1st March 2009

Did all the right things the wrong way.

No doubt you’ve read about the woman with the octuplets. The woman, who isn’t married, has no job, and so our dollars pay for “her” childrens upbringing, housing, etc. etc.
In one aspect, it’s wonderful she wants to be a mother. It’s another that she is financially inept to do so, let alone bypass adopting – which, by the way, you can be paid to adopt (still with tax dollars, but this is a digression – children are here who need love, who need a mother period). This isn’t a “pro-life/choice” debate – this is a woman who does things the wrong way and is rewarded for it. Book deals, paid appearances, and tax dollar funding.

How I screwed up

So many places to begin! I’ll go chronologically.

I waited until I was financially secure to get married.

That’s right – I had a paying job that could afford a mortgage payment if necessary. But I was salary, I was in love, and it made sense.
But getting married, I set myself up for a number of other colossal mistakes. I mean, by getting married when I was financially stable, I was able to afford rent and groceries! It’s crazy that I could’ve stayed with a student job, gotten married, and just lived on welfare, in government subsidized housing, and gotten food stamps instead!

I had kids with my wife

How idiotic we are – we waited until we had jobs and were married! If we were unemployed, or even better – not married – tax dollars could’ve covered everything, including W.I.C. so we’d get free food and other baby items! Instead, we paid for our baby like a couple of fools and the hospital took our money!

We bought a house we could afford

I overpay my mortgage, too. To think – I could be paying half as much in a house that cost twice as much and then have the Government stop the bank from foreclosing! We could be buying up properties left and right and making a mint by having the foreclosures stopped! Instead, we saved money, we paid money, and we continue to pay our mortgage without Government (or anyone else’s for that matter) assistance!

We have one child, and are considering another

We could be going for double digits, people! Seriously, my wife could just keep having more babies than we could afford – but hey, book deals come to irresponsible parents! Free stuff, too! And if we hit that magical mark, tax dollars could start paying for other aspects of our lives. Instead, we’re being responsible, and – while not just saying “oh, it’s not fiscally responsible to raise a child in today’s economy” – we’re saying “can we make this happen and be loving parents to two children or more?” Jobless or employed – you can be loving and responsible. Naturally – for us at least, but there are limits that one should place to prevent multiple births.

This is partially – partially – tongue in cheek. But the more I read (I know, mass media) of people crying about their hand outs and their continual rewards for the irresponsibility – the more aggravated I become over my constant striving for responsibility as a parent, an employee, and a citizen. Wall Street suddenly turned it’s back on the bailout money so it wouldn’t have to cap salaries – so I guess things weren’t that bad then?

They’re starting to realize that if the American economy collapses and the world economy follows, it doesn’t matter where they shuffle their money to – if money is devalued everywhere, it could leave them broke with nothing to show for it except the paper trail.

I hope people continue to be responsible – as I strive to be – in light of this horrible corruption, rip-offs and buy-offs. Buddha knows it’s difficult.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery. But today is a gift – that is why it is called ‘present.’”

posted in economics, life, wealth, work, zen | 3 Comments

16th May 2008

Trackback Spam?

I’m flooded by trackback spam, and it seems other than flagging them myself as “spam” there aren’t any other options.

Or are there? Has anyone had any experience with fighting trackback spam?

posted in blog | 3 Comments

16th May 2008

Tax Stimulus – Wishful Thinking?

Well contrary to what the IRS says – I’ve not seen a dime of my so-called “stimulus” check.

I had to dig a bit to find the real answer. Mistakes, misfilings, scams… it looks like this package will be less “stimulating” and more like an unexpected gift.

So if you filed through a third-party service and paid a fee – you won’t get a direct deposit like you may have been lead to believe. Instead, you’re going to have to wait for the paper check in the coming months.

posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

13th May 2008

Saving Money in College

Very often I come across articles and bloggers writing about saving money in college. It’s beating a dead horse. It’s the same “tried-and-true” advice time after time. It’s written by people on the outside, looking in. Former students. Graduated professionals.

What? Things have never changed? The same rules apply?

I’m sorry to break it to everyone, but people love to generalize the college experience. They want to trivialize the details – so let’s try and break it out for you:

Rule #1 – Scholarships aren’t a sure thing.
Yes, you can apply until your fingers are numb. But you can’t rely on this type of cash to sustain you, or fulfill your “life-long college dream” choice. I’m not saying don’t apply, I’m saying don’t listen to all the hub-bub about Loans are the devil, you’ll be in debt forever, etc…

Rule #2 – Loans are an excellent tool.
People will moan about paying off their student loans (even more so when they drop out without finishing). Education that is worth money, will cost money. But my question to you is – do you need to take your first two years of classes at the expensive place? My suggestion to you is to research community colleges – some offer “transfer” degrees to institutions – you take the general education classes at community college, save yourself a few grand, and then go drop the big bucks on your Bachelor’s Degree. You’ll save money in more than one way.

Rule #3 – Diversify your food.
Ramen seems to be called the staple of the college diet. Yes, it’s cheap. Yes, it’s not necessarily the healthiest option. My suggestion to any kid in college that lives in or around the campus – find out where the deals are. Dollar tacos? Half-off specials? These places are prime for cheap, good eats (often rivaling the price of making it yourself) – plus they come with the added bonus that you get to hang around your class-folk. People under estimate the value of networking at any stage of college.

It’s equally important to recognize that while you are in college, brand name foods may not be worth their price tag. Generic vegetables all taste the same. Some things you may not want to skimp on – peanut butter, perhaps. Maybe you like a specific kind fo salad-dressing. The point is – don’t splurge on everything except the few items you’ve grown to love (or no generic has been able to match – yet).

Rule #4 – Drink – in moderation.
This is another key networking tool – when used wisely. Boys and girls, know your limits. No one likes the excessively drunk kid. No one likes taking care of the drunk. If you choose to drink in college – pace yourself, don’t give in to peer pressure, and when you call it quits – mean it. I’ve had to help too many people out when they “couldn’t say no” to one more drink. Leaving the party “too sober” is never followed by a story involving drunken accidents, bad one-nighters, or illness.

Rule #5 – Put off new purchases.
I love following this one after the drinking issue. I’ve met a few guys who would buy a brand new outfit (occasionally on credit, occasionally on the allowance their parents give them) and then go out drinking, get too drunk, or are too uptight about “getting dirty” that they come off very stand-offish to everyone. You can get good clothes on sale (or at Good Will, or thrift stores). You really do not need the hottest fashions unless that’s your major (but if you’re a fashion designer, you should be MAKING the hot new things, not buying someone else’s). Guys – seriously, do you need designer jeans? That impresses only people who are concerned if you can buy them expensive things.

You won’t always win.
Just as a quick wrap-up, sometimes, you’re going to lose. You may get an F for the first time ever. You may have a teacher or a class that you just can’t conquer – but that’s reason to talk out, to discuss, to speak up. Break old bad habits – being shy never helps, and in a room full of people that aren’t talking, chances are they’re as shy as you. I’m still trying to crack this shell in myself.

The point is – you can spend cash. you can work part-time. You can work full-time and go to school full-time – I’m doing it for almost a year straight. I’m on the Dean’s list. think about the short-term (community college) along with the long-term (where you’re going afterwards).

Actually, perhaps that’s a better point. Just think. Think about yourself, your education, your money, your future. Think about how you’d want to tell your kids about the kind of life you *really* lead in college – the person that had a few beers, was a regular on $1 taco night, and still pulled a B average, or the locked in the dorm room, stressed straight-A student? When you graduate, it could be the people you made friends with that land you your job (or a future one). They’re not going to care tha tyou didn’t carry a 4.0. They’re going to care you took the time to get to know them.

Good luck, college kiddos, I’m in the grind with you and I know it’s not getting easier – but I know it’s definitely worth it.

posted in college, economics, education, life, save money, savings, school | 11 Comments

8th May 2008

Your Children. Their Future. Conclusion.

So I’ve been writing about this post.

In my own way – I see that we all have deep seeded desires for our children’s future. We recognize that money can be an issue when it comes to something they want (and we want them to experience). We can do so much for them outside the realms of finance by simply listening to them, and guiding them to the best of our abilities. They are lumps of clay rolling down a hill, and we get to shape them a little bit, and guide them down the right path, but there are forks in the road.

I worry that some parents may focus too much on what they want and expect of their child, that it then stresses their child out. I’m not saying “take no interest” or “obsesses over your child” in any length of the word – I’m saying support your child. Celebrate their successes.

Let them fall, and show them how to better pick themselves up again. There will be times in life when you see that they’re going down a rough patch and “if they’d only just listen to you.” You realize you sound like your parents now, right?

It’s not about telling them what to do or how to do it. It’s about your kids needing to experience it for themselves – maybe they’ll succeed where you failed (or thought they’d fail). Maybe they’ll fail where you thought they’d succeed – the only way to know for sure is to let them live their lives when they need to – and let them know that no matter what you’ll always thinking of them – even when they think you’re just not thinking of their best interests.

Parenting, it’s… it is its own beast. I look forward to the future little Zens, but I also know how much heartbreak I’m in for! Best of luck to all parents out there – I know you’re trying, and I hope your little ones surprise you.

posted in education, parenting, Uncategorized, zen | 2 Comments

6th May 2008

Your Children, Their Future. Part Two.

This is a continuation of an earlier post.

Trent (from The Simple Dollar) wrote an article about personal finance and education of children that really got me going. Please check out my last entry to catch up!

Benefits of an Earlier Emphasis on Educational Spending:
There are a lot of assumptions here, and I hate seeing people set their kids up for success – in their mind. They send their kids to the “right” schools, they travel, they pursue their child’s interests… but then their child isn’t so bright. He’s not a straight A student. His interests are more outside the norm, or maybe he talks about how nice it would be to work at a factory – doing good, honest work, getting dirty – instead of pursuing your well laid out plan to send him to Harvard Law (or maybe to study literature, who knows?).
This is a double-edged sword. All the factors can help – or they can do nothing except make you put unrealistic pressure on your child. He may feel your sense of urgency and need for him to succeed, and no child deserves that kind of pressure.
A co-worker mentioned to me about kids – remember when, growing up, you were told to sit still and be quiet, because that’s what good kids do? That’s an outright lie. That’s what good adults do. Good kids play, they have fun, they learn to explore and test their limits – be it singing, figuring out stuff for themselves, digging through books (or digging in the earth). The point is – good kids do these things and make sure their parents know about it.

Think Different:
After all this, I love the wrap up. Trent and his wife contribute to a 529 plan AND a special savings fund. They’re thinking about the little one’s future. Writing is a flowing process, and it seems he and his wife have a great grip on what to look forward to – they may need to tap into this money to send their kids to Europe for a summer camp. Maybe buy a piano. Maybe make their desire to go to a private school come to fruition. The point is – the money will be there, should we need it.

Coming up… wrap up!

posted in education, parenting | 5 Comments

4th May 2008

Five Ways To Reduce Your Insurance

Not really, but often times we overlook spreading methods we come across that we all ready know – like these Five credits that can reduce your insurance costs.

Amy Hoak covers the basics that some people forget to tell their agent about.

  • Live in a gated community? Credit!
  • Have a security system? A little one? A BIG one? Credit may vary!
  • Do they have your car insurance as well? The discount could offset the slightly higher cost you *may* incur.

The point is – are you asking your agent the right questions about getting discounts? They can add up – and every dollar counts.

posted in frugality, insurance | 5 Comments

4th May 2008

Six Word Meme – tagged!

I was tagged by Broke Grad Student to do a Six-Word Meme.

My entry:
Seeking zen is pointless. Make Zen.

Here are the “official” rules of the meme if you’d like to play:

1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want
3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post
4. Tag at least 5 more blogs
5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play

Personally, I hate tagging, so I’m not going to bother – but feel free to take the idea and run!

Of course, being who I am, I googled this – and it seems to stem from a six-word autobiography. It’s a cool idea – a six-word moment of zen, if you will ;)

posted in meme, zen | 0 Comments

3rd May 2008

Your Children, Their Future. Part One.

Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote an interesting article – one that got me thinking quite a bit that I’m going to split this out over a few days.

Is there too much emphasis on saving when we discuss children’s education and personal finance?

He lists a few “overlooked opportunities” that, in my opinion, are a little too general.

High Quality Day Care and Preschool, Private School: I’m a firm believer that your child has to want to succeed in order to succeed (read Freakonomics yet?). You dropping $20k to put them in the best schools won’t make them want to learn anymore than you did when you were younger.
It’s understandable. You want the best. You recognize your squandered youth, and all of your missed opportunities – but it starts sounding like the parent forcing the child to be what they were (or weren’t) growing up. The former high school football player who forces his kid to play. The mother that puts her daughter in every beauty pageant. You want your kids to succeed, but you can only do so much! You can set them up, but they’re the ones that have ot make those decisions.

Now, it’s possible that starting them on the right foot helps. Say – put them in the nice preschool/daycare that costs a little extra. Ask them what they want to do. Keep their wants and desires in mind. They may have the choice of going to High school A or B or Private School C. They may surprise you and choose B – and succeed, go to Harvard on scholarship, and cure Cancer (I’m just sayin’). Thinking that if you don’t drop a large amount of cash to get them into C won’t make them worse off.

Educational Opportunities:
This is the one section that made me second guess his logic behind his thinking. Trent starts to relate on all the things he missed out on growing up – because of money. All the things he missed out on, all the opportunities – are his parent’s fault. I know that is me digging into the psychoanalysis of the situation, but when you start to relate your childhood – you need to think about where you are today, and what was really the benefit?
Having said that – I also feel for him. I work non-stop, I’m in school full-time, and I’m not stopping. I’ve got plans laid out, I’m establishing contacts to lay out my future a little better – so I can be a better provider for my family. I want money to *not* be an issue – but at the same time, just because I have the money, it doesn’t mean my son will get to go on every trip/cause/function that needs money. My children will have to genuinely want it, need it, or if it’s something that I – I know, I’m making implications – think they should experience, I’ll help make it happen.

Travel:
I love traveling. I grew up camping, so I’m used to the fires, the bugs, the bears, and the people. I hated it at different times – it didn’t fit my schedule, it wasn’t what I wanted to do – but now I look back wishing I really utilized those times. I really want to go to Europe and have my son experience it. I want him to grow up to have my understanding and tolerance of the world at large.
But taking him anywhere, without his interest, isn’t going to get him to be any different. The parent can only do so much with a child, guiding, discussing, assisting, and by just thinking that taking your kids and having them do things that they may not (Trent doesn’t say this) want to do.

Exploration of Interests:
Yes, that old hat. The “my parents couldn’t afford to nurture my gift.” There is genuine, natural talent (like some Juliard students). And then there are some people who pick an interest, and get into it, their parents drop a few grand on that interest, and then something else comes up and now THAT’S their new interest.
It’d be great to nurture every interest. But there is more than money (and ways to work around it) to nurture interests. Trent’s example is about a kid that passed being in a band because of the cost of a piano – the instrument comes later. You can save up for instruments – especially if it’s something you (or your child) is passionate about. But dropping money just because they’re interested this week? You’re going to become more frustrated as you start “nurturing” your child but see him blow through his interests rather quickly.

So – don’t just “buy” stuff for the sake of “nurturing.” You can only guide so much, and you’ve got to trust the communication foundation with your child for him to say “Dad, I want to play guitar” or “Dad, I want to be an artist” or “Dad, I want to study beatnik poetry.” It’s his choice, not mine. I can only support him, and be there to pick him up when he falls. He’ll get burned out on a topic – so be it, he’ll find a new one. But I hope I have talked to him enough, and know him well enough that if money is an issue – he’d talk to me about it so I could help figure something out.

posted in education, parenting | 5 Comments

28th April 2008

Technical Difficulties

I’m going to be going through an upgrade/updating process of plugins to add functionality to the site.

Things may get wonky for a little bit.

posted in zen | 0 Comments