Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Feeling Cursed…

Someone must have put a hex on me or something. Last night when I got off the train, a storm was brewing which was blowing freezing snow all over the place and my car was covered with ice. There were whiteout conditions where you could barely see 5 feet in front of your car. So, I put the heat on to defrost the windows.

Well, as I was driving home later that night, I realized that a divot that I had in my windshield from a rock this summer spread the entire width of the windshield. D*mn! So, of course that has to be replaced now because 1) I could get a ticket and 2) it is rather distracting.

The cost will be $225.

So, I get home safely and the wind created a huge snowdrift against my garage door. Once I pull in, the garage door won’t close/stay down because there is too much snow compressed under it. After clearing the snow and trying several times to close the garage door, I am starting to give up and think there is something just wrong with the garage door…again. So I look up at the garage door genie (For those of you who don’t know, it’s the electric box on the ceiling that automates the garage door.) and it smoking, I mean really smoking.

So imagine this…I panic like SH*T, OMG, FIRE, call the fire department….NO…NOT YET…get the fire extinguisher. So I am running to the door between the garage and my condo and of course it’s locked. Fumble with the keys like in my movies when you are like (Lady come on!!!) and finally get it open. Then I am running to my door, dropping every bag on my shoulder and fumbling yet again with the keys. As I try to get my condo unit’s door open, I am thinking…Please God…let the extinguisher be where I remember…Please. Finally I get to the extinguisher and of course, I have no freaking idea how to use it. So, I am running back to the garage, hurriedly reading the directions and finally spraying the thing. Great, the smoke is dying down, it smells, and man…the ceiling in the garage is a little browned. Thank God that crisis was averted. Mind you, it’s like 10 o’clock at night and I know my neighbors are asleep and anyone who rides by will think I am a nut.

So finally, I was able to move my car back outside, manually lower the garage door and unplug the genie from the electrical socket. So, I obviously need a new garage door genie (I have the original one which much be at least 15 years old).

Cost + labor will be $360.

So, today is a $600 day for me. It has to go on my credit card because Chitown is officially flat broke. Shoot me where I stand!!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Attacking My Student Loans…

I decided to attack my student loan balances before paying off my credit card. As it stands, my credit card/heloc stands at $7,500 with the balance fixed at 3.99% until paid in full. My private student loans carry an interest rate just below 9% and are killing me with interest every month.

I am committed to paying $200/ month on my cc balance which means it will be paid off in about 3.5 years and I will pay less than $600 in interest. I am also committed to ensure that I do not accumulate any more debt from this point on. It makes sense to me to throw whatever free money I have towards my student loans so that the load gets a little lighter.


I didn’t get either of the law positions here at the bank. There are no real words to express the disappointment that I feel. The hiring manager said that she would have hired me in a second if I just had 4-5 years of experience. She complimented me, said she was very impressed by me but said that she felt like she would be doing me a disservice because the department did not have the time and resources to train me properly. She was very kind and this is a person with a lot of power and influence, she offered to help make a few connections for me with other firms in Chicago, and even gave me a hug after I reached out to shake her hand.

With everything going on, I really needed something good to happen for me so I am tremendously bummed out right now. I wanted very badly to have some good news to share with you, my family and friends. I feel like I am somewhat letting them down as well. So, it’s back to the drawing board. I am probably going to take off a few days to research and apply for other positions.

I faxed over my forbearance request for the loans that entered repayment in January. I am going to be doing the same for my private loans in another month and again in May for the federal loans I already have in forbearance. In one simple word, I am TIRED.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Crazy Market…

There has been a lot of talk about a recession. A Recession is two consecutive quarters of the US economy slowing down. Thankfully the market rebounded yesterday. I guess I am not too troubled because at 30, I am in it for the long haul. The only thing that is truly bugging me is that I have been hovering around the $28k mark for my 401k despite my monthly contributions because of the massive fluctuations. It was my goal to reach $30k by the end of 2007 so to see myself down to $27k makes me a little peeved but I have to keep thinking long-term.

I made it through my second volunteer class for Junior Achievement. Yesterday, we discussed the decision making process and how decisions have either positive or negative consequences. The teacher was unexpectedly absent but the children still behaved pretty well and I was pleased with the lesson.

I am still battling my cold and everyone at work says I sound horrible. Ordinarily, I would stay home and not risk getting anyone else sick but we are swamped at work and still short-handed. Good news is that my second co-worker showed up yesterday and today and he looks better so perhaps he will be coming in more regularly. I know it’s been tough on him dealing with his ailing mother and his own personal health concerns. I am trying to suck it up and be understanding.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sick Again…

I am sick again. This is the 3rd time in less than 2 months and I am a little irritated. I just got over a cold where I lost my voice about a week ago and here I am again, congested and irritable. While I love Chicago, the weather has been so loopy lately that everyone has the sniffles. While I am not surprised that I got sick, the weather isn’t the only reason why my system is down. The main culprit is STRESS!

You got it…STRESS. I am still waiting to hear about the job in the Legal Department, I am getting all kinds of notices that my student loans are entering repayment, the market is in turmoil which means I have to report yet another decline in my net worth, my managers want me to give up my flex schedule now that school is over and I dread coming to work every day doing my current job.

I just need a break. One break and I can begin to see something positive coming out of all of my hard work for the past 4 years. One good thing that is coming out of this mess with the market is that the interest rate on my student loans went down a little which means less interest will capitalize on my loans over the next few months.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dream: A Balanced Approach to My Finances…

I wish that I could have a balanced approach to my finances. I love the idea of the 60% Solution and automating my finances. It would be a dream come true to see myself making progress in all areas including retirement savings, long-term investments, debt repayment, and short-term savings. Right now it’s definitely…Look at all that debt Chitown – In your dreams! It seems like something always comes up which lets me know that I definitely need an emergency fund at all times.

60% Solution

60% - Committed expenses:
Basic food and clothing needs
Essential household expenses
Insurance premiums
Charitable contributions
All bills -- even non-essentials such as satellite TV service
ALL taxes

10% - Retirement Savings
10% - Long-term Savings or Debt Repayment
10% - Short-term Savings for Irregular Expenses
10% - Fun/Personal Money

Here is how I stack up today against the 60% solution.

*** With the employer match, the total retirement contribution is 10%.

Note: Edited to include current minimum payments on my cc/heloc and student loans as committed expenses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Volunteer Work…

I spent the morning volunteering with Junior Achievement. I was a little nervous because I have only volunteered in a camp counselor capacity and this was actually teaching a lesson to 30 students in 8th grade. I have to admit that I procrastinated on going to the school because I was second guessing my decision to volunteer but it was actually very rewarding. I will be going to back over the next 5-6 weeks to teach the remaining lessons on decision-making, education, career options, budgeting, credit and financial risk. Today’s lesson was about choices and self-knowledge.

Essentially, self-knowledge is a combination of your skills, interests and values. When you evaluate your own personal skills, interest and values, you are better able to find and choose a career that you will enjoy and find-rewarding. The kids behaved so well and they had some interesting career choices: school counselor, attorney (Smile), dancer, court reporter, actuary, singer and teacher.

It just goes to show you that when you give, you tend to receive much more in return. I had a blast and I am looking forward to meeting with them again next week. Also, as crazy as it seems, it made me feel more confident about getting up and talking in front of people. More practice is always good and sometimes, kids can be one of your toughest audiences.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chase Upping ATM Fee to $3…

Chase hiked their ATM fee for non-customers up to $3 effective January 13th. For those of you in the Chicagoland area, you know that’s significant because there seems like a Chase on every corner.

$3 Chase ATM Fee

Credit Card Skimming...

This was an article published on today on a credit card scam.

Garrett's Popcorn Employee Charged With Skimming

This article just supports my decision to pay for credit card monitoring and it hits close to home.

TrueCredit Monitoring…

I pay for the TrueCredit 3-in-1 credit monitoring service and received my first alert today. I got an e-mail this morning from my student loan company informing me that my student loans would be entering repayment soon. This is the second tranche (and the largest) of loans to enter repayment 4/2008.

Just a few moments ago, I received an alert from Equifax so I went over to see what was up. Well, Equifax is late in reporting two student loans that I opened in 2006 so my credit score went down just a bit. I am thankful to know that the service is working properly. It is really important to me to keep a clean payment history and I want to be alerted right away when something changes. My sister and mother have both fallen victim to identity theft, I had my wallet stolen once a few years back and sometimes I receive my dad’s mail and vice versa because our names are so similar. The service allows me to sleep a little more comfortably at night.

TrueCredit Monitoring

Monday, January 14, 2008

Starting To Cook More…

I am starting to cook more now that I am done with school. I am learning a little each week because I am not a culinary master by any means. I am still learning about my grocery shopping habits and I haven’t mastered how to go into the store and not spend a fortune of stuff I don’t need. But, I am doing better.

I’m still not frugal enough to bring my lunch to work but I keep it reasonable and I don’t buy breakfast or dinner at all. Lately, I’ve been going over to my parents' house for dinner since I am single and they live only 10 minutes away. It’s a good chance for me to spend a little quality time with them throughout the week and although I told my mom she didn’t have to bother, she says it’s no problem. It’s a tremendous savings.

$2,000 Emergency Fund…

Based on PF Blogs, I know some finance experts advocate that you have $1,000 in an emergency fund. I am more comfortable with $2,000. One "real" emergency can cost you $1,000 and then you have nothing. I had a small fire once in my condo’s electrical box and had to have several panels replaced. That cost me almost $800 in one day.

With a $2,000 emergency fund, if you run into one emergency, you still have some funds leftover to handle the next one while you try to build the account back up to $2,000.

For now, I have a $1,000 e-fund but I am trying to build it back to $2,000.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."

-- Henry Ford

Crazy Weather…

The weather here in Chicago has been absolutely crazy going from freezing and snowing to 60 degrees. Somehow I managed to come down with the flu last Thursday which turned into the worst chest cold that’s still hanging around. I am looking forward to a little R&R this weekend. For me, it will be a nice 3-day weekend because I am off tomorrow. Thank goodness.

I also have a 4-day weekend scheduled for next week when the bank closes in observance of MLK Day. Working in the banking industry does have its perks including observance of most federal holidays. Just one more reason why getting a legal position at the bank would be ideal.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

January 2008 Goals…


• Move to all cash/debit system
• Set up automatic payments for my student loans
• Get job offer to join the Legal Department
• Put $1,000 towards Emergency Fund
• Pay off December/Christmas Damage: ~ $3,770

Emergency Fund: $1,000 in E-Fund

Establish $1,000 in an e-fund with the goal of it reaching $2,000 by year end. While I would like to have a $2,000 e-fund now, I am going to start with $1,000. I would like to put as much as possible towards my debt with any extra money going towards reaching the $2,000 mark.

Pay off my December/Christmas Damage: $3,770

One mistake I made was being too aggressive and putting too much towards my HELOC/CC debt in December ($900). The main expenses were the treadmill and clothes for work. My mom said she would help me out with the treadmill purchase but I am not sure that I want her to. Since it’s been delivered on Friday, I have been on it 3 consecutive days and I am already feeling better. I would have gotten on it sooner but I came down with the flu on Thursday.

The balance on my credit card is ridiculous. It will be paid off primarily with my bonus which was supposed to pay down my HELOC/CC. My family decided to do Christmas gifts at the last minute so those purchases are also reflected on my CC. For the first time, I was pretty frugal so the amount is the lowest Christmas spending since college 8 years ago. I also have a $50 and $25 Visa gift card that I didn’t give out and I will keep those for any upcoming birthdays, etc. where I will need a gift.

The CC balance includes some of my regular bills ($420) like utilities, gas, and charity which are charged to my credit card every month and paid for in full.

CC Breakdown:

• $1,002 – Clothing
• $705 – Treadmill
• $678 – Gifts
• $357 – Dining
• $297 – Utilities
• $166 – Entertainment
• $132 – Personal Care
• $129 - Groceries
• $121 – Business
• $88 – Gas
• $58 – Home
• $35 – Charity

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Financial Advisor Called…

My Ameriprise financial advisor called me yesterday at home and left a message. He wanted to know if I wanted to set up an appointment to review my financial situation. Well, as you can tell…I haven’t been to my financial advisor in over 4 years. I went to him right before I purchased my home when I was doing good and still had a positive net worth. Now, I think he would fall out of his chair and have a heart attack. I cannot do that to the poor man.

I am going to wait until I get the legal position and higher salary and then I will seek some guidance and help to get myself back on the right track.

Monday, January 07, 2008

All Cash/Debit and Emergency Fund…

As of Sunday, I moved to an all cash/debit system where I will no longer use my credit card for any personal spending. I will use my Bank of America Keep the Change checking account for my day to day spending activity.

As I look at my 2008 annual goals, I have decided to fully restore the $2k balance in my E-fund before paying off my cc/heloc in full. By the end of January, all of my December damage will be paid off in full and by the end of February (maybe January), I will have fully funded my E-fund again.

If all goes well, there will be a slight improvement in my net worth at the end of January and every month from here on out. Plus, I can check off two of my 2008 annual goals: all cash/debit and reestablish my E-fund. =)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2008 Goals…

I didn’t really set any financial goals for 2007 because everything was in limbo with me finishing law school and taking the bar. Now that I am a licensed attorney, 2008 is my year to get my life in order personally, professionally and financially.

Annual goals should be S.M.A.R.T.

S - specific
M - measurable
A - achievable
R - realistic
T - time based

Here are my 2008 Goals:

 Secure law position and $30k-40k salary increase (Current Salary $55,000)
 Increase 401k contributions to 10% (Currently 5%)
 Pay off credit card debt (Current balance is $7,700)
 Improve net worth by $10k - $20k (Current Balance -$93k)
 Move to all cash/debt system
 Reestablish $2,000 E-Fund (Current Balance $0)
 Minimum of $500 in charitable giving (Current contribution $35/month)
 Save $7k towards $15k unemployment fund (Current Balance $0)
 Reduce student loan debt by at least $10,000 (Current Balance $210k)

I am setting very aggressive goals for 2008 but they are all contingent upon securing a law position with a much higher salary. I am working on it now. I am hoping to transition in to the Legal Department by the end of February.

No matter what, my Goals for 2008 will still include:

 Pay off credit card debt (Current balance is $7,700)
 Improve net worth by $10k (Current Balance -$93k)
 Move to all cash/debt system
 Reestablish $2,000 E-Fund (Current Balance $0)
 Minimum of $500 in charitable giving (Current contribution $35/month)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

December 2007 Recap…

Not much to report. There was a slight dip in my net worth by $758. Student loan interest continues to capitalize each month. Repayment on a portion of my student loans began January 1 and will go into full effect 4/2008 and 6/2008. I took some of my liquidity and paid off $900 on my HELOC/CC. I am still deciding whether I am going to start attacking my private student loans which are at 9%+ or repay my credit card by 4/2008 which is at 3.99% fixed for the life of the loan. Part of me just wants to be credit card free. Plus, the minimum payment on my credit card is $155 with ~ $25 in interest per month.

December’s credit check was good and clean. My credit scores are as follows:
Transunion: 750 (750 in November)
Experian: 777 (775 in November)
Equifax: 733 (729 in November)

January’s recap will look a little funny because I will be depleting my WaMu E-Fund and paying off my December spending in full.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Fresh Start...

Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year!!!!