I’m buying.

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 lady 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?

Deal or no deal?

Let’s play the hypothetical game. 

A rich billionaire approaches you and says “I will pay you your current salary for the rest of your life, on the condition you never generate any other income for as long as you live.”

This means if you currently make $50,000/year, this billionaire will pay you $50,000/year for the rest of your life (yes this will adjust for inflation). If you accept his generous offer, you forfeit your right to all future sources of income; investments, employment, inheritance, or otherwise.

Would you take the deal? 

Holy crap this question is tough for me to answer. I have to make a list before I can answer this question because it’s so difficult for me to wrap my head around.

Pros of taking the lifetime pension: 

Security.

  • I mean this is why we save for retirement and make investments right? One day we will be too old to work, so we have to create assets that will produce income for us. How sweet would it be to know you had a paycheck coming every month, forever, no matter what your circumstance!

More freed up cash flow.

  • Even though I’d be getting paid my exact salary, I’d have $10,000+ of additional disposable income. A guaranteed income stream means I no longer have to invest in a 401k or my Roth IRA. That’s a 15% raise effective immediately!

I could do whatever the heck I wanted.

  • I make a pretty good salary, how awesome would it be to make this same salary, but do something uber-exciting with my days. Like lead Young Life. Or work as a substitute teacher. Or become a gypsy and travel the world. The billionaire’s offer didn’t state I’m not allowed to work, only that I can’t collect any money from any work I do. I can think of at least five jobs that I imagine I’d enjoy immensely, but will never do because the pay for these positions isn’t high enough.

Cons of taking the lifetime pension: 

I’m only 27.

  • If I’m doing alright for myself after only five years in the work force, who knows what the next five or ten years could bring. By locking in my current salary for life, I would be giving up the potential to make more down the road. Zuckerberg was probably super pumped when he found out Facebook was worth $100 million, imagine if he cashed out then!

Complacency.

  • If I knew money was coming in, every month, no matter what, I’d probably get pretty lazy. I’d definitely work in some capacity, but since being fired wouldn’t scare me, I probably wouldn’t try too hard. Fear is motivating. Not to mention, there would be little motivation to be a top performer since I couldn’t collect on any bonuses, promotions, or raises.

Predictability

  • If someone could tell you the exact moment you were gonna die, would you want to know? Probably not. It would be weird knowing exactly how much time you did or didn’t have. I think the same would be true for my income. Knowing my salary would never change for the next 50+ years would take a lot of excitement out of life. Everything becomes significantly more safe, and I don’t really want to be remembered as the guy that lived a safe life.

Ultimately, I think I’d probably take the deal. We don’t feel like our current income limits our lifestyle, so if I could lock in the security we have now, forever, I’d probably do it. Who knows though, maybe I’m just saying that because this hypothetical situation is…. well, hypothetical?

What about you? Would you take the deal?  If you said no to the initial deal, at what salary would you strongly consider accepting the deal?

I realize this scenario is highly dependent on one’s age, salary, goals, family situation, etc. That’s why I think the question is so good. Everyone will have a different reason for picking the answer they did! 

If you have more than $10,000 in the bank, I think you’re silly.

After a few years of living well below our means, Girl Ninja and I have managed to save up about $80,000. On average, we spend about $3,500/month. According to my calculator watch, this means we could survive for about two years – at current spending rates – on just our savings. If we cut back on spending just a tad, which we would in the event we both lost our jobs, we could stretch this out to over 2.5 years of expenses. Talk about financial security!

But then there is this pesky thing called a down payment that one must consider when looking to buy a home (don’t worry this isn’t another post about homeownership). For the houses we are looking at, this likely means a down payment of around $70,000. This leaves us with just $10,000 in the bank after we buy a house (note: I’m assuming the seller will pay most, if not all, of our closing costs as part of the purchase agreement).

In the event we both lost our jobs, $10,000 would only sustain us for about three months. That’s a heck of a lot less cushion than the 18+ months we’ve gotten use to having. So what are we gonna do about it?

Absolutely nothing!

First, let’s not forget the $80,000 we have banked is not really our emergency fund. Some of it is, but most of it has always been earmarked as a “future house fund”.

While you might say “Ninja three months of expenses is not enough for an e-fund”, I would say back “You sir are a cotton headed ninny muggins.” $10,000 is plenty for the Ninja household. Here’s why…

The odds of us losing our jobs at the exact same time are quite small. She’s a teacher and hasn’t had an issue substituting or getting a contract position since she graduated college. Even when the San Diego School District was slashing positions left and right, Girl Ninja got a full-time contracted teaching position. Heck, she secured a teaching contract in Washington state three months before she even moved here. Needless to say, the girl is good at what she does.

While it’s possible the federal government workforce could be reduced here in the coming months/years, my position isn’t going anywhere. This isn’t an arrogant statement, it’s just reality. You remember when there were murmurs of a government shutdown a year ago? I got an email from my agency specifically saying our position is considered “mission critical” and I would have to continue working, shutdown or otherwise. What’s more, my performance reviews have always been favorable and I am no longer the youngest agent on the team (well I am the youngest by age, but not by years worked). Government positions are infamous for being pretty darn stable. If we worked in less secure fields we’d definitely consider bumping up our E-fund.

Maybe $10,000 isn’t enough, but I just can’t think of a plausible situation in which we would need access to all of that money in one swoop. Both of our vehicles are fully insured (comprehensive and collision) so they could be stolen, or totaled by an uninsured motorist, and we’re protected. We have renters insurance so if someone breaks in to our house and steals all our stuff, we’re covered. We have awesome healthcare benefits through our employers (Girl Ninja is actually double-covered) and our max out-of-pocket is well below this $10,000 threshold. Life and disability insurance are benefits my work provides. Short of someone kidnapping Mom Ninja and demanding $50,000 ransom, our $10,000 emergency fund should cover all major hiccups (especially if one, or both, of us are still working and brining in money).

Let’s not forget, savings accounts are terrible places to let money sit. They don’t keep up with the rate of inflation, which means you actually LOSE money each year. Why put more in a crappy savings vehicle than necessary? Remember money in a Roth IRA, and/or a taxable investment account, can be accessed in the event of an emergency without penalty.

Heck, if Girl Ninja and I decided tomorrow that we never wanted to buy a home, we would immediately invest the $70,000 we would have put down on a house. WE WOULD NOT KEEP IT IN OUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT ANY LONGER. We only have $80,000 in the bank because we plan on writing a fat check in the next few months.

Stocks and bonds help grow wealth. Savings accounts can’t even maintain wealth 🙁

Sometimes, I think people who have a 12 month emergency fund are silly, but I guess that’s the beautiful thing about personal finance. You do you, and I’ll do me. Chances are we’ll both end up just fine… although my money will at least be keeping up with inflation 😉

Low blow?

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How much do you have in an emergency fund right now (dollars and/or months of expenses covered)? What’s your ultimate E-fund goal? What made you decide that amount (why not more than that)? Has anyone with a 12 month e-fund actually used ALL of that money for an emergency?

p.s. I am not advocating people should keep three months of expenses in the bank and blow the rest, but merely they should consider keeping three months in cash, and investing the rest.

Twenty

Girl Ninja and I have been saving hard. Had we not bought a car, and had I not started MANteresting, we would be reaching our $100,000 savings goal  right… about………… now. But since we dropped a little extra coin this year, we are about six months behind schedule. As you also know, I’m thinking interest rates will slowly begin creeping upwards by mid to late 2013.

I’ve been watching Seattle real estate pretty closely and from what I gather, the local market seemed to bottom around summer 2011. While prices aren’t at pre-recession levels, they’ve definitely been ticking upwards for over a year. It’s not uncommon for a fairly priced house to sell at or above asking price, with multiple offers, in less than a week. Median home prices in Seattle are up 12% in the last year. It’s crazy.

Girl Ninja and I hope to begin walking through homes in January. We will put in an offer as soon as we find a place that captures our hearts. In my perfect world, we’d find a great house before April as the number of people looking to buy typically drops in the winter. Less competition means a better deal for us. 

Since we could potentially fall in love with a place pretty soon, it’s time I really start breaking down the numbers. Specifically in regards to the down payment. Girl Ninja and I have enough in the bank to put 20% down on our future place, but part of me doesn’t want to.

The 20% down figure is popular for two reasons. First, if a buyer can save up 20% of the purchase price of their home, that generally implies they are responsible. Likely responsible enough to buy a house. Second, 20% down gets you out of having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI can be quite costly. For example, throwing 10% down on a $350,000 house would leave us with a $151/month PMI bill. PMI is not an investment, it’s an expense.

That said, there are number of reasons putting a smaller amount down (10%) appeals to me. Here they are in no particular order…

1. Putting almost all of our liquid assets (cash) in to a single illiquid asset scares the bajeezus out of me. I mean, I would never just invest $70,000 in a single stock. Why the heck would I do that for a single house? Especially when things like hail storms, or a great recession, are totally out of my control, but can significantly reduce the value of my property. Scary! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I would NEVER pay cash for a house, and for those same reasons, I may not be willing to put 20% down.

2. Interest rates are stupid low. Like seriously the lowest they’ve ever been. And will likely ever be. Zillow tells me we would be looking at 3.145% APR on a $400,000 house if we bought today. That’s crazy. Why wouldn’t we leverage low-interest debt? If my student loans were at 2-3% like my sisters, I likely wouldn’t have paid them off so quick. My student loans, however were 7%. There was no way I could be confident that my investing skills could earn me a 7%+ return. It made sense to pay off my debt. But that wouldn’t be the case with a 3% tax-deductible APR. Heck, just a few years ago high yield savings accounts were paying 3%-4% returns, and inflation is gonna come around sooner or later. If we had a mortgage rate closer to 5% then I’d be all for paying down the loan faster, or throwing more money at the house up front.

3. Inflation will be my friend. Let’s pretend our mortgage payment is $1,500/month. Let’s say I currently bring home $4,500/month. A $1,500 payment would hurt for the first few years on that salary (33% of take home pay), but over time, the pain would significantly decrease as my salary adjusts for inflation. At 3% inflation, my $4,500 monthly salary would jump to $5,200 after five years. At the ten-year mark, I’d be bringing home $6,047. And 20 years from now, I’d be bringing home $8,127. My mortgage payment, however, would still be $1,500/month. As each year passes, the mortgage payment becomes a smaller portion of my take home pay. And let’s not forget, this example doesn’t take in to account ANY raises or promotions.

4.  20% down on a $350,000 house is a lot of freaking money. It scares me to think about writing a $70,000 check for a place I’ve never even stayed the night in. Instead, I’d prefer writing a $35,000 check (10%) and let the rest of the money sit in my bank account. If after a few months of really getting to know our house we felt like no major maintenance expenses were anticipated, we could pay down the loan with our savings and eliminate PMI.

5. There are alternatives to PMI. Single Financed Mortgage Insurance and Single Premium Mortgage Insurance are two such options. You can research them to get more info if you like.

So although we will have enough for a 20% down payment in the bank, we may not elect to go that route. We wont know, though, until we have found our first place. At that point we can run the numbers and see what makes the most sense for us.

How much did you (or will you) put down on your FIRST place? Why that amount? I know it’s easy to tell a stranger they should put 20% down, but is it always the right decision? Would you pay cash for a house?

What’s putting a roof over your head costing ya?

As Girl Ninja and I inch closer towards starting the house hunting process, we’ve been contemplating how much house we think we can afford. We thought maybe a mortgage pre-qualification calculator could help us out. Here was what we got when we ran the numbers based on our current financial situation…

Is this real life?

A half a million dollar home would be considered a conservative purchase for us? A nearly $700,000 home would be aggressive, but not unreasonable?

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW! 

I totally get why there was a housing bubble. People actually thought the amount of money they were approved for was the amount of money they should spend. What a crock! Heck, even if we eliminate Girl Ninja’s income from the equation (for when she becomes a stay at home mom) we still get a conservative purchase price of $421,000, and an aggressive list price of $500,000.

No. Freaking. Way.

When Girl Ninja and I figure out how much house we can afford, we actually don’t even think about house price. Instead, we have decided on a maximum monthly payment we’d be willing to stomach.We can then take that number and plug in some other variables (cash available for down payment, interest rate, and estimated property taxes/insurance) to see how much house we can buy.

We are personally comfortable with a monthly payment (including taxes) of about $1,500/month. That means, with today’s rates, we are looking at a maximum house price of about $350,000. That’s $200,000 less than the CONSERVATIVE calculation for our income. Can you believe that?

Seriously, who wants to put ALL of their take home pay in to a house… for thirty straight years? That sounds miserable and stressful. 

$1,500 is the exact rent we paid for our 600sqft, one bedroom apartment in San Diego two years ago. My/our income has gone up since that time and we know we can get by just fine with that size payment. Here’s how that number breaks down as a percentage of our pay…

1. 16% of OUR current GROSS pay; or  23% of MY current GROSS pay

2. 25% of OUR current NET income; or 33% of my NET income

So for now our budget is set at a $350,000 max purchase price. The only situations where we would possibly up the budget is if we a) bought a house near Green Lake in Seattle or b) bought something that had a rental unit attached. Living in Green Lake would be sweet, but as we learned during our open house-ing not even $400,000 goes very far there.

So reader, how much does the roof over your head cost each month? What does that work out to as a percentage of your  household pay? Be sure to put a general geographic area so we have some perspective. 

You know you’re obsessed with personal finance when…

I’ve done this once before, and I thought would be worth doing again. You ever heard a joke like “You know you’re a redneck when…

…You own a home that is mobile and 5 cars that aren’t.

…You think a 401K is your mother-in law’s bra size

…The biggest city you’ve ever been to is Wal-Mart.

You know what I’m talking about? Alright, good. Let’s take that joke style and make it relevant to personal finance. Is this a little juvenile? Probably. But if you were looking for a boring blog you should have gone here (click that link for a gem of a blog). I like to keep things fun, so today we are gonna keep things lighthearted. Here’s what I came up with:

You know you’re a PFer when…

…you track your finances with a spreadsheet, Mint, and Quicken.

…you spend more time at work reading PF blogs than actually working

…someone asks you for a Bible and you give them a Dave Ramsey book

and

…you have more bank accounts than pairs of underwear

Alright dudes and dudettes, that’s all I could conjure up. How about you? Drop your “You know you’re a PFer when….” in the comments below!!!

A day late… $15,000 short.

At the beginning of each calendar year I like to make some financial projections for our household. I’ve done it for the last four years and we’ve always not only met our goals, but absolutely destroyed them. It’s pretty stupid when you reach your 12 month goal in seven months. That doesn’t mean that I’m awesome, it means I made our goals too easy.

For 2012 I wanted things to be different. I wanted our goals to actually be a stretch. And boy were they a stretch. According to our 2012 budget, we started the year off with a net worth (NW) of $114,000. I set a goal for us to reach $170,000 by years end. If you saw my latest NW post you’ll see we’re currently standing at $153,000. That means we are $17,000 short of reaching our goal.

Dang. 

If you’re gonna crash and burn, might as well do it to the tune of $17K right? Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) I predicted this failure back in July. Thank goodness we weren’t caught off guard otherwise I might have had a heart attack.

So why did we fail so miserably? It really comes down to two reasons:

We bought a car. 

I didn’t account for this purchase in our spreadsheet because I didn’t know if we’d actually find a car worth buying. Turns out we did. We paid $20,000 for our Pilot out the door (after taxes and licensing). We sold Girl Ninja’s car for $8,200 to help recoup some of the cost. We took $11,800 out of our personal savings to cover the rest. If I included our vehicles in our NW, then we wouldn’t be that far off from our goal. But I haven’t included them in the past, and don’t plan on including them anytime soon.

I started a business. 

I launched MANteresting in February, well after I made our annual goals. I definitely didn’t anticipate the site picking up steam as quickly as it did. As a result, Jesse and I have been playing catch up ever since, both with the servers and our pocketbooks. From idea to launch, we had only spent about $1,000 building the site. From launch to present, we’ve spent around $15,000 making sure it scales with demand.

You know where my $7,500 portion of the expenses came from? That’s right. Our savings account. There was no way for me to know back in January that TIME, ABC, CNN, WSJ, NYT, TechCrunch, CNET, etc would have a hay day and feature MANteresting on their sites.

I’m happy to report the hard work has paid off and the site now pays for itself. THANK GOODNESS!!!! We’ve spoken with a few different “experts” on internet startups and have been told our site should be valued between $200,000-$500,000. Heck, even if the $200,000 valuation is quadruple our actual value that’s still a significant return on our investment. What will come of the website? Your guess is as good as mine. We’ll either die a slow and fiery death. Or we will end up relatively well off from it. Fingers crossed for the latter 🙂

So yeah, we are gonna end the year about $15,000 shy of our $170,000 goal, but ya know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. We make money so we can spend some of it (vehicle upgrade) and we save diligently so we can invest in great opportunities (new business).

I’ll be posting up our new budget and our new goals in the next few days. If we are lucky, we can epically fail at reaching those goals too!!!!

How has 2012 treated you? What were some of your financial (or personal) goals this year? Do you count your vehicles in your net worth? Should I?