Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What I Am Grateful For

I started reading a new book which could loosely be categorized in the personal finance genre. It is called Peace and Plenty by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I got it because it sounded like a fascinating money story -- she made and lost a fortune. But there's a lot of self-help type advice in it that I thought was cheesy at first, but now I think I find kind of valuable. One concept she talks about is gratitude, and making a list of things that you are grateful for in terms of money. So I thought about it and this is what I came up with:

1. I am grateful I do not own a house -- I never have to worry about some big housing related emergency expense that will cost me thousands of dollars in one go, or about my property taxes going up, or whether the homeless shelter they are opening in my neighborhood is going to bring down the value of my property, or feel like I am trapped and can't move for a dream job, or any other reason, or freak out that I sunk my life savings into an asset that has lost more than 1/2 of it's value.
2. I am grateful that I have low expenses -- I have kept my expenses low which gives me a lot of flexibility. If I want to blow some money on clothes or makeup, etc. each month, I can. I never feel deprived, because I can always treat myself without having to sacrifice savings.
3. I am grateful that I can afford good medical care -- I go to a homeopath/therapist. She is really helping me grow as a person. She is expensive. $200 an hour and I go once a week. Insurance covers part of this, but I spent almost 2K last year on her. But I can afford to. Also, if something horrible happens to me, I have long-term disability insurance so that should give me some financial resources.
4. I am grateful that I can afford to travel. I keep praying that the value of the dollar holds up so I can continue to travel internationally. I have seen how challenging it can be for people of developing countries to travel outside their country, even if they are middle or upper middle class, just because of the currency.
5. I am grateful that I had a good example of how to save. My grandmother is a saver, probably more on the stingy side actually, and my mom is a saver. It's like a religion. I was born into it and never questioned it. I'm happy that's my DNA and not to overspend.

I am grateful that I have a lot to be grateful for!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where to Invest?

I think this question is on a lot of people's minds. It is definitely on mine. Between my bonus and then a CD that comes due in March, I have to find a place to park a decent amount of money. I am not sure where to put it. I don't want to earn minimal returns that most of the no-risk places like CDs are throwing off right now, but at the same time I don't think I want to dump the money into the market. Stocks are so volatile right now, and I keep hearing that interest rates are going to rise and bond prices go down.

One "alternative" investment that I have begun is Lending Club. So far only a few thousand dollars, but I like what I've seen. The one thing I don't like is that the terms are so long. I think like 3-5 years. Would probably be better for a 401K investment.

The other thing that I've really been meaning to do is diversify by currency. I've checked out Everbank products, but they seem kind of risky.

This will be an ongoing question I try to answer over the next few months.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 Spending Analysis

I'm home sick all weekend with a cold, so it's a perfect time to play around with numbers to fend off boredom. Yesterday I sliced & diced my gross income last year to see where it went. It's roughly what I've always thought it is: 1/3 to taxes, 1/3 to savings and 1/3 to spending. This made me feel happy because I live on such a small part of my salary, that if i ever have to get a lower paying job, I can still survive. I could easily cut my spending probably almost in half too, just by moving in with a roommate. Anyway, I made this nice little pie graph to visually represent where all my money went last year:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Portfolio Analyzer Fidelity Full View

I finally found a good tool to analyze all of my holdings across different accounts. And it was totally automatic, which was nice. It's the Fidelity Full View tool. It added my investment accounts automatically and now I can see my holdings across all accounts. I was surprised, I have less than 50% American stocks. When I add one other investment account, it will be even less, because those are LatAm bonds & stocks. I just read an article in Fortune saying that most people probably need even more foreign stocks than they have, so I guess this is okay. I'm just not feeling very bullish about the US market, even though I have nothing to complain about with the market's performance this year!