I posted last month about how we were gambling with some play money in We currently have $100 spread over two $50 loans and an average return of 12.21%. Both borrowers are current with their payments.

Loan 1:

Loan 2:

That all sounds pretty good, but one drawback of the system is that you do NOT earn interest on money in your prosper account (where the borrower’s payments are deposited) and CANNOT withdraw less than $25 at a time. So, unless we choose to invest more money in Prosper so that we can make another loan (also a $25 minimum), our money is stuck in a non-interest bearing account. Add to that the risk eliment of a borrower defaulting and I’m starting to think it is not really worth it.

$25 For Opening An ING Direct Savings Account

One of the simplest ways to get your money working harder for you is to open a high yield online savings account. We use Emigrant Direct and ING Direct because I have read many good things about both banks in online forums, and have been very happy thus far. These banks are FDIC-insured and pay a much higher interest rate that your typical brick and mortar bank.

If you would like to receive $25 for opening a high yield ING Direct savings account, send me an email and I will forward a referral link to you.

Full disclosure:

  • You have to fund the account with an initial deposit of at least $250.
  • I will get a $10 thank you bonus for referring you.
  • To qualify for the $25, you must use the link in the email.

Counting Easter Egg Before It Hatches

My wife just did some back of the napkin calculations for her commission check this month. If all of her orders go thru as expected, she should receive a $1,033 commission check (less taxes) on 4/20. This would be a sizeable boost to our net worth for April. Go wife and thank God! We’ll use the money to immediately pay off our American Express credit card, leaving us with just one credit card balance of roughly $1,800.

I love counting our eggs before they hatch. Happy Easter!

Stong Financial Foundation

Simple ideas for a strong financial foundation:

Live below your means
I believe this is one of the most important steps to a strong financial foundation and, for me, one of the hardest. If you try to keep up with your rich looking friends and associates, you may end up like most of them: lots of nice stuff, but a low net worth. Every dollar that you save is worth more than an extra dollar earned because the extra dollar earned is taxed.

Start an emergency fund
Job loss, health issues, and expenisve repairs are financial blows that can affect us all. Open a high yeild savings account (Emigrant Direct, ING, etc.) and start saving for the unexpected.

Aviod credit card debt
Credit card debt is the path to financial ruin. Been there, done that. Believe me when I tell you that digging the hole is very, very easy and climbing out is often a long, hard fought battle. The only thing we use credit cards for now are monthly bills because we get cash back from our Citi credit card. Don’t do this if can’t pay off the balance in full each month.

Track spending / create a budget
It’s easy to overspend if you don’t know what you’re spending. Track spending for a few months and use this information to create a budget. The budget will help keep you on track and hopefully help you find areas where you can reduce spending.

Learn all you can about investing
Most financial planners are more interested in their commission, rather than what is in your best interest. If you educate yourself, you can save A LOT of money and probably do just as good a job, if not better.

Invest at least 10% of your gross income
The future is coming whether you want it to our not. The magic of compound interest can make your consistent contributions grow into a large nest egg. Take advantage of tax sheltered retirement account such as a 401(k) and/or Roth IRA. If your employer offers a 401(k) with a company match, take advantage of the free money.

Target Retirement Date

Our ideal target retirement date is 2027, twenty years from now, when I am 52 and my wife is 43. Realistically, this goal is going to be a stretch, but we have a long enough time frame that I think it is possible under favorable conditions.

If we believe that we can live on $60,000/year when we retire, then using a 4% Safe Withdrawal Rate (SWR), our nest egg goal is $1.5M. However, with inflation averaging 3.43% annually, our nest egg may need to be substantially larger.

We will refine and better define our plans/goal as time goes on. Some other challenges in reaching our goal include being able to purchase (and pay off) a home and finding affordable long term health care. Our desire to have children will also affect our saving/investing rate, but won’t stop us from having them.

I guess if I have to work until 53, I could live with that.

Frequent Flyer Miles

I have been traveling for business for 6 years. It took me 5 years to finally bother to sign up for frequent fly miles, even though I have had plenty of co-workers and friends recommend it. I felt like I didn’t want to have to arrange my schedule to fly with a certain airline. That was very, very dumb.

In the last 12 months, I have accumulated 31,368 miles on Delta SkyMiles and 11,316 on American Airlines Aadvantage. .. . for doing nothing more than enrolling and entering my account number when purchasing tickets. That is enough points for a free flight in the continental U.S., Alaska, Canada, Caribbean, and Mexico on Delta (see chart) and a free upgrade (see chart) on American Airlines. Best of all, since I signed up with Delta and American Airlines, I have not had to bend my schedule to fly on these airlines.

I’m kicking myself for all of those years that I flew and did not accumulate frequent flyer miles.

Short Term Financial Goals

Below are some of our short term financial goals (1-5 years). I have checked off the items we have completed.

a Pay off 401K loan

a Pay off credit card debt with rate interest over 0%

a Save up 2 weeks worth of vacation (in case of job loss / unable to work)

Pay off 0% interest rate credit card debt

Open and fully fund Roth IRA for wife

Open and fully fund Roth IRA for husband

Sell Car 1

Pay off Car 2

10% (of gross income) contribution to 401(k)

Build emergency fund to $12,000

We’ll be selling Car 1 and funding Roth IRA’s for my wife and I in the coming months, so more checkmarks will be added soon.

March 2007 Income Statement

We had a great net worth increase in March, but did a poor job staying within our budget. We were sadly over budget $775.68 in March (click on spreadsheet below).

A lot of non-monthly bills hit in March, such as both cars needing servicing, buying a baby shower gift, enrolling wife in new insurance program, and a mini vacation. That’s not a good excuse though because we also went over budget for some of our standard monthly bills.

Time to take back some ground by coming in under budget next month!

Stay tuned. . .

March 2007 Net Worth Update (+$6,462.28)

A lot of progress was made since our February 2007 Net Worth update. We have a positive net worth! Thank God! It’s a great feeling to finally have a positive net worth, even if it is only $3,293.43.

I can’t believe we were able to post a $6,462.28 change (click on spreadsheet below) to our net worth in one month. Over half of this increase was due to our Federal and State tax refunds ($2,044) and my wife receiving a $1,463 tuition reimbursement.

Here are the highlights from March:

  • Our 401(k) has recovered pretty well from the $1,000 hit it took during the February stock market plunge
  • We have $100 (starting small) invested in prosper at an average rate of 12.23%.
  • Our emergency fund was given needed attention
  • We made some serious headway on paying down our credit card debt. All of the remaining credit card debt is on 0% interest credit cards
  • My wife’s student loan balance also was hacked down by the tuition reimbursement that she received

I don’t expect us to be able to keep up this kind of a pacing in the coming months, but we’ll sure try.

Business Travel

I am currently on a business trip and have been thinking about the money I save when I travel.

I travel 6-7 times per year, usually for 1-3 weeks per trip. While it’s hard work being on the road, there are perks. My company reimburses me for my travel costs (i.e. hotel, rental car, meals, etc.). I also use a 1-2% cash back credit card for all trip costs that helps put a few extra dollars directly into my pocket. In addition, my American Airlines Aadvantage and Delta SkyMiles frequent flyer accounts earn me free trips or upgrades.

When I first began traveling for work, I did a poor job of keeping receipts (for reimbursement), didn’t use cash back credit cards, and didn’t have frequent flyer accounts. I often spent more personal money while traveling trying to entertain myself. Now, I make sure my hotel is near nice restaurants and has high speed internet.

While on my business trips, I save money on food, gas, and entertainment. It’s also nice getting away from the office for a few days.

Our path to financial independence and retiring early.