Wednesday, August 31, 2011

5 important things for all grads

Recently, my sister graduated and is looking for a job.  It's been 3 months and she has yet to get an offer.  Granted, she's looking for a teachinc job at elementry schools.  So the hiring is still going in at the beginning of the school year. 

From my personal experience, there are a few things that all grads need to remember:

1) Interviews are great experiences.  It's good to get feedback from the interviewer, especially if you don't get the job.  The more interviews you go on, the more comfortable you will be speaking about yourself.

2) Keep searching.  Don't stop send out your resume if you get an interview or interviews.  Don't even stop if you get an offer.  Still keep an eye out even if you have been working.  It never hurts to know about opportunities.  Just be sure not to have your information posted as open and searchable once you start working.  Some companies don't like that. 

3) Ask questions and do research.  It always a benefit to you as the prospect to look up information about the places you want to work at. Call the human resource number on the job listing and ask as much information as they will give.  Information such as what do the qualification really mean, what extra skills would they consider.  Also, ask to speak to the department that is hiring for the posistion because HR does not always have the answers.

4) Get to Know the right poeple.  This the toughest for "shy" people.  Going events or joining groups for the profession you want to be in will get you insight and inside tips on what is going on, how things work, and connect with people.  This is a good way to getting information.

5) Any opportunity is a good opportunity.  This is a point that I many people pass up.  It doesn't matter if it's volunteer, pro bono, or short term.  Any experience in a field that you want to be in will only add to your resume and your connection.  I have seem quite a few people not be able to work in the profession of their choice because they believe that they should always be paid for it.  Companies like to see experience before they want to hire someone.  So get some experience anyway you can.

In fact, these things should be important for anyone at any stage of their career.  I know something pro bono, and volunteer work is hard if you have bills to pay, and I am not saying you have to do that, or for long term.
If you get yourself out there, you never know if that might bring the next big job.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

insurance companies are the worst

Last week there as an earthquake and a hurricane in our area.  Luckily, there weren't any damage to our properties as I can see so far.  However, other people did not fair as well.  From the images of the earthquake, some homes were pretty badly damaged in the earthquake.  On top of that, the hurricane come a few days later and battered those homes even more.

Even though the earthquake as a small one, it's effect was magnified by the fact there we don't expect it on the East Coast.  Most people don't have earthquake insurance.  Why would they consider something that would maybe happen once every one hundred years?  It turns out that if there is any substantial damage, they can't claim it against their home owners policy because the didn't buy earthquake insurance. 

Same thing with the flood insurance.  Hurricane don't usually hit the Northeast with that much force.  So for most people who live above a certain flood line, they don't bother getting flood insurance.  Then once every 10 years, a hurricane comes a bit strong.

I can understand how insurance companies would not want to pay out because potential fraud, but  it seems pretty heartless when people are out of a home.  If we are all to buy those plans for the once in a 10 or 100 years occurrence, it would add to our already high expenses.  However, seem that their people who lost their homes, and insurance companies won't pay for it, what are we really to do?

Seems like only the insurance companies win,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

in case of emergency

Yesterday's little earth quake on the East Coast was quite thrilling.  It got a lot of people worked up, nervous, and frustrated that there's a lot of traffic going home.  Even though it was small comparing to what happens on the West Coast, I got to thinking about emergencies that no one anticipates.

I know there could be a number of emergencies that would effect my life and my family's.  Life insurance covers some of the expense.  But what about what to do with your kids, and other things that were in my life?  I know that both my in-laws and my parents will take care of raising the kids no doubt.  What about everything else?  What would they do?

I think I will need to write up a will.  Wills are not only for the leave inheritances and estates.  They are a set of instructions as to what to do with you and your things after you have pass.  A living will will be the same, but for while you are alive.  So in case of any situation, there will be less questions and a little reassurance.  With some online legal services, wills can be doable for anyone.

Monday, August 22, 2011

staying current

Punch Debt's post today asked a very poignant question:  What if you lost your job today?
I think most people don't want to think about that possibility.  That is understandable, considering the topic being depressing and nerve recking.  However, regardless of the economy, that possibility is very real.  At any given time, some one could loose their job, whether it's due to company trimming cost, or large company taking over and replacing staff. 

With good preparation, the possibility of loosing a job is not as scary as it could be.  A few simple things can make the idea seem less frightening or sudden.

1) have an updated resume - regardless of how much you like your current job, or how secure your job is, always, always, always update your resume at least every year.  It a about 10-30mins to put down what you have accomplished with in the year.  If nothing seems good enough to put down (unlikely if you are doing well at your job) update the references and phone numbers.  If you never need it great; if you do need it, it will take a lot less work to update and send out (and the soon you can sent it out, the better, right?).

2) be on the look out for opportunities - again, regardless of how much you like your job, keep an eye out for positions available from other companies.  If you can have a job search site email you a list of results every 2 weeks or so, you can see who is hiring, possibly what the jobs will pay, what qualifications companies are looking for, etc.  Even if you don't apply to any of the listing, you can still call the HR and ask for more info.  More information will only help in the event you need it.

3) network - networking is a good way to learn about companies and other professions.  Just talking and getting to know people will open up opportunities.  Never burn bridge no matter how much you dislike someone. You never know when and if it come back to bite you in the ass.

4) have a back up career - have something you always wanted to try but never thought you could do it?  learn about it while you have safety of having a job.  When you have to look for a new job, you can better go into that new career.

5) emergency income supplement plan - no, not some kind of insurance, but that would be great.  Have a plan of where you could get work easily for a short period of time before you find your professional job.  Maybe working at a restaurant for a few hours a day to supplement your emergency fund while you are booking interviews, or stock shelves at night at the grocers.  Your income at the jobs are only to help extend your EF, so don't try to take on full time status because your focus should be on looking for that new full-time job.

Like everything else, if you plan for it, a job loss will not come as a shock and it will be easier.  Always keep your options open.

Friday, August 19, 2011

CAO wedding gifts

A friend told me about a dilemma the other and got me thinking about gift reciprocity. 

The background story: 
There is a CAO that is family.  When this CAO attended 3 weddings of my friend and his siblings, the gifts were very very cheap.  How cheap?  Not the cheapest-thing-on-the-registry cheap.  It's the not-even-on-the-registry-I-know-you-got-it-for-$10-and-it's-not-something-I would-use-or-want kind of cheap.  Worse thing?  The CAO is okay financially.

The dilemma:
The CAO is now inviting my friend and siblings to the CAO's wedding.  What gift to give?  The friend's wife wants to give the usual they give to others for wedding: $100.  My friend disagrees.  He think he should give $10. His wife thinks that's stooping to their level.

I know the idea of gift giving is not about getting equal in return.  However, when someone is consistantly cheaping out, it seems that they don't deserve alot in return.  I can understand that if there is a financial difficulty, the gifts given may not have a high retail value.  I can total fine with that. Maybe that person could offer something that does not cost them a lot financially, like helping to move or paint or babysit.  However, when you can afford nice things for yourself and are not willing to put a little more thought or money into a wedding gift, then maybe you don't deserve the same from others.

In the end, I told my friend what I thought would be the middle ground.  If he's upset bout giving so much more, and his wife thinks they should not stoop so low, they should give $40-60.  It's more than what the CAO would give, but it's not as much the friend would give.

What would you do?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

refi or to pay off

Interest rate at again very low.  So the question is to refi or not to refi for the investment property?  The mortgage on the investment is at 6.5%, I know it's crazy.  I can potentially get it down to 4.5%.  My rent does not cover the mortgage and expense for the place.  My cash flow is not $-1000 per month.  All signs point to yes.

With the refi, I could have a net $0, or positive cash flow. The catch is that the value of the property is much lower now than when it was bought.  So to refi, I would have to sink in some cash.  Do I want to tide up the cash?  It's not like the bank is pay much for it.  I do plan to own it for a few more years.  If I sink $60k, which is likely, I would have net $0. If I sink in $120k, I would have $100 in the positive.  So I gain $1000 and  $1100 respectively.  The closing cost on the loan would be recouped within 4-6months.  The dilemma is that it would take 5 and 9 years to build back up the cash I sink into it.

Yet another option is that if I don't refi and pay off the place in 3 years.  After the loan is paid, my cash flow would be +$2000.  Sweet deal.  It would take 13 years to rebuild that cash, plus the 3 years.  Also, I would not get the tax break if the investment is paid off. 

I think my best option maybe to refi and sink some money into the place.  The only thing is how much to sink in? minimal? to get some positive cash flow?  Cash flow would eventually be positive since rent would rise faster than property tax in this economy, but it would be a while.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


The LLF family went on a weekend trip to the beach this past weekend.  It turned out to be a lot cheaper than I expected.  We left Friday and come home on Monday.  So that gave us 3 nights of dinning out, and 4 days of lunch.  We opted to bring some food and buy some at hte grocers there, as well as dinnig out.  Breakfast is usually cheap, consisting of mostly cereal and milk, and maybe eggs and toast.  Lunch was not expensive and healthy with packed lunch and snacks.  I had expected dinner to be expensive because it usually meant dinning out.  Since we stayed with relatives, the rent was practically none.  I usually buy the host a couple bottles of wine and pay for dinner.

What I didn't expect is that it rain pretty much all weekend so we only went out one afternoon, and eat dinner out once.  We did pay for some take out.  I was quite bummed out about not bing able to go to the beach.  However, being in a new place with new people kept the kiddies entertained and conversation with hosts were very enjoyable.  The staycation ended up being better than expected.

Here is a run down of the expences:
cereal, milk, fruit, veggies, dressing : $20
gas: $50
wine: $25
treating the hosts for lunch: $40
junk food at the beach : $12
dinner at the beach : $48
parking: $7
lunch on the road: $15
total: $214

Of course, dinner would have been cheaper if we got pizza, but I wanted fish and chips.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

alternative living - part 4

Previously I posted about retirement planning and lowering cost of living options.  Here is a further look into another one of the alternative living arrangements to lower the cost of living:  reverse mortgages.

Here are the pros and cons to reverse mortgages:
-you can still live in the home that you have bought
-you still own the home
-you have a set amount of income every month in addition to your other retirement benefits
-you can mortgage part or all of the equity of your home
- the bank owns a part of your home because they are paying you for it
- depending on what portion and how you mortgage, it may run out
- depending on your mortgage and home equity, you may not leave much or anything to your heirs
- you still have to pay property tax, and other home owners expenses
- there are quite a few restrictions on setting it up, like if you get one through HUD, you have to be 62 or older and not have defaulted on any loans
-your house has to be paid off or very low balance

The drawbacks of reverse mortgage are many.  For one, you may not have much to leave your heirs.  Since this is relatively new product that got a bad rep due to sleazy sales people taking advantage of the elderly, many people distrust reverse mortgages.  Rightly so, since there is little regulation of this.  Banks are also stopping the offer of these while home values are sliding lower still.

However, for those who Social Security, an other retirement funds are not enough to live on, and they cannot live with the alternative means that i have mention in my previous posts, reverse mortgage could be a great way to supplement retirement income.  The catch is to be diligent in reading all contracts and understanding the fees and loan structure before signing anything. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August Finance Check up

This time, the numbers are closer to what they really should be.  It looks like a big gain, but it's really not since my tax assessment came back higher than what I estimated.  Here we go:

loan from mom - 20000 ( forgot this one last month, this was from few months ago for help with buying our house because we came up short on the closing cost)
House Mortgage - 336,181.66
Rental #1 Mortgage - 139081.06
Rental #2 Mortgage - 298930.37

Liquid assets - 30000
House value - 590000
Rental 1 value - 250000 - tax assessment came
Rental 2 value - 315000 - tax assessment came
Investment - 50350 - this is only person's 401k
Net worth: $441156.91 +6.1059%

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

alternative living - part 3

Previously I posted about retirement planning and lowering cost of living options.  Here is a further look into another one of the alternative living arrangements to lower the cost of living:  long term travel - living in hostels
Here are the pros and cons to living in hostels:
-no owning anything, unless you want to own a car
-there is no property tax because you don't own land.
-you can live where ever you want
-you can travel as much or little as you want
-utilities are included in the fee
-keeps you from owning too much junk
-no yard work
-some places even come with breakfast
-most places come with free wifi, a shared kitchen, and some even free computer to use.
-you get to meet a lot of people from all over the place

-these isn't a lot of space
-to get cheaper price per night,  most places have a dorm styled shared bathroom.  Rooms with private in-room bathrooms cost more
- depending on the places you live your stay could add up to the price of rent, but it's still cheaper than most rental apartments
-you may have to do some work for the cheaper fees, like man the desk a few hours a day

Traveling long term and living in hostels are a great way to see the world.  In fact, there are a lot of hostels in Europe than US, but hostels are becoming more popular.  For single people, the dorm style rooms can be as cheap as $10 a night, and private rooms are $25 per person.  The down side is, you don't have a lot creature comfort things with you unless you have a car, but parking can get expensive if you are in a city.  If you are traveling by bus or rail, you really can't pack too many things.

I have stayed at hostels during vacation trips.  They are usually located near all the places I want to be without paying the high hotel prices.  I have had really good experience with them and would recommend them to any budget travelers.

Monday, August 1, 2011

alternative living - part 2

Previously I posted about retirement planning and lowering cost of living options.  Here is a further look into another one of the alternative living arrangements to lower the cost of living:  living aboard - on a boat

Here are the pros and cons to living aboard:
- boats are a cheaper than homes for the most part.  We are not talking about getting million dollar yachts.
-There is no property tax because you don't own land.
-you can live where ever you want, as long as it's on water
-you can travel as much or little as you want
-there are ways to provide for your utility needs without being on the grid
-keeps you from owning too much junk
-no yard work
-you can go fishing for you food, but you have to like fish and know how to clean it

-these isn't a lot of space
-you have to know a little about maintaining the boat
-you have know how to swim and sail
-you have to have you sea legs
-water usage has to be monitored well
-if you stay at a place that you can hook up to the utilities there, you still have to pay for slip fee
-you have to rent a car if you want to travel on land, or if you have room, have a motor cycle on board.

The cost of living aboard can be a lot lower than in a house.  The down side is the you have to live kind simple. With the Internet and cellphone coverage getting better, communications isn't a problem.  Same with TV and other entertainment formats.  TV and electronics are getting smaller and more energy efficient, that having them around doesn't take up a lot of space.  Though you may not fit a 50" TV in you boat and you could if you really wanted to), you wouldn't need it.  With the prevalence of solar panels, and other solar base ideas, your utilities will also be lighter even if you are docked at a slip.  For those who are extreme minimal in owing things, space isn't an issue. 

This would be a great way to traveling the world.

There are a couple of site that will detail cost, how and why of living aboard:

Of course,  in the meantime, we can still take a page from the aboard life style book on lowering the cost of living.  Habits like not owning a lot of stuff and monitoring your energy are good ideas anyway.

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