Archive for August, 2007

Living vicariously

I have set up my newly-updated Save-O-Meters (see right sidebar). Retirement savings now rest at around $11,400 (breaking the five-figure barrier… it’s like the 4-minute mile!). Emergency saving is at $5,600. Down payment is currently ZERO (which is ironic because this blog is supposed to document my journey toward home ownership… well, I never said the journey will be quick & easy).

My parents might be looking to buy a condo. I went to see a place with them – it’s pretty nice: detached condo, recent construction, gated entry, close to main streets, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a tiny plot of land in the back where they can plant an herb garden, and a large 2-car garage with storage space. It’s listed for around $650,000, but has been on the market for a while. Mom said they might be able to negotiate it down to $610,000. That’s probably on the high end of their budget, but we’ll see how it goes.


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Still internet-less!

More than three weeks after moving into my apartment, I STILL don’t have internet access at home.  (Which is why I haven’t posted in what seems like an eternity in blog-time).

😦 For a moment last week I thought I could survive without internet at home (I could just bum off wireless or go to a Starbucks). But then I realized – what the heck was I thinking?! How can I go without personal internet?

Now I am ready to humbly and happily to pay for the convenience of DSL.

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Words, worlds

My job right now is very numbers-oriented. But I love words. I love the way that hardcovers feel. Or the way that old books smell. During college, one of my favorite way to spend a Sunday morning is to rummage through a book yard sale (after a HUGE brunch, of course) – I’d buy books for $1 or $2, and sometimes the really old editions would have lovely pencil script inside the cover, and I’d imagine who before me have read and loved the story.

Anyhow, this is a quotation that I’ve found, and I love it.

When I was little, my ambition was to grow up to be a book. Not a writer. People can be killed like ants. Writers are not hard to kill either. But not books. However systematically you try to destroy them, there is always a chance that a copy will survive and continue to enjoy a shelf-life in some corner of the an out-of-the-way library somewhere, in Rekjavik, Valladolid, or Vancouver.

– Amos Oz

How do people come up with such beautiful passages? Seriously.

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Goals, it’s about time

It’s nice to have some goals to work towards, no?

So here they are – my end-of-2007 goals:

1. put $12,000 towards retirement (or $2,400 per month from August to December).
2. save $1,250 for emergency fund (or $250 per month, or $125 per paycheck).
3. have a positive net worth.
4. keep in touch with mentors – 2-3 emails/phone calls between now and December.
5. give back to my school – serve as a resource to current students?
6. start (and finish) reading Wicked and About Alice. Reread The Scarlet Letter and The Year of Magical Thinking. Buy all four books, preferably in hardcover.
7. cook a Sunday brunch (mimosas, omelet, fruit salad) for friends.
8. see 1 non-work-related friend at least once a month.
9. decorate my bedroom.
10. save $50/month for gift for Mom & Dad.
11. see CB 3x a month.

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Does anyone here watch Platinum Weddings? The tagline is: “Most little girls dream of the day they marry. But some little girls dream big.”

Dream big is right. Some of these dream weddings profiled cost over $500,000. One of them had a $1.2 million price tag.

Anyhow, I caught one of the episodes about a young bride who is walking down the aisle in a $8,000 gown, and she bought her mom and her grandmother to see the dress at the final fitting. And all three women started to tear up because she truly looked beautiful.

And I thought of my grandmama. She passed away last winter. I try not to think about her too much, because it still sucks.

But when I saw that segment, I felt sad. My grandmama will never see me in my wedding gown. I mean, I make enough money to buy a $8,000 dress now (not that I can pluck down the money without batting an eye). But some things can’t be bought. No matter how much money you have.

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NYC round-up

Since I’ve came back from NYC several days ago, I’ve had a chance to get a rough tally of how much I’ve spent.

The good thing is most of my spending went to “experiences” instead of “stuff.” I spent a small fortune on dining out. I don’t even want to know how much the total tab is… must be up there in the $600+ range… but the food was good. (Think steak, baked clams, prosciutto & melon, sushi, tea, scones, smoked salmon, mimosas, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, and many, MANY more helpings of deliciousness).

I also went to a day spa with a girlfriend ($160), took cabs from the airport to and from the city and whenever I was too tired to walk or it was too late to take the subway ($250+?), bought some work clothes ($130+), watched an off-Broadway play ($40), visited museums & went on tours ($80), got some decorative accessories & a pillow from flea markets ($45), purchased some good books ($35), etc. etc. etc.

Basically, I spent alot. But you know, I’m only in NYC once (well, at least for the near future). I’m also just really glad I at least saved SOME money from my first paycheck.

But uhm, no more spending like this now that I’m home.

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A lot of bloggers have talked about a recent New York Times article on the “working class millionaires” of Silicon Valley. One of the people profiled is Hal Steger, a 51-year-old marketing executive who has a $3.5 million net worth but still works 60-70 hour weeks looking for his big strike.

This article reminded me of the college application process during high school. Among my group of friends, the schools to get into were UC Berkeley or UCLA, Cornell or Columbia, or smaller but no less exclusive liberal arts colleges. Nevermind the fact that there were hundreds of great schools outside the US News top 50 list.

Nevermind, because we were trying to get into some of the most competitive universities in the nation, against kids who had organized relief trips to Peru, or won Intel’s science competition, or had straight As and still had time to run a family business. Suddenly, that near-perfect on the SAT makes you a dime a dozen, and that trophy for the county fair looks puny in comparison to a national award.

Where does this come in? Even though I am MILES away from a $3.5 million net worth, I understand why Mr. Steger can feel the way he does. Some might say he’s lost perspective, but our perspective is born of the enivronment we live in. Growing up in a middle-class family in the U.S., I am wealthier than 80% of the population in the world. Yet how many times during the day do I take a step back and appreciate that fact? (Not often enough by a wide shot, I’m chagrined to say).

It’s a good article. After watching the video on Mr. Steger, I really admire his work ethic. I don’t think he doesn’t realize how fortunate he is or is ungrateful for what he has. And I think that’s what the millionaires in the article are trying to convey – it’s one thing to know, intellectually, that you are fortunate. It is quite another to feel, in your heart, that you’ve “made it”.

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One of my favorite drinks is a honey tea latte (really just a milk tea with honey) from a little coffee shop a few blocks from where I live. It costs $4, but it tastes delicious.

Today, I was about to turn in the parking lot to get the drink when I thought, well, if I just get a milk tea, I can save 75 cents, then I can just go home and add the honey myself. Then I thought, well, I can save $1.50 if I buy a tea but add the milk and honey myself. Then I thought, heck, I can just make the tea, pour the milk, stir in the honey, and drink my own honey milk tea latte conconction, thereby saving the entire $4.

(All those thoughts ran through my mind in under 2 seconds). And I drove home.

Now I’m making tea. And guess what? I’m out of milk.

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Emergency fund = 3 months

If you look at my emergency fund progress bar to the right, you’ll see that I’ve achieved 50% of my goal (thanks to my first paycheck!). That $5,000 means that I’ve got roughly 3 months of living expenses saved up.

That $5,000 could very well stretch to 5 months if I move home during an emergency.

I plan to add another couple thousand of dollars before the year end… it’s an aggressive goal, but I think I can do it.

One of the reasons why I want a bigger emergency fund is because I view it as my combined “job-loss” and “car trouble” fund. I recently had to fix my airbags for around $600… my parents generously paid that bill, but it made me realize that I’d feel much safer if I have enough of a cushion set aside for possible car maintainence and repairs.

Never underestimate Murphy’s Law.

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