Protesting a protest…


Saw this picture tagged on Facebook yesterday, thought I’d share it with you all…

To be perfectly honest, I’ve kind of stayed in the dark about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’ve personally never been a big fan of huge protests…especially when half the people protesting don’t really know exactly what they’re protesting….

Organizer Anthony Bondi said he has what he referred to as a “message team” working on the primary goals of the local protests, which he admitted “was kind of vague.”

“The message team will reveal that tomorrow [Friday] morning,” Bondi said.

“So you guys are in the process of forming the reasons why you are here?” asked CBS13 reporter Tony Lopez.

“Exactly correct,” Bondi said.

Look, I know big businesses suck (did you see my blog post about Bank Of America last week?!). I also know that rich people seem to be getting richer, and the middle/lower classes aren’t necessarily following suit. There is no denying that things are jacked up in America right now.

That said, I think the Occupy Wall Street movement is a big fat waste of time. If people want to show their disgust with a corporation, stop buying products from said corporation. It you aren’t happy with the government, do yourself a favor and actually vote in the next election (only 37% of eligible people do). While the Occupy Wall Street protest has definitely helped stir people’s emotions, it will be a complete and utter failure if it doesn’t result in any actionable/measurable behavioral changes.

You think Bank of America is going to stop charging that $5 debit card fee if you say “I hate you Bank of America” while you’re swiping it at the grocery store? Not a chance. You have to say “I hate you Bank of America” and start banking somewhere else. Empty threats are a waste of oxygen.

Even though I don’t necessarily fully agree with the Facebook picture above, I like it. It communicates a simple and straightforward message: Accept responsibility and take action.  If everyone (literally everyone) started doing that, we’d all be doing just fine.

How do you feel about the Occupy Wall Street movement? Do you think there will be lasting change as a result? How/when do you think it will finally end (we should start like an office pool betting on the date)? Let the debating begin….

Am I old?

Sometimes I think to myself “I can’t believe I’m a grown up!”. I don’t feel old. I don’t look old, and I sure as h-e-double-hockey-sticks don’t act old. I use to think “old” was an age, but I’m quickly learning it’s a lifestyle.

I remember being bored to death when my parents would watch political news. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why was watching some old guy talk about two other old guys interesting? If it wasn’t on MTV, I didn’t watch it. (Still love me some 16 and pregnant…I know…embarrassing).

Same goes for finances. Although I have always enjoyed numbers (self proclaimed math nerd), I hated dealing with money. Did you know I didn’t learn how to write my own checks until I was 21 years old. Twenty-freakin-one. Pathetic right? I also didn’t know how to log in to my checking and savings accounts until after I graduated college. I had to have Mom Ninja sit me down and show me how online banking worked.

As much as I don’t want to accept it, I guess I’ve kind of become a legitimate grown up. I’m married, I manage my own money, and heck, I even cook my own dinner sometimes! I find myself becoming more and more interested in “old guy” stuff like politics and finances. I can’t help but laugh when I reflect on how much I hated the shows my parents watched when I was a kid, to now find myself watching the same darn things.

I sit here wondering “What other things will become interesting to me as I age?” Maybe I will take up quilting, lawn bowling, or listening to AM radio. Wait, what am I saying… in an attempt to enjoy my young spirit, I think I’m going to go buy a pair of Jnco jeans (please tell me someone remembers these), a hacky sack, a set of pogs, and I’m gonna go watch Boy Meets World and Full House (TGIF for the win!!!!).

Have you found yourself enjoying things you once hated (art, coffee, reading for pleasure, history channel, etc)? What “childish” things do you still enjoy (cartoons, video games, Macaroni and Cheese)? At what age does one go from young to old?

 

Crap sucks

 

As you know Girl Ninja and I moved in to our new condo last month. After some super fun vacations, we are finally getting a chance to feather our nest and settle in. As we were putting clothes in our walk in closet, we couldn’t help but feel somewhat disgusted by how much “stuff” we had.

Why do I have 30 t-shirts? Why do I need six pairs of jeans? Or 20 pairs of shoes? I’m pretty sure I could clothe a small country. It’s quite disturbing.

As we were setting up our computer on our new desk, Girl Ninja told me she was gong to buy me a wireless mouse and keyboard since the cords on our current accessories are so annoying. Immediately after she made the offer, she realized how silly it was. There’s nothing mechanically wrong with our mouse and keyboard, and although they may not be ideal, they’ll work just fine. Why pay more to upgrade, when it’s not necessary?

Although I have no desire to be a minimalist (I like my flat screen TV too much), I do like the idea of being more mindful of the stuff we have and the stuff we want. We’re both seriously committed to reducing the amount of crap in our closet. I’m not talking about getting rid of a few old shirts, but donating clothes we love, simply because we don’t need ’em.

Have you ever been confronted by your own consumerism? Do you ever feel guilty looking in your closet? Or do you get sad when you see two people sitting at restaurant spending more time on their phones than with each other? Have we lost sight of what is important?

Who’s paying???

I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for almost 2.5 years and never touched on this most glorious topic!!! I dated Girl Ninja for 3.5 years before I popped the question. During those 3.5 years we went out to dinner at least once (usually twice) a week. Since we didn’t live together, and we were both relatively busy, dinner together was the easiest way to guarantee some quality time. I’m just ball parking, but I’d guess we ate out about 300ish times together during our dating years. Some meals were cheap (Rubios) and others weren’t ($190 valentines dinner). Wanna know how much all those meals cost Girl Ninja? Probably about $100. And thus brings today’s topic: Who should pay for dinner when on a date?

Personally I’m a big fan of chivalry, and part of that (to me) means picking up the tab…every single time. Can it be expensive? Sure. Is it a great way to show your significant other you like to provide for them? Abso-freakin-lutely. I could afford to pick up the bill, so I did. Not because Girl Ninja expected me to. Not because I felt like I had to, but because I wanted to. Nothing more, nothing less.

That said, I know that not everyone shares a similar belief. The other day I had a female friend tell me that her boyfriend rarely offers to pay the whole bill. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for her to pick up the tab instead. She was wondering if that was a bad sign.

Do I think it is weird for her to want to be provided for? Heck no. But I also don’t think that it’s fair to expect him to pay the bill. Would Girl Ninja like it if I opened the car door for her every time we drove somewhere? Probably, but I wasn’t raised in the south and often forget that opening the door for a woman is a sign of respect and love.

I don’t open doors and my friends boyfriend doesn’t pick up the whole dinner tab. Neither of us are horrible people, but we both have some work to do to become the husbands/boyfriends these women deserve. It’s a continual learning process!

Now that I’ve had my few moments to preach, I’m curious to hear your thoughts…

Men: Do you pay the whole bill when you go on a date? Once you get in a serious relationship do you continue paying the bill every time? Do you think women should pay their share? What does chivalry mean to you?

Women: Do you expect to get a free meal on a first date? Would it bother you if your boyfriend asked to split the bill every time you went out (let’s assume said boyfriend is financially stable and able to afford it)? What does chivalry mean to you?

Surprises are fun

Girl Ninja had a really hard teaching day yesterday. Her kindergarteners decided to go all “Jersey Shore” on her and act completely crazy. One of GN’s students even called her a ho. Five year olds shouldn’t know what a ho is… right?! Needless to say, Girl Ninja was emotionally drained after a discouraging day in the classroom.

Now this might sound a little odd, but I’ve been hoping Girl Ninja would have a bad day for over a month now. When I was in Germany, I decided to plan a surprise trip for the two of us this summer. Only thing was, I didn’t know how to surprise Girl Ninja with the news. After talking with her mom, we figured the best time to tell GN would be after she had an emotionally exhausting day. Yesterday, was that day. So, after Girl Ninja shared all of her frustrations, I got to cheer her up by telling her about the nine day Hawaiian vacation I booked for us. She was pretty stoked. There are a few reasons I am particularly excited about this trip…

First and most foremost, it’s important to enjoy our money. Girl Ninja has worked her butt off this school year and deserves some time to recharge the batteries. I’ve been so focused on saving for a down payment, I’ve forgotten to have fun in the process. We’ve been hoarding cash like it’s going out of style, and Hawaii seemed like the perfect excuse to splurge.

There’s no guilt. This is seriously the best thing about being debt free. I don’t have to think about the cost of the vacation and how we could have used that money to pay down some stupidly high credit card balance. Being debt free is seriously legit and I’m pretty sure the 8th wonder of the world. You should try it out 🙂

It wins me some “husband points.” Now I’m not saying you can buy your wife’s love…oh wait…YES I AM!!! Haha! What woman wouldn’t want to be surprised with a vacation to a tropical paradise? In all seriousness, it’s important to me to continually win Girl Ninja’s love. Sometimes that means planning a surprise vacation. Sometimes that means sending her a goodnight text message when I’m laying next to her in bed (she loves that for some weird reason). And sometimes it means looking her in the eyes and telling her I’ll never leave her. Too many married couples become roommates. That’s not cool with me, I’m gonna date the crap out of my wife for as long as I live.

Lastly, Hawaii was basically begging us to come visit. You wanna know how much a Seattle to Honolulu direct flight cost? $550 total! That’s $275 a pop. I was on that deal like a fat kid on cake. We’ll stay in a hotel for a few nights, and with a friend for the majority of the time (he has a guest bedroom), so our lodging costs will be minimal. I’m guessing all in we will only be out about $1,000-$1,500. Worth. Every. Penny.

I love you Girl Ninja and I’m excited to go to Hawaii with you, even if one of your kindergarteners thinks you’re a ho

Whoever said size doesn’t matter lied!

Whenever I’m contemplating a big purchase, I always catch myself wondering “Does size really matter?” For most things I’d say it doesn’t, but that’s not always true. Here are a few occasions were size definitely mattered to me.

Girl Ninja’s Engagement Ring:

Yup, I’ll admit it…I’m totally shallow. I met up with Mom Ninja two summers ago at the diamond district in Los Angeles. I had one day to learn everything I possibly could about diamonds. I would approach each jeweler and tell them I was looking for three things in a diamond, 1) It had to be round cut, 2) It had to be about 1 carat, and 3) It had to be certified.

I’d guess over the course of three hours, I probably looked at about 80 to 100 different diamonds. By the end of the day I was able to answer the question, does size really matter? HECK YES IT DID! Could I tell the difference between a 0.97 carat diamond and a 1.01 carat diamond? Absolutely not, but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase anything less than a true carat (darn you, psychological barrier!).

By days end, I was $3,500 poorer and 1.12 carats richer. Was it absolutely stupid of me to pay nearly $800 more for a diamond that was negligibly larger? Probably, but now when people ask how big Girl Ninja’s diamond is, she can honestly say it’s 1 carat. If you are rocking a 0.89 carat diamond and you tell people it’s one carat, you’re going to hell a liar. Here’s a shot of her bling once I had the diamond set…

TV’s:

I’m a dude. Dudes love big TV’s. Big TV’s are expensive. Thus, every man must ask himself does size really matter when it comes to a television? Again, I vote yes. Flat screen TV’s are reasonably priced between 30 and 42 inches. The second you break the 42″ mark, the prices begin to skyrocket. Girl Ninja did a great job decorating our first place, but I always knew there was one thing that bothered her…our 46″ TV. In true man cave fashion, it totally dominated our living room space (especially when you consider our entire condo was only 610 square feet). I loved it, Girl Ninja hated it. If she had it her way we would gotten a 42″ TV, but to me size mattered and it was time to go big or go home. I love the thing and definitely couldn’t imagine buying anything smaller. Big TV’s + Football = Epic Man Time.

My Car:

The summer before my senior year of college I was desperate to part ways with my Chevy Venture minivan (I know what you’re thinking… nothing screams sexy like automatic sliding doors) and trade up to something a little nicer. It was time to go car shopping. If you asked 20 year old ninja does size really matter (and by size I mean newness) I would have said absolutely! I mean I was driving around a freakin’ minivan! It was time for a little lifestyle inflation. I ended up selling the minivan for $5,500 (I paid $1,700 for it) and bought myself a brand spankin’ new Scion tC. The thing is sexy to the max, but that sexiness didn’t come cheap ($18,000). I fully admit it was pretty dumb buying a new car before I even finished college. Fortunately for me, the car has held it’s value relatively well (KBB of $13,500), it’s paid off, and it still makes me feel like a bada$$. Should I have bought a brand new car? Probably not. Do I regret it? Definitely not!

In the world of personal finance, price and rational thinking typically determine somethings value. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our weaknesses. So reader, I ask “Where does size really matter to you”? What things will you generally pay a premium for (first class seats, expensive wines, stainless steel appliances)?

Get back in the kitchen woman!

First and foremost, I admit that I totally titled this blog post “Get back in the kitchen woman” primarily for the controversial draw it might bring. Second, yes that makes me a sellout. Third, a more accurate title would be “Get back in the kitchen…if that is where you want to be.” Fourth, Did I redeem myself…at least a little?

The biggest personal finance decision most couples will face (p.s. sorry if you are over personal finance topics that have to do with relationships) is not what house we buy or where our children will go to college, but whether or not one spouse will leave the work force and become a stay at home parent.

Let’s say you plan to have your spouse stay at home. Let’s also assume your spouse makes $40,000/year. That means every 5 years your spouse stays home, you lose out on $200,000 of income. If you are planning on popping out three or four kiddos, it could be 20+ years before your significant other looks to rejoin the workforce, resulting in an $800,000 loss of income. Holy Cow, did you just poop a little? I did. That’s a scary thought! Even scarier, that $800,000 figure doesn’t account for potential promotions or bonuses either, so we could be talking like a cool million gone baby gone!

Girl Ninja has always wanted to be a homemaker. In fact she has volunteered to quit her job numerous times so she can stay at home, shop, and lay out at the beach all day…isn’t she sweet? No, no she’s not. When it comes time to produce a million baby ninjas, I too would like her to play the role of the CFO (Chief Family Operator).

My excel spreadsheet tells me Girl Ninja and I can have our first kid sometime between June and August of 2013… just kidding, I don’t have a spreadsheet that dictates our lives that much…although I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you do? Okay, focus Ninja. In all seriousness it will probably be another two years before we consider parenthood. That gives us two years to prepare ourselves for a huge loss of income (about 35%).

What’s our plan you ask? Here’s what I got so far.

1) Stay out of debt.

2) Save as much of our income as possible (currently banking about $3,000/month).

3) Budget our expenses based off my income only, that way we wont be devastated when we lose Girl Ninja’s.

4) Explore other jobs. I love my job, but I bet there are other jobs I’d love too that would pay me more. My goal is to find something that would help recuperate the loss of Girl Ninja’s income.

5) Once baby Ninja comes along, reevaluate the stay at home mom gig. Are we happy with it? Does Girl Ninja feel trapped at home? Does she want to explore part time employment? Just because we both want her to stay at home now, doesn’t mean it will necessarily be that way forever. If she wants to work, she can work. If she wants to stay at home, she can stay at home.

6) If plans one through five aren’t working out, I have a backup plan: Sell our baby on E-bay. I’m thinking we could get at least $20,000 for baby ninja…any takers? Or you can “buy it now” for $19,500.

So that’s low down on stay at home parenting (haven’t I done a good job trying to remain gender neutral?). I can’t stress the importance of planning ahead and being aware of the financial costs associated with transitioning to a one income family. It’s a BIG FREAKIN’ DEAL!

Stay at home peeps: How did you and your spouse prepare for it? Was it super hard to adjust? Was there ever a period where you went back to work for a while? What would you have done differently?

Future Stay at home peeps: What are yo doing today to prepare for tomorrow? Are you living off just one persons income? How will you handle the income loss?

Dual Income peeps: How much does full time child care (per kid) every month? What are the pros and cons of keeping both parents in the workforce?

Peeps that don’t want kids: Sorry you had to read this article.

p.s. Girl Ninja turned 24 years old today! Woohooo. I’m real sad that I can’t be with her to celebrate 🙁 Take a minute and wish her the best Ninja-free 24th birthday ever! Love you Girl Ninja!