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Showing posts from January, 2010

Less-Stress Investing

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New Bank Rules Sink Stocks”,“Turn at the Capitol Rocks the Market”,“Stocks Set to Bounce” -The stock market and individual stocks are susceptible to headliners, rumors and speculation. Daily monitoring of the ups and downs can be disheartening or exhilarating. Remind yourself that stock market fluctuations are relatively short-run and investment in stocks should be for the long haul. Historically, prices recover over time. If volatile stock investments are too stressful for you, consider growing your investment portfolio through low-cost index funds (i.e. check out Vanguard 500 Index at Vanguard.com). Index funds reduce the effects of individual stock fluctuation by diversifying your portfolio and have performed comparably well.
In order for your savings to outpace inflation; you will need to take on a certain amount of risk with your investments. Low-cost index funds are an option for the road-weary.

Never Shop Hungry

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Yesterday I stopped at the store on my way home from work to pick up a few items on a list. Being close to dinner time, I was hungry. I ended up filling my cart with junk food. My intent was to pick up a battery, laundry detergent and milk. While I did get the items on my list, such items as Tostitos, Velveeta cheese, salsa, crackers and Oreos also populated my cart. Bad move to grab a cart vs. a basket which further enabled caving into my hunger cravings. The kids at home were happy to see the junk food but it was not what we needed. I ended up spending over $50 on what should have been a $20 trip. Lessons learned:
Don’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry. Food and low prices (I’m always looking for a deal) were just too hard to pass up.
Stick to the list. Even though I had a list, all the end caps, large stacks of food and low prices were too good to pass up. Even though I got a great deal on all the extra munchies, it cost me twice as much as I should have spent.
Use a baske…

The 28-Day Challenge

Feeling cash strapped? Trying to dig out of debt from December? February is the shortest month of the year and is a good time to challenge yourself to simplify. Experiment with cutting out non-necessary expenses for 28 days to see the impact on your cash flow and your happiness. What would happen if you made most your meals at home with your family and friends; If you invited your friends over to make a meal together instead of going out on the town; If you didn’t watch the cable add-ons for the 28 days; If you packed your lunches and not buy anything from a vending machine?
Only you can decide what your wants are, what makes you happy and what is worth the cost. Try the 28-day experiment. See how much money you can churn toward reducing your debt, build up your emergency fund or give to a cause like Haiti. The challenge is on… go for it!

An Elegant Solution

The heads of the global banking cartel are currently gathered for their annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. They have received enormous subsidies and bailouts at the expense of taxpayers in many nations all around the world. Those nations that possess representative governments are now beginning to respond to the outrage of their citizens at this gross injustice. In Britain, this has taken the form of a proposal to tax financial transactions. In the US, President Obama recently proposed regulations to limit the risk-taking activities of banks and to force the "too big to fail" institutions to shrink. The bankers' response is a proposal to take regulatory power away from national governments according to a British Press outlet.

This of course would be precisely the WRONG action. National governments in representative systems are forced to respond to the concerns of their citizens. The bankers' proposal would push the power even further away from the people and…

Trembling Pillars of Fraud

Over the last two weeks we have seen a series of indications that some of the key elements supporting manipulation of market pricing mechanisms are beginning to tremble. We have seen equity prices rise despite the lack of any significant increase in profits. We have seen commodity prices spike without much increase in real demand. In our opinion the key institutions behind this mess are the major Wall Street (TARP) banks, government agencies and the Fed. They have all played a major role in creating credit inflation, with subsequent asset bubbles and debasement of our currency. But understand this: if you 'look through' each of those institutions you will find the US government backstopping each and every one of them. Each of those has come under increasing attack and as the supports have begun to shake, the fraudulent pricing they have promoted has also begun to unwind. As politics has supported bubble dynamics, so it can destroy them - live by the sword, die by the sw…

Home Maintenance

Last week, a broken kitchen faucet led to an accidental remodel of our first floor bathroom. We love home improvement and a trip to Lowell’s is like a visit to the candy shop. The bathroom remodel was part joy and part good ongoing upkeep.
Home repairs play an important part in protecting your investment. Doing it yourself can be a fun challenge and a source of pride. In taking on the task, it is important to do your homework. Taking advantage of the free classes at your local home improvement store is a great way to build skill and befriend an expert. We believe we cut our remodeling costs by more than half in doing it ourselves and are very happy with the outcome.
‘Labor of love’ or just plain ‘labor’, doing it yourself is a great way to keep your maintenance cost low and your home value up.

Dieting and Dollars

Has January always been plagued as diet month? Ads plaster the newspapers, commercials are everywhere and we hear of the excessive holiday weight complaints throughout the day-from ourselves as well as others. Our excess weight is a sign of how we spend our money. Over 10% of American's disposable income is spent on food. This is twice what the typical family spent in 1929.
We know we don’t need to join a club or start a fad diet to lose weight. We could cut two-thirds of our fat, shave 700 calories and save at least $7 a day (> $2,500/person this year), simply by selecting healthy food options compared to eating processed fast junk food. If we eat healthy, we will lose weight, save money and live a longer, healthier life.
Diet and dollars – may both our weight and budget reflect healthy losses and gains in this coming year :)

The Gift of Service

We were visiting with a new graduate and his fiancĂ© Friday evening. He had an interview earlier that day and felt it had gone well but didn’t seem excited about the opportunity. They were taking about their honeymoon plans and how they love to travel. We suggested that they give thought to a year or two of volunteerism. With a tight job market, it is a good way to get experience and growth. It is also something you have the freedom to do before you take on the responsibilities of a home mortgage, a car payment and children.
The travel and experiences will enrich your life in so many ways. Leading a productive life is rewarding. Giving of yourself to help others is incredibly fulfilling. There are a number of options; Doctors without Borders, Peace Corps, Financial Service Corps, USAID, KIVA, teaching English abroad in underdeveloped communities and a whole host of missionaries just to name a few. For new graduates, it something to consider as you weigh your options against a tight job…

Live-Save-Give

As the New Year begins, it is time to reevaluate budgets, investments and giving. On Saturday, January 2nd we were driving and listening to one of our favorite money broadcast: Marketplace Money. They had an article about the Fifty Percent League that made us rethink our giving. As Marketplace Money states: “The Fifty Percent League is made up of people who believe it’s their moral obligation to give away as much of their money as they can.”
We believe in the 80-10-10 rule where you live on 80% of your income, save 10% of your income and give away 10% of your income. This Saturday was the first time we heard about the Fifty Percent League and it made us question if we were giving enough to the causes we believe in.
The article interviews Pilar Gonzales, who only makes about $35,000 but gives away at least twenty-five percent of her income. Even though she does not make a lot of money, she has placed her priorities in helping others and is living out her values.
No matter how much or litt…

Fresh New Year

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New Year, New Resolutions, New Expectations. New Years is time to de-clutter. Clutter is physically and mentally exhausting. Following all the commotion that comes from the end of the year frenzy, I long for quiet, peaceful, at rest January. It is a time to de-junk my house, my office, my closets and my life. Doing so brings about clarity and energy. Steps of this process:
1. Assess priorities and establish a plan on how you will give focus to your priorities.
2. Choose the objects, obligations and activities that align with your priorities. Say no to the things that don’t matter. Saying yes to things that are not a priority will drain you.
3. Eliminate the non-essential. This frees you from having to tend to things that aren’t important to you and reduces clutter both physically and mentally.
4. Make sure every physical item has a place. Being disorganized is a waste of your time as you look for lost items as well as an irritant. By being organized, you gain control over your space and…