Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Progress (or lack thereof)

The delights of unemployment are myriad not the least of which being the curious absence of the copious free time that you would expect to have during it. Where does the free time go? Seriously. I think I have been more busy without a job than I was with. The good news - I have actually had 2 successful consultations as a personal shopper of Seattle's would-be fashionables along with a few smaller, more humble ones although I am going with the rather conventional definition of success here ($$) rather than my own (job satisfaction) when I call it that. The not so good news - I have pretty much been living off my savings and what with the market downturn the picture's getting ugly. So, after much soul-searching and many sleepless nights I have decided to head back to the corporate world, but with different expectations, smaller paycheck and more free time to pursue my goal of owning my own personal shopping & image consulting business. Or in other words, I am joining back the rat race as a Flex Time worker. I start tomorrow. I will still be an employee but I will only work 27 hrs a week instead of 40 - Wed through Fri - and devote the rest of my week to building up my humble list of personal shopper clients. And, of course, blogging!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Back from Tahoe

Wow, I haven't posted in 3 weeks. Unemployment is hard work! Jokes apart, the last few weeks flew by in a flurry of last minute transition lists, replacement training, sign offs and so on and so forth. And now I have joined the glamorous ranks of the jobless. Since I am no longer slave to the 7 am alarm call and J had some vacation time (we patched things up if anyone is keeping track. He is suitably contrite for having brought up his ex, now acknowledges that I am the most singular woman on the planet not to be compared to any other living mortal and made, not one, but two, arrangements for Valentine's Day as proof. I am thinking of marrying him! But don't tell him - he doesn't know yet) .. anyway, since J and I both had some free time we extended our Tahoe weekend to Tahoe week and had a fabulous time. Tomorrow I start planning my future.

To do:

1. Quick portfolio assessment -- I may need to rebalance
2. Start brainstorming career options (I would love to become a personal shopper but I am not limiting myself)
3. Think about living arrangements -- J asked me to move in with him while Tahoeing ... financially this might be a good solution for both of us but I don't want that to be the reason why so I need to think about this.

It's good to be back and not to be at the beck and call of corporate America for a change.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Monthly Review & Net Worth Report - January 2006

Net Worth as of 1/4/2006


* Other Assets = condo deposit
* Baseline for 2006 is 2005 year end net worth

Previous report: click here.

I was a little nervous about this month's report because of the food expenses. I went well over $1k and that's on top of my $16-700/month basic expenses like rent, car and utilities. But thanks to a stellar month in investments and to increased 401k deduction which reduced my tax liability I am actually in pretty good shape. In fact, this turned out to be my best month since I started tracking my net worth. My previous best month was September 2005 when my net worth jumped $8.3k due to various factors like sign on bonus etc. This month, on the other hand, I had no such windfalls. I did return $600 worth of unused holiday gift items but other than that it was, as I said, investment gains and tax break from higher 401k deductions.

Highlights:

1. My ESPP was converted to Msft stock at the end of Dec. I sold it a week later and used the proceeds to fully fund my 2006 Roth. My return this time was around 17% due to a small spike in Msft stock price. The other 1k for the remaining 2005 Roth was funded from cash reserve in the brokerage account.

2. The -ve change in ESPP is due to the standard 3-month deposit being converted to stock and rolling over to my brokerage. The current amount is my Jan contribution from direct payroll deduction.

3. My combined investment gains, from 401k, ESPP sales and brokerage, was around $5.6k. The best monthly return to date. I did make some changes to my portfolio at the end of Dec which may have helped so I will start taking a closer look at my investments over the next few weeks as I adjust to the slower pace of unemployment. The rest of my net worth gain came from $700 holiday refunds, $2800 savings from salary in the form of ESPP and 401k contributions + approx $200 in interest income.

4. Unfortunately, as you can see from my savings account, I did have to dip into my savings this month to make bill payments. This was due to my paycheck being smaller thanks to higher deductions. This was a conscious choice however. I wanted to make the most of my 401k and employer match while I still had the time.

January score: A+ (for meeting and exceeding my mid-Feb net worth goal of 198k ahead of schedule)


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Blockbuster Rewards Program

I have been off blogging for a week so I don't know if this has been posted already but if not, this is a pretty cool deal. Blockbuster has a new rewards program that you can sign up for at $9.95/year. It offers you several ways to get free rentals. Now it doesn't completely beat Netflix as I will explain in a second but it does come close depending on your rental habits. Here are the highlights of the program:

1. When you sign up (which you can do at any Blockbuster store) you get one free rental.

2. Every month you get 1 free rental whether you have been actively renting or not. So if you only watch 1 movie a month you essentially get free rentals all year. Of course, since most people rent more than 1 movie read on for how you can get more free rentals.

3. If you reach 5 movie or game rentals in one month you get another free rental. Actually, you get 1 free rental for every 5 items you rent so if you rent a lot this is pretty neat. But it gets better.

3. If you rent between Monday - Wednesday you get 1 free movie for every movie or game you rent. Now I wasn't crazy about the program just from 1 or two above but this changes everything. If I rent 5 movies a month but only on those days I get 5 + 5 free (from the rent 1, get 1) + 1 free (for reaching the 5 rental limit) + 1 free (the 1 free per month) .. or 12 rentals per month for the price of 5 movies, or $21.80 total.

Netflix is still a better value if you crunch the numbers for heavy renters but I like the convenience of not having to know ahead of time what I would like to watch this weekend. Plus I don't watch that many movies a month. Maybe 4-6 tops. I am thinking I would probably rent 2 remebering to go only Mon-Wed, get the 2 free + the 1 free per month which will give me 5 movies for the cost of two. $8.72/month. Works for me.

There are a few restrictions: some of the free rentals apply only to non-New releases so if you have already watched everything previously released this may not be that great a deal for you. But if you are like me and looking to cut costs check it out.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Brief Hiatus

Well, I finally got my funds to show up in Roth and made the distributions (FCNTX, DOD and SBUX). Which is good because I probably wouldn't have had time in the next few weeks to do anything if they hadn't shown up now.

I will be taking a break from blogging till the end of the month because of work related activities. I am busy interviewing, hiring and training replacements (they decided they needed 3 people to replace me. How's that for validation?) And then there's other staff going on. My spending habit has gone completely downhill in the last few weeks. Ok, not spending habit overall just food expenses. But I think I will have to suspend beating myself up over that until after the end of the month as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

AWOL Funds

The funds are still conspicuously missing from my Roth account. After 4 phone calls and 4 assurances that the transaction is there, it just hasn't "settled" yet, I am beginning to bristle. I came this close to yelling, "Just give me my fucking money!" to the Fidelity rep on the phone. Thankfully, years of breeding kicked in just in time and I bit down on my tongue before the words could irrevocably escape into the world. Like Harry said to Sally, "You can't take it back. Once you say it, it's out there." But I figured out what I am going to do:

40% DODFX
40% FCNTX
20% SBUX

This is probably irrational but I just don't like index funds. I regard them with narrowed eyes. What, computers do all this you say? Yeah, right.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bling


At the cost of alienating a lot of frugal minded people everwhere, I'd totally buy this. The $20 per bottle pricetag doesn't faze me at all. You can't put a price on something this adorable. It's like a piece of art all ready to be displayed in some pop culture museum! It even has its own necktie! Besides, isn't it time we rescued water, that precious life-giving fluid, from its ignominious existence in cheap plastic bottles.

Now if I can only find 11 other likeminded people to go in on this with me. What? I said I can justify $20, not $240.

Starbucks

Around lunch time I made a quick jaunt to the nearest Starbucks to pick up a bracing cup of coffee. As I seem to have graduated from erratic sleep patterns to not sleeping at all at nights a strong cup of mid-day coffee to bolster me is a must to get me through the day. While I was waiting my turn at the counter I suddenly noticed something. Could it be? Yes, there they were. Lovely glowy pale pink coffee cups. I picked them up. There were little pink hearts on the bottom. Although I realize that the proximity to Valentine's Day may have something to do with the appearance of candy colored hearts everywhere I think this is a solid financial move on the part of the company. Now this may seem silly to some people but to the millions of women all around the world who paint their bedrooms pink and buy matching towels this softens the stern, black-coffee image of Starbucks and makes it a little more approachable, which one hopes can only result in more sales. They are no longer the purveyors of just that bitter nectar of life that helps so many of us get through but they now provide color therapy.

I am seriously considering buying some stock in Starbucks. It may not be such a financially bad move. Acc to my Morningstar premium report, the future for Starbucks looks bright provided investors can temper their expectations with a realistic look at the future of coffee. The current selling price is lower than the fair value estimate, and at $30.01 a lot more affordable than BRKB which has still to earn its keep, at least in my portfolio. I may just go for it.