Just a Feeling

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.

It has occurred to me that I seem to be managing my money less in terms of hard numbers and more in terms of how I feel. Granted, I still have set budget amounts for my normal monthly spending items, but savings is where things have shifted.  It is possible that with the recent stock market volatility that I have grown hesitant to add more to my Vanguard account or it is because I just don’t like the way my Capital One savings account looks.  Either way, I have decided to make a change.

50/50

My savings are not in a bad position, but I just don’t feel comfortable with the level that it’s at right now. There have been some recent hits to savings that have been easily absorbed, but have reduced the overall level in the account.

Some things like pre-buying my oil for the winter are known and expected, but others like an unexpected vet bill were not.  Since I divide my savings up into multiple categories, there always seem to some that have a positive balance and some that have a negative balance.  I have been feeling recently that there appear to be more with a negative balance, than positive.

As it turns out, it is exactly 50/50, half are positive and half are negative.  This is making me uneasy.

Attack Plan

My plan of attack is two-fold.

My first step will be to redirect my monthly savings number from Vanguard, back to my Capital One savings.  I am sure I could earn a better return in the market, even if it’s just from dividends, but I am not looking for returns right now.  So, that’s $85 a month I can plow back into savings.  I am also going to adjust some of the category savings amounts.  With gas prices staying low for the foreseeable future, I am readjusting what I set aside for that every month.  At the gas price peak back in 2013, I would set aside $325 a month for gas.  I have since adjusted that down to $175.  The most recent adjustment was from $200 down to $175.  The extra $25 will be added into the $85 to beef up all savings categories.  I will start with my general savings (emergency fund) and the eventually add to all the categories that are running a deficit.

The second prong of my attack will hopefully be with my annual bonus.  I should be learning soon about the amount of the bonus.  My plan is to use that to strictly augment my savings.  There are no large expenses coming this year that require funds to be set aside.  The only two things that will be allocated from the bonus are the Disney trip in a couple of years and some money for some small trips this year.

The catch is I do not know the amount of the annual bonus.  I will find out soon, so right now I am just guessing.  I already know, no matter what, the take-home is significantly less than the actual bonus.  In my case, the number is actually about 46% less.  Between the taxes and my 401k contributions, the bonus amount is substantially reduced by the time it ends up in my checking account.  Knowing this however, I can more effectively plan out what I might do with various bonus amounts.  At about that same time, I will find out if there will be a salary increase.  That is another area that could help shore up the savings categories.  Again, not knowing the value makes planning slightly more difficult.

Just a Little Higher

It does feel good to know that I am not in dire straits, that I do have at a minimum about 4 months of expenses completely covered.  I just want that number to be a bit higher.  So, it is just a matter of readjusting my cash flow to the areas of concern.  How is your cash flow doing?  Making any changes?

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How to Avoid Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a subject that nobody wants to contemplate. It is because it resonates with a sense of loss and failure. Filing for insolvency can also have a big, negative impact on your credit history. Many people struggle to regain their former footing after they have undergone the proceedings for liquidation.

There are many instances where it is inevitable. You simply have to face your debts and hire a Phoenix bankruptcy attorney. There are, however, ways that you can avoid bankruptcy. These are best implemented when you first begin to descend into debt. Here are some tips for avoiding filing for bankruptcy:

Budget Your Life

In a world where materialism is abundant it can be very easy to get caught up in purchasing items, many which you do not need. This is the first step to getting your finances under control. You need to make a distinction between the things that you need and the things that you want. The things or items that you need are necessary for your survival. These include food and shelter. There are other items or services that may make your life more comfortable but that you do not actually require. This can range from gadgets, vehicles, and entertainment.

This sacrifice may not be permanent – you only have to minimize your spending until you have paid back all of your debts. For a certain period of time, however, you are going to have to make some hard choices about the way that you live. There are many substitutions you can make in your life to ensure this. For instance, switch to cheaper brands of food, mend clothes rather than buying new ones, and walk more instead of using your car. This little lifestyle changes will make a big impact in your life.

Sell What You Can

Bankruptcy is rarely just forgiving all of your debts. In most instances, it requires you to sell off possessions that you do not really need. You can now get ahead of the curve. There are many ways that you can sell your various belongings. The internet, in particular, has made it easier for you to sell your possessions than ever before. You should first go through your things and mark anything that is not a necessity. These can be sold to get some extra money.

Even if you are not sure if something has value, try to sell it online or even in a garage sale. When you are in a bind, every little bit counts. When you combine all of the small amounts, you may find that they actually add up to a considerable amount.

Arrange Your Debt

When it is all lumped together, your debt may seem like an insurmountable obstacle. This is why many people feel quite hopeless about all the dues they have accumulated. Your outlook may not be so bleak, however. One of the first things you should do is talk to your debt collectors or those that you owe money to. They may be quite reasonable. Together, you may be able to come up with a payment plan that benefits both parties. It is certainly worth looking into.

Bankruptcy is not always the only option available to you. You should always seek help from experts so that you can find a way out from underneath all of your debt.

 

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Marketers

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.

Marketers have become really good at their jobs.  They have convinced people that they can no longer live without certain things, that life is not complete unless they have certain material things.  The marketers have made ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ a way of life for some people.  I have come across a couple of instances recently that illustrate this point quite well.  You’ll have to excuse me if I come across as judgmental.  I don’t begrudge anyone’s choices.  People are free to do as they wish, but I don’t want to hear any complaints when circumstances change and people feel like they don’t have any money.  The first anecdote I’ll talk about is my wife’s college roommate (I’ll call her CR) and the second is a conversation I had with someone at work.

I not sure how exactly how we came to be talking about CR, as my wife’s college reunion was a couple of months ago.  I did learn however that CR’s husband works two jobs and CR also works.  CR has a daughter about the same age as my daughter and has a $400 IPad.  Now, to be fair, my daughter has her own Kindle as well.  I did not buy it for her, nor would I have bought one for her.  Even though the Kindle was only about $100, I don’t consider it a necessity.  It is possible that someone bought the IPad for CR’s daughter.  If that’s the case, then I am being judgmental.  The family is also going to Disney in the next year.  Now, I’m budgeting $10,000 for my Disney vacation, which I’m sure some would consider excessive.  But to me, if you are working 3 jobs as a family, Disney does not sound like something that is affordable.  I should also mention that CR and her husband both have one of the latest smart phones.  Marketers have been highly effective at convincing CR that they cannot live without their products.

My other anecdote comes from a conversation I had with one of the security guards at work.  He is a relatively young guy, probably in his early to mid-twenties.  During the course of our conversation he mentioned that he lived in a 1-bedroom apartment and had both a 60-inch TV and a 40-inch TV.  He lives in this apartment with his girlfriend and his 4-year old son.  I won’t say that someone shouldn’t have a TV, as it can be a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment.  But a 60-inch TV isn’t cheap.  I did a quick search on Amazon and a 60-inch TV can run $900 to $2,000.  I get the appeal of a large TV and I even would like to upgrade mine to a larger version.  I also know that I don’t have enough money to do it.

I wrote before about how it seemed easier for my parents to provide the basics for their 3 kids on a lot less salary than I make now.  Lifestyle inflation has become a way of life.  Everyone now needs the latest smart phone in addition to a home computer.  One TV in the house is no longer the norm.  Now there must be a TV in the living room and a TV in every bedroom.  Along with that, every TV is connected to 150+ cable channels.  It is no wonder that people don’t feel like they have enough money to save for an emergency fund or retirement.  All of their extra money is being spent on what others have deemed to be the new life essentials.  I see these things and wish I could convince people that these things are not the new normal.  Saving for goals and saving for your financial security should be the norm.  Until that time comes, I’ll keep plugging along on my financial path and remind myself that appearances aren’t everything.

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Following the Plan

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.

“Follow your plan.” I have told myself that a few times over the last couple of months. The situations that I said that to myself were different, but the saying applied to both. The first situation was during the stock market volatility after the summer and the other was the marathon I ran recently. I listened to myself for one and not the other.

Running My Own Race

I had already completed one marathon before I ran it for the second time this year, so I had an idea of what time I could finish it in. I had run a few other shorter races over the summer and generally felt pretty good. My training plan was similar to last year and I had connected with a group of guys that run together on the weekends.

They are generally faster than I am, but I figure running with them helps me to improve my overall conditioning. So being a numbers guy, my target pace per mile would be about an 8:55 pace. That would have beaten my time from last year by about 10 seconds per mile. As I mentioned before, pacing has been the hardest part for me. This marathon has people that are called ‘Pacers’. Their job is simply to run the race at a set pace and finish at a target time. Unfortunately for me, the pacers weren’t going to be running the exact time I wanted.

The two choices were 8:47 or 9:09. The 9:09 pace wouldn’t work for me, as I felt that was too slow. The 8:47 seemed aggressive and I wasn’t sure if I should try it. Even as the race was about to start, I hadn’t decided if I was going to follow the pacer or not. Once the race began though, I did decide to follow the 8:47 pacer. As I was running, I would check my watch to see how fast I was running. I had set my watch to show me my instant pace. I was seeing times of 8:30, 8:35 and so on. I kept telling myself that I was going too fast, that I needed to slow down, follow my plan. I did not though.

I felt pretty good and was able to stay with the pacer without too much trouble. Then, mile 23 hit. My body hit the proverbial wall and I could no longer maintain the same pace anymore. There was a lot of walking during the last 3 miles. I ended up finishing about two minutes slower than last year with a time just under 4:01. Had I stuck to my plan, I probably wouldn’t have run out of gas. Hopefully, that lesson sticks when I run my next marathon next year. I am already planning for a spring marathon. I don’t want too much time to pace before I can put my learnings into practice.

Less Stress

With my HSA account, the plan has been to only invest the money leftover at the end of the year. The stock market volatility recently had me thinking about deviating from that plan. Since I believe that in the long run, the stock market is going to go up. I was thinking about buying when the market dropped significantly. I have cash sitting in the HSA account that I could have plowed into the market. I was hesitant however. Since I don’t know if the rest of the year will bring any additional medical expenses, I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest the cash. Just in case the market dropped even further and I had additional unexpected expenses, I decided to keep the money in cash and wait until the end of the year. I decided to stick with my original plan. The market has since rebounded and there haven’t been any unforeseen medical expenses, but I still content with my decision. Even though I missed out on some potential gains, the added stress was not worth it.

The Knowledge

These two events have reinforced with me that I don’t always need to follow the herd, literally with running and figuratively with my finances. Sure, conventional wisdom says to invest when the market is down, but the price for me in terms of stress was too high. I stuck with my original plan and was able to sleep better as a result. Hopefully, I can follow that voice during my next marathon.

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Characteristics Fit For CFD Trading

If you are familiar with CFD (contract for difference) trading you would know that it is not for everybody. The job is demanding, high-stressed, fast-paced, and downright difficult. Nevertheless, there are individuals whose innate characteristics are suited for such job. Here are specific personality characteristics that are fit for successful traders.

Realistic CFD Trading

CFD trading is not an exact science. Losses are possible as much as gaining. Nobody, no matter how good they are can guarantee a winning trade all the time. There are a lot of factors that come into play during trading and most of them are outside anybody’s control. This is the reason why being realistic is important for a trader to excel. If you want to go into this kind of business then you have a complete grasp of what is happening all around you. Even if you plan on earning an identified amount, you have to be open to the possibility of not hitting it if odds are not favorable. Realistic people are grounded. They are accepting of circumstances, whether good or bad. They have a clear grasp of the fact that there are just certain happenings that are beyond control. They do not brood long and continuously move on.

Driven

Being successful in CFD trading requires passion and immeasurable amount of drive. As earlier mentioned, this business is not easy. There will be a lot of times that you might feel discouraged and frustrated because of failures. However, if you stop and quit every time things get tough then you will not be present to see better days. Individuals who are driven have high endurance. They can stay in a task for a long time until they figure it out. They are tireless in pursuing what they want. They don’t stop until they reach their goals because they have to satisfy their need for achievement.

Optimistic

True optimists do not live in a make-believe world, where everything is pretty and colorful. If you are a true-blue optimistic person it means that you don’t easily get bogged down by set-backs. You have the ability to bounce back whenever you encounter failures. You have an attitude that readily sees what you can use to do better, even during failings. Being optimistic is important when doing CFD trading. Traders encounter situations that may seem unbearable and without a healthy attitude it would be hard to go on and improve.

Flexible

There is no clear cut strategies that can guarantee a winning trade every time. Every strategy is dependent on the kind of situation. There are even a lot of instances wherein there is a need to change techniques during trading. This is where being flexible would come in. If you are flexible it is very unlikely that you are stubborn. You will not have any difficulty changing strategies mid-way. You wouldn’t stick to things that are not working just because you thought it would. You have an open-mind and can readily adapt. If you are not flexible then you may end up losing all your account credit sticking to what you believe in; even though, it no longer applies.

Sociable

Technically, traders work alone. However, every trade involves numerous traders, meaning people. Essentially individuals in the trading business are indirectly dealing with a lot of people all the time. If you are sociable, you can mingle with different kinds of people, most especially traders. You may not be aware of it during the start of contact but you get to take home valuable knowledge whenever you interact with others. This is particularly true if you have contacts with some of the best people in the field. You can learn so much from their wealth of experience.

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Job Loyalty

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.

Recently, the company I work for announced the benefit changes for the upcoming year. One change in particular did not go down well with the employees. People were angry, bitter and talked about disloyalty from the company. I’ll talk about the numbers surrounding the benefits in another post. In this one, I’d like to talk how people felt the change was personal, that their friend had betrayed them. I never got that worked up about it and mainly just shrugged the change off.

401k Change

Maybe it is because I tend to be more analytical than most that I didn’t get too upset about the change. All the company was doing was changing when they were going to give you your 401k matching contribution. Instead of matching each paycheck with your contribution, they were changing to a once a year match in the 1st quarter of the following year. While not ideal, and certainly not the best for my final account balance, I did not get too upset. The company had said they were doing this to cut costs. The numbers made sense to me, if an employee were to leave before the end of the year, the company would be able to keep the money and thus lower costs. As I said, some employees felt like there friend had betrayed them.

I have to admit. For any company I’ve worked for, I have never felt any great attachment. I have always known that my employment is on an at-will basis. Meaning either the company or I can choose to end the employment at any time. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t liked any company that I’ve worked for in the last 20 years, it’s just that I am not emotionally attached to it. I just found it odd that some employees felt the company owed them something different. I realize there is no loyalty on the company’s part to me and the reverse is there is no loyalty on my end. My only loyalty is to my family and close friends.

Not Expecting Loyalty

I do expect any company I work for to treat me fairly and within whatever guidelines were in place when I was hired. If any of that should change, I am free to look elsewhere for another job. That was the one question that my wife asked me during our discussion of this, “Had I considered looking for another job?” I informed her that I wasn’t thinking about it. I still feel the benefits that I have are probably better than what I might be able to get elsewhere. Since I’ve been with this company for almost 7 years now, I would lose the tenure if I were to go somewhere else.

All the companies that I’ve worked for have a sliding scale of some sort when it comes to vacation time. The longer you are there, the more time you receive. I currently receive 24 days a year and will receive an additional 5 days in another 2 years. By leaving, I would restart that clock with another employer. In addition, the 401k match I receive is pretty good. I have mentioned it before, it’s a one-to-one match up to 6% and the company contributes an additional 2% in lieu of a pension. There aren’t many companies out there with that level of contribution. I also like our health insurance benefits. I was apprehensive about having a high-deductible plan and an HSA, but I have come around in the last couple of years. I like paying a little premium every paycheck and then paying the bills I incur myself. The insurance is there should something catastrophic occur.

In the end, the company reversed its decision on the match. Even if it hadn’t, I would still have been here next year, so long as they wanted me here.

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Auto Insurance Tax Hacks

Anyone who wants to save a little money should look for deductions on their upcoming taxes to uncover any and all possible savings. These people will not be disappointed. The little known truth for casual or novice tax-filers is that many write-offs exist. Of course, if you’re a tax veteran or run a business you’ve probably spent countless hours trying to keep up with the annual IRS updates. But even then, you may not be aware of some of the specific auto insurance deductions.

Let’s learn more below.

Personal Auto Insurance

Simply put, personal auto insurance is auto insurance for an individual’s personal-use automobile. Just like you can’t write off personal spending on buying groceries, or personal utilities, you also can’t write off personal expenses related to your personal auto. If you are using your car to drive around for leisure, then you unfortunately don’t have anything to write off. If you’re using your car for your employer’s business, then you should seek to get reimbursed in some capacity.

If you happen to have a personal auto that you use for a personal business, then you are getting closer to write-off eligibility. As with many other business-related expenses, if you have your own business then you are able to start writing items off. Many (or at least portions) of all of the activities that are directly related to running and operating the business are considered business expenses, and business expenses can be written off. So, if you have a business and have to use your auto for the business, then you should be able to write off a portion of all of the expenses related to that auto on your taxes. This is still somewhat confusing and may require an accountant if there is a combination of business activities mixed in with personal use. You could use your own discretion, but then you’re also opening yourself up to the possibility of an audit you’ll have to answer to down the line.

Business Auto Insurance

While personal autos are personal-first, business-second, with business autos the setup is reversed. By having your auto titled in the company name, or by having a business auto policy, you can write off the insurance premiums on your taxes. Just like buying equipment or paying rent for your office, expenses for driving and maintaining your business autos are considered to be part of the business operation.

However, this is a general rule and you should still check with your accountant to find out exactly how it applies to you, but for the most part you should be covered. If you still need more clarification on the question of: “is car insurance tax deductible?” plenty of sites such as CoverHound exist that are well-versed on this topic. If you’re putting in the time and effort for your business, then you might as well see the fruits of your labor and get back as much as possible when it comes time to do your taxes.

If You Can Deduct

When it actually comes time to do your taxes, you’ll either have a horrible time or a stress-free time depending on how organized you’ve been. By having the right paperwork filled out ahead of time, you will save yourself hours and possibly even days on top of the countless dollars you could wind up writing off. Make sure that you keep a record of your miles (specifically the ones you drive for business and the ones you drive for pleasure). You also want to know how to deduct mileage when it comes to taxes. Having an idea of what counts and what doesn’t is one thing, but also being sure that you know exactly how much you are getting back per mile could make you more mindful in how much you’re actually using your vehicle.

Again, all of this information should be reviewed by a licensed accountant. While there are some simple rules that anyone can follow with respect to the IRS, you may have some unique circumstances to pay attention to. Instead of risking an audit, which wastes time, energy and nerves – have a good idea of how you can write off your auto expenses and car insurance. Then, once you are all but sure of what your taxes will look like, it might just make sense to have a tax professional double check what you are claiming and confirm your math as well. By planning ahead of time and understanding the process up front, you could wind up saving a significant amount of cash come tax season.

 

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