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Archive for March, 2009

I have no problems

April 1st, 2009 at 03:53 am

I was at another site where there are a few members who are struggling with their personal finances. When you get even just a glimpse of their lives, know their names and faces, and the hardships they've had to endure in their everyday life, well... it just makes everything that I've ever gone through seem petty and shallow.

Here you have people hoping that their husbands will find a job soon, worried they might be evicted from their homes, and praying their daughter will be able to win the battle against cancer.... And here I am, trying to decide if I really want to upgrade to a set of surround sound speakers.

No. I didn't upgrade my audio speakers.

I probably shouldn't be saying this, because this will probably make me seem like some kind of attention-grabbing, self-centered jerk, but I felt so bad, especially for that girl with the cancer that I donated to her family's charity that's tied to the American Cancer Society.

I double checked before I donated to make sure it wasn't a scam or anything, and everything looked legit.

It wasn't money I'm going to miss anyways. I probably would've just ended up wasting it on video games or speakers or something.

I tried to stay anonymous, but didn't realize that they somehow show your real name, or at least parts of it, when you donate. That's rather problematic, but I had to use my real name because I was donating with my credit card. Fortunately, I don't think anyone can tie me to my online identity over there.

Oh, and don't worry about adding any more contributions. I gave them the full amount they needed to reach their goal, so they're all set....

I do have a question though. It wasn't a big sum or anything, but charitable donations are tax deductible right? I've never filed a charitable deduction before. Anybody know what is involved?

March Net Worth Madness!

March 31st, 2009 at 02:46 pm

I thought I'd use a "catchy" title this time since the results are sadly much more pedestrian....

My net worth this month is up, but barely crawled on by. The reason?

For one, I lost a little bit on the stock trading. Not much, but every little bit counts.

A much bigger loss is from transferring my old 401(k) out to my new rollover IRA. Yes, it's finally complete as of... well, just this morning! Big Grin Actually, that's the good news, because I really didn't like my old 401(k) at all.

The bad news is that the loss came from losing some of the vested money due to my employer change.... I suppose this part can't be helped, but it still affected this month's bottom line.

Fortunately, the losses appear to be covered by the combination from rebuilding my cash reserve and last month's overall market performance.

On a separate note, my old 401(k) mailed me a check to give to Scottrade (where my rollover IRA is). Is that normal? I would think it'd make more sense if they would mail the check directly to Scottrade instead?

Traditional versus Roth

March 28th, 2009 at 06:16 am

Elsewhere on the internet, a very interesting discussion is brewing about which account is better, Traditional or Roth? All things being equal, it turns out that the numbers favor the Roth! Color me surprised, and it's not even close!

To delve deeper, first we have to make a few assumptions....

Assumptions
* Assume you have $100,000 in a traditional IRA (based on the original example).

* Assume the money grows at 8% each year (based on the original example)

* Assume you have $30,000 in bank savings to cover the Roth conversion if you choose to.

* Assume that the investment horizon is 30 years.

* Assume that the 2009 tax codes do not change between now and 30 years from now. (A big assumption indeed.)

* Assume effective income tax based on filing single in 2009. (I'm cheating here with Money Chimp.)

* Assume the capital gains tax also does not change at 15%.

* Assume that you convert/withdraw all at once, and therefore, pay your taxes in one lump sum (for simplicity sake).

* Assume that's also the only tax you have to pay during those times.

* Assume that there are no legal restrictions of any kind on the Roth conversion.

* Assume that early withdraw penalty is not an issue here either.

Whew! I hope I covered everything. Now let's start with the Roth IRA path.

Roth
1. The cost in taxes to convert the $100,000 to Roth is $21,720. That leaves me with $8,280 in bank savings.

2. The $8,280 is left to grow in my bank account for 30 years. That's a growth rate of 8% minus capital gains tax of 15% which equals to 6.8% in net growth. 30 years of growth at 6.8% equals to $59,589.25.

3. The $100,000 inside the Roth then grows, tax-free, for 30 years, and at 8%, that totals up to $1,006,265.69.

4. The combined total of the Roth and bank savings gives you a total of $1,065,854.94.

Ok, let's move on to the Traditional path where you don't convert, and instead, decide to pay the taxes later on.

Traditional
1. The IRA grows tax-free for 30 years at 8% for the same total of $1,006,265.69.

2. On the final year, you withdraw it all at once. Money chimp says your tax burden for the entire amount is $329,877, leaving you with an after-tax total of $676,388.69.

3. However, you also have $30,000 left untouched in the bank, growing at a taxed growth rate of 6.8%. After 30 years, that amount is $215,903.08.

4. That leaves you with a combined total of $892,291.77.

Conclusion
So, ASSUMING that my assumptions are reasonable and comprehensive enough, and that my math is correct, it's clear then that the Roth would win out. And it's not even close! $1,065,854.94 and $892,291.77 is a difference of $173,563.17! That's a lot of money!

So what happened here? Why such a gap? The basic assumption has always been that people would use the retirement principal to pay for the conversion tax, but a more realistic assumption is to use our own savings instead. And if that's the case, most your money in the Roth path grows tax-free, whereas with the Traditional path, you have much more (in the bank savings) being withered down by paying annual taxes.

Of course, I am making ALL SORTS of assumptions here for simplicity sake and in the interest of attempting a fair comparison, but is hardly representative of real life or our individual financial situations.

And that's why my final answer has always been, "It depends." It's best to just sit down and crunch out the numbers, to see what will work best for you. Still, all things being equal, I thought the numbers would be a lot closer, though I see now that it isn't. Amazing.

Moving my 401(K)

March 27th, 2009 at 08:46 pm

Boy, I sure do seem to talk a lot about my 401(K), don't I? There's sort of a reason why. You see, I'm in the process of doing something kind of provocative. Controversial. Maybe even dangerous....

I'm going move most of my retirement money to Scottrade, and will likely focus on stocks and bonds....

Ok, take a deep breath people. Try not faint. For one thing, I don't plan to trade with most of this money. Instead, I DO plan to buy-and-hold AND diversify!

Also, please consider that when you buy stocks and bonds, there is NO expense ratios to speak of. Just a trading fee, which with of increments of $10k at a time, amounts to something like 0.07% equivalent front load in a mutual fund....

Of course, the main problem here is the assumption that I am actually competent enough to micro-manage my own portfolio. Ok well, I am not so sure about that, but the interest is definitely there. Enough to steer me towards this direction for now.

Why do I feel like I'm trying to justify to the missus why I shouldn't be locked out for buying something I shouldn't have? Big Grin "But honey! If this doesn't work out, we can always go back to index funds! And the kids'll love it! I think!"

I just checked my old 401(K) brokerage, and have a balance of $0. GOOD RIDDANCE! However, the balance has yet to appear on my new Scottrade rollover account. Hopefully that will happen soon!

But yeah, this is the extent of my exciting life right now. I would jest about needing a new hobby here, but you know what? Screw it, I like this stuff!

Aldi

March 27th, 2009 at 12:36 am

So, I've overheard some chatter about some place called "Aldi". And this "Aldi" supposedly have some pretty good prices.

Right, so I looked up their website and checked their store location to see if there is one near me. Much to my shock, not only is there a store near me, but there is actually not two, not three, but FOUR Aldis within driving distance from me!

How long have I been living here again? More than 15 years I think... and yet, I never knew that?

So, earlier today, I finally decided to visit one of these mythological Aldi, and I must say, it's quite different from other grocery stores.

For one thing, it looks more like a small warehouse than a grocery store, with an assortment of knick knacks including children's clothing thrown in for good measure.

Some of the prices were comparable with other grocery stores, but others, especially lesser-known brands, came with quite a good discount!

Here's something else I found interesting (and applaud the management for doing): The cashiers at the check out lines work sitting down! Much more ergonomic!

Oh but this is the biggest pleasant surprise: When I checked out, the cashier asked, "Cash or debit?"

"Oh? No credit?", I asked, "I don't mind. I'm just asking why."

"Credit takes out a percentage for every transaction, and by skipping credit, we can pass that savings on to you.", she answered. I love it!

Unfortunately, none of the Aldis is close enough to me to be considered as "convenient", and the savings aren't big enough to warrant the detour.... That's also why I never knew about them in the first place.

Still, if nothing else, it an interesting little diversion. And now, I can finally understand what other people are talking about when they mention Aldi. Big Grin

ConsumerSearch.com

March 25th, 2009 at 03:38 am

You guys ever heard of this website? They're a similar resource, perhaps even a competitor to, Consumer Reports. However, unlike CR, consumersearch.com is still free at this time.

I've known about this site before, but recently, it appears to have undergone a complete face-lift, and the results look good! Also, rather than simply culling information from other sources as they have done in the past, I think the site is starting to step up and conduct their own lab tests as well.

In particular, I was looking in the Health & Beauty section.... Yes, a guy... checking out the Health & Beauty section. Haha, ok, let's move on. Big Grin But you know, I did find some good information about men's electric razors, men's multivitamins, and even toothpaste! Based on what I've read, I think I'm going to try some of their recommendations in the near future.

And to help us frugals out, they will often times make budget recommendations as well as normal recommendations.

Anyway, it's just one of those websites that I think is so good, it bears mentioning.

My dirty frugal secret

March 21st, 2009 at 02:12 am

So, here I am contemplating what I want to do for the rest of the night, and at nearly 10pm EST, I'm thinking about just going straight to bed. But if I wanted to get out and do something real quick, well, I can do that too.

Now, here's the really funny part: As I am looking over my budget... yes, Friday night, single, can do whatever the heck I want, and what am I doing? Looking over my budget for the umpteenth time today. Nope, still hasn't changed from a few hours ago! Big Grin

But see, that's what occurred to me. Maybe the real secret to my frugality-- the real, dirty secret-- isn't so much that I am just motivated towards frugality, but....

I may have also forgotten how to spend money?

Does that sound crazy? Am I thinking too hard? Do you guys know what I mean by this?

Don't get me wrong. I think I can window shop as well as anyone. I can even "force" myself to buy something if it comes down to that.

But let's be honest with myself here. Ultimately, I didn't really get up and buy or do anything, did I? No. Instead, I'm sitting here trying to psychoanalyze why I am sitting here, looking over my budget.

So, I wonder. Have I really forgotten how to... *gulp* spend money? Have I, in some ways, also forgotten how to live a little and perhaps enjoy life? I don't know, what do you think?

Anyways, I'm going to think about it some more... as I head to bed while looking over my budget. Big Grin

401(k) facepalm

March 20th, 2009 at 05:15 pm

I just found out from my old employer that, unless I was still actively employed with them by the end of December, I would not get any company match in my 401(k).

So... all that effort over my 401(k)... is for naught. Sigh.

But, I'm trying to see the bright side of this, and basically, it's still money I am investing, and I can roll this to an IRA now instead of later!

Now, the question is, where should I roll this to? Vanguard and their famed index funds? Fidelity along with my new 401(k)? Or here's a crazy one, what about Scottrade and micro-manage my own portfolio?

Jonesing with the VanderSmiths

March 18th, 2009 at 05:40 pm

During my lunch break, I decided to have a little fun and see how I stack up with other NetworthIQers. As you may or may not know, that's how I track my net worth, though I keep my profile private....

Frown For my age group, I am severely behind. In fact, I fit in the median of my previous age bracket.

Frown Same thing with education.

Smile I am way, way ahead for my income group. In fact, I fit the median of two brackets above me!

Smile I am ridiculously ahead in my occupational field.

Lastly, I am behind by state count, but that doesn't mean anything to me.

I think it's also worth noting that NetworthIQers are like SAers in that we are a particular breed. Chances are good that those who track their net worth are are likely to be financially savvy, and is therefore a tougher crowd to compare finances against....

Not that this is a contest or anything, but it's just nice to see that I am not hopeless... and I can even sort of run with the pack now.

Action Package

March 16th, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Oooh, I got my "action package" from my old 401(k) today. I'm not kidding about the "action package" part either. That's what is written on the envelope.

Now that I've officially left my old employer, my old 401(k) wanted to let me know what I am working with and what my options are. How nice....

Let's see, I could leave it with the old 401(k), and according to their simplified calculations of 3% and 8% return, I could expect a seemingly large sum by the time I reach age 65.

Or, I could roll it to a rollover IRA for only this so-and-so amount.

Or worse, I can cash it out and be penalized for around 20% in taxes (sent to the IRS as a withholding).

While the calculations aren't wrong per se, I love the way they only talk about "the big numbers" by keeping my money with them, and only so-so numbers for leaving.

Why do I feel like I'm in an abusive relationship? They've already made a bunch of money off of me in front loads, and now, they're singing me a song about how much better our lives would be if we are to stay together?

Snarkiness aside, the information was indeed very helpful. It included details of the various tax implications of each options and so forth.

Still, I'm going to stick to my original plan: Wait until maybe next year, when the last batch of employer contribution is sent, roll it all at once into an IRA somewhere, pay for the Roth conversion if all goes well, and rock on with life.

So, thank you for the Action Package, old 401(k). It's been real, but I can't say that I'll miss this old, dusty town.

Upset with the ex

March 14th, 2009 at 02:05 pm

This is not going to be one of my finer moments or posts, but I just have to get this off my chest....

For literally years, my ex has made it crystal clear that she's quite happy with not having any contact with me. And yet, yesterday, she decided that it would be fitting enough to talk to me in person about insurance matters. Namely, she decided that my high deductible insurance isn't good enough for the children.

But rather than trying to understand my position, and after making it clear that she has her own insurance to supplement mine for the children, she's still accusing me that I'm trying to screw her or the kids somehow.

Here I am trying to understand why she insists on that line of questioning, but when I offered for us to sit down and look over the choices, and help pay for the insurance premiums, all of a sudden, she was like, "No, no. I don't think I want to do that."

Why? Why does she get to decide on what we will or will not talk about? Why does she get to decide that I am the bad guy in this picture but we can conveniently avoid anything constructive? Why does "I" take precendence over "we"?

You know why I am so upset with this conversation? It is because, basically, she wants me to pay more so she doesn't have to. This, despite that fact that she knows I make less money than she does, AND the man whom she committed adultery with when we were still married, and is still together with, makes EVEN MORE money. In fact, he is moving into her basement and will be paying my ex rent!

So, despite having at least six figures worth of income to tap from, she has gall to basically say, "You should pay more on the insurance"? I was flabbergasted! Here I am, standing in her house; a fully-upgraded, corner end townhouse, in a small and private cul de sac from a nice part of the town, thinking about all the vehicles she has bought, upgraded, and swapped around, along with her emails making it crystal clear that she is not destitute and "No I don't need you or your money"... and now, she wants to stand there and tell me that I'm a bad person for not picking an insurance that's good enough for her?

"Oh but I don't want to talk about that. Let's not talk about that", she says, referring to all the money she's spent on her lifestyle, which she thinks she has cut back on. Of course! Let's conveniently skip all the stuff she doesn't like but we can focus on the stuff that makes me look bad.

What is wrong with this woman? But like I said, I would not have gotten even remotely upset talking about something like... insurance.. if she would just stop thinking only about herself and her needs and start thinking about other people... like ME. It was like being married to her all over again:

She decides on what she wants to do, regardless of how it affects anybody else, including me. I get upset because she doesn't give a damn about me. She blames me and tells me I am at fault for getting upset and that's why she has to leave me, but instead of the battered women's shelter after telling all our family, friends, and co-workers what a horrible, abusive, and angry husband that I was, she gleefully runs off on ski trips with her adulterous boyfriend while leaving me at home to watch the kids... because somehow, angry, abusive husbands are still good enough to watch the kids. Makes perfect sense!

Look, I'm not a perfect human being. But despite my flaws, I really do care about our children and even my ex's welfare. But IT GETS OLD when, ultimately, my ex does not care about ME. Only what works for her. Very simply, that's why I get so upset.

And here's something else: I KNOW my ex is aware of this blog. So it's not like I'm talking behind her back. Ex, if you've got anything you want to say in your defense, you know how to respond. But I'll say this much: YOU are the one who cheated on me and left me. YOU ALONE DECIDED TO DO THAT. I even tried to work things out with you, but YOU CHOSE NOT TO. So, while I will work with you, especially when it comes to the children, I owe you NOTHING! And you will NEVER, EVER push me around again. EVER!

New paycheck

March 13th, 2009 at 01:20 pm

Hallelujah yes!

My first paycheck from the new employer just posted, and everything looks good!

Earlier in the week, I checked the new employer's website and saw that our direct deposit had not been set up yet. However, it could be done online, so I set it up myself. This morning, I'm happy to see that it worked as it should.

Another snag was whether the new Fidelity 401(k) was working or not, and I am pleased to report that it's working beautifully! In fact, unlike my old 401(k), which takes a few days to update in my account, Fidelity's account is updated about as quickly as my direct deposit! I think I'm going to love my new 401(k)!

With my money in the bank account, I just finished paying off all but one of my bills (but only because the website is down). It's a very cathartic experience to get the bills caught up again. I hate falling behind.

And because the 401(k) contribution is down to a normal size again, my paycheck is also bigger than what I am normally used to. However, my budget won't change, and instead, I can begin rebuilding my EF in earnest.

Oh and on the side, I used another 1/3rd off coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond. This time I swiped it from my mom. Well, I did ask first at least, and she was fine with it. More for the stockpile!

Bloggerific!

March 13th, 2009 at 05:28 am

OceansLuver asked, "Who is your favorite blogger?"

I was going to say that it's not something I can answer, because I have so many different favorites, each with their own amusing little quirks.

But the comment took on a life of its own, and I decided to post it as an entry instead. Brace yourselves, because this is THE longest entry I've ever written! In no particular order and off the top of my head:

Yes, Ima is among my favorites because, given her age and what she has gone through, it seems as though she still sees the world through the eyes of a child, with wide-eye wonder. And that is a beautiful thing.

PrincessPerky is one of the first SAer that I got to know here, and has done much to restore my faith and confidence... more than I've let on. And I really should have been more vocal about that. Thanks PP! Keep up your home-schoolin'!

Miclason is from El Salvador. Did you know that? I didn't know for the longest time. It just goes to show how amazingly well she writes, and with such a unique, outside-the-country perspective on things. And yet, she keeps it so close to home with her beloved daughter.

Baselle. One of the kindest, smartest, and wittiest bloggers on here. I don't think I can quite describe how intellectually interesting she is. Attempting to would take more than the space I have available here.

MonkeyMama. Among the smartest and yet so grounded. Ever meet a woman who is like the sun? She has entries that is as long and descriptive as the pervasive rays of our star, and yet, remains an inscrutable, womanly mystery that one can never quite seem to make out no matter how hard I squint.

Koppur actually worries me. She doesn't lead an easy life, but she still does the very best she can, and is truly an American story. Follow her and you can almost get a pulse of what the country is going through....

Thriftorama's adventures with the Tiki bar and Hurricane Katrina had me glued, seeing how she is coping.... I've read just about every entry that she's written if that says anything.

Ah Thrifty Ray. If there is ever one blogger that can transcend the cold, ethereal medium that is the internet, and prove that indeed, warmth and kindness can be transmitted via tiny bits of 0s and 1s, it would be Gramma Ray. It's hard not to read her entries without smiling.

Paulette Goddard is one of the most whimsical and articulate writers I've ever encountered, not just in the blogs, but anywhere. Reading her blog isn't just perusing yet another blog entry. It's more like an other-worldy, and often times, magical journey. I think I have a boyish crush on her writing style. Konichiwa!

Although I may not have commented on there much, I actually keep up with FrugalTexan's blog quite closely. She's a woman who doesn't seem to be afraid to bare her soul, and there's something very engaging about that. A real, down-to-earth girl going through the trials of life that, in so many ways, can make even a guy relate to her.

LuxLiving is, quite arguably, THE most stylish blogger on here. No really, she has a sensibility about her that easily stands out and makes her unique. If there's ever a blogger that I need style suggestions from, you know who's on the top of that list!

Ceejay is unique and bares mentioning. I hope I am not over-stepping my bounds when I say that she is a part of a 3-person household. The perspective, both social and financial, keeps me glued. Yet another blog that I read just about every entry because... run-of-the-mill it is not!

DisneySteve. Enough said. Big Grin Seriously, an extremely rare entity on this blog. Male. Successful. And yet, frugal! What's not to love? Hey Steve, when are you taking me to Disney with you? Big Grin

Gamecock. Another blogger that needs no introduction, and an endearing walking contradiction that requires more words to explain than I have space for here. That was a compliment by the way. Big Grin

Fern, to me, is the quintessential Southern gentry that I've come to associate her blog as. I think her technical writing prowess sometimes goes under-appreciated due to her disarming, soulful, and yet very accessible but real look into her life. For some reason, I always crave a tall, cool glass of sweet tea when I read her blog. Big Grin

I haven't seen Merch around lately, but he has been instrumental in shaping my investing point of view. Preferring the comfort and civility that is often associated with the blogs over the rabble-rousing that sometimes goes on in the forums, Merch is quite a well of knowledge that I hope many more will discover and tap. Yet another rare guy in the blogs.

Zetta will never tell you how smart she is. And if you don't pay attention, her sharp intellect can often slip by you as she pelts you with one thoughtful question after another. But that's what I've always admired about her. She embodies that seemingly insatiable pursuit of knowledge and insight, and that I think, is infinity more important than knowing it itself. Zetta is yet another blogger that, when she writes, I pay attention.

I am SO SO SO very sorry if I didn't write something about you and your blog. Believe me when I say this: There are so many more blogs on here that I enjoy and keep up with. It's just that, as this entry drags on, I am beginning to get more and more fatigued. So, in my drowsy state, I'm getting careless. If you've been around and blogging on a fairly regular basis, I promise you, I've read it and it has left an impression with me one way or another.

I know this seems like one big group-hug (or worse, some kind of popularity contest which it isn't), but I would not have taken this much time to write about it if I didn't think so highly of this blogging community. To me, it's a vibrant world that shines in a seemingly endless economic gloom. I'm glad to be a part of this community, and I hope you will all continue to keep on blogging.

MBA?

March 12th, 2009 at 03:49 pm

I finally got the material from HR regarding their Tuition Reimbursement Program, and am now brainstorming a return to school for maybe a masters... like maybe an MBA, or really, anything that will increase my earnings.

As you can probably tell, I haven't quite decided what is the best course of action yet, and any input on this would be greatly appreciated.

PRO: Employer will cover up to $5,250 for undergraduate programs, or $12,000 for graduate programs. Annually.

CON: Has to be something that is beneficial to the company. So, I can't pick a major in Pharmacy or Adult Entertainment or anything like that.

Also, I might only have 2 years to do something about this, depending on how long the contract holds up....

Another con is that I have a Bachelors in Criminology, and not only is it likely to be unrelated to most of the masters program that I am looking for, but it's was also many years ago. So, that may push me further back....

What do you think? Any other suggestions aside from MBA? I'll update as I go along on this one....

Update:
Ok, I just got off the phone from talking to two representatives from the University of Phoenix....

Yes, they're that all-online outfit. Good news is that it looks like everything looks ship-shape and that I could get a MBA from them within 2 years....

Bad news? They're an all-online entity that doesn't offer any co-op training, job recruitments or networking. On the other hand, if I stay with my new employer, such an MBA is good enough for them....

Another "bad news" of sorts is their cost, which I thought was a little high... but it's still doable in terms of getting it covered and finished within 2 years so....

Everything lines up on this one. I'm not saying this is what I should do but at least it's an option.... But what do you think of it?

Rebate quickies

March 10th, 2009 at 11:23 pm

REI
So I went to REI to redeem my "dividends", and they told me that I can use it anytime for a store purchase, or if I wanted cash, I would have to wait until July.

Those sneaky devils....

BB&B
Bed Bath & Beyond sent me another one of those 1/3rd off coupons. This time it was $5 off for purchases of $15 or more.

While many items in BB&B are pricey, their basic toiletry section is priced the same as anywhere else. $0.99 for generic toothbrushes and shampoos, before the discount, is more than good enough for me.

I did splurge on one Burt's Bees lip balm. Hey, even a guy gets chapped lips, and Burt's Bees are the best lip balms that I've ever used so far....

But anyway, so long as they keep sending me these kinds of 1/3rd off coupons, I'm going to keep on stock-piling. My bathroom cabinets are starting to swell.

Blu-Ray
So, sometimes I have this tendency to fall off the frugal bandwagon in spectacular fashion. I mean, I don't just fall off, but I also appear to try to do a triple tuck with a twist in the hopes of impressing the judges.

To come straight out with it.... I bought a Blu-Ray player a while back. I know I know! What in the world do I need that for?

Perhaps it also doesn't help that part of the decision was its particularly good bundle deal that included a necessary HDMI cable that you normally have to buy separately for $30 extra? Oooh, the stone cold glare....

Or how about the free, newly-remastered Blu-Ray version of Sleeping Beauty that they've bundle into the player? It's enchanting, and would have costed another $25 to buy separately? Still angry?

Ok ok, what about the fact that it included a $50 rebate that I just got in the mail?

So, thanking only ever so briefly that I am single and not in the dog house, I now have a $50 pre-paid Visa card in my wallet, ready to do battle with upcoming bills or expenses... rather than buying more movies. You know what would be great in Blu-Ray? Right, I'll just stay here... in the... dog house.

REI

March 9th, 2009 at 03:56 am

Anybody a member of REI, an outdoor sporting goods store?

I signed up as a member because I was buying stuff there once, and the membership discount would offset the cost of signing up for said membership. Soooo, it was like a free membership that entitles me to 10% discounts for all future purchases, so I figured why not....

REI's program has an interesting premise. Rather than giving you a straight-forward "discount", they say you are signing up as more of a "shareholder" of the company! In fact, I just got my year-end literature from them that includes the "dividend check" (discount coupon) along with an additional 20% off coupon for a future purchase.

To finish the effect, the back of the glossy, catalog-like booklet shows the program's financial balance sheet....

It's an interesting concept, but as a cynical pragmatist er I mean "shareholder", I'm only looking at what kind of money and deals I can get out of it, regardless of what they want to market it as.

Fortunately, the deals don't seem too bad.... Again, 10% "dividend" return for all purchases, and they send you additional coupons for further discounts.

Also, being a "shareholder" in this case doesn't subject you to the volatility of the normal stock market, so there's no real downside to signing up, besides the upfront membership fee.

In the end, it's a novel concept that effectively doesn't do much more different than any other membership discount programs out there, but at least the deal isn't too bad either, especially for people who plan to spend a lot of money on sporting goods.

The 401(k) blues

March 6th, 2009 at 04:03 pm

(dum dum dum dum)
I upped my monay.
(dum dum dum dum)
In my 401(k).
(dum dum dum dum)
Livin' off my cash onlay.
(dum dum dum dum)
Eatin' PB & jellay.

(dum dum dum dum)
Then mah monay gone away!
(dum dum dum dum)
Turned down my 401(k)!
(dum dum dum dum)
Sent me a letter sayin' OK!
(dum dum dum dum)
But my paychecks still screwway!

(dum dum dum dum)
So I'm still broke as a babay!
(dum dum dum dum)
Eatin' PB & jellay!
(dum dum dum dum)
It might taste kinda yummay!
But I still got
the
401(k)
blues!

Fidelity 401(k)

March 4th, 2009 at 01:54 pm

Finally, I JUST set up my new 401(k) on Fidelity. Of course, I have no money in there yet, but I was surprised how easy and painless it was to get it set up and running. Kudos to Fidelity.

For now, I've set it up to 25% contribution and buying into the Freedom Fund 2040 (FFFFX), but all that can be changed at any time later....

My new boss seems like a great guy, but I think he's a little confused about the details of the 401(k) program. He's saying that my employer has a sliding scale where I have to contribute at least 6% of gross before my employer will match 4% of my gross? That's a confusing way to look at it, and I am still not sure how to get in contact with my HR rep just yet.

But, I'm sure all that will get sorted out soon enough, and the most important thing to me is to get up and running on my end.

Update:
I finally got the 401(k) literature from our HR rep, and it looks like my boss was correct. This is the first time I've heard of a company that pays a percentage match of your gross based on your own percentage of gross contribution. Long story short, the max I can get is a 4% of gross match if I put in a minimum of 6% of gross contribution.

Soooo... if that's what it is, then that's what I will go with. Of course, I can always contribute more, up to the IRS limit, but my money needs to go into other investment buckets as well. Yes, that includes the Roth. Smile

Macy's and SSA

March 4th, 2009 at 02:39 am

I don't normally make more than one post per day, but this is really irking me. (A lot of things seem to be irking me lately. Big Grin)

Macy's
First of all, even though I only signed up for a regular Macy's membership card over an equivalent Visa card, it appears that they still like to keep a store balance on me with a nice, healthy APY. Now, I admit, this is likely just sheer ignorance on my part, but I didn't realize that they still do that if you decline for their Visa card.... I thought it would just be a regular discount card similar to grocery store cards....

So anyways, I intend to go there tomorrow and pay them off! And possibly cancel the card. Honestly, I was just there for the membership discount, but really, I don't need or even want a card that can have a balance I have to keep track of.

SSA
Changing subjects, the Social Security Administration sent a nice little newsletter to me yesterday. In it, it stated that, at its current rate, the money for Social Security could run out by 2041. Right before I would ever get a chance to retire. Great!

Alas, that little problem is well-known by now isn't it? I mean, it's still alarming to see it in print, but perhaps someone somewhere will figure out something and fix it by then? Or am I being too optimistic?

Given that sunny piece of news, I found the following "estimated benefits" section quite laughable indeed. So, let's skip that.

What I found most interesting about the newsletter is that they've kept track and listed my annual earnings since 1994! WOW! This is so interesting because I can look at each year and basically know what happened in that year and why I only earned that amount.

What's also sad is having to go back and seeing why I've earned so little, and saved even less, in my younger years. Ah, life's regrets... c'est la vie?

Still, this is an interesting list, and I think I'm going to start keeping a similar record of my annual earnings from now on, so that I can chart my earnings progress.

I must be getting old or something because I never thought I'd actually find a newsletter from the SSA interesting. But I did! Big Grin

Taking care of #4

March 3rd, 2009 at 03:01 pm

Though it doesn't bother me most of the time, I do get tired of people basically telling me that money doesn't matter, or worse, money is somehow evil. Yes, it matters. No, it's not inherently evil. But what really sizzles my bacon is when people somehow accuse me of worshiping money or that I am too obsessed with money.

Not so! There are indeed things that are much more important to me than money. In order, they are:

#1 is my beliefs. I believe that, without some kind of belief or values, Nothing Else Matters. It is our belief in family, friendship, love, or even loyalty that binds us as a social animal. Without it, you're not really a contributor. You're just... at best, someone out there, and at worst, a parasite.

It is also my belief in my values that gives me a sense of purpose. Without my belief, I am simply a person taking up space in the world, living a meaningless life.

Without getting too wordy, and extreme exceptions notwithstanding, my two basic beliefs are to never lie or break a promise. There are more, but those are the two main ones that always apply.

#2 is life itself. My life, my health, and the lives and health of those I care about. But as important as this is, without my beliefs to begin with, even life itself would not matter. And that's why this is ranked at #2.

#3 is family and friends. I think this should be obvious, but here, I am speaking more along the lines of general bonding rather than health as mentioned in #2.

So, now that we've come down to #4, care to guess what it is? That's right, it's money! It's certainly not be the first, the second, or even the third most important thing in my life, but its importance should not be dismissed either. Money is often necessary to make #1 through #3 actually possible in real life!

It's very strange to me that some people would dismiss money so easily, and at the same time, accuse me of worshiping money. I know I'm just venting here and I highly doubt these people in question are ever going to read and understand this entry here. Still, it'd be nice if these sort of people would just understand money in its proper context, or at least keep their incorrect assumptions about me to themselves. Big Grin