Thursday, May 15, 2008

April 2008 Networth Update: Assets -0.2%; Liabilities -1.9%; Networth +2.6%

Ok. So April's update is a bit late. I have been super busy doing research on a business investment. I was thinking of not posting this but for continuity's sake...here we go.

Assets - This month my assets essentially didn't move at all! 0.2%, give me a break.
Liabilities - This month I paid off the standard amount on the student loans and car. I made some good progress on the credit card debt paying down 4% of the total credit card balance! I liiike.

Assets - Liabilities = Networth

I saw a modest 2.6% bump in my networth. Slow and steady and sticking to the plan!

Check out the details here. ()



Cheers,
TMac

Friday, April 18, 2008

Big TV Buyer's Remorse

(This is not my TV)
Just because I write about personal finance does make me immune to making stupid decisions.
Last month, after my girlfriend and I had ironed out how we were going to handle our finances I started to really want a plasma TV. Not huge - 42 inches. I had a 27 inch that I have been carting around since college which had some display issues in the 4 corners.
The thing that most of my readers don't know about me, but I am sure my friends have noticed is that when I get something in my head that I want to do, I will become fixated on it. I will talk about it, research it, bounce ideas off people, research it some more, and eventually execute the idea.
Well I had been thinking about getting a TV for about three weeks. I had the buy in from the girlfriend and I had found a really good deal for a 42 inch plasma for $750. March Madness was starting and I was dying to watch my number 12 Wildcats tear it up on the court. The weekend before the tourney we bought the TV. Unfortunately what I didn't take into consideration was the fact that our speaker system would not work with the new TV. We had to buy a new home theatre system and DVD player ($200).

All said and done we spent just shy of $900. This money will be coming out of our joint accounts. In hindsight I think we should have waited to save the money instead of putting it on our AMEX regardless of the fact that it was 0% on purchases for 6 months. It is nice having a new, bright TV but the "new", "wow" factor has worn off and we are now looking at the bill on the statement! That money could have gone to paying off some joint debts we have, but instead they went to a big ole' TV.
The way I look it is that it could have been alot worse...I could be one of those people that got into a house that they couldn't afford!

Cheers,
TMac
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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Two Damn Dollars



This weekend I was in Washington DC for a franchising convention (thinking that franchising is going to my way to financial independence) with a friend from College. for those that don't know, the DC convention center is just a few blocks from "Chinatown" (I use quotes because the DC chinatown is pitiful compared to other cites).

My friend and I were craving Dim Sum which is where customers order from ladies that push around various a la carte food items like shrimp dumplings and crab balls. My friend and I check out the area an only see two places that are serving Dim Sum. We go into the one which has a "20% Off Dim Sum" sign outside and start ordering. As soon as we sit down we order water and some Shumai and Shrimp Dumplings. I must note at this point that the service was terrible in that we had to work to flag down the waitress to order food seperately since the only cart pusher had disappeared (didn't want to be late to the next seminar). I ordered three dishes off the Dim Sum menu and we started talking about the possibilities of franchising. The food took over 30 minutes to come out (how long does it take to make 4 dumplings) and we only got two of the three dishes we had ordered. By the Way we still had not got any water and we had asked 3 times at this point!

We finally have enough and get the check. I pick up the tab and note that the 20% was not taken off for the Dim Sum purchase. The waitress tells me that it is for cash only purchases. Well this is the first I am hearing of this! My fiend and I begin arguing with this waitress protesting that the sign doesn't say anything about payment type! Finally we get 10% off since it wasn't worth protesting any more since it only would have amounted to a dollar or so. she runs my debit card and I leave her a tip of $2 on a $25 bill. I was going to leave her nothing but my friend talked me out of it. As I put the pen down the waitress rushes over, reaches across me as I talk to my friend, and takes the merchant copy off the table. She then begins to point at the tip amount and says "Only two dollars! You need to make it more." At this point I am so dumbfounded that I am just sitting there in amazement as to what is happening. My friend and I go off and begin to enumerate the reasons while she should have not recieved any TIP at all!

I just can't believe that someone would do something like that and still insist that we raise the tip after telling her all the reasons that we were not going to do so. So strange.
By the way, if you want really good Dim Sum in the DC Metro go .
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Cheers,
TMac

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

March 2008 Networth Update: Assets: -4.5%; Liabilities: -3%; Networth: +2.3%

Hello All,
I know that March's update is a bit late, but I hadn't even had the time to download my account activity into quicken till Sunday. A whole month's worth of transactions takes quite a bit of time to catergorize!

Anyway onto this Month's Summary...
I had a pretty decent month and didn't even pay that much attention to my finances since the majority of my bills are on auto-pilot. My cash accounts went down a good percentage this month, but this is mainly due to how my girlfriend and I have decided to handle our money and joint expenditures. It could also be in fact that we bought a 42 inch plasma with a sound system just in time for March Madness, but I digress!

I kicked some credit card a$$ last month by paying down over $1300 in credit card debt alone. The other debt accounts were lowered by the same amount that they have been for a long time now since they are fixed payment, low interest loans. I just kind of leave those guys alone, but don't worry student loan your day will come when I unleash the full fury of larger payments like the credit cards are experiencing right now!
Even after the decreased cash flow this month, I still bumped up my overall networth by 2.3% to $-46,167. I am hoping to be able to make.

From now on, I will be including reporting on actual expense catergories. I would have included it sooner, but the numbers are all skewed from the move earlier this year.

(Click on image for larger view)




Cheers,
TMac

Monday, March 31, 2008

Meet The Blogger Mondays is featuring ME!

Lulu at has an ongoing weekly feature where she profiles a different PF blogger. This week it is yours truly!

Cheers,
TMac

Friday, March 14, 2008

President Bush in NYC, An Observation in Government Spending



I work on the 27th floor of an office building on Lower Manhattan right off the River and the FDR Drive.

Well I saw a bunch of people looking out the window and went over to see what all the fuss was about. President Bush was arriving in the city for a talk in Midtown. Simple observation of the scene that was unfolding below me showed hundreds of people (press, police, secret service, snipers, etc.) were all stationed in their carefully orchestrated places.

I got to thinking about the financial commitment that the county undertakes every time that the President leaves Washington DC. I am sure that there are hundreds of people that need to scope out the venue, travel routes, background checks on the people that will be in attendance. The government has to move several presidential limos in advance. I spied 4 chinook helicopters from my office window.

A four hour trip to NY from DC must cost the government and consequesntly the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

I understand that this is not a lot of money in the grand scope of the annual federal budget, but it just struck me as I stared out the window as Marine One approached from JFK airport.
Apparently President Bush was arriving for a to discuss how the economy is not in a recession.

Cheers,
TMac
[This is a stock photo from Google Images from a presidential visit in January 2008. ]

Tiger on Life...Apply it to Everything


"I view my life in a way … I'll explain it to you, OK?" he told his small audience in Florida. "The greatest thing about tomorrow is, I will be better than I am today [emphasis mine]. And that's how I look at my life. I will be better as a golfer, I will be better as a person, I will be better as a father, I will be a better husband, I will be better as a friend. That's the beauty of tomorrow. There is no such thing as a setback. The lessons I learn today I will apply tomorrow, and I will be better."

That's from about Tiger.


I think the trick it having the discipline to learn from your mistakes. I know there has been plenty of times in the past that I have made a mistake, known fully well that it was a mistake, was presented an opportunity to make that mistake again in the future and done so.

Happy Friday.

Cheers,
TMac

Monday, March 10, 2008

2008 Goals


Well we are well into March and I haven't updated My Financial Odyssey with my 2008 goals. Can you blame me? With so much uncertainty in my job situation and moving to one of the most expensive cities in the country, I felt like any goal I set in January without my living and job situation nailed down would have been in vain.

With that said I have thought long and hard about this year's financial goals. Due to extenuating circumstances I was not able to achieve any of the goals I set out in January. However, this year I am employing the SMART Goal system.

For those of you who don't know SMART stands for...

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Time Based

On that note here are my 2008 Financial Goals:

Goal #1
What: Establish a $1,000 E-Fund
How: Based on the $325 currently in the account (I took some money out to help pay for the move to NY) with $100 monthly contributions I should easily achieve this goal.
When: By 2008 Year End

Goal #2
What: Repay parents the $2,500 loan that was taken from them in November.
How: Pay $500/month which will be matched by my girlfriend.
When: May 2008

Goal #3
What: Save $5000 for engagement ring and proposal.
How: Save $500/month till May (when parents are paid back). Then increase saving to $1000/month.
When: September 2008

Goal #4
What:
Save 6% of salary in my company's 401K.
How: Starting in July (when I am eligible to enroll) set up automatic paycheck deductions of 6% of my biweekly pay. By year end contributions should total $2,250.
When: By 2008 Year End


And now for the STRETCH GOAL!

What: Pay down $8,000 in Credit Card Debt! This will more than but my credit card debt in half!
How: Pay $500/month till September (totalling $5,000). Then contribute the cash I was contributing to the engagement ring towards the credit card debt for the remainder of the year (totalling $3,000).
When: By 2008 Year End

I think that the first four goals are very attainable assuming no major expenses arise during the year.


Cheers,
TMac


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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Quick and Dirty Rule of Thumb - Calculating Your Hourly Rate

Knowing what your time is worth is crucial when you are strapped for time and you are trying to determine if an activity is worth your effort. As they say in the working world...Time is Money.

According to , author of The Four Hour Work Week there is a quick and easy way to calculate what your time is worth. I will use myself as an example.
1. Take your annual salary ($75,000)
2. Remove the last three zeros ($75).
3. Divide that number in half ($37.50).
Unless you are "making" or "saving" that much with the given activity then it may not be worth your time.
If you are interested in drilling down deeper to get a more detailed look at what your "true hourly rate" is, then take a look at Trent's post () on the subject.
Don't get me wrong, doing things simply because they aren't financially worth your time isn't the only consideration. I know the time that I spend consuming media like MSNBC.com, ABC News in the morning before work, and the 50+ blogs I read on a daily basis (about 1.5 hours) may not be the best financial use of my time. However, I accept this because I subscribe to a maxim that people should learn something new everyday. As such, I see this as time well spent.

Cheers,
TMac

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Move to the Big Apple in a New York Minute!


Professionally Speaking...


It was a long time coming.

I had been unhappy in DC and at my company for a while. I started looking for an apartment and job in NY right after the Thanksgiving holiday. I just wasn't happy with all the BS that I had to put up with in the old job. I was stressed out with the crappy assignments I was put on. I was on my out of the consulting world.
In January, I interviewed with one of the largest financial services firms on . I received a very good offer ($19K more than I was making in DC) and I accepted for a mid February start date.


All said and done I am happy that I made the move (sans the moving expenses). I like the people I now work with and the pace isn't breakneck like at the previous job. Normally I am in the office by 8:15 and out by 4:50pm. The one thing I am having a hard time getting used to is waking up early in the morning. Normally I wake up between 5:00 and 5:30am to be at work by 8:30. I am beginning to notice that most people in NY have very long commutes - normally 1.5 - 2 hours. I am usually pretty wiped out at the end of the day (sometimes I have a hard time staying up to watch LOST!).

Financially Speaking...

On the financial front I am in a good situation in living with my girlfriend. We live in a basement apartment outside the city. We got a 3 bedroom apartment with all utilities included for $1100. Not bad considering I was in Virginia paying $1065/month PLUS utilities. I will outline our saving and spending arrangement in a later post.

Luckily I got a large pay increase when I moved to the new position. I was being paid $56,500 in DC. If I were making an equivalent in the NY Metro I would be at $62,000. However the offer came in at $75,000. That means that I garnered a $13,000 pay increase by switching jobs. Not bad for a few stressful months!

It is amazing to look back and compare my earnings level to where I was after graduating from college ($32,000) to where I am now ($75,000).

Cheers,
TMac


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Monday, March 3, 2008

February 2008 Networth Update: Assets: -19%; Liabilities: -1%; Networth: -11%

Well February was a rough month. I practically gave back all my gains that I have made over the past year. Alot happened in February to make it a tumultuous month. Namely - I quit my job in DC, bought myself out of my lease and moved to NY and in with my girlfriend and took a job at a one of the largest financial services firms on Wall Street.

Now that the GF and I are sharing expenses, I suspect my numbers to rebound quickly as compared to past dips in networth. Unfortunately I borrowed $2500 from my parents, liquidated $2500 from my Roth and tapped the E-FUND to fund the lease break and the move. Paying those funds back are of utmost importance to me at this point. Once I start getting a regular paycheck from the new job I will be calculating my annual goals. I haven't done this yet since so much was up in the air.

Anyway, check out the numbers for yourself:


Cheers,
TMac






Wednesday, January 30, 2008

HSBC Say It Aint So!

HSBC it seems like just yesterday that you were offering me 5.05% APY on my savings accounts. My how you have changed since then. Now you are offering me 3.80% AP. It isn't all bad, though, you are still at the higher end of the online banks. I just hope that you don't take the Fed's 50 basis point drop in rates today as an invitation to disappoint me even further!

Remember the good ole' days....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

US Foreclosures Up 75%!!

Hello All,

Take a look at this map of foreclosure activity in the US. It really is too bad that the bubble had to burst like it did, but I guess all good things must come to an end. As says, "The bigger the boon, the bigger the bust." And afterall, it was a pretty big boon!

I have an uncle in Florida that has foreclosed on two homes on golf courses in the nice posh neighborhoods of West Palm Beach. It sucks to think that he lost alot of money in those potential investments, but I guess it is just the free market at work!?!?!

I digress....back to the article...

 

According to RealtyTrac the foreclosure activity in the US is up 75% since 2006. 

Top annual foreclosure rates
Nevada posted the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate for 2007, with 3.4 percent of its households entering some stage of foreclosure during the year — more than three times the national average. The state documented the highest monthly foreclosure rate in all 12 months of the year. A total of 66,316 foreclosure filings on 34,417 properties were reported in Nevada in 2007, an increase of more than 200 percent in total filings from 2006.

With more than 2 percent of its households entering some stage of foreclosure during the year, Florida documented the second highest state foreclosure rate for 2007. A total of 279,325 foreclosure filings on 165,291 properties were reported in the state during the year, more than twice the number of filings reported in 2006. The state’s foreclosure filing total in December was up 275 percent from December 2006, and its fourth quarter total was up 211 percent from the fourth quarter of 2006.                    

Michigan documented the nation’s third highest state foreclosure for 2007, with 1.9 percent of its households entering some stage of foreclosure during the year. A total of 136,205 foreclosure filings on 87,210 properties were reported in the state during the year, a 68 percent increase in total filings from 2006. Michigan foreclosure activity dipped 17 percent from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, but its December foreclosure filing total was still up more than 70 percent from December 2006.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Satirical Sub-prime Explanation

Hello All,

I came across this satire of the sub-prime mess. Check it out. It is very funny and quite informative! I love the British humor!

Cheers,
TMac

[via ]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hate Your Job? Maybe It's Time to Consider a New One!

Over the past few months I have been hinting on this blog that I am not overly happy with my position at work. Since the new partner has taken over my group I have noticed that things have begun to get more rigid and office politics are playing an ever increasing role in who gets promoted. Formerly, your advancement in The Firm has been tied directly to how well you did your job. Fortunately I do my job very well. Unfortunately (for them) I don't play politics.

As such over the past few weeks I have started quietly looking for a new job and gathering my thoughts about what I would like to do going forward.

To get to a place where I could act I needed to ask myself a few crucial questions. Use these as a guide to help get the dialogue started. Talk to your friends, spouse, significant other, etc. to get as many points of view as possible.

    1. Do I like what I am doing?
      I like what I am doing because I am good at it. Auditing isn't a "sexy career by any means, but it is stable, well-paying, and relatively recession-proof.
    2. Do I like doing my my job or my preferred job in the city I am currently living in?
      Currently I do not like living in the DC Metro. I have been here 1.5 years and haven't really found many people that I connect with and enjoy the same things I enjoy. I would like to move.
    3. What kinds of professional designations will help me attain better standing with prospective employers?
      In my case, the CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor. For you it will likely be different - Real Estate License, etc.
    4. If I want to move to a new city, will I be able to afford living there with my expected earnings?
      I will be able to live comfortably in my new city given my earning potential (more on where I will be living at a later time). Take into consideration that you may not be able to support yourself in Manhattan on a wage for an entry level marketing assistant.
    5. If I want to move to a new city, will it support my other interests and goals?
      I think that it will. I am very interested in Freemasonry, Real Estate, Social Entrepreneurship and bike riding. I think that my new city will provide me opportunities to get exposure to all those things. Unfortunately, DC isn't the most entrepreneurial of towns!

So here are just a few of the questions I have asked myself over the past few months as I have searched for a new job and a new city. Surely there are other good questions to ask. However this is meant to be a jumping off point to start the discussion of your next steps.