Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Never is a long long time

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about life, death, and balance between living for today and preparing for tomorrow.

In the past couple of months, I’ve known two friends of friends who have been in serious car accidents. Both of them are in their twenties. Both have suffered severe trauma and are still in comas.

That news hit me harder than I had expected. I don’t know them personally – but the fact of it is – they were like me. Young and invincible. Maybe armed with a 5-Year Life Plan. Only luck and circumstance separate us.

Joan Didion began in The Year of Magical Thinking (one of my all time favorite books), life changes fast. Life changes in an instant.

You sit down to dinner (or jump in the car, or see the doctor, or get on the plane) and life as you know it ends.

I just read that a lawyer committed suicide in his office after his layoff. I can’t imagine the personal anguish that would cause someone to take his life because of a job situation. I pray that his family is okay.

Retirement / “financial independence” is the Big Goal for most personal finance bloggers. Now MSN informed me that I might never retire. Never is a long long time.

Life is easy when the path is linear. College – job – graduate school – better job. Save and invest and aim towards that golden retirement. But the zig-zags catch me off guard. It’s easy to say, carpe diem! It’s hard, really hard, to be brave enough to do so.

It’s hard to seize the day. Seizing takes effort. Self-awareness. Emotional intelligence. Resilience. How am I suppose to develop all that in my twenties? Can it wait ’til my thirties?

This post is disjointed, but the point of it, I suppose, is this: if I am lucky, life will be both too long and too short. Too long not to prepare for tomorrow. Too short to keep passing up on today.


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After a few weekends of searching (fruitlessly) for apartments that will take a 6-month lease*, combined with my general satisfaction with my landlord/apartment manager, love for my area, and the great price that’s allowed me to save at a steady clip over the past two years…

I might be doing the previously unthinkable. I might decide to stay in my current apartment with a new roommate instead of moving out on my own.

Again, this is a case of Need vs. Want:

  • I WANT to move out in a newer apartment in a just-as-convenient neighborhood.
  • I NEED to keep my rent at a reasonable rate and maintain maximum flexibility (look for some posts on travel coming up).

Besides, I know that once I move into a nicer place with newer appliances/fixtures and bigger closets – it’ll be that much harder to go back to my current apartment standards. Apartment inflation, ya know. 😉

I’m going to think on this a little bit more – the idea just popped into my head during the drive home (before my car started spewing STEAM out of the ENGINE). If after 2-3 days I still am leaning towards the staying option, I’m going to talk to my manager to understand what would be the terms of agreement if a new person moves in, and then get set to put up an ad soliciting prospective roommates.

*There may be a situation where I can take over a lease and then go month-to-month very quickly – I’ll call tomorrow to get the details, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up.

You got advice? Share your wisdom in the comments!

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I’ve decided that a less-than-one-year lease is non-negotiable. I just don’t want to lock myself into a lease until May or June next year. If all goes well, I will be traveling abroad come this time next year!

So while the rental market is still quite soft, the shorter lease requirement has eliminated a lot of prospective apartments. I am going to see a couple more apartments this / next weekend.

  • $1,200 studio w/ 6 month lease. I’m going to try to negotiate them down to $1,100… seeing as they offered a $1,000 “special” for one-year leases.
  • $1,150 1 bedroom (double deposit required for 6 month leases). It’d take me $3,500 just to move in!
  • $850 studio w/ kitchenette with mini-fridge, street parking only. I really want a designated parking spot, so I’m not sure if this will be a deal-breaker for me. But the price is right…
  • $1,045 studio w/ mini-fridge. 10-month lease.
  • $1,100 1 bedroom. 9-month lease.

I really would prefer too keep my rent below $1,000. But I don’t know if I can do it – I might be pickier than I thought I’d be (not about the size, per se, but more about how new/renovated the unit is and the “feel” I get from the location).

And I’m loving Google Street View in my search – gives me a quick snapshot of what the immediate surroundings look like.

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For several months there, I’ve been able to save $2,000 per month (over 50% of my net income).

Those days are over for a while. I’ve made a conscious decision to spend more money on the things that are important to me (of course, a less charitable characterization would be that I’m inflating my lifestyle!). Namely, they are:

1. My own place. Living alone will definitely be a luxury – I pay $750 to share a 2 bedroom apartment, but a studio or a 1 bedroom will cost me $1,000+. But I’m really excited in the apartment search, and it’ll be so nice to finally experience living on my own.

2. Dance classes. For the longest time I’ve put off taking salsa and tango because I thought the money is better served going into my emergency fund. But dance is just about the only form of exercise I can enjoy doing for long periods of time (unlike, say, the treadmill, when every. single. minute. crawls at a snail’s pace.), so I view this as an investment in my health.

3. Fun + travel. I’m going to try to squeeze in more weekend trips. Despite having lived in California for years, I really haven’t seem much of the area at all. I’ve been to more COUNTRIES than I have to the different locales in the Golden State. This oversight must be remedied.

4. Applications. I am gearing up to retake my test and apply to graduate school. School visits, interviews, application fees, etc. etc. all add up. But that’s okay. I’m not going to worry about that expenditure too much. Money that must be spent, must be spent.

For now, I shall put out of my head the $100K tuition bill. I hope, if I get a good enough GMAT score, I can ‘score’ some scholarship money. Too bad there’s no Foundation for the Advancement of Bad Puns! Har har har.

At the end of the day, like Mom said, money’s meant to be spent on the things that matter.

Speaking of Mom, I’d like to give my parents a trip to Santa Barbara or Solvang (perhaps this summer for Dad’s birthday?). My uncle said that my mom has been telling all her relatives about my Vegas present to her. That makes me happy, because that’s how I know she really appreciated the gift (or more importantly, the sentiment).

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After almost 2 years of living with a roommate, it’s time to move on to my own apartment. I think I lucked out into a great roommate situation (no horror stories here), but she’s moving out, and I really don’t want to live with a stranger.

After hunting down craigslist ads for a bit, I’m checking out a couple of prospects this weekend. One is a studio (~$900), and one is a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom (~$1,000).

I’m leaning towards the larger place, even though it’ll be $100 more than the studio. Not very cash-conscious of me, but, space! Isn’t that worth something?

Another selling point is that the 1 bedroom/1 bathroom offers a 6-month lease. I’ve enjoyed being month-to-month at my current apartment, (and I’m not super confident in the job situation) so I think a shorter lease is better.

Moving  is a strictly cash-outflow process (with the overlapping rent, security deposit, credit check / application fees, etc.). Also, try as I might, I probably would NOT be able to curb my urge to decorate. Years of following Apartmenttherapy.com has finally done me in!

Cash savings won’t be able to grow at its previous clip…

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My plans for Friday night

Dinner with a dear old friend whom I haven’t seen in a YEAR.

Then, settle in with boyfriend and this book, and enjoy milk and cookies.

Give thanks.

Sometimes I worry that when I’m 30 or 40 I’ll regret not hitting the clubs in my 20s, but other times I’m struck by how perfectly, blissfully happy I am with very simple ingredients for low-key night: CB, friends, a good book, and food!

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The truth? Still awkward

Even though personal finance bloggers are usually all about more openness in money topics (and I’m certainly a fan of financial literacy education), I still feel weird talking about money with people in my non-virtual life. Money still strikes me as an awkward subject.

When friends ask me for investing advice, I say something vague like “diversification”, “risk-tolerance”, “do what you think is best”, etc.

Or, before I ask someone how much they pay for rent, I feel compelled to add “if you’re comfortable with saying.”

Or even with CB, probably one of the people closest to me in this whole world. I don’t think he knows exactly how much I have in the bank. He never asked, the subject just never came up, and I never volunteered the information. I don’t know exactly how much he has either.

But I’ve spoken to pf bloggers (including a couple whom now I consider my real friends), and it’s easier to talk about how much we make and how much we spend and what our fears and desires and goals for money and everything related to it are.

I guess the pf blogger comfort about money hasn’t really rubbed off on the me in “real life”.

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The ties that bind

Personal finance, as we pf bloggers like to say, is just as much “personal” as it is “finance.” But where does the personal come from? Isn’t it a little jarring to realize that despite the fact that we grow up, leave home, and set out on our lives as adults, there are notions and beliefs that are ingrained in us.

Sometimes, we don’t even realize what they are, or that we have them… but those ties? Oh do they ever bind.

  • Earning ability is a terrible thing to lose (or, I must work). I attribute this to my mother, who has a work ethic like nobody’s business, and her friends, who seemed to have disappointing marriages where they either (1) ended up as the sole provider, not by choice or (2) became unable to leave a bad situation because they were financially dependent on their spouse. Giving up one’s earning ability is a very big gamble, and from what I’ve seen, that gamble hasn’t turned out too well for many people.
  • My financial responsibility to my kid includes college expenses. The influence? Again, my mother. Her view is that her responsibility as a parent is to provide the best “launching pad” possible to her child. I can’t scrimp and save as she has for my college education (though I will be eternally grateful that she did so), but I plan to save at least 1/2 of the college expenses for my child so that I can help him/her graduate with a manageable debt level. No matter what, I can’t imagine not giving substantial help. My mom will probably be disappointed if I didn’t at least make a concerted effort to help my kid pay for college.
  • It’s not pretty to be old and poor. Apparently, the best way to encourage your child to be financially responsible is to impress upon her the dire consequences of being old AND poor. (Young and poor? No problem, work hard and save! Old and financially-secure? Enjoy your retirement. But old AND poor? Beware, beware!)  Fear is a useful weapon, use it wisely. Because, let me tell you, it works! Those Louboutins are tempting, but they are no match for Mom’s stories of the unfortunate elderly who must reside in a poorly-run nursing home or be denied access to the newest medical treatments because they lack financial resources.

Those three are the ones that come to the top of my head. What are your “ties that bind”? Do we have any one in common?

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My question on Proposition 8

So I interrupt the personal finance for a little dash of politics. Or, more specifically, a legal / campaign strategy question.

The background:

For those of you unfamiliar with Prop 8 – it’s a California ballot proposition that defined marriage as a right between a man and a woman and thus limited the rights of gays to marry. (In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that gays have the right to marry). Prop 8 passed in the November 4, 2008 general election.

The scene:

Right now the opponents of Prop 8 (people who support gay marriage) are arguing in the California Supreme Court that because Prop 8 constitutes a “revision” instead of an amendment to the state constitution, it needs approval by 2/3 of the legislature instead of a ballot vote. Thus, the California Supreme Court should overturn Prop 8.

The supporters of Prop 8 (people who oppose gay marriage) are arguing that Prop 8 is an amendment, NOT a revision – a revision is only needed for structural changes to the government and Prop 8 does not qualify as a revision.

So here’s my question (maybe some legal eagles can chime in?):

If opponents of Prop 8 argue that the ballot measure was a revision rather than an amendment, and that it should be invalid even if it passed, would the opponents of Prop 8’s resources have been better served trying to establish the invalidity of Prop 8 before the election. Is that even possible (i.e. to say a ballot is unconstitutional before it has passed and becomes law)?

I did not see a single mention of Prop 8 might be unconstitutional before Prop 8 passed. I don’t think “separate but equal” treatments are ever equal (and I can’t imagine not being able to marry someone with whom I want to build a life with), but the whole proceeding struck me as a little, well, backwards.

*I know Prop 8 can raise heated debate. Please be civil in your comments. Thank you.

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Thank you kindly

thank-youThis weekend one of my old friends invited a couple of us to his apartment for a delicious sit-down dinner complete with wine and dessert.

The food (steamed fish with a veggie medley) was awesome, but the company, the laughter, and the conversation were even better. What can I say, I have some pretty wonderful friends.

So, even though we are children of Web 2.0 and our fingers have evolved into TYPING APPENDAGES, I decided to take a page from Emily Post and follow up with a thank-you note written on a nice cardstock stationery.

Old school? Perhaps. But I’m classy like that. 😉

(Okay, maybe some ulterior motives are at play: I want to be invited back. Did I mention how delicious the food was?).

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