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Archive for January, 2009

Kept my job

January 30th, 2009 at 06:46 am

Well, good news! I just got official word that the new employer will indeed be re-hiring me, and with a slight pay increase as well!

They probably want me to take on more work for this "slight pay increase", but I don't care. In this tough economy, I'm just glad that I still have a job and they even want to pay me more for it! And anyway, taking on more work right now is just "job security".

Yeah, more pay! I'll take it!

Wednesday Quickies

January 28th, 2009 at 06:45 am

Wells Fargo
I didn't mention this before, but a little while back, I bought Wells Fargo stock when they were at their 52-week low. Despite the spike in trading activity, there was no support and the trade failed miserably.

Today, Wells' earnings report is coming out and I was expecting a lot more bleeding. Preliminary report suggests that they are looking at a 20% loss in earnings. So, what do I find when I looked up the ticker? The stock went up overnight by nearly 20%!

Can somebody please tell me what in the world is going on here? This makes no sense to me. But you know what happens when a stock spikes up on bad news that makes no sense to me. That's right, SELL!

Sadly, I'm still going to lose money on this trade, but the good news is, I won't lose too much. Which comes to another point I've been pondering.

Stock trading hiatus
I am seriously considering getting out of stock trading for a while. It's not so much that I don't want to trade stocks anymore, but just knowing that the money I am trading with is mid-term money for a house some day.

Due to the nature of this money and my personal housing situation, it would be wisest to put it all in a bond fund or some kind of income/cash investment. I just haven't because I really, really wanted to learn more about the stock market and trading stocks in general.

But at this point, I have. I may not be good at it, but it's still a good learning experience. And it doesn't mean I can't come back to it later. By yeah, the point is I may need to re-think this because I don't think I am putting this money where it really belongs. I know that if this was a question that came up in the forums, I would have advised against stock trading.

So, yeah, I'm looking at a different path for this money.... Maybe bonds.

The new boss
I learned something more about the new contractor and their 401(k). First of all, it turns out that they're a Fortune 100 company that has been around for more than a century. I checked their ticker and they are currently an $8 billion company. They lost a lot of value in 2008, but the trend is consistent with the Dow so I don't think it's them.

Anyway, they had an after-work meet-and-greet where we got to know the people and they even fed us delicious barbeque ribs and chicken! So free dinner last night. And for what appears to be a conservative company, the management seem like really cool people.

The 401(k) is a fairly typical $0.40 per dollar match, at 6% of gross. But here's the really cool part: The company that's handling the 401(k) is Fidelity! Fidelity! I'm going to be with Fidelity!

Well, I mean, I don't know for sure that I am re-hired just yet. The official announcement won't be until Friday, but I am quite confident that they're going to keep us incumbent employees.

But yeah, I really don't like my current 401(k) and I'll be looking forward to rolling that money into Vanguard as well. Even though Fidelity is great and I could roll it there, I still prefer Vanguard. It's not so much that I think one is better than the other, but it's just a matter of personal preference here.

Wow, so these quickies are not as quick as I thought.

Tuesday quickies

January 27th, 2009 at 06:49 am

Sooo, I haven't done these for a while, and I figure, why not?

Milestones
I don't like talking about milestones anymore because I think after a certain point, well, I feel like I would only be bragging a whole lot about very little.

Still, I did reach an important one recently. You see, when I first came on board on SA, I was in the hole for nearly -$40k. As of this point, my net worth has now flip-flopped to nearly $40k up!

Of course, most of it is in retirement, and I've still got a long way to go, but it just feels so great to be able to get out of that stinkin' hole and see the light for once!

Stimulus
On a slightly bummer kind of a note, my stimulus check money finally ran out.

Some readers may or may not remember that I converted my entire 2008 stimulus check to grocery gift cards, and in return, the grocery chain offered to add an additional 10% to the total! 10% extra free money for something that I needed to begin with was simply too good to pass up.

I kinda liked having "free money" for groceries, but sadly, now I have to go back to using my regular pool of money, which is a bummer.

Dummy
Ok, you guys will think I'm crazy, and I won't blame you at all. In fact, even *I* think I am crazy. But you know, I've always wanted a punching dummy. Hehe, yeah... a punching dummy. But not just any dummy! (Why are you looking at me like that?) It's one of those really fancy kinds that's actually shaped like a real guy. The brochure calls it a "manikin" and it allows you to train for more accurate strikes.

In fact, this thing normally costs a premium price of $249.99, but I found it on sale at a local sporting goods store that is selling it for $99.99! HIYA! Chop!

Yes, it's crazy, and yes, $100 is still $100. In fact, this is the part where I would really feel guilty coming home with this giant thing standing in the middle of the living room, and I guess I should be glad that there is not a woman there with her arms crossed looking very... cross. Like she's going to use ME as a "manikin".

But so long as I am still single, and even though I'm on the 401(k) challenge, I thought the discount was too good to pass up. In fact, they had to hold me up at the register for nearly 15 minutes just to double check the price because they couldn't believe the discount either.

But anyways, I admit it's a guilty pleasure, and ultimately, I don't have a good excuse for spending that kind of money. Please forgive me! ;-)

Early Jan net worth update

January 26th, 2009 at 06:34 am

Normally, I'd wait until pay day to update, but seeing as how I am currently not receiving a paycheck (with it going to 401(k) instead), I decided that now is as good as any!

January. Not surprisingly, my net worth went up because January is when my employer's 401(k) match hits my account. It kind of skews things, but I'm not complaining!

I was heartened when I looked at my net worth list, seeing the pit from where I started, all the way to where I am currently. It gives me a sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, I can make it after all.

Especially in light of the fact that there's all this upheaval going on at the workplace. It just goes to show that the only financial security is the one you create for yourself.

You'll have to pardon my overall lack of enthusiasm today. Just another Monday blues kind of day I think.

Belle reprised

January 19th, 2009 at 04:34 pm

Some may recall my uh experience last year trying to learn the guitar, but only made a test recording. In any case, I finally got the time, inclination, and all the gear in place to make a "full" recording of Jack Johnson's Belle.

Now, I know it's far from perfect, but you know, I've never tried to be perfect with these things. I just do it strictly for fun so....

With that in mind, here's my full recording for Belle.

Now I can finally move on to a different song....

The 401(k) challenge...

January 18th, 2009 at 06:04 pm

has begun in earnest. I received my paycheck stub earlier (which had no pay), and I just doubled checked my 401(k) website and saw that my full contribution has gone through.

I did not do 100% however. I rolled it back down to about 80%, because I think it'll make me feel better knowing that enough money is going to make sure that my insurance is paid. I assume that it is even if I did 100% and my paycheck stub seems to confirm it, but I still want to play it safe.... Besides, 80% is plenty anyways.

As for my budget, well, I admit it's slightly unnerving seeing my emergency fund dip in noticeable chunks at a time. I mean, I know it's temporary, and I can also stop this anytime I want. But, I guess it's just the psychological mindset of it all. It's amazing how when you get used to a certain level of funds as backup, you no longer see it as some kind of "free extra money" but more like "necessary survival money". Kinda funny like that eh?

This post is about nothing

January 14th, 2009 at 03:23 pm

The weather has cooled considerably, and the forecast is that we're going to be hit with a particularly cold blast of arctic air front soon.

At the same time, I paid my gas bill earlier today, and by my standards, they were astronomical.

Also, did I mention that I should be living on only savings in the upcoming days? In fact, it's probably started and I don't even know it yet. (I won't know for sure until tomorrow, which is my pay day.)

Put it all together, and well, I am back staring thoughtfully at the closet again. Hehehe.

But I started recalling my closet-living days. I remembered the upside, which was a savings of roughly $30 per month in gas bills. However, I also remembered how it had gotten so cold that taking showers, cooking in the kitchen, and just staying at home at all was quite unpleasant. In other words, it also resulted in a lot of hidden costs in terms of me not staying home and cooking for example. Instead, I was wasting more car gas being out longer, eating out more, and was more likely to buy something while I was out.

So, for $30 a month, I no longer think it is worth me trying to get by living in my closet again.

I know, I know. I'm sure many of you dear readers are quite disappointed with this decision to forego months of potential comic relief. I'll try to make it up to you guys in the upcoming 401(k) Challenge. (Yes, it's got a name now.)

So yeah anyways, this post is basically about nothing. What can I say except that, Yes I Am, Master of My Domain!

The limits of frugality

January 12th, 2009 at 11:42 am

Most of the time, I really do think people don't give frugality enough credit. However, I also realize that even frugality has its limits. Theoretically.

That is, I never thought I'd even see an example of its limits... until I read this.

I mean, this guy really has me scratching my head. Work a little so you can quit, travel, and even gamble until money runs out and you're forced to go back to work? You're 40 years old and you don't think you have the time to fix this issue? Is this guy even frugal?

Suze's free 2009 book!

January 8th, 2009 at 05:20 pm

Suze has a new book out. I haven't read it yet, but it's free! Grab it before the offer ends on Jan 15th.

LINK

Happiness

January 7th, 2009 at 06:07 am

I have to share something, because I think this could be one of the best blog entries I've ever read. Please feel free to jump there first before finishing this entry.

To add, I do think happiness is fleeting, and when it arrives, we don't always register it as such, because often times, it's the little things. Well, at least I don't notice because I can be dense sometimes.

But the upside is that I believe happiness is also always right around the corner. You're never far from it, if you work towards it.

I also think happiness is, or rather should be internal. You can't hold out and wait for someone else or something else to make you happy. Otherwise, you could end up waiting forever.

Most relevant of all, I don't think there is a conflict between happiness and money. There are rich happy people, and there are poor happy people. There are also rich unhappy people, and there are poor unhappy people. (Although, statistically, the rich tend to be happier, especially if the goal is financial security, not worldly possessions.)

To be honest, happiness is something that has been elusive to me for years. So, for 2009, among other things, I'm going to pursue a happier, more meaningful year.

401(k)

January 5th, 2009 at 10:11 am

Double post today, but something's come up that requires my attention and perhaps your assistance.

Long story short, our contract got bought out by another contractor. Although nothing is for certain, the new contractor said that it's only a management change, and they plan to keep all of us regular employees.

In any case, I've checked the 401(k) plan for the new contractor, and they have a performance-based match (which appears to be around $0.50 to $.65 per dollar dollar), but with a match limit of "only" up to 6% of gross.

Now, I realize this is fairly typical, but my current employer has NO LIMIT on their employer match (at $0.28 per dollar).

So, here's what I am thinking of doing (and perhaps this is the part where I once again live up to my name). I'm thinking of giving 100% of my paycheck for the next two months to my current 401(k). Two months because that's how long the current contractor has before their contract expires. That way, I can take advantage of as much of their employer match as I can, while I still can. After that, I'll ease up considerably to both replenish the EF, as well as adjust to the new contractor's terms.

My EF is more than enough to cover expenses for the next two months, so I don't think this is completely insane. Just the same, I would have to be super-careful because I would be living on emergency savings alone. Then again, if it turns out to be undoable, then I'll just dial the contributions back down.

Soooo, what do you guys think about this idea? Too crazy, or just crazy enough that it might work? (Actually, I've already switched it over to 100%, BUT if someone thinks this is a really bad idea, I can always switch it back.)

Tracfone vs. Net10

January 5th, 2009 at 07:56 am

I've been using minutes a lot faster than I realize, and it's got me looking at my cellphone situation again.

Again, the best rates comes down to Tracfone and Net10. Carlos Slim owns both of these, and is probably why they are so similar.

Although the differences are subtle, Tracfone typically costs a bit more, whereas Net10-- as their name implies-- guarantees no more than $0.10 per minute, but at the cost of your length of service.

I originally went with Tracfone because it's ideal for someone who rarely uses the a phone (thus favoring length of service over a slightly lower rate). However, since I am using more minutes than I thought, it would seem that Net10 would be a better fit (since a better rate is more important than length in this case).

So, once the minutes are used up on this phone, I am thinking of transferring my number over to Net10 instead. We'll have to see. In fact, if I get Net10's highest minutes (4000 for $400), they'll add an additional 1000 minutes, making it the cheapest rates of them all (at $0.08 per minute). The only slight downside is having to pony up $400 up front, for a pre-pay phone.

Anyway, just thinking out loud. Anybody know of an even better deal than this?

Curtains

January 2nd, 2009 at 10:08 pm

After spending years living where I am and dealing with some glare on my computer screen, I finally got around to doing something about it by getting some bedroom curtains.

The bedroom windows are interesting in that the previous owner decided to weld his own curtain hanging frame out of small copper piping. I don't know why, but that's what he did. This also presents an interesting challenge because many of the conventional curtains out there would not work.

It just happens so that I also have a set of leftover shower curtain hooks that is collecting dust in my closet. Put two and two together, and you've got another mad-cap, zany idea brewing in my head.

Yes, I thought, "Hey, what about shower curtains? Why not?" I've tried stranger things before, so why not indeed! I headed over to Bed Bath and Beyond to take a look at what my options are out there.

You know, I never realized until now that there are some very plush shower curtains out there! The one I settled on is made out of 100% polyester, but it feels unnaturally good! Very fabricky, not plasticky!

I bought it, gave it a try and lo and behold, it worked out great! It blocks out just enough light to not cause a glare problem, and yet, still lets enough sunlight into the room to make a very distinctive "warm glow" that I find very soothing!

Yeah, so the idea is crazy, but I really love how it turned out! (Either that, or I'm just easy like Sunday morning.) Of course, I can't simply describe this with just words alone, so here's a quick picture of my room (taken at night).



Here's the curtain pattern that I selected.



Oh yeah, and here are the leftover hooks that I used.

Facebook

January 2nd, 2009 at 01:41 am

I found a few people I've known since back in high school, and it's interesting to see more recent photos of them, as well as a glimpse of where they might be today.

I could be wrong (because they'd have to approve me for me to be able to see their profile) but it seems like they've moved on to much bigger and better things. One of them works at Microsoft now. Another graduated from Wesleyen and yet another graduated from Havard. One of them, surprisingly enough, ended up in the same city that I am in!

But when I look at this, I can't help but feel that somehow I've become a colossal failure. I mean, I graduated high school with honors, and even got special mention by the Principle himself. And yet, these people seems to have done so much better. Where did I go wrong? Why am I a complete screw-up?

I'm sorry, perhaps it's the late night talking, and perhaps it's the fact that I can even doubt myself like this that partially answers my own question. I don't know.

But it doesn't change reality. Good or bad, thick or thin, I still must go on.... I still have to live my life. I just... wish I amounted to something more that's all.

LinkedIn is timing out right now. Not entirely sure why, but I'm going to see how that works out before I decide on what I want to use in order to establish an online resume. That was the original intention anyway, before I got side-tracked and started looking up people I used to know. Hehe. Sigh.

December net worth

January 1st, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Monkeymama's entry made me realize that I did a year-end update, but didn't update my monthly in NetworthIQ.

Wow, I'm actually shocked, but my December turned out to be a pretty substantial jump. The stock market staged a rather nice relief rally recently, but the overall trading volume has been so low that I frankly can't take it seriously. Individual investors have been scared away, and institutional has been on vacation. I am bracing myself for a January slaughter, and I recommend others to do the same.

This light trading is also the reason why I haven't touched stock trading at all in the last month. I just went straight into hibernation. That and I just didn't want to be involved in the automaker bailout, although hindsight being 20/20, there was a point where I felt relatively confident that they were going to get bailed. In retrospect, I should have played that. I shouldn't let my personal opinions in the matter cloud my trades. But then, it wasn't a bad idea to stay out at this point anyway.

Speaking of stock trading, I was watching Jim Cramer's Mad Money on MSNBC not too long ago, and he was talking about how it might not be a bad thing to do a little bit of speculation on the side. It keeps you interested, motivated, learning the market and the economy at large, and frankly, that's not a bad thing so long as you do it with money you can afford to lose.

You know what? I fully agree with him! So long as you're not betting the farm or even your retirement, a little bit of cat and mouse wouldn't hurt.

But again, I'm also in no rush. I want to see how January turns out. I am beginning to learn that it's not the quantity of trades that matter, but the quality of the trades. After all, it's better to made a few good calls rather than several bad ones, especially when you factor in trading fees. But don't worry Jim (Cramer)! I'm still in the game! 2009 is a whole new year for me to lose Mad Money! Heh.