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Rough Week for Savings - Lessons I Learned

October 19th, 2007 at 08:34 pm

Several major expenditures hit me this week and I learned a lesson from each:

1. My car needed a brake job. I had been putting this off. In doing so, I caused additional damage that needed to be repaired. This added an additional $150 to the repair.

Lesson: Do not put off car maintaniance.

2. My wifes car died when she was picking me up from the mechanic. Needed new battery and new tires. Unexpected $800

Lesson: Pay attention to the condition of all your automobiles, not just the one you drive.

3. Found balance on wifes credit card of $1400. Paid it off

Lesson: If you and your spouse maintain separate accounts. Keep each other informed. Talk openly about financial matters.

4. Home Loan Closing. $5800 expected expense. Upon closer inspection of the documentation, I found several fees that I could have negotiated lower.

Lesson: Read you loan agreements closely. Do not be afraid to ask for discounts.

Unexpected expenses - $2350
Expected expenses - $5800
Total this week - $8150

Lesson: Always have an emergency fund. I was able to handle all these expenses without going into debt.

A Few Money Surprises

October 19th, 2007 at 08:32 pm

My wife and I have been maintaining separate checking accounts for about two years. We divided up the bills so that we have approximately the same amount of spending money. We chose to keep our accounts separate to maintain some degree of privacy when making purchases. I do not want her to know how much I spend when I buy for her, and she feels the same when buying for me. I also like that we are not questioning each other about every little purchase.

Yesterday she informed me that her schedule has been too hectic for her to balanced her checking account . She said she would like me to manage her account. I also found out that we had a balance on a credit card that I thought was inactive of about $1400. Needless to say this temporarly knocked me off my diet and exercise program. I immediately withdraw money from savings and paid off the card giving us a free and clear starting point. Here is how I am planning to manage both accounts.

I added her as an authorized signer on my rewards credit card. I asked her to use the card for all purchases she makes. I feel that if there is no activity in her checking account for a period of time, I will be able to quickly balance it. I also feel that this will give her privacy as I will only look at the total balance when paying the bill. She also agreed to inform me if she makes any ATM withdrawals.

Because I have such an interest in saving and investing, I feel better to know our total household picture of income and outgo. I chose to keep both checking accounts open because our paychecks are direct deposited into our separate accounts and I find it a pain to change this. I have set up all the bills she was paying on automatic bank draft. I also set up a monthly payment to her Roth IRA, I believe I will have the account balanced in a short period of time and at the same time relive my wife from the obligation of maintaining the account

My Story

October 19th, 2007 at 08:19 pm

Hello and welcome to my blog, I am a forty-two year old computer programmer from Louisiana that has set a goal of achieving financial freedom in ten years. I set this goal because a few years ago after working almost fifteen years and earning a good salary, I found myself heavily in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and having to borrow for even minor unexpected expenses. I knew I hit rock bottom when I had to call in sick for work because I did not have enough money to put gas in my car. I realized then that I had been ignoring my finances too long. I started researching my situation and was shocked by how much debt I had acquired and how low my credit scores had fallen. I knew that somehow I had to gain control of this situation or I was headed for bankruptcy. I decided that the only way to solve my problem was to be proactive and learn as much as possible about personal finance and specifically debt reduction. I read every article, book and web site I could find on the subject.

Since that time I followed the most common advice that is given in personal finance; pay myself first, lower the interest on my debt and avoid new debt. I immediately took the following actions:

1. Pay myself first - I set up and started contributing to my 401K, a Roth IRA and a high interest online savings account. I rolled over an old 401K from a previous job and started contributing 6% which was enough to get the full match. Also, I had $100 a month direct deposited into my new high interest savings account. This came in handy when I had auto repairs or other unexpected expenses. After almost a year of saving this way I increased my 401K contribution rate to 10%. I was able to do this because I got a promotion at work with a 6% salary increase.

Last year I opened a Roth IRA for myself and for my wife. I deposited $500 and contributed $100 a month. My wife made a one time deposit of $500.

2. Lower the interest on my debt - Since most my debt was high interest credit cards and personal loans, I immediately rolled all my debt into my home loan by doing a cash out refinance and a home equity loan. I did that at the time rates were extremely low. Even though I didn't get the best rate because of my credit score, I still got 6.125% for the home loan and 7% for the home equity load which was much lower than the 13%-24% rates on my credit cards. This paid off my debts at a lower interest rate and got a tax deduction to boot.

3. Avoid new debt - After my refinance, I exercised self discipline and always paid my credit cards in full every month. I only continued to use credit cards because I figured my credit score would not improve if they had no activity to observe. In a short period of time, I started getting credit card offers with very low interest rates. I opened two low interest credit cards that paid rewards and started using them in place of my high interest cards. My savings account allowed me to keep from using the cards when an unexpected bill arrived. I have been fortunate that nothing too large has come up.

Those actions gave me a good foundation of a retirement fund, an emergency fund and access to credit . Last year however, I decided I wanted more that an OK retirement, I wanted complete financial freedom while I was still young enought to enjoy it (no more than age fifty three. I chose this age because my father was able to retire at this age). Given my late start, if I want to become wealthy enough for financial freedom about ten years, I will need to do more that just create a savings strategy. I need to generate additional income.

This brings me to today, I will be using this blog to hold myself accountable to achieve this goal by posting my net worth monthly, and by posting the decisions and actions I will take to generate additional income. I am hoping this will keep me motivated and maybe motivate someone else as well.