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Archive for December, 2007

401(k) and you (or in this case, me)

December 31st, 2007 at 06:19 pm

It's been a while. I've been in California for the past week and I'm deathly afraid to look at my account on Mint.

Upon arriving home last night, I flipped through my mail and got a letter from Fidelity. It informed me that I was now qualified to participate in my company's 401(k) program. I was beginning to wonder what kind of retirement plans my company had, seeing now that I'm finally vaguely clear on what a 401(k) actually is. It appears that it took more than my boyish good looks and undeniable charm to meet the requirements - 6 months tenure in the company was what was initially holding me back. So, as if the heresy of financial gods were an actuality, they sent my answer via the United States postal service.

Now the tough part. This may be one of the most common questions among financial forums - what do I invest in? I'm 25, single (sniff), and still have about $15k of debt that I have to work through. I've been told because of my age, I should just put it all in stocks. Having that in mind, I hopped over to Fidelity, geared up to set up my 401(k), until I found out that there's like 25 different stocks (just stocks, not even counting funds) that I can put percentages for.

So, financial whizzes and greenhorns alike, masters of financial planning and retirement funds, and all those who have more experience in this than I (which, if you're reading this, that probably means you), any recommendations or experiences? I'm especially interested if you have a Fidelity 401(k). The highest return (by year and by average) is one called Fidelity Leveraged Company Stock Fund.

I guess I have a lot more studying to do.

Feeding 15 - Went a Little Overboard?

December 17th, 2007 at 04:19 pm

This past Saturday, I had 15 people over for dinner. You can only imagine what it looked like in my little one bedroom apartment. I have to admit - this WAS my idea. But it wasn't my idea for so many people to show up.

The past week, leading up to this eventful Saturday, I decided that it would be nice to have a bunch of people over for dinner. So, I asked some of my friends to come over, had them confirm with me, and I started to sit down and plan how much food to buy and prepare.

By early Saturday morning, when I cranked up to go to Sam's Club, I had all my confirmations in, plus a couple extra that my invitees asked if they could bring with them.

Here's the damage report:
6 racks of pork ribs: $52
1 gallon BBQ sauce: $7
1 big can of corn: $3
shredded cheddar and parmesan: $5
1 lb of pasta shells: $1
2 lbs coleslaw (just in case): $6
sodas: $3
plates and cups and misc.: $7
stuff already on-hand: $6

Total: ~$90

Now, a couple of these things are multiple use - like, I didn't use an entire gallon of BBQ sauce, just about 1/4 of it. And, still a good amount of disposableware to last another get-together. Also, there was still a pound of coleslaw leftover and a little bit of corn. All in all, ribs for 15 people for about $90 breaks down to about $6/person. Not too bad, I guess. I'm still trying to justify spending a month's worth of food money.

But what really bugs me is this:
Dinner was scheduled for 5:00PM. From 3:30PM to 5:30PM, my phone was going off left and right of people who I didn't invite who had heard about this soiree and asked if they could come, then mope about why they couldn't come when I said no. If you're going to call me an hour before feeding 15 people and want me to magically make food appear out of nowhere, you've got some nerve. People, contrary to popular belief, I'm not a soup kitchen. I'm not a cafeteria. I'm not here to feed YOU. I wish I could invite everyone who has ever walked the face of this planet. But the fact is, I bought food for 15, I cooked for 15, and I only have room in my apartment for 10. You do the math.

Okay, enough venting. Hope everyone else had a good weekend. =)

I Can't Afford to Be Skinny

December 13th, 2007 at 06:41 pm

Why is it that food that isn't bad for you always much more expensive than food that is? It makes losing weight somewhat more expensive than being fat and dying from some heart disease.

Maybe it's just basic economics. I'm sure the demand for a McDonald's double cheeseburger is much higher than a head of broccoli, therefore driving up competition and is why I can't get broccoli for $1. I'm not even going to add in costs for cooking and such. Asparagus is even worse - and I like asparagus. It's almost become a treat for me to eat vegetables.

Working off this realization, I began to wonder...when vegetables become a "treat" and I have no qualms paying $1 for a cheeseburger or 2 pieces of fried chicken, it almost seems that the two most sought after goals on these blogs - saving money and losing weight - have become enemies to one another.

Ramen noodles, widely regarded as perhaps the cheapest "meal" (at $0.10) out there, may also be one of the most unhealthiest. However, if you wanted a pomegranate, full of antioxidants and other healthy stuff that I know nothing about, it'll run you $3. It's somewhat of a stretch, but in this example, it seems like eating healthy costs 30x more than not. Not a great example, but I guess it's just something to get the point across.

To me, it seems not impossible but rather difficult to maintain a balance of healthy diet and frugality. So this goes out to all the readers: what do you do to keep costs low and food healthy?

Acronyms and Such

December 12th, 2007 at 03:41 pm

Delving into the world of personal finance is a complicated thing.

Like starting anything in my life, I have the tendency to dive in head first and sort out the details later. By definition, I guess that makes me an impetuous person. I like to think of it as reaping benefit as soon as possible.

But personal finance is like another beast. Jumping in full force landed me surrounded in confusion. One thing I've noticed over my few months of reading is the seemingly never-ending list of acronyms. IRA! 401K! IPO! CD! Then add in the relative subject of healthcare and you toss in things like PPO and HMO to the list. It's enough to confuse even the most deductive of people.

All in all, if you're a completely green coming into this personal finance game, it can seem somewhat daunting. Finance forums are littered with topics such as "How should I diversify my 401k? How safe are small cap international stocks?" It's like drowning in the ocean while you're trying to figure out what water is.

Anyways, I think my point is, personal finance is important. And it takes time. I've been reading for months and I'm just now starting to get the foggiest idea of what people are talking about. If you were to ask me something basic like the difference between a Roth IRA and a 401k - or even something like a high yield savings account vs. a CD, I probably would have to make something up to make myself sound smart and hope you don't catch me in my moment of deception.

Thinking about this makes me wonder - how many people in this country actually DO understand personal finances? Or do they just hand over their accounts to financial advisors and let them have at it?


December 11th, 2007 at 06:29 pm

I'm poor.

I admit it.

I had a bad spending habit in college, spending in a carpe diem style when good deals came up. This continued through a couple years after graduation, until I realized that I had racked up a mass of consumer debt ($18000) - on top of my preexisting student loans and other loans from family members.

So, I took action. Job offer in hand, I began a renewed carpe diem mentality.

I'm going to be less poor.

I figured I should set this up since I spend so much time reading everyone else's. I felt so left out. =(