haunt You Forever

Smart Retirement Strategies for Women

Happy reading!


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weekend Reading :-)

First weekend of 2017 - woot! woot!  Can someone just say weekend again :-)

Is it snowing where you are?  It is for me.  That means a nice cup of something hot, a warm blanket and some reading.  Here are some links to peruse this weekend:

I'm a Conservative Investor and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves
*This is a good one because investing is not easy - categorize it under "things to remember"

5 Things Fourth-Quarter Football Strategy Can Teach You About Retirement Planning

My brokerage account is with Vanguard so of course this article caught my eye.  Remember one size usually doesn't fit all and you need to determine what is best for you but this article does remind you that you can keep it simple: 

6 Vanguard Index Funds to Buy and Hold Forever
*Remember you can buy and hold forever but don't buy and forget/never check in

4 Keys to Reaching Your Lifetime Financial Goals
*This is a good one!  And one that you can and should do on your own/with your partner/family etc.  Not all of us have financial advisors but we should all do this - even if you are not investing in the market just yet!  Remember to always tailor to your personal needs.

Happy reading!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017! Let's Get Our Savings and Investing On!

A new day, a new year, new goals.

My 2017 Goals
1) Overpay my mortgage by 10%.  Swoon if I can meet or beat this goal.
2) Invest $10,000 in my brokerage account.  Major stretch goal.
3) Save $3,000 in my 2nd Home account.
4) Save $900 in my Rewire account.
5) Save $900 in my G2H-FU account.

The Ultimate Goals have not changed.  This year I am going to flex my frugal muscle as much as possible to meet some stretch goals.  How exactly this will happen will include the following:
- Extra monies (bonus, tax refund etc. these will help me reach #s 1 and 2 above)
- Using a cash back credit card
- Using up points/miles
- Reducing travel
- Being more proactive with regards to discounts, coupons
- Possibly a side gig (assuming I can find the time of course)
- Budgeting for treats and remembering they are treats!
- Using arbitrage for gift cards that can be used for normal expenses or treats
- And gasp! Going without because sometimes that is what you have to do.

Remember, we owe it to ourselves to do our best to achieve our goals.  Let's stay strong this year.

Assess, assess and assess!  Don't double down when you are wrong.  Make changes if you need to - no shame in doing so.

Got goals? Share :-)
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