Ask a kindergartner

As most of you know, Girl Ninja is a kindergarten teacher. Eight hours a day, five days a week, she’s busting her butt to try and make these kids less dumb smarter. Somehow, I’ve managed to convince her that we (meaning punch debt in the face readers) should be given access to her students.

No, we won’t be visiting her classroom in person. That’s right, we have an opportunity to pick the brains of a five year old. Well, not literally pick, that would just be weird. All you have to do is take a second to think about a question you would want to ask a five year old. Once you got it in mind, post it in the comments section below.

I’ll select the ten questions I find most interesting and give them to Girl Ninja. She will then host a group discussion with her students. She’ll ask the question we provided, and write down her kindergartners’ responses. I’d ask them to write their responses, but we’d probably end up with something like this…

I’ll then sift through some of the best, craziest, most awesome responses and post them up here for the world (and by ‘the world’ I mean the couple thousand people that read this blog) to see. Obviously I wont be able to use every question, so don’t be bitter if yours isn’t asked.

Some example questions would be, “How much money do you have to have to be rich?” or “What is the primary job of the president’s wife?”

What you can’t do is ask something super creepy like “If I had a large, dirty van with the words ‘free candy’ written on it, would you go inside?”

I’m hoping to post the responses by the end of the week, or early next week. So reader, what question do you have for a kindergartner?

Real life soap opera

I seriously feel like my life is a soap opera right now. Minus all the infidelity, murder, and poor acting that is. Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic. My life is not really all that soap opera-ish, but the last few days sure have been crazy.

As you all know, I’ve been in a two year application process trying to get in with a HIGHLY competitive federal agency. I wont share which agency, but I will tell you the position involves guns, undercover work, and bad guys. Pretty freakin’ sweet huh?! I am one step away from completing all the prerequisites to receive my final offer

Next Wednesday, I will be taking my final physical fitness test. Assuming I pass (which I should), I will receive my final offer from the agency. I already know they have me slated to attend academy from late March through August. In my third month of academy, I will be told what my division office will be. It could be anywhere in the country. New York, Houston, Detroit, Boise, no city is ruled out.

Upon academy graduation,  I would then report to the field office of their choosing and start my life there. As exciting as the job seems, I find myself wondering if it is really the best choice for me and Girl Ninja. What if they station us somewhere we don’t want to live? The agency has made it very clear; you go where they tell you and we shouldn’t expect to be able to transfer for at least five years.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why don’t you just quit if you don’t like the city they locate you to?” I’ll tell you why I couldn’t just quit. I don’t want to be unemployed! If Girl Ninja and I decide to pursue this dream job, we have to accept the fact we might be relocated to a part of the United States we don’t want to live in. I just don’t know if Girl Ninja and I are as flexible as the position may require us to be.

To make our life even more exponentially confusing, I received an email from my current employer indicating there was an opening in the Seattle field office and my agency was looking for anyone that wanted to transfer. Our DREAM city is Seattle. That’s where we both grew up and that’s where our parents live.

I love my job, I work from home, and I make a decent salary. That said, there is little room for upward movement in my current agency. I can’t imagine I’ll still be doing this five years from now.

So here is our dilemma. Do we take a huge risk and accept the dream job, not knowing if we will like the city we are located to, or even if I really would like the work? Or do we take the opportunity to transfer to Seattle (our dream location) with my current position.

There is something enticing about going on an adventure together. We will never be as flexible as we are now (not having kids or a mortgage payment). If the dream job is as COOL as it sounds, I’d way rather do that for the rest of my life, than what I currently do. Heck, there is even a small chance dream job would locate me to Seattle. But what if the dream job isn’t anywhere near as sweet as it appears? What if we live in Houston (no offense to those in Houston, but 100+ temps and 99% humidity does not appeal to me in the slightest)?

Seattle is the safe choice. I know I already like my job. We know we love the city. And we know we will be happy there.

Do we take a risk, or play it safe? We have about 10 days to make our decision!

What do you do with found money?

I have some great news for you all…well, actually… it’s just great news for me and Girl Ninja. We’re expecting!!!! A $3,000 check that is…not a baby. It was money that we’ve been hoping for, for a very long time, but weren’t sure we’d ever see it.

You remember a few months back when I blogged about getting a $40,000 raise? Well apparently, I jumped the gun a little bit, because that raise was delayed nearly two months.

Girl Ninja started a K/1 split classroom at the beginning of the school year as a substitute, but with hints that it could turn in to a contracted position (meaning she’d get a pay bump and all the benefits of a normal teacher). We thought that contract would come, sometime in late September. It didn’t. We were then told to expect to hear no later than Oct 31st. We heard nothing. November came around and other long-term substitutes were being offered temporary contracts. Things weren’t looking good.

But then, last week, GN got an encouraging email that indicated she should be signing a contract sometime in the next couple weeks. If that happens (which it better or I will be slashing some tires…just sayin), she will be compensated back pay for the three months she’s already worked at the school. Basically meaning she’d get a one time, $3,000 check.

I’ve come to notice a recurring theme in our relationship when it comes to unexpected money, we NEVER agree on what to do with it. When we got $2,500 in cash wedding gifts, I thought the Roth IRA was a perfect avenue, Girl Ninja thought a trip to San Francisco. When I found out I was receiving an award at work that came with a little financial bonus, I figured I could add it to our savings, Girl Ninja thought we could use it for things around our house. We never quite agree on what to do with these little windfalls. That’s why she is my jelly.

My assumption is, of the $3,000, at least $200 will go directly back to her classroom for decorative purposes (we haven’t spent any money on the room as we were never guaranteed she’d be able to stay). Another $300 will be given away/donated (stayin’ true to 10% rule). And the other $2,500 is…well…we haven’t figured that out yet.

This leads to today’s question? What do you do with found money? Do you have a rule like 50% savings, 50% spending? If you have debt, does bonus money always go 100% to it? If you got $2,500 today, how would you allocate it?

I think I need to give some back

banana lover

Girl Ninja and I got the hook up this week as we were asked to house sit/nanny for one of the families I tutor. They have two daughters (10th grade and 5th grade) and a FILTHY AWESOME house in a super nice part of San Diego. They asked us a while back if we would take care of the house and girls this week while the parents are getting crunk in Palm Desert on vacation. Ummm, you want to pay me to eat your food, watch your TV, and sleep in your ridiculously comfortable bed? YES PLEASE!

We’ll be house sitting for a total of five days (Monday through Friday). It’s seriously been so easy. Aside from a few minor chores, we really don’t have many responsibilities. Consider this house sitting job, heaven!

When I arrived to the house on Monday, there was a thank you card sitting on the dining room table. I opened it and was shocked by it’s contents. $740. $100 on a Starbucks gift card (for the girls), $100 for ‘random expenses’, $40 to me for one hour of tutoring, and $500 to me and Girl Ninja as compensation for the week.

Are you freakin’ kidding me? Five hundred dollars for staying in your awesome home and eating your amazing food. The work seriously does not warrant the compensation. This may not be my first time sucking at accepting generosity, but I seriously feel weird about keeping all $500.

Girl Ninja and I have already decided we definitely wont be touching the $100 for ‘random expenses’ and I’ll tutor for free so they can keep that $40. The $100 to Starbucks is on a gift card so we’ll take the girls to coffee every day, and leave the remaining balance with their mom. But that still leaves the $500 check. If it were cash, I’d just sneakily leave $150 of it in the envelope and only pocket $350. Unfortunately, I don’t really have that option.

I’m left with two choices: 1) feel horrible that they paid us $500 for about $200 worth of work (maybe they felt like they had to pay this much?), or 2) leave the check with them and a note that says “Thank you so much for your generosity, but there is no way we can in good conscience accept this check. It’s really nice, but about double what we feel our time was worth.”

Normally, I’d just write off this uneasy feeling, but Girl Ninja actually feels the same way I do. I really think this might be a situation where we should at least attempt to partially refund them. Have you ever felt waaaaaay overcompensated? How do you politely say “Look, there is no way I’m worth $500, gimme $300 and we’ll both feel better :)”? Is this another situation where I need to shut up, quit complaining, and cash the check without a second thought? Why am I so drama!?

Birthdays, and Weddings, and Gifts, OH MY!

polygamy ninja

Not only did I commit my life to Girl Ninja on August 8th, but I apparently committed it to about 20 of her best friends too. I seriously can’t believe how many parties we have on our calendar. It seems like every week there is a birthday, wedding, or other random function to attend.

To help ease my “party overload anxiety” I made, what I thought was, a reasonable proposal. I ever so politely asked Girl Ninja to reduce the number of friends she has. I thought we could make this reduction process fun by inviting all of her friends over to the Ninja house and host some type of NFL style friend draft. Just imagine, “…and in the first round of this years NFL (Ninja’s Friends List) Draft, Mr and Mrs. Ninja would like to befriend…enter dramatic pause here… Brandon and Lauren!”

I think it is a stellar idea, unfortunately, I couldn’t get Girl Ninja to go for it. This means we will probably be attending 436 different functions over the next year.

Being that I like to make things as simple as possible, I’ve thrown out the idea of a a “one size fits most” (yes, I stole the idea from my fruit of the loom underwear) gift giving policy.

Essentially we would operate on a cash only gift system for all parties we attend. We’d give something like $30 for birthdays, $40 for graduation, and $58.37 for weddings. It would seriously make life so much easier.

That said, it could definitely come across as lame as there is not much thought behind a $50 bill. But who doesn’t love getting cash? I can’t speak for Girl Ninja, but my favorite wedding gifts weren’t the kitchen gadgets, it was the cards with green pieces of paper inside them 😉

spatula gift

Now obviously if we have a specific gift in mind for someone, we would get it for them. The cash option simply takes the burden off our shoulders when no one present seems any better than another.

Something tells me Girl Ninja will be resistant to this system as she is all about the sentiment and creativity when giving a gift, and let’s face it, cash isn’t creative. We’ll see if I can force her convince her to come to my side.

Do any of you operate under a similar system? Do you have a set dollar amount you give for friends’ weddings, birthdays, etc? For weddings, do you typically get things off the registry or stick to cash/gift cards?

There’s always something

Random Note: I not really a big fan of calling Wife Ninja, Wife Ninja. I much preferred Girl Ninja (GN), and since this is my blog, and she is a girl, I’ve decided to reincarnate her title as Girl Ninja.

Ninja Mansion

I was talking with Girl Ninja’s uncle the other day about normal guy things (sports, money, unicorns, etc). We then started talking about housing and what that looked like for Girl Ninja and myself. I told him we were planning to save pretty aggressively so we could have up to $100,000 to use for a down payment. I told him “I feel like once we buy a house, I will finally relax and be more of a free spender. After all, a house is the last big purchase I have to look forward to…right?” Yeah, I know, I realize how stupid that comment was.

When I was paying off debt, I thought that becoming debt free would be my ultimate release from frugality. But then came a wedding and a honeymoon, so I focused on saving up for those expenses. Now, almost three months in to the married life, I’m all about saving for a huge down payment.

But, and this is a big but, I’m officially coming to terms with the fact that there will always be something. Once Girl Ninja and I ‘take the plunge’ and purchase our first place, we’ll just begin saving for our next ‘project’. A kitchen remodel, children’s college funds, a batmobile, etc. When will it end? Never.

Although this epiphany could seem depressing, it was a welcome (and needed) reminder. A reminder that I will never “have it ALL together” no matter how hard I try. A reminder that I shouldn’t put off having fun today, so that I can have fun tomorrow. A reminder, that I sometimes lose sight of what’s important.

I obsess over a stupid goal (like saving to buy a home), and allow that goal to distract me from a huge part of the personal finance puzzle. And that part, mi amigos, is spending. Sure, Girl Ninja and I could put every un-budgeted dollar we earn towards saving for the future Ninja pad, but what would that mean for the next few years of our lives?

I’ll tell you. It would mean a lot of not-fun-having! And last time I checked, we both like to have fun. So, while we will continue to work towards our goal of home ownership, we will also make a point to enjoy our journey through that process.

What is your current financial goal? Do you allow it to distract you from contentment, like I do, sometimes? Where is the balance between healthy focus and uber-awkward awkwardness?

On a FUN note, we just got our wedding pictures back. We haven’t looked through all 1,200 of them yet, but here are a few of our favorites!!!! (more to come later)

Would you help my coworker out?

I got an email the other day from a coworker. One that I am yet to respond to. Mainly, because I don’t know how to respond. Here’s the email…

I was finally going to change around my TSP funds, because it has always been 100% in the G fund, and I remembered talking to you about it once.  I know that you know a lot about finances/investing/etc. and was hoping that you could give me advice as to a better way to have the funds allocated.  Any other TSP advice would be great!

For those that are unfamiliar, the TSP is the federal governments version of a 401K plan. Furthermore, the G Fund referenced is comprised of non-marketable U.S. Treasury securities. Basically, you can expect your money to grow slightly more than inflation. It’s a pretty safe investment, but it  doesn’t allow some of the awesome returns the other funds do.

I’m torn. Part of me wants to tell my coworker how I would invest her money, but the other part of me says “You have no credentials to provide investing advice to acquaintances.” I need to respond to the email so I don’t look like I’m ignoring her. I’m hoping you all can help me with an appropriate reply.

I’ve worked up two possible drafts to respond to my coworker with, please vote on which one you think I should send…

Dear Coworker girl,

Seeing that I am pretty much a baller when it comes to anything financial, it was wise of you to come to me for advice. I seem to know exactly what is best for you and I hope that you will follow my detailed instructions. Seeing that the G Fund is for wussies, yes wussies, I recommend you completely reallocate your contributions. I am a believer that as shoddy as America’s future may seem, we will continue to grow. You should put 50% of your contributions in to a broadly diversified portfolio of stocks of large and medium-sized U.S. companies, 25% in to stocks of small to medium-sized U.S. companies, and the remaining 25% in to international stocks of 21 developed countries. Yes, this is exactly what you should do. And when you are done doing it, you can bake me a bundt cake as a “Thank you” because you will surely become filthy stinkin’ rich.

Peace Up A-Town Down,


Or should I send this email….

Dear Coworker girl,

While I am totally flattered you have come to me for help on how to plan for your future, I can’t really give you any investing advice. Simply because I am not qualified. Oh, and because I don’t want you to come sue my a$$ later if things don’t work out as planned. I know our agency has people that could probably put you in touch with some financial advisers. I’d holler at them and talk over any goals and concerns you may have. Best of luck. Oh, and you can bake me a bundt cake if you’d like since I took time to respond to your email 🙂

Hugs not drugs,


Alright, those drafts may not be verbatim, but you get the point. I definitely have my opinion on how I think my coworkers should be investing their money, but that doesn’t mean I am qualified to voice that opinion. Would I be overstepping my boundaries to tell her what I’d do? Should I lecture her on rates of return and historical averages? Do I put her in touch with someone “qualified” to make those recommendations? I’m gonna assume if you are reading my blog, you have at least some finance smarts… How do you respond when people ask you for financial advice?