Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dear Student Loan, I'm Leaving You

Dear Student Loan (aka ball & chain),

I'm sorry, but it's over.

Yes, I know that we've been together a long time, almost 15 years is no joke, but it really has been all about you, and I've had it. Not once did you ask me if I was okay leaving one job for a bartender's gig so I could be with you more often, not once did you ask if I really liked eating ramen all the time, or if I felt comfortable living near a crack house. Sure, you weren't the only relationship I had. I had others. Rent, phone, food. But you were the one that broke my heart, because you were the one that made me choose between feeding myself or clothing myself.

But to be fair, that was only in the beginning. The fact is I just got with you before I was ready, and after a few years we settled in quite comfortably together. We always knew we had each other no matter what and it was an habitual co-existence. But then I found that oppressive. I wanted my independence, a life without you, and so I left you. It wasn't my most shining moment but I just didn't know what to do, and I guess I should have written or called, but I just left you without a word.

A few years later I came back, tail between my leg, and man did you make me pay for it! But it was for the best. I learned a lot from that breakup and makeup, and it helped my other relationships, particularly that brief fling I had with Providian. And even though I'm leaving you, know that I don't regret what we had together. I had a phenomenal four year education because of you. It's not that I don't love what you've done for me, it's just how you've done it. But again, it's not your fault. I could blame it on your parents, but they change every four years. No wonder you're messed up.

But I have to be honest with you-- you have a tendency to take advantange of people, and this is the real reason I'm leaving you. I'm sure you won't even miss me when I'm gone, someone else will take my place, but you should really learn to treat people better. Right now you've got it good and you can act however you want to, but someday, someday soon I hope, you're not going to be the only one. I know, I know, you think Grant isn't even the same league as you, but she's got your number, and you better start acting like you know.

It never bothered me that you've been with millions of others, but you take advantage where there should be none taken. Again, it's not your fault, it's how you were raised. I'm just telling you this now because you have a lot to offer people, if only you'd stand up for yourself and do what you were meant to do.

Make no mistake about it, it's not merely that I was unprepared when I went into this relationship to handle the responsibility of being with you. It's that you are not prepared to handle the responsibility you have with us. And now, I cannot believe it took me this long to leave you. If only I knew then what I know now. So goodbye Sallie Mae, or Nellie Mae, or Chase, or whatever you're calling yourself now. It's over, and I can honestly say that in this case, the grass is greener on the other side.

No Longer Yours Forever,


Monday, January 28, 2008

How Many Credit Cards?

In an ideal world of tidy wallets, I would only have three credit cards, an Amex, a Visa, and a Mastercard. Well, my checkered past hasn't led me to the ideal, and so as I've chased zero percent rates to pay for CFP classes and mandatory family vacations, I've accumulated a fair share of plastic. So the past few months I've been slimming down the plastic accounts as part of my New Year's resolution. I dropped 2 Chase cards because their terms and interest rates were absurd. I dropped an HSBC card because it was relatively new. And yesterday, I dropped two cards. One is a Citibank, and one is an Amex rewards gold card.
    C(itibank)- May I ask you why you are dropping our card?
    P(iggyBankBlues)- I have too many cards, I don't need this many.
    C- Everybody has a need for a low interest rate. Would you be interested in a lower interest rate?
    P- It's not the interest rate, I pay my card off in full each month.
    C- So you're telling me that you do not have a need for a lower interest rate anywhere? I can beat any loan you're paying.
    P- I prefer loans from banks, not on a credit card. Like I said, I pay it off in full-
    C- (adamant) Do you or do you not have loans?
    P- (baffled) Excuse me?
    C- A car loan, we can transfer your car loan-
    P- Used car, paid cash. Listen, I just want to cancel my card, can I please-
    C- You have no loans whatsoever? (he's getting a little agitated at this point...)
    P- (joking) Unless you're going to buy our mortgage, then no, I have no loans for you.
    C- (serious) I've done it before. I'm sure it's not over $X50,000-
    P- (hands up) I live in New York City, of course it's over $X50,000-
    C- (irate) Ma'am, you asked questions and I'm just answering them, okay?
    P- (magnanimous) Yes, thank you, I appreciate it. May I please close my card?
    C- one moment please (click)

Amex went smoother, though they did offer me $40 off the annual fee. Then I was feeling just plain giddy with account closing madness, and I called the Wall Street Journal. Four people later they let me close the account. I told them all the same thing, I am no fan of Rupert Murdoch and refuse to give the man a dime. I did not, of course, tell them that the WSJ was now free online so I could now read it without paying him to begin with. I was naturally told that the ownership of the Journal did not reflect the content of its pages. I was like, have you seen Fox News?

So now I am down to 2 Amex cards (a Delta that I use for everything and a platinum Optima that I use for my credit score), one Bank of America (high limit, low APR, never use, in case of emergency), REI rewards card (no fee, use it only if Amex not accepted), and one last Citibank that I am contemplating closing. Is five cards too much?

While there are good reasons to have multiple credit cards, and the average number of cards Americans have is four, I'm still considering closing that last Citibank card. So while I contemplate closing that card and bring my total down to the good 'ol American average, I'll see how I stack against the Credit card industry facts and personal debt statistics (2006-2007).

Friday, January 25, 2008

US to China- My Dollars Are Your Dollars...

In honor of The now free, I thought I'd bring you a recent James Fallows article, The $1.4 Trillion Question. It's an article about China, and that age old story about the Chinese buying our debt so we can live beyond our means. The article is intriguing, though, because it questions just who, exactly, is getting hustled, and how like all good hustles, it can't last forever.
    Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China. Like so many imbalances in economics, this one can’t go on indefinitely, and therefore won’t. But the way it ends—suddenly versus gradually, for predictable reasons versus during a panic—will make an enormous difference to the U.S. and Chinese economies over the next few years, to say nothing of bystanders in Europe and elsewhere.

My favorite part is how is breaks down the process by which dollars go from the US, to China, and back-- personified in an Oral B toothbrush purchased at a CVS. The flow of currency is fascinating, and Fallows does a great job of keeping it that way.

While the article is long (4 web pages, so longer than Kiplinger's but shorter than the Sunday NY Times Magazine...), it is easy to understand. When it comes to currency policy and politics, easy to understand is good by me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Budgeting Live Music

Last night I went to BAM to see Mavis Staples sing, and boy oh boy can that woman sing. It was part of BAM's 22nd annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. I went with M and good friend G, and we had great orchestra seats. Not right up front, but in the center of the venue. Ms. Mavis came out and held the mic and sang the truth, and if your soul didn't shake then one would have to wonder if you had one to begin with.

The tickets were about $33, and afterwards we went out to eat at a nearby restaurant at the edge of Fort Greene. That came out to $25 per person for three courses. So while it wasn't the cheapest evening out all told, there are some things I will spend money on without pause. For some people, living in New York tests your temptation to constantly shop and eat out. For me, it tempts my need to clap and cheer and nod to the music.

If there's a really expensive show, like our bank breaking tix to see Etta James in April, then I'll buy them as "presents" because, um, well everybody needs to buy your own self a nice little present, right? And then, of course, there's the summer concerts that you actually have to pay for. Last summer I went to both the Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert and the Beastie Boys concert at McCarren Pool. Then there was the National with Arcade Fire at United Palace waaaaay the heck uptown. Yeah, summer is an expensive season for me...

Because I pay off my credit card in full every month, concert tickets are usually paid up well in advance of the show, so I can split up the cost of the concert and dinner rather than paying for both in one shot. I also really try to soak up the free concerts during the summer in the public parks, and I'll forgo paying to see the same bands indoors. Thankfully, my musical tastes don't include bands that play at Madison Square Garden or the Meadowlands. Now those kinds of tickets would require some serious budgeting skills.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bailouts for Bookstores

A couple of days ago the WSJ had an article on my favorite crackhouse- the indie bookstore. Who's Minding the Bookstore is about the indie bookstore's surprising bailout-- their panic stricken loyal customers.

I love bookstores, as much as I love public libraries, and the article mentions a nearby bookstore, Community Bookstore.

    At the Community Bookstore, in Brooklyn, the owner, Catherine Bohne, composed this email to her customers last February: "I've gambled and staked everything I have, including every last asset, every ounce of my energy, and . . . it seems it isn't enough to make things work." ...

So John Turturro and six other investors, not all of them with quite as much disposable income, bailed out Community Bookstore. On top of that, a customer renegotiated its mortgage, so all in all I can now safely continue to buy books at the same store as Paul Auster.

This phenomenon seems to be happening nationwide. I have to admit that I read mostly books from the library, but when I buy books, I think bookstores should be 'hood. You should walk into an independent bookstore anywhere in the world and know exactly what kind of neighborhood, city, place your feet are planted. Like eating its food. So yes, I buy most of my books the old fashioned way. While sinking into the catharsis best found squatting, legs cramping, eyes squinting at spines, looking for that one book...

    photo of a bookstore in Belfast by _SiD_ via flickr

Monday, January 21, 2008

Our Work Is Not Done

Now, when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together.

-- Dr. Martin Luther King speech at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on August 16th, 1967

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dear Foreign Investors- We're on Sale!

In today's NY Times there is a great article-- Overseas Investors Buy Aggressively in U.S.
    For much of the world, the United States is now on sale at discount prices. With credit tight, unemployment growing and worries mounting about a potential recession, American business and government leaders are courting foreign money to keep the economy growing. Foreign investors are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar to snap up what many see as bargains, while making inroads to the world’s largest market.

We're talking huge sums here, last year alone was $414 billion, or a quarter of "all announced deals". Frankly, I think it's globalizations karmic retribution that's kicking us in the pants right now, and thank god because clearly our economy needs money from somewhere. After years of American companies snapping up factories, labor, and land in currency depressed nations, the world is returning the favor. And in economic irony- NAFTA, that trade agreement that allowed the US to bum rush Canadian and Mexican markets with it's big bad dollar and superpower-like economy, is now luring foreign investors into our market. If they own our companies, they enjoy the same open trade borders.

I wrote about sovereign welath funds a while ago, and certainly there is a ton of this foreign government investment vehicle in the mix, but it is not the majority of the money. The article refers to it as a trickle. Still, the nationality of foreign investors can ruffle some Buy American feathers. In an attached multi media graphic, the top spenders in announced mergers and acquisitions last year were (in descending order) Canada, Britain, Australia, Spain, Germany. The UAE follows, then Saudi Arabia, with China ranked 14- all of whom invested significantly less than the top three. The bruhaha about these three countries may be that in 2000 they were not even on the charts.

For many, it is a complicated pill to swallow.

    Five million Americans now work for foreign companies set up in the United States, Mr. Kimmitt said, and those jobs pay 30 percent more than similar work at domestic companies. Nearly a third of such jobs are in manufacturing, which explains why Rust Belt states have been wooing foreign investment.

    “We’ve lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs,” said Michigan’s governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, who has traveled three times to Europe and twice to Japan in pursuit of investment since taking office in 2003. “I’ve got to get jobs for our people.”

    Some labor unions see the acceleration of foreign takeovers as the latest indignity wrought by globalization.

    “It’s the culmination of a series of fool’s errands,” said Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers. “We’ve hollowed out our industrial base and run up this massive trade deficit, and now the countries that have built the deficits are coming back to buy up our assets. It’s like spitting in your face.”

Given the state of our economy, this level of foreign investment will only rise. The fact is, we need the money, and it's a prudent long term investment for them. They're buying blue chip companies in a blue chip market at a seriously steep discount. And honestly, it doesn't bother me. What does bother me are the economic and political forces that tanked our economy to begin with. And for that, the US has nobody to blame but itself.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Riding Out a Recession

Uh oh, the R word is upon us. The economy has been like sixth grade dodgeball class for a while now, and we just got smacked hard.

Today Merrill Lynch just reportedly lost 9.8 billion dollars. This is a few days after Citibank stunned us with their own loss of 9.83 billion dollars.

What is more shocking than the loss is the bad write offs. You see, the loss in profits is offset by, well, their profits. Kind of like when we do a net worth and save a hundred dollars but lose a hundred and fifty bucks in the stock market. The loss is only fifty bucks on paper, but our wallet is screaming dude, you just lost me a hundred and fifty bucks!

    "Citigroup's record loss was caused by write-downs from soured mortgage-related securities and reserves for current and future bad loans totaling $23.2 billion. Responding to a string of dismal quarters, the bank said it would also lay off another 4,000 workers, on top of announced reductions of 17,000 employees, and cut its dividend to conserve $4.4 billion cash annually."

Maybe it's the Rust Belt girl in me, but when money factories are laying off workers and bleeding cash from a severed artery, the recession is on. So what's one to do to ride out the storm?

Jean Chatzky's Eight Ways to Ride out a Recession is a great way to start. Forbes also has a multimedia 11 Steps to Weather a Recession. Both are short and sweet, and a reminder not to panic. After reading much of the suggestions, it's really the same as any other time. Pay down your debt, build an emergency fund, and reign in spending. It's just that our interest rates got mugged, our net worth is walking the plank, the job market might be a little hairy, and lots of people in suits will be on TV stern faced and frowning when throwing out very big numbers regarding very big companies. While distressing to some, it doesn't control how much we spend and how much we save. Unless, of course, you get laid off.

I'm no economist, but I have to say this recession in particular is pissing me off. Fancy pants with MBAs and bonuses the size of a small nation's GDP found a way to make a $hitload of money off of, frankly, moronic number crunching, and the banks and rating agencies all went along with the scheme. So now we get to ride out the storm slowly plugging along, and they get bailouts from Asia and the Middle East to the tune of 59 billion. Sigh.

But back to not panicking. Help (ie a stimulus package) may be on the way. In the meantime, hold on tight. Because as Money magazine's Riding out a Recession reminds us, most recessions don't last a long time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


There's been a slow and steady uptick in readership the past few weeks, and PiggyBankBlues would like to welcome you to the fray. And now, I would like to commence with the blog whoring...

-- Please take a moment to subscribe in a reader via feedburner. It's pretty simple, you just click on what kind of homepage you have and it'll be added in a snap. Or you can have it sent to your inbox, in case your inbox is lonely. Some personal information, my inbox is not lonely. It is filled with vi@gRa and hot chixx.

--You can read my very first post here. Not my best work, but you get the drift.

-- Speaking of drift, I do like to drift... I can wax on (and on) about anything from saving for retirement, to the purpose of the Federal Reserve, and even send you off to other wax on'rs, like Barbara Ehrenreich's open letter to college students.

-- King Lear, Jay Z, Grandma and Grandpa, and Atlas Shrugged have absolutely nothing in common, except that sometimes I just write what tickles my fancy.

-- I'm a writer. Though you'd never know it by reading this blog's sentence structure, grammar, and missed metaphors. I'm working on a novel, but manage to find time to join the workforce regularly. I have two cats and one girlfriend, certainly not in order of importance. I love the Yankees and play fantasy baseball with an exuberance normally reserved for open bar. I'm strung out on Scrabble via Facebook. I read voraciously. I eat that way too. I love meat and hate vegetables. And for most of my life I worked the downtown Manhattan restaurant/bar scene. Somewhere along the line I figured out how to default on student loans and rack up credit card debt and couch surf for months because I didn't have an emergency fund. And then I figured out how to reverse that trend of financial wreckage, and like a smoker turned non-smoker, I've become giddy with my addiction to the healthy opposite.

So I'll end on a little kumbaya moment and welcome you with a hearty handshake. Even though I'm sure that you, like me, are simply killing time and procrastinating online before you start your really important work. But hey, even though I might cost you time I'll save you some bucks (not the least of which is the blog whoring I just did for free). So welcome to PiggyBankBlues, and I hope you enjoy the commenters as much as I do! Have fun :)

    photo of me in a Jeepney at Batad, Philippines

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Steve Jobs is Killing Me

I fell in love with Macs in the late eighties, when computers looked like Fisher Price toys and the logo was an apple with rainbow colors. Now, Steve Jobs is trying to kill my three year old PowerBook with his flashy new MacBook Air. No, it's not a sneaker. It's the world's thinnest laptop. 0.16-0.76 of an inch thick. The magic of Apple is that they can go from the jaw dropping to the mundane in no time flat. I remember the first time I saw a friend get the very first iPod, how she opened the box to ooohs and ahhhhs. I remember the first time I opened up my iBook clamshell and almost cried a river it was so pretty and blue. And then the first iPhone commercial came out and my mouth hung open and eyes bugged out for the duration of the pitch. So now, after I've typed this for a few minutes, my lust has landed, and I'm content once again with my three year old PowerBook and my four year old iPod. The reality is, Steve Jobs, that you can bring it on. You see, technology will always ooh and ahh me, so I put a cap on it. A laptop no more than once every five years, an iPod only if it goes to iPod heaven, and an iPhone only when it's as cheap as an iPod. And a MacBook Air? Dream on, my clumsy ass would break that thing its first week... But damn, she's pretty.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jet Blue Sucketh

I just got back from a long weekend in Buffalo (hence the noticeable silence...), and I have to say I had awful flights on Jet Blue. Over an hour on the tarmac at JFK on the outbound flight, then a four hour delay on the inbound flight because the plane needed a part. A part??!! I mean, are you effing kidding me? The lady assured me it wasn't an outside part but an inside part. Um, this is a plus? Inside part like the emergency door handle? Contrary to popular belief, airplane parts, indoor or outdoor, all seem kind of essential to me. And without apology, every flight delay and travel hiccup was met with a stoic silence from passengers. It seems we've become complacent travellers in the inanity of flying. It is the without apology part that is galling to me, and I'll send off my Angry Flyer Letter tommorrow. In the meantime, PiggyBankBlues will be up and running full steam ahead this week. Ah, home sweet home.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Balthazar & Pastis Waitstaff to McNally- Show Me the Money

This might be of interest to some Piggy Bank Blues readers, three former waiters from Keith McNally restaurants are suing the high flying NYC restauranteur. The suit alleges that they were not paid minimum wage and/or overtime, and that they had to share their tips with non-tipped employees. Welcome to the club...

Keith McNally owns Pastis, Balthazar and Schiller's. Even though I love Schiller's after hours, and Odeon rocked back in the day, I'm just not a fan of the overpriced bistro. But give credit where credit is due, McNally knows how to open a restaurant. You just don't want to work for him.

In all fairness it's not just McNally. The vast majority of city restaurant workers are royally ripped off by owners. For those lucky readers unfamiliar with the NYC restaurant/bar world, it is mostly the wait staff, not the owner, who pays wages for the front of the house. So when the wait staff tips out the bartender, hostess, manager or kitchen it means the owner is paying those people less of a wage or no wage at all. In any other city half of what goes on would be illegal. Well, surprise of all surprises, it turns out it's illegal here as well.

Airlines Cutting Flights to Pay for Fuel

If you've had the (dis)pleasure of flying recently, you're in for a not so special treat in 2008- airlines are reducing the number of flights. Why? a sane person might ask. The answer- to increase the fares of course.
    Airlines are eager to raise fares because of higher fuel costs. Each $10 increase in a barrel of oil requires the airlines to raise round-trip fares an average of $18, Mr. Baker estimated. About a year ago, oil was as low as $52 a barrel; on Wednesday, it traded at almost $96.

The problem is that we've just gotten so good at negotiating cheaper seats via the web and corporate buying in bulk that the airlines can't raise the fares in tandem with the price of oil. I say, look, I'm paying hundreds of dollars for crap travel, charge me the extra fifty bucks for the gas tank so you can remain solvent and sunny. Because chicken bus travel at 30,000 feet just isn't cutting it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Warren Buffet Buys NYC's Bonds (and a Hillary footnote)

In today's New York Times, Berkshire Hathaway is now backing New York City's bonds. Insurance is regulated by the state, and it normally crawls along at a glacial pace- which only encourages calls for centralized federal regulation.
    Shortly before Thanksgiving, Eric R. Dinallo, the insurance regulator for New York State, did something unusual. He called Warren E. Buffett’s right-hand man on insurance, Ajit Jain, and suggested that he start a new company to insure municipal bonds in New York.

    Mr. Jain, who oversees one of the biggest insurance portfolios in the business at a subsidiary of Mr. Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, was surprised. He had never heard from an insurance regulator offering a new business idea.

What's the big deal? Well, a few million bucks every year, that's what. Berkshire Hathaway has a triple A rating, and NYC's bond rating is double A. The difference in interest between the two ratings is in the millions, and kudos to Dinallo for adjusting to the times. Now maybe the city will have enough money to pave roads flat.

And this is an irrelevant aside, but I would just like to take a few blog seconds to thank the lovely voters of New Hampshire for voting for Hillary. To be honest, I'd be happy with any of the Democratic candidates at this point (I'm still undecided), but I have a special place in my heart for Hillary to do well. The sexist double standard rampant in the media is appalling even to my jaded view, and I want her to represent. So in words so 1992, you go girl! (snap, snap, snap)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Why Credit Card Interest Rate Is Not Just An Interest Rate

Credit card companies hope you want a credit card to shop until you drop, but they certainly don't want you shopping around for the best deal on them. In terms of borrowing money, to do so on a credit card is one of the most expensive ways possible. The interest rates on credit cards for the most part exceed those of student loans, mortgages, and car loans. Only payday loans are more egregious. It is the interest rate that you need to shop around for, but it's not the final rate you need to look at. It's how it's calculated that counts.

When you buy clothes in NYC, the first $100 spent is tax free. Say you go out and buy a dress for $280. When you pay tax, wouldn't you want to know if you are paying tax on the full $280 or just the $180 after the first $100 is tax free? The same goes for interest rates on credit cards. How you get nailed by a number followed by a percentage is important. A credit card's interest rate is that ominous number that carries around its fine print baggage wherever it goes. Not that anyone would want to read that fine print. But not doing so can cost you major money, because you might not realise that you're getting killed by what you thought was a benign interest rate. Because an interest rate is an interest rate, right? Really, now, you think credit card companies are that easy...

Your APR is your Annual Percentage Rate. In other words, APR=interest rate, and all credit cards must by law disclose their APR. But notice the word annual in that acronym. So to charge you your interest on that flat screen TV you just had to have but can't afford to pay off in full at the end of your billing cycle, the credit card company can't charge you an annual rate for a monthly charge. So instead they calculate the finance charge using the Periodic Rate, which is the APR divided by the number of billing cycles per year (usually 12). So let's say your $1000 flat screen was charged to a card with an 18% APR. 18 percent annually divided by twelve billing cycles in the year equals a Periodic Rate of 1.5%. This is what you are charged each billing cycle. Now the fun begins.

There are several ways to calculate the interest rate. The most common are Average Daily Balance Method, Adjusted Balance Method, and Previous Balance Method. To stave off head splitting boredom, I'll use our $1000 flat screen TV scenario as an example for each method. So for all the following examples you have a beginning balance of $1,000 on an 18% APR credit card, and pay $800 on the 15th of the month.

Average Daily Balance (most common)-

    Balance $600 ($1,000 for 15 days, $200 for 15 days)
    Finance Charge $9 ($600 x 1.5%)

Adjusted Balance (best)-

    Balance $200 ($1,000-$800)
    Finance Charge $3 ($200 x 1.5%)

Previous Balance (worst)-

    Balance $1,000
    Finance Charge $15 ($1,000 x 1.5%)

You can find a mathematical explanation of how credit cards calculate interest rates here, but suffice it to say that you need to read your fine print. Look online under terms and conditions, or just call the toll free number on the back of your card and ask what method your card uses for the calculation of finance charges. And while you're at it, make sure you have an interest free grace period of 25-30 days. Cards with grace periods are getting fewer by the minute, and frankly nobody should have one without a grace period. It shouldn't cost you to pay off your balance in full each month. I mean, just look at how much it could cost you not to...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

$416.66666666667 (again)

Sorry, a re-post here- I accidentally deleted the original, and I have the mind of mayhem right now so god only knows what I said in the original post. But suffice it to say it went something along the lines of-- this is what I will have to contribute, $416.66666666667, each month to max out the NEW $5,000 annual contribution limit on a Roth IRA. Man, there goes my monthly cheeseburger budget...

My Progress Bars

It only took me months and months of failed attempts and technological ingratitude, but finally I put up some progress bars. I've been thinking about my progress bars for a while now, eyeing them on other blogs like a parked E-Class in the driveway next door. Not that I live in a place with driveways, but neveryoumind. I got my progress bars (thank you ms. m&p!)- and just in the nick of time, because I'm going to pay off my student loan this month!

Nine months ago I stashed M and my emergency fund in a CD. Since interest rates were going to drop even further I locked in the high rate. For a while, interest rates have remained higher than my student loan interest, so I chose to save over pay off the loan. Plus, student loan debt is "good" debt that was boosting my credit score, and my unemployed self was feeling a little clingy to the savings account. But now the CD is maturing (after having earned $235.73!) and the new interest rate is below that of my student loan. Basically I'll be earning less interest than paying out in interest on my loan, so when the CD matures I will pay off the balance of my student loan with most of our small emergency fund. However, I will continue to "pay" the same amount as my student loan payment, but I'll put it back into our e-fund and replace the money I took out.

Juggling debt and saving is something of a long haul, and I have to say that I will be relieved when the last of my big debt is gonzo. It's a nice way to start the year :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

December Net Worth Update

First off, I'd like to say Happy New Year to everyone, but especially Sun Microsystems. May 2008 give me better memory...

You see, several years back I bought a handful of Sun shares when they were below five bucks a pop. I was buying stocks like Imelda bought shoes, a parallel I do not encourage others to emulate. But that was then. And now, I apparently have the mental dexterity of one approaching senility, because I forgot that I had these shares. Well, not really forgot. I just thought, oh, they're still in the gutter because, well, isn't everything else? So I'm doing my networth for the month and I log on to my Sharebuilder account just for kicks. I had previously just lumped my Sharebuilder stocks into my other stocks, a static three grand (a lowball figure) until I figure out how to access all the DRIP accounts. My eyes bulged when I saw that I had tripled my paltry amount of shares, and when I checked out its pricing chart for the past year I saw a Bette Davis style bumpy ride. Talk about buy and hold on for dear life...

So on the day oil hits $100 a barrel for the first time in history, I give you my net worth. Which, I proudly announce, hit $30k for the first time. $31,135 to be exact... Woo-hoo!