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June 10th, 2008 — , , , ,
Next month our lease on our apartment will be renewed. I’m pretty sure it won’t go up all that much since we are pretty good tenants. None of the neighbors have complained about us, either. Just out of my interest to know whether or not our rent is fair, I found some for the past seven years. I was sort of surprised by what I found.
As I have stated previously, we pay $1700 for a two bedroom two bathroom condo. The rent includes water, garbage, and cable TV. According the the historic data from San Mateo County, our rent is actually cheaper than the average rent for a two bedroom apartment in 2000! Here is a summary of the rent trends on a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment as recorded by the county and a timeline of recent history:
12/2000 – $1902 – The year of the dotcom boom and craziness. I was in highschool.
12/2001 – $1764 – The dotcom bubble popped and 9/11 happened in this year.
12/2002 – $1597 – Recession
12/2003 – $1478 – War broke out
12/2004 – $1421 – Valley beginning to recover, the hubby moves to San Mateo
12/2005 – $1449 – I moved to San Mateo
12/2006 – $1621 – Tech sector in full recovery, new startups and lotsa hiring
12/2007 – $1785 – We got married, moved to our present condo.
3/2008 – $1812 – Latest data available, rent prices trending up as more people are renting due to the ridiculous purchase prices. Jobs are still abundant.
So after looking at this data, I feel that our rent is pretty fair. Actually, I used a CPI calculator and found that $1902 in 2000 is actually worth $2381 today. So we are really getting a bargain and rent prices don’t always follow inflation. It is a bit alarming how much the rent jumped from 2005 to 2007, but I think as more foreclosures and cheap homes come onto the market the rental market can’t rise all that much. From what I have seen, there are actually quite a lot of 2 bedroom listings on Craigslist for under $1700 a month.
So if you are facing a rent increase, I encourage you to look up the fair market rent in your locale and see if it’s fair. If it’s too expensive then don’t be afraid to negotiate because even a month’s vacancy is very costly to a landlord and could wipe out all the gains he/she gets from raising your rent. Additionally, look for a cheaper alternative early if you know you can’t afford the increase. Oftentimes, there are individual homeowners who have held a home for many years and do not want to sell. In those cases you can get a very good deal as a renter.
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June 9th, 2008 — , , , , ,
My husband loves kids. Recently his best man at our wedding had a baby girl and my husband loves to hold her and look at her adoringly. (I’m jealous!) He did this at church and a woman came up to me and said, “your husband is so cute! He is just fascinated by the baby! When are you having one?”
Obviously, the cheapest thing to do is to have no kids at all, but we both agreed that we would like to have at least one kid. Personally, I believe that having kids earlier in life saves money even though I have read advice that said people should wait to have kids. Here are my reasons as to why I think having kids sooner is financially beneficial to a couple.
buy cheap cialis online – When you are young or just starting out in your career your income is probably not at the peak. So when you have less money to spend, you will probably not spoil the kid as much as parents who have a lot of money. Additionally, if you have to give up some working days to take care of the kid, the amount you lose is small if you don’t earn all that much to begin with.
buy cheap cialis online – Expenses for food and education are increasing at a much higher rate than the base inflation and wage increases. For example, my college tuition doubled in the 4 years I attended, and food prices are rising at a very high clip lately. If we have a kid earlier, we would probably have to spend less on these things.
buy cheap cialis online – I have read a lot of stories about women who waited to have kids only to find that it is much harder to get pregnant. This results in fertility treatments that produce unwanted multiple births and other complications. It is also a lot easier for younger women to recover from pregnancy and child bearing so I rather get it over with while I am young. Fertility treatments are expensive, and so are unexpected multiple births.
buy cheap cialis online – This is related to physical health. While I am still pretty young I have the energy to take care of the kid and handle a job. From what I have seen, young parents seem to handle the sleepless nights a lot better. I think this abundance of energy we have when we are young is helpful in balancing a career and children. I think if you are less phased at work by your kids, then your potential for career advancement is better.
buy cheap cialis online – My mother in law pretty much retired early when she was a little bit over 45 and both of her children were done with college. She had them fairly early on and now she travels all over the world with her husband. Knowing that your children are already adults at a young age really brings peace of mind during retirement. Additionally, you no longer have to financially support them so your retirement expenses are lowered.
Anyway, most people decide to have kids later in life to save more money and advance their careers, but I think if you really want kids and you can safely afford having a kid then earlier is better. My husband doesn’t think I am ready to be a mom mentally, but one of my coworkers said to me, “No one is ever ready to be a parent!” I think that is really true, and I think we will be just fine if we have a kid within the next couple years.
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June 6th, 2008 — , , , , , ,
Today I read an article in BusinessWeek titled . Basically, it talked about how Senator Obama is proposing raising taxes for “rich” families with incomes of $250,000 or more, and how some families feel that they are just middle class with that kind of income.
As the article pointed out, it really depends on where you live since the cost of living varies wildly around the world. My husband and I don’t make anywhere near $250k a year, but we would be considered extremely well off if we lived in China. We may be upper middle class in a lower cost state like Texas since we could afford a house there and send our future kids to private school. However, in the Silicon Valley, there is no way anyone would considered us to be rich. Personally I feel that “rich” in the Valley is probably someone with assets in the hundred-million to billion range, and I am realistic enough to say that I probably will never be rich here.
I think a lot of the angst in the article comes from people who have good incomes that live in expensive areas of the country. The fact is, the tax system doesn’t adjust for cost of living. So even though people in high cost areas like the Bay Area are compensated well, our real capability in saving money is vastly diminished. It is tough to equalize this situation, and adding more taxes to high income families will probably just make it tougher for families with children who need that income.
Personally, one thing that really annoys me about all of this isn’t even about taxes. I feel that with every speech about raising taxes on the rich, the politicians are implying that there is something wrong with having good incomes. It is as if it is a sin for a family to make over $250,000 so that they need to be punished. Most people I know here in California who have good incomes are hard working and honest people who did nothing to deserve the ire of people who have less than them. They are professionals who contribute quite a bit to the society just through their work. Why is there a need to take away more from them?
One thing is for sure, taxes will go up after the Bush tax cuts expire in two years. I highly doubt that the tax cuts will stay with a Democratic majority in the government. The sting will be especially painful for dual income couples like us because the marriage penalty will probably go back in full force again and our tax rate will rise dramatically. It will probably cut into our savings rate, but we are socking away as much as we could now before that happens. Ultimately, I think the government should find more ways to cut spending rather than squeezing more out of married couples and the “rich”. I also don’t believe for a second that they will draw the line at $250k. So brace yourself for more taxes everyone!
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June 2nd, 2008 — , ,
Currently I work at a startup that does some brilliant technical things with software security. Honestly, I would not have thought of the idea the founders came up with in a million years. The funny thing is that no matter how powerful or brilliant of an anti-hacking software product we create, we can’t prevent the physical theft of machines from datacenters with it. It is basically impossible for our software to jump out and club a thief on the head. This means that companies still need to hire security guards at sensitive datacenters to prevent the physical attacks of information thieves. I think what is interesting is that the idea behind a physical security firm doesn’t take a PhD to understand, but these security firms are just as vital as my company in preventing data theft.
So what I have realized is that many thriving businesses are actually based on fairly simple ideas. As long as there is a need for a service or product, there is money to be made. The problem with simple ideas is that they are easy to copy so there might be a lot of competition, but with enough research and great execution they can still be very successful.
When it comes to execution of a simple business idea, technical ingenuinity and techniques could propel the business quite a bit. For example, many steps in a retail business can be automated, and having a good online store gives the business a huge competitive advantage. Great internet marketing also helps many small businesses make their presence known in the entire world. These technological advances make simple ideas easier to implement and become profitable.
Another great advantage to simple ideas is that the business could be very easy to duplicate and having a few simple businesses that run off the same infrastructure is easier than working on a complex business idea with a high barrier of entry. So even though there may be more competition, as long as the amount of available business is huge there shouldn’t be any problems to making a simple business profitable.
I am looking into starting a business or two that can be easily automated and generates recurring income. I have a couple ideas, and they may seem silly, but I think as long as I follow through and execute them well they can be quite profitable. Ultimately, I will need to be selling something that people want, and it is my job to create a product that helps people at a great price point. We will see if anything pans out and I will definitely announce my progress as I get to it.
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May 22nd, 2008 — , , , ,
My hubby writes very long blog posts that he works on for days. Today he finally published in which he colorfully described how I play a “diplomatic metagame” to make him lose at every board game we play with other people. It was quite a hilarious read for me because it reminded me of the glee I felt when people followed my advice to crush him. The only reason people listen to me is because I do point out some great strategies for them and I know my hubby is brilliant enough to handle himself. He didn’t make mention of an awesome strategy I employed when we played this weekend so I feel like I should write about it here. Basically, we were playing a game with a friend where each player had four blocks that acted like air hockey pucks. The goal of the game was to throw a virtual baseball and hit the blocks of your color into scoring zones. If you hit your opponents blocks on purpose they will gain 15 points and if your blocks slide out of bounds it disappears in a poof. So somehow I convinced our friend to team up with me to knock the hubby’s block out of bounds. We managed to knock 3 out of his 4 blocks out with our blocks. Finally, he had one block left that seemed to be out of the line of fire of all of our blocks. So I said, “hey I’m going to knock it out, get ready”. Then my hubby said, “yeah right I’d like to see you try!” So I aimed my Wiimote straight at his block and threw my virtual ball. His block went flying out of bounds and he gained 15 points, but he had no more turns left and lost. Our friend said, “wow, I didn’t expect that, but that was a smart move!” My hubby was quite annoyed of course as I rolled on the couch laughing.
Anyway, there are a few games where I can eviscerate him one on one, but he never plays those with me. So what does all of this have to do with money? Well, I think personal finance and managing your money is a very complex game. There are rules, goals, and strategies and everyone plays a variation of it. This is how I visualize it.
buy cheap cialis online- Another thing the hubby didn’t mention is that I could be a pretty good team player in cooperative games because my “vicious” energy to crush my opponents is now directed at the larger and more powerful system of the game. I think personal finance is the same thing. Everyday our own financial health is pit up against larger money systems which we cannot control on our own. For example, inflation and the stock market are things people want to “beat”, and we do it by creating and buying into mutual funds, or sharing information as to how to stretch our dollars. These are cooperative mechanics that are quite valuable. So when it comes to our money, I think the hubby and I are on the same side.
buy cheap cialis online – I have written before that if the goal of earning money is to just get more money then life is no longer fun. There need to be breaks from extreme savings and money management to you earn. Otherwise, the game would become a total grind and having millions of dollars would still seem meaningless.
buy cheap cialis online- When you get stuck in a game you can look up a solution online or see how others played it. The same is true in personal finance. You can read about how financial products work and how others used them.
buy cheap cialis online – As I mentioned in the beginning of this article. I knocked my hubby’s block out scoring him 15 points, but he was out of the game. That’s similar to knocking out debt. You may have to sacrifice a bit of luxury to completely pay off a lender, but after it’s done that adversary is completely out of your game.
buy cheap cialis online – Every good game involves a bit of luck. I don’t think everyone starts off on equal footing so some people do have to work harder than others, but it’s never hopeless. A good player of any game could overcome bad luck.
buy cheap cialis online- I think the end game is to get to a point where you don’t worry about money anymore. For some people this could be death, but I think you don’t have to necessarily be dead to get to a point where you have no more financial burdens. It is possible to generate enough passive income through investments and other ventures.
Ultimately, games are created to simulate many aspects of real life, and the topic of financial management is many times more complex than a single board game. I think the one thing that makes real life so hard is that the rules and missions aren’t so clearly stated and there is a constant metagame of figuring out what to do. Once you settle on a single mission, there is always a chance of finishing it. So, what do you think your end game is?