NinjaPigeon - My Flight to Financial Independence

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Net worth - 4/30/06

Okay, up until this point I haven't been good about tracking my net worth month to month. I do look at it every few days, but I rarely record it so that I can see the progress. So, I'm gonna try to start posting the results for the end of each month instead of only yearly.

Big changes this month came from my BT from Citibank. That increased my Credit Card debt from $0 to $15k. That also increased my savings by $15k. Also, my savings went up about $1750, with another $1k sitting in my Checking account for a Roth IRA contribution I plan on making in the next week or so.

In coming statements I'll try to keep track of the changes more accurately.


Okay, so I'm doing well on improving my net worth this year. I reached my goal of having a positive net worth sooner than expected, so I guess now I should set some goals for the rest of the year.

1. I'd like to have a net worth of $25k by the end of the year. Assuming no complications come up, I think I'll achieve that without too much difficulty.

2. I'd like to get my Mutual Fund account started. Right now I'm very cash heavy, and I'd like to get more of my money into equities. My e-fund will serve as the "bond" portion of my portfolio.

3. I'd like to get a simple will created. I don't need anything fancy just yet, but enough to ensure that my money doesn't get stuck in probate or something.

4. I'd like to finish my MCSD to ensure better job security.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


A quick update on my BT from citi. I followed some excellent advice that I read elsewhere and just deposited it right into the ATM. Instead of taking several weeks to clear, it cleared in only two days! I immediately transferred it to Emigrant Direct. It cleared there in another three, and actually was in both accounts at the same time ;) First time I've had that happen.

As for the house, Chris is supposed to be looking for a realtor for us. I think I've got him convinced that trying to skimp on our sale and FSBO it isn't going to save us any money. If our home were in better condition, and we lived closer to it, then sure. But it does need work, we both live 20miles away (which is pretty far in Atlanta distance), and we're eating $1k every month it sits there unsold. That doens't even factor in the potential for unoccupied homes to be the target of burglars or vandals.

My side projects are going well lately. I've wracked up about 30 hours here and there, so sometime in the next month or so I'm hoping to get a check. Also, I've got some more work starting up here soon that could net me some more cash with luck.

Speaking of side projects, the GF has expressed interest in doing some of my work that I'm not able to complete due to time constraints. Since she is Canadian, I'm not sure how this will work. In theory, I'll get paid by the client on a 1099. Then I'd claim the wages paid to my GF as an expense. However, are there any forms I need to file to pay her? Are there any hassles related to the currency conversions?

Oh, I'm also thinking of converting my old 401k from my last company into a traditional IRA. Since I'll be starting up my 401k with my new company in August or so, I just felt it might be easier to manage them separately. It also gives me the benefit of being able to spread my asset allocation for my mutual funds across more money next month. I am not sure of any potential downsides yet, though.


This post absolutely disgusts me. The entitlement attitude overtaking young people today is one of the great embarrasments of our country. Where is it said that our parents owe us a damn thing more than the necessities for the first 18 years of our lives?

I know my parents made some really poor financial decisions. My mother in particular is quite irresponsible with money to the point where I have to give her a lecture before I'll even consider loaning her any. That may make me seem like a heartless and cheap bastard. But in all honesty, I'm hoping she'll learn about money the way I did - by having none. But I've also made sure she knows that once she's ready to take responsibility and try to fix her mistakes, I'll be here to help.

I am truly not sure what angers me the most about that post, though. The entitlement is bad, but how can she presume to cast stones at her parents for poor financial decisions while she's racked up 17k in credit card debt? Or how about the 136k she spent on school - wtf is her degree in?! And to think I'm actually embarrassed that I graduated with $35k in loan debt!

And 25k on a marriage? Wow. They want to commit close to 33% of their NET combined income to a single day in their lives? Marriage is supposed to be a lifelong commitment. Surely that 25k is better spent on the other thousands of days that make up that timespan rather than a single day. Some people truly have lost sight of what's important in life when they think those types of expenses financed with credit are a "must".

Saturday, April 22, 2006

17.65% return, risk free!

Okay, so we are all guilty of chasing percentage points. I know that I'll move most of my e-fund for a quarter of a point to a different bank. And of course rewards CCs are par for the course. So you can imagine my delight when I found out that my going permanent at work would be the same week that my company made our discount grocery cards available.

Apparently, once a year our company has a deal with Kroger for gift cards. The cards only come in $100 increments, and each permanent employee is allowed to purchase up to 10 cards. However, we only have to pay $85 per card. That's a 15% savings! So, if you were to buy all 10 cards, paying a total of $850, and getting $1000 worth of grocery money out of it, that's a 17.65% return! And you didn't pay tax! And you can buy the cards on your rewards CC for another 1% cash back!

Okay, okay, so I know it's not really a return on an investment. But is saving money really that different than a capital gain? At the end of the day, there's still more money in my pocket (and more groceries in my cubbard!)

CC Updates

So, I'm not sure if I mentioned it in a previous post or not, but I decided to use one of those $20 checks that Chase sent me to join their credit protector program. I deposited it around the 10th of this month. My welcome kit showed up on Thursday, and Friday morning I called and cancelled. The CS rep informed me that any fees I'd incurred would be refunded since I was still within the trial period. So, a free $20 this month from that. Although enduring the "but are you absolutely sure that you wish to put your life in danger by not having coverage for those accounts you carry no balance on?!" speech was a test of my patience.

Also, I got an email from Citibank telling me that they had cut my BT check and I should be seeing it soon. I'll be keeping an eye out for it. My balance doesn't reflect the amount yet, which is good since I don't have the money. I'm assuming my balance won't go up until I cash the check. Although I read on FWF that banks sometimes hold those checks for 2+ weeks! Unfortunately I didn't think to ask if Citibank would just do a bank transfer to my account and save me the hassle. I'll have to keep that in mind if this experiment goes well.

Bank fees for fun and profit

Okay, sorry about the title. It's perhaps a little misleading but still describes my mood. So, last friday my contracting company screwed up with payroll and I didn't receive my direct deposit. After calling, I was able to find out that it was a company wide problem but they'd have my money in my account by 2pm. Sure enough, it was there by 2pm. Since the extra few hours didn't hurt me any, I thought nothing of it.

Fast forward to either Tuesday or Wednesday this week. I notice a $15 fee on my account labeled "general fee". I found it odd, but I do let my GF withdrawal money from an ATM in Canada sometimes, and that is where most of my fees come from. I figured maybe I'd passed some maximum ATM withdrawal monthly limit or something. Anyway, so I called the bank on Thursday and asked about the fee. Turns out it was because the deposit from my company was done as a wire transfer from their brokerage account.

I talked to the CS rep for the bank and told her that it was my direct deposit and that the mistake was with my company, not me. I'd been a customer for almost 10 years and I already pay them enough in fees. In short, I didn't want to pay for my company's screwup. The CS rep said she'd refund my $15. Excellent.

So then I mention the fee to one of my coworkers who contracts with the same company. He actually had called our company and said something about the free. Apparently our company realized the screwup and was going to give everyone a $15 direct deposit to make up for the fees. I checked my account this morning, and to my wonderment I have an extra $15! Pretty cool, huh? I'm sure I'll have to pay taxes on it, but it's money I didn't have ;)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Credit Card Balance Transfer Fun

Signed up for my Citibank Simplicity card about a month ago because they were running a 0% BT offer with no fees. Finally got it today. Called the number to activate it and was able to merge my Citibank Platinum Select which I've had for about 10 years with the new card. The CS rep told me that the new Simplicity card would have the full credit history of my Platinum Select, and a combined limit of $20,300.

I then decided to try the trick of getting a 0% BT and putting the money in ING or something similar to get the interest. I didn't want to have a card with 100% utilization, so I went for a $15k BT which puts me at just under 75% utilization for that card, and 30% utilization of my total credit card limits. My minimum payment should be 1.5% of the outstanding balance, or about $225 a month. I'm hoping for interest in the neighborhood of $50/month.

I'm still a little nervous doing this because all the posts I've read on it are by people who use automatic billpay to make sure they don't miss payments. Well, I've never used billpay because I'm a little too anal to let a payment come out of my account without personally clicking the send button. I think this is a little childish on my part. I hope to get more comfortable with billpay and the different ways to use it in the near future.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Going Permanent

Well, this week I got an offer to go permanent at my company. In some ways, this is pretty good. I'd really like to get back to contributing to a 401k, and the sooner the better. The matching is pretty good at my company, though unfortunately they vest on a four year schedule after a one year delay. (Meaning I'd vest 25%/year starting at the end of year 2) So the vesting is disappointing, but they do match 160% of 4%. Plus we have a real training budget!

The downside, of course, is the cut in pay. It ends up being about a 13% cut, not factoring in the overtime. Luckily, I don't really need that much to live on, but the adjustment will still suck. I'd grown fond of cashing the overtime checks ;)

Anyway, the paperwork should go through around the end of the month. I'm gonna try to capitalize on the training money asap, so on the off chance things don't work out, I've gotten the most for my time with the company.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Financial Security

Okay, so in this post I mentioned that I was going to buy a shredder and a USB thumb drive. I'd been waiting to buy them until a decent price was available.

So, this Saturday I hit up the local Staples and guess what was on sale? That's right - both of them! So I got a light-duty, crosscut shredder and a 1GB thumb drive. They both came with an easy rebate, which I was skeptical of at first, as rebates are generally shady in my experience. However, the easy rebates are done online and it took less than 5 minutes. It also allows you to track the progress online. Shibby!

So, with my new shredder in hand, I started shredding my backlog of sensitive papers. I got rid of some old insurance papers as well as some health realted papers. I'll sleep a lot better knowing that stuff isn't sitting in a dumpster somewhere with my personal information on it!

As for the thumb drive, I first downloaded this great encryption program. Not only does it let me encrypt the entire thumb drive, but it can even hide an encrypted volume inside another one! I'm not sure I need that level of security, so I stuck with the basic setup. But it's good to know how versatile the program can be.

The only downside I see to the way I set it up is that since the drive appears to have random data, if you try to access it without using the special program, Windows XP will ask you to format it. Obviously I'm not gonna make that mistake, but someone else who snagged the drive might. So I'll have to be careful.

I am gonna use the new drive to store all my old financial statements (since I now print them all straight to pdf!) and my net worth spreadsheet. Once I get a little more comfortable with the idea, I'll delete the backups from my other computer. This way, my financial information isn't sitting on a computer exposed to the internet. I can just pull out the thumb drive when I'm not using it. And I can burn encrypted backup CDs and store them in my sister's safety deposit box.

Nifty, eh?


Okay, I skipped the bandwagon the first time I heard about the ShareBuilder promotions . I was really tempted but just never could convince myself to do it. Don't ask me why, as a free $50 is a free $50.

Anyway, I saw a recent post by Jonathan from MyMoneyBlog for this promotion and decided it was just too easy to pass up.

I have wanted to try out ETFs for a while, but have been hesitant because they don't seem very efficient to purchase unless you get large chunks. However, since I'll be getting a free $50, that will cover the costs and then some! So, I'm gonna go with VWO and see where it takes me. I have put in an order to fund the account with $100 and should be able to make my purchase sometime next week. I'll keep ya posted.