5.18.2009

Shoulda been a 900 number

(Note: Do they even make 900 numbers any more? I don't even know. What I do know from late-night commercials is that there are all these attractive people holed up in their homes alone in tiny shorts, ready to connect with other holed-up-attractive singles through the telephone. Which, yeah, that seems about right.)

I had a steamy, steamy conversation on the phone today with a stranger. He didn't know me; I didn't know him. We breathed dirty, dirrty words at each other. Words like "money market," "emergency fund," "Roth IRA," and "whole life insurance." And oh, it was good. I waited to call until GH was in the next room sleeping, so he wouldn't notice my heaving bosom and grow suspicious.

This all happened when I called USAA (translation, the best club in the world ever to belong to, right up there with Costco) and asked to speak with a financial advisor. I follow several budgeting/frugality/money-management blogs, (all sexy) but realized that right now I need a bit of individualized advice. Thanks to my crazymad budgeting skillz and the part where we are currently a DINK family (each of us almost makes one income, so I'm counting it) there are choices to make. Choices like:

Now that we're saving a bit of money, where's the best place to keep it?

Should I try to pay my student loan off sooner, even if it means saving less?

How much should we be saving for retirement? And is it better to put it in a Roth or a 401K or both?

Will we ever in life be able to afford a house? (Answer: probably not)

What happens if we go down to one-income once I start having behbehs? (He didn't address this one so much, more went off about the need for term life insurance and how freaking expensive diapers are. This part was less sexy.)

It was really nice though to have somebody to talk it out with and to give good advice and help me get my priorities right. GH is wonderful and very patient with my budgeting addiction, but he really does not get excited about the money discussions the way I do. Unless, say, I'm beginning a discussion that in any way sounds like, "Hey, what if we save money by cutting out [cable/Tivo/your still-beating heart from your chest]?" Then you'll see excited.

So. I came away with a renewed determination & purpose. My financial priorities used to look something like this:

1. Do not spend any money ever.
2. Live as though you're only on one income. (Yeah . . . not exactly happening. And for me, that is saying something, people.)
3. Get GH accustomed to the whole "budgeting" thing.
4. Build a 6-8 month emergency fund for when one or both of our employers lays us off.

Have accepted that #1 and #2 are unrealistic. Have pretty well accomplished #3 & #4. Now I'm moving on to:

1. Start funding an IRA
2. Get our savings into accounts where they can earn more interest
3. Get my student loan out of the picture asap because even though it's not "bad" debt like the credit card kind, it still nags at me and I'd like it to be gone
4. Go to Hawaii--because I think there should always be a "go to Hawaii" on pretty much any of my goal lists.

So yay for financial goals! Let's hear yours!

32 comments:

coolmom said... [reply]

We have made some headway in this department this month. You would be proud of us. Call for details.

coolmom said... [reply]

Plus I haven't bought any fabric or yarn in two weeks! But I'm going through some serious withdrawal.

Jenny said... [reply]

Live providently.
Which, sadly, meant x-ing the catered graduation party for 50 off my things-to-pay-for list.

Audra said... [reply]

My goal is to one day have a million dollars in 10 years!

You didn't say I had to be realistic!

A good way to sum up my true financial goals is, I would likt to have enough money where if my kids says "I want to take dance/piano/kung-foo fighting lessons" I can say "Lets find a really decent place not offered by a non-profit or church so you can become pretty good at it" and not worry about discounts, scholorships, it being free, or them looking at me with pity when I tell them I want to enroll 5 out of my 7 kids and offer me a group discount even if I did not ask!

How am I going to get there? Pray that people really want Hawaiian Shaved Ice in Charlotte ;)

Janssen said... [reply]

1. Fund my 401(k) and, starting in the fall, my husbands
2. Start a Roth
3. Pay off our student loans
4. Six month emergency fund.

Ahhh, money. I love it.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

AMEN on the USAA thing. They are amazing.

My goal is to someday have a spouse who is out of school and gainfully employed. I know, I'm a dreamer!

Here's my best financial advice - Don't throw your future children ridiculous birthday parties with magicians and jugglers and themes and carnival rides, especially if they are only turning 2.

Elsha said... [reply]

Can win the lottery be a financial goal? Even if I don't play? Also, I'd have to agree that "go to Hawaii" should be on every list of goals.

Stephanie said... [reply]

sell first born behbeh to angelina. or madonna.

use profit to pay off westminster.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

We always have going to Hawaii on our goals, but since we've got family there are trips usually include glamorous activites like going to tee ball games and shopping at Walmart (sadly it's the only place open on Oahu after 9).

In other financial goals right now we are simply trying to find an actual full-time job for the one of us who is not having the babies (loved the skit). And trying not to spend any money. Plus we're trying to figure out if we should resist the Utah county home-buyers assistance program we qualify for and get ourselves into a house, or just wait. We're tempted by buying a home, but don't want to end up being "those people" who overextend themselves with foolish mortgages. Sigh.

My husband's financial plan has always been to sell one of his novels and become famous overnight. These days I wonder if that will happen before a full-time position shows up.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

Did I really just say "are" instead of "our"? I think I'm going crazy...

MBC said... [reply]

LOVE USAA. LOVE them. Except that they started charging international fees on my credit card. So then I had to go find a credit card company that doesn't do that for my trip abroad. And working with the no-international-fees company reminds me that I LOVE USAA.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

We've made TWO really good financial decisions. (Two out of about 100 or so is where we are at. I'll try to keep this positive.)

When my oldest was about a year, we started a "mission fund." When boy #2 came along we increased our monthly amount in there and were on track to have each child's mission paid for by the time they were 19. Then the lean years came. (Okay, leaner. It's always been lean.) We put away less, but still some. Then we had another boy. Still, no matter what set backs we've had--and there have been some doozies I tell ya'--we haven't touched that money. We even went against the advice of any number of financial gurus and cached out a 401K instead of touching that money. It think it is our way of saying to the Lord that we are doing all we can to prepare these boys both spiritually and physically for their time to serve--the rest is up to Him. It is a leap of faith that will take years to see the results of.

The second good decisio was to put this money away into an online bank called INGDirect, which we love. We can set up manual or direct deposits and do CD's. All of their accounts pay out interest at higher rates than the banks. The money is accessible, but not as easily as a checking account. Besides the mission funds we also have a car fund, a vacation fund, etc. We put a little in each week and though it grows slowly, it helps pay for bigger expenditures that are occasional: car repair, airplane tickets, property taxes, etc. ING also has a really cheap mortgage.

Oh, and we've only carried a car payment for about 3 of the 10 years we've been married, and we only had one car for seven years. So I guess that is three good choices.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Oops. I just read everybody's comments and they were mostly funny. Mine was more advice-ly. Sorry! I'll bring the snark-hat next time I visit.

Nemesis said... [reply]

STM, I was glad to hear your take on ING. I've been looking around at interest rates for different online banks (money market and regular savings accounts) and am considering one called Ally. Also, your savings categories made me all kinds of hot and bothered. So thank you! :-)

Nemesis said... [reply]

Will do, Mom. And I'm sorry about the withdrawals. I give us permission to shop for yarn when I'm there, does that help?

I'm sorry, Jenny. But I do love the idea of living providently.

Audra, I know if I were living in NC in the summer I would need Hawaiian Shave Ice pretty much every day. Will cross fingers that everyone else recognizes this need in their own humidity-drenched lives!

Janssen, those sound good. Neither of our employers offer matching anymore on our 401Ks, which is lame. But then, they haven't laid either of us off yet, which = good!

Liz, I will definitely keep that birthday party advice under my hat. I think a good deterrent is the part where such a thing kind of sounds like torture to me!

Elsha, you don't actually HAVE to play the lottery to win, turns out! Just ask the guy who keeps coming into the library because he gets emails from the lottery in Portugal, congratulating him on his winnings and asking for his bank information. So, you know, keep dreaming!

Stephanie, I think you may be on to something, there.

Foxyj, I hear you on the homeowner thing. I remember when Amyjane visited UT after being away for awhile and commented every other billboard seemed centered around the housing market. So it may be no wonder some Utahns get pressured into buying when it might not be the best choice. Not that it ISN'T the best choice for you, but I'm just saying. Get ready to steel yourself. (Also against the plastic surgery billboards, which are equally plentiful.) Will be crossing fingers for Mr. Fob's book!

MBC, yeah. Nothing but love. Every month I get all blissful when I think about how little I pay for car insurance.

DP said... [reply]

For a long time, Zions Bank had an "internet money market" account that consistently beat out most CDs and was on par with other online savings rates. Then a friend told me about this secret account they offer called the Deseret Money Market account, which was even better.

Maybe too many people caught onto it, though, because when I try to access the page that talks about the secret Deseret account (deseret.zionsbank.com) it now takes me to the standard Internet Money Market Account.

Anyway, what I like about these accounts is that the rates are decent but that you're also still part of a local, brick-and-mortar bank, which means you can instantly transfer money from savings to checking and write a check or get cash from an ATM.

Kim said... [reply]

USAA has me spoiled. Whenever I have to deal with other (read: less cool) institutions I always end up weeping, "What is wrong with you people? Why are you not awesome and helpful?"

mj said... [reply]

I don't live in utah, so i'm sure there's a specific brand of insanity in the housing market there. however, never say never on owning a house. a couple years ago i thought i would never afford one, especially since i live in expensive-land metro area. but then a little thing called the housing bubble burst and a lot of stuff around here lost a good 25% in value and interest rates got low and the president practically gave $8000 to everyone.

we did not buy a place we could not afford but lucky for us and thanks to living like misers for a few years beforehand (sticking as close as practical to the "never spend any money" maxim), we managed a 25% downpayment and our mortgage for the 3 1/2 bedroom (one is in the basement, so I count it as half) place we now have is actually less than our one-bedroom apartment rent was.

all it takes is obsessiveness and a lot of dumb luck.

our current immediate financial goal is to build back the 6-8 month cushion. we're at about 3 mos right now. i use emigrant for my high-yield but safe savings. i mostly like them b/c they sent me a free hat and a notepad. the rate is ok, too.

Desmama said... [reply]

There is a good government incentive in place for prospective home buyers right now---$8000, to be precise. The trick? You get it after you close on your house. Still, it's something you can use as a nest egg. Not a bad deal, really.

Z's Wife said... [reply]

I'm totally a member of USAA... only because my husband is in the air force, I assume. Anyways, I'm apart of the club via joint account and you know, marriage. I don't know what savings account you use for rad interest rates, but we use emigrant direct. The rates go up and down of course, but they usually have pretty stellar percentages going on. Just throwing it out there.

We're currently doing the whole pay-as-much-as-you-can-on-your-worst-debt-and-just-minimums-on-everything-else plan until our credit card that my husband acquired before we got married... and charged his face off. Once that's gone, we'll move to our car which is our only other debt at the time. Then we're going to work on savings because we'll have rad amounts of money by then. It will be a happy, happy day then.

Musings of the Mrs. said... [reply]

Mine are - only spend what I can afford; pay down more on my house than the minimum each month; put 10% away into 401K; have fun/don't stress.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

Desmama (or anyone),

When I researched the housing credit on the internet, it sounded like it was actually a loan and that you'd be paying it back through taxes during the next ten years. Does anyone know if that's true? Why offer an incentive that's really just a loan?

And I'm jealous of everyone and their fabulous savings ideas. We've got to check out some of these accounts out there.

emandtrev said... [reply]

I found a lovely little site called mint.com (mentioned in USAA magazine, as luck would have it), which I love. It is a free budgeting site that allows you to see where you spend money, track trends, etc. That said, I'm pretty much just doing my best to live providently, save for retirement, sock away emergency and college savings, and stay away from debt as much as possible. I will also try to stay away from Saks on my next trip to Houston. Not that I actually spend money there anyway, but I think walking in the door somehow drains my wallet.

goddessdivine said... [reply]

I have a Money Market Account. The yield has definitely dropped in the last 6 months; but for a while it was supposedly making more than CDs. I actually need to get with my financial guru brother who has a full-on power point presentation on how to best manage your money.

My motto in life? Never pay full price. (I get a high from saving money.) And don't buy crap you don't need.

Not to all churchy and cheesy, but I think being a full tithe payer and generous with fast offerings has been a great financial blessing.

Cathy said... [reply]

I second STM in praising ING Direct. It isn't quite as good as it used to be because its interest rate has declined (like every other bank) but it is better than anything else we've found.
Stay away from Chase bank. They made tons of mistakes on my account and REFUSED TO FIX MORE THAN HALF. Ouch. I was closer to irate picketing than I've been in a while. Then I figured out that I really cared less about them than I did about lots of other issues that were more important but that weren't currently biting me personally. Why waste the energy?
Other people to avoid--I have to caution you about Zion's bank. My husband, while he and his geeky roommates were actually trading in the stock market, made a $4000 cash deposit for the group at an ATM. Zion's Bank lost it. Yep. They wouldn't have credited them for it except my husband had the deposit slip and fought them. He also used to have a credit card that he repeatedly tried to close. Last we heard on the subject, they sent us a letter saying they'd raised his limit to the freakin' huge amount of $13,000. Then, probably a month later, another letter came saying they'd messed up. The new limit had one zero too many. Wonder how many folks got a similar letter and went out and spent that plastic? Scary.
Owning a home is sometimes the right choice. Umm, pray about it? If you get a strong yes, then you'll know later on that even if you fall apart financially it was still the right choice to buy, and somehow that was the trial your family needed. That's the worst case scenario. Best case is something like what happened to us: bought (in UT) a house that was within our means. It happened to be in a place where even in UT the property values haven't tanked because it was one of the few affordable houses north of the temple in Provo. Turns out people still want affordable housing in that area, so it still is holding its value. We made enough out of the 15 months we owned that home to make up for a lot of the property value decline in our next home in Chicago. If we'd been too afraid to follow the spiritual prompting the first time (and we were afraid), we might be "underwater" on our mortgage here. But the transferred value has really blessed us.
Be careful about stuff like mortgage insurance, taxes, insurance, etc. It really increases the amount you're paying. Also, houses eat money. Just taking care of them is expensive, and the costs can be astronomical. It's a little like the difference between renting a car and owning one. It may seem better to own one--at least you get to keep something for your money--but if you have one where one month the transmission goes, and the next the fuel pump dies, and then you need new tires...you get the point?

Bean said... [reply]

I so don't mean to sound like a sells person but if you have an account w/America First Credit Union, there is free financial advising and they can get your money into either conservative or aggressive savings accounts and it's a free service to members. We also offer IRA accounts w/a higher percentage of interest than just a regular savings account. Ok, sells person in me is done. But your goals sound like awesome ones and I SOOOOO agree about Hawaii. Besides, you only live once and yes, you have to be smart about money but you also need to see the world and what it has to offer. :)

P.S. My word verification is "ouche." That is funny to me considering the topic. ;)

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

DP That pretty much sounds like a secret combination.

WV is "monize" which means to talk about money. Cool.

Desmama said... [reply]

FoxyJ (and anyone else interested)--I'll research that $8000 incentive and let you know what I find. DesDad's probably more knowledgeable on it than I am right now, so I'll ask him.

Desmama said... [reply]

Okay, here's what I found out:

The $8000 is free--not a loan. It will come in the form of an income tax return. But you have to be a first-time homebuyer, and the loan amount has to be below a certain amount (I want to say around $150,000, but a realtor could tell you exactly).

Again, I'm sure a realtor could tell you all the details, but it's free money if you meet those qualifications. Yay for stimulus money!

Nemesis said... [reply]

That IS good news about the $8K tax return for first-time homebuyers. The main reason I'm not looking to buy right now is GH's job. It's entry-level with no possibilities for advancement or raises, so he's looking for something else but we don't know how long that could take. And we don't know if the next job will take us to a different part of UT or out of the state entirely. We also don't know how long I will be working. So with all of that uncertainty we're holding off on commiting ourselves to such a big financial thing when we really don't know what our situation might be a year or two down the road.

And yes, this does indeed kill me sometimes when I hear about how low housing prices are right now and all the incentives there are to dive into the market. Le sigh.

Kathy Huntsman said... [reply]

Two Words. DAVE RAMSEY = FINANCIAL PEACE!
I fell upon your blog through one of my sister's blogs. I don't normally leave random comments on people's blogs that I don't know - however I just couldn't stop myself. I love this man - and if you need help getting on board or getting a spouse on board he is the one to do it for you! seriously check him out at your local library.

Cate said... [reply]

It's good to be reminded of everything. Right now, I have so much to get together. Plus well, you know he does, too. Working telemarketing isn't exactly rewarding or fulfilling if you know what I mean.

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