Approaching the Limit

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. There are still times when I can still be surprised by my finances; such was the case recently when I reviewed my credit card charges.  There was a time when I would check my charges on a daily basis, but that has changed recently, probably over the last 6-9 months.  I still check them at least once a week, but I don’t watch them like a hawk. So, it was a surprise when I looked at my account online and saw that I was only about $900 away from my credit limit.  Since the limit on my card is $10,000, I was caught a little off guard.  When I looked into the details, there was nothing amiss and my finances were completely fine. How I Got There Not since I dug out of my financial hole have I been that close to my limit.  There are probably two main reasons why I was that close … Read more

Retirement Analysis Revisited

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. With the recent 2016 benefit announcement by my company, I needed to do some modeling. Specifically, I needed to model out the impact of the 401k change. The company was going to be moving from a pay period match to an annual lump sum match.  After some fierce employee backlash, the company changed its mind, but not before I had gotten to run through some numbers in Excel. My Retirement Analysis I knew that changing the timing of the 401k matching contributions from a pay period match to an annual match wouldn’t be good for me. The question was, how severe would the impact be? I kept my first pass at the impact pretty simple. I kept my salary constant and just wanted to see the lost interest over the next 25-30 years. I kept the investment return constant at 9%. The impact in the first year was about $400. By the end of the 25 … Read more

My Credit Card Rewards Update

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. A while back, I talked about revising my credit card strategy. I was looking for a way to increase the amount of cash I received by using my credit card for all my purchases. I was curious as to whether I saw the increase that I thought I would, turns out, I did. My Credit Card Summary If you didn’t see that post, I basically used one card for all of the household purchases. I was using the Bank of America 1-2-3 card. The card gave 1% on all purchases, 2% on groceries and 3% on gas. If you deposited your cash reward into a Bank of America bank account, they would give you a 10% bonus. I was averaging between 1.2% and 1.4% for most months. I then saw an ad for the new Citi Double-Cash back card. You earn 1% on your purchases and then you earn another 1% on your payments. Since … Read more

Being Nimble – Financially Flexible

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Over the past several years as I have become better at managing my finances, one trick that has kept me on budget is being nimble or flexible.  I have written in the past how flexibility has helped me to stay within my budget.  The topic has come up again recently. Our Canceled Trip My wife and I have taken a small vacation without the kids the past couple of summers.  The trip has consisted of a couple of nights staying at a hotel, a few dinners out and activities during the day.  We always budget for the getaway, usually with money from my annual bonus. This year was the same; we set aside $1,000 for the trip.  We ended up not going on the getaway. What this means is that we had $1,000 budgeted for travel expenses that we are not going to use.  Since we already fund retirement sufficiently for us and our emergency … Read more

Savings Struggles

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. I’ll admit it, I fall for click bait all the time, especially when it comes to personal finance articles.  My latest trap came from the following article.  The headline about the real reason Americans struggle to save made me curious.  My first reaction was people can’t save because they spend beyond their means.  Was there another underlying factor I hadn’t heard of?  Turns out, no it was exactly what I thought.  There was some other interesting or scary depending upon your perspective, information from the survey conducted by the Federal Reserve. Savings Struggles The survey revealed that 47% of those surveyed would not be able to handle a $400 emergency expense.  That really blew my mind, that something as small as $400 would cause people to have to borrow money.  That even isn’t that big of a surprise expense.  Simple car repairs anymore seem to run in the hundreds of dollars.  Most car or homeowners … Read more

Woohoo!! Another Raise!!

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Recently, I let you peek in on what I did with my performance bonus for this year.  Now, I am going to let you in on what I did with my salary increase for this year.  I find out both numbers at the same time, but the bonus is paid in March and the salary increase does not begin until the first April paycheck.  This year, I received a 2% increase on my base salary.  This translated in $1,900 more per year or just over $155 a month.  The next question is what did I do with the extra money? Dividing the Extra Over the last few years, raises generally have been used to help stabilize the budget and plug any deficits there may have been.  This year was different though.  I have been actively minimizing our expenses whenever possible.  The most notable one recently was my mortgage refinancing that I wrote about.  That freed … Read more

Year-End Financial Grade

  The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. There is one number that I am diligent about tracking at year-end, my net worth. I use it as my scorecard to see how I did financially during the previous year – here’s mine for 2014. My History As I have said before, I was in a pretty deep financial hole.  I am not sure exactly how deep it was, but my net worth was probably in the negative $30K range.  This past year was not my best year in terms of dollar or percentage increase, but it was solid.  My net worth increased about 22% over last year and about $23K overall.  I am pretty happy with that increase.  I’ll discuss where the biggest changes occurred and where I think I might end this year. Yay 401k! The biggest change, by far, was in my 401k. That represented almost all of the gains in my net worth.  Between my contributions, my company’s contributions … Read more