Okay, the good tidings are: it’s a new year and I’m thankful that we made it. 🙂 A lot of crazy shit happened in 2008, but mostly good stuff. I’m looking forward to 2009 and girdling my loins as I speak (for the figurative “battle” ahead of me). I’ve got a bunch of things planned to accomplish and I will attack them in this blog post. But first, I just want to do a quick financial summary of last year.
I talked (till I was blue in the face) about financial independence and the importance of having savings. Well, good progress was being made on that up until we made several big *and* needed purchases. Thankfully, no significant debt was incurred, but it goes to show you that Rome was not built in a day. We purchased a new mountain bike for Matt (a Cannondale bike) and paid for that baby with cash. Granted this purchase happened around tax refund time so we didn’t really save for it. Then, I purchased a new laptop for me (which I didn’t pay cash for). Rather, I signed up for a charge card at HP which gave me 3 months to pay off the laptop without incurring interest. As it turns out, getting that HP credit card (backed by HSBC) was one of the smarter moves I’ve made because I have since made more strategic purchases via HP’s website and having their credit card gives me that 3-month windows to pay off whatever I’ve bought. The third large purchase we made was a car!! *gasp* Well, I’m not really in the loop on how that is going. All I know from Matt is that cash has exchanged hands. We got a Chevrolet Impala 2000 from Matt’s friend, John who had been having trouble with this same car. Matt has known John for decades so we’re confident that nothing is terminally wrong with his car that he just sold to us. By the way, we got this car for a steal i.e. he could have sold it to someone else for considerably more than what we paid for it. Some of the problems he’s had with the Impala are jerking and he even had the transmission replaced at one point. In any case, we actually paid half for the car and we had Matt’s dad put up the rest for us. I was against the idea of draining our savings even more and I figured that having his dad loan us half of the car’s cost, we could repay in back in record time. Again, part of not being constantly broke is knowing how to divvy up your money. Obviously, the best way to not be broke is to make more money. However, we’re living in the real world and learning how to manage the money you do have is a life essential skill. So, by not paying the entire amount up front, we were able to spread the impact over a couple of weeks. To summarize this paragraph, we are back on track and kicking our saving habit into overdrive. My hope is to save (save meaning simply tranferring cash into my ING Savings account) at least 30% of my monthly income. The only downside to 2008 was not making much progress on the SunTrust credit card. Right, we have a pretty low debt-to-credit ratio and I can see the usefulness of having this kind of cash available i.e. plane tickets if you don’t want to empty out your coffers. However, I don’t want to rely on a credit card. Hence, I’ve been driving it into my head that if I want something, I’ve got to save for it. The credit card line of credit may be cut anytime soon due to the skittish lending industry so I’m preparing myself to think of the credit card as a last resort with purchases.
In retirement savings news, last year, I lost my job and got a new one within 2 weeks of losing my old job. It was a welcome change and with that switch to a new job, I had the opportunity to switch retirement providers. If you recall, I’d kvetched about the previous retirement company and I had wished for the option to change. With the original retirement account providers, I didn’t get vested (i.e. I couldn’t keep the company’s matches) until I’d worked for 10 years. Clearly, after losing the matches for the 9 months I’d worked at my old job, I got my chance and switched to the other retirement solution (Fidelity Investments) where I was immediately vested. I still have my original contributions from the old retirement account and it’s because of the painful process of transferring said funds that I’ve been procrastinating about getting those retirement funds into either a Rollover IRA or my current 401(a) retirement account. Choices!!! 🙂
Given the market volatility and need on my part, I’m considering getting a minor or BA in computer science at the local school. I can see myself getting better at my job and my setup is actually perfect for going to school *and* working. Right now, I have just corresponding via email with the go-to person and hopefully, we will meet in person to discuss the feasibility of such a thing. I’m interested in computers and I would like to scratch this itch before I’m called to meet my Maker. Life’s too short to not experiment. It’s incredibly liberating and I look forward to seeing where this will take me. 🙂
In yet other news, I launched another website (Jane Talks Tech!) which will contain all my rants about technology and software. It’s been a slow start, but I’ve already seen some positive results from the website. One of the cases that will stick with me is when I wrote a little stinker about the shoddy customer service I received from a software company. They read my blog (my statistics do not lie!) and then, were able to get in touch with me via my contact form (actually, they called me using my Grand Central number which was posted on my contact form). So, I encourage all of you (my readers i.e. my family) to start your own blogs.