Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Zoomclouds hacked?

I'm not sure if someone hacked my blog or just the zoomclouds site altogether but now the site is apparently not working and links to a sister site in Spanish. Well at least it was nice the day that it lasted.

July 2007 - Net Worth

So my net-worth for July appears to have increased about 10%. This is a little premature of course as I plan to rid myself of at least 20% of my Assets side over the next few days while simultaneously eliminating 100% of my Liabilities side - i.e., credit cards.

As far as liquid assets go - this will decrease my liquidity by almost 2/3rds - ouch! But it's worth it. Financial freedom I can almost taste it!

My car did appear to depreciate about 4%. Balancing that out - my 401K ended up appreciating about 4% so no real decline in the assets after the impending 'debt-free' check is written.

I wonder if I should put that in bold letters on the Memo section:


Somehow I think they might assess an 'impolite debtor' finance charge for that so I think I'll hold off.

4 days to go...till I'm DEBT FREE

So, I wrote the 'debt-free' check today. I plan to mail it tomorrow morning or afternoon depending on how much sleep I get.

I had a quarterly meeting with my boss today - it was so so. I realized after talking to him that I really need to change jobs. Actually, I realized after talking to him that I don't really want to have a 'boss'.

Yesterday, I called a 'last chance' mailer for my College's Alumni Directory.

The guy on the other line asked me a bunch of personal information and then tried to sell - he used the term "reserve" - me a directory for the low price of 2 installments of $44.95. I was very quick to pass.

Seeing as today is the last day of the month, I plan to update my net-worth here shortly.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Thank you Zoom Clouds, thank you free internet...

So I just signed up for Zoom Clouds a free service that creates 'blog clouds' or a directory for prior posts.

I like it except the links do not necessarily correlate with what you might have labeled the prior post as much what you wrote about.

For example if your blog post was:

"I walked my dog, Sam to the beach to play Frisbee"

you might label the Post as 'Frisbee' & 'beach'

but the software might link it as 'dog' & 'beach' or 'dog' & 'Sam' if they're mentioned enough. I'm not complaining though! It's free! Simply making an observation.

bad credit? pay more for insurance...

I read an excerpt of this article that was sent to my work e-mail through a news feed we get.

this section kind of bugged me:

But the long-awaited Federal Trade Commission report also found that blacks and Hispanics consistently end up with lower scores and therefore pay higher insurance rates.
But, I guess it's something I already sort of knew. From what I understand, for the past decade or so, insurance companies have been consistently pulling your credit before they give you an accurate quote. Quotes you might get online might give you an idea of what your rates will be but you won't know for sure until you call a company over the phone and get a definite rate quote or go into an Insurance Agent's office.

It usually shows up as a hard pull on your credit - just an FYI when shopping around for rates. The better your credit score though, the cheaper your insurance. If you have horrible credit though well you pay the price for failing to pay on time I guess.

5 days to go...till I'm DeBt FreE!!

OH man,

I did not really want to work today. I just kept thinking of all the things I'll be able to (ideally) do come Friday:

  • pay more than $20 for groceries every week
  • save a lot more than I am saving now
  • buy clothes - BUY new CLOTHES!!!
  • buy new shoes
  • two words: dry cleaning
  • eat out a couple times a week - guilt-free
  • subscribe to some magazines
  • buy some books
  • possibly get cable again
  • pay more for dates with my girlfriend (no more $1 theater)
  • did I mention - buy some books?
  • save for a piece of Jewelry for my impatient girlfriend
  • the list goes on...
My only real fear is that once I have that financial freedom again after a decade-long (or longer - I'll check) wait, I might overreact and begin spending outside my means again. I think this $18,000 several year lesson from the prestigious School of Hard Knocks won't be soon forgotten though.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

6 days to go...till I'm DEBT FREE

So today, I have to work a pretty long shift at the 2nd job.

Today is 'employee day' at the 2nd job so they'll be open longer and there will be HUGE discounts. They had a flier up for the jewelry department advertising that - for example: with all the discounts a $500 diamond would cost $98! I am very tempted to use my card to take advantage of the discounts but, I can't do it.

I've come too far to go back into debt even if ends up being only a couple $100 dollars. I have gained an indigestion for credit. Plus I'm not sure what my girlfriend's ring size is anyway...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

passive income

I just read a great post on passive income from a blog I just recently noticed:


Apparently Brian , has made over $1,500 in passive income in the past month. I'd be happy just to make $100.

As I approach me new era of debt freedom I am getting more and more interested in investing back into different types of passive income.

Although rental properties are the most prevalent type of 'passive income' I don't have the down-payment nor the patience really to deal with tenants at this point in my life.

I do have a gumball machine that is collecting dust currently. I just need to find:
  1. a stand
  2. some gumballs/'super-balls'
  3. a location to plop said machine
Ideally, in a year or two, I'd be happy to be making around $400-500 a month in passive income. That would basically pay for my rent right now. Then, I could gradually bump it up to $600-700 (rent & food) until it hits the $1,100-$1200 mark or my current monthly expenses.
That would be a great place to be eventually there.

Currently my passive income is about $6-7 a month (Interest on my money market) I think that definitely needs to change - sooner rather than later.

Friday, July 27, 2007

8 days to go...

SO it's the weekend.

I'm 8 days (actually less than 8 days) till I reach my long(long) term goal of being out of debt.

I've gotta say it feels good. Feels really good - I can see the...

light at the end of the tunnel...

and it feels damn good.

by the by - stole the image from whyfiles.org

The fear of the black male...

warning: little to no personal finance relevance

So as I was surfing the web this morning I noticed an article entitled:

Football wedding threatened

After clicking on the link which had this image adjacent to it:

I read the article -

then while I was listening to NPR I heard an article on how the impending home-run record challenge by Barry Bonds brings to mind the last home-run record challenge by Hank Aaron when the title owner was Babe Ruth.

Both stories happen to be more-or-less about sports but more importantly racism.

In one case, you have a black male who is star player for his team and after winning the Fiesta Bowl chose it as the perfect time to propose to his girlfriend - who just happens to be white. Now as his wedding date approaches, it appears he has been receiving so many death threats that he has hired outside security for his wedding.

In the other case, you have a Baseball legend threatening an older baseball legend's record and due to the fact that he is black receiving death threats as well.

Although the latter instance was over 20 years in the past the former instance is current and kind of shameful. If a black male achieves success it is a threat to the white male.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to try and combat the stereotype that is often spoken amongst the black community and probably spoken behind closed doors in the white (and other communities):

"Black people have bad credit, a bad attitude and rarely amount to anything"

It can be difficult though, when this ideal is subconsciously touted in the media, black comics re-iterate these ideas constantly, areas that are considered 'black' are usually lower-income & less maintained and when black people do become successful, they immediately move to the suburbs(which my parents did) so their children can get a better education, rather than trying to remain in the black community and lift everyone up.

There is also the culture within the black community of the 'crab mentality'. The idea being that if you put several crabs in a bucket you don't need a top; the crabs cannot easily escape from the bucket without the help of others, if one crab does happen to get close to escaping though, it's almost inevitable that crabs below him/her will grab a hold of them and pull them down. Thus no need to put a top on the bucket.

I've done my share of being a crab but I think those days are over, it can be disheartening though sometimes when you're reminded that racism does in fact exist.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

9 days to go...(single digits y'all!)

So I'm down to 9 days to go till I'm debt free.

I am not awake at all right now though.

I have the day off today but I might go to work - Have I mentioned I need a new job?

I called my electric company for my balance. They continue to send out my bill later and later in the month, throwing off my check-book balancing. The amount came to just a couple dollars under what I was expecting and I did the math:

Once I'm paid next week, I'll take out about $335 for my remaining debt, $100 for food and gas for the next 2 weeks, $100 for insurance and gym membership, $220 I'll hold onto and/or give to my girlfriend for our vacation.

Give or take, that will leave me with about $120-$140 in debt-free celebration cash. Not a whole lot but I guess it's better than just $5

OK, time to sleep in some more.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Half my life is over and I have nothing to show for it" (rambling)

So I fell asleep in the middle of watching Sideways and woke up at the part when Miles(Paul Giamatti's character) talks to his book agent - Evelyn.

He asks her how his book is doing.

She does her best to let him down gently and ends up calling his book:

"One of those unfortunate cases of, a fabulous book with no home"

Miles goes into a wine-swilling rage.

Eventually he calms down and explains to his friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church)
Miles - "half my life is over and I have nothing to show for it. nothing, I'm a thumbprint on a window of a skyscraper. I'm a smudge of excrement, on a tissue, surging out to sea with a million tons of raw sewage"

Jack - "See right there what you just said...that was beautiful... I could never write that"

Miles- "Neither could I. Actually I think it's Beaukowski(sp?)"

Although I identify a little with Miles - at best, my life would be 1/3 over and conversely, I think I've accomplished a ton in the past 3 years. It's been a struggle and I've learned a lot.

What does this have to do with finance or personal finance you ask? Not a whole lot I can think of other than I think that exchange is pretty funny and for the past several months - probably close to 8 months & counting - I've had a book manuscript written, but not edited at all.

I have shown the book to exactly '0' book agents and parts of the book to maybe a total of 2.5 friends. Yet, I keep getting this weird feeling or at least premonition(whispers from God?) that if I would just make an honest effort to get the book published, it would do fairly well and alleviate at least some of my financial concerns.

I think what keeps me back is I have a fear of success more than a fear of failure. I think of all the bad things that could possibly happen if I were to get a book published rather than the good things and the fear of those bad things happening paralyzes me into procrastination. This not only goes for my writing exploits though it also goes for many other aspects of my life where there is risk. I guess my hatred of the spotlight and direct attention makes me much rather prefer and cling to mediocrity than to try and excel. I've always been much more satisfied with being 2nd or 2nd-to-last because I had the assurance that at least I was not the extreme and thus not the focus of scrutiny.

If I truly applied myself and made different choices from say high school on, I have little doubt I could be:
  • making $100,000 a year - or
  • living in a more comfortable climate
  • working full time as an artist and still putting food on the table & paying the rent on time
But, In hindsight, I guess everyone has opinions and ideals of what they could do or could have done if they had made different choices.

However, into every life a little rain must fall. Who knows - if I had stayed in Ohio initially rather than Chicago, I could have quite possibly be making $100,000 a year but to be honest the thought of giving up those 3 crazy years in Chi-town and the great memories that come along with them - I don't think I'd be willing to part with them for $100K and a job I hated.

Living in a more comfortable climate like say Arizona or Florida would be nice. But would I be stressed out and overladen with debt? I have friend who lives in one of those states now and although he probably makes more than me he rents and pays more than triple for rent what I do.

If I worked as an artist - would I be able to deal with the unspoken criticism I would definitely receive from friends and family? My extended family especially is very materialistic and I'm not sure If I could be civil at family gatherings if they asked me how the 'art -thing' was doing as one cousin or another talked about the house they bought or the promotion they just got.

Wow - this post has gone on much longer than I intended. I'll end it by saying 1/3 of my life is over and I have quite a bit to show for it - 2/3rds is left to go and I can only see it getting better and better.

10 days to go...

So at my 1st job - we had a meeting with my bosses' bosses' boss. He basically told our group that we can expect more work and less staffing. He also explained that we shouldn't worry about 'rumors' that departments might be getting down-sized. He said something to the effect of:

"you can e-mail me directly if you have any questions about the 'changes' coming through"

yeah right. I'm not worried though he seemed to have sincerity that no jobs would be lost or moved in the next 3 months. I only need a little under 2 weeks to have this debt-monkey removed from my back so that's cool with me. Shortly thereafter I will be actively looking for a new position.

Speaking of my debt monkey - the shiny red 0% card - They sent me a mailer today. It appears they're slowly catching onto the fact that I intend to make them exactly 0 cents in interest off of me. Here's the main portion of the mailer:

"Thanks for your balance transfer -
but there's so much more.
Your [shiny red 0%] Rewards Visa (R) card is too good to be kept in a drawer Use it to reach your everyday goals...from filing up your tank to funding major home improvements.

It's an everyday card with special rewards. Your Rewards card gives you a full 1% in [shiny red 0%] Dollars (R) with every purchase. Once you've earned 50 or more [shiny red 0%] Dollars you can redeem and apply them toward the [shiny red 0%] product of your choice.

Put your recurring payments like the cable and electric bills as well as frequent purchases such as groceries, gas and clothing on your Rewards card to keep all of your expenses in order. Just use your statement to easily track all of your expenses. (Plus your [shiny red 0%] Dollars will really start to add up!)

Use these coupons provided by Visa to save on your next purchase and start earning [shiny red 0%] Dollars!"

OH so tempting & easy charge my monthly expenses to a credit card? I think I'll go do that n....HEY wait a second, isn't that how I got myself into this mess in the first place? I think I'll pass for now Shiny red 0% [for now] card. Nice try though...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

past my bedtime...

But, I took the opportunity to click on one of Single Ma's favorite blogs for the first time :


on the site, in the about section it states:

"Post Policy: There will never be a paid post on this blog. Period."

I rather like that policy. He keeps his personal artistic and editorial integrity and honestly - without that, what is a blog other than another job?

I kind of like that policy I think I might adopt it myself.

Good news...

It turns out the rental car for our vacation can be reserved without a credit card. So after a good 5-10 minutes thawing out my credit card and putting together the itty-bitty pieces - turns out I didn't even need it.

That's a good kind of surprise though. I'm back on track to pay off my debt!

In other news... I signed up for a certain website that pays you to blog - I don't like it already. It seems like a way to promote corporate propaganda. I doubt I'll ever use it but, if you see me adding a POST about the great qualities of 'XYZ drywall'...you'll know I've changed my mind.

I mean '3 out of 4 contractors would recommend XYZ drywall to a friend'...

11 days to go? ... a potential snag (sigh)

So my girlfriend was going to pay for our vacation's hotel & rental car online initially and I was going to pay her back next week.

However, my girlfriend already has a hefty amount on her credit card from a recent trip she had to visit a friend a couple states over. Adding our vacation to her credit card would put her debt/credit ratio pretty darn close 100%. Her credit line is pretty close to my gross, biweekly salary for just the 1st job.

So, I might have to step up and put the cost of the hotel & the rental car on my shiny red 0% card. This would definitely push me back a week or so in the goal. Assuming my girlfriend can't pay me back for her half next week.

By purchasing the hotel & rental online today I know we'll probably save at least $100 bucks in the long run.

I'm also debating whether I should call her 'foster parents' and explain I want to 'talk to them' about the "M-word" - I might drive up and have a sit down while my girlfriend is at work. That will at least get some of the pressure off....

Monday, July 23, 2007

V is for Victory - I'm DEBT FREE!

I officially determined my debt is paid off yesterday. I'm in kind of a good mood. I thought I'd add some mood music:

If You've never seen V for Vendetta - don't hit play. If you have, in this scene I play 'Evie'-short hair & all - while the credit card companies play "V"

This scene, the 'God is in the rain' scene, I think makes a good analogy of what I've gone through over the last several years. I've been trapped and lived a tortured life pretty much of my own making. At any time I could have given up all hope but a little over a year ago I made a decision that I needed to be free from this debt if it was the last thing I did. Now, as I've accomplished this goal I realize this experience, being in debt, was a necessary life lesson that I won't soon forget. This lesson from the school of hard knocks has also allowed me to appreciate the benefits of saving much more than I did beforehand and hopefully, with some willpower I'll be able to realize the benefits of budgeting as well.

12 days to go...

I got (hopefully) my final bill for my evil nemesis - the shiny, red, 0% card.

I was so happy - at first. Knowing that the debt would be finally gone in a little over a week and a half. The only unfortunate thing is that the due date is incredibly close to when I get paid.

So, knowing that there is a definite possibility of me paying and then suddenly getting hit with 'late charges' I decided to call up the card company and see if I would be able to pay over the phone.
After going through several voice automated prompts I finally talked to a young lady.

I asked "Can I pay over the phone with a check?"

She said "Yes"

I asked "Is there a charge?"

She said "Yes there is $10 charge for paying over the phone"

"Great!" I replied not really happy about the $10 charge but, glad it wasn't the $15 that a prior debt holder charged for paying over the phone.

I was just about to hang up when I asked the $64 million dollar (or in this case $10 buck) question "Will that $10 be able to be paid by the check OR will you have to charge it to my account?"

"...we will charge your account"

[DANG IT!!!]

"o.k. ...." I replied - my enthusiasm knocked down a notch.
I said good bye and returned to staring at my calendar.

I think I will go ahead and 'kite'* a check over to them from my money-market. Hopefully, it does not hit before I get paid a day or two later.

2 other things:

  1. I just listened to Dave Ramsey's podcast today and one caller, a guy I'm guessing in his mid 30's called in to say that he pulled his credit and found there was $25,000 in credit card bills that he knew nothing about. After further investigation he discovered that right after high school his PARENTS took out a few credit cards in his name and began charging random stuff to them. 10 years ago they decided to stop charging stuff and instead started making minimum payments as the interest builds. The guy is from a small town where everybody knows everybody - he has since moved on - but in order to get a proper identity theft notice on his credit file he needs a police report from the small town. The local police, who know his parents personally, have thus far refused to file a needed police report because they state it's past the statute of limitations. I think Dave's advice was something like - 'hire a lawyer' but - MAN - Talk about family drama! I feel kind of lucky now because my parents have lent me money on more than one occasion - possibly with a little bit of guilt but definitely haven't ever put me into debt...
  2. I just had a 'neighbor' from an apartment across the way, knock on my door and ask me "Hey man it's [Chuck] from across the way. Listen, can I get $3 for bus fair tomorrow?" {Now let's back up - and say that on a prior early evening/ late afternoon. [Chuck] and a friend were sitting out by Chuck's porch chit-chatting about nothing in particular. Chuck is a black male also but, he happens to be my father's age - in his 50's or 60's. Chuck's friend, a black male as well seemed to be in his 40's. Anyways, I waved, said 'hi' and everything and as I was coming back from getting my mail the younger guy came up to me and started chatting about nothing in particular. Eventually he asked me what I did. He then explained that his son had done the same thing before ...it was a really nice casual conversation then all of the sudden - almost mid-sentence - the brother changed his tune and said "listen, can I get a $1 for the bus?" - Caught off guard and also caught with my wallet in hand I said "Sure" and i pulled out a crisp $1 bill and handed it to him as he stared - much like an 18 year-old guy stares at shot girls in an underage bar - at the $20 something remaining contents of my wallet.} So back to today, I looked at him funny for about a half-second then said "No" . To which he replied "well how about a $1 or $2" To which I replied "No, sorry man" he turned around and then looked back looking slightly defeated as he walked away. I guess what I wonder is - do I LOOK like I have money falling out of my pockets?! Just cause I am usually dressed up and I do have a job (two in fact) does that mean I should immediately become the community welfare coordinator?
I guess this/these semi-rhetorical question(s) goes out to all the darker skinned people in the room:
  • Do you owe a brother 'in need' bus fair if you know he is just unemployed and will possibly use bus fair for something other than a bus?
  • The moment you are financially able to move out of the ghetto - should you move out or should you stay and try and help out the community - even it seems like a thankless job?
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: Have your neighbors asked you for bus fair lately?
Anyways, with that, I look in my wallet and discover that I do not have $3 I do have $2 but, I'm keeping it...in case I need bus fair.

*although it really won't be 'kiting' the check since the money's in the bank - there's just a possibility the check will go through before I can deposit my paycheck a couple days later. I also don't earn any interest on my money market if it drops below $1000 - which will happen if the bill payment hits before my paycheck does.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

13 days to go....

So today,

I got a long over-due oil change. Unfortunately, all of the places I had coupons for are apparently closed on Sundays. I got one at a place that charged me $30 + tax (about $10 more than the average coupon) I don't feel bad about it though because I was starting to worry about my poor car which - unbeknownst to me - just passed the 170,000 mile mark.

I have to go to work at my 2nd job again today and I really don't want to.

Yesterday, I had someone in 2nd-job management bring up the fact that I hadn't yet 'enticed' a customer to obtain a store credit card. I was on the 'Zero-list' as they call it. 'Zero' as in - "Zero store credit applications obtained for the month"

I almost literally spat out the fact that 1) I did not care and 2) I was happy to be on such a list. But instead, I held my tongue when I recalled that I do not yet have enough to pay off my debt and still have an emergency $1000 laying around.

So later yesterday I did entice a very nice man to get a store credit card only to have him wait another half hour while a more experienced co-worker tried to apply the 10% discount to his order with no avail - the computer system/cash register would not accept it for some reason. We eventually got a manager to come over and handle the situation -45 minutes later.

Luckily, I am no longer on the 'zero-list'. Due to this incident though, I've made my decision on whether I should 'stay' or 'go'; as soon as my long period of indebtedness comes to an end -13 days or less hopefully- I will be tendering my resignation from 2nd job once again, no guilty conscience in tow this time.

Needless to say, after last night's incident, I'll be selectively 'forgetting' to ask people if they'd like to 'SAVE' 10% simply by going into debt!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Budget thus far - to get out of debt

It's late. my feet hurt and I need some sleep but I thought I'd try a post a hap-hazard example of my budget as I approach the debt-free club.

I'll eat right quick and then I might post some more - it's more likely I'll pass out though.

14 days to go...

So I worked pretty long and pretty late yesterday.

I have a lot of work to do today including:
  • dropping off a bill,
  • dropping off the rent (yup a week and a half early so I don't have to worry!)
  • going to 1st job to play 'catch-up'
  • going to 2nd job
  • updating my budget on the web - assuming I have time
Oh, and this is supposed to be a relaxing Saturday...oh well. Tomorrow I'm doing much of the same.

In the meantime or when/if I get a break - I'm going to try and figure out if I want to actually USE the gumball machine that I bought over a year ago and has since been collecting dust. It lacks gumballs/'super-balls' and a stand. I bought it right around the time I was racking my brain for every possible way to make money & cut expenses - so I incurred an investment of about $60 which has netted me a whopping $0 since purchase.

I thought of the vending industry as a great way to create passive income.

Who knew you had to actually take about a half-hour of initiative and find someplace you can place the gumball machines. I had a great location planned - a laundry mat - until the owner and I had a dispute. So since then, I have let good ole' procrastination set in and I my pocket is $60 lighter from last year with nothing really to show for it thus far.

Friday, July 20, 2007

15 days to go...

So I got paid by my second job today and got a little bit more than I was expecting they are also increasing my hours slightly.

Barring a unexpected termination, Operation Debt-free is in full effect and on schedule.

I have this weird feeling I might just get overconfident to the point of insolence and tell all my bosses ( and I have many layers of bosses) that they can just shove it. I think I'll be able to maintain my cool though.

I picked up a jewelry flyer today while on break at my 2nd job. The prices actually all look pretty decent but I have no money - except credit - in order to pay for anything. The jewelry store offers 'free' financing for 1 year as long as you pay on time - assuming you don't pay on time or you wait over a year to pay it off it immediately goes to a 22% interest rate.

Very tempting but I think it will be so much more gratifying to go into a jewelry store with a wad of 'Benjamin's' in my pocket and just flap them on top the display case.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Good Article

...for bloggers:


16 days to go...

The Dow hit 14,000 today, and stayed there for the first time.

Yesterday I got all of my 401k's investment out of the American stock market - I have a creepy feeling that a 'correction' in the market is definitely on it's way in the next 6 months.

Especially with the fact that the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that:

"Some estimates are in the order of between $50 billion and $100 billion of losses associated with subprime credit problems,"
A $100 Billion dollar blow to the economy is not something exactly to dismiss.

This article on yahoo about the 'slowing' economy does not exactly make me want to jump into the stock market at an all-time peak either.

In other news, I had a friend from work re-mention a suggestion I made several months ago - A 'minority' i.e., 'black' investment group through work. She as well as another one of our colleagues seemed interested in doing that again. I would LOVE to do this - as soon as I get a lot more work done and have a lot less stress weighing on my shoulders. Hopefully, that will be a short-term reality.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

BIll Gates, no longer world's richest man...

While looking up Warren Buffet for my prior post, I came across an interesting turn of phrase -

"....wealth had exceeded that of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, making him the world's wealthiest person."

According to wikipedia.org - a very trustworthy (*ahem*) news-source This Guy :

is now the richest man alive.

I just thought I'd share...Congratulations Carlos.

17 days to go...(2008 goals)

I need a new job. No, I'm not entirely dissatisfied with the pay, definitely not dissatisfied with the benefits but, I cannot maintain the same level of constant stress that my 1st job provides. I worked 11 hours today doing something I can't honestly say 'I love'.

As I approach freedom from debt, I see a definite need to re-prioritize my goals.

I guess a few of my goals for the year to come:

  1. Get a better paying less stressful job.
  2. To raise my Net Worth to $20,000 by around this time next year
  3. Raise my available cash or semi-liquid assets to $10,000 by the end of 2008.
  4. Save money to pay for an engagement ring and possibly wedding reception
  5. Begin grad school for MBA (focusing on finance or Internet/web systems) or MFA (to be poor & happy) & have my company reimburse me for most of it.
A few of my financial goals for the next 5 years:

  1. To start a part-time business
  2. finish writing(which is done) & editing(which is not) book and submit to book agents and/or Publishers (which I'll procrastinate to the very last to do)
  3. raise Net Worth to $500,000 or more by mid-late 2013
  4. Raise my available cash or semi-liquid assets to $200,000-300,000 by the end of 2013
  5. Have at least 1-2 rental properties.
And the dare-to-dream goals for the next 10 years:

  1. Have a net worth of at least $1 million (not including primary residence)
  2. Have semi-liquid assets approaching the $400-500K range
  3. Have mortgage on primary residence paid off
Hopefully these goals aren't too far out of reach. Since College, it's sort of been my goal to be a Millionaire by the time I turn 40. I was doing some simple calculations while in a stress-induced daze at work and figured how much money I'd have if I were magically able to double my money every year starting with next year and a starting amount of $10,000

  • Year 1: $10,000
  • Year 2: 2 x $10,000 = $20,000
  • Year 3: 2 x $20,000 = $40,000
  • Year 4: 2 x $40,000 = $80,000
  • Year 5: 2 x $80,000 = $160,000
  • Year 6: 2 x $160,000 = $320,000
  • Year 7: 2 x $320,000 = $640,000
  • Year 8: 2 x $640,000 = $1,280,000 -Millionaire
  • Year 9: 2 x 1,280,000 = $2,560,000 -Multi-Millionaire
  • Year 10: 2 x 2,560,000 = $5,120,000
As you can see, if I can just figure out how to double my money just about every year for the next decade - I'd be in a pretty good place to retire, or at least take sabbatical by the time I'm 40.

I'd really like to move to my 'dream-town' to live by that time. The average house in my 'dream-town' costs about $1 million as of today. I did the math and assuming that house prices appreciate about 10% a year a $1 million house will cost me $3 million a decade from now. That would leave me (and a family) with about $2 Million to live off after we pay cash for the house. Assuming living only on interest with a 5% return that would be about $100K a year for food, clothing, entertainment etc.

That'd be an OK lifestyle but $100K today and $100K in 2018 may not get the same things done. If I continued my magical 'double-your money' scheme for 1 extra year...
  • Year 11: 2 x $5,120,000 = $10,240,000 -Deca-Millionaire
I would have the $3.5 Million to buy that average house in my 'dream-town' (because it appreciated a little again) which is by the beach. I would also have $6.5 -7 Million to just sit in the bank and collect a modest 5% interest or $325,000(!!!) for food, clothing, trips, entertainment & art supplies.

Honestly, I need to figure out the 'double-your money' hustle and soon. I mean if Warren Buffet did it...why can't I? A brother's gotta dream right?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Who knew TV was so ...expensive...

I checked out this recent article on Yahoo's financial site and it appears to reinforce something I've suspected for years. TV ends up draining your wallet (if not your soul) after a while.

I've been addicted to TV before and one of my main ways for maintaining focus in this battle against debt has been to limit if not outlaw TV completely when by myself. Since I live by myself currently this accounts for about 90-95% of my free time. the other 5-10% of the time I watch TV at friend's or family member's places.

Anyway, the gist of the story is that assuming you gave up TV - FOR LIFE - at say age 25, you could become a millionaire simply by saving, missing out on the influence commercials, and getting a part-time job or nice side gig and investing money.

Here's an excerpt:

"Opportunity costs: Another cost often overlooked when considering the price of watching TV is the opportunities forfeited when you choose viewing over something else. You could start a business, take on a part-time job or take care of your garden so you don't have to pay someone else to do it. Assuming that your time is worth at least the minimum wage of $5.85 per hour, your opportunity cost is $737 a month if you view the average amount of TV.

So what does this all add up to? Say you're 25 years old and you initially spend $2,000 for your TV, DVD player, entertainment cabinet and gaming system after getting your first job. Add in monthly costs of $100 for cable, $10 for electricity use, $20 for renting movies, $25 for buying games and $20 for an occasional pay-per-view event, and you're looking at $175 a month. Add in another $525 a month extra you spend due to the influence of commercials if you are the average person, and you are costing yourself $700 a month watching TV.

If you instead invested this money and received a return of 8% compounded annually over 45 years until you're 70 years old, you would have more than $3.7 million in your account."

TV is honestly a guilty pleasure though,
While the Internet is an active entertainment source for the most part ( you interact and read & learn - unless your favorite site is Youtube) - TV is a passive entertainment source ( you sit on the couch, eat chips and learn about what Hollywood starlet is the skankiest - this week OR who got kicked off of the newest, hippest, reality show ).

One thing I'm not sure I could go without though until age 70 would be DVD's and/or video games. I like watching a good movie over and over again...I also like playing video games every once again - I mean where else can you inflict serious damage to robots/ninjas/cops without getting into trouble or breaking a sweat?

Interesting article though. Now(at the risk of being a hypocrite) a word from an up & coming 'non-rapper'....

Thanks to the always wise Damien for pointing the above web gem out...

18 days to go...

So I went to Barnes & Noble today after work and was perusing a great book on Benjamin Franklin & Wealth.

I found a great, long quote while there about debt - when I tried to find it again on line it was only in bit's and pieces:

This site: http://www.sacklunch.net/poorrichard/ has just about all of the quotes but they are broken into much smaller pieces.

I guess the sweetest and most 'to-the-point' quote would be:
"He that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing."
I've been debating today whether I should hold on to my 2nd job when(not if) I pay off my debt. There are advantages on both sides.

By staying I would be able to:
  1. Pay for a shiny piece of jewelry for my girlfriend (possibly future fiance/wife) quicker
  2. Save more money to pay for a possible wedding reception (my girlfriend and her family will have nothing to do with 'dancing' or 'drinking' that my family & friends all-but require in order to attend - it's a long story...)
  3. I'd be able to stock up on a struggling wardrobe by using the nice 2nd job discount.
By leaving I would be able to:

  1. Relax
  2. focus more on finding a better 1st job
  3. Spend more time with girlfriend, family & friends
  4. ...Did I mention RELAX?
I'm leaning heavily towards the latter option right now but, I know I'll feel bad If I resign again from the 2nd job just as they are getting into their 2nd busiest time of the year 'back-to-school'. I can guarantee though if I am more than 1/2 or 2/3rds as stressed out then, as I am now about just my 1st job - I will be giving my 2 weeks notice with no remorse whatsoever....

Monday, July 16, 2007

19 days to go....

So I just got a letter from the state of Ohio that informed me

"The state of Ohio has confirmed that your name and social security number was contained on a computer back-up device that was stolen. It is unlikely that someone can access the data...."

I've been reading the news and the issue all stems from a genius State Intern who decided to leave his loaner, state-owned laptop on his car seat (rumor has it with the doors unlocked). I was pretty much ignoring this local news story but now I have the right to be paranoid.

I wasn't really paranoid about becoming an identity 'theft' victim because I'm guessing any good criminal would try and set up accounts for people in 'affluent' neighborhoods first but, I guess I need to take the free credit monitoring if the State is offering.

NOW at least I know what's taking so long to get my freaking refund - they lost my check - or something! I need to call them.

Honestly I'm not worried but I will be extremely pissed If I pull my credit (after my debt is paid off) and find a new car loan and/or a $10,000 credit card bill. I might find the thief myself and bludgeon him(or have my girl bludgeon a 'her') to death, or at least incapacitate them.

In other news - 19 days until I am debt free. Hopefully no new debt arises...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

20-days to go....

That is hypothetically, 20 days to go before I become debt free.

Of course this bars any other major financial setbacks this week. I had a couple this weekend;
  1. My GF & I went to a movie on Saturday morning. The movie was free through work and I fed the meter for exactly the 2 hours we would need but when I came back 1:40 later there was a ticket on windshield. I had 22 minutes left on the meter. Then I read the ticket and it noted the $40 bill/ticket(arrrgh!!!) was due to my lack of a front plate on my vehicle. For as long as I can remember I believe that Ohio has been a single-plate (on the back) state but apparently the meter maid thought differently.
  2. I hung out with a friend at a bar Last night. I was attempting to just sit and drink water but I guess I was looking a little too bored. So of course the friend decided to buy a pitcher of some type of margarita and said "I could get the next round" - I hate that 'I'll buy then you buy trick' - the next round was at 'hipper' bar. I ordered the drinks, then asked the bartender what the current tab was. The bartender gave this condescending look then a few seconds later said $13. I considered giving no tip due to the condescending look [Excuuuuse me, for not wanting to go into debt for a temporary social poisoning]but decided on $2, and $15 was all I ended up paying.
I also paid for dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday for my girl but I figured this would be coming anyway.

Luckily I decided not to go in on Lottery tickets with my girlfriend on Friday. She spent $20 and said I could keep 10% of her winnings. An hour prior , I had explained to her and my brother that the 'Lottery is just a tax on the poor'. She dismissed this and said that the Lotto is 'fun'. 2 'fun' hours later she was 11 dollars poorer. She did make a $9 return off of two of the 10 cards that she bought. So in essence her return was about (correct me if I'm wrong) negative 55%!! I told her she could keep the $0.90 that she earned me. At least she had fun, right?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Expensive engagements & really direct marketing

As I might have mentioned before I have an impending engagement in the next 3-6 Mos give or take. I asked one of my friends who has a knack for making larger-than life impressions about what I might do for an engagement. He promptly e-mailed what this GUY did.

Here's an excerpt from the attached e-mail:

> My friend Rob just got engaged a couple of months
> ago. He told me that God
> was unfolding a vision in his life over the span of
> about a year and then he
> put faith to feet and made it happen. He sent me
> over the slide show today
> and after I watched it I sat here almost in tears.
> Just to give you a brief
> synopsis of what went on (And yes I did get Rob and
> Keisha's permission to
> share this great story with all of you)...Rob and
> Keisha dated for about 4
> years. And he knew that she was the one...but he had
> to save up for all
> that God had prompted him to do for her. So in short
> what you are about to
> see happen on April 28th....he rented out 10 rooms
> in the Ritz Carlton in
> buckhead and invited about 50-60 people to be there
> for this special
> night...Keisha had to go from room to room and in
> each room were people who
> were special to them....his boys...her girls...her
> Bible Study group....his
> parents...her parents..etc. and everybody in each
> room had questions that
> she had to answer to be able to move to the next
> room and before she left
> each room the people there would pray over her....so
> you have to watch each
> room to see how that goes...he chose roses because
> Keisha aunt who passed
> suddenly loved roses and he bought some of the
> dipped in gold because of the
> stories in the Bible about Solomon and how
> everything was dipped in gold and
> the song that you hear playing in the background was
> the same song that was
> played at Keisha aunts funeral, she was like a
> second mom to Keisha.
> Here's the video (if the link doesn't word the first
> time, just keep
> refreshing it - it's def worth seeing):
> http://www.spelhouse.com/gray/

Assuming the link works, you'll see a photo slide show of a gentleman and his elaborate proposal for his girlfriend. I'm not sure I've heard of a whole lot of people going above and beyond what this guy did. I'm not sure that I would want to go above and beyond it.When I stop and think of all the expense he went through just to propose - the flowers, the luxury hotel room(s), organizing family & friends etc... I wonder what the wedding will look like? Hopefully they'll live happily ever after.

In other news - Direct marketers are getting better and better at their trade. The following is a picture of a recent offer I got in the mail:

There's nothing particularly odd or wrong about this offer other than the fact that it is for a Chicago Cubs credit card and I LIVE IN OHIO! Coincidentally enough, I do happen to be a Chicago Cubs fan -BUT, this is not something I share on the first or even the 5th time I meet someone. What I am wondering is how in the world did the marketers know so much info about me to know to send a Chicago Cubs card offer to little ole' me sitting here in Ohio. If it were a random mailing, a Cleveland Indians or Cincinatti Reds card offer would have made much more sense - teams that are both 2-3 hours away give or take. The fact that this offer is for a team that is over 450 miles (and/or 6 1/2 hours) away makes me suspect someone at the credit card companies knows a wee bit too much info on me. So much for me slowly letting go of my 'black paranoia'. Oh well.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Religion & Money II

So I think I'll continue or at least finish my post about money & religion.

After speaking On Buddhism, Christianity & Buddhism, the one remaining 'religion' would be Taoism.

Taoism, along with Buddhism, I really wouldn't call or consider them religions as much as states of mind and philosophical views. To quote Lao Tzu the creator and founder of the 2400-2600 yr-old (depending on who you ask) philosophy:

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
Thus, it's kind of hard to explain Taoism - I guess the easiest or most visual representation of Taoism is the yin-yang. If you had to describe Taoism with just one word it would be Balance. If you had to use more than that to describe you - like me - would probably describe it incorrectly.

As far as money goes the 9th verse/chapter of the Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dao De jing) seems to be the most eloquent:


Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

So out of all of these religions & states of mind, I guess I personally aspire to try and make enough financial progress in order to protect me (and possibly a family) in the future. At the same time every once and a while I have to take a step back and make sure what I am doing to obtain my financial goals does not directly oppose my personal spiritual goals.

So to summarize, it seems that
  1. Christianity does not appear to have a major issue with gaining wealth as long as it is not an unhealthy obsession
  2. Judaism appears to agree with wealth as long as you first honor God.
  3. Buddhism - is the antithesis of a wealthy mindset but, some aspects are impractical for life in the USA
  4. Taoism - is all about balance, one should not chase after money, just like someone should not chase after aestheticism.

Religion & Money I

I just recently realized that this desire to get out of debt (which in fact is a healthy desire) has put me simultaneously at odds with my current spiritual/religious background.

Currently, I consider myself to be a Judeo-Christian-Buddhist-Taoist which - at best; is an assumption that I have somewhat of a world-view on religion. At worst; one would consider me to have a very lazy, 'cherry-picker' when it comes to religion & belief.

The portion of my belief that has been most affected right now would have to the Buddhist portion. As one of the key tenants of the religion/belief system is that one should rid themselves of desire as desire causes all of the pain in the world (for those who know anything about the belief - that is a extremely oversimplified definition)

Here is an excerpt from the Dhammapada, a collection of Buddhist writings:
If you sleep,
Desire grows in you
Like a vine in the forest.
Like a monkey in the forest
You jump from tree to tree,
Never finding the fruit -
From life to life,
Never finding peace.
If you are filled with desire
Your sorrows swell
Like the grass after the rain.
But if you subdue desire
Your sorrows shall fall from you
Like drops of water from a lotus flower.
This is good counsel
And it is for everyone:
As the grass is cleared for the fresh root,
Cut down desire
Lest death after death crush you
This particular excerpt comes from the Desire section of the writings. I had to read it this morning because I've noticed myself getting extremely edgy and confrontational with people in recent weeks as I've approached this goal on "Zero Debt".

This is definitely the OLD me and I would hope not the NEW - kinder gentler Reggie.

I think the belief amongst Christians at some point, was that 'Money is the root of all evil" when in fact the quote from 1 Timothy 6:10 is:

10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

I guess what I'm trying to do right now (at my own peril) is decrease my debt & increase my wealth while at the same time trying to be at peace with myself. This is difficult in Western society when so much is dependant on status and how much you make etc. Trying not to fall in 'love' with money in this society is difficult.

The Book of Proverbs in the Old testament, pretty much provides the source for many of Jewish belief system in regards to money. Steven K Scott point this out in his book The Richest Man who ever Lived a book that focuses almost exclusively on the 31 sections of Proverbs. In effect there is a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month: Take a look at today's:

Proverbs 13

1 A wise son heeds his father's instruction,
but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

2 From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things,
but the unfaithful have a craving for violence.

3 He who guards his lips guards his life,
but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

4 The sluggard craves and gets nothing,
but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

5 The righteous hate what is false,
but the wicked bring shame and disgrace.

6 Righteousness guards the man of integrity,
but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

7 One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

8 A man's riches may ransom his life,
but a poor man hears no threat.

9 The light of the righteous shines brightly,
but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.

10 Pride only breeds quarrels,
but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

11 Dishonest money dwindles away,
but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

13 He who scorns instruction will pay for it,
but he who respects a command is rewarded.

14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
turning a man from the snares of death.

15 Good understanding wins favor,
but the way of the unfaithful is hard.

16 Every prudent man acts out of knowledge,
but a fool exposes his folly.

17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

18 He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame,
but whoever heeds correction is honored.

19 A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but fools detest turning from evil.

20 He who walks with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm.

21 Misfortune pursues the sinner,
but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.

22 A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children,
but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous.

23 A poor man's field may produce abundant food,
but injustice sweeps it away.

24 He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

25 The righteous eat to their hearts' content,
but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry.

If you read Proverbs, it does talk quite a bit about money, wealth & the righteous.

Well it looks like it's time to start another day, this is a half-finished post, hopefully my desires won't overwhelm me today.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's about time Gary Coleman endorsed usury...

Borrowed from Get Rich Slowly - a great blog by the way.

If you missed the fine print there, there is 99.5% Interest rate on loans made from this company. SO basically your paying just about two dollars for every dollar you borrow? Who in the world would think this is a good interest rate? I guess I must continue to read the small print because they will get you otherwise.

In other news I just got a call from the 2nd job: they are cutting hours this week. I don't think this will completely throw off my goals. If they cut hours weeks on end it might be an issue though...

I am planning on doing laundry and grocery shopping tonight. Hopefully, it will be cost effective

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

[edited] recruiter annoyance

I was annoyed at a recruiter...not as much now as I did earlier today but, I wish she would just listen.

I work for a fairly well sized company and I'm trying to make a lateral or slightly vertical shift, away form my current position. I want to switch to a different specific department and unlike other departments - there appears to be only 1 recruiter for those types of positions.

I always send her my resume, a cover letter detailing the multitude of reasons why I would be a good fit for the position and she reluctantly calls me (or my boss) and tries to give the benefit of the doubt by giving me a 'screener interview' over the phone.

I can tell when I'm explaining myself she is just going out of her way to listen for reason's NOT to give me an in-person interview.

Of the 4 times I've applied, at least 2 of the positions have been listed as 'entry level'. When I talk to her on the phone though she says "well actually we're looking for 3 years of experience in 'ABC systems'"

When I tell her "I have the the 3 years experience in 'ABC systems'" she says "Well we're looking for 3 years of experience in ABC systems with a XYZ emphasis..."

She of course ended the conversation today by stating " I don't feel you have the right skill set...."

At this point I was frustrated because I love my company yet, HATE my job. I asked her point blank what I need to do in order to get an interview - she said 'get more experience' a general vague reference and I have a suspicion that experience is not the issue here - I have plenty.

Another problem is that we have no kind of rapport whatsoever I'm beginning to think this recruiter doesn't like me. I'm already beginning to dislike her.

I simply want to work in a less stressful position, with better pay so I can have some 'me-time' at some point during the week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Freedom from Financial Slavery - random ramblings

So after seeing that much anticipated documentary, whose name I won't list here ( because I think I've listed it quite enough - see below) I've gotten to thinking the last few days about the whole concept of financial slavery.

Credit cards seem to me to be the new "Masters" but from a financial perspective specifically. No hangings, whippings or maiming here but, from a financial and more or less from a psychological end there is definite sense of servitude there.

We work and work and work to get 'ahead' - 'Ahead' being a bigger house, nicer car, nicer clothes. However, with the long hours put in to pay off a bigger house, nicer car, and nicer clothes we never get a chance to enjoy our lives.

The book Your Money or Your Life comes to mind.

I'll borrow from a wise man and venture to say a majority of Americans work in jobs that they hate in order to keep up with and impress the 'Joneses' when in fact they don't even like the 'Joneses' that much anyway.

So in order to keep up they take out credit cards that finance their short-term wants and not their long-term needs. When the debt becomes excessive middle America, and those below the middle become more and more dependant on that paycheck that seems to pay for less and less of the 'necessities'.

In my opinion necessities include:
  • food
  • shelter
  • clothing
  • basic transportation.

To the average American though necessities include:
  • money to eat out at lunch and dinner every other meal or most meals
  • a large house with a security system, a playground for the kids, a gas-burning fireplace, basketball hoop and plenty of land for the dogs to roam (although you let them relieve themselves on the neighbors lawn)
  • cell phones along with a land-line home phone
  • Cable TV with at least 1 premium channel & Internet
  • Designer clothes for the kids lest they get beat up for not being 'cool'
  • two 5-year old or newer vehicles (1 most likely an SUV)
  • Vacation that requires plane tickets (blackberry in tow)
  • Two Words: Master's Degree
  • ...several other things I haven't thought of.
But after acquiring all of these 'necessities' that others see as 'luxuries' we are never satisfied. The TV tells about the new 'thing' we must have whether it be an I-phone or a video games system or the 'new-new' TV that allows us to zoom in on people's pores ( because what would we do if we didn't know how celebrity's maintained their pores?). We turn to the credit card or worse - our HELOC loan in order to keep 'hip & with it' while working longer hours just so we can be the one to host this year's super-bowl party.

As I approach "financial freedom' in a month or so here, I grow weary that my girlfriend, who appears to have adopted the American mindset of instant gratification extremely well, will influence me to adopt the instant gratification mindset again assuming we would get married.

I'll do my part though by tearing up credit card offers. After an $18,000 lesson from the school of hard knocks - I think the credit card 'Masters" have 'offered' me quite enough.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Part time business

I'm starting to think about starting a part-time web-based business with some friends.

Not sure where to begin but i have a feeling if we worked pretty hard in the front end we could reap the rewards in the back end.

I think Logistics will be the most difficult part. we shall see.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Budget for becoming debt free

I've been sitting around playing with Google spreadsheets for the last few hours and I think I may have completed my rough budget now. Assuming no other major obstacles - such as the unexpected $122 bill I just got, I will still be on track to be debt free by early August.

I've adjusted some of the figures to protect the innocent, but most of the budget is pretty much correct:

here's a copy if you'd like to take a peak:

Reggie's budget

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I'm no financial expert but, ...

I don't quite agree with this finance "expert"'s advice:

"Popular Advice You Shouldn't Take"

In Mr. Clements' above article he states the following advice is regularly given to young people and is incorrect

  1. AMASS CASH - (after reading the entire article this would be the main piece of advice I'd say keep) Mr. Clements states that by saving up for an emergency reserve one would automatically be neglecting their 401K plan in order to save up money. He states that an emergency reserve is 'unrealistic' for those starting out. Personally I don't think any financial expert has ever said point blank DON'T fund your 401k first. However after you're contributing at least SOMETHING to your 401K (assuming you do have a 401k plan at work & your company matches contributions) I believe it would definitely be important to start socking away some liquid money into a savings account or a money market fund in case of an unexpected emergency or job loss. saying it is 'unrealistic' for young people to save in both their 401k and their savings account shows that Mr. Clements has a weak opinion of young people to begin with. If something unexpected comes up and you need to raid your 401K (big NO NO) you will be either charged with a 10% penalty and/or taxed for taking a loan out on the money. It's always good to save even if it's 25-50 bucks a week/month.
  2. BUY BIG - Buy the biggest house possible. Mr. Clements states that purchasing the biggest house possible when you're young is fairly foolish (um, duh!) I'd like to know what financial expert ever suggested purchasing a home that you can't afford today but, MIGHT be able to afford later. I agree with Mr. Clements on this piece of advice to avoid but, honestly any financial expert that states you should just purchase the biggest house you can barely afford should be fired and stripped of the licenses immediately. In my opinion, your mortgage payment (or rent for that matter) should be no more than 25-30% (35% if you want to push it) of your after-tax income.
  3. GET A LIFE - As in life insurance. Mr. Clements states that those in their 20's have insurance agent's push cash-value life insurance on them when they don't really need it. Seeing as I used to sell insurance this is correct, Your insurance agent will attempt to sell you cash-value insurance policy such as Universal or Whole life insurance. First of all unless you have a spouse or children you don't really need life insurance. Second of all the whole point of LIFE insurance is that it is only paid when YOUR life ceases. It then is paid to your primary beneficiary - or the one who will BENEFIT from your DEATH. Assuming you do have a family, it might be better to get a 'term' life insurance policy for a specified amount of time. For example if you just took out a 30 year mortgage for say $200K it would be a good idea to buy a 30-year TERM policy with a benefit of say $300K or higher. This way if God-forbid you passed away your beneficiary (hopefully your spouse) would have the benefit of 300K paid to them so they can take care of the mortgage and have some left over to handle the lost income in the short term. Depending on what state you're in they may also offer Mortgage Life insurance that is directly linked to your mortgage and the policy ceases when you pay off or sell your house -depending on the policy.
  4. GO FOR GROWTH - younger people are told to invest heavily in stocks because having years from retirement, they can afford to risk more of their money. Mr. Clements suggests starting with 60% in stocks 40% in bonds. I personally HATE risk so any advice from me is most likely ill advised on stocks. I currently don't believe in investing anymore than 30% of my worth in stocks. Although the overseas stock funds (Southeast Asia specifically) have appeared to give pretty decent returns recently.
So overall I guess I agree with most of the points from this article however, it was the lead off point, debating the need to 'amass cash' that caught my attention. People in their 20's are pulled a million different directions and can one minute be sitting pretty with their new $50-60K a year job one moment - the next moment, out of a job and trying to pay a rent bill approaching $1K a month off a part-time job. It's always good to have some money left over in case of an emergency. That's my two cents - but if you're reading this maybe you have some better advice? What do you think? Let me know...

Lucky 7

It appears today being 7-7-07 is working thus far at least financially. I met up with two old friends from H.S. who are sisters. The younger sister - who has her MBA - took the opportunity to show off and pay our bill at the bar/coffee shop - I didn't make any objection.

Otherwise, I've been hopping all over town today...I'd really like to just chill for the rest of the night tonight. Tomorrow I have to work (again) and it's been way too hot outside, almost too hot to breath. Thank God I didn't skimp on the AC for this apartment.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Maxed Out: the review

To say I enjoyed this film would be an understatement.
To say I am enraged right now would also be an understatement.

Overall I would say this a great film, you should go out and buy it right now - however, it's most likely not at your local Blockbuster or at your local library.

Anyway before I get too far off track let me proceed with the review:

In my opinion there are about 5 main areas that Mr. Scurlock covers in his documentary
  1. Debt Collectors
  2. Credit Cards
  3. Bankruptcy/Foreclosure
  4. The new(old) two-tiered America
  5. America: Debtor Nation once again
First there are the Debt Collectors: Scurlock focuses in on enterprising businessmen in the greater Minneapolis metro area that buy past-due debt from larger companies for pennies on the dollar and then themselves attempt to collect the debt that these people generally are unable to pay. They attempt several different strategies to obtain payment on the debt from calling debtors neighbors in order to pass a message down the street to the debtor, to threatening a debtor their friends and family will be informed of previously unknown debt if they do not start making payments immediately.

Credit Cards are the main focus of this documentary. In particular, the big banks that prey specifically on those who cannot afford to pay their outstanding balance BUT, can afford to make the minimum payments and little else. One of my favorite snippets of the movie is when the Harvard Professor [Elizabeth Warren?](who is also my favorite interviewee) relates her experience giving a lecture/seminar to major bank who asked her to speak on the causes and solutions to Bankruptcy.

  • She explained in detail her findings and her main point was the fact that if Credit card companies would screen their more high risk applicants out a little bit better, 50% of the bankruptcies in America would immediately stop. There was a little bit of discussion amongst the bankers and after a while a hand in the back went up. The crowd of bankers quickly became silent and it was obvious that the man raising his hand was a superior of most in the room. Professor Warren asked the man for his question and he quickly spoke up and said "but Professor Warren, if we get rid of those 50% of customers that are 'high risk' we will also lose our most profitable client base." So in essence the uber-rich make their money off the backs of the [working] super-poor. ..sound familiar?
There are also examples of how credit cards devastated the lives of some young college students. Very much worth watching.

Scurlock focuses in on a few examples in this category. One is a widow who decided to pay her bills by using Cash Advances and is in danger of losing her house in the process. Another is a case of a presumably uneducated black mother in Mississippi and her mentally disabled son who received assistance from the loan representative signing his name on loan papers.

The new two-tiered America is actually something that is not that new. Credit cards and massive debt appears to be essentially another manifestation of the rich few having power and control over the poor & middle class masses. Before it was credit cards, it was Share cropping. Before sharecropping it was slavery. Before slavery there was serfdom. And so it goes through history - the fact that you are reading this right now makes it very likely you are not on the bad end of this timeless equation or at least are striving not to be.

The 5th and final Point that Scurlock brings up is the increasingly obvious fact that America is becoming more and more of a debtor nation. Scurlock interviews the daughter/granddaughter of the inventor of the National Debt clock [a smaller version of which, is attached to the right of this blog at the time of this post]. He shows old (at least 20+ year old) footage of Dan Rather announcing for the first time in quite a while (probably since slave days) America actually owes more to foreign countries than what we can possibly pay back anytime soon.

I'm not a complete history buff but, wasn't the last time everybody was living a gay life off credit right before the Great Depression which in turn eventually turned into World War II? Hopefully Depression II and WWIII will be the kinder gentler versions...

I'll leave you with this special message from My friend and yours...Mr. Money:

  • *One added note - Scurlock brings up one interesting fact(?) about a prior hero of mine - initials "S.O." "S." apparently has a contract with FICO (Fair Isaac) a company that works with the Experian credit bureau and that's why she is always mentioning your FICO score when there are also two other scores that are less mentioned: there is the Beacon score which is used by the Equifax credit bureau. There is also the Emprica score that is used by the Trans Union credit bureau. I knew there were two other scores since I used to work at a credit Bureau but I kept forgetting their names since FICO was sort of stamped into my head.

Happy hour cost $4.50, t-minus 10 minutes till MAXED OUT

So, the happy hour wasn't as much of dent to the budget as I was expecting...

A former boss stopped by to wish my friend 'Judith' well and she ended up paying for our first two rounds of drinks. Then I ended up getting some Mozzarella sticks at half-price that and free water. My total bill came to a whopping $3.50, being the generous man that I am I tipped the server $1 so the total came to $4.50. (or a 28% tip - that's right I'm 'tha big spenda')

With a little bit of liquor in me I was almost ready to go out and spend some more as I have a pocket full of cash ( that was meant to go into a Money Market today but never quite made it) However, fate would have that another friend I was going to hang out with 'Jack' & I never quite caught a hold of each other until I was a block away from my house and 99.8% sober.

Now instead, I'll prepare to watch my 2-week in the waiting DVD Maxed Out. Hopefully my over-anticipation of this DVD will not make my expectations of it unattainable. I'll soon find out...it's documentary time!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Just got paid, it's friday...morning

So I got paid from my primary job today.

I did some rudimentary calculations and determined that "Reggie" will be debt free on 8/3/07 - and verifiably [I guess it's not a word but I'm using it anyway] debt free (as in able to call the credit card company and hear an automated voice say "your current balance is zero dollars , your available credit is ..." ) as of 8/9/07 or so. That was a great feeling up until I got home and found a $122 bill that may throw me off until the 2nd pay period in August. Arrrgh [also not a word]!!!

I'm supposed to be heading on Vacation in August too and I was hoping it would be a debt-free journey to the wild west. I do have 2 possible sources of income that can throw me back on track:

  1. A lost/incorrectly deposited check from my 2nd job (for a little more than $150)
  2. A lost/not yet received tax return( for about $175) from the last of the 4 agencies I have to pay each year - living where I do. I did my taxes in February so I'm unsure what the tax man is doing...probably earning interest on it to help build bombs, arrest more black people or something constructive like that.
One bright spot of today, other than being paid my meager wage, was the purchase of Maxed Out Since I did have to work the 2nd job today I will watch the movie in its entirety tomorrow, after My good friend's happy hour - I'm shooting for no more than $20 spent at the happy hour but, when alcohol is involved that figure generally creeps upward.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July, now buy me a ring...

It's been a pretty low-key 4th of July today. I am holding off on spending anything until I get paid tomorrow so I've been lounging around the house, cleaning and reading blogs.

I checked out an old blog from Get Rich Slowly. The blog talks about the price of an engagement ring - which I may very well be looking for (and saving for) in the next few months.
Almost more interesting than the blog itself were the multiple responses.

Ironically, as I was perusing through the responses, My girlfriend called. Over the course of our conversation she mentioned how she would be 'really upset' if she weren't married and/or getting married by this time next year. She also mentioned how her adopted parents had asked if they should be expecting any wedding plans next summer.

We've been dating for just over a year but her family and friends happen to be ultra conservative and appear to think everyone should get engaged after 6 months or something. I love her, I really do but, man oh man the whining about a ring is starting to get on my nerves - I believe it also sucks any and all romance out of a proposal. Aren't girls supposed to be surprised by a unique proposal when they least expect it? That's how I always imagined it anyway...

I did want to get her a nice 1 ct ring - but this would require saving. Assuming I do pay off the debt in the next month & a half I figure I'll just get a decent ring and an OK diamond that may be replaced later down the road. I guess after reading up a little bit on engagement ring resale - it appears that It might not be the great investment I had originally thought.

I also am not too keen on promoting the African Diamond trade that, from what I hear, doesn't promote or help the Africans so much.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Oh no...I'm addicted

I have a very obsessive/addictive personality. I used to be addicted to TV, in College - drinking, then TV again, then working out, video games, now it appears I am clearly addicted ...to financial blogs.

I blame Make Love Not Debt most for this addiction. I was amazed, inspired, and enthralled by the fact that their initial debt a few years back was almost more than I've made in my ENTIRE life.
I became more inspired that since that time they have cut that debt by more half. Him and Her are both amusing and informative so it wasn't hard for me to get addicted.

Of course they have links to another great Financial Blog - Mapgirl's Fiscal Challenge which got me wise to whole Net worth Calculator thing. I can't tell you how great it was to see that my net worth is better than expected.

Mapgirl of course has links on her site to several great financial blogs.

For a while there I was thinking that I was the only black person (on the web anyway) who cared about personal finance. That is of course until I saw Mapgirl's link to Debt Hater's excellent blog. Boy was I wrong...This is definitely 1 sister who is concerned about the finances.

Then, while looking around on DH's blog I noticed a link to Single Ma's Fabulous Financials which proved me wrong, twice, about black people and money. Single Ma has her stuff together. I feel sorry for any car salesman that try and approach her with any type of assumption she might be uninformed or God-forbid financially un-savvy.

From Single Ma's cite I ran a cross Divorce to Financial Freedom
which in turn helped me locate Penny Foolish which I think might be my new favorite blog - a 23 yr old who lives in Ohio too and is doing incredible things with her finances.

SO I think I need counseling. The other day I mentioned to my girlfriend how I had rented some financial planning DVDs from the library. Much to her disgust, she said "I don't understand what another book or DVD on finances is going to do for you..." I guess It's time to admit I'm addicted. But what if I don't want to change?

Approaching 30 hours...

I am pretty darn happy about the fact that I was able to talk people into having a Happy-hour this Friday (after I get paid) instead of Today(when I have borrowed $100 from my Money Market) .

So I still have not spent a red cent...YES!

In other news I got a final(final, final) notice from Money magazine about my 'renewal instructions'. I have received about 5-8 notices from Money since my subscription ran out in March/April. I was holding out and holding out for a price similar to what I signed up for -$10 for a year.

The previous renewal offers were for $19 then they dropped down to $14.95 for the year, this most recent renewal offer came to 10.95 - but after reviewing the fine print it is only for 10 months, not the full year term I was shooting for.

I will probably end up going with an offer I received from one of Money's sister magazine's; FORTUNE - they offered the full year for $10 along with 13 extra 'bonus' issues. Overall, I think it's a much better offer, hopefully though they'll refrain from sending fake 'past due' notices if I decide not to renew.

That's exactly what another financial magazine sent me after I intentionally let my subscription lapse after a year, - I was none too pleased to get a 'past due' notice when I already paid for what I wanted; 1-year of the financial magazine no more no less. I'm curious if the magazine company was breaking any laws by labeling the mail as 'past due', 'overdue', etc...but a 2nd phone call to the company quickly ceased the junk mail.