Category Archives: Money

Screw you, Sallie Mae, and your unconsolidation-able loan

I know unconsolidation-able isn’t a word, but that’s exactly what it is. I received an email today from Sallie Mae notifying me that my interest rate just went up from 6.8% to 9.25%. WTH!  After I tried to consolidate 3 months ago and was told that I couldn’t, then they go and increase the interest rate?

Needless to say, I just submitted a online payment for the balance. Luckily, the balance at Sallie Mae was $4k. Now off to tackle the loans that I was actually able to consolidate. Yuck.

I am still interested in an MBA, but not sure how smart it is to spend $100k+ and whatever interest rate it fancies someone to charge. Getting out of debt just to jump back into it with another $100k ball and chain with no guarantee of a large salary increase or job security is mighty scary.

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We love our iphones, but not the cost

Between us, we have 2 iphones and pay $150/month. I realize we could change to other phones, but given that we both use our phones frequently for work and they are luxuries that we enjoy and make our daily life a little more fun every day. So changing the phones isn’t in the plan, but lowering the monthly cost is!

I was considering changing to a pre-paid option, but was iffy about the service and phones offered. Then I was researching Virgin Mobile, as they have a $30/month plan for unlimited talk/text, but the catch is that you would have to pay the entire unsubsidized cost, which could run $500 – $800. As we already have phones, I wasn’t too crazy about shelling out more to buy a new phone.  Now, I heard T-Mobile has come out with a value plan where you can bring an unlocked phone (iphones included), and simply pay for service. Costs for a 1,000 minute plan with unlimited text and 2 GB of data would be $80 for both of us!  I’ll need to wait until April, when my 2-year contract is up to sign up for it, but saving $70+ month makes me absolutely giddy.

Why is AT&T so expensive still?  Don’t they realize the competition is about to take all their customers away?  I called their customer service to ask if there was something in the works that would make it palatable to stay, but was told that their service was superior, so they did not have any plans to do so, but thanks for our concern. Ahuh.

What have you done to reduce your smartphone bill?

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Dividend stock love

I’ve fallen in love with dividend stocks – I don’t know why, but I’ve never paid much attention to them and have always just focused on long-term gain. How short-sighted of me though! Several months ago, my co-worker was talking about his father living solely off of dividend income for the past ten years. He has only begun tapping into social security and 401k. It took me a few minutes to absorb, and my first reaction was “That’s crazy! How many millions does he have invested?!”

But upon second thought, it’s not that crazy. Assuming a 4% quarterly return (a reasonably conservative estimate), to bring in $5,000/mo ($15k/quarter), you would need to have $375,000 invested. Broken out over 20 years worth of saving, that would be slightly over $1500/month to save. Even if you could manage to put aside $500/month, after 20 years, your dividends would be bringing in a cool $1600/mo, not to mention what they would be earning you during this time! If you just reinvested those earnings, it would increase that much more. This is so motivating.

I have a work 401k which is pretty much on autopilot, but I plan on monitoring that much more closely in the future. We have a separate stock account that we purchased random stocks (read: trendy and overpriced). Throughout the past few years, I’ve managed to pick up a few dividend stocks, and while they haven’t done amazingly well in terms of growth, dividends have generated on average of 5-10% on average for the past few years.

What are your thoughts on dividend stocks?

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I’m back!

It’s been a while since I’ve been here, and boy, have I missed it!  Since the last post, we bought a house, remodeled, moved, started an MBA program, dropped out of an MBA program, hubs sold his business and is trying to start a new one, and I started a new job. Whew!

We stumbled upon the house unexpectedly… we both love real estate and cruise frequently – one Sunday while going through the real estate section of the paper, I saw a house in a great area that had been on and off the market for a while that had been relisted. Altogether, it had been on the market for nearly 6 months… and this time it was back on, but with a huge price drop. We weren’t ready to really begin looking, after all, we still had 7 months to go on the existing lease.  But for whatever reason, there was something in the air that Sunday, we were dizzy from not having had breakfast yet, etc, we spontaneously decided to call the realtor. He picked up on the 2nd ring, and we had an appointment to see the house in an hour. We went into the house, and the area was much nicer than we had expected – lovely mature trees, quiet, and great school district. We went back to the realtor’s office, made an offer, and went into escrow the next day.

The loan process was excruciating. I wanted to give up several times. We have 700+ credit scores, stable employment, tax returns, finances in order, etc. We didn’t have enough for 20% down, but we knew we were selling his business and would be able to refi at a later date, so we went with FHA. And with that, it still took 3 months to be approved. Luckily, our loan broker was great to work with and kept us informed during the entire process.

More a bit later – so glad to be back!

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401k/ESOP Rollover

Yikes, it’s been such a while since I’ve posted.  It’s been a little hectic, I was running back and forth between the old and new companies, training my replacement at the former, and training with the one I’m replacing at the latter.  There was a limited amount of time I had with the one I am replacing, as he is leaving to manage the project from another country, so I had to pack it all in to a week.  It definitely wasn’t enough time, but I’ll try to figure it out.  It’s good that he will still be available by email though.

Now that I have a few days off, I wanted to look into 401k/ESOP transfer options.  My previous employer offered both, so I went ahead and put money into them.  I could do any of the either:

1) Leave the 401k with the previous employer.  I don’t think I will do this, because their fund selections are terrible and returns have been been really depressing.

2) Cash out.  Did you know this was the most popular option in the US?  I didn’t know – it seems unwise for the long-term – if the balance is cashed out, approximately 20% will be withheld for tax purposes, and a 10-15% penalty is due for early withdrawl.  So essentially, I would be out 30 – 35% immediately.

3) Roll over into the new company’s 401k.  With this, there won’t be any taxes or penalties, and it would definitely be easier to manage if it’s all in one place. This is the option I will most likely be choosing.  I just received the packet with the new fund options in the mail, so I’ll be spending some time reviewing them.

My question is though, what about the ESOP?  I haven’t been able to find any info about this – can I roll over the entire amount into a Roth IRA or the new 401k? One of my colleagues told me that ESOP is a mandatory cashout, but I’m not sure if that’s correct.  The previous company requires it to be in for 5 years before considered fully vested. I was only there for 3 years, so am not – how does this work?

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New job. Maybe.

I gave notice at work a while back, and I am currently training my replacement.  I originally quit to try and start my own business, but I was cruising the job boards a few weeks ago and saw a position that would be a good fit.  I applied, they called me in for an interview, and several interviews later, I recieved a verbal offer today.

I quit work for very specific reasons.

1. I don’t like corporate life

2. I dislike office politics, and being “fake social”

3. No matter how hard I work, I will never really be in control of my own destiny

4. I hate the feeling that I could be fired at any time

And many more reasons I’m sure everyone has heard time and time again.

I want to start a online business, help my husband with business, and perhaps try a few ideas.  He brings home a salary from work, which would barely be enough to cover our monthly expenses, we’d have to tap into savings a bit.  We have savings that would take us from 6-8 months (if neither of us drew a paycheck), so I feel comfortable with that. His business isn’t doing that well at the moment, so he couldn’t draw more money for a long while, even if I were to help him, but I know that I would be able to help him a lot on the financial/operations side, which he desperately needs.

The job I was offered comes with a very decent salary, 20 percent more than what I currently make, but the guy that would be my manager was very horrible on the negotiations.  Downright rude. You know how you usually feel a rush of euphoria when you get something you really want?  I felt none of that.  It’s high stress, tons of overtime, and a demanding potential boss.  I’ve heard stories about him already, and in my dealings with him just on salary negotiation alone, I feel like he could be difficult.  It’s a great company, good project I would be working on.

Hubby wants me to take some time off, but I know he is worried about finances, but he’s been very supportive about me just being happy, if I never wanted to do anything again, he would be fine with it. I’m worried about finances too, but that’s becuase I am a control freak and worry about everything.  He thinks I can work on my side projects on the weekeknd, but with my plans for grad school, it would be all a bit much.  I don’t want him to have any stress at all, so I have been seriously thinking about taking it, but I’m just not excited.  And I understsand that this is a terrible economy, and I am really grateful to have been offered a position, but something within me is just not thrilled about jumping back into the corporate life.  A little voice in me just keeps saying “what about all those ideas you had?”  I have websites registered and half done already, and I don’t know what is right or wrong anymore. Am I selling out?

What would you guys do?

Designer Logos Might Really Improve Your Life


“Carrying a $10,000 Birkin bag by Hermès will make you the envy of your friends. It could also help you snag a higher salary and better job recommendations.

Rob Nelissen and Marijn Meijers, social psychologists at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, conducted a series of experiments to test whether designer labels affect how we perceive people. In one experiment, participants rated strangers wearing Lacoste or Tommy Hilfiger polo shirts as wealthier and higher status than people wearing unbranded polos. In another, strangers were more likely to donate to charity if the person collecting donations wore a sweater with a designer logo.

The research, which will be published in the forthcoming issue of Evolution and Human Behavior, suggests that fashion impacts our earning potential, too. Nelissen and Meijers showed volunteers one of two videos of the same man being interviewed for a job. In one video his shirt featured a logo and in the other it didn’t. Volunteers rated him more suitable for the position, and suggested he earn 9% more, when a conspicuous logo was present.”

As shallow as it sounds, I believe this is true.  But to go along with the designer handbags and clothing, you must also be neatly groomed and well (or at least decently) mannered.  So now not only would you earn more if you were good looking, (a whole 4-5%!), but you can dress the part as well. If you were a hiring manager, who would you rather higher – if two candidates had the same educational and professional background, would you rather hire Candidate A, who looks like they have a bit more style, perhaps making them more savvy and relatable to the client, or the one who doesn’t look like they have any money whatsoever?  I’ve always heard the phrase “If you look like money, it will follow”, and have seen it proven time and time again in many scenarios.  So ladies, purchasing that designer bag may also be an investment in your future, not just your fashion sense!


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Is it worth attending doctorate program to earn $60,500?

Would you attend a doctorate program costing $50,000 (on top of $30,000 already spent for a graduate program), only to earn an additional $15,000/annually?   Troy and Maryna Welker are a young, newly married couple, both teachers.  He makes $45,500 as a special education teacher, and she works part-time, earning $11,975.

This couple is doing everything right, and if they make the changes the advisor suggested to them, I have no doubt that they’re off to a happy future.  The thing that stood out to me in this was the fact that attending a doctorate program would only increase his earnings by $15,000.  Over the life of his career, the planner estimates that it adds up to $670,000.  And it’s not as though his earning power is that high now, it’s $45,500.  MBAs typically graduate with $80,000+ job offers, so it’s surprising and disappointing that one of the most important professions has such a low pay grade.  I admire his dedication to his profession and hope he has all the success he deserves.

(Seattle Times)

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I don’t know what to title this. New reasons why I’m crazy, pehaps?

It’s Sunday morning, so I’m doing my usual, which is clipping coupons and running through the ads.  I’ve realized several things about myself the past week (or rather, my husband told me these are new reasons why I’m a crazy person), and I wanted to share:

1.  We were at Target last week when he wanted to purchase the premade 6-pack of Jello.  I had a total pissy fit and told him that NO, we are not purchasing something that costs $2.70 (pre-coupon and not on sale!!), when I could buy the powder mix  and make him the same amount for $0.70.  That is a 386% markup, almost as bad as movie theatre popcorn!

2.  Orange juice.  A 60 oz (or whatever it is) costs $2.99 and probably pours 10 glasses.  That’s roughly $0.29/glass before taxes, etc.  We were having breakfast last weekend and I really wanted orange juice, but I just couldn’t bring myself to order a glass that costs the same $2.99.  I just couldn’t, it felt like I was committing a big crime.

3.  I bought my doggies the expensive Pedigree bones from the store, without a coupon, half an hour after we had breakfast without blinking an eye.  I didn’t even realize it until he pointed it out when we got home.

4.  One of the shows I am most looking forward to watching next week is TLC’s Extreme Couponing.  I saw the preview a few months ago and have been obsessed ever since.



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A millionaire on an extreme savings regimen

From the LA Times:

David Moehlman, a 44-year old fourth grade teacher, has more than $1 million in various savings and mutual funds, plus half a milllion or so in real estate.   After the market crashed, he begain purchasing condos that once went for $250k – $350k for $70k – $118k, paying cash.  Today, he nets $2,750 from the rental income.  That plus his teaching salary of $80,000, he regularly puts away $38,000 into a savings account.

He eats almost exclusively from the dollar menu at restaurants, a diet that does not contain any fruits or vegetables.  He maintains that he has never eaten a grape in his life.  (??)

At this rate, he will have $3.5 million by the time he plans to retire at age 55, with the plan that he will begin a new, more exciting chapter, but his life is so plain and structured – I can’t imagine he’ll be able to change his spending habits at all. I believe in saving money and living frugally, but that you still need to spend on things that make you happy occasionally.  He seems to have completely missed that part of the lesson.