Archive for November, 2009:

Oh no, it’s Black Friday

Written on November 26th, 2009 by Jamesone shout

While we are on the topic of things I don’t understand, let’s go ahead and toss out Black Friday.  This is another difference in males and females, in most cases.  We just came from a family Thanksgiving dinner where the ladies were all talking about their annual ritual of getting together for a day of shopping on Friday.  I don’t understand it and it makes me nervous as I fear for the safety of my Amex card. 

What is it that drives the female population to get up at 5am and shop with a gazillion other people?  Personally, if I know that I need to buy something I try to plan it when the least amount of people are going to be out.  It’s crazy.  As we were driving back this evening there were people in tents camped outside the Best Buy!  Maybe it’s the thrill of the hunt or something, but knowing that it is supposed to dip into the 30′s this evening I can’t imagine how those folks are having fun.

So I guess that as Hope leaves tomorrow at 5am to join other lunatics fighting for a parking space, I will cross my fingers that she doesn’t get carried away with shoppers excitement.

Filed under Budgeting, Credit & Spending Tags:

What’s up with the magazines?

Written on November 26th, 2009 by Jamesno shouts

We attended a wedding out of town over the weekend and as we were sitting on the airplane Hope happened to point out the differences in our reading material.    She of course had Us Weekly and InStyle, I on the otherhand had Kiplingers Personal Finance and Money Magazine.  It got me thinking that we were probably not that abnormal in that most males and females have wildly different tastes in what they read for entertainment.  

Hope is a self professed magazine addict.  I have fought this battle many times but ultimately just bite my lip as a couple of new gossipy women’s magazines appear on the table each week (I don’t even want to think about how much money is wasted on these!).  I really don’t understand the appeal, all of the weekly magazines cover the same celebrity stories and to me seem like the same magazine with slightly different name.  Seriously, if Brad Pitt is on the cover of one of them then he is on the cover of all of them.  It’s the same story and for the most part the same pictures!  Big waste of money if you ask me.  But those publishers know what sells.  If you look at the checkout lanes at the grocery stores, what type of magazines do you see?  Certainly not Kiplingers or Car&Driver. 

So the next time your are at a friends house, check out the magazine selection.  I’ll bet that we aren’t that different.

In case you were wondering, no I don’t pay for my magazines.  Benefit of the trade as I probably get 8 different monthly magazines covering personal finance and investing sent to me free.  I really enjoy reading this stuff even for entertainment, besides I would look funny reading Us Weekly.

Filed under Budgeting, General Tags:

Save money by reviewing home/auto insurance

Written on November 17th, 2009 by Jamesno shouts

As a financial planner I have the pleasure of working with a lot of clients to help them develop strategies to reach their personal goals, but unfortunately that means that sometimes I neglect my own finances.  Realistically, if you do this for a living the last thing you want to think about when you get home in the evening is your own finances. 

Case in point:  reviewing my own expenditures for things like auto and home insurance. 

I have seen hundreds of clients budgets through the years.  So statistically I have a fairly good idea at what folks spend on the common areas such as food, transportation, utilities and basic committed expenses.  One day it dawned on me that I was paying to much for auto and homeowners insurance.  I guess it was just one of those areas that I had procrastinated about changing.  Having been with the same agent and insurance company for years it was more of a comfort level thing, but after seeing what my clients were paying I knew it was time to review.

First step was reviewing the Auto coverage.  I had been paying just over $200 per month for 2 cars.  A simple comparison search online and I found the same coverage (actually increased my liability limits) for half the price.  My new rate was $100 per month.  That’s $1200 per year in savings, so it made a significant impact on cashflow.

The next step was shopping around my Homeowners insurance.  As with the cars, I knew that I had been paying to much but had procrastinated about searching for a new policy.  As it turned out it was a fairly easy process of answering some questions for an agent and letting them produce a quote.  The result was that I was able to shave $500 per year off the cost of my homeowners policy by shopping it around.  Same amount of coverage and a reputable carrier so it made sense to do it.

$1700 per year in savings by taking the time to review something as simple as home and auto insurance!

MISER TIP:  If you have been with the same insurance company for several years it doesn’t hurt to get competing quotes, even if you stay with the same carrier you might be able to negotiate lower rates.

Filed under Budgeting, Miser Tip, Personal Finance Tags:

What would you do with a bonus of $20,000.00?

Written on November 12th, 2009 by Hopeno shouts

My husband and I talked about this recently. We did not share answers, but posed the question. We thought it would be interetsting to answer separately and then see how differing our opinions are. Honestly, if I had been asked this question 5 years ago, my answer would have been #1 travel (probably in Europe); #2 home improvements/new furniture; and saving/investments with what’s left. However, times have changed and although we are doing fine, I would not want to “blow it” all. So, first of all I would put $5,000 each in both of the kids savings/college accounts. With the remainding 10K, I would put half towards our basement project, and $2,500 to pay off my recent camera purchase. The last $2,500 I would like to be fun family money (used for a couple of weekend family getaways with the kids).

Filed under Personal Finance Tags:

What would I do with $20k – his perspective

Written on November 12th, 2009 by Jamesno shouts

Okay, so we thought a fun experiment would be to have Hope and I answer this question at the same time without reading each others posts.  We may be identical or polar opposites, I won’t know until I read her’s later today.

What would I do with $20k if it was dropped in my lap unexpectedly?  (part Planner / part Miser perspective)

  • I like cash cushions, so immediately $10k would be tucked away into a savings/investment account.
  • Reduce some debt:  apply $5k toward my truck loan.
  • $2500 into each of the kids college fund.

That was easy.  I wonder how close my answers will match up with the Wife’s?

Perfect setup for a big purchase

Written on November 6th, 2009 by Jamesno shouts

I now know to never underestimate the creativity that females can use to break the news of a big purchase.

Disclosure to any ladies out there that may use this one, IT WILL ONLY WORK ONE TIME!  (sorry guys, this one will not work for you)

I was speaking with the wife this morning on the phone and she said, “You sound like your in a good mood”.  I said yeah it’s Friday, yada yada.  The next thing that came out of her mouth was “Great, I have something to tell you”.  After which was a long pause.  Well she paused and I started gasping for air!  The last time I heard that statement was back in 2003 when we found out she was pregnant.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love our kids, but officially I am done with the baby thing.  We had always agreed that two kids was enough.

So here I am gasping for air with a million thoughts running through my head, not the least of which is  the fact that we don’t have maternity coverage on our health insurance.  (I opted out of course to save some money).

So after the long pause she says, “I bought a new camera”.  Now mind you, when Hope buys a camera it is a pricey endeavor.  We are talking the big macdaddy Nikon digital type.  She then follows it up with “I was waiting to tell you cause I thought you would be mad at me spending the money”. 

It was the perfect setup!  I mean how could I be mad?  One minute I have visions of $8000 hospital payments, crying babies at 2am and the fact we don’t have a spare bedroom to then finding out she bought a silly camera!  Mad?  I felt the biggest sense of relief ever.

I am still sitting here wondering if she planned this.  I know she would never admit it but man that goes down in the hall of fame on how to break the news of a big purchase to your husband.

Filed under Budgeting, Credit & Spending, General Tags:

Rules for Investing – because everyone needs a reminder

Written on November 6th, 2009 by Jamesno shouts

This is a fantastic list that should be required reading each year for anyone that invests (this includes us Investment Advisors).  Credit goes to MarketWatch for this article which appeared in June 2008 about Bob Farrell’s rules for investing (see the Market Watch article to find out more about Bob).  I have it taped to the wall in my office so that I don’t forget!

1. Markets tend to return to the mean over time

By “return to the mean,” Farrell means that when stocks go too far in one direction, they come back. If that sounds elementary, then remember that both euphoric and pessimistic markets can cloud people’s heads.

2. Excesses in one direction will lead to an opposite excess in the other direction

Think of the market as a constant dieter who struggles to stay within a desired weight range but can’t always hit the mark.

“In the 1990s when we were advancing by 20% per year, we were heading for disappointment,” says Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor’s Inc. “Sooner or later, you pay it back.”

3. There are no new eras — excesses are never permanent

This harkens to the first two rules. Many investors try to find the latest hot sector, and soon a fever builds that “this time it’s different.” Of course, it never really is. When that sector cools, individual shareholders are usually among the last to know and are forced to sell at lower prices.

4. Exponential rapidly rising or falling markets usually go further than you think, but they do not correct by going sideways

This is Farrell’s way of saying that a popular sector can stay hot for a long while, but will fall hard when a correction comes.

5. The public buys the most at the top and the least at the bottom

Sure, and if they didn’t, contrarian-minded investors would have nothing to crow about. Accordingly, many market technicians use sentiment indicators to gauge investor pessimism or optimism, then recommend that investors head in the opposite direction.

6. Fear and greed are stronger than long-term resolve

Investors can be their own worst enemy, particularly when emotions take hold. 

7. Markets are strongest when they are broad and weakest when they narrow to a handful of blue-chip names

Markets and individual sectors can move in powerful waves that take all boats up or down in their wake. There’s strength in numbers, and such broad momentum is hard to stop, Farrell observes. In these conditions you either lead, follow or get out of the way.

8. Bear markets have three stages — sharp down, reflexive rebound and a drawn-out fundamental downtrend

9. When all the experts and forecasts agree — something else is going to happen

As Stovall, the S&P investment strategist, puts it: “If everybody’s optimistic, who is left to buy? If everybody’s pessimistic, who’s left to sell?”

Going against the herd as Farrell repeatedly suggests can be very profitable, especially for patient buyers who raise cash from frothy markets and reinvest it when sentiment is darkest.

10. Bull markets are more fun than bear markets

No kidding. 

Filed under Investing, Personal Finance Tags:

Dining out on a Budget – his perspective

Written on November 4th, 2009 by Jamesno shouts

Okay, so I admit that I look for deals.  Even on date night dinners with the wife.  There are so many restaurants offering 2 for 1, free appetizer or other discounts that it seems silly to me to not use the coupons.  It may sound cheap, but these are good restaurants and places you might not normally try (out of your typical weekend comfort zone choices).

So, yes when I took Hope out this past weekend the choices were from places where I had coupons.  One invaluable tool that I use is my friend Mike’s website:  www.localflavor.com  If you are going to try out a new or even an existing restaurant the site gives you a menu along with discounts you can use.  (currently this is only available in two regional areas but he is expanding).

I don’t limit the coupons to date night.  Last night was father / daugher night out and yes we went to where I had a free kids meal coupon!

Sometimes I just want what I want

Written on November 3rd, 2009 by Hopeno shouts

Last Friday night we had “date” night. Just me and the hubby…which we try to do at  least once or twice a month. Most of the time, we like to go to our favorite little Mexican restaurant that has great margaritas! Sometimes though, we like to have a meal that was actually cooked by a chef. This was one of those nights. When we discussed where we might want to go, my husband offered me three choices. #1 was Stoney River. He had a coupon from the paper that offered 50% off an entree. #2 was Aqua Blue, which he also had a coupon for; and #3 was Sage, with a deal of half-off a bottle of wine. How romantic!  I said, “Do we have use a coupon? What if I want to go somewhere else?” His reply was, “No, we don’t have to do that, we can go wherever you want.” The words were right, but the tome was all wrong. However, I know he stresses enough about money at work all day, the least I can do is make his night out pleasurable. So, I looked into the three restaurants. Stoney River is ok, but kind of has that chain-like feel, with a standard “steak” menu which, to me, is not all that creative. So, I nixed that one. I looked at the menu for Aqua Blue and really liked what I saw…a lot of Asian inspired dishes, seafood and suhi…some of  my favorites! I was very excited and started to make an online reservation. Nothing for Friday…at all. I called and guess what? They were closed for a private party. So, it was onto #3, Sage. The menu looked pretty good and they did not require a reservation. The restaurant was beautiful, very dark and romantic. The wine list was ok and we were able to get a $35 bottle of Pinot Noir for $17.50. (Remember the coupon!) We shared an appetizer of seared scallops which was excellent. The main dishes sounded great on paper, but were a little lackluster on the palate. My husbands chicken was a little overcooked  and my salmon with artichokes and crabmeat was very sparing on the crabmeat….more like crab-flakes. Again, nothing terrible, but I don’t know if I will go there again…coupon or not.  Love you, honey!

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