Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Goals

  • Max out Roth IRA
    I am just about to max it out for 2009 and want to do it again in 2010!
  • E-Fund to $15K
    $15K would give me about a 10-month emergency fund.
  • Continue with CFA exams
    I recently took Level I, so we'll see what happens when I get my result in January.
  • Take golf lessons
    This was a 2009 goal that I didn't accomplish. Here's round two! ;)
  • Knit 3 items
    I started learning to knit at the end of 2008, but fell off the bandwagon in 2009. Even if I just knit three basic items like squares or scarves, I am really determined this year!
  • Volunteer
    I volunteered a lot during high school and college. I would really like to start again!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

It's Christmas Eve here on the West Coast. In my family, we open two presents each on Christmas Eve (German tradition) and the remainder plus stockings on Christmas Day. We also had a fantastic Christmas Eve dinner where each person in the family made one dish. My Mom made lava cake for dessert and then we watched a foreign movie. Overall, a fantastic night! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Early Birthday Present: A Cruise!

I'm taking a birthday vacation in January! It's a 4-night/3-day cruise to Mexico with a few of my best friends and I can't wait!

This was a bit of an impromptu decision over the last month but now it's all finalized. Since the cruise is within a few days of my birthday, my parents have offered to pay for the cost of it as my birthday present! I have more than enough money in my Travel Fund to cover the price ($395) plus all my on-board/in-port purchases, but now I only have to pay for the latter thanks to their generosity! :)

I am doing a high estimate of ~$150 for all my personal expenses. Since food is included while on the ship, this would be for drinks, snacks (though I'll probably bring some), steward tip and whatever I feel like buying/doing during our 1-day stay in Mexico.

I'm so excited!! It's exactly what I need to start off a new year. Bring on 2010! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review: 2009 Annual Goals

All the way back in January, I created my 2009 annual goals. I'm excited to see how I did!

  • Increase Net Worth to $15K
    Accomplished! My networth (which I haven't updated in a while, oops) is over $25K due to retirement accounts and my personal savings!
  • Increase E-Fund to $8K
    Accomplished! It's actually over $11K! :)
  • 2009 Roth IRA: Contribute at least $3K
    Accomplished! It will be maxed out to the $5K limit by January 2010, hooray!
  • Take one extra vacation
    Accomplished! I went to NYC twice this year, so technically my second NYC trip was my "other" trip. It was a blast, of course! :)
  • Get back into golf
    Unaccomplished. I went to the driving range frequently but did not play or take lessons. Hopefully I will do this in 2010!
  • Study and sit for CFA Level I (in December '09)
    ACCOMPLISHED! This was my BIG goal of the year, and I can't believe I did it. The exam was draining but rewarding. However, it was all I thought about/stressed about/studied for over at least half of 2009! Now I am just patiently awaiting my result at the end of January...
I am extremely happy with my results. None of the goals were unattainable, and they ranged from professional to personal to monetary. Time to work on my 2010 goals! :)

Christmas Vacation!

I flew home last night for my Christmas vacation. I arrived home to a beautifully decorated house and my family! I am going to have a very lazy but fantastic week with them... some shopping, lots of baking/cooking, lots of movies/TV and just being together! It feels SO nice to not have to study, either!

I am also done with my Christmas shopping! I spent $212.81 on gifts for my family and friends, plus a work Secret Santa event. I could have easily spent more but am very happy with all my purchases! Plus, this completely wipes out my Gift Fund... but hey, that's what it's for!

Now time to finish my delicious homemade mocha (courtesy of Mom), wrap Christmas gifts and write some Christmas cards! :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Price of Car Insurance

I purchased new car insurance a few months ago. As I was going through the sign-up process in-person, I was told I could pay the annual balance in full or pay month-by-month. Being a good personal finance blogger, I asked if there were any extra charges if I paid month-by-month and was told no, that I would only have to pay my full premium and I could get a 7% dividend back at the end of the year if everything is good. So, I paid a 20% downpayment and had officially purchased my very first installment of car insurance!

My first monthly bill came (last month) with no issues. However, this month's included a finance charge of 1.5% of the remaining balance. Huh?! I was never told about any finance charges! If it was a small $2 or $3 fee for the convenience of paying month-by-month online, I would be okay with it. But this was a lot more than that!

I called my insurance company this week and inquired about the charge. After being nice and letting the representative know that I never received any sort of notice or signed any agreement about it (she mentioned I should have signed a "Truth in Lending" form and received a copy of it), she eventually spoke with her supervisor and said if I paid the balance in full, that they would waive the finance charge. She also mentioned that I should call the office where I first signed up for my insurance and let the supervisor there know that I never received the notice. I kept letting her know that I felt misled, and of course thanked her for getting rid of the finance charge! The only problem is that it'll disrupt my cash flow a bit since it's a decent amount. I'm not 25 yet and live in California, so my car insurance is still somewhat pricey even with a clean driving record. But if it saves me a good chunk of money, I'd much rather do it!

How do you pay for your car insurance, in some type of installment or in one lump sum? Does your insurance charge you anything for paying a certain way?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why I Do Not Want To Buy A Home

Recently, Jim at Bargaineering blogged about the reasons why someone shouldn't buy a home within 5 years of graduation.

As I read the post, I thought about my own situation: I graduated from college a year-and-a-half ago, I'm in my 20s, single and debt-free. I found a job with a fantastic company that I love and that continues to treat its employees like gold. Based on the track record of current employees, it would be so easy for me to "put down roots" in my city and buy a place, since I expect to be with the company for a while. There's a first-time homebuyer's tax credit also working in my favor and real estate prices are rather low. However, the reasons that Jim outlined (and some others of my own) are exactly why I have no desire to buy now or in the near future!

  • Loss of Flexibility. My company has a few other offices around the country and around the world, and what if I decide I want take a position at one of those for a few years? Or, if I get a job with another company in another city that would be better for my career? Renting makes it so easy to just get up and go!

  • Home Prices. In my Southern California city, home/condo prices are still VERY expensive, even though they have dropped from their highs a few years ago. I do not have any sort of savings for a downpayment, and a decent place here would require a LOT of money for the downpayment and mortgage.

  • Maintenance. I am not handy. I do repairs, except the occasional lightbulb, and I'm usually too short to even do those! If the toilet breaks or there's a burst pipe... those costs would all be on me, and they would definitely not be cheap and can easily add up! It's so much easier to call the landlord to fix whatever is needed and deal with the responsibility. Some of my maintenance fears would probably disappear if I had a man in my life, though... ;)
I am a very happy renter and plan to stay that way for quite a while longer! I really like the apartment that I am renting now. It's huge and in the safest neighborhood of my city, very walkable, near a library, all grocery stores and a mall!

What are your reasons for not buying a place? Conversely, what are your reasons for buying one or wanting to buy one?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Bonus

My company surprised us a few weeks ago! Our supervisor told us that all employees would be receiving a holiday bonus and an annual bonus! This is very unexpected, as we did not receive raises in the spring and were told that there would be no bonuses for 2009.

Incidental money is fantastic! I feel very lucky to be working for such a fantastic company who truly values their employees. Here is what I will be doing with my net $375 holiday bonus:

  • Roth IRA $200
  • Charity $50
  • Shopping $125
Are you getting any sort of bonus for 2009?


My life is finally back to normal! Last Saturday, I took my big exam. Now I have to wait a few months until I get the results. I feel okay about it, but am very glad for the experience and I definitely learned a lot!

Now I am getting back into a non-studying routine! It feels so nice to come home, be able to watch as much TV as I want, go out with friends, and go to the gym more often! Luckily, my finances did not get out of hand while I was studying, though I will admit I spent a lot more than usual on quick-to-eat frozen food and ate out more often than usual. But it was worth it when I spent almost all of my non-work time studying! ;)

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