Planning For a Graduate’s Future

Gentle Readers,

A family member is graduating from high school and intends to move out of his home immediately. I’ve racked my brain to come up with a suitable present for my hopes for him.

Naturally, I got him a bunch of personal finance books.

Everybody’s favorite, “The Millionaire Next Door,” because I want him to have honest examples that frugality, and choosing businesses and careers wisely will make his life different than he is accustomed to. Stealth wealth is a phrase I want in his heart. I know that he is exceptionally kind, and I want him to put on his own mask first.

Less popular among people pursuing financial freedom, but a useful framework that may appeal to him, “The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke.” I want something to reach him, and this may be the most accessible at this point in his life.

The one I’m least sure of, because I have not yet read it myself, “I Will Teach You To Be Rich.” So many people recommend it; many people whom I respect. I wish I had more time to read it, but there is only so many hours in the week.

Lastly, the most esoteric one, that just may be precisely what he could use as a life framework, “Early Retirement Extreme.” Walden knew what he was doing, and this could give my relative all the ideas he needs. I want him to grow in skills especially, but still focus on being a good person.

I chose a variety of books in the hopes that one would appeal and sink in enough to keep him on track. He’s made excellent decisions so far, but his nearby influences are not the example I want for him.

I think that traditional education is not the best current route for him. I’d love to see him gain some more skills and perhaps start a business. I also think he has what it takes and the time to learn how to buy fixer-uppers and make them lovely places to live. Real estate is still not my favorite, but I think it would work well with his personality and current and future skill-set.

What do wish you had read at 18?

Net Worth Week 5 – Vacation Style

Gentle Readers,

I’m on a small vacation, but my progress is still important to me. Not much to report here, but this is a week of spending on food and beers with friends.

As expected, this first trip has been wonderful so far. I also got to check out a small investment I have.  It’s definitely been a turbulent week in my IRA, I deposited $400 and still it dipped. That volatility is a thing to get used to, but I’m encouraged that my net worth got closer to zero again.

Seeing my friends and my friends who are business partners has been wonderful for how I’m feeling. It’s my best investment.

The percent change has remained at .99%. Trending towards zero.

Date 4/24/16 4/29/2016 5/6/2016 5/13/2016
Joy 1097 1097 1098 1098
Travel 322 322 322 322
Down Payment  18 18 18 18
retirement  21 21 21 21
health  45 45 45 45
Moving  31 31 31 31
EF  9 9 9 9
Business  1 1 1 1
Bed  .29 0.29 0.29 0.29
Life  963 1097 1526  2004
IRA  7100 7045 7346  7315
Brokerage  222 219 218  219
CC (largest)  0 0 0 0
CC (longest)  0 0 0 0
Rewards Card  -3060 -3558 -3426  -3718
SL 1  -102041  -102123 -102222 -102014
SL 2  -45046  -45072 -45102 -44988
Earnest  -10054 -10078 -9632 -9653
–$150,471 -$150,079 -$149746 -$149289
  -1.0% change .99% change .99% change   .99% change

Are you investing in your relationships?

Checking in on a Delicious Venture – Perks of Being a Silent Partner

Gentle Readers,

I have one investment that I do not include in my list of assets or liabilities, because I don’t know precisely how to in a way that makes sense for me, yet.

I invested in a friend’s small business last summer. I am one of under 30 shareholders. I am a silent partner. This sounds terribly foreign to me, even a year later. In part, because I am an out of state investor. I invested on the strength of his paperwork and photos and his pitch.

My friend created a food business that I understand and believe he can succeed in. I finally got to check in on that business in person as part of my vacation trip today.

(when did this become my life? It sounds terribly mature)


(checking out the kitchen and the sous vide)

It tastes incredible.  Seriously, my mouth is really glad I had to check out my investment. I now understand why all of his customers are spreading the word.

I do not know if my share will make a financial return. I believe it will, based on projections. He is attracting clients rapidly. I suspect that he’ll need to do another capital infusion in the next 12-18 months, unless there is a recession, because he will need to expand to keep up with the demand. It’s a good problem to have.

I also believe that investing in my friend gave him more than money. This business is great for him and for his relationship to his career. He was floundering after leaving his former profession, and came up with an incredible idea that he was capable of executing. He just needed capital. The change in him has been incredible to see.

Even if I end up writing off this investment, my money is worth what it can do to make the world better. One person at a time.

Have you invested as a silent partner? 




My IRA Does Not Understand My Heart’s Goal

Gentle Readers,
As I have said, I have made a series of changes in the past six months to improve my financial situation.  Many of the things I currently must do make me miserable. If I were financially free, I could walk away from some of this. I could choose to do what serves me.
When I decided I needed to prepare myself for buying a home in the next year, I made the decision to update my IRA, which I had started at the end of 2015. Then I fully funded it before 2015 ended, because I did not realize I had until April of 2016 to do this. I’m still learning.
But I was scared.
I had not previously started my IRA because I was worried about draining my liquidity in a very uncertain job market for me. I made the jump in September, but still put in a “safeguard.” I told close to the truth about my risk aversion in my Intelligent Portfolio. I told them I was less risk averse than I truly am.
I fear risk.
This is rational in many instances, but not the best decision at this point in my retirement timeline.
Starting an IRA was terrifying. Thankfully, since September, I have continued seeking out information to make myself more comfortable with the “risks” of having so many stocks in my portfolio. The risk of not having enough stocks in my portfolio is not having enough money for my life when I age. That is a risk I am not willing to take any longer.
So, on April 16th, 2016, I signed into my Intelligent Portfolio. According to their calculations, I was on track for retirement. In September, I had stated my retirement goal as $875,000 when I turn 67.
Thirty-five years from now.
That accounts for $35,000 worth of spending a year in a 25 year retirement with the standard caveats about investing. My portfolio said I was on target to get to $880,000 in 35 years, with the average returns it expects. It predicts a worst case performance of $675,000 and a best case performance of $1,300,000.
In 2051, thirty-five years from now, I will be 67 years old.   This is not good. I want the option to retire much sooner than that. I may need to stop before then due to disability or enormous changes in the job market, because anything can happen. I want that option by 57 at the latest.
My heart is afraid to say that I want that option at 37.
On April 16th, 2016, I changed my risk profile. I assumed risk now to hopefully skip the risk later. I told the questionnaire what it needed to get me there. It is going to be a bumpy ride. Hopefully education will make it easier on my heart.
Before I adjusted my risk tolerance, my allocation was:
  • 68.08% stock
  • 16.76% fixed income
  • 5.76% commodities
  • 9.4% cash
It took a few days for the account to re-balance itself. The re-balancing says that it will be settled once it gets to 94% stocks and 6% cash and cash equivalents.
On May 9, 2016 the allocation is:
  • 91.89% stocks
  • 8.11% cash
My IRA’s swings since re-balancing have been more dramatic than I experienced in January 2016. This will take getting used to.
Have you made dramatic changes to your investments lately? 

Net Worth Week 4 – first milestone

Gentle Readers,

Things are progressing in my negative net worth, but I anticipate some personal volatility in the short-term.

For the first time in a very long time, my negative net worth is under $150,000! WHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Barely. And, of course, it will fluctuate, but it got there. This tiny bit of momentum is so encouraging. I hope to keep these milestones in sight.

The situation at my W2 job is growing more complicated. We’ve recently been told that we should anticipate working through mid-June at least. We’ll see. The timeline was previously through August, and began as through March. These sorts of gigs are not known for honesty.

If this gig ends faster than I’d like, it should be possible to find another gig quickly. However, many of the gigs currently available pay 20% less than my current gig. Not ideal. This is one of the reasons I am learning a new skill that will make me more marketable on a number of fronts, but I am not quite up to par. I’m in a group class, and I’m considering investing in a personal tutor to get me up to snuff faster. May has a time deficit for me, but I am preparing to add in time for tutoring beginning in June.

May is also a month of mini-travel. The biggest part of the necessary purchases were previously made via the Rewards Card, but finances will still be impacted because it will be harder to get 40 hours at work in every week this month. The trips will be rejuvenating, and provide nourishment to my relationships. Definitely worth it.

My first Earnest payment is done! My finances feel so much more manageable because of being able to use Earnest to pay off my highest APR credit card.

The percent change has remained at .99%. Trending towards zero.

Date 4/15/16 4/24/2016 4/29/2016 5/6/2016
Joy 1097 1097 1097 1098
Travel 322 322 322 322
Down Payment  18 18 18 18
retirement  21 21 21 21
health  45 45 45 45
Moving  31 31 31 31
EF  9 9 9 9
Business  1 1 1 1
Bed  .29 0.29 0.29 0.29
Life  907 963 1097  1526
IRA  7026 7100 7045  7346
Brokerage  221 222 219  218
CC (largest)  0 0 0 0
CC (longest)  0 0 0 0
Rewards Card  -3000 -3060 -3558  -3426
SL 1  -101892  -102041 -102123 -102222
SL 2  -45001  -45046 -45072 -45102
Earnest  -10036 -10054 -10078 -9632
–$150,230 -$150,471 -$150079 -$149746
  .99% change -1.0% change .99% change   .99% change

Are you feeling any financial momentum?

Discretion – Necessary on the Path to Financial Freedom

Gentle Readers,

Discretion is one of your most valuable assets. In your career, friendships, and financial decisions. Discretion is directly linked to your reputation, and your reputation is priceless.

I have a co-worker whose financial and career choices are not working for her. It’s hard to watch, especially as I see previous versions of myself in her actions and inactions. I listen. If asked, I offer advice. Mainly, I just hope that she will stop making choices that are not serving her – the only polite thing to do.

Personal Discretion

My coworker owns her home and supports her extended family in it. A close-knit family can be a great thing. However, it can also be an emotional and financial stressor. Her family does not contribute to the household income, but wants to direct her income to luxury goods that she does not want. The guilt trips are incredible and painful to even hear about.

“My parents died. I need luxuries because life is short. You have not given me a grandchild. The least you can do is buy me a luxury car.” ~Mother

BRUTAL. Unfair. Unkind. Untrue. You do not owe anyone children. You do not owe others luxuries. You do not deserve to be manipulated. What her mother is doing is not right.

My coworker has a brutally long commute. She is exhausted. Before the luxury car demand, she had decided that her family could continue living in her home, but that she would rent closer to work. However, with her mother’s demand for a luxury car to replace a perfectly good car that now bores her, my coworker’s plan to move and greatly increase her time and happiness is delayed.

She and I discussed this briefly, and I pointed out that my coworker is not saving for retirement. Her mother is stealing her ability to protect her future self through this emotional and financial manipulation. Coworker agreed, but “cannot” be a bad daughter and family member. She feels like she is drowning in obligations, but cannot, yet, say no to her family.

Professional Discretion

Our work environment is toxic. We are merely visitors in it, but we see the shenanigans play out for the career-folks at our job-site. One of the middle managers quit with two hours’ notice. My coworker and I discussed the manager’s departure and wondered who would be the next to abandon ship. I suggested that the incompetent one would be unlikely to apply or be hired elsewhere. My coworker was offended.

“How could you want to harm someone’s money???”

I don’t.

I see that the incompetent one is a bad employee and would have already lost her position due to negligence in a better-run workplace. It would be hard for her to even get a good recommendation as her superiors think little of her. This set my coworker over the edge. She likes the incompetent one as a person.

Being a friendly person is not enough. A recommendation is about someone’s personality fit, but it is also about someone’s fitness to perform the job duties competently. When you offer a recommendation, you are telling someone to rely upon your reputation and discernment. You are telling them that your opinion matters.

I asked my coworker what sort of recommendation she could reasonably offer on behalf of the incompetent one. My coworker, without admitting she would lie, insisted that it is just too unkind to not say (untrue) positive things about a person. Coworker did not think my assessment was wrong. Coworker further offered that she could not give a non-positive recommendation to a person even if she hated them.

Readers, you don’t have to actually say anything negative to get a point across.

A person who wastes the reputation they earned by praising what is awful is showing no discretion and cannot be trusted.

I understand more of my coworker’s dilemmas now that I see her lack of discretion in non-financial spheres. I now know that, should my LLC ever need to hire someone, I cannot trust my coworker to direct anyone my way.  Her desire to appear friendly has already harmed her, and she does not realize it.

I hope she finds a way to make the choices she desires.

In the meantime, I will learn from her.

What do you think? Would you give a recommendation based on personality and not skills?


Net Worth Week 3

Gentle Readers,

My tracking of my Net Worth is going strong. There has not been much visible progress, and my IRA had a more volatile week than normal due to being readjusted last weekend. It will be interesting acclimating to my increased volatility. I trust that it will be worth it to Future ZJ, and I like her.

This week began with a panic at my small business. The timing of my deposits and my expenditures was off and I got a notice on Monday morning to that effect. I worried that I would have to use personal funds to cover next month’s expenses. Thankfully, that did not happen this time. My business got hit with a penalty, but it did not drain everything it has.

I am proud that I have successfully kept the balance off of two of my three credit cards, but the Rewards Card balance still grows. I put all of my life expenses on it (utilities, health insurance, food, alcohol, dates with TBO etc). I am not yet willing to go entirely frugal, but I need to reduce my alcohol in public consumption. Spending time with TBO and my friends usually involves food in public, because living in a city involves being far away from each other’s homes. Spending those meals with people I love helps to maintain my heart and friendships. It is good for me. Spending time in public and, also money, is  good for professional networking; people who’ve never met me are less likely to refer individuals to my business.  This spending may not be good for my current bank balance, but I anticipate that it will be worth it in the long run. It is also just fun.

This week’s paycheck is devoted to my student loan payments and my Earnest loan, but they won’t auto-debit until next week.

It’s fascinating to watch my negative net worth change by .99 and -1.0% every week.

Date 4/8/16 4/15/2016 4/24/2016 4/29/2016
Joy 1097 1097 1097 1097
Travel 322 322 322 322
Down Payment  18 18 18 18
retirement  21 21 21 21
health  45 45 45 45
Moving  31 31 31 31
EF  9 9 9 9
Business  1 1 1 1
Bed  .29 0.29 0.29 0.29
Life  1066 907 963  1097
IRA  6885 7026 7100  7045
Brokerage  217 221 222  219
CC (largest)  -983 0 0 0
CC (longest)  0 0 0 0
Rewards Card  -2850 -3000 -3060  -3558
SL 1  -101791  -101892 -102041 -102123
SL 2  -44970  -45001 -45046 -45072
Earnest  -10009 -10036 -10054 -10078
–$150,890 -$150,230 -$150471 -$150079
  .99% change .99% change -1.0% change   .99% change

How’s your progress coming?

On Prince Passing Showing Us How to Live

Gentle Readers,

We all know that Prince passed at the young age of 57 last week. How he lived is just now coming to light. This blog is just as much a place to discuss how to be good as it is about how to handle money well. Please allow this indulgence.

His death hurt. It was unexpected for most people. He was incredibly young and still prolific. He meant so much to so many. His music, his aesthetic, his shade – they all impacted people. If he had only given the world his music, it would have been enough.

But, Prince was more than that. He was a man of great goodness. And he did it secretly.

Unlike so many other celebrities and singers whose lives showcased their disregard for others and their literal assaults on people, Prince has not had any stories surface that even accuse him of wrongdoing. No confirmed reports. No rumors. Nothing.

He was a profoundly good man and an immensely private one. So many stories have surfaced of him making sure that other people, especially black women, were given opportunities and guidance according to their talents. Misty Copeland, Beyoncé, and so many other artists were directly impacted by his efforts.

His financial support helped libraries at risk of closure,  provided solar power in under-served communities, Trayvon Martin’s family, and so many others who have not yet shared what he did for them. He was one of the brains behind one of the largest projects to teach young people how to code. He used his money and influence to make his communities better, but avoided having his name and fame overshadow the important things he was supporting. He did not need the good press from these efforts. He did them because they were good and he wanted to.

He did all this and more without seeking credit. He directly lifted others, and allowed them to to in the right place at the right time to show the world what those people could do.

He accepted the world, but worked very hard to make it better. He preferred that we not know that about him.

I hope we can all strive to be our own version of the person Prince was. He loved himself and others and used this love to advance them. He would shade you if you needed it, too. We all need to be shaded at times.

I hope that the stars are as perfect as Paisley Park.

Thank you for being, sir.


Have you been surprised to learn what Prince has done for others?


Net Worth Week 2

Gentle Readers,

I have made many changes to my finances in the past two years, and have been building up my efforts to achieve financial freedom in earnest in the past six months. These changes will result in my net worth getting closer to zero, but involve a lot of hovering around the negative $150,000 mark for now. It can be discouraging, but I know that progress is happening. Even when it does not appear true.

To show myself that my efforts have value and to encourage myself to keep them up, I am tracking my net worth weekly. I know this is obsessive and do not intend to do it indefinitely, but I think that there is a value in having meticulous attention to these matters for the time being.

The Changes

I started a business from my liquid savings in 2014. In 2015, I opened and fully-funded an IRA. In 2016, I opened a separate brokerage account, paid off (with help explained here) two of my credit cards, and began preparing to purchase a coop or condo.

All of these changes feel big, but my bank account feels small. Hopefully my focus will get me to and beyond zero.

Date 4/1/2016 4/8/2016 4/15/2016 4/24/2016
Joy 1097 1097 1097 1097
Travel  752 322 322 322
Down Payment  284 18 18 18
retirement  221 21 21 21
health  45 45 45 45
Moving  31 31 31 31
EF  9 9 9 9
Business  1 1 1 1
Bed  .29 0.29 0.29 0.29
Life  471 1066 907  963
IRA  6928 6885 7026  7100
Brokerage  220 217 221  222
CC (largest)  -11883.98 -983 0 0
CC (longest)  -567.28 0 0 0
Rewards Card  -2762 -2850 -3000  -3160
SL 1  ?  -101791 -101892 -102041
SL 2  ?  -44970 -45001 -45046
Earnest  -10000 -10009 -100036 -10054
–$151,728 -$150,890.71 -150230.71 -150471.71
-1.0% change .99% change .99% change  -1.0% change

What changes have you made in your finances recently? 

Paying off Credit Cards 2 of 3

Gentle Readers,

I previously used credit responsibly. The period in which I did not use debt responsibly is something I am still digging out of, and I am now trying to share my mistakes and my corrections so that others may learn from them without making them.

For many years, I  was a responsible user of credit. Always paid off in full. No balances. I did not care about my APR, because it did not matter.

And, then, things changed. The major change occurred after I completed my professional certificates. My computer that was my source of job ads was about to die and I did not have enough saved to buy a computer outright. I had previously been a responsible consumer of credit and felt comfortable taking out a 0% APR credit card for the purchase.

Around the time that it absolutely needed to have a zero balance to prevent an interest charge for the entire balance that had ever been on there, my gig income temporarily dried up.

It sucked. I felt ashamed. But I did not stop using the card. The company kept upping my limit. I kept getting close to the limit. I kept feeling shame.

During this time, I opened my LLC, and it took nearly a year before it received money from a client and not from my personal bank account. I used my credit cards to keep me afloat while paying my personal bills and my business expenses.  Parts of my credit card debt, subsequently, were sensibly acquired. That business is an investment in the life I want.

Fast-forward to the present.

This year had the potential for significant travel. My credit card debt existed, but my credit score was in the great range according to my FICO score. I applied for and received a rewards card with an 0% introductory APR. I put away both of my other credit cards, and focused on only using this while trying to pay the other cards down. I “earned” the 40000 bonus miles within the Rewards Card’s timeline. I purchased two round-trip tickets with the miles so far.

I still had the debt and the APR on my highest balance was high, and it frustrated me. I applied for a loan from Earnest to cover most of the balance at an interest rate that was half of the APR. I then threw two full paychecks and some of my savings at this credit card debt.

Now I have two years to pay off the Earnest loan and one remaining credit card balance. If you use my link when you apply, your rates are not impacted, but my balance will be impacted.

To sum up – I made mistakes, I took out a loan to pay off some of those mistakes, and I am now throwing lots of money at my mistakes to take control of my life.

Small steps count.

Have you been able to change your use of credit cards for the better?