Monthly Archives: February 2010

MONEY!

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Hate talking about money? Me too! But instead of being clueless I decided to come face-to-face with something that I fear, saving!  Who would of thought in high school that the term 401K would be music to your ears?  Since many of us probably included a goal related to money in our new year’s resolutions, I thought I would float out some information that might be helpful – maybe. 

I’m not a financial advisor now, nor do I know much about investing. In fact, I’m terrible at it, and have rarely had access to a 401K from the employers I have worked for.  I have scrimped and saved here and there only to blow it.  Now that I am sort of getting older, (but still look fabulous), I start taking this saving thing seriously.  I have relied solely on advice from friends, employers, financial advisors, investment books and free articles on the Internet.  Most say, “diversify”.  How do you diversify if you have no money?   

If you are like me and freaking out, then pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get busy.  Social Security is bankrupt, the US may be bankrupt soon, and I don’t think our exports are going to out perform Asia any time soon no matter how bad Toyota is performing right now.  But alas, we are not doomed. There’s lots we can do to try and secure our future savings.

First, since I do not have a 401K (the ability to save like crazy tax free and earn free money from your employer’s match) I started a Roth IRA.   I contribute after-tax money every month.  Even a small amount adds up.  I do this with an online account for free.  And I am taking advantage of time and embarking on investing in overseas companies (except Toyota)!

Second, because of sky rocketing (I mean into another atmosphere) cost of health insurance, I got a high deductible health plan with a Health Savings Account.  I had to research it, but several banks have separate Health Savings Accounts, like “HSA Bank” or “Bank of America”.  The account is similar to an IRA.  You can deposit or rollover up to $3,000 a year into this tax free savings vehicle.  You are not taxed on the deposits.  The bank will send you a credit card just for your health care expenses.  You can even use it on therapeutic massages, medications, dental, homeopathic remedies and vitamins, as long as it is within your defined plan.  If you have out-of-pocket expenses for medical, you can repay yourself from your HSA.  Or, you can be healthy, not spend the money and leave it in there to earn interest.  Just be sure to watch the bank fee, which is usually a monthly maintenance fee.  Maybe you are lucky and your employer offers this as well, if so, take advantage of it.

Third, I rolled over an old 401K I had into a free, no-load mutual fund with Vanguard.  http://www.vanguard.com/.  They have lots of mutual funds from low to high risk.  It is a traditional IRA, so right now I am not making contributions to it since I would end up taxed twice, once before deposit my earnings, and twice when I withdraw the money at retirement.  I have put it in a stock index fund that has grown over the years (except when Bush was President).  If I roll it over to a Roth IRA, I will have to pay taxes on it, so I might consider eventually rolling it over to a Roth little by little so all of my taxes are paid on it before I retire.  Definitely get advise on this before you proceed – yikes!

Fourth, if you have a 401K, figure out how much you need to live on, and try and put the maximum into your 401K, even if your employer doesn’t contribute.  You are not taxed on the money that goes into your 401K, therefore, you are paying less tax on your gross receipts, saving, and potentially getting free money from your employer.  Wow.  I know, you can’t afford it, BS, give up the lattes, cigarrettes, buying three pairs of shoes every month, 500 channels on satellite (what’s wrong with 120?) and lunch out every day, yeah you know who you are?

Fifth, I have a small savings account connected to my checking account.  I try to keep a month’s salary in there, but that is hard.  It never fails that you have taxes to pay, emergencies, car repairs – ugghh, or you just have to have that  . . . . . . .  If you are tapping into emergency savings for things you “want” as opposed to things you “need” then you should re-think it by 48 hours.  You will find that you can live without it for a little while.  I also have that savings connected to my checking in case I get overdrawn.  There are lots of fees related to overdraws now that the banks are suffering financially.  Don’t give them any reason to charge you extra.

Sixth, get down to one credit card.  I have no annual fee and my interest is fairly low.  I do not get points or awards because those are the cards that have a $25 to $75 annual fee.  Since I do not spend that much money every month to earn points, it is not worth it.  So reevaluate whether all those costs for a credit card with points is worth it.

Seventh, budget.  I have tried this over and over, and hope to get it eventually.  But if you are willing to attempt it, Microsoft Excel has a great template that will set you up and show you immediately whether you are in the red or not.  I am going to utilize Mint from Intuit for free. If you file with TurboTax, it will give you the option to download Mint for free as well.  You can also link to it on your “MyYahoo” page and see your budget every day.

Eighth, stash some cash away here and there for something just for you, like vacation.  Somewhere that you do not look or think about every day.  A shoe you never wear, a bra (like my cuz Debbie), or a sock with holes in it.  (I wouldn’t stash it in your car, bad idea).   That’s your play money.  Maybe gamble with it, go on a vacation, buy something frivilous, or get some plastic surgery with it.  I said “frivilous.”

Last, I wanted to share an article from a blog I like to read “Get Rich Slowly.”  Lots of good articles and thought provoking posts.  http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/03/03/the-problem-with-prognostication-why-you-shouldnt-invest-based-on-expert-predictions/

GOOD LUCK AND WISH ME LUCK!

C

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Talking to the Dead at a Seance

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February 1, 2010 was a misty, cold and black night as we drove eastbound farther away from the lights of Dallas to a small rural community.  With no street lights, we headed down a farm road bordered by barbed wire fences.  We barely saw it, but managed to spot the dirt road we were instructed to take.  At the end of the dirt road was a small light in the distance, it was attached to a lone house on a ranch. As we turned into the gate, we noticed lots of cars parked around a circle driveway, but didn’t see any people.  At the front door, we were greeted by a small blonde woman who was to be our guide for the evening.  In a small 11 x 11 living room were two couches filled wtih people, as well as miscellaneous chairs around the room, half filled already.  I immediately spotted our friends we were meeting.  We did our greetings and took our places into the spirit circle. 

We arrived right on time and had no interaction with the guide before the seance started. Everyone briefly introduced themselves and gave one reason for being there.  Most were just curious, some seeking a message from a loved one now in spirit, others looking for their spirit guide.  All in all, it would have been hard for the guide to know what each and every one of us wanted specifically.  The guide  turned out all the lights, which then made it hard for her to see us, our facial expressions or our body movements.

Being me, (as my boyfriend describes it “me, with the world revolving around me”) I was worried objects would start flying around inside the house as she stood in the middle of the circle and began to summon spirits from the “other side.”  She ran the gambit, asking for Indians, mother earth, Jesus, Greek gods, to the plants out in the backyard.  I envisioned mad vegetables and rabbits with big fangs coming in for the kill.  As she circled around the room she called out to one of the ladies on a couch and said there was a big Indian standing behind her and asked if she was native American.  She responded yes in a very apprehensive voice.  By this point, I couldn’t open my eyes for fear there would be a big Indian Chief holding a hatchet!  But as the guide continued talking she moved on to the lady next to her, telling her that her deceased son was coming in with some other people and were laughing it up.  The dead would show her objects and call out names and from that, she was able to connect the dead with the appropriate people in the room. The guide claimed at one point there were so many spirits in the room with us that it was hard for them to get through her, as she could only speak for one at a time. 

She moved around the room the best she could standing mostly in the middle.  When she sat down, she would lose her connections, and stand back up to pick up voices again.  hmmmmm.  At first, I felt like she really was channeling, but then she got kind of bizzare with her guesses telling a woman in the room that she used to be a dinasour in another life, the pretty kind, but got eaten by the mean kind.  Yikes!  Finally, she kept asking if someone owned a little store, a general store, or small store of some sort.  No one responded.  She kept saying it over and over, and said it was directed at someone on her left, which is where I was.  I responded that maybe my great grandfather owned a small store.  I didn’t tell it was a candy store that burned down, probably for insurance money or by the mafia.  But she dropped it and moved on anyway.

She then was speaking a lot to the family to my left.  She was really trying to connect with them, saying there were spirits trying to reach out to them.  The guide was being shown a chess piece, so was asking the woman next to me if a family member was named Chester or if a family member played chess.  She said no.  The guide asked again, she said they are holding up one single chess piece.  It was directed to someone on her left.  I finally spoke up again and told her that my father was a chess player.  The guide asked about the chess piece.  I told her that when we buried my father, I threw a single chess piece into the grave on top of the coffin.  She said that my father was saying hi and he wanted me to know he was watching me.  Was I reaching or was she really connecting with my dad?

Then the guide stated that he was asking about a Dolores.  Did I have anyone in my family named Dolores.  The answer is yes, it is his cousin, who, from all accounts, was a sister to him, someone I keep up with.  I couldn’t believe it, that was fairly specific.  I wanted to believe it, but was still unsure.  That was until the guide asked me if there was a monkey in our family.  What???  She asked me again saying that my dad was showing her a monkey.  Well, immediately my nephews popped into my head because I call them my “monkeys” . . . they are his grandchildren.

I’m still not sure what to believe.  She tried connecting with others in the room including my boyfriend.  She apparently saw a General of some sort standing behind him, but he has never had military men in his life.  Maybe the general was lost and snuck into the party.  The two gay guys on the couch got visits from their grandmothers, bible thumping parents, and a poodle.  

When we got home my boyfriend immediately clued me in to what is referred to as “cold reading.”  Something I had never heard of.  I just thought people like Cleo, the psychic that got in a lot of trouble, were good at guessing.  What I learned is there is a skill involved in cold reading.  Those that are practiced at it can be very convincing.  They stab at something in the dark and once they make a hit they take hold and run with it.  I didn’t give her much to go on, so I’m not sure whether she was really channeling or guessing and I reached out and grabbed.  I had to believe she was channelling because how many people have monkeys and chess pieces floating around?

What do you think??

C