December 31, 2008

2009 Goals

Since we are on the eve of the new year, I thought it would be appropriate to post our goals for 2009. I’m not sure what to expect in 2009, but we have great hopes. Below are a few of our goals for 2009.

1) Increase net worth to $75,600
This should be doable if we are able to hit most of the goals below.
2) Wife to get a new job
Ideally, my wife will get a job in the same industry as her last job and receive similar benefits, such as a company car and matching 401(k). How long the job search takes will determine whether or not we are able to hit our other goals.
3) Increase savings account balance to $20,000
Our saving account balance is currently just over $15,000, but this goal will be harder than it looks. Some of our current savings is earmarked for property taxes, income taxes, and a vacation to Hawaii in 2009.
4) Max out Roth IRAs ($5,000 each)
We missed this goal in 2008, but I hope we can bounce back in 2009.
5) Contributing at least 5% of income to company 401(k)
This is already set on autopilot, so I don’t see a problem reaching this goal.
6) Decrease debt by $8,000
This should be an easy goal, if we are able continue paying down our debt at the same rate as last year.
7) Draft wills
We’ve been putting this off for awhile, but will make it a priority in 2009.

So, we’ve got some pretty challenging goals for 2009. God willing, the economy will start to turn around and help us all reach our goals. Have a safe and Happy New Year!

December 30, 2008

2008 Net Worth Recap

2008 was a great year, even with the very rough economy. Below is a table compiling our net worth data for 2008 (click on table to enlarge). Some highlights from 2008 include:

  • We increased our net worth from $23,873.25 to $ 42,083.69. We missed our net worth goal of $47,800.00 by $5,716.31, but still made good progress.
  • We increased our savings account balance from $4,629.57 to $15,651.73. This cash will help provide us some security while my wife looks for a new job.
  • We contributed $6,250.00 total to our Roth IRAs. We had hoped to max out our Roth IRA contributions ($5,000 each), but boosting our savings became a priority instead.
  • We contributed $4,797.69 total to our 401(k) plans. No real target here, just wanted to continue adding to it.
  • We reduced our debt from $374,466.21 to $347,279.48. Over 1/2 of this reduction was from selling Car 1.

We have great hopes for 2009. I will be posting our 2009 goals very soon.


December 23, 2008

December 2008 Net Worth Update (+6,906.48)

Since we will be traveling for the holidays, I am posting our December net worth a bit early.

Our net worth in December increased $6,906.48 over last month to $42,083.69 (click on spreadsheet below). This is one of our strongest monthly increases yet and is a nice change from the decrease in our net worth over the last 3 months. Unfortunately, even with this very strong month, we came up $5,716.31 short of our 2008 net worth goal of $47,800. All things considered, with this economy, that's not too bad. We reached 88.04% of our goal for the year.

What worked
We contributed a total of $1,198.50 to our 401(k)s and Roth IRAs. We also deposited a whopping $4,357.40 into our savings account, thanks mainly to my wife's $3,544.00 quarterly bonus ($2,028.95 net).

What did not work
Nothing I could find. December was a good month.

Next month
My wife received notice that December 31st will be her last day of employment. Therefore, we don't expect to be able to increase our net worth much, if any, in January. She has already had a successful day of interviewing with another company and has been networking to find a new job. With my paychecks, her unemployment checks, and a bit of baby sitting money, we shouldn't have to pull any money out of savings for quite a few months.

December 22, 2008

The Carnival of Personal Finance #184: From the Land Down Under

Andy at Saving To Invest just did a great job hosting the The Carnival of Personal Finance #184: From the Land Down Under. As the title hints, this carnival had a fun "Aussie" theme. Check it out when you have a chance. My post The Unemployment Rate Just Went Up A Tad was included in the carnival. Thanks Andy!

December 20, 2008

Bonus Check Arrived

Just a quick note to let everyone know that my wife just received her $3,544.00 quarterly bonus. Bonuses are heavily taxed, so it ended up being $2,028.95 net. We're tithing some of it and putting the rest in the bank for a nice boost to our savings account. Even though her last day with the company is December 31st, she will still receive another quarterly bonus in March for the work she has done up to this point.

December 17, 2008

Working To Increase Our Savings

With my wife's lay off come January 1st, and my company not doing so red hot, we decided to sell our 15 shares of Toyota Motor Corporation stock and add the money to our savings account.

We purchased the stock at $65/share on November 11th and sold for $68.16/share today. Because of a promotion E*TRADE is having, we did not have to pay the $12.99 fee to buy or sell, so we made $47.40 in 37 days. That's almost double the interest we earned last month on the ~$10K in our savings account.

In better economic times, I would have liked to hold out for a larger return, but it's nice to be able to add this money to our savings account for now.

December 16, 2008

A Little Breathing Room

I spoke with boss today about my wife being laid off and my concerns about decreasing sales at my company. He agreed that things are bad and said there will likely be another reduction in workforce in January or February. Thankfully, he told me that I am a core manager and would be one of the last people let go.

We discussed other areas I can contribute while the product line I manage is in the dumps. I was very encouraged to learn that I have a bit more job security than I had thought, although my boss was careful to say that nothing in this world is guaranteed. If we do have another layoff in the next couple of months, my boss indicated that we may also go to a 4 day work week with a 20% reduction in pay. That would be tough, especially with my wife on unemployment, but it's still doable and better than the alternative.

Oh, and in other good news, my wife already has a job interview lined up for Thursday. What a blessed day!

December 8, 2008

The Unemployment Rate Just Went Up A Tad

My wife was informed this morning that her last day with her company will be December 31st. We were expecting it, but now it is real.

She is already on top of the search for a new job having updated her resume and cover letter last week and requested letters of recommendation. She even applied to a few companies over the weekend and updated her profile on job search websites.

We’ve begun taking a look at were we can dramatically reduce our monthly expenses and have started gathering information on unemployment. My wife has a few vacation days that she will cash in before her last day. More importantly, my wife found out on Friday that she will receive a $3,544 quarterly bonus on 12/15. Thank God for his perfect timing. She also learned that she will receive another quarterly bonus in March, even though she will not be with the company.

With ~$450/week for employment and earning the rare buck or two baby sitting our neighbors child, we shouldn’t have to pull any money from savings for quite some time.

There’s a lot happening right now, I’ll keep you posted.

December 4, 2008

November 2008 Income Statement

We did a great job of keeping our standard monthly expenses very low in November (click on spreadsheet below). We spent a total of $6,910.14, but $2,331.14 of that was for non-standard expenses including $745 for 12 months of auto insurance, $439 for 12 months of condo insurance, and $1,169.14 for property taxes (1st of 2 payments).

In addition to our regular paychecks, I sold back 4 days of vacation to my company for $870.43 We also earned $225 in cash back rewards, sold our 15 shares of Toyota stock for $260.52 gain, and my wife received a $30.00 reimbursement from her company. The interest income of our E*TRADE savings account was $26.24.Next month, my wife should receive her quarterly bonus of at least $1,500 and I will be receiving a 3rd “extra” paycheck next month. Both will be deposited into savings. My wife should find out in mid December if her position will be eliminated at her company. If so, her last day will likely be December 31st. Because of this, we plan to keep our Christmas expenses down this year.

December 1, 2008

November 2008 Net Worth Update (-$121.89)

Ouch, another down month for our net worth, but not by much. It decreased $121.89 from October to $35,177.21 (click on spreadsheet below).

What worked:
We both still have our jobs, even with my company laying off 15% of its employees in October. We were able to deposit $715 into our savings account, but pulled $1,169.14 out for our condo tax payment. Thankfully, this was a planned expense that we have been saving a little for each month. We sold our 15 shares of Toyota Motor Corporation (ticker TM) stock for $82/share, a 26% gain after holding it only 19 days. We purchased another 15 shares of the stock when it dropped back to $65/share the next day and are still holding it.

What did not work:
Once again, our retirement accounts declined. We were down $518.56 from last month, even though we contributed a total of $1,013 to our 401(k)s and Roth IRAs this month.

Next month:
My wife will learn more about her employment situation in mid-December. Her company is having a big shake-up, and it’s possible that her position will be eliminated. We’re prepared, but please pray for us that this does not happen.

November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Thank God for all of the blessings that we have and the great country that we live in.

November 25, 2008

Severance Package

After returning to work from my business trip, I found out that my company ended up laying off 7 employees (1 more than my manager told me). I was surprised by a couple of the employees chosen for the reduction in force, especially a woman who had been with the company for nearly 20 years and appeared to be a hard worker.

It's never a good time to be let go, but right before Thanksgiving has to be one of the harder times of the year to lose your job. Many companies operate on a skeleton crew during the holiday season because everyone is on vacation. I have to think this is not an ideal interviewing time, especially with the unemployment rates increasing because of the economic downturn. I hope they are able to find new jobs quickly.

I learned that the employees were given 1 week of severance for each year of employment. Should the worst ever happen to me, it's comforting to know that I may get the same package. That would be ~7-1/2 weeks of severance for me. I’m going to work my tail off to ensure that it never comes to that though. God willing.

November 23, 2008

Over 100,000 Frequent Flyer Miles

I just returned from a business trip to Europe. Professionally and personally, the trip was amazing and such a blessing. I met a number of new European contacts and it appears that there may be a great deal of opportunity in countries where our products currently have little or no exposure. In my free time, I visited the Van Gogh Museum (my 2nd time) and Anne Frank House. These are must sees when in The Netherlands.

I'm also excited about the 25,168 frequent flyer miles I earned during the trip. If my wife and I are both able to keep our jobs through this rough economy, we plan to go to Hawaii for vacation in 2009. After my trip to Europe, we now have a total of 117,139 frequent flyer miles, enough for 2 free round trip tickets to Hawaii.

November 21, 2008

Saved On Verizon

My wife is so great at saving us money. She saved us ~19%/month on our Verizon wireless bill by utilizing her company's corporate discount. While updating the account, she also determined that I was eligible for a free new phone this month (which I badly needed). She should start a blog called 1womansmoney. . . I'd subscribe.

November 16, 2008

Well Rewarded

We just reached our $300 cash back reward maximum for the year on Citi credit card. We did a good job of charging as many expenses as possible to this card to earn the 1-3% cash reward.

For the rest of the calendar year, we'll be switching to our American Express reward credit card, which we typically only use for Costco. Switching to this card for a couple of months will be a bit inconvenient, but I hate the thought of giving up free money.

November 14, 2008

1st Layoffs At My Company

I will be on a business trip in Europe next week, so my boss took me to lunch today to let me know that our company will be laying off 6 employees next Friday. We’re a small company, so this represents 15% of our employees. They are basically cutting one employee from each department. I did not find out who will be let go, but was assured it won't be me or my sales representative.

To survive during this tough economic time, my company is going to continue to dramatically reduce expenses. The Owner of the company has recently quit taking a paycheck, and my boss and our controller took a 20% reduction in pay. If things keep getting worse, my company may move to a 4 day work week and ask all employees to take a 20% cut in pay. Quite frankly, I'd much prefer that to loosing my job.
I feel bad knowing that some of my co-workers/friends are going to be out of a job next week. I thank God that I made it thru this first cut and hope my company is able to get through these tough times.

On a related note, my wife’s company will be having a big shake-up in December. Her boss, who has been with the company 23 years, has already been informed that his position will no longer exist. He was able to find a rep position to move to in the company in December, but new employees, like my wife, won’t know where they stand until December.

These are scary times. In addition to praying for our companies and jobs, we’ve cut expenses and tried to bolster our savings. It looks like we should plan to tighten our belts a bit further.

November 12, 2008

Bought More Toyota Stock

After selling our 15 shares of Toyota Motor Corporation stock (ticker TM) for a 26% gain in 19 days, we’ve been eagerly waiting to buy back in.

Well, on Tuesday we got our chance to pick up another 15 shares when the stock dropped to $65/share. Since we bought, it’s come down to ~$62/share, but I’m confident it will work its way back up.

Our goal will be to sell when it hits ~$85/share.

November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day to my Dad and all of the vets out there!

My Dad joined the Army as a young man and was the first recruit in Los Angeles to earn a perfect score on his entrance exam. I remember as a kid looking thru my Dad’s boot camp photo album at the photos of them firing rifles, throwing grenades, and crawling through obstacle courses. That was back when they really fired live ammo over your head as you crawled in mud under barbed wire. Because of my Dad’s high test scores, he served on an intelligence team in Japan & Korea during the Korean War. He lived the kind of stuff you see in spy movies, except if a mission was compromised, he or one of his team members could have been killed.

Serving in the military is very tough work that most of us regular citizens could never handle. Often times, we don’t have a clue of the sacrifices they make to protect our freedom. We should thank your vets and troops every chance we get. This Toby Keith song American Soldier is dedicated to you: American Soldier video

Thanks Dad for what you did for our country!

November 6, 2008

Sold Our 15 Shares of Toyota Motor Corporation

We sold our 15 shares of Toyota Motor Corporation yesterday morning for $82.81/share. Not too bad considering we bought it for $63.71/share just 19 days prior. We ended up made $260.67 after subtracting $12.99 for purchasing the stock and $12.99 for selling the stock.

Toyota's stock started dropping shortly after we sold and today hit a low of $64.80/share. So, we put in a buy request for 15 shares at $61/share. Unfortunately, it never got that low, but there's always tomorrow.

November 5, 2008

Good Drivers Really Do Pay Less

After we sold my truck, I took over my wife's car since she now has a company vechicle. When I called for an insurance quote a couple of months ago, AAA told it would be $1,157 for 12 months of coverage on the car.

I received my bill from AAA, but it was for much less than I expected. I spoke to one of the AAA agents and it turns out that I had an accident on my record, but it recently came off. So, they reduced my 12 months of auto insurance coverage by $434, to $723. What a blessing.

November 1, 2008

October 2008 Income Statement

While our net worth in October dropped considerably, our expenses for the month were pretty low (click on spreadsheet below). We spent a total of $ 6,165.89, which is good, especially considering we splurged on a $301.69 vacuum robot and a $196.18 hotel room for my wife while she was in Vegas.

Our incomes this month were pretty standard. In addition to our paychecks, my wife received a $90.00 reimbursement from her company and we earned a $25 cash reward from our HSBC credit card. The interest income of our E*TRADE savings account was $29.30.

Next month, our incomes will be standard but we have some large expesnses: a $1,157 annual auto insurance bill, $439 condo insurance bill, and a $1,169.14 property tax bill. We plan to cash in 5 of my vacation days to cover most of the two annual insurance bills and pull money out of savings to pay the property tax bill. Some of our other expenses should be lighter next month because I will be out of town ½ of the month.

October 31, 2008

October 2008 Net Worth Update (-$3,598.11)

As with most people, October was another brutal month for our net worth. It decreased $3,598.11 from last month to $35,299.10, a 9.25% drop (click on spreadsheet below).

What worked:
We both still have our jobs. Seriously, with unemployment at 7.7% in California, we are blessed to be working. We deposited $661 into our savings account and subsequently pulled $1,000 out of saving to open a stock trading account. We purchased 15 shares of Toyota Motor Corporation (ticker TM) for $63.71/share It is currently trading at $76.09/share.

What did not work:
Our retirement accounts declined by $4,536.50, even though we contributed a total of $1,513 to our 401(k)s and Roth IRAs. No big deal, we’re not touching this money for 20+ years. I’m glad we were able to put some extra money toward retirement while the market is cheap.

Next month:
We have a couple of big annual bills due next month: $1,157 for auto insurance, $439 for condo insurance, and $1,169.14 for property taxes. We should be able to cover most of the insurance bills by cashing in 5 days of my vacation and the property tax bill will come out of savings. I will also be out of town ½ of November on business, so our food and gas should be below budget.

October 27, 2008

We Bought A Robot

We decided to take advantage of technological advancements and purchased an iRobot Vacuum Cleaning Robot from Costco for $279.

This thing is as neat as it sounds. You input a cleaning schedule and it crawls around the house daily vacuuming the carpet and travertine. We were amazed how much more stuff the robot picks up because it can reach under places we can’t get to with the vacuum. It even has a side brush that reaches into corners to remove dirt, hair, etc. Another cool feature is that it comes with two small towers that serve as virtual walls. The vacuum will not pass the invisible beam emitted from the tower. We found out how important this can be when we left our front door open and the robot scaled the door jam and cruised down our sidewalk. Thankfully, my wife caught it before it ventured too far. This thing even finds its way back to its docking station to recharge once its done vacuuming. How cool is that?

My wife has bad allergies and our dog shed quite a bit, so it’s important to keep our place well vacuumed. The iRobot is a great time saver and actually does a better job vacuuming than we do.

We want to do a better job of taking advantage of technology, especially technology that saves us time. Another thing my wife and I have begun doing is watching some of our favorite TV shows online because there are no commercials. In a 30 minute program, that saves us 8 minutes or so in commercials.

Next up, a car that drives itself so I can blog on the way to work.



October 18, 2008

Bought Some Stock

With the market beaten down pretty bad, we figure now is a perfect time for us to buy some individual stock with a little "play money".

We took $1,000 out of savings and opened an E*TRADE stock trading account. My wife and I have had our eyes on a few stocks, but ended up choosing Toyota Motor Corporation (ticker TM) because we feel it is a strong company and will likely recover nicely when the economy turns around. We purchased 15 shares of Toyota on Thursday for $63.71/share. In the last month, it dropped from right around $90/share to its current price of $67.10/share. 12 months ago, it was at around $114/share.

We'll see where it goes from here. With the volitliy of the market, I’m sure it will shoot above and below our purchase price. We hope to take some profits if it works its way back up to $90/share.

October 17, 2008

Update On My Friend Who Pulled $100K Out Of The Market

My post regarding my friend who pulled $100,000 out of his investments when the Dow plummeted last week received a lot of comments. Therefore, I felt an update was warranted.

I spoke with my friend yesterday and it turns out that he reinvested the money almost immediately. He might have lost a few bucks, but the bulk of the money is back in the stock market. Obviously, I was really happy that he made that decision. We ended up having a pretty good talk about money. I appologized for butting my head into his business, but he understood that I'm just trying to help and he said he appricated it. I reminded him that having this much invested at his age puts him ahead of the curve and that it's going to be worth a boatload when he needs it for retirement in 20-30 years.

Thanks to everyone that commented on the original post. As always, I appreciate the input and feedback.

October 16, 2008

One Advantage Of The Depressed Housing Market

Last year, we were able to get our property tax reduced $767.20 by simply filling out a one page Property Tax Assessment Appeals Application.This year, we had planned to complete another application because our property value decreased again.

To our surprise, the County Tax Assessor’s office automatically reduced our property taxes this year by $578.52. We didn't have to file any application. Our property taxes went from $2,916.80 (two payments of $1,458.40) to $2,338.28 (two payments of $1,169.14).

Man, I was impressed with the County Tax Assessor’s office when dealing with them last year, but now I am really impressed.

October 14, 2008

In A Panic, My Friend Pulled $100K Out Of The Market

My best friend inherited $100,000 when we were in college over 10 years ago. He blew through the money quickly and ended up with nothing to show for it. A couple of years ago, he received a 2nd inheritance of ~$160,000 and swore not to make the same mistakes. He immediately worked with a financial planner, investing $100,000 and depositing the remainder into a savings account.

During our conversations over the past couple of years, I got the impression that he was slowly spending the money in his savings account. Since he is in between jobs and will not likely receive another inheritance, I was worried, but knew that he at least had the $100K invested in a diversified portfolio. Whenever we spoke about money, I reminded him that, if he leaves his investments alone, he will be set when he retires.

Last week, he called to let me know after the Dow plummeted, he freaked out and pulled all of the money out of his investments. I explained to him that it was only a paper loss until he pulled the money out and that with his timeframe to retirement (25-30 years) it doesn’t matter what the market does short term.

It’s tough to see a good friend make such a huge mistake. I’m half convinced that he is going to deposit the money into his savings account and slowly bleed it dry. Because he’s like family, I’ve got to talk some sense into him. I’m going to call him back this week to encourage him to reinvest the money and leave it alone (no matter what the market does short term).

October 7, 2008

Blood On The Streets

Wow, I just checked our retirement accounts after having not looked at them for 1 week and they dropped a total of another $3,000. So, we did what any sensible young couple would do and contributed $500 into our Roth IRAs.

I like this quote from William Bernstein, author of "The Four Pillars of Investing":

"A young person saving for retirement should get down on his knees and pray for a market crash, so that he can purchase his nest egg at fire sale prices."

I don't really want to see a market crash, but when there is blood on the streets, we're buying!

October 2, 2008

September 2009 Income Statement

While our net worth dropped $3,310.51 in September, we nevertheless did a good job of keeping our expenses down (click on spreadsheet).

Our total expenses were $6,894.11, surprisingly low considering we purchased a new table and chairs ($329), paid off the balance of Car 1 so we could sell it ($600), and had to have some plumbing work done ($75).

In addition to our regular paychecks, we were able to pull in other income of $265.01 this month from two credit card rewards, a small refund check, and my wife's reimbursement. Our interest income for September was $29.06.

Next month should be a low expense month since I will be on business travel for two weeks.

October 1, 2008

September 2009 Net Worth Update (-$3,310.51)

It will be interesting to see how many blogger’s actually saw an increase in their net worth in September. It was a very rough month, and our net worth took a huge $3,310.51 drop to $38,897.21. On the bright side, long term, the depressed stock market should help put our investments that much further ahead when it comes time to retire, since we’re buying everything “on sale” right now.

What worked:
We finally sold Car 1 (my truck). This will allow us to save an additional $293/month in car payments. It was a blessing to sell the truck before the economy gets any worse.

What did not work:
Our retirement accounts (401k’s and Roth IRAs) were hit hard, going down a combined $2,660.13 since last month, even though we contributed a total of $713 in September. We also pulled money out of savings to pay off Car 1, since we sold it at a loss. We’ve slipped off track for hitting our 2008 net worth goal of $47,800 in December. We’re going to work hard to achieve the goal, but if the market remains depressed, we may miss by a couple thousand dollars.

Next month:
October should be a low expense month. We don’t have any large bills due and I will be out of town for 2 weeks so our fuel and food expenses should be less. We’re going to work on stockpiling more cash in the coming months to give us more of a cushion during this economic uncertainty.

September 17, 2008

Credit Scores Creeping Up

I neglected to mention that I ordered an Equifax credit report for my wife and myself last month. I had meant to run our credit reports more often, but have totally neglected this. Thankfully, the reports came back without any issues.

I also ordered our credit scores. Mine was 780 and my wife's was 764. We have been able to steadily increase our scores to the current level (click on the tables below to see our current and previous scores). The only reason my wife's score is lower than mine is because she does not have enough credit history.

I hope to run our reports with the Experian and TransUnion in the next 6-8 months.

My credit score history:

My wife's credit score history:

September 8, 2008

Stock Options Package

The company I work for split into two companies a couple of years ago and both are still privately owned by the same person. Since the split, the Owner has hinted that some key people in management may receive stock options down the road.

My company has provided stock options in the past, but not while I have been with them. The recent splitting of the organization resulted in a new Board of Directors and a fresh look at offering a stock option plan. I found out last week that seven of us received a stock options package that will go into effect next September.

I was provided a large packet explaining how the program works and that I can exercise the option to buy up to 16 shares a year (beginning 9/1/09) for 5 years at $1/share. The current value of each share is $500. So, I can obtain up to $8,000 worth of stock each year for only $16.

Historically, when shareholders have left the organization, the company has bought out their shares at the current book value. There’s even been a couple of cases of existing employees selling shares back to the company at a slight discount to get access to the money. In fact, my old GM sold back almost $200K of his shares last year because he wanted to remold his home.

I’m really happy that my company included me on this opportunity, not only for the financial gain, but also because it’s nice to know my hard work is appreciated. This is another piece in the puzzle to reach our early retirement goal in ~19 years.

September 6, 2008

No More Truck

We've finally sold my truck!

We negotiated with the buyer on a price of $12,600. Less than the $12,999 we wanted, but we were eager to quit wasting time. We’ve had four previous offers on the truck and all flaked out. It was starting to eat up more time that I had planned. In addition, the truck was smogged 2 months ago because we thought we had a guy that was serious about buying it. Since the smog certificate is only good for 3 months, we were working against the clock. Our 8 week ad on AutoTrader.com was also about to expire. It would have cost us ~$100 to get another smog certificate and place a 2nd ad on Auto Trader.

We had to pull $640 out of savings to pay off the balance we owed, but with the truck finally sold, we can begin saving an additional $293/month that was going to the truck loan.

Now, our only debt is our condo mortgages, 1 auto loan, and 1 student loan.

September 5, 2008

Great Deal On A Dinning Table

Once again, my wife hooks us up. We’ve wanted a new dinning table for awhile, but have been waiting until we could buy one that was nice enough to take with us when we get a house down the road. She found a beautiful wood table that regularly costs $500, on sale for only $250. The table includes a couple of leaves, so we can scale the size up when we get a house. The 4 wood chairs she picked out were normally $120 each, but they were marked down over half price.

Unfortunately, there was a mix-up at the store and they neglected to load one of the boxes for the table. After getting home, my wife discovered the error and called the store to ask that they deliver the box at no charge since it was their mistake. The store offered to discount the table further, if she would be willing to come back to pick up the box. She agreed and picked up the final box.

What started off as a table and chair set that cost $1,000+ (with tax), was discounted down to $324 (tax included). What a bargin!

September 2, 2008

August 2008 Income Statement

August was our 2nd lowest month of expenses in this year (click on spreadsheet below). My wife was out of town 2-1/2 weeks for business and I was out of town 1 week for business; all of this business travel helped save us some money. While my wife was out of town, I was able to use her company car and gas card, saving us $125-$150 in gas.

We had another strong income month, which is especially nice when combined with a low expense month. My wife earned an "extra" third check this month as well as a $236.16 commission from her old company. We also received a $200 wedding gift that was totally unexpected, but appreciated, since we have been married a couple of years. With our savings account balance rising, we’re starting to see an increase in interest income; this month we earned $28.05 in interest income.

Next month my wife may receive her 1st quarterly bonus, although if she receives anything, it will be a much smaller bonus than what she can expect down the road. We should also earn cash rewards from our Citi credit card and HSBC credit card. The only major expense planned is a few hundred dollars for a new kitchen table and chairs.

August 30, 2008

August 2008 Net Worth Update (+$3,434.28)

August was another good month for our net worth. It increased $3,434.28 from last month to a new total of $42,207.72.

What worked:
I received my annual company profit sharing this month to the tune of $730.72, my wife received an "extra" third paycheck, my wife's 6% 401(k) contribution (with a 25% match) began this month and we contributed a total of $400 to our Roth IRAs.

What did not work:
We still have not been able to sell my truck, but otherwise, no complaints.

Next month:
September should be a pretty straight forward month. We have not large expenses forecast or any extra money coming in. Actually, I take that back. There is a chance that my wife may receive her first quarterly bonus from her company, but it will likely be a fraction of what she can hope to receive after she has been in the field awhile.


August 19, 2008

What A Difference A Year Makes

Last August, I posted about how our financial situation had significantly changed for the better from two years prior. What’s interesting about that post is that 10 days later, my wife was laid off from her job and we faced a potentially challenging time. Less than a week after being laid off, we were blessed with her receiving a new job, saving us from what could put our financial situation in dire straits.

Well, now I’d like to take a look at August 2007 compared to August 2008 (see below). Again, we’ve been greatly blessed and have seen our financial picture improve more than we could have even hoped. We’ve continued to increase our retirement investments and improve our savings. We’ve also eliminated our credit card debt and improved our salaries. Another major change from last year is that my wife now has another new job in a field that she is truly passionate about. Her new job has so many benefits, I can’t list them all here. The short list is company car and gas card, 401(k) with company match, and cell and internet reimbursements. What you can’t see in the breakdown below is that her annual bonus should be ~$20,000!

August 17, 2008

Net Worth Milestone - $40,000

We passed a net worth milestone of $40,000! When we hit our last net worth milestone of $30,000 in April, I thought we could hit $40,000 by October. It looks like we beat that guess by 2 months.

As of today, our net worth is $41,489.62. Helping us break $40K this month was a $900 deposit to our savings account from my Wife's "extra" third paycheck and a $730.72 company profit sharing contribution to my 401(k). We are on pace to meet our net worth net worth goal for the year of $47,800.

August 15, 2008

Throwing Money Away. . .

. . .into our savings account! We deposited another $900 today into our E*Trade savings account with money from my wife's "extra" third check this month. This deposit puts our total E*Trade savings account balance at $10,918.89. The funds in this account are a combination emergency fund/future house downpayment.

Received My Profit Sharing

Good news, a $730.72 company profit sharing contribution was deposited into my 401(k) account today.

With the poor economy, my company only contributed $12K total to the plan this year, much less than last year. Therefore, I knew I would not be receiving the $3K that they gave me last year. Nonetheless, I was happy to relieve 6% of the total they contributed to profit sharing this year. There are close to 40 employees in the company, so I feel like I received more than my fair share.

I'm fully vested, so 100% of the money is ours, although we won't be touching it for 20+ years.

August 13, 2008

Almost Profit Sharing Season

My company's annual profit sharing contribution should process in the next week or two. I am anxiously waiting to see what my share will be.

Most of the years I have been with the company, my share of the annual profit sharing has been ~$500. Last year was my 7th year with the company and my first full year as a Sales Manager. I was surprised to see my profit sharing jump to $3,005.63. I don't expect to receive that much this year because of the challenging economy that we're in, but I still hope to get a nice little boost to my 401(k).

I'll keep you posted.

August 7, 2008

Enjoying the Wife's New Company Car

My wife is currently out of town training for her new job on the East Coast. She'll be gone a total of 2-1/2 weeks. I miss her a lot, but driving her new company car is helping me pass the time.

My wife has an extra $10/month taken out of her pay to allow me to drive her company car (what a deal, huh?). So while she is out of town, I'm getting to use it a lot. It's a great looking new car with only 70 miles on it. In fact, I've already received a couple of complements on it (too bad it's not mine).

Not only does driving her company car while she is out of town save us the cost of fuel and wear and tear on my car, the XM satellite radio it came with makes driving much more fun.

August 4, 2008

July 2008 Income Statement

We earned a total of $13,763.08 in July, by far our largest income month yet (click on spreadsheet below). Over 30% of this came from a huge $4,427.74 commission my wife received from her old company. The balance was a combination of my wife began receiving paychecks from her new better paying job, my third "extra" paycheck, $292.17 from my wife's company in reimbursements, and $19.81 in interest income.

In addition to this great income month, we were able to keep our expenses pretty well inline. I cost us a $250 because I hurt my ear and have to have surgery. Our phone bill also jumped up because we added a phone for my wife with many minutes because she needs it for work. Thankfully, her company reimburses her $60/month for a cell phone, so most of the added costs are covered. Our gas & electric bill jumped over 40% because we have been using our air conditioning quite a bit (my fault). I'm going to be more careful with running it only when needed.

In August, my wife will receive a third "extra" check and possibly even another small commission check from her old company. My wife will also be out of town for a 2-1/2 week training program. While she is gone, I get to drive her company car and save gas money.

July 28, 2008

July 2008 Net Worth Update (+$5,309.10)

As I had hoped, July was a great turnaround month for our net worth. It increased $5,309.10, to $38,773.44. That's a 15.86% increase from last month (click on spreadsheet below).

What worked:
The biggest impact in July came from my wife's huge $4,427.74 commission check from her old job. In addition, my wife began her new better paying job and I received a third "extra" paycheck. All of these funds allowed us to increase our cash and savings balance to $10,299.08, even after withdrawing $1,079.86 from savings to pay down Car 1 in anticipation of selling it (the deal feel thru).

What did not work:
Once again, our retirement accounts were down from the previous month. We contributed a total of $606.50 to our retirement accounts this month, but still saw our retirement account totals reduced by $684.62 over the previous month.

Next month:
Next month, my wife's 6% 401(k) contribution (and 25% company match) should kick in. She also will receive a third "extra" check, allowing us to boost our savings even more. God willing, we hope to sell my truck next month since it is not being used.


July 21, 2008

Want To Buy A Car, Or Maybe A Truck?

Since my wife's new company provides her a company car, we had planned to sell her car. Unfortunately, because we bought her car new and it is only 2 years old, we would be upsidedown ~$3,500 if we tried to sell it. So, we decided to put my truck up for sale instead.

It makes sense for us to keep her car - it gets much better gas mileage than the truck, has 25K fewer miles, and is 5 years newer. We also just put new brakes on it. The car payments are $157/month more than the truck and insurance is $29/month more, but we should make most of this up in the gas savings alone.

The first day I put the truck up for sale, I had a gentleman come by and make an offer. I accepted, had the truck smogged, paid down the loan to the amount we agreed upon and contacted him to complete the DMV paperwork. When I got a hold of him, he told me his wallet was stole and needed more time. Since we know some of the same people, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but he flaked and has not called me back since. Lesson learned: Get a deposit before jumping thru hoops.

It's a tough time to sell a truck. Thankfully, it's a V6, which isn't great with the current gas prices, but at least it's not a V8.

July 16, 2008

Wife's Final Commission Check

My wife received her final commission check from her old company and it was her largest by far, even larger than we thought it would be: $4427.74! This will have a huge impact on our goals and is such a blessing. We are going to tithe 20% of the check ($885.55), save 25% for taxes ($1,106.94), deposit $2,000.00 into our savings account, and leave the $435.25 balance in our checking account. As usual, the 25% for taxes will be deposited in our savings account until April.

In addition to this awesome commission check, I received an "extra" paycheck this month so we are depositing another $1800 into our savings account from that. By the end of the month, our savings account should be just shy of $10,000.

Since the economy seems to continue to worsen, we have shifted our 2nd mortgage payment plan to a house deposit savings plan. Rather than put our extra cash towards the 2nd mortgage principle, where it cannot be accessed in an emergency, we have decided to just save for a house deposit, providing us with an every increasing emergency fund until we buy.

I hate the idea of paying 8.55% on our 2nd mortgage, but in tough times, cash is king.

July 13, 2008

First Paycheck

My wife's received her first paycheck from her new company. It was for $1,629.53, quite a bit more than the $1,109.48/paycheck she used to earn at her old company.

This first paycheck did not have any of her benefits deducted, so it was larger than what she will typically receive. Health insurance deductions should hit next paycheck (7/18) and will cost $66.83/paycheck and cover both of us. Her heath insurance plan is better and costs less than the plan my company offers so we're going to move me to her insurance. Come August, our 6% contribution to her 401(k) plan will reduce the paychecks ~$90 each. Her company also matches 25% of her contribution (up to 6%). She will have ~$48/paycheck deducted for her company car starting in August or September; almost nothing considering that includes all costs associated with the car (car payment, insurance, maintenance, all of her fuel, etc.).

Once all of these benefits kick in, her paycheck should still be over $1,400.

July 5, 2008

June 2008 Income Statement

Not only was June the 2nd month yet in which our net worth decreased, it was also our 2nd largest month of expenses (click on spreadsheet below). The only month our expenses were greater was in November 2007, when they totaled $9176.12.

We spent a total of $8,610.66 in June, but our income was only $6,324.00. Obviously, we do not want to make a habit of this, even if we did make enough money to support it. Large expenses included $1,071.09 for our vacation at the end of May (bill was due in June), $407.76 on gifts, $301.42 on household items, $187.69 eating out, and $104 on my eye exam and contacts.

My wife's income in June was a bit less because of the transition to her new job - her first check in July will be for three weeks of work. She earned a nice $519.12 commission check during her last month with her old company. We also earned $109.79 in mileage reimbursements, $74.83 in Citi credit card rewards, and $13.26 in interest income.

God willing, we will substantially reduce our expenses in July. Incomewise, we should have a great month. My wife will receive her first paycheck from her better paying new job, I receive an “extra” third check, and my wife may receive a large ~$3,800 commission from her old company.

July 2, 2008

The Upside To Declining Home Values

We received a letter from the Assessor's Office today stating that our condo value assessment is being reduced again from $270,000 to $220,000. Good stuff! This should result in a ~$500 reduction in our property taxes this year.

We did not have to complete any paperwork to have our property reassessed this year. Last year, having our property value reassessed and reduced saved us $767.20 in property taxes.

If we end up keeping our condo as a rental property when we buy a house, these reductions in our property value should save us a lot of money in property taxes over the years since the property value assessment can only be increased by 2% annually.



July 1, 2008

June 2008 Net Worth Update (-$2,221.12)

June ended up being a worse net worth month for us than I expected. We were down $2,221.12 from last month, to a total net worth of $33,464.34 (click on spreadsheet below).

As I mentioned in my previous post, the down month was due to a combination of planned annual expenses (such as our vacation), some overspending (such as the increase in eating out), and depressed market conditions (such as the reduction in our retirement accounts).

I’m not going to dwell on all of the details that made June a bad month for our net worth. We are simply going to move on and focus on turning things around in July.

June 25, 2008

Bummer

Since we began tracking our net worth in February 2007, it has consistently increased each month by an average of $2,428. December 2007 was the only month thus far that our net worth has decreased (it was down $3,301.44 from November 2007) because we reduced the value of our two cars by a total of $4,845 in December to account for depreciation.

Well, at this point, it looks like our net worth will be down ~$1,500 at the end of June. I reviewed the numbers and determined that it is due to a combination of planned annual expenses (such as our vacation), some overspending (such as the increase in eating out), and depressed market conditions (such as the reduction in our retirement accounts).

Below are some of the details:

1) We paid for the $1,071.09 vacation we took at the end of May (bill was due in June)
2) We have spent ~$410 thus far on gifts
3) We have spent $233.90 thus far on household items (our budget is $150)
4) We have spent $173.62 thus far eating out (our budget is $130)
5) We spent $104 on my eye exam and contacts
6) Our retirement accounts are down ~$1,100 thus far
7) We were not able to contribute any money to our Roth IRAs

We should be able to turn this around in July. My wife will receive her first paycheck from her better paying new job, I receive an “extra” third check next month, and my wife may receive a ~$3,800 commission from her old company. However, we may need to pull ~$3,500 from savings to pay off my wife’s car that we are selling, the bill for our new LCD TV will come due, and the bill for my wife’s new brakes will come due.

God willing, we can change direction and get back on track towards our goal.

June 19, 2008

Let the Good Times Roll

During training this week my wife learned quite a bit about the company, her position, and the products she will be selling. While challenging, this new career is already living up to her expectations. Her manager has also done an amazing job of taking care of the new sales reps including providing very nice hotel rooms and meals.

My wife found out this week that her company will be providing a few more perks they had not mentioned before. Each month, they will give her $60 towards a cell phone, $60 towards internet service, $50towards office supplies and up to $100 for a mini storage unit (for her samples). They also gave her a laptop, docking station, printer for her home office - perfectly timed because our printer is on the fritz.

I am amazed at how well her new company is taking care of her to ensure that she feels like part of the familiy, is properly trained, and has the tools necessary to do the job. Let the Good Times Roll

June 16, 2008

A New Chapter Begins

My wife began her new job today; it’s exciting to get this new chapter in her (our) life started.

She will be spending the first couple of months learning the products. Then, she’ll be heading out into the field to meet with the doctors. Her company has provided her with a rental car until her new company car is ready. She should also receive her company gas card this week. Her first paycheck will arrive on 7/4 and will tell us exactly how much extra we can invest, save, and use to pay down our 2nd mortgage. Exciting stuff!

Her old company had a nice send off for her on Friday, including giving her a gift card and taking her out to lunch. Not only was that very nice of them, it’s a good indication that they will pay her the final commissions she is do. She hopes to receive the large ~$4,000 commission in mid July.

My wife is leading the way in our quest for financial freedom. I’m going to do my best to try to keep up.

June 4, 2008

Transitioning to the New Career

My wife starts her new career on the 16th, and gave her two week notice at her current job on Monday. Although her boss fought her a bit, she was able to negotiate keeping all of the commissions that she has earned, but not been paid on yet. This includes a large ~$4,000 commission that should come in around August, once the company has been paid by their customer. This is such a blessing. We were worried that they might try not to pay her the commissions and/or let her go immediately rather than pay her for the final two weeks.

My wife receives her new company car before her start date, so we plan to put her car up for sale this week and hope to sell it within the next few weeks. This will save us $450/month in car payments and $150-$200/month in gas.

Her first paycheck from the new job will be deposited on July 4th. With the increased income combined with the money we will be saving on the car, we want to restart our 2nd mortgage accelerated payment plan by paying an extra $400/month to principle. In addition, we will apply ~$12,000 of her $20,000 annual bonuses towards the 2nd mortgage. We’re hope to have the 2nd mortgage paid off by July 2010 and begin saving for a down payment with a goal of purchasing a home by July 2012. We also plan to increase our tithe, contribute 6% of her salary to the company 401(k) that includes a 25% match up to 6%, and deposit $200/month into our savings account. The only deliberate increase in lifestyle will be an extra $20/month each for fun money.

This new career is such a blessing in so many ways. My wife will be working in a field she is passionate about, earning greater pay, working out of our home, and receiving amazing benefits/perks. I am very impressed and proud of her success, especially at such a young age. Because of this opportunity, we will be able to go after multiple goals (increasing our tithe, paying off our 2nd mortgage, increasing our savings, and adding to our retirement savings) much sooner than expected.

June 1, 2008

May 2008 Income Statement

I wish we could have kept our expenses at the same level as last month, but it didn't happen. We spent a good amount of money in May, but thankfully, we earned much more (click on spreadsheet below).

In addition to our regular saleries, my wife received an "extra" paycheck, a $943.92 commission check, and a $89.10 mileage reimbursement check.

Outside of our jobs, we earned a $50 Chase credit card cash back reward, $25 HSBC credit card reward, and our $1,200 economic stimulus check. Our E*TRADE savings account brought in $14.98 in interest income.

Next month should be a interesting. My wife will be leaving her current job and starting her new career. We're still not sure of the paycheck timing at her new job so we may end up with a bit less money coming in in June. We also have to pay for our $1019.81 vacation that we took at the end of May.



May 24, 2008

My Wife Is Beginning a New Career

My wife has enjoyed working at her current job, but has always wanted to have a career in a health related sales field. Since college, she has focused on learning about this competitive industry and what it takes to get into it. Long story short, over the past four weeks, she has been in a series of interviews with a company and yesterday, received an offer. . . and accepted!

This is such a blessing and something we have been praying for for quite awhile. I am very happy that my wife will be able to work in the industry she is passionate about. Her hard work and persistence paid off.

This new job will also greatly increase our household income. Check it out:

  • $52,500 base salary
  • $20,000+ annual bonus
  • $20,000 annually for entertaining clients
  • Company car and gas card
  • Computer
  • Matching 401(K) plan
  • Excellent health and dental insurance
  • 3 weeks vacation

She starts next month and already really likes her future co-workers.

May 23, 2008

May 2008 Net Worth Update (+$4,247.51)

NOTE: This net worth update is a week early because my wife and I are going on vacation.

What worked:
May was an awesome month for our net worth. It increased $4,247.51 from last month to $35,685.46. This puts us at 74.66% of our 2008 net worth goal of $47,800.What worked: Our retirement accounts lead the way. We invested a total of $1,771 in our retirement accounts and saw an overall increase of $2,296.99. We also were able to increase our savings by $1,358.10, primarily because of my wife's "extra" check this month.

What did not work:
Our taxable accounts total went down a whopping $14.45.

Next month:
June may end up being a mild month for our net worth. It is likely that we will have to pull some cash out of savings to pay off the vacation we will be on next week.

May 13, 2008

Economic Stimulus Tax Rebate Check

In anticipation of receiving our Economic Stimulus Tax Rebate Check on the May 16, we made a $1,200 contribution to our Roth IRAs. We've contributed $3,400 total so far this year, leaving us with $6,600 more to go to reach the 2008 max of $10,000 ($5K each) .

During a BBQ with our neighbors over the weekend, we discussed what we were going to do with our stimulus checks. One of my neighbors said he has already spent his on various items, including $400 shoes. When I mentioned that we planned to deposit ours into our Roth IRAs, he asked why we bother to at such a young age. My response was, "Because I do not want to work after age 52". He said he did not want to work past 50 either. More power to him.

May 9, 2008

Does She Not Stop?

My wife scored a $944 commission this check from her company this month!

Her commission checks are great because they are "extra" money that we can put towards savings and/or retirement investments since our regular saleries cover our month-to-month expenses. What a blessing.

May is turning into a very good net worth increase month for us. I can't wait to update our numbers at the end of the month.

May 3, 2008

Closing The Deal

Great news! My wife has been working on a large business deal and last week obtained the signed contract. It's great to see her hard work pay off. She will receive a $3,800+ commission from the sale when the invoice is paid in a couple of months.

In addition to the awesome initial commission, there is a good likelihood that this account will produce additional commissions for her down the road thru maintenance of the system she sold and other work this customer needs done.

My wife is a CLOSER.

May 1, 2008

April 2008 Income Statement

We did a great job of staying within our budget this month (click on spreadsheet below). In fact, this is the least amount of money we have spent in quite awhile, which is great after last month.

One of the few areas we went over budget was $222.30 in our Entertainment category because we had a couple of nights out with friends celebrating their birthdays. Incomewise, I received a 2.07% raise. My wife earned $466.91 in commissions and $40.80 in reimbursements. We also received a $66.65 cash back reward from our Citi credit card and a $50 gift card to a restaurant from our American Express. We earned interest income of $12.10.

May should be a another great income month. My wife gets 3 paychecks next month (extra one going to savings) and hopefully a ~$700 commission check. We possibly should also receive our $1,200 tax rebate which will be apllied to our Roth IRAs. Our expenses will be a bit higher because we have a week long vacation up the coast planned.

April 28, 2008

April 2008 Net Worth Update (+3,661.34)

April has been a great month. Our net worth increased $3,661.34 over last month, bring us to a total net worth of $31,437.95 (click on spreadsheet below). This puts us at 65.77% of our 2008 net worth goal of $47,800.

What worked:
We increased my 401(k) contribution by 1% to a total contribution of 5%. We invested $638.95 in retirement accounts (401(k) and Roth IRAs) this month and, with the recent market upswing, saw a total increase in our retirement accounts of $2,416.09! We also increased our savings by $662.38, primarily due to my wife's commission check.

What did not work:
I can't think of anything that went against us this month. Thank God.

Next month:
May should be another solid month. We plan to do a large contribution to our Roth IRAs and bump up our savings a bit.

April 16, 2008

Net Worth Milestone - $30,000

I’m not sure if it’s going to stick, but we hit our net worth milestone of $30,000 yesterday. Our last net worth milestone was in September, 2007.

After the great market upswing today, our currently net worth is $30,350.57, putting us at 63.49% of our $47,800 net worth goal for the year. Note: Our current net worth status bar will not be updated until the end of the month, as usual.

God willing, we should hit our $40,000 net worth milestone by October this year.

April 13, 2008

Economic Stimulus Payment Schedule

Our economic stimulus payments will issued according to the last two-digits of the main filer's Social Security number. People who use direct deposit will be among the first to receive the payments starting May 2. Paper checks will be put in the mail starting May 16. Here's a link with the date you can expect your economic stimulus payment: http://www.irs.gov/irs/article/0,,id=180250,00.html

April 11, 2008

Commission Checks Are Great

My wife is really getting consistent with earning commission checks each month. This month, she received a $448.15 commission check - just like clockwork. The great news is that she has a number of orders she will receive commissions for in the next few months. She’s done a impressive job of cold calling and expanding her customer base.

Since our monthly expenses are already covered by our base salaries, any commission checks that she receives can go directly to investments, savings, paying off debt, etc. Most of the money she earned in this commission check is going to be deposited into our savings account.

April 8, 2008

Dinner And A Movie At Costco

Last month, my wife and I enjoyed our 2nd wedding anniversary. We decided to celebrate is special occasion by having dinner at the waterfront restaurant where we were married.

To save us some money, my wife bought a $100 gift card for the restaurant at Costco for $80. I had never even heard of this before. That’s a 20% savings! My wife is so smart. We also recently bought movie tickets at Costco and saved 20% once again.

So, if you have a Costco card and enjoy going out to eat or the movies, you might want to consider buying gift cards at Costco. Oh, and if you find the girl of your dreams, don’t let her get away.

April 4, 2008

2nd Raise For 2008

As I posted about previously, my company is resetting everyone’s review date to the anniversary of their hire date. Most employee reviews already fall on the anniversary of their hire date, but, in the past, if you received a promotion, the date that you received your promotion became your new annual review date.

I received a promotion in January of 2006, thus, changing my annual review from my April hire anniversary to January. Since my company is resetting everyone back to the anniversary of their hire date, I received another review this week.

I was blessed to receive a very positive review that included a 2.07% bump up in pay, from $69,030/annually to $70,460/annually. Combined with my 4.5% increase in January, I’m up 6.57% this year.

We’ve decided to increase my 401(k) contribution by 1%, to a total of 5%. The reminder of the raise money will be used to help us try to keep up with the cost of living.

April 1, 2008

March 2008 Income Statement

It’s scary sometimes how much we can spend in one month (click on spreadsheet below).

Thank God for the extra money we brought in above our standard income. The largest amount of money was brought in by my Wife's in the form of a $1,292.50 commission check and a $188.54 mileage reimbursement check. We also received a $384.44 property tax refund, $60 from my parents, and $60 from selling a few things. All of this extra money kept us from spending more than we earned in March.

Needless to say, we went over budget in most areas. Some of the larger expenses were $832.46 for household items (including a new home theater system), $585.67 for groceries, $129.01 for pet care (including pet care while our condo was being worked on), and $166.00 for car registration.

We have vowed to spead less in April. My Wife may get good commission check in April and I have a review that may result in a small raise.

March 28, 2008

March 2008 Net Worth Update (+$82.80)

The roller coaster stock market continued in March. Thank God we were able to eek out $82.80 ahead of our net worth last month, bringing us to a net worth total of $27,776.61 (click on spreadsheet below).

What worked this month?
Thanks to my wife’s $1,292.50 commission check, we were able to contribute a total of $800 to our Roth IRAs for the month. So, even with the rough stock market, our Roth IRAs are up $490.20.

What did not work this month?
While we contributed $212.40 to my company 401(k), we ended down $216.664 for the month. Our savings account also took a 14.55% hit because we had to pay the 2nd installment of property taxes ($1458.40).

What's coming next month?
Next month is a pretty typical month for us in terms of income and expenses. The big question mark is the stock market. Who knows what will happen?

March 27, 2008

Change in 2nd Mortgage Accelerated Payment Plan

We have been on a good roll with our 2nd mortgage accelerated payment plan, paying down an extra $1,930.53 in principle since January 2008. The extra payments to our 2nd mortgage were great to pay down the principle, but cannot be pulled back out in case of an emergency (it’s not a HELOC). So, due to the current U.S. economic situation, we have decided to deposit future funds earmarked for our 2nd mortgage accelerated payment into our savings account.

We’re doing this to temporarily increase our emergency fund during this volatile time. That way, if the economy gets so bad that people start losing jobs, we will be a bit more prepared. Once the economy straightens out, we plan to pull the earmarked funds from savings and apply them to our 2nd mortgage.

I hope we never have to touch the money, but know we will sleep better with a bit more of a cushion right now.

March 26, 2008

Property Tax Refund Received

We’ve been eager to receive our property tax refund check, but didn’t expect to receive it so soon.

The tax assessor’s office told us it could take 60-90 days to receive the refund; it only took 21 days. In addition, we were expecting ~$354, but received $384.44. Thank God! We deposited the $384.44 into our E*TRADE savings account to help bolster our emergency fund.

Since property taxes in San Diego County can only increase 2% a year, we just saved ourselves a bunch of money while we own the condo. And, if property values continue to fall, we will likely ask that our condo be reassessed again next year to further reduce our property taxes.

March 25, 2008

I Can Tell You My Net Worth Within $1,000,000

I enjoy listening to talk radio, primarily the business talk radio. Yesterday, I was listening to The Ray Lucia Show when he received a call from a gentleman that wanted to discuss saving money on taxes.

The gentleman is 45 and owns his own company that profits $250,000/year. While he does not have any retirement savings, he owns his home outright and has rental homes and a commercial property that are nearly paid off. Pretty awesome, especially for a 45 year old. What threw me off was when Ray asked him his net worth, the gentleman replied $3,000,000 to $4,000,000.

I didn’t even hear Ray’s answer to the tax question because I couldn’t get over the insanely wide range of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. Granted, the gentleman was put on the spot and, with the instability in the housing market, it is difficult to know exactly what property is worth. But not knowing your net worth within $1,000,000 seems incomprehensible to me. For us, that would mean the difference between retiring and not retiring.

March 21, 2008

Time Flies By

American Airlines informing me that my 11,316 American Airlines Aadvantage miles were in jeopardy of being lost since I have not flown with them within the past 18 months.

I have been flying almost exclusively with Delta and racked up a number of Delta SkyMiles. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to loose my American Airlines Aadvantage miles because there is a chance I may fly with them in the future.

I checked their website and determined that if I use my miles to redeem something, I get another 18 months before the miles expire. Unfortunately, I did not have enough miles for a free flight, but they have special offers online that you can trade your miles for. I used 1,700 of my miles to order a 1-year subscription to Time Magazine.

Not a bad deal. If I never fly with American Airlines again, I have enough points to keep a free Time Magazine subscription going for another 5 years or so.

March 16, 2008

Saved Money On Property Taxes

Our original property tax bill was for two payments of $1842.84 ($3,685.68 total). We just received our revised bill for two payments of $1,458.40 ($2,916.80 total) after having our property value reassessed. That means we saved $767.20 on our property taxes this year.

We mailed a $1,458.40 check for the second installment. Since we paid our first installment for the original amount ($1,812.84) back in December, they will be issuing us a refund for $354.44 within 60-90 days. Good stuff!

March 13, 2008

I Can’t Afford A Stay At Home Wife

Why? Because my wife is way too profitable.

She just received a $1,292.50 commission check from her company. That’s some serious extra cash. Instead of going out and buying a home theater system (because we already did that last week), we’re going to be more responsible with the money. Our plan is to tithe a portion of the commission, put a portion into savings for taxes, and the rest will go towards funding our Roth IRAs.

If my wife keeps this up, maybe I can be a stay at home husband.

March 9, 2008

Trying to Rationalize Splurging

Our condo is getting some major work done, paid for by the HOA, but we've lost use of our family room for a couple of weeks.

The splurging all began when, in the process of moving our furniture out of the family room, we broke our cheap IKEA entertainment stand. We found a nice, smaller replacement stand for only $99. Not bad, but we figured our 15-year old speaker towers and clunky 4-piece stereo/DVD system was going to look poor on the new stand, espcially hooked up to our 1-year old plasma (last years splurge). So, we bought a 5-channel Panasonic Home Theater System at Costco for $399. It's sweet, and here's how we rationalized the purchase:

Pros
Nice sounding and looking
Requires less than 1/2 of the space as our old system
iPod hook up so we can have all of our music available at the touch of a button
$60 of the cost was covered by selling our old stereo system

Cons
Price
Our old system still worked

We probably could have got away with using our old system a couple of more years but what the heck, we treated ourselves. We can't wait to get our family room back so we can watch a movie using our new home theater system. It will also be nice to have more space in our little condo.

March 5, 2008

Citibank Wants To Give Me Money?

I used to have a ton of credit card debit (click this link to read the details). Thankfully, those days are long behind me. While I never got behind in any of my credit card payments, keeping track of the statements/payments for 6-7 credit cards was tough.

Well, it turns out that back in 2004, I overpaid my Citibank credit card when closing the account. I guess I moved addresses immediately after closing the account, because Citibank lost contact with me. Last week, I received a letter from Citibank stating that they have been trying to track me down to give me a $92.80 refund check for my overpayment in 2004. Wow, nice surprise.

Since I’ve moved 4 times since the address that had in their system, they required that I get a form notarized proving who I am. The notary cost me $10.00, but I should get the $92.80 check in about 4 weeks.

Thank you Citibank.

March 3, 2008

Don’t Be A Baby

This blog is officially 1 year old! Just a baby compared to most blogs.

I began 1MansMoney 12 months ago with a post about our negative net worth. Since then, we have turned things around and now have a positive net worth. We also have one year under our belt towards achieving our goal of financial independence and retiring early.

I give credit for our financial success to God because this is all His anyways, to my wife because she's my inspiration, and to our families for their guidance. I also have to give credit to this blog for helping us keep better track of where we were at and where we are going.

For those of you that want to get out of debt and plan for retirement, I encourage you to consider starting a blog. Any goal worth achieving requires a plan and follow thru. I find that this blog is a terrific tool. I liken it to a financial diary that, since others read it, helps provide accountability and feedback.

I can’t wait until a year from now when 1MansMoney is in its terrible 2’s.

February 29, 2008

February 2008 Income Statement

Wow, we went over budget in almost ever category this month (click on spreadsheet below). Income taxes, vaccines for our dog, food/drinks for a party, gifts, carpet cleaning, replacing our entertainment stand, eating out for our birthdays and Valentine's Day. You name it we did it.

Thankfully, we had some extra income this month. My wife earned a $59.50 commission, I cashed out $1,239.53 of my company vacation, we earned a $25 HSBC credit card reward, and our neighbor paid us $96 for 6 months of internet.

Next month, in addition to our standard monthly income, my wife may earn an extra ~$1,000 commission from her company. This would help us fund our Roth IRAs. Expensewise, we have a large property tax bill due that will ding our savings pretty good.

February 27, 2008

February 2008 Net Worth Update (+$3,014.03)

February was a very good net worth increase month. Our net worth increased $3,014.03 from January to $27,693.81 (click on spreadsheet below). We are currently at 57.94% of our 2008 net worth goal of $47,800.

What worked this month?
Our retirement accounts (401k and Roth IRAs) went up by a total of $1,579.60! Thanks in part to our $400 contribution to our Roth IRA's. We also continued our 2nd mortgage accelerated payment plan by cashing out 6 days of my company vacation time for $1,239.53 and paying that directly to our 2nd mortgage principle.

What did not work this month?
We had to dip into our savings account to pay our Federal and State income taxes. We had planned for this so, in reality, I’m not sure it should fall into the category “what didn’t work”.

What's coming next month?
My wife has been doing great at her new job and may get a $1,000 commission next month. We hope to use this money to fund our Roth IRAs a bit more. We also have our property taxes due next month. Thankfully, our property taxes will be less than expected since we got our property value reassessed.

February 21, 2008

Why Pay Down The 2nd?

We recently had a friend ask us why we are paying down our condos 2nd mortgage at an accelerated rate. I think it makes sense for a few good reasons:

1. It is our highest interest rate debt at 8.55%.
2. Once we pay it off we can:

a. Stay in our condo & have an additional $411.33/month to put towards saving for a house.
b. Buy a house and pretty much break even on renting out our condo.
c. Sell our condo, if necessary, and hopefully not be upside down.
3. We don't have kids yet and can afford to pay extra to our mortgage.

February 19, 2008

Business Trip Miles

I just returned from a business trip to the East Coast, earning me another 9,941 Delta SkyMiles. Since I am Gold Medallion level, Delta doubles my miles each flight, making these longer trips a nice way to gain SkyMiles.

My total Delta SkyMiles balance is now 72,139 - just about time to start thinking about when we are going to use these for a vacation.

February 13, 2008

Cashing In On Vacation Time

To help us continue our accelerated 2nd mortgage payments progress, I cashed out 6 days of my company vacation time for $1,239.53.

Since I have been with my company seven years, I receive 19 paid days off a year. This is more time that I really need. Being able to cash out some of my vacation time is a nice perk.

My 4.5% raise last month brought my salary to $69,030/annually. By cashing in the 6 days of vacation I essentially gave myself an additional ~1.8% raise for the year, bringing my income to $70,269.53 this year.

February 10, 2008

2007 Income Taxes

We completed our 2007 taxes this weekend. This was our 2nd year using Turbo Tax and it was once again very helpful. My wife is really the one that completes most of the forms, I simply supply some numbers from our records and help with proofreading.

Thanks to multiple itemized deductions, include $22K in mortgage interest, my wife’s business expenses, and charitable donations, we only owed $387 to federal and $307 to state. That’s pretty close to hitting the mark of zero, neither owing a ton of money or giving the government an interest free loan until you get your refund.

It feels good to have our taxes done, even if we do owe a bit. We’ve scheduled the federal and state payments to be transferred from our checking account in a couple of weeks.

February 8, 2008

Chasing Savings Account Rates

When we first opened our Emigrant Direct savings account ~1 year ago, the APY was 5.15%. Since then, the APY has been reduced multiple times, and is currently at 3.60%. Emigrant Direct has worked well for us, but we've been disappointed with how much the APY has dropped over the year.

Today, my wife saw an E*TRADE ad on television mentioning their 4.40% APY savings account. After checking out their website, we decided to apply. Like Emigrant Direct, E*TRADE does not have minimums balances or account fees and is FDIC-insured up to $100,000.

The new E*TRADE account will be opened within a couple of days, at which time we will begin moving our $6,051.84 Emigrant Direct balance to the E*TRADE account. We understand the futility of switching banks everytime rates drop a bit, however, we feel it's worth it to go from 3.60% APY to 4.40% APY.

February 1, 2008

January 2008 Income Statement

We did a good job keeping our expenses below our income in January (click on spreadsheet below). If you subtract out our extra $691.00 payment we made to our 2nd mortgage principle, we were more or less within our monthly budget.

I received a 4.5% raise this month and 3 paychecks (1 more than usual). My wife received a $348.98 commission check, but her standard paycheck was slightly reduced because she transitioned from being a 1099 with no taxes taken out of her check, to an employee with taxes automatically deducted. This is good because it saves us the hassle of having to put money aside for income taxes. In other income news, we received a $64.38 Citi credit card cash back reward and $19.00 in interest income on our Emigrant Direct savings account.

Next month is going to be a somewhat typical income month, with my wife and I each receiving two paychecks. However, my wife is expecting a small commission check and I hope to cash out 6 days of vacation time for an extra $1,200 or so.

January 30, 2008

January 2008 Net Worth Update (+$806.53)

Our net worth increase this month may not be as much as usual, but we’re still making progress. Our net worth increased $806.53 over last month, to $24,679.78 (click on spreadsheet below).

What worked this month?
Much went well this month. We began our 2nd mortgage accelerated payment plan by paying an additional $691.00 in principle, increased our savings account balance by $1,390.61, began our 2008 Roth IRA contributions with $300, and increased my 401(k) contribution by 1% (4% total contribution).

What did not work this month?
Unfortunately, our 401(k) and Roth IRA retirement accounts went down a total of $1,786.17 this month, even with our $609.74 in total contributions. Seeing as we should not need to access these investments for a couple of decades, this is good for us. We're buying low! Hopefully in 20+ years, we will be able to sell high.

What's coming next month?
Next month is looking good. We hope to be able to continue our 2nd mortgage accelerated payment plan with money from my wife’s commission check and by cashing in some of my vacation time. It will also be the first full month of pay after receiving my raise, further helping our bottom line. The big unknown is income taxes. We plan to do our taxes next month, determine how much we owe, and if we want to wait until April to pay it.

January 29, 2008

Property Taxes - Were We Able To Get Them Reduced?

In a previous post, I mentioned that we filed an APPLICATION FOR CHANGED ASSESSMENT in an attempt to get our property taxes reduced.

We received a letter from the County's Assessor's Office today stating that they reviewed comparable properties and agree that property values have declined. In our application, we requested that they reduce our property value from $340,016 to $275,000. Instead, they reduced our property value to $270,000, $5,000 more that we requested!

We simply have to sign the form and send it in. From that point, it should take 30-45 days to receive a corrected tax bill. We have already paid $1,842.50, half of our original $3,685.00 tax bill. We're guesing that our 2nd half of the tax bill will be reduced by ~$700, to $1,142.

Looking back, I thought this whole process was going to be a hassle. Thankfully, my wife was not of the same opinion and took it upon herself to call the County's Assessor's Office to find out where to download the form. After downloading the form, we spent a few minutes checking comps in the area on http://www.zillow.com/, completed the form, and drop it in the mail. . .Easy money.

January 21, 2008

2008 Annual Review

I had my annual review today and received good marks, as well a 4.5% raise. This $2,880 raise brings my annual salary to $69,030.

The raise was a bit lower than I usual receive because I will be getting another review, and hopefully another raise, in April. They are doing this in an effort to get all employee's annual review dates back to their date of hire anniversary (April for me). I had received a promotion a couple of years ago (in January) that threw my annual review date off from of my date of hire.

January 18, 2008

Not Worth The Risk

As a follow-up to my last post regarding Prosper, we have decided to quit lending on Prosper and begin moving our money out of this investment. While our loans are current and we're earning an average interest rate of 12.21%, we don't like the fact that each time we receive a payment, the money sits in our Prosper account accruing no interest, thus, reducing our return. For the amount of risk involved in personal loans, it’s just not worth it to us.

The money deposited in our Prosper account with each payment can't be loaned again or even withdrawn until it reaches a $25 minimum balance. Since we have 2 loans and the payments are only ~$1.65/month each, it took many months for our Prosper account balance to reach the $25 mark. Now that our account has reached the minimum transaction amount, we are moving $25 out of Prosper and into our Emigrant Direct savings account. At this rate though, it will take a couple of years until we have all of our money out.

We had such high hopes when we first learned about Prosper, but I'm glad that we did not invest more money because I have read numerous reports of defaults, even with A grade borrowers such as we lent to. Once in collections, these lenders are lucky if they get pennies on their dollar.

January 16, 2008

Slight Change In Plan

As I posted before, we have begun our 2nd mortgage accelerated payment plan. However, we are deviating from our plan a bit this month by not paying 100% of my extra check ($1859.07) to the 2nd mortgage. Instead, it will be spent as such:

$500.00 to 2nd mortgage
$785.00 to savings account
$100.00 to my Roth IRA
$474.07 to checking

I can rationalize the deviation from our plan because I found out that I will be receiving 3 months with 3 paychecks in 2008, one more than our 2nd mortgage payment plan is based on.

The money is being put to good use. We wanted to increase our savings to ensure we had more than enough to pay for our income taxes. We also wanted to bolster our checking account balance because our February mortgage payment will be due before we receive our 1st paycheck in February. We need a large enough balance to get us by until February 8th.

January 12, 2008

Net Worth Comparison

Check out this interesting net worth comparison tool based on your age and income: http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/networth_ageincome/index.html.

This calculator is set-up for individual comparison; I don’t think it really applies for couples. Nonetheless, I ran a few scenarios just to see how our current $23,873.25 net worth compares. The details are below.

SCENARIO #1
Using my age (32) and annual income ($66,150):




SCENARIO #2
Using my wife’s age (23) and annual income ($40,000):




SCENARIO #3
Using my age (32) and our combined annual income ($106,150):




Based on the results, it seems that we are doing great for our ages. However, we are not don't as great when comparing our net worth based on our income. We just barely came out ahead in Scenario #2 using my wife’s income and in the other two scenarios, we get badly beaten.

While this calculator was fun to play with, I do not put a lot of weight into its usefulness. One flaw is that it does not take into account how long you have been making your current income. Just a couple of years ago, my salary was considerably less. In real life, this has to play into the equation.

Okay, maybe I'm just a little bitter that we didn't get better results. Ultimately, I know that what matters is where we are at in achieving our goals, not how we compare to everyone else.