Feb 8 2012

My Guilty Pleasures

By |February 8th, 2012|Blog, Life|11 Comments|

One of my readers asked me to share a guilty pleasure with all of you today.

No big deal, right? I’ve shared plenty of my own guilty pleasures that some might consider pretty embarrassing already. I love Taylor Swift. I’m a sucker for frozen yogurt. I was obsessed with Glee Season 1, and am disappointed in season 2 and have lost a lot of interest in season 3. Those are just three examples of some of my guilty pleasures that probably aren’t going to win me the “manly man of the year” award.

While we’re on the subject of guilty pleasures, I wanted to make sure I just emptied the notebook and laid everything on the line. Here are the rest of my embarrassing guilty pleasures.

Spider-Man

The nice thing about those guilty pleasures is that they stop at just being something I enjoy. None of them would be considered an obsession. And while I don’t know if I really have any obsessions, the closest thing I have to one might be Spider-Man.

Yep, I’m a 26 year-old guy and I love Spider-Man.

Back in college, I responded to an advertisement seeking people who would be willing to play Spider-Man to help a toy company launch their new line of action figures. I ended up standing around in Wal-Mart for 5 hours signing autographs and talking to kids as a superhero. They paid me $150 to do it too!

Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture of me and my best friend.

kevin is spiderman

Oh, and if you haven’t heard, there’s a new Spider-Man movie coming out this summer. They just released a trailer for it the other day and I’m pretty freaking excited. The only thing I don’t like about it is the fact that they didn’t cast me as Spider-Man. Look at that picture from Wal-Mart. I was made for that role!

Electronics on the Toilet

The older generation had newspapers and magazines. I have my tablet, kindle, laptop, and cell phone. If I’m sitting on the pot, there’s a 99% chance one of these things is in my hand.

I hate wasting time, and not to gross anyone out, but I can be in the bathroom for a while. And I can use that time to play a game, review my stock portfolio, catch up on the news, read a book, or anything else I want to do on one of my electronic devices. Heck, I might be writing this blog post from the toilet right now. I guess you’ll never really know.

The point is, I have my beautiful tablet and I love it. Hopefully the tablet will satisfy my electronics urge for a while so I don’t keep spending money on more stuff.

What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?

Being somewhat obsessed with Spider-Man and refusing to go #2 without an electronic in hand are pretty embarrassing guilty pleasures. In fact, I’ve pretty much shared all of my embarrassing quirks with you guys over the years. Now it’s your turn. What’s your guilty pleasure? Feel free to provide a fake name and/or email in the comments if you’d like to remain anonymous.

Feb 7 2012

Can I Pick Stocks or What!?

By |February 7th, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|8 Comments|

At the beginning of this year I decided to start a little experiment with the stock market.

I wanted to see how well some financial experts and the S&P 500 did against the stock picks of complete amateurs, as well as some very risky (or even random) stock choices. I’m tracking nine different “indexes” and if you’re really curious to follow along with the progress, you’ll notice I have a leaderboard that updates in real time on the sidebar.

Well it’s been over a month and I wanted to revisit some of those picks and take a look at what is happening.

To see the full performance details of every stock picked in this experiment, click here.

I’m Kicking the S&P 500’s Butt!!!

stock experimentIf you hadn’t heard very few professional fund managers are able to beat the market. Considering how hard it is to beat the market, I am absolutely shocked that I’m not just beating the S&P in all 8 of my choices, but I’m beating the S&P by a minimum of 2.2% in all of them.

We’ll see if this holds for the rest of the year (highly unlikely) but it does show that you don’t have to be an expert to beat the market in the short term.

31.61%? That Can’t Be Real!

Most finance professionals suggest you expect something like a 7-8% annual return on your investments. The Worst in 2011, which is just the 10 companies in the S&P 500 that lost the most value last year, has gotten over 30% in just over a month! This is one of my favorite theories of investing. If the price dips on a good company (which most companies in the S&P are pretty good), it’s on sale so buy it!

If I actually owned these stocks, I don’t even know what I would do. Do you sell and lock in your 31% gain, or do you hold for more? I would want to sell, but I would probably hold and see what happens.

The biggest gainer so far is Netflix (NFLX) at an 86% gain since December 30th. 86%!? You can go a decade and not have a cumulative 86% return on a decent performing stock. All ten stocks are positive, and nine of them are above 15% on the year. Cablevision (CVC) is pulling up the rear with only a 4.85% gain.

stock results

click for full details

Random vs. Vanguard Mutual Fund

In what is probably my favorite result so far, a random selection of stocks is not only almost double the S&P 500, but it is beating a Vanguard Mutual Fund that was supposed to be a great performer this year. The main point of this exercise is to determine how well a random selection of stocks can do against “experts”, which makes the Random vs. Vanguard the most important comparison. And I like to see random winning.

One Month Anomaly, or Real Trend

What boat are you in? Do you think the Vanguard fund and the S&P are going to end up on top, or can Random and Worst in 2011 hold on over the course of the year?

Feb 6 2012

Super Bowl Commercial Rankings

By |February 6th, 2012|Blog, Life|3 Comments|

So it’s Super Bowl Sunday and I don’t really feel like writing a post about personal finance, so here are my favorite commercials from last night’s game. Enjoy.

3. Give Me My Freaking Yogurt!

I grew up watching Full House, so I love when I see the TV stars from my childhood make a comeback. John Stamos made a guest appearance on Glee and was pretty good there, but it wasn’t nearly as good as his Super Bowl commercial tonight.

He thought he was being playful with his girl by not sharing his yogurt with her. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for those who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say that she wasn’t playing.

2. Naked Candy Party

I probably shouldn’t like “I’m Sexy and I Know It” as much as I do, but it makes me smile every time I hear it. So whenever I get a commercial with a naked M&M dancing to that song, I’m gonna enjoy it.

I do have a problem though. Why would the red M&M think it was a naked party when all the people were fully clothed? The fact that it doesn’t make any sense keeps it from making it to the number one spot.

1. Sexy Chick in a Towel

The best of the night was surprisingly an NBC commercial for their show The Voice. There is only one way to absolutely guarantee a great Super Bowl commercial, and her name is Betty White.

The beginning of the commercial is kinda slow, but the last 15 seconds are pure comedy gold.

photo credit: perspective

Carnivals Last Week

Yakezie Carnival at The Amateur Financier
Carnival of Financial Camaraderie at My University Money
Totally Money at Canadian Personal Finance
Canadian Finance Carnival at Canadian Finance Blog
Carnival of Wealth at Control Your Cash
Carnival of Financial Planning at The Amateur Finacier
Carnival of Retirement at Retire by 40

Feb 3 2012

Race to $1 Million – February 2012

By |February 3rd, 2012|Blog, Life|9 Comments|

Hold onto your hats folks. This was a CRAZY month for the Race to $1 Million.

Let’s review some of the really huge things that have happened in the last 31 days.

The Good Stuff for Me

  • I was paid back on a $3k personal loan
  • I made about $2k in revenue from my web businesses
  • Thanks to my commitment to P90X, I have stopped eating out about two weeks ago
  • I paid off a $3,300 student loan!
  • The stock market was very generous this month

The Bad Stuff for Me

  • I spent $2,800 out of my health savings account for Invisalign (woot for straight teeth, will post about this soon)
  • I had over $600 in expenses for my web businesses (a large part of that is FINCON12 expenses)
  • I bought a 1 week vacation in Cancun plus air travel, scheduled for right after Tag and I finish P90X
  • I have spent over $300 in preparation for two weddings in March, including a tux rental and a hotel in college station.

While I did have a lot of expenses, overall I think I’m looking pretty freaking good for this month. But the even bigger story is how much money The Hoff has been spending this month. As you probably know by now, he is getting married at the end of the summer. That means he’s paying for a wedding and a big fat honeymoon.

Well a lot of those expenses hit him this month. Let’s take a look at where we ended up in January:

Race to $1 Million

Despite the very strong performance of the stock market (The Hoff tells me his 401k increased by about $3,000 this month), he still couldn’t manage to break even on the month. Of course, it’s hard to break even when you pay for your honeymoon to Maldives. What a lucky lady the future Mrs. The Hoff is going to be!

What’s My Goal for the Year?

After such a big month, I’m starting to believe that this might be the year where I pull even with The Hoff? Is it possible?

As I’ve said before, he’s getting married and adding his future wife’s net worth and income to his balance sheet. He tells me that he expects her net worth to be roughly zero when they marry, but she will have positive cash flow which will grow his net worth faster.

Then again, they have to pay for a wedding this year, and I know they aren’t close to being done paying for everything.

I’m going to give myself a really big stretch goal this year: I will pull even with The Hoff by December 31st, 2012. That is, if the world still exists.

It’s gonna be really hard, but I think it can happen as long as I continue to make money with this website and other side jobs, and he continues to spend a bunch of money on a wedding. Wish me luck!

My Net Worth Tracking

As always, here are the net worth tracking graphs I use in my customized Net Worth Tracking Spreadsheet that is free to download. The two biggest things I noticed this month were the reduction in debt thanks to paying off a student loan, and the increase in 401k and Roth IRA because of a very nice month in the stock market.

By the end of the year I hope to pull even with The Hoff and show a big fat ZERO in the student loan line (blue installment line in the debt graph). Again, wish me luck!

February Net Worth

click image for full size

Feb 1 2012

8 Financial Behaviors that Piss Me Off!

By |February 1st, 2012|Blog, Life|51 Comments|

I got the PERFECT suggestion for an article topic last night. I was kind of in a bad mood already because I’m on this stupid diet that doesn’t let me eat all the crappy food I want, and then this gem came through my twitter feed.

whatever wednesday

I don’t have ten, but I do have eight. Buckle your seat belts folks, because this is probably the best post you’ve read on Thousandaire in quite a long time.

8. Extreme Couponers

If I were at the grocery store and had to pick between getting in line behind someone with a contagious flesh eating disease or an extreme couponer with her 3″ binder filled with 82,000 scraps of paper, I’d take my chances with Mr. Necrotizing Fasciitis.

7. Giving Me Your Crappy Stock Tip

I really appreciate you looking out for me and trying to help me make a few bucks in the stock market. What I don’t appreciate is you giving me 32 reasons why I should invest in Myspace because “it’s making a comeback”.

I also don’t appreciate the sad puppy dog face you give me every time I reject your ridiculous stock picks. Just because I don’t like your stock pick doesn’t mean I don’t like you. Well, I probably don’t like you OR your stock pick. So please just stop talking to me.

6. Writing a Check at the Cash Register

Hi. Welcome to the year 2012. Maybe you missed it, but about three decades ago someone came up with a system where you can swipe a debit card and it works just the same as writing a check.

You don’t need to ask how to spell “Wal-Mart”. You don’t need to cross out your old address at the top of your check, write your new one, and try to make a joke like, “One of these days I’m gonna get my address updated on these darn things.”

I have a better idea. Go to your bank and ask for a debit card so the people behind you in line at the store will stop hating you.

annoyed

photo credit: flickr.com/tourist_on_earth/

5. People Who “Save” Money On Crap They Don’t Need

So you got a 46″ flat screen television, even though you already have four flat screen TVs for your one bedroom apartment. Whatever floats your boat.

But please don’t brag to me about how you “saved” $426.84 on this TV because it was an open-box item and you used a coupon. You didn’t save $426.84. You spent $800 on something you don’t need. Where I come from we call that wasting money, not saving it.

4. People Who Watch Their Stocks Too Closely

Yes, I’m very happy that your $100 investment in stock XYZ is up to $101.32. No, I don’t need another phone call, text message, email, instant message, smoke signal, or any other communication when it hits $102.

Unless I have thousands of dollars personally invested in the stock or you are taking me out to dinner with your gains, I don’t give a flying flip about the daily fluctuations of your stock. Sorry.

3. Spending 3 Minutes Looking for Exact Change in Their Purse

I understand your desire to avoid pennies. I really do. I hate pennies. That’s why I put everything on a freaking card!

I don’t care if you want to pay with cash. I don’t even care if you want to pay with exact change. But don’t waste 3 minutes of my time digging in your purse because “you know you have 13 cents in there somewhere”. Give the man 25 freaking dollars for your $24.13 bill and let us all move on with our lives.

2. Believing Your Way is the Only Way

Here is a list of people who talk in financial absolutes that absolutely piss me off:

  • Suze Orman (Anyone who doesn’t think her prepaid card is the best thing in the world is an idiot)
  • Dave Ramsey (Somehow credit cards are the devil, despite the fact I get hundreds of dollars in rewards from them every year and pay no fees)
  • Anti Debt People (Sorry, but my 0% APR loan is not crushing my soul)
  • Minimalists (Yes, I do have four pairs of jeans. And I don’t give a crap if you can’t understand why I would want so much clothing)

I respect your right to have an outrageously rigid financial life view that you try to push on everyone else despite the fact that it is only applicable to a very small group of people. Now I only ask that you respect my right to ignore everything you say.

1. Talking About Your Expensive Purchases When You Owe Me Money

If you borrow money from a friend, you should pay them back. Preferably before you spend money on an expensive vacation or an unnecessarily large television. And if you’re gonna blow your money, keep it to yourself. Seriously. For the love of all that is holy DON’T BRAG ABOUT WASTING YOUR MONEY ON CRAP WHEN YOU OWE ME MONEY!

That is all.

I hope you enjoyed that. I know I did. Please add the financial behaviors that piss you off most in the comments below.

Jan 31 2012

Write Off Your Charitable Donations. You Earned It.

By |January 31st, 2012|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|14 Comments|

Last week there was a very heated discussion on Punch Debt’s site about whether or not it is “right” to take a tax deduction on charitable giving. Being someone who is always willing to insert myself into a heated debate, I’m happy to share my two or three cents here.

Not only is it absolutely “right” to write off charitable donations, you would be stupid not to take a deduction for charitable donations if you qualify for them.

An Example of Charitable Deductions

I want to make sure everyone understands the charitable deduction before we get deeper into this discussion.

tax form 1040

photo credit: flickr.com/aidanmorgan

In order to get a tax benefit from charitable donations, you need to itemize your deductions. Everyone gets a standard deduction ($5,800 for single people and $11,600 for married couples for 2011 taxes) that reduces their taxable income. If you can’t itemize more than the amount of the standard deduction, then you can’t take the benefit anyway. I don’t have any numbers, but I’m willing to bet a heck of a lot of people who donate to charity can’t itemize deductions and get no tax benefit at all.

Now let’s pretend that a non-married person has exactly $5,800 of itemized deductions (maybe from interest on a mortgage, medical expenses, or other itemizable expenses). In this case, every dollar that person donated to a charity would reduce his taxable income if he itemizes his deductions.

For example: Eduardo makes $60,000 a year and owns a home. He had $5,800 of itemized deductions thanks to his mortgage interest, and also donated $1,000 to his favorite charity. If Eduardo were to itemize his deductions and take the tax break for his charitable donations, he would save himself $250 on taxes.

That’s right folks; he donated $1,000 but only got $250 back in taxes (25% because he’s in the 25% tax bracket).

Take Every Deduction You Can Get

In what world is it wrong to take a perfectly legal tax deduction? Especially a deduction for giving away money to a non-profit organization? Let me break down the whole process very simply.

You earned money. The government took a percentage of your money. The government will give back a little bit of the money they took if you fulfill the requirements they set. You fulfill the requirements. You take back what the law says you can have.

I don’t see any legal or moral grey area there.

To say it is immoral to take a tax deduction is to suggest that the government has a right to that money in the first place.

And we already know that there shouldn’t be an income tax at all. If you agree with me there, then there’s really nothing to discuss. Take every legal deduction you can find and bring your tax burden as close to zero as possible.

Again, let me stress the word legal. Although I don’t necessarily agree with the current income tax laws, I also don’t recommend breaking them. As long as you are taking legal deductions then you are completely morally justified.

Don’t Donate Worthless Crap

There is one valid point made on the Punch Debt site about people donating worthless old crap and then assigning a value to it as if it were worth anything. This is obviously wrong and immoral. In fact, I covered this when I said you should take legal deductions. It’s not legal to lie about the value of what you donate.

I just wanted to be very clear that donating cold hard cash or items that have actual value gives you a legal and moral right to a deduction, while donating crap gives you neither.

Readers: Is it wrong to take a legal tax deduction when you donate to charity. Should you ever let the government keep more of your money than they are legally entitled to?