Wednesday, August 25, 2010

personal finance

Back from the gym. Today’s Crossfit workout: Run 800 meters, then jump rope 100 times (or do 30 double-unders, for advanced CFers). Repeat this sequence for 30 minutes. I did six complete rounds. My calves are toast. Now, on to your comments…

@Randy (#44)

We do have a sub-account for travel, but it’s just been depleted to pay for our trip to France and Italy. I should have mentioned that regular contributions to this will add a few hundred dollars by February. Thanks for the suggestion to check out

@Stephanie (#46)

Though it pains my trainer to hear me say it, I find the scientific and anthropological basis for the paleo diet unconvincing. I don’t want to say it’s hogwash, but I think much of it is wishful thinking and not based on hard evidence. So, no — I don’t follow the paleo diet. I know many people who do, and it works great for some of them. I think that’s awesome. For myself, I practice calorie restriction, and I do try to eat more protein than I would if left to my own devices. (My target is 150 grams a day.) And yes, eating healthfully is expensive. I’ve been eating a lot of fresh fruit, and those prices add up!

@Kevin (#49)

Hm. If you’re sensing “justification” in the post, it may be because I’m being pre-emptively defensive because I’m worried that others will judge my existing spending without being able to see the big picture. I’m confident that the Crossfit and the soccer tickets are reasonable and affordable. And the Africa trip is a sort of case-study. It’s an example of the sort of decisions I’m making lately. Note that I have not made a decision on Africa. It’s likely that we’ll go, but first I’m going to have to find ways to make it feasible. And, as I mentioned, I’d rather not tap the emergency savings, so I have to look at other options. As for separate vacations: Believe me, there’s some of that in the future.

@Fantasma (#53)

Yes, it makes perfect sense to re-direct savings earmarked for the Mini and other goals toward the Africa trip in the short term. But I will not compromise on the retirement contributions. For me, there are certain minimum financial standards that have to be met on a regular basis. One of those is retirement contributions. Another is a full emergency savings account, which is why I’m reluctant to tap it. (The difference between retirement and emergency savings is that the savings can be replaced; also, the savings is significantly over-funded, in that it could support me for almost a year of regular spending.)

I marked the comment from Shalom (#56) as a great comment simply because it gets to the heart of my thought process on the Africa decision. If you want to know how I’ve been sorting through this, read her comment.

@Raghu (#61 & #63)

Right. So, this is why I’ve been reluctant to share these sorts of things at GRS, and I think it’s a shame. Yes, one of my goals is to help others get out of debt. But it’s also one of my goals to continue my own journey. I’ve stopped writing much about my journey precisely because I’m worried that doing so will cause reactions like yours. But is that the right thing for me to do? Should I hide what’s really going on simply because some people won’t be able to relate? This post is “testing the waters” to see how people react. Most seem okay discussing these topics, and they seem to understand that I’m in a different financial place than I was five years ago…

@GV (#64)

My Crossfit trainer has talked to me about some of the stuff you bring up. He even has people sign up to learn the Crossfit exercises, and then they quit to build their own home gyms because they can do that at a fraction of the cost of sticking with Crossfit. For myself, I’m still getting a lot out of CF, and I love the 6:30 group, so I’m not about to stop. But you have a very valid point.

RE: The tax account

Yes, I pay taxes quarterly. And maybe if I explained my method, that would set some minds at ease. My tax account is actually way ahead of what I need. I’ve already paid my estimated obligation for 2010, for example. Now, over the past couple of years, my estimated obligation has been below my actual obligation, thus the need for the tax account. But even so, I’ve generally had a cash surplus in that account, which was precisely where I got much of the money to purchase the Mini Cooper last year. (After I paid taxes, there was a ton left over in the tax account.) This is why I’m not worried about drawing from it: my 2010 estimated obligation is already fully paid, and I have a nice chunk of change there for any excess taxes.

To everyone

This is a great discussion. I was really worried about sharing some of this stuff, and while I understand that not everyone agrees with my choices, I like that we’re able to have a productive discussion about the whys and wherefors of these expenses. And I especially love the stories from other folks who are in this stage. I don’t do a good enough job of getting those out there at GRS. I’d like to share more of them.

Consumer spending and personal incomes were both unchanged in June after rising 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, in May, the Commerce Department said today in a statement.

"Consumers are still hunkered down," Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's told Bloomberg News before the report. "The second half of this year we're going to see slower spending." Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast a median 0.1% gain in spending and a 0.2% advance in incomes. Personal saving rose to 6.4% of disposable personal income in June, from 6.3% in May.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday that consumer spending may "pick up" as wages rise, Bloomberg News reported.

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