My Current Financial Plan Set For 2015


This is a list of what I have currently setup for this year, 2015.

1.) Setup a Google Docs – Spreadsheet (everything revolves around this)

  • On the first sheet I labeled it, Debt. On this sheet I listed all of our current debt, with the current balance and current monthly payment for each card. This one little step here is a big reality check for a lot of people and it definitely was for me as well. You have a card here and a card there and the out of sight out of mind rule really comes into play, but when they are all bunched together in one list, OUCH!
  • I created a second sheet and labeled it, January – Forecast. On this one I listed all of our bills (rent, cable, credit cards, etc.) This is all totaled up to project what we will be spending in bills. Then I have listed my wife’s and I take home pay for the month to see the money coming in. Our Income is then subtracted from our bills to see what we have left for the month to spend on food, gas debt reduction, etc.
  • I created a third sheet and labeled it, January – Budget. I have never created or restricted myself to a budget before so this will be a learning and tweaking thing for me. On this sheet I took an amount from what we have left after we subtracted our income from bills. I put this total at the top of the sheet then underneath it I started a item list of what we purchase. This includes our food, gas and entertainment or everything outside of bills. This column totals up and subtracts itself from the budget number to show the remaining budget left.
  • I created a fourth and final sheet and labeled it, January – Item List. This sheet will keep a running total for the entire month of all our money coming in and going out. I list the date, item and the amount under either debit or credit.

The money we have left at the end of the month after the bills and budget the wife and I will be putting the money towards our lowest credit card balance. Both of us decided it would be best for us to go the debt snowball route. I first read about this at the blog, Get Rich Slowly. I would recommend checking them out because I have received some great advice from reading it daily.

That is the current plan as of now. If anyone has any suggestions or thoughts I would love to hear them. Hopefully this will work for me, but I am sure there will be a lot of learning and tweaking the plan along the way.

Posted in Work

Buy Banks? Investing Against the Grain

wall-streetThe last few months have not exactly been kind to bank stocks. Sub-prime mortgage losses have hammered banks that made such loans, and even brought down banks with no direct exposure. Analyst downgrades and investor pessimism have been the rule.

While the past week has brought a small reprieve with rumors of another Fed rate cut on the way, many banks are still hovering near their 52 week (or longer) lows. While analysts are mostly saying sell or hold, I am looking to buy.


In a word – dividends. Banks tend to have high dividends, and plunging stock prices have pushed yields to almost ridiculous levels. Citigroup is currently yielding over 6%. Bank of America – 5.6%, Wachovia – 5.8%, US Bank – 4.8%, Key Corp – 5.7%.

Slightly smaller; National City – 8.3%, Huntington Bank – 6.5%, or if you feel brave, Washington Mutual currently is yielding 11.7% with most people betting that the dividend will be cut next quarter.

With large established banks like this paying 6-8%, it really is a tempting situation. Of course, as with any stock, the price can continue to go down, particularly if more losses show up at that bank. But on the other hand, with prices so far depressed compared to historic levels and the risk of total default so low (do you really think Citigroup will fail?) the upside just in terms of income seems pretty solid. There is also risk of dividends being cut (like WaMu is widely expected to do), but companies generally avoid this if possible, because it is a big signal of financial weakness.

Bottom line: do your homework, but as an income play, banks are worth a look!

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor, and I don’t recommend any particular stocks or investment strategy. The above is just my own thoughts and speculation.

Edit 05/25/15: And as expected Washington Mutual has slashed its dividend (by 70%!) Cross that one off the list.

Posted in Investing

Money Lessons from “I Am Legend”


So I went to see “I Am Legend” last week with my brother and the wife. I’d been looking forward to it pretty much since the first trailer and while the ending didn’t have quite the same weight as the book, I definitely liked it.

(I don’t think I mention anything below that isn’t shown in the trailers, and it’s been out for two weeks now, but consider this your spoiler warning, just in case!)

If I had to summarize the lesson taught by the movie, I might say, watch out for vampire zombies spawned from cancer curing viruses run amok. However, being the money geek that I am, I also noticed a few good financial points tucked in between firefights and eerie shots of the long grass in Times Square being grazed by deer.

1. Watch out for vampires

No, I don’t mean the blood sucking, brain eating varieties. (If those are a real concern for you, money is not your main problem!) Financial vampires are the costs that suck the returns from your investments and drain the balance in your checking account. Things like mutual fund loads, bank fees, and finance charges.

Get away from these money monsters before your finances end up as a pale, lifeless shell of what they could be!

2. Diversify

Ok, if a global cataclysm leaves you as the sole survivor of the human race, no amount of diversification will help you (and you won’t care anyway). But to ride out smaller disturbances (like a sub-prime loan crisis that pounds the stock market perhaps?), diversity in your investments is key.

Now, I don’t mean diversity as in owning more than one mutual fund, having exposure to different industry sectors, or even having stocks, bonds and cash in your portfolio. No, I mean really diversifying. That means diversifying across asset classes and global markets (as much as possible). Ideally, your millions would be spread globally across stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities like timber, oil and gold. Of course if you’re like me, millions is better read as thousands and you don’t exactly have the available funds to buy enough different stocks, bonds, investment properties, oil futures, gold bullion, and timberland.

For those of us who are faced with such financial restrictions, there is still hope! There are numerous funds that invest in various asset classes, both directly and indirectly. Shares in these funds give you exposure to more exotic investments without actually needing a safe full of gold and a partnership in an oil field in Alaska.

If you are looking to invest in precious metals its possible to rollover your current IRA or 401k into gold and silver. Some notable companies include Regal Assets which are one of the top custodians of gold, silver and other precious metals. Just by looking at the top Regal Assets reviews its easy to agree that its one of the best companies out there.

Check out some different model portfolios for more details on how to prepare your portfolio to weather (almost) any crisis.

3. Financial security is not total security

There’s a scene in the movie that takes place in a ruined bank. Money is piled everywhere, but the camera (and Will Smith) barely notices. Millions of dollars in cash, enough for a lifetime of luxury, are not nearly as useful as a loaded M-4 and a degree in molecular biology.

Great, you say, but the point is? Don’t spend all of your time learning money skills. Yes, knowing how to balance your checkbook, analyze a stock, and maintain a well diversified portfolio are important. But staying healthy and knowing some basic self defense, first aid, and survival in different circumstances are at least as important. Preparing and learning to take care of yourself and your family in difficult situations isn’t being paranoid, it’s being prudent. After all, what good is a healthy bank account if you can’t enjoy it (or live to use it)?

So what do you think? Is Robert Neville as much financial adviser as action hero, or do I need to stop thinking so darn much and just enjoy the movie?

Posted in Tips

Housing Market

The husband and I really would like to purchase a house this year. We have been putting nearly a grand each month for the last 3 years towards nothing. Both of our jobs are now over on the southwest side of town and our condo on the northeast side of town. This takes both of us roughly 30-45 minutes of commute to get there. We have looked at apartments and condos down there, but there is nothing worth moving to. There is a really nice community down there that have some very nice homes for some reasonable prices, I think.

We do not know anything on buying a home and have no idea where to start. The one thing we do know is that it is definitely a buyer’s market. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the market.

It is hard to say when the housing market will turn back around, but by the time we would sell a house if we got one this year would not be for 6-7 years. With us currently paying of our debt we would not have a down payment. No idea how much that will hurt us, but it seems everyone runs specials with no money down for first time home buyers.

For now we will keep paying of our debt and research this home buying process and hope that we will be able to. If anyone has any tips, suggestions, where to start, it would be a big help.

Posted in Real Estate

New Year – New Start


Welcome to my personal finance blog. I have tried blogging in the past but never really stick with it. I hope this to be the first blog I actually stick with. I will begin with just a little background information on myself and what I hope to accomplish with this site.

I am a 25 year old female and recently married this past July. I am a web developer for an eCommerce store and my husband is a kindergarten teacher. Both of us are currently in debt, roughly $20,000 combined. With both of us now working full time, steady jobs we are ready to get out of debt.

I believe we have a good system setup so that we can accomplish this. With this blog I will document what we are doing and what we discover. Hopefully as people begin reading this they will be able to offer tips and guidance along the way.

I know that there is no way we will eliminate all this debt in one year, unless we stumbled upon some unfound money which is highly unlikely.

Our other goal/dream this year is to buy a house. Our lease on our apartment is up at the end of May and would love to be moving into a house so we can stop putting roughly a $1,000 a month towards nothing. Is it realistically possible for us to do this? I have no idea, not a single clue on the home buying process. Rates are very good and home prices are very low right now, so we are going to be trying our hardest to make this happen.

That is all for now. The next post I will go over our current debt plan. Hopefully this blog will turn into a good resource for others and will help me out in this process.

Posted in General