What are you saving for?

Seeing that I have already wrote two articles on saving this week, I figure it’s only appropriate to finish the week off with, yet another post, about saving. Consider these three articles the holy trinity of personal finance. Okay, maybe they aren’t that insightful…wait, actually they aren’t really insightful at all. Oh well, I tried šŸ™‚

So we all have a desire to be rich, right? The word “rich” is totally subjective though. I would consider both, Kobe Bryant and Bill Gates to be rich, even thought there is a large discrepancy between their net worths. Being rich isn’t about reaching a specific quantifiable amount of cash, but instead it varies from person to person. Whether we are talking thousands, millions, or billions, I think we can all agree on at least a base line definition of wealth: comfort in knowing we have enough money to survive tomorrow.

Personally, I will feel wealthy when I have the ability to work any job I want, regardless of the salary. Imagine the freedom that would come with such financial stability! Not being dependent on employment income would be the best thing since sliced bread…Sure comfort, peace, and stability are all important reasons for accumulating wealth, but let’s be honest, we also wanna do some crazy awesome things with our hard earned moolah. Thus, the reason for today’s blog post title…What are you saving for?

I can think of a few things I want to do when I achieve great wealth…

1) Pay the Young Life summer camp fee for 50 high school kids that live in under privileged neighborhoods. This last summer I was able to take a charter bus full of these kids to camp through the generous donation of $30,000 from an anonymous donor. I got to be there and witness these high schoolers experience the best week of their lives! It was an incredible experience, and I can’t wait for the day I can do the same.

2) Buy a vacation property. I absolutely love skiing and have not been able to do enough of it since I have been living in San Diego (apparently it hasn’t snowed here since Dec 13th… 1967). It would be incredible to own a cabin in Colorado that I could spend a few weeks at every winter so I could get my ski on. Oh and I would get to said vacation property via my private jet of course šŸ™‚

3) Visit each continent. I think it would be totally sick to go to every continent at least once. Sure Antarctica may be a little difficult to get to, but if you are loaded it’s probably more feasible. As of this point in my life, I can check one continent off the list (North America)… not a great start. Ninjafrica here I come!!!!

So those are three things I am saving for. What about you? Hopefully you have some plan to become financially abundant, what do you plan to do once you get there? Maybe take a year long vacation touring the world? Maybe you want to buy a killer whale and name it Rufus? Or perhaps you want to collect every action figure that has ever existed like this guy…

…whatever it is, I want to hear it. WHAT ARE YOU SAVING FOR?

Are you a Thousand Dollar Baller?

There’s a lot of hype around millionaires. If you read Budgets Are Sexy (which I recommend you do) you’ll see J. Money has a club, “The Million Dollar Club” that is. It’s a club I’m sure many of us hope to one day join. Ya know what though? I gotta keep it real and come to terms that I wont be a member of that club for a few decades. Sure. one day I’ll be in the Million Dollar Club, but until that day comes, I’m perfectly content serving as Senior Assistant Junior Associate Vice President of the “Thousand Dollar Baller Club”.

That’s right suckas, you ain’t need no proper grammar, flashy cars, or 5+ bedroom crib to join this club. In fact, a Ford Fiesta, one bedroom apartment in the quasi-ghetto, and a hint of frugality is all you need to be a member. Sure the millionaire clubs may be more snobby elite, but the Thousand Dollar Baller Club is nothing to be ashamed of.

According to CareerBuilders.com most recent survey, 61% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That means 61% of Americans would be royally screwed if they lost their jobs. You definitely want to be a member of the thousand-aire club, because that means you can survive (at least for a short period of time) with no income. The ramifications of having no savings is shown in this highly scientific formula I worked up…

So, not only does being a member of the highly exclusive “Thousand Dollar Baller Club” make you one of the coolest people in the world, but it also gives you some stability. Can I get a booya for stability?

Too often we get so caught up in the future, that we forget to find hapiness in our current situation. Well not anymore kiddos, I am proud to be the first member of The Thousand Dollar Baller Club. Are ya like me, and get so focused on making that first million, that you forget to appreciate the fact that you are a thousand-aire? How long have you been a member of this “not-so-elite” club? If you’re stoked to have over $999 in the bank, drop me a line in the comment section below ’cause I want to hear you say “I love being a thousand-aire!”

p.s. I made this sweet little badge for my sidebar…
here is the code for it, if you’d like to put in on your site!….

<a href=”http://www.punchdebtintheface.com/”><img title=”thousand dollar club” src=”http://www.punchdebtintheface.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/thousand-dollar-club.jpg” alt=”” width=”125″ height=”125″ /></a>

National savings rate…epic fail

Wanna see something that will make you cringe? It’s a graph of the United States Personal Savings Rate. As of mid 2009, the savings rate had reached a 17 year high (6.9%) as Americans conserved cash due to the declining economy. If the savings rate is at a ‘relatively’ high point, you might be wondering why the graph would be scary… well, check this ‘ish out!

Shame on us America, and by “us” I mean you, and by “you” I mean anyone that helped contribute to this dismal savings rate. There are a couple interesting things about this graph. The first being that from the 1960’s to the mid 1980’s, the savings rate held steady between 8%-11%. But if you look from the mid 1980’s to just before 2007, the savings rate had PLUMMETED from around 10% to 0% (including one year with a negative savings rate). That’s just plain embarrassing America.

Another interesting thing that can be seen in the graph; periods of recession (included in the gray shading) almost always resulted in an increased US savings rate. This is particularly noticeable in this most recent recession where savings went from 0% to 6.9%. You know what this graph indicates? That Americans suck really really bad at saving their money, and even worse, we don’t learn our lesson. Sure we might save more during recessions, but the second the recession has passed, we are right back to our old ways… living paycheck to paycheck, racking up debt, and making a$$e$ of ourselves.

There is an old adage that goes “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” Unfortunately for America it goes a little something like this “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times, shame on you…” When are we going to learn our lesson? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not until it’s too late…a.k.a. China comes and takes us over.

Don’t worry though, being the revolutionary voice of personal finance that I am (you think I am right?), I have a solution… make the US savings rate an Olympic event!!!! If there is one thing we Americans love it’s sports and America. Just imagine, a live feed of the US savings rate in comparison to all the other major countries of the world, during the Olympics. It would be just as exciting as watching Michael Phelps win his 8 gold medals (Dear Michael Phelps, if you are reading this, will you bear my children?). Seriously though, the only way I can think of motivating my American counterparts to save is by making it some sort of competition. If they knew how badly we sucked at this thing (especially when compared to other countries) it just might spark a long term savings attitude. Ah, a boy can dream right?

Do you think this recent savings boom is gonna stick around? Did we REALLY learn our lesson this go around? How can we teach/instruct/force people to save more? Are you currently part of the solution or the problem? According to this poll I ran a few weeks back, it seems like most PDITF readers are doing their part to save a decent amount of their take home pay. Kudos to you.

Net Worth: February 2010

I would like to officially welcome my Net Worth to 2010. I have some ground rules for the NW for the remaining 11 months…GO UP!!!! It’s all about growth baby, not to be consfused with “growing babies” (baby ninja’s aren’t coming till 2050). Let’s see how I’ve done…

Checking Account(s): $1,877, -$2,483. My checking accounts (INGdirect and Chase) took a hit over the last month, but for good reason: I transferred a couple thousand dollars in to my online savings account. You’ll see that growth in the next category.

Savings Account: $21,065, +$3,340. I have officially broken $20,000 in my online savings and it feels good. If you are wondering why I haven’t just paid my student loan off it’s for a few reasons. 1) I’ve got a wedding pending and don’t know how much to plan for my wedding expenses (i.e. gifts, honeymoon, etc). 2) Girl Ninja and I have many unknowns ahead of us, and having extra cash on hand helps calm us mentally. 3) Because it’s my blog and I can do what I want šŸ™‚

Roth IRA: $13,368 -$387. I don’t like it when the stock market goes down, but I guess it has to happen from time to time. Oh well, glad it was only a few hundred dollars of money I wont touch till I’m old anyways.

TSP (401K): $11,759, +$118. Five percent of each paycheck makes its way in to this account, which get’s fully matched. I invest in very similar funds in both my Roth IRA and 401K. I use to contribute 8%, but after some thought, I decided to reduce down to 5% this year.

Student Loan: -$16,003, +$190. Oh Sallie Mae, how much I loathe thee, yet I still keep you around. I find comfort knowing I could rid myself of you at any moment. Don’t get too comfortable, you won’t be sticking around that long.

That put’s me at a net worth of….drumroll please….. $30,234!!! I’m up $1,441 from last month, which means I have officially joined the $30,000 club (if such a club exists). I can’t wait for this month to be over, because I will be seeing a $12,000/yr raise coming my way in early March, it should work out to about $700 extra each month that will go straight towards increasing my NW. Thanks for poking in ya’ll and I’ll be seeing ya tomorrow!

If you have wondered why the blue bar (debt) in the graph sometimes increases, it’s because my credit card balance gets taken in to account each month. Even though I pay the balance in full it still appears as a “liability” in Quicken. I just deduct this from my checking account balance to give myself an accurate net worth reading. This is why my total increase, may not always necessarily match with the total of each category, but I promise the overall total is REAL. I choose not to include my car in my NW calculations, which would probably increase my worth by about $8K.

Have you no morals?

I tweeted on Saturday about an article I read over at The Motley Fool. I am pretty frustrated with the article and think it is worthy content to bring up today. If nothing else, it should at least stir a little bit of controversy in the comment section below. You can find the full article here, but here’s a quick excerpt…

For many of the underwater homeowners in today’s market, paying down their mortgage isn’t really in their best financial interest. Particularly in states like Arizona — where mortgages are nonrecourse, meaning the lender can’t go after any of the homeowner’s assets other than the property itself — it makes little sense to continue paying a large mortgage on a devalued house when comparable rental rates are far below the monthly mortgage payment.

This article made my blood boil. Have you ever seen a ninja’s blood boil? It’s not a pretty sight. I totally disagree with hate this article for a few reasons…

First, and most important, it’s totally immoral. So you may be $100K underwater on your house. But if you can still afford the mortgage, you have every MORAL obligation to keep paying. To be clear, I don’t have an issue with someone walking away from their house if they have no ability to pay their mortgage (i.e. can’t put food on the table, can’t afford gas to get to work, have become unemployed, etc), but to recommend that people walk away, even when they can comfortably afford the mortgage is ludicrous. Sure it may not be illegal to walk away, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Just because your home decreased in value, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to back out of your end of the contract. Remember, when you purchase a home, you VOLUNTARILY accept the risk that comes with it.

Quite a few people that commented on the article made comments like… “Banks screw us all the time, this is just our chance to get back at them.” Ummm excuse me? If you think that is an acceptable reason to back out of your mortgage contract than please do me a favor, quit reading my blog, and go read Im-A-Big-Dumb-Head.com. Now I’m not saying banks aren’t shady, ’cause we all know they can be, but why does that suddenly give you the right to be an equally douchtastic individual? This is such a juvenile thought-process, I can’t even comprehend why someone thinks this is a reasonable excuse. Yes banks can be evil, but you walking away from your home, makes you just as terrible.

The third and final reason I can’t stand this article is because it would cause the end of the world, okay maybe not the end of the world, but the entire economy would collapse if people actually followed this advice. A commenter said it best….

so let me get this straight…the plan is for people seriously underwater to just walk away…

…. followed by a further decline in home values……then those people who WERE just slightly underwater become seriously underwater….. but thats OK they can just walk away too…..

causing another wave of declining values….eventually even those that have equity will be underwater too….but thats OK they can just walk away with the rest of em……..

If people follow the author’s advice, the amount of foreclosures would skyrocket, thus causing a downward spiral in home values nationwide. An increase in foreclosures is NO BUENO in my opinion.

I have so many other things I want to say about this article, but instead of rambling on, I’d rather hear what you all have to say. Does anyone else find this article concerning? What do you think would happen if people actually started taking this advice? What matters more, your “best” financial interest, or your morals? Is there anyone out there that can try and make sense of how this could possibly be a good thing for America? Ugh, this article makes me depressed with humanity.

Short term loss for long term gain

It’s been a while since IĀ  have updated you all on the dream job. I applied for a job back in February and over the last 11 months have been slowly moving through the exhaustive hiring process. Thus far, I have peed in a cup (twice), completed a medical screening, passed an extensive physical fitness test, survived a three person hiring panel, passed a written test, completed a 700 question psychological exam, and undergone psychaiatric evaluation, oh, and I’m still not done with all of the hiring steps.

Needless to say, it has taken a good chunk of time, as well as a lot of work, to make it this far in the process. As a potential final job offer nears (fingers crossed), I need to begin to plan my life accordingly. One of the interesting things about this dream job; my starting salary could possibly be $20,000/yr less than what I currently make. That’s a whole lot of dinero to give up.

I’ve explained before the government pay system, but one thing I did not hit on was the consequences of switching positions. Come February, I will be a GS-11, which means I will be making $62,000/yr. The position I applied for starts at a GS-7 ($42,000/yr) but progresses to a salary much higher than my current positions maximum salary (the most I can make in my current position is $90k/yr, the dream jobs max salary is $143,000).

So here is the dilemma. If I am offered (and I accept) said dream job, then my income will immediately drop $20,000/yr. At approximately two years, I would be making equal money to what I’d be making in my current position. And from the third year on I would be making increasingly more money each year. It would be a short term loss of income, for a long term gain.

I know what most of you are probably thinking. “Take the pay cut while you are young and not really dependent on a large income”, that is definitely good advice, but it is not that simple. Reducing my income for the next two years would severely hinder my goals to pay off my student loan, to fully contribute to my Roth IRA while I am young, and to save for a large down payment. Not to mention, that if I ended up not liking the dream job, I would have taken a huge income hit for nothing. I have weighed the pros and cons of both options and made a decision, but before I share that, I’d like to see what you all had to say.

Could you afford to give up a large portion of your income, for a long term gain? Did you ever start a job you thought you’d love, only to realize it was absolute misery? Have you ever done anything like this? Was it scary? Did it work out like you thought? Is taking an initially lower paying position considered “taking a step backwards” in my career? I’m in a pickle and I would love some help šŸ™‚

Male = Income, Woman = Kitchen

I approximate mine and Girl Ninja’s combined income will be between $80,000 and $100,000 per year when we get hitched in August. At that point I will have just turned 25 and she will be 23. We will barely be in our mid twenties and could be potentially earning a six-figure income. That makes me very, very, very excited.

As we begin to plan out the rest of our lives, we have started discussing what we want our family model to look like. While I would like to explore the idea of adopting a 30 year old millionaire, Girl Ninja is really set on having babies of our own (I know selfish, right?). Kids come with a good deal of responsibility (so I hear). Neither of us are big fans of the idea of childcare, so one of us will be a stay at home parent… and by one of us I mean Girl Ninja will be šŸ™‚

We were both raised in households in which Dad worked hard and made a decent income and Mom was able to stay at home and watch Oprah and do pilates (that’s all stay-at-home mom’s do, right?). Both of our mother’s did, however, begin working at least part time once the kids were old enough to go school. Girl Ninja and I have begun mapping out what we think would be the best for our particular situation and here is what we have come up with thus far…

  • Begin exploring the option of baby ninjas after two years of newlywed bliss. (yay newlyweds)
  • As Baby Ninja #1 comes along, the wifey will quit her job as a teacher and become a full time stay-at-home mom.(yay babies)
  • Our income will take an immediate $40,000 a year hit (boo loss of income)
  • Babies our expensive!!! (boo increase in cost of living)
  • As Baby Ninja #17 finally enters kindergarten, we will begin to explore GN going back to work (yay possible income boost!)

Girl Ninja totally wants to be a full time mom, and I am in full support of that decision. I’d be lying if I said having a loss of income, and a rise of expenses didn’t stress me out, but at the end of the day I think all will be okay. We want a very traditional, cookie cutter, leave it to beaver type household. Man works and builds things, woman makes dinner and cares for children.

I know in today’s culture, many woman have little or no desire to be a stay at home mom. They want to work just as hard (if not harder) than their male counterparts. That’s just not how Girl Ninja and I were raised, and not how we envision our family. So now I turn the soapbox over to you and ask what was your parents family model when you were growing up? If you’re married, What does your household look like? If you aren’t married, what do you envision for your future? For those of you that have a parent stay at home, was it hard to adjust to the lost income? For those that both parents stay working, was it hard to put your child in prison daycare? As always, any help/advice/insight is GREATLY appreciated.

p.s. whoever said all babies are cute, lied, as evidenced by the following picture…