Thursday, October 2, 2008

Financial Update - October 2008

Cash - $72.00
Banking - $11,427.73
Savings bonds - $5,054.00
401k (vested) - $8,578.53
Roth IRA - $10,824.69
529 - $3,923.89
Brokerage - $136.02
ESPP - $962.88

Credit Cards (PIF every month) - $1662.97
Rent (outstanding checks) - $2650.00

Net Worth: $36,666.77
-10.6% change since last month


Ouch. Quite a rough month here on paper... the essential collapse of the financial market has taken a large chunk out of my retirement & 529 savings, and my company stock ESPP shares have also tanked (sure wishing right about now that I had just paid the exorbitant fees to sell them directly weeks ago!)

In addition, my expenses were quite high. I am moving this month, which is a very exciting event for me personally, but also means I am experiencing such joys as paying overlapping rent and security deposits, and am probably in for a bit more still (extra fuel costs, new furniture & household items). I also paid my 6 month car insurance premium and bought a new laptop this month, further adding to the carnage.

Seeing these numbers is definitely hard to swallow, but I am trying to remain calm and remind myself that these are only paper losses for now and that my ongoing expenses will be much lower after I am fully moved in.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Financial Update - September 2008

Cash - $10.00
Banking - $10,237.72
Savings bonds - $5,036.00
401k (vested) - $8,825.07
Roth IRA - $11,956.68
529 - $4,117.92
Brokerage - $272.02
ESPP - $2286.84

Credit Cards (PIF every month) - $696.72
Rent (outstanding check) - $1022.09

Net Worth: $41,023.44
+11.1% change since last month


Great news - my ESPP shares finally showed up, and the company stock has even gone up quite a bit since then! Unfortunately, selling the whole thing through the ESPP broker would slap me with a ~$150 transaction fee, which in my opinion is just ridiculous. I have heard that it's possible to transfer the shares to a discount broker though, which I will definitely be looking into.!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Financial Update - August 2008

Cash - $37.00
Banking - $9009.43
Savings bonds - $5,018.00
401k (vested) - $8,581.21
Roth IRA - $12,000.90
529 - $3,877.49
Brokerage - $228.02

Credit Cards (PIF every month) - $838.71
Rent (outstanding check) - $985.84

Net Worth: $36,927.50
+5.6% change since last month


Markets about the same as when I posted last month, even after a pretty big rally yesterday. I have a pending Employee Stock Purchase Plan buy that should hit any day now though, so hopefully will see a reasonable bump from that for next month.

In other exciting news, interest has finally started to post on my iBond! Only $18.00 now, but it's very nice to see!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Financial Update - July 2008

Cash - $18.00
Checks - $25.00
Banking - $8002.95
Savings bonds - $5,000.00
401k (vested) - $7,695.48
Roth IRA - $12,071.65
529 - $3,615.58
Brokerage - $202.02

Credit Cards (PIF every month) - $684.89
Rent (outstanding check) - $943.86
Other (outstanding checks) - $30.00

Net Worth: $34,971.93
-0.5% change since last month


Ouch... pretty bad month for the markets; it's certainly painful to keep contributing to an account and still have the value drop!

In other news, this is the 3rd month after purchasing my iBond, which means that interest will start posting at the beginning of next month... definitely will be exciting to see!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Financial Update - June 2008

Cash - $13.00
Checks - $49.00
Banking - $7,240.51
Savings bonds - $5,000.00
401k (vested) - $7,717.79
Roth IRA - $13,044.46
529 - $3,694.38
Brokerage - $320.02

Credit Cards (PIF every month) - $959.49
Rent (outstanding check) - $966.56

Net Worth: $35,153.11
+8.1% change since last month


Thanks to a mostly-rebounding market this month, my Roth IRA balance finally crept up past the sum of my contributions again, which is always nice to see. Though, my brokerage account isn't doing nearly so well - I've lost almost half of what I had put in!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I needed a budget!

One of my New Year resolutions for 2008 was to start keeping a monthly budget and tracking all of my expenditures for the year, beginning in February. This was quite a challenging goal for me, as I've never been able to keep up this type of constant commitment for long, as evidenced by the countless aborted journals, sporadically-updated blogs, and ruefully-abandoned exercise plans I've had in my life.

Thus, I'm very happy to report that, as of May 1, I've now kept up my budget and expense tracking for a full 3 months! It's a truly great feeling to know, not just guess or hope, that I'm spending less than I make and putting aside money for longer term goals. Also, the budgeting and expense recording is actually much easier and less time-consuming than I had originally thought - and after 3 months, has now become a habit.

I'm using a tool called You Need A Budget (YNAB) for the budgeting and tracking - basically a souped-up Excel sheet with some budgeting philosophies built-in. YNAB costs $20 for the basic version, but the built-in functionality has made the process much quicker and less painful - and thus easier to keep up! - than it could have been. However, a homemade Excel sheet or free pre-built tool will also get the job done. (One tool I have heard good things about is PearBudget, although I've never used it myself.)

For those who are fortunate enough to not be in debt or living paycheck-to-paycheck, maintaining a budget and keeping track of all expenditures may seem like overkill for a problem that doesn't exist. However, the process itself is invaluable as it forces me to actively think about and manage my finances, and take ownership of everything I make and spend. Since I know exactly where every dollar goes, it keeps me from ever feeling like my money just disappears. Plus, it gives me historical data of my spending patterns, and that should be really fun to play with for a numbers geek like me!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Financial Update - May 2008

Cash - $13.00
Banking - $5,501.52
Savings bonds - $5,000.00
401k (vested) - $6,955.23
Roth IRA - $12,832.21
529 - $3,376.40
Brokerage - $426.02

Credit Cards (PIF every month) - $613.29
Rent (outstanding check) - $973.67

Net Worth: $32,517.42
+9.15% change since last month!


It was a very good month, thanks to the rebounding stock market and no big-ticket purchases. I was aiming to pass the $30k mark, so it's a great feeling to just blow by it with nary a glance.

My (measly) 401k company match for 2007 posted this month, but since I have only been here a year and a half, I am not yet vested in any of it! I've adjusted the 401k number this month to only show my vested balance.

Also, my much-anticipated I bonds purchase (electronic, via TreasuryDirect) went off smoothly on the 29th. Although the annual limit is $10k, I only purchased the $5k of electronic bonds this time, both to avoid depleting all of my liquid funds in case of emergency, and also to still have the chance to purchase more in October if the rates remain high.

Checking the TreasuryDirect site today, I see that the new fixed rate for I bonds has dropped to 0.00% (wow!) so I'm glad to have locked in the 1.2% rate from before!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I <3 I Bonds!

With current "high-yield savings" and CD rates barely hovering above 3% APY, and inflation rates marching on well above that, I've become increasingly concerned about protecting my savings (such as they are). As such, I've been looking seriously at Series I Savings bonds, which seem quite attractive, particularly as we approach the May 1 rate reset.

For anyone who was as unfamiliar with I bonds as I was, here's a rundown of some highlights:

- The earnings rate is comprised of 2 components: a fixed rate (good for the lifetime of the bond), and an inflation rate equal to the semiannual increase in the CPI-U (changes to the current inflation rate every 6 months). New rates are published every May 1 and November 1.
- I bonds earn interest for the entire month of purchase regardless of the actual date of purchase (i.e. a bond purchased April 30 earns interest as if it was purchased on April 1.) Interest for the previous month is posted on the first of the month, and is compounded semi-annually.
- I bonds have a minimum holding period of 1 year (from issue date) and stop earning interest after 30 years. If a bond is held for less than 5 years, the last 3 months of interest are forfeited.
- Interest is exempt from state and local income taxes, and is federal income tax-deferred until the bond is redeemed.
- When the bond is used for qualified education expenses, including rollover into an ESA or 529, the interest may be tax-exempt. (More information here)
- The current purchase limit (per Social Security Number) for I bonds is $5,000 in electronic bonds, plus $5,000 in paper bonds purchased from a financial institution.

The current (Nov 2007 - April 2008) rates are 1.2% fixed rate and 1.53% semiannual inflation rate, for a composite of 4.28%. Any I bond issued before May 1 will earn 4.28% for 6 months, then 1.2% + current inflation rate for each 6 month period after that.

Here's where it gets interesting. CPI data for March was just released today, and the new CPI-U is 213.528, an increase of 2.42% from the September 2007 CPI-U of 208.49. This means that the second 6 months for I bonds issued before May 1 will earn a composite rate of 6.07%. Thus, a 14-month holding strategy (buying on April 30, 2008 and selling on July 1, 2009; 12 months of interest after the 3 month penalty) earns an equivalent annual rate of 4.49%. With a state income tax, the I bond is even better! Assuming a 6% state income tax rate, the I bond equivalent yield jumps to 4.78%!

Now, it is likely that the inflation rate will drop in another 6 months, and/or rates on other savings vehicles will rise, making it unattractive to hold the bond beyond these first 14 months. However, a worst-case scenario of 4.49% APY for 14 months (with the potential for greater benefits depending on one's individual tax situation and how the rates change) is certainly worth serious consideration now. Just remember to purchase before May 1 to lock in these rates!

More information about I bonds can be found at

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

In the Beginning

Since this blog just has 2 posts of random numbers right now, I should probably take some time to explain a little more about where I am now and how I got here.

I'm a 2006 college graduate. In September 2006, I started my first job and moved into my own apartment. Up until then, my parents had always taken care of my finances, and being on my own helped me realize just how little I really knew about savings, credit, retirement accounts, and personal finance in general.

My net worth at the time was just barely in the black. Thanks to my parents, I had no debt, but I had no real assets either. The $900 rent deposit check all but cleaned out my checking account, and I had no savings or investment accounts at all. I had a CapitalOne student credit card that I paid in full every month (my parents had drilled that one into me), as well as a handful of dormant store cards I had gotten for the discounts and hadn't used since. While I was "frugal" in the sense that always I tried to get a good deal and buy things on sale, I never thought much about my spending (never mind anything resembling budgeting) and I loved to eat out and spend money on toys (electronics, video games, DVDs, etc.)

To break my financial college-student mindset, I began to spend hours every day educating myself by reading personal finance blogs, books, and the FatWallet Finance forum. A year and a half later, through periods of varying commitment, I feel like I've built a stable foundation to truly begin my financial journey. This will be my travel log.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Financial Update - April 2008

April 2008 Financial Snapshot / Net Worth Update:

Cash - $76.00
Banking - $10,423.13
401k - $6,248.30
Roth IRA - $12,266.21
529 - $2,918.56
Brokerage - $388.02

Credit Cards (PIF every month) - $1542.05
Rent (outstanding check) - $985.69

Net Worth: $29,792.48
+2.6% change since last month


Not too bad overall, given that I took a big vacation this month (Vegas, baby!) and the stock market has continued to be shaky. Looking forward to a bigger change next month!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Here we go!

One year after initially setting up this blog, I'm finally getting around to actually posting in it! Personal finance somewhat fell off my radar late last year, but for 2008 I've renewed my commitment to staying on track and keeping track of my financial journey. To any who may stumble upon my blog here, welcome and thanks for visiting!

A couple of things have changed for me since March of 2007. I've learned a lot more about personal finance from reading all of the great blogs out there. As a result, I've upped my contribution % to my 401k, opened a Roth IRA (April 2007) that I will fully fund each year, opened a 529 for my sister when she heads to college next year, and also opened a brokerage account with a bit of money to play around with. I've also started (as of February 1) keeping up a budget to track my spending and plan for my expenses.

March 2008 Financial Snapshot:

Cash - $64.00
Banking - $8774.14
401k - $6054.25
Roth IRA - $12,319.27
529 - $2,688.84
Brokerage - $429.02

Credit Cards (paid in full every month) - $1297.70

Net Worth: $29,031.82

Overall, a good start I think. Only $970,968.18 to go until that first million!