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college and debt

April 26th, 2019 at 04:54 pm

So yesterday as I waited for my DK2 girl scout troop meeting a couple of moms were congregating and talking. One was from Ireland, one from UK, and one went to US college but like me 20+ years ago and went to public local university.

So the foreign moms asked us why is it so expensive to go to college in the states? Why is it so hard to get a job? And why in the states is it constantly being pushed to get another degree after the 4 year degree? The Irish mom said her sitter was complaining about graduating with a degree in psychology and said she couldn't find a job.

The other mom said she wasn't sure why it was so hard to find a job. But wasn't any job a minimum wage good enough? The Irish and British mom said it's crazy (in the USA) to go to college and come out working fast food or retail instead of going straight in and working their way up.

I said here's the truth, it's a class thing. Perhaps I'm wrong but in the US the only people who can be picky and not have a job after graduating are people who have parents wealthy enough to afford to support them. It was true 20 years ago and it's true now.

If you come from a family like my DH and I where your parents didn't help you, working a minimum wage job and hunting like crazy before college ended. My friends at least either had a job before college ended or moved home into their parents basement until they found a job. I did not have a single friend who lived in an apartment and got checks handed to them to live until they found a job.
My DH was the same way. Most of his friends had jobs entry level as well of some sort before college ended.

I recall my college roommate saying I'm looking for a job close to my dad so I can move back in and save more and pay off my debt from college. It also was that her mom had just died from breast cancer and her dad was reeling and her brother was jr in college and wanted to support them both. Another friend did the same because his mom was widowed as well and needed help with their rentals.

Actually none of my friends in college had freebie handsout. But as I got older and well more affluent, I noticed a lot of parents talk about their kids having trouble finding jobs and need to take the summer off and then supporting them.

I found it interesting. I think it does support the idea you need "higher" education to get a job, but honestly how many people really want the entry level jobs?

I asked the Irish mom did her sitter apply for every single job out there and be willing to take anything? Work in a public hospital? Work non-profit? Government? Something low paying but entry level to get her work experience and foot in the door? Or was she being picky?

It leads one to conclude that yes we do have a problem in the US with many people going to school and having an expectation that they will immediately land their dream job without any problems. And then expecting to go on for more schooling to get a "better" job rather than asking how will going to school really help them?

I guess with all this publicity about college loans and debt I do feel bad. I met a dentist with $550k school loans from just dental school. His parents paid for undergraduate but that means he took out $137.5k out every year for 4 years! Was it really all tuition? Okay so he couldn't work. But was tuition $100k? And he had to live on $40K? Why didn't he live on less? He admitted to me that if he had been smarter he'd have gone into the military to get 4 years paid for and had a job after for 4 years to boot, gaining experience, then 4 years later he'd have had $550k loans paid and money saved!

But the reality is that lots of people don't think about it. He admitted he probably didn't need to take out $120k/year. But it's super easy to get caught up in the lifestyle

So I wonder even in undergraduate, how many people borrow more than tuition, don't work, and then realize OMG I didn't get a job paying $100k?

I look at college costs and keep thinking, I really need to have a serious conversation with my kids. I'm going to offer to help buy them a if they can save me money on tuition. What I would have spent on tuition i'll give them. And I'll try to hope they decide to start saving at 22 if not earlier.

debating what to do

April 19th, 2019 at 05:56 pm

The good, the bad, the ugly was about my parents. I'm just pondering what to do. You can't take away people's independence. I'd like to work with my parents and get them involved in their finances a bit more. I'd like to not be handed a mess and have to work through it. I'd like for them to trust me and not feel guilty that we are "investing" wisely for the future.

But at the same time I want to slam my hand on the table and scream why didn't you come to me earlier? Why didn't you tell me that you thought someone was mismanaging your money? Why did you raise me to be independent and smart and tell me all the "right" things to do but then not do it yourself? Why were you embarrassed? Why didn't you let me help you earlier?

Some of it is water under the bridge. There is nothing I can do. If money was lost (and it was) well there is nothing we can do. We might be able to do an audit but I'm not sure what else. I'm also not sure we can recoup anything.

But I can prevent this from happening again. My parents are so old school. My mom acts like having money and talking about it is taboo and huge deal. That telling me anything is a HUGE slight. That she shouldn't need help and until absolutely necessary.

But why? Why when it is the end of the line should people be expected to help? Why expect me to clean up the mess when we're in so deep instead of trying to start now?

I was going home to relax in August with the kids. But now its' really weighing on me. Weighing on me a lot. I'm worried. I need to talk them seriously and my mom said they are willing to sign off on a power of attorney and discuss their wills and trust. I had trouble sleeping when she was here thinking about the fact the SEC fined, banned their previously planner who was fired by merrill lynch. I always thought the gullible ones were like my grandma. I realize now even my parents a bit trusting and gullible.

But I can't take over completely they'd never forgive. I can't take away their self-respect and independence so I have to work with their planner and just keep a firm hand and sharp eye on everything. More work than doing it myself.

I am still a bit bitter. Bitter that my parents are still upset over talking with me, but worried enough to spill the beans because I think my mom knows something went wrong and she doesn't know how to fix it.

A few months ago she tried to take pictures of her papers and send to me but I said I couldn't read it. So i brushed it off. I said later. I didn't want to worry about it. Come to find out I should have. And now I feel guilty. So guilty.

Anyway my DH says there is nothing I can do. I need to stop thinking about it and just go home and deal with everything.

He's also not been honest with me about his parents. His parents are better with money but at the same time there is so many unknowns. I think my DH is going to work forever because I think he worries about our parents and if we need to give them money. Not because they didn't try but because they do something dumb.

I guess it's a good thing we're savers and can afford to help them. They always preached save, no debt, live below your means. Sigh. Now if they had taught us more investing in RE and everything else.

Amazon Prime update

March 25th, 2019 at 08:55 am

So it's been almost 2 months since we ended amazon prime. It finished end of January 2019. Have I missed it? Not one bit. I've ordered 1x from there Natori Bra $70 (that's another topic OMG) and hands free blue tooth. Free shipping over $35.

But otherwise have I or my DH bought anything? Nope. Makes for saving money. Yes we buy stuff. We got to the store.

Like today I need toilet paper and paper towels and groceries. We bought stuff for science project for kids.

But I suspected we didn't shop much and we don't watch TV, so I guessed we didn't need prime. I was right. We haven't missed it a bit.

Shocking. But it confirms what I suspected too. That a lot of "frugal" finance people probably don't shop a ton online or in the stores. You buy things with regularity and purpose. Very little is wanted and you buy a lot of needs.

At least that's my take. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm losing money but I'm pretty sure I'm not spending by not buying and I'm coming out ahead of those who shop a lot online. Of course I'm not sure if that's because I don't shop versus shop poorly.

$4500 tax refund

March 24th, 2019 at 11:17 pm

It's been a long time since we got a tax refund. It's a bit surreal. Anyway we got back $4500. I know it was an interest free loan to uncle sam but I thought we were going to be owing so it was surprised.

Now what to do with the money? I don't have a clue. Guess just pay our bills.

I know doing taxes a lot of people were surprised both ways. Some were shocked by how much they owed. Mostly because the IRS changed the withholding tables. So people who didn't change anything owe a lot unexpectedly. Then there were those expecting to owe and getting larger than expected refunds. People who normally owe so they kept on paying.

I think all these new tax laws changes shocked people.

poor and stuck

February 10th, 2019 at 06:51 pm

So for about 3 months DH and I lived in a ghetto. I hate to use that word but I don't know how else to describe it. I found a rental online and had no idea about a new city. It was cheap and month to month, close to my work, took dogs, and we didn't have many choices. We hoped it would be short term and it was. It was pretty much our first and only time living in a city. Previously and since we never have and have made a conscious decision to live in suburbia and further out because we hate city living. I can't sleep, the noise, the closeness of people, I don't care to walk everywhere. It's not us. And while I grew up lower middle class it was more rural/small town. Never had I lived in a city like this.

But back then we were young and crazy. So we moved into a neighborhood we certainly stood out. The people were very nice. Our neighbors talked to us, more than one actually warned me to stop walking my cute white dog (bichon frise) alone even during the day. She said "you're that girl with the white dog. Everyone is talking about you. You should be over in that other neighborhood where you would fit in." This was probably true.

So I stopped walking the dog. One day across the street from us a dog was impaled on the spokes of the fence. Another time there was the home invasion, probably looking for drugs according to the landlord. It was not a safe place.

But what did I learn? Buses don't stop in poor neighborhoods. You have to jump out in front of them and wave but they just keep going. You stand under the sign and they aren't full but they keep going. There aren't many bus routes and they don't seem to run late, unlike richer/nicer neighborhoods. A lot of people are always waiting for the next bus that never shows up because it's breaking down. Funny how it's the buses to the poorer area that seem to break down more. There are less train/subway lines as well.

The gas station had a cashier behind bars and you had to prepay cash for gas. The gas was also ridiculously over priced at this small gas station versus going down the road to even the big 76 or chevron or shell in another town.

The local grocery store was still about a mile away from where we lived. The food was disgusting. It was like all the going to spoil meat, fruit, veggies from every other neighborhood had been sent there as a last stop before being thrown out. The store itself was also more run down and not as clean. It was constantly packed even though the food was more expensive than driving 15 minutes to another nicer neighborhood same chain store.

DH and I made an effort to only shop at costco 40 minutes away and grocery stores in the neighborhoods we were looking for a townhouse 20 minutes. We noticed a huge difference. But I mean realistically I wonder how many of our neighbors could afford to drive outside the neighborhood and get better food for less money? At the same time if they did they could fill up for less money since gas was about 30 cent more per gallon.

Because of this we definitely rushed a bit picking our next place than we might have. But it also 10 years later affected how we shopped for apartments. Instead of me picking a place again online, we drove into the city and rented a hotel room for 1 week. We drove around and saw all the places first. This time we decided we weren't going to take the same risk of picking a place we didn't like.

But this short experience made me realize that many people don't have the same opportunities. That people in a lot of these situations are stuck. The only thing they know are being poor. I can see an EF being helpful. But there are also these roadblocks that make it really difficult to get ahead. How do you know that driving means you can get cheaper gas and better food? That it might be cheaper to live further out in a nice neighborhood with better schools? But how to do you afford the car that won't break down and gas to get to your job? How do you know to get job in suburbia that is similar to what they have now.

But how do you change the system?

staying in poverty

February 8th, 2019 at 05:49 pm

So I have to further explain to CCF how hard it is to get out of poverty. It really is when people are always telling you no and not helping you.

So my grandfather wanted to be a engineer. His dad said no way. No money and go get a job to help support the family. Lucky for him he was born number 9 out of 13 kids. He got to finish high school. His older brother finished 6th grade and got jobs for money to help support the family. This is why I always give a $1 to every salvation army bell ringer I see. I make my kids because my grandpa always did. He got their Holiday Baskets growing up. Wearing rice bags sucked since they couldn't afford clothes, good thing hawaii was warm.

Anyway he had dreams, but the dreams were beaten down by his family who said why bother with education? Go work. You don't need to study. Make money. The example was to drink and gamble. So it wasn't exactly encouraging. So he gambled and worked and had 4 kids. Lucky for them the Ob/Gyn said Mrs C you can't afford more kids lets sterilize you. THANK GOD or my mom would have been really poor. Yeah I don't think Dr are supposed to do that and now they would be sued.

But my grandparents were fun, young, caring parents. When he went on a gambling winning streak there was money and food. That's when you pay rent, shoes, clothes, and food. They didn't have a checking account until the 1970s when all their kids had checking/savings accounts and my uncle helped them.

My uncle at age 14 went to work and started paying the bills. He took each younger sister and taught her how a checking account work. How to pay using checks, how to be frugal. He said it was something he heard about from others not within our family. The rest of the family well they weren't exactly model citizens on my grandpa's side and my grandma's side was just poor.

Her father passed shortly after she left home and left a single mother with 6 kids at home. My great grandmother needed all the kids at home to work and help her financially as she cleaned homes, museum, and took in laundry and sewing and her mom lived with her. My aunts aunts on that side also learned after leaving home from their husbands. They lived in the country so they had very little and no way to help.

So it's not like people sit there and teach you how to budget. They also don't encourage you to save money. I guess they knew but there was never enough money.

Like I said I always feel bad my mom went into debt for us to go to Disneyland. But she said she never regretted it. We took out a personal loan from the bank. I mean when she got divorced from my dad she cut up all her CC and never charged what we couldn't afford. But what we could afford was meager. The real problem was we had a hard time saving. But things got better.

But by the same token my DH came from middle class. His parents both worked but they had no idea how to navigate this country when they arrived. They worked stereotypical immigrant jobs like delivering chinese food/driving a cab, bakery/dry cleaner. Again they had no idea how to manage money but DH's uncle, the one who died, he came first and fortunately smart guy sent money home to the rest of the family and helped each of his siblings come over and figure out how money worked. DH's dad grew up in a shelter and went to boarding school because they were smart and couldn't afford to live otherwise. So it was really hard to get ahead without the one person who quickly learned how to survive. His uncle always said it was luck.

So I think we need more education programs to help people learn about having more. Otherwise all they hear is they can't do anything. They can't figure out without help how to get out of their situation. But nowadays it just seems harder than ever. Wages have stagnated. No more pensions. Instead you have to save for yourself. A lot of these low-middle income people could retire because you didn't have to save or know how to save or invest (like my mom). Instead you work 30 years and there is your retirement! Presto!

I know it's not feasible but I think pensions help lower income people by far more than higher income people who usually know how to manage.

Have you seen people able to get out of lower income levels? Have you done it? If you have, how did they do it?

reflecting back

February 7th, 2019 at 06:26 pm

I've been reflecting back lately on a lot of people talking about the government shutdown and how people are paycheck to paycheck. I do feel bad. Yes I understand they should have planned better. They should have not been living paycheck to paycheck. Hopefully they learned their lesson. Doubtful but maybe.

Doing taxes I see a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck and just trying to make the rent. They take out an advance against their tax refund to make ends meet. I want to shake them. I want them to make better decisions.

Truthfully I feel awful for those working poor. I don't know how you get ahead. It's so hard when you barely make enough that you can't repair the car. You can't buy the bulk packaging because you don't have the cash.

That was me. I grew up definitely like that. Looking back I didn't know any better till I got older, and I'm sure my mom and grandma knew better but we just didn't have the money to do it.

We had food stamps so we bought what we could with them. Stuff that wasn't food stamps we only bought when on sale and what was on sale. We couldn't buy the biggest size for the cheapest price because sometimes we didn't have the cash for it. And I remember the days of waiting for the food stamps to come and it was a great day to go shopping. It used to be this little coupon book that you tore out and you had to be really careful on what you bought. But when we got it we almost always bought steak for a steak dinner. End of the month and no food stamps? Lots of rice and tofu and poi. Of course sometimes we killed the chickens or my grandfather went hunting and we had wild pig.

So I get it. Saving $1000 was a huge deal. I remember my grandfather would often trade work for repairing the car with friends. He'd help doing a home repair or something and he'd get free mechanical work. And the cars we had sucked big time. They were constantly needing work but that was the real problem with cheap second hand cars. We even had second hand tires.

So people think it's easy to tell those living paycheck to paycheck to save. It's really not. One stupid car repair, one medical bill and you are wiped out. It's impossible to get ahead. You can't even buy clothes on clearance because you don't have money. Goodwill and hand me downs are the way to go. I had a lot of hand me downs from my boy cousins. I wore a lot of blue and green until age 5.

When I compare myself to now I realize boy have I changed a lot. I have gotten extremely priviledged and i'm a little shocked. Shocked by quick the turn around happened. I admit I'm nervous too. My kids have no idea. They were born to us when we had lots of money comparatively.

I guess that's why I feel bad when people talk about living on a budget and saving. I know how hard it is. I guess like is more like the conners/roseanne than people admit. And it's a lot less easier to climb the socio-economic ladder than people think or imagine.

I can tell you talking with my mom. When you don't know any better like how to maintain a house, maintain a car, what is a stock/bond/cd, how to balance a check book, what is a savings account, that even that "middle" class lifestyle is beyond what you can imagine or try to do.

Did you experience the same thing? Have you changed your circumstances so drastically?

It's girl scout cookie time

February 4th, 2019 at 05:29 pm

It's girl scout cookie time. Funny how fast it goes by time. My kiddos want the prize at 400 boxes each, an inflatable chair. I said they have to work hard. Sell cookies presales and do a lot of booths. Right now we are at 275 each but it's way not enough. I'm curious if we can make it.

As to the trouble in my troop? One kid I said can't come without supervision. Her mom decided to pull her. The second one is on a tight leash. If she gets a call for misbehaving she's also gone. One parent is because she's too busy. Other parent because it's a privilege for extracurricular. Third parent is going to try and stay but unsure how things will play out.

I'm hoping that next year I have a smaller troop with less drama. I'm really annoyed that people see it as free babysitting. I'm really annoyed that so many moms also are not putting any effort into participating. I am unsure how to change it next year. Ideally I'd like to kick out some of these parents who are not participating. But I'm unsure how to frame it nicely.

So many are such good sports. And these couple of rotten apples? Well it's made this year not pleasant to be leading the troop. It was so much more pleasant last year.

Financial Fitness

January 29th, 2019 at 03:30 pm

People ask me all the time how to save more money. I say at work, while doing taxes, stop spending it on crap. That's me being blunt. The other part I say is just put it on 10% and save it before it hits your account and you won't see it. Again nothing fancy.

But honestly a bigger problem? A lot of people have trouble saving money because they have a lot of bills. What sort of bills?

A really expensive mortgage. Instead of 33% PITI it's 50% PITI. It's hard to get ahead when have your income is gone. Or other people are spending $1k/month or more on a car payment. Or 2 car payments. Having bought a $28k minivan and $26k subaru legacy with 3 year payments of $500, I can see how if you drive a $50k/car you are paying $1k/month for 5 years! Um wow. And that's one car. again it's hard to get ahead and save if you are paying say $3k mortgage, $1500 on cars. Then private school or after school care for another $1-2k/month.

Then suddenly all your income is already mostly spent before you even start paying for things like cell phones $100/month, internet $100/month, gas for cars, groceries, etc.

The real problem is that even watching these other categories which are flexible and can be minimized if you don't have enough money after paying all your set bills you can't save. You can't build an EF. Of course not. I mean who would? No one.

So when I see clients making $20k/month gross but then struggling and telling me so. I can easily guess it's the house, car, or private school/college.

So my tip is curb the spending to 50% needs, 20% saving, and 30% wants. If you do this you'll be fine.

What's your number one financial advice?

my troop update

January 16th, 2019 at 10:45 am

I managed to talk to my troop program manager a woman who works for girl scouts. She had to talk with her supervisor. She said that I am to tell the mother she can no longer drop off her child. She must stay. I must ask her to take the child if she can't stay or another friend or family member can stay with the girl.

As much as she needs this there are other liability issues and things that have to be also considered including the safety of the other children. I have to write an email and ask if she understands since she still hasn't responded since Friday.

All the parents I emailed haven't responded. However I have to follow up and see they understand. But in this case the mom can't just drop and run to therapy or any other business. It's not so simple. While she needs help and support unfortunately we can help to the best of our ability.

This has been a wild ride this year.

collections agent

January 15th, 2019 at 03:02 pm

So I got a call from a collections agent. I'm not sure what to do. I refused to pay a $200 bill to frontier because I returned a set-top box and cancelled cable. They said it never returned. However whenever they use the prepaid mailing envelope and search for it they find it. So this has been going on since July 2018. I refused to pay and keep on writing down who I talked to.

Anyway now they turned it over to a collections agency. I'm debating if I should even bother talking to them? Frontier are obviously jerks and terrible customer service. I am not paying for something I don't owe.

I wonder what they can do?