Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lucky Numbers

Fascinating post on PIN code data, reveals 11% of 4 number PIN codes are 1234.  Looks like lots of other people are using expected PIN code combinations.  Take a look and see if your PIN code is on that top 20 list, if it is you may want to consider changing it up.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Stocks - Time to Sell?

Today, I sold some stock.  This was a momentous occasion because this was a first for me.  The last few years, in my IRA, I have been buying individual stocks (my 401k is mutual funds).  As of today, I had 21 stocks and my "change since purchase" (this would be my return if I sold everything) is in the 70s%.

Now, before you commend me on my stock picking skills, let me tell you that I am not an expert and you shouldn't be following my investment advice.  Secondly, I really started buying stocks in 2009, in particular March 2009, so much of my gains is as a result of a dramatic increase in the market between March 2009 and now.  Thirdly, I pick most of my stocks utilizing Fidelity's Preset Expert Strategies, so I am working off of expert research and not some particular skill on my part.

So, as I have been working on research for investing my 2013 Roth IRA monies, I noticed that I have several stocks that have done quite well.  One stock was up 500% in less than a year.  As a result, I was looking for some advice on whether to sell or not.  Thankfully there is a lot of good research available to read on the topic.

First, I realized that I am not setting any goals when I buy stocks.  And, sometimes you don't need to set a goal if this is a stock, i.e. blue chip, that one plans to hold for many years.  But, on some of my more riskier investments I should be figuring out what I want to get out of the purchase and then "pull the trigger" when that event hits.  For an example, if I buy stock XYZ at $10 a share and my goal is to triple my money, I need to set that as a goal and then set up a limit order to sell when it reaches that number.

Second, tax implications (and note I am not a tax expert either, and we were audited by the IRS so you really should not rely on any tax discussions that you read here).  Since, I am buying and selling within a Roth IRA there are no tax implications.  But, if I were selling this stock that I bought less than a year ago in a trading account I would be paying short term capital gains.  Roth IRAs are awesome because that $4,300 I earned today is tax free.

So, yes, I ended up selling my super hot stock, profiting and pocketed $4,300, tax free, and . . . .  I had immediate regrets.

Even though I set a well researched limit order to sell at a price that I thought was reasonable, the stock went even higher today.  Bummed, is how I feel, I could have made more money and I worry whether I could have made even more money by holding on to it.  I expect that I will continue to stalk this stock in the future to see how much more I "lost" out on.

The lesson I learned, among others, is that if I set certain goals for my stock purchases and I hit those goals I will feel better about my plan rather than being caught up in the exuberance of one hot stock.

How do you buy (and sell) stocks?  Do you have a goal or plan for each at time of purchase?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Florida - Fraud Capital of the Country

Today I read a news article about scammers targeting Nordstrom computers in South Florida.  Scammers distract the Nordstrom employees and take apart the register/computer back panel and add a credit card skimmer.

Thankfully these bad guys were caught because of surveillance camera footage.  But, as a consumer you wouldn't even be able to be on the look out for this kind of skimmer because it is hidden.  So make sure you pay close attention to those credit card and debit card statements.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 IRA

Today, I funded my 2013 IRA, $5,500 into my traditional, non-deductible IRA.  Once the transfer from my Wells Fargo account to my Fidelity traditional IRA clears, I will immediately convert the traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.  Since 2010, the income limits for Roth IRAs were removed by the Federal government, but one still has to contribute to a traditional and then convert to a Roth.  On Fidelity, it is easy to do.  I convert the funds immediately, while it is still in cash, as I don't want to incur any gains that I have to pay taxes on prior to conversion.

Thereafter, my plan is to watch the markets this week which have been down and up due to the government shut down and the debt ceiling debate.  I don't normally try to time the market, but if the Dow dips below 15,000 again this week I will make some investments.  For our IRAs, we invest in individual stocks, i.e. Apple or Ford, etc.  I like to use the expert preset strategies to find well rated stocks that are on sale.  

Additionally, I have set up our 2014 IRA savings account over at CapitalOne 360 (formerly known as ING)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Good News - Salary Adjustment

Last month I posted on the impact of The Great Recession on our career and salary . Overall, our salaries from our professional careers were down between 2008-2013.

 But, I am happy to report that I just received an upward salary adjustment, a 7% increase!, which means a couple of things.  First, this kind of increase outpaces inflation.  Second, this increase almost brings me back to my pay level in 2008.  Third, this increase almost makes up for Mr. Sam's pay cut that he took at his new job (post layoff).  Fourth, this big increase reflects on the kind of work I am doing, the level of complexity, the results I am attaining and the fact that my company is placing an increased value on me (it feels good).

I think, although I've not done the nitty gritty math, that our salaries are still down between 2008-2013, but now down just a bit.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pedi Toes Lead the Way

Pedicures certainly should be classified as a want when one is doing a budget or a spending plan.  But for a South Florida gal, like me, they nudge into the category of need since my toes are exposed on a regular basis.  I wear peep toe pumps at work and sandals and flip flops on the weekend so unsightly toes are something I "need" to avoid.

Over the last year or so, having a regular pedicure has turned into a regular habit for me.  While I strive to avoid lifestyle inflation, I have just worked this service into my regular expenses, as part of my allowance.  Said another way, while I am spending more on my toes I am not spending more in general.

I pay quite a bit to have my hair cut, I've got long hair complicated hair and this is an expense that has been part of my regular budget since college.  So the spa/salon where I get my hair cut offers a very nice pedicure service which I have used with some regularity over the last few years.  Basically, when I get my hair cut, every six weeks, I often get my toes done.  The cost at this location is $55 ($65 with tip).  A pedicure at this spot is a luxury experience, super nice massage chairs and thorough and pampered experience.  The pedicure lasts quite a long time, normally at least two and half weeks or so.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a no-frills nail salon near my office which charges $22 for a pedicure ($27 with tip).  This spot is very convenient and has later hours so it is an easy stop after work. But, there are no massage chairs and I don't find it to be a relaxing experience.  The pedicure from this place lasts a week or so.

So recently, I bought a Groupon for a day spa located near my home (I had no idea it was there) and had a great pedi and mani for $30.  It is a great spa, new and well appointed (meaning that it had great massage chairs).  My Groupon pedi lasted for more than two weeks (really almost three weeks) and I was very happy with the quality of the services.  Even though I only had a classic pedi, the treatment and time almost reached spa level pedi in my mind.  So, the Groupon worked, and I went back for another pedi this past weekend.  The regular price for a classic pedicure is $40 ($50 with tip) so this spot falls in between the prices of the spa/salon where I get my hair cut and the convenient spot near work.  But, I would say that this new location provides similar quality and level of service as the $55 pedi.  The only down side is that this place is not open late so it has to be a Saturday stop for me and my Saturdays are always busy.

I've really found that paying a bit more for quality is saving me time (since I don't have to have a cheap pedi every week or so) and increasing my joy in that I really enjoy the experience.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Small Fries

Last weekend, Mr. Sam and I rented a two movies from Red Box and one of our selections didn't play.  This has happened to us before, I would guesstimate at 1 out of 20 movies.  I really like the Red Box system but I have never, until today, figured out how to get a movie credit or a refund.  And, something about not being able to get that $2 or $1 back really rubs me the wrong way.

I have the same aggravations with ATM fees and other small fees.  For a while, Home Depot kept charging us $2 on our 0% Home Depot credit card bill.  I would have to call each month and get them to refund the $2 charge which they could never explain.

So, anyways, the secret to getting a Red Box credit is as follows.
(1)  Google "red box how to get a refund";
(2) Click on the result that is labeled "what's the red box refund policy"
(3) Under the policy, click to talk to customer care and explain problem.

Red Box gave me two movie credits which I thought was reasonable for my request.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2012 Taxes

Today I (Mr. Sam is out of town) met with the CPA and completed our 2012 taxes.  We owe the IRS, which is par for course sine we got audited a few years back, so I will send off the check and be thankful we are done with our 2012 taxes.

We do need to work on getting back on track so that we are filing our taxes in a timely manner rather than seeking an extension each year.  We also need to work on getting what we pay during the year, our itemized deductions and our withholdings in better balance.  We have made some progress this time around in that we owe less than we did a two years ago, but I'd really like to get it down to where I stroke a check for less than $1,000.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Investment Property Debt

Hit a milestone this month with our investment property debt, at present we owe less than $300,000 on our investment properties.  

Feels good.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 Savings Goals - Rapid Catch Up

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $25,581 (73%)  (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $11,000 (100%)    (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $7,600 (76%)    (goal is $10,000)
(4) Pay down mortgage -   $3,735 (75%)    (goal is $5,000)
(5) Trading account fund - $3,900  (75%)    (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $1,900 (63%)     (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $53,716 (78%)

Since my last savings goal update post, I've done some noodling and some moving of monies.  As such, we are now on target to complete most of our 2013 savings goals.

First, as previously noted, I have maxed out our 2013 IRAs savings account, meaning that I have that money sitting in cash but ready to invest.  And depending on the market, I may invest sooner rather than later if the government shutdown continues to depress the market.

Second, I have taken a chunk of Mr. Sam's severance monies and put it into our trading account fund. Again, this money is simply sitting in cash, but the idea would be for Mr. Sam to invest these funds, even if not tax advantages, to make up for the fact that he was unable to max out his 2012 401k due to his layoff.

Third, I have caught up on our principal prepayment goal and I'm now back on track to complete the goal of paying down an extra $5,000 on our mortgage (on our primary home)

Accordingly, right now we are $600 ahead on our savings goals.  Whoo-hoo!!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013 Savings Goals - One Down

Today, I finished goal number two of our 2013 Savings Plan.  Goal # 2 was to fully fund our 2013 IRAs, and as of today I have $11,000 sitting in our CapitalOne360 (f/n/a ING) targeted savings account.  Since, Mr. Sam is employed we probably are safe in putting that money into our actual IRA accounts but I have not done so just yet.

Otherwise, we are about $100 from breaking the $50,000 mark on our 2013 Savings Plan progress.  And, we are $13,100 away from exceeding our 2012 savings total (which, due to Mr. Sam's layoff is kind of my current target).