Edelman’s financial planner, part 1: my credit card & the taj mahal
September 10, 2007

In my quest to find a financial planner for my family, I met with one last week from Ric Edelman’s firm. I’ve read a few of Ric’s books & appreciated his no-nonsense style & wit. I theorized associates working for his company would espouse similar credibility.

And that proved true with the planner I met.

On credit card debt:
I liked how he asked questions about my family’s entire financial outlook before honing in on the credit card reality. I was fully prepared to defend my debt philosophy on that topic when he casually whipped out his calculator.

He said:

Well you’ll pay xxx in interest payments and lose xxx percent in interest gains despite your current investments. I’d suggest your top goals to accomplish are to continue retirement contributions toward the 403(b), continue saving toward your emergency cash reserves, pay off the credit card debt, get a will, and then max out your retirement contributions once the card’s paid off.

His suggestions did not surprise me; what did surprise & appeal however was how debt pay-off was one factor in a greater proposal — a rounded outline for our circumstance. Granted it was our first meeting but he wasn’t condescending about credit card debt or my resistance to pay it off.

He came across as very credible. I look forward to further debriefing our meeting via Housewifery this week. What do you think of his suggestion?

More from:
Liz Pulliam Weston & her keen reasoning on when – ironically – not to pay off debt.

financial roots: your fiscal beliefs, fears, confidence must come from … where?
September 5, 2007

In preparing for another financial planner interview this week, I imagined how a certain discussion could play-out regarding our debt:

Planner to me: So do you have credit card debt?

Me: Sure do.

Planner: So why don’t you pay it off right now or at least increase your payments?

Me: Because the thought of having zero dinero in our emergency reserves makes me vomit.

For my family right now, it comes down to rebuilding habit.

For a while, it’s been ‘pay off the card’. Then a perceived emergency that warrants use of it occurs again (we wouldn’t have much in emergency reserves since we focused on debt pay-off).

And the cycle played out many times in our lives.

So I shared this tact with husband Sean – to which he concurred on changing focus. He was creeped-out by the card balance (predominantly tax payments) but appreciated the underlying philosophy: build up cash reserves to prevent credit card usage in emergencies.

Then comes the self-reflection:
What has the most impact on one’s financial beliefs? Is it more than just live-and-learn as an adult?

That must be a complex answer for everyone.

Yet these two childhood memories stand out as canyon-wide influences on my financial beliefs:

  • family thrived with their business during the Oklahoma oil boom;
  • family sank deep into fiscal ick-ville when that boom went bust

Don’t wanna go back there … ever.

So what’s the first step – forming a positive vision to strive toward (vs always looking back at that which we want to avoid)?

More from:

  • WiseBread’s Sarah Winfrey outlines those wise, internal questions that can frame what we really want. …joy? chocolate? companionship? love? a Twinkie bath? Winfrey’s reflective approach proved a useful tool to carve out purpose — financial or otherwise.
  • Request:
    Please treat yourself to Jonny Goldstein‘s above Twinkie bath clip, 3 minutes. The ribs crack from cackling every time.

renting vs buying e.g. can you still afford pet food with a mortgage?
August 29, 2007

I live in downtown Washington, DC with my husband where we rent 600 square feet & love it. We long sold the car & we both walk to work (…I endure a hefty commute from the bedroom to my home studio 15′ away).

After scoping out properties with an agent – we’re delaying home ownership, despite the market stats.

I sometimes get defensive on this issue, esp with friends who’ve owned for some time. I let my self-concept get all out of whack, thinking my man & I are somehow less adult for not owning property in our 30s.

The truth is, I believe buying now makes us financially vulnerable no matter how much home price tags decline. To get into a 600 square foot home in this area, we’d:
-have to relinquish our emergency cash reserves toward down payment & closing costs;
-retain a minimum monthly mortgage of $2k for 600 square feet at a conservative purchase price of $230k;
-that leaves minimal to zero monthly margins for unforeseen expenses or increased contributions toward retirement.

Granted, we’ve chosen to live in pricey downtown near work for simplicity of living. Walking to work is addictive, especially that welcome by-product of zero car payments and insurance.

And Stephen Pollan chimes in:

Today when young clients come to me to discuss real estate, I tell them to buy their second home first. I tell them to steer clear of “starter houses” they’ll eventually outgrow, and instead buy the kind of home they would have stepped up into after selling a starter house. I tell them to plan on buying a house they could be comfortable in for the rest of their lives. If that means waiting longer to buy, so be it. That will give you more time to save money, …more time to separate your needs from your wants. The result will be a more intelligent buy.

So right now, I’m glad to help our landlord with his property ownership & tax benefits. As his renters, we’ll keep chins up while investing in our fiscal balance and discipline.

More from:
–CNN’s cost of living calculator (knocked my socks off when my cousin in Tulsa, OK said we could live in a 4 bedroom, marble kitchen estate for what we’d pay for 600 sq ft in DC);
Rent v buy calculator which assesses whether buying a home (or renting & investing the would-be mortgage payment) would be best per your current stats;
–Pollan’s book Die Broke offers frank, reasonable insight to personal finance

marital money mantra #2: protect what you can’t afford to lose
August 26, 2007

Sweet cash kitty

We learned a lot from our own cycles of incur-credit-debt-yet-not-build-savings. We still have credit card debt (from mis-calculating last year’s tax payment); yet we’ve for the first time built a cash kitty, four months of expenses, with plans to secure one year’s worth since we function on a single steady income.

It’s tough changing one’s perception of what is or is not a valuable financial habit or philosophy. I heard throughout life about debt-is-bad-pay-it-off but not as much insistence on building cash reserves aka rainy day protection. I realize saving philosophies have certainly been around for ages; cash reserves (and truly reserving them for emergencies vs a Mets game…) — just weren’t emphasized as much in my personal community.

After six years of marriage, four cats, and $6k in pet surgeries it became clear viewing a credit card as an emergency cash plan lacked….prudence. Emotionally we couldn’t afford to lose the various cats & financially, we decided we couldn’t afford to personally finance continual debt cycles.

Thus dedication to building cash reserves began as did researching pet insurance(!).

More from:
-ASPCA offers diverse pet insurance plans & good customer service;
All Financial Matters says it well: Emergencies will come whether we are prepared for them or not.

Savings fable + financial planner says his clients spend, spend, spend
August 16, 2007

Stunned I say, stunned!

10 second video: how much his clients overspend per a DC-area financial planner

What drives that spending itch?

In a meeting with a financial planner this week, I asked him how much a higher income impacted one’s success at saving.

He then shared this story that knocked my socks off:

He generically referenced two of his clients — one was a grounds keeper and one was a leader at a university. Their retirement financials were similar; each wanted to retire in a year. The grounds keeper was overjoyed at the financial planner’s feedback: due to his conservative spending and aggressive saving habits, the grounds keeper could live comfortably on Social Security, with his retirement savings as buffer & as help for his grandchildren’s college costs. Yet the university leader, with a considerably higher income, agonized over his retirement nest egg. The financial planner said due to his over zealous spending habits & reluctant savings plan, he (the university leader) would not be able to maintain his living standard in retirement years. Or the other prospect was he could continue working and cut back costs.

…I promptly refrained from a Starbuck’s visit walking home.