A few weeks ago I got married to the love of my life and it was truly the best day I’ve had in my 29+ years on this Earth. The day honestly went better than I expected and for the most part I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.
Looking back on the day, I realize that there are a few things things that people say about every wedding. Some of them turned out to be true, and others turned out to be completely false. If anyone out there is engaged or hopes to get married one day, here are some of the things we learned from our wedding day.
“You won’t have time to eat.” – FALSE
Any time we told people about our reception and the food we were serving, people would say “It’s too bad you aren’t going to have time to eat any of it.” There’s this myth that the bride and groom are going to be too busy socializing to be able to enjoy dinner at the reception.
For us, this was completely false. I was paying a crap-ton of money to throw this party, and at the very least I was going to enjoy the food. We talked with the DJ and the venue and made sure that the head table (where we were sitting with our wedding party) was dismissed to the buffet first.
We loaded up our plates and had one of the most delicious meals we’ve eaten in a long time. Our reception food was better than I even thought it would be (we didn’t get to try it beforehand) and we were able to eat and socialize with our friends.
If you make eating a priority like we did, then you’ll have no problem getting food on your wedding day/night.
“10% of people who said they will attend won’t show up.” – TRUE
Every person we invited to the wedding cost us money, so I was trying my best to make sure we had an exact count and that when we paid for 128 people, we had 128 people show up.
We felt really confident that we had the right number, and then things happened. Some people get sick. Some people have family issues that come up. Some people are just so old that after the wedding, they are too tired to make it to the reception. Some people don’t show up and you have no idea why (we still haven’t heard from some people).
I thought we had our number nailed down, and we had at least 10% of people not show up (some told us beforehand, others didn’t).
My suggestion to anyone getting married. Either reduce your number by 10% or have some backups ready to sit in. We had quite a few friends in town that we wanted to invite but didn’t have the money to add them. Looking back, we should have told them they are first on the list if someone doesn’t show. To some people that’s probably an awkward conversation (“We want you to come but can’t afford it, but if someone doesn’t show you can take their spot”) but I wish I had done it so we had more people celebrate with us.
“Nothing will go as planned.” – TRUE
As I said before, this was the best day of our lives and we really had a lot of fun. With that being said, the schedule we laid out for the day of the wedding wasn’t even close. Here are just a few deviations from the schedule:
- My bride didn’t show up to the church on time for pictures because the hair dresser and makeup took longer than expected.
- We were told we only had 30 minutes for pictures after the ceremony. We got 45-50 minutes and could have had longer.
- Basically everything at the reception was played by ear and our entire 5 hour schedule was thrown out the window.
Our plans never really materialized, but honestly that’s okay. It was kind of nice at the reception knowing that everyone was having such a good time that we didn’t have to do any of the “tricks” to get people back on the dance floor. People were dancing all night long so we just kept it going.
Who needs plans anyway?
Readers: Do you have any other wedding day advice to people who might be getting married soon?
So I came across an interesting documentary the other day called Spent: Looking For Change Sponsored by American Express. It’s a documentary about four families who have fallen on hard financial times and have essentially been booted out of the traditional financial systems that most of us (including me) use every day.
Even though I know a little about having financial trouble (I grew up with a single mom living on disability and social security while we stayed in my grandparents’ basement), I’ve really never been denied access to traditional banking. It’s an interesting video and is only about 40 minutes, so I do recommend watching it if you have time.
I’ll post the video below, and I’ll also give my review of each of the four families and how I can relate to them, as well as what financial options I think they may want to consider.
Debbie – Small Business Owner – Can’t Get Business Funding
As you guys know, I’ve always admired entrepreneurs and would love to be one someday (although I just took a new job and am really focusing on my career for the next few years). Debbie’s story was very interesting to me and I have a feeling it’s going to turn out to have a happy ending.
Debbie makes leather purses, bags, and clutches and sells them to boutique stores and on her website. According to the video, her bags are great and her business would be booming if she could only afford the materials to fill all her orders. Unfortunately she has too much student loan debt ($100k) and not enough credit to get a loan. It sounds like she’s a great investment, but apparently banks don’t see it that way.
Kevin’s Financial Advice: If the story is true then she literally just needs money for materials so she can fill orders and get paid. In that case, I’m actually amazed that she doesn’t have access to loans from a bank. However she can look to private investors and, assuming her business is as strong as the documentary makes it out to be, should have no trouble getting a loan that will help her fulfill orders and grow her company.
Furthermore, I think she should consider a Kickstarter campaign. Here’s just one example of a guy who got over $17k with a Kickstarter campaign for making leather bags, and he probably didn’t have the benefit of a documentary with over 7 million views as free marketing. If I were Debbie, I’d start a kickstarter campaign immediately and hopefully use this publicity to have people to “kickstart” her business.
Alex and Melissa – Health Issues – Stuck in Payday Loan Cycle
This is the other family that really spoke to me in this film. Alex, the father, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and the disability left him unable to work. That’s exactly what happened to my mom when I was very young. My mom was a flight attendant, but was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and couldn’t physically perform the duties of her job.
My mom was divorced so she didn’t have a 2nd income to fall back on (so we moved in with Grandma and Grandpa). Luckily Alex has Melissa, and her income was able to keep them above water but just barely. They tried to live on only cash because they were afraid of credit card debt, but this left them unable to get a loan when they needed one because they didn’t have any credit.
They eventually turned to a Payday loan to make ends meet and they ended up borrowing $450 and paying $1,700 in fees on that loan. Ouch! They finally got some help from a neighbor to get out of the Payday Loan cycle but it seems like they are still struggling and remain without access to traditional banking.
Kevin’s Financial Advice: It’s good that they got out from under the Payday loan, but they have a ways to go. I would recommend that Alex find a job that he can do with his MS (my mom did and I think he can too, although I don’t know the severity of his disease). It may not be his dream job, but he needs to support his family.
Secondly, they need to build credit. They can’t go back to Payday Loans to get credit when they need it. Start with a secured card, pay the small fees, and work your way up from there.
Justin – Small Business Owner – Can’t Get Approved for a Mortgage
Justin is another entrepreneur and this time his business is really doing well. Unfortunately he had a very difficult childhood, which included him being on his own at 16 years old. He accumulated some debt when he was very young and never paid it off. That bad debt has ruined his credit score and now keeps him from qualifying for a mortgage.
Luckily he hasn’t fallen into any financial traps since then. He does pay fees to get his checks cashed because he can’t get a regular bank account, but other than that he has avoided debt and Payday Loans. He makes good money but just can’t insert himself into the financial system and build credit.
Kevin’s Financial Advice: I would suggest Justin do 2 things. First he should get into the financial system with a secured credit card and start building credit. He’ll end up paying a little bit in fees but it will help in the long run. The second thing he should do is to just keep working and keep saving. It didn’t say if he had a 20% down payment for a house, but my guess is that he doesn’t. If he can get a 20% down payment then I think lenders will be much more wiling to extend him a mortgage.
Tiffany – Nurse/Single Mother – Unemployment / Title Loan
Tiffany is an impressive woman. She got bachelor’s degree in nursing, got a full time job, and worked hard to save over $100,000 in her 401k. She was sending her daughter to private school to make sure got a good education and she had her whole life (including her financial life) completely in order.
Then her mother got sick and she decided to quit her job and take care of her mom. It was a very selfless action and she expected to be able to re-enter the workforce when she was ready. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to find full-time work when she was ready to start making money again.
She used up all the money in her 401k and eventually had to take out a title loan to pay the bills. When she fell behind on those payments they took her car. As a result of her financial situation, she had to take her daughter out of private school.
Kevin’s Financial Advice: The good news is we learn at the end of the film that Tiffany found a full time job. As a nurse, she will be making a good living and should be able to get back on her feet and re-enter the financial system soon. My only advice to her is that she keep her expenses as low as possible as she pays down any debt she may have and starts saving again.
Tiffany has the right attitude and the right job to get back on her feet very quickly. I have a feeling it won’t be long before she’s able to put her daughter back in private school. My only suggestion is that she consider moving to a good school district where her daughter will get a great education and she doesn’t have to pay tuition.
What is the Solution?
The documentary was informative and the stories of these people were very unfortunate. There’s no question that these families are/were struggling.
But what’s the solution?
For Alex/Melissa and Tiffany, their main issue is a lack of income. Tiffany has solved her income issue and I believe will re-enter the financial system soon. Alex and Melissa need to get Alex working again and then they can take steps to solve their financial problems.
Debbie is not being served by the banking system, but in all honesty a small business is a huge risk. That’s why there are a lot of other funding options for small businesses; it’s typically too risky of a bet for a bank to take it on. I believe she could easily be served through investors or other funding options.
Justin has an unfortunate story as well but when you have debt charged off on your credit report it’s going to raise a bunch of red flags. He and his girlfriend need to save, save, save and get enough of a down payment for a house that the bank is finally ready to extend them credit.
I don’t think the system is perfect, but I want to see some concrete suggestions to improve it. Hopefully we see new financial products that are available to people with less than perfect credit, but don’t prey on them. If there is a good solution I expect it to come from the free market.
The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t see this as a problem the government can solve. There is no law that can differentiate between these families and others who are not being served because they are truly bad investments. For these people to get served, we need a private business to recognize that they can lend these people money at reasonable rates and make a profit.
The cost of car ownership can be steep, particularly with rising fuel costs and the ever-shifting algorithms of car insurance premiums. Another cost that is just as significant yet easy to forget is that of depreciation. The simple act of driving your shiny, brand-new car out of the showroom can instantly reduce its value, and many cars lose as much as 50% of their value in the first three years of ownership. This can be a real problem if your car is stolen or written off in an accident, because insurers will only pay out the value of your vehicle at the time of the theft of accident. It’s not possible to eliminate depreciation completely, but there are a few ways to slow it down. This way, when the time comes to sell your car in the future you’ll get more of your money back!
Buy a Car Known to Hold its Value
A gas-guzzler in a shade of lime green may take your fancy, but you want to look at the big picture. Cars that are bound to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers will hold their value over time. Choose a reliable brand in a non-offensive colour and ensure that it’s kitted out with all of the trim options that will make it appeal to buyers. As you read auto reviews on sites like Motoring.com.au, take note not only of automotive features and running costs, but also of depreciation value. Take price into consideration as well. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to splash out on a big, fancy car, because this gives you more to lose.
Buy Car Depreciation Insurance
Guaranteed asset protection insurance is designed to help cover the difference between what you paid for your car and what you’ll receive in the event of a theft or write-off. Consider purchasing a GAP policy if you’re worried about losing money due to depreciation from an insurance perspective. This type of policy usually applies to vehicles under seven years old, and under a certain mileage number.
Research Automotive Trends
Although we can’t predict the future, if you stay current with automotive trends you may be able to predict what type of cars are likely to be valuable in the future. For example, eco-friendly cars are always in high demand, and should continue to be valuable in time when fuel prices have gone up even more. Safety technology is also growing in leaps and bounds. Look for cars with automated safety features that will be seen as standard in only a few years.
Keep the Mileage Down
If possible, try to keep the mileage low. This will not only save you money on running costs, but it will also help keep your car’s value high.
Keep Maintenance Records
It’s one thing to choose a car known to hold its value well over time, but if you run it ragged and never take it in for servicing it will plummet in value. Take your car in for regular maintenance visits and service checks to help keep it running in top shape. Be sure to keep detailed records of these visits to show buyers in the future.
Fighting depreciation involves a combination of research and maintenance. You may not be able to stop it in its tracks, but you can certainly help protect your investment with a bit of care.
My new wife and I have decided we needed a second car. We were sharing a 2000 Buick Century with over 140,000 miles on it, and we are honestly a tiny bit surprised every time it turns on.
We were mainly looking at used cars, but on June 2nd it was the “last day of the month” for car dealers (well, definitely Jeep dealerships) which meant that individual salesmen, sales managers, and the entire dealership itself had one final day to meet their May quotas for new car sales.
We decided to look at a few new cars because we honestly weren’t finding very many used Jeep Patriots (which is what we wanted after a lot of research) at prices that we liked.
Don’t believe me? After a bit of research TrueCar.com tells me that the average sale price for the exact make, model, and trim of my new car is $22,633. And how reliable is that number? According to the TrueCar FAQ, ” we have 99.1% confidence that our projected Average Paid Price per new car sale in a given week is within $20 of the average price of all nationwide sales transactions during that week.”
So how the heck did I pay $3,133 less than the average person? I’ll tell you.
Keep in mind, I’m no car buying expert. I’m just a guy who likes to get a really good deal. I don’t know if the following method is going to work for you or not, but it might be worth a shot.
Step 1 – Wait for the End of the Month
This is simple. Car dealerships are very anxious to make sales at the end of the month. It’s their last chance to increase their commissions and meet their monthly numbers, and they honestly do make crazy deals if you can wait for the last 1 or 2 days of the month.
Also remember that the “end of the month” isn’t necessarily the last day of the month. In my case, June 2nd was the last day of the month for May. Don’t ask me why.
Step 2 – Find the Exact Car You Want and Test Drive It
Find the car you like and test drive it at any car dealership you like. I just picked the closest one to my house, found the car I liked, and took it for a spin. I made sure to note the exact make, model, and trim level of the car. In my case the make is Jeep, the model is Patriot, and the trim is Latitude with the High Altitude package.
It’s best to pick a trim that’s not customized and is widely available, because eventually you want to get multiple dealerships bidding against one another and you need to make sure they are all offering the same exact vehicle.
You’ll also want to do research on the car (hopefully before you get to the dealership) and make sure to know what factory incentives are being offered. For a Jeep, you’d find the information here. For another car, Google it.
The factory incentive for the 2014 Jeep Patriot this month was $1,750.
A factory incentive is when the corporate company (in this case Jeep) sends money to the dealer for selling a specific car. The information is available to anyone, but if you don’t know about it then dealers won’t offer them to you up front. They hope you’ll pay a price that doesn’t include the factory incentives, and then they can keep the money as more profit.
Step 3 – Get a Quote in Writing and WALK AWAY
We test drove the car, told the guy we liked it, and I told him plainly and honestly, “I like the car and I’m ready to buy one today, but my only concern is the bottom line price. I’m going to visit other dealerships today so I need you to come forth with your best offer.”
They will give you a quote. They’ll probably tell you that you’re getting employee pricing and there’s no way they can go any lower. Just get it in writing and say thank you. Then they’ll stop you!
“What is it going to take for you to sign right now? We don’t want you to leave.” They might take another $100 off, or they might throw in something like free oil changes for a few years. In my case, the guy offered 3 years of free oil changes.
I told him I appreciate the offer but I need to talk to another dealer. He realized I wasn’t going to sign so he asked, “If you do find something lower, will you at least give me the opportunity to match it or beat it?” I told him I would (because it was close to my house and if I was going to get free oil changes, I prefer to have the dealership close to me) and I walked out the door.
And remember, get your quote in WRITING. It doesn’t have to be on an invoice, but make sure you have all the information on the car, their price, and anything else they were throwing in to sweeten the deal.
In my case, the price offered was $21,200 with the 3 years of free oil changes. This was “affiliate pricing” (which I believe is the friends and family price they offer to friends and family of employees) and then all the incentives that were being offered ($1,750).
You’ll notice this is already $1,500 lower than the average sale price. They didn’t want me to leave, but I knew I could get more if I could just get them to negotiate against another dealer. I took the written offer and left.
Step 4 – Take Your Quote to the Next Dealer and Ask Them to Beat It
My wife and I drove up the road a little ways to the next Jeep dealership and told them we were looking for a Jeep Patriot, Latitude trim with the High Altitude package. We got a salesman and walked the lot with him looking for a match. We didn’t find any.
I was a little discouraged but he told me not to worry. If they could find the car somewhere else they could do a dealer trade and sell me the car, and they promised they could beat the original offer I had from the first dealer.
Again, I told this guy the same story. “I want to buy a car today, but it has to be for the right price. I’m going to go get a quote at another dealership after this, but you definitely have to beat $21,200. Give me your best offer.”
He kept asking me tell him what I wanted to pay. It was very tempting to throw out a number like $20,000 and feel really good about myself if they took it (since it’s $1,200 less than the other guys), but don’t do it. I just repeated that I needed their best offer and I would be on my way to the next dealer.
They kept pressing me. “Give me a number you’d be comfortable with so you don’t have to leave”. I finally said $18,000. Based on my research I knew this was completely out of the question (and I told them they probably wouldn’t consider it a reasonable request) but it let them know I meant business.
They did the whole song and dance of sending different people to talk to me then going back to work the numbers with a manager. The guy said he was going to see if they could do $20,000 but he had to ask.
I was ready to get the $20k in writing and move onto the next dealership, and a brand new guy sits down. He says, “I couldn’t help but overhear you talking and this guy owes me a favor. If I could get it down to $19,500 would you be willing to make a deal?”
At this point I’m pretty happy because I know this is a great price, but I said, “I gave the other dealership my word that I would give them a chance to beat any price. I’m a man of my word, so let me call them and ask if they can beat $19,500.”
I started with the MSRP of almost $24,000. I got it down to $21,200 with the first guys. Now I had $19,500 on the table. I called dealership number 1 and spoke to the sales manager. I asked if he could beat $19,500. After a while, he just said he couldn’t do it. That was too good a price.
Later I got a voicemail from the salesman (not the sales manager I spoke with on the phone) saying he appreciated me giving them a chance to match and if the deal falls through he would love to get my business, but $19,500 was too good of a price to match or beat.
At this point I could have taken the $19,500 to another dealership and maybe gotten something even lower, but considering I was already 18.41% under the MSRP and had free oil changes for 3 years (which this dealer matched from the first one).
I was ready to buy the car.
Step 5 – Confirm EVERYTHING and Get it IN WRITING
We had finally settled on $19,500 and they started drawing up the paperwork. It’s easy to get lost in this exciting time, but don’t forget to get all your extras in writing.
I made sure they put in writing that they are giving me 4 free oil changes a year for 3 years. They would also give me the car with a full tank of gas. That may sound insignificant, but a tank of gas is $50 and each oil change is worth about $30. That is over $400 of free stuff that I might forfeit if it wasn’t in writing.
Step 6 – Get Good Financing Rates
You might think you’re done once you’ve gotten the sale price locked down. Unfortunately you aren’t. Next they will try to get you with the financing.
I had to do my financing through Chrysler Capital to get $750 of the factory incentives, so it was important that they give me a good rate. I also had a backup option of using my credit union at 1.99%.
The first option he gave me was a loan at 3.99%. I immediately balked and said that was too high. I told him that my credit union would give me 1.99% and he’d have to come lower.
Without even a call to the Chrysler Capital group, he said he could lower my rate to 2.54%. I accepted. He probably could have gone lower because I have great credit and I was probably approved at somewhere between 1 and 2%, but he also knew that if I went with my credit union I’d forfeit the $750 incentive. I had no choice but to take the 2.54% loan.
If I didn’t have a second option, he never would have brought that interest rate down. Make sure to get a rate quote before you go shopping.
Step 7 – Decline the Extended Warranty
The guy then spent a good 1/2 hour talking about how expensive repairs are going to be if the computers in the car break down. He really made it sound like he was doing me a favor by offering an extended warranty that would only increase my payments by almost $100 a month.
Don’t do it.
Every new car comes with a warranty. Mine is 3 years and 36,000 miles bumper to bumper, and 5 years, 100,000 miles powertrain. The extended would have done bumper to bumper for 6 years and 72,000 miles, but it would cost about $80 a month. Over a 5 year loan that is $4,800.
He eventually came down to a $2,100 total price, but I still said no. If I want an extended warranty (which I probably don’t) I can buy it once the car hits 35,000 miles and it will be a heck of a lot cheaper.
Step 8 – Review the Contact Before Signing
Don’t just trust that everything in writing is the same as what you talked about. In my case, everything was exactly as agreed, but you have to be sure. If you sign a contract, you’ll be held to it. Take your time and review everything.
Finally, once you’ve signed the contract it’s important to understand your rights. You have signed a legally binding contract and they can’t make any changes now. Remember when the Toyota dealer tried to screw me out of $1,000? These people can be very shady if they want to be.
Step 9 – Enjoy Your New Car
I hope this was helpful to some people. Again, I’m not an expert on this stuff but this was only the second time I’ve bought a car (out of 6) where I really felt like I got a good deal.
The data backs me up as well. TrueCar.com says I got a smoking deal, and I even see a lot of used Jeep Patriots with thousands of miles and less features listed at higher prices than $19,500.
Readers: Do you have any new car negotiation tips?
So obviously I haven’t posted in a while, and there’s a good reason for that. I was getting married, and then I went on my honeymoon.
I’m now a very happily married man and I have had a lot of changes and interesting things happen to me over the past few weeks, so I have a lot of posts that should be coming your way in the near future.
I can’t believe I haven’t updated this blog in almost a month, so I really am sorry. Getting married was priority number one and it was awesome!
I ended up spending about $25k on the wedding, and I would do it again in a second. It was by far the best day of my entire life and worth every single penny.
Anyway, you guys can all tell me how stupid spending $25k on a wedding is while I work on all the different posts that I need to share with you.
Here’s another article saying that if you don’t go to college you are missing out on $830,000 of income. Holy crap! With information like that, I better start saving now to send my future kids to super expensive colleges!
As you know, I’m not a fan of the “send everyone to college” mentality that has prevailed over the last few decades in America. There aren’t enough jobs for college graduates and we are setting our young people up for financial failure.
I’m not the only one that holds this opinion either.
The president of South Korea noticed that his country has too many over-educated and underemployed young people. While Barack Obama’s response to that situation is to tell more kids to take out federal loans for a degree, Lee Myung Bak says skip college and go to work.
Even former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg (someone I rarely agree with on anything) says that your average kid is better off becoming a plumber than going to Harvard.
We have plenty of allegorical examples of people who were incredibly intelligent, never got a college degree and ended up making hundreds of millions of dollars (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Simon Cowell, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Ty Warner, and Frank Lloyd Wright to name a few).
We also have some pretty interesting data about small business owners.
- 31% of small business owners don’t have a college degree
- 39% are either indifferent towards college degrees, feel they are not important, or believe they have no value
- 50% have staff without a college degree
- 62% of small business owners (that have staff without a college degree) do not notice a difference in performance between college educated and non-college educated employees.
A College Degree is Not Worth $830,000
I want to go back and address the original article claiming a college degree is worth $830,000. That’s false. The data may show college graduates make $830,000 more than people without degrees on average, but the degree itself is not $830,000. In fact, it’s not worth $0.83.
A college degree can’t do anything but sit there and look pretty on a wall.
The skills and experiences a person learns at college are what hold value, and it’s different for every single college graduate. The skills a person learns as an apprentice or at a trade school also hold value.
The key to earning a lot of money is not necessarily to go to college. The key is learning skills that make you valuable.
How to Make Money Without a Degree
The first step to making money is the same whether you go to college or not: learn something. You can learn in a classroom, or you can learn while you’re making minimum wage or even doing an unpaid internship. No matter what setting you choose, make sure you are learning as much as possible.
If you get a minimum wage job and just do enough to scrape by, you’ll always be earning minimum wage. The key is to master whatever you’re doing. Work hard. Learn how to do other people’s jobs around you. Study your industry when you aren’t at work. Hopefully as you are learning you are also getting promotions and/or raises. The more you learn, the better.
Eventually you’ll know enough and have enough skills to become an extremely valuable worker. You will know enough that you can run the whole dang place yourself. Then you have two decisions; either do your job for someone else and get paid a salary (become a manager) or start your own business (become a small business owner).
Let’s take fast food as an example. If you have an In-N-Out Burger in your hometown, you can probably get a job there for $10 an hour or more. You can learn to make burgers, run the fryers, make milkshakes, run the cash register, run the drive through, and more. Eventually, you may have an opportunity to become a manager.
Did you know managers at In-N-Out Burger make over $100,000 a year?!
So you can work your tail off as a manager for a few years, have enough money to buy some nice things and put a sizable amount into savings. A few more years down the line you might be ready to open your own In-N-Out Burger. Or you might take what you learned there and open your own restaurant. “Kevin’s House of Food” is a good name… I’m just saying.
How much does a restaurant owner make? Beats me, but you can bet it’s probably more than $100k a year they are paying the managers.
Flipping burgers is just one example. You can do the same with plumbing, carpentry, lawn mowing, or any other small business you can think of. None of these require a college degree, but they all require skills.
Another way to get rich is to get a college degree. Learn skills at a university, then go to work. Maybe you go back for a Master’s degree and command a 6-figure salary. Maybe you start your own company.
Get yourself some skills and the money will follow.