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Thursday, June 9, 2016

The best paydays are the ones you don't work for

I love payday.

Where do I work, you ask? I work in the kitchen a lot. The laundry room. Bathroom. I'm what I like to call a "domestic engineer".

Yeah. I'm a stay at home mom.

I still have paydays though. I have paydays even when the kids are crazy and I get nothing cleaned, when I burn dinner, and when my kids are working my last nerve. I'd still get paid if I ran away to Mexico or were thrown in jail for smacking the brat who pushed my kid off the slide on the playground. (I wouldn't, but sometimes I'd really like to. You know you've had similar fantasies, don't side-eye me like that.)



I love dividends. I love the idea that I select a few companies with a strong business model, figure out a fair price for it, see it hit that price, buy it, and let the cash flow in. I started small. I bought 1 share of Johnson & Johnson on August 13, 2012. I didn't know much about investing. I was reading everything I could get my hands on, but still nervous to pull the trigger. Johnson & Johnson, from what I had read, was about the safest stock you could buy (which is still true). But still....SCARY STOCK MARKET. So I just bought the one share (which, by the way, I highly advise against doing on a regular basis. My brokerage charges me $10 per transaction, so I wait until I have at least $500-1000 to buy. Otherwise fees will eat a lot of your money. More on that further down.) On September 11, 2012, I was paid my first dividend of 61 cents. Hmm, I thought. That's pretty cool. It's only a few cents, but they're paying me to park my money here. What if I got a bunch more of those shares? One could, if disciplined, acquire enough of them to just live off the money they pay me every quarter. That's when it clicked for me: this is how wealthy people get wealthier. This is how people don't have to work. Instead of working and spending, they work and save and put that savings to work for them.

Now, I own a lot more shares of Johnson and Johnson, along with other companies. Enough to pay a car payment every quarter with dividends, if I wanted. But I don't. No sir, I keep that money in there working it's little hiney off for me, Monday through Friday excluding federal holidays. And those fees I mentioned earlier? Once you buy shares of a company that pays a dividend, your broker will give you an option to "reinvest dividends". Stay with me. By selecting that option, I authorize my brokerage to buy more shares of Johnson & Johnson with the money they pay me, every time they pay me. There's no commission fee. Every quarter I get more shares (or parts of shares) of Johnson & Johnson, and I'm buying them with money they gave me. Then, the next quarter, when dividends are paid, they're going to pay me dividends not only on the shares I bought, but on the shares they bought for me. On top of that, Johnson & Johnson has raised their dividend by about 6% a year for 53 years. Through every recession, war, and political uncertainty, here's JNJ, still handing out money. Probably a better and more reliable raise than you get at your job.

Do you see how beautiful this is?

Say I never bought any more shares. Say I bought that $67 share of Johnson & Johnson, opted to reinvest the dividends, and never looked at the stock market again for 30 years. How much do you think that one $67 share is worth? Did you guess $1,038.59? You're right. Now, imagine if you bought a share every month for 30 years. You've got well over $100k.

This is why I have a money hoarding problem. If I spend $67 because I went to Target for milk (going into Target for one thing is always a bad idea), that's a grand that I just tossed in the garbage for my future self. It's a big deal, guys.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Poem About Flu Season

My kids have acquired the dreaded, awful, horrible stomach/head/throat/chest 7-10 day flu. Watching your kids suffer is the worst, but by about day 8 I just want to peel them off me and run away. They're coughing, sneezing, mouth-breathing, and snoring in my face and all I can think about is how bad it's gonna suck if I catch it and they feel better. Taking care of little kids when you feel close to death is hell. The blessing is that my husband isn't sick, because as we all know, ill grown men are far more annoying than ill children.

Anyway, I wrote you all a poem. Enjoy.

Barf on the tile, barf on the carpet,
Go brush your teeth, your mouth smells like an armpit.
Barf on the chair, barf on the couch, 
Oh god, did you fart? That was right in my mouth.
Vicks on the chest, Vicks in the air,
I gave you a tissue, why's there snot in my hair?
Puke in the table, drool in my bed,
I'm ignoring the voice screaming "Run away" in my head.
But you're still so cute, I just want to love you,
Even though I can see the green haze of funk right above you.
Mommy must set you down, this house is a sty,
If I catch this and leave you with Daddy, you'll die.
Clinging to my leg, I can't even shower,
Mommy's been holding her pee for 6 hours.
Laundry piled up, tissues in the sof—wait, what is this? It looks this shit? It is shit! Who shit on the sofa?? Well, why didn't you tell me you had an acciden—you know what? I'm done here. Go get your dad, Mommy's gotta crack open some wine and lay down. No, get away. I love you. Hope you feel better. No, really. Don't follow me. Go get your dad.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why I'm an atheist raising my son as a Christian

(Disclaimer: When I began LadyBits, I planned to keep it a lighthearted, politic- and religion-free zone. However, after this experience with my son, I had a personal and parental epiphany. So, since this is my web page and I did vow to be honest, here it is. I know my amazing LadyBits readers will respect it, even if they disagree with my beliefs.)

"Mommy, do you pray?"

The question came from nowhere. My 5 year old was in the backseat and we were headed to Grandpa's house. Since I had never mentioned much about God, praying, or religion at all to him, I was speechless for a moment.

"Sometimes. Do you?"
"Yeah," he replied. "To God. I like talking to Him."

I left it at that, making a mental note to revisit the subject later, when my husband wasn't blaring his music and my 22 month old wasn't shrieking the SpongeBob Square Pants theme song on repeat. As it turned out, a good friend of the family had been talking to my son about God and teaching him how to pray. At first I was slightly annoyed; one of the many things I hate about religion is the tendency for it's followers to force it upon others, especially when we're referring to my very young and impressionable child without my permission. However, the friend loves my son dearly and I know she meant no harm, so when I sat down with Spencer later to discuss it, I vowed to keep an open mind.

I was raised in a non-denominational church. My entire family is Christian, most of them more devout than average. My parents are both believers.  I was sent to bible camp for summer and winter breaks, and I was baptized at age 9. Today I am, much to my family's chagrin, not a Christian. I'm not one of those people who doesn't go to church because it takes too much time or effort, or a person who doesn't bother with details but calls themselves a Christian because they're afraid of hell if they don't; on the contrary, I find the bible and the history of Christianity fascinating. I just don't buy it. I read books and articles, I've read the bible from end to end, I watch documentaries. Christianity, in my mind, is the original Big Business, designed to unite the Roman Empire, exploited today to get votes, and reinterpreted over the centuries to gain more followers and keep those tithes rolling in. The whole brainwash from birth, scare them with hell, judge and condemn thy neighbor deal is highly off-putting to me, and I don't believe any kind of loving deity would appreciate the endless acts of cruelty done in His name throughout history. There are countless other reasons why I believe the bible is fundamentally flawed and choose not to participate in any type of religion, but I'm not here to defend my beliefs. These are my personal opinions, formed with information I've researched, my own logic and common sense, and they are views that I've chosen not to share with my small children until they're old enough to understand the concepts involved. Even when that day comes, I'll share my personal beliefs only if they ask me. I strive to allow my kids to think for themselves, rather than accepting another person's perspective as fact.

But, those feelings about organized religion aside, I wasn't lying to my child when I told him I pray; I do from time to time. Maybe it's more meditation, I don't know. I'm probably more agnostic than atheist; I believe there could possibly be some supreme being out there. I just don't believe, if there is one, that he or she wrote the bible or condones the ridiculousness taught by Jaguar-driving ministers in the mega-churches that dot our bible-belt city. "So why," I thought to myself before my discussion with my son, "do I bother to pray?" I had to answer this question myself before I talked to my son.

I thought about what I want for my children. I want them to be safe. I want them to be happy. I want them to be kind to themselves and to others. I want them to know right from wrong. I want them to feel loved and secure, always. I don't think you need religion to have those things. But I do recognize that some people can find those things in religion, especially when they are having trouble finding it elsewhere.

So, I talked with my 5 year old. I asked him questions about what he thought about God and heaven and angels, without giving him any of my own thoughts. He had told me a couple days earlier that he was having a bad dream that wouldn't go away. Now, as we were sitting on the couch having our talk about God, he said, "I asked Jesus to take my bad dream away, and then I didn't have it anymore. Praying really helped, Mommy." I understood that he prayed because it brought him comfort and peace, which, as I realized in my own self-reflection, is the same reason I do.

My son wants to participate in golf and archery this fall, which sound like about the most boring sports anyone could come up with to me. Do I want to play them? Heck no. But will I be there at every practice and every game, rooting for him? You betcha. Religion is not my cup of tea, by any means. But just because it's not the path I've chosen doesn't mean I will keep my child from finding fulfillment in it, if that's what he chooses. It's my job to teach tolerance, free thinking, and love for one's fellow man, all the things that I think Christianity today is lacking. If my son wants to go to church or pray together because it makes him feel good and happy, then that's what we'll do. If he wants to be involved in any religion long after scary dreams are his biggest concern, that's okay. I'll do it because one day, he'll be hurting, for whatever reason. It happens to us all. And if I can't be there for him when he needs someone the most, maybe he'll want God to talk to and his faith to wrap around himself like a warm, comforting blanket. And, as his mother, a person who would rather die than ever see her child suffer or feel alone, I'll do nothing but encourage him to have that.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Start building your fortune

I know the titles of some of my MoneyBits posts sound like those late-night infomercials—"Make $3000 a day from home!" but when I write these things, I'm not being paid or endorsed or trying to sell you any kind of product. I'm just trying to share immeasurably valuable info that took me a long time and a lot of research to figure out on my own. I wish I had learned it 10 years ago. Investing is now passion of mine. That, and running off at the mouth to anyone who will listen. 

I've had conversations with many, many people about how to get started putting your money to work for you, otherwise known as investing. I get so excited when someone shows an interest that I probably start spouting off way too much info and scare them off. Here, I'll try to give you a step-by-step checklist and make it as simple as possible. And I promise, it really can be simple with little risk.

1. Figure out your finances. I've mentioned this before, but before you invest a penny, you've got to figure out how much you need to spend to survive each month, and how much is left. After that, figure out where you're wasting your money and make a plan to reduce it.

2. Create an emergency fund. Many experts recommend keeping 3-6 months worth of expenses in an account that is very easily accessible, like a savings account. We personally keep less than that, and we're comfortable with it. We've got enough to cover a major car repair, a couple months of rent, and that's about it. Every situation is different. If you have an extremely stable job, or family that would be willing to help you in a pinch, you probably don't need to keep as large an emergency fund as someone with no close family and working a job where layoffs happen frequently. Personally, I like to see my money earning 12% annual returns instead of losing value every day in a savings account, so we keep cash for a true emergency only.

3. Pay off high interest debt. If you've got credit card debt costing you 17% interest, that's costing you far more than what you would probably make as a beginner investor. Focus on paying that off first. If you've got student loans charging you 4%, don't worry about those, just pay the minimums.

4. If your employer offers a 401k with a match, sign up for the minimum to get the match. Many employers will match the money you put into your 401k 100%; some match 50%, up to a certain percentage. The money you put into the account reduces your tax bill, and your employer is giving you free money for your retirement. Take it; it adds up quickly. It comes right out of your check before taxes, and you probably won't even miss it.

5. Establish your goals. Are you wanting a comfortable retirement? Do you want to retire early? Do you want extra income while you continue to work? Different goals require different strategies. 

If you just want to retire comfortably someday, you'll want to open a Roth IRA, to which you can contribute up to $5500 a year. Your money grows tax free, but there are rules about when you can take your money out and not everyone is eligible to contribute (most people reading this probably are eligible, though.)

If you want to retire early or establish a stream of income while you work, a taxable brokerage account is a better way to go. However, to accomplish this you'll need to contribute more aggresively, because you have less time for your money to grow. In a taxable account, you are taxed only on the earnings from your investments, which are called dividends and capital gains. A dividend is what a company pays you for owning their shares. For example, if you own 10 shares of company XYZ and XYZ  paid you $20 in dividends throughout the year, you would pay taxes on that $20. Capital gains are your earnings from selling a stock. If you bought 10 shares of XYZ for $10 and sold them for $20, you would owe taxes on your profit, which is $100. The good news is, your brokerage firm has to figure out all that stuff for you at tax time. Even more good news: if you earn less than $35,350 as a single filer or $70,700 if you are married filing jointly, your investment income is not taxed at all.

6. Open an account. There are plenty of online brokerage firms to choose from: Scottrade, Fidelity, Vanguard, e*trade. We use e*trade because there are no account or contribution minimums, and I liked the babies on the commercials. In the beginning I would sometimes throw $5 or $10 into my account at a time, which can add up quickly. Just choose one and open it. It takes about 10 minutes.

7. Contribute to your account. You'll need $5 or $10 to put into your account immediately when you open it. The starting balance doesn't matter much though; what matters is that you decide how much to contribute on a regular basis, and stick to it. Experts say you should invest at least 15% of your pre-tax pay for your financial health. Depending on your personal financial situation, however, that doesn't work for everyone. You can start small and work your way up. If you're using almost every dollar you earn to pay your bills, start by putting away $10 a paycheck away. Unless you're completely destitute, ANYONE can cut their spending by $10 every 2 weeks. Transfer it into your brokerage account the moment it hits your bank, and consider it gone. After a few months, increase your contribution to $15 per check, then $20, and so on. If you can do more right off the bat, I highly recommend doing as much as you can, as soon as you have the money, and do it consistently. We currently put away 10% of my husband's take-home pay and 20% of mine, but I'm always looking for ways to cut costs so we can do more.

This chart shows how just $50 a month ($25 a paycheck) grows to over $205k over 35 years when invested in a strong company. So if you're 30 and contribute even a minimal amount of money to an IRA, you'll have a nice chunk of change by the time you're 65. Depending on how long you'll live, you'll probably need more than that to completely retire; but you can at least rest assured you won't spend your final years rotting in an ill-equipped nursing home or homeless shelter.

8. Buy quality companies. A true investor isn't looking to make a quick buck by trading penny stocks; in fact, that's a great way to piss away your money. Don't buy the latest "hot-stock", don't try to find the next Apple. Buy high quality, dividend-paying stocks that reward their shareholders every year with higher and higher dividends and have a proven track record. It's a boring way to invest, but it's effective, easy and involves minimal risk. Don't buy companies if you don't understand what they do; you have no way to know if they're good at it or not. I get what Coca-Cola does, I get what Disney does, I get what Visa does. These are companies that are not going anywhere. It doesn't matter if their share price fluctuates (which it will), because when I'm ready to cash in my shares (if I ever do, which is unlikely; I plan to put them in my will for my boys) they are going to continue to be profitable and pay me dividends along the way. 

When you've got $500-$1000 put away, start buying some of these high quality companies:

This website is a great resource, by the way. Also, since you pay your broker a commission (between $4 and $10) per transaction, get in the habit of accumulating at least $500 before purchasing your shares. If you buy them one at a time, it can really eat into your savings. I had to learn that the hard way.

9. Reinvest your dividends. Unless you've got tens of thousands of dollars to plunk down right away for a bunch of stocks, the dividends you earn on your initial purchases won't amount to much. Instead of receiving them in cash, opt to have them reinvested back into the company to get more shares (or fractions of shares). Eventually, one day, you'll be generating enough in dividends that you can take them in cash and use them for whatever you want, but as a small beginning investor, your money compounds much more quickly if you plow them right back into the company. The benefit to this is that every time the company issues a dividend (usually quarterly) you get a little bit bigger slice of their pie, commission-free. And, the next time the company pays a dividend, you get dividends on the dividends you reinvested. Now that is money working for you: you're earning money on the money your money earned. Whaaaat?!

Hopefully this is helpful. Hopefully you didn't stop reading 5 paragraphs ago. Getting financially healthy can seem like a lot of work, but the truth is, you can't afford not to. By the time people my age reach their golden years, Social Security and pensions will probably be long gone. Unless you want to work until the day you die, you've got to put your money to work along side you. I don't know about you, but I'd rather die on a beach in Tahiti than while passing out carts at Walmart in one of those hideous smocks.


Disclaimer: Investing always carries some risk. This article is based on my personal opinions. Please research carefully before making any investment decisions.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Confessions of a stay at home mother

1. If I want something I think my husband will put up a fight about, I make him feel like it was his idea, then let him gloat when it works out well. If he doesn't "think" of it, I do it anyway, then take the glory when it works out well.

2. 8pm bedtime is necessary for my kids, but even more necessary for me and my sanity. It's non-negotiable, even on weekends. I'm a jerk, I don't care.

3. Dish soap removes just about any spill from fabric (blood, poo, wine...all common occurrences in my house). Just because it looks clean doesn't mean something disgusting didn't happen on it.

4. My shampooer with attachment is a lifesaver. Otherwise I would have to throw away everything my kids eat over/sleep on/sit on/touch.

5. I need at least 1 uninterrupted hour per day when no one is climbing me, yanking on me, whining at me, asking me for something, talking to me or even looking at me, or I will lose my shit, rabid dog-style, snarling and foaming at the mouth.

6. Sometimes I give my kids a bath when they don't need it to keep them occupied for a while. Sometimes I don't give my kids a bath when they need it because we're not leaving the house and I'm too lazy to run bath water, mop up the overflow on the bathroom floor, chase their naked dripping bodies around the house, tackle them to dry them off, lotion them up against their will, pin them down to brush their hair, and fight clothes onto them.

7. If my husband is home and Carson takes a dump, I pretend not to notice and send him to "give Daddy a hug", hoping he'll smell it and change the diaper.

8. Sometimes I'll temporarily pretend not to notice if my kids are committing a minor offense (non-dangerous offenses, like pouring dirt over each others heads or coloring with something washable on something that should not be colored on) as long as it keeps them quiet and out from under me for a little while.

9. We look like shit if no one is around. We don't wear matching clothes, (or clothes at all, in the baby's case) or brush our hair unless we're going somewhere. "Somewhere" does not include the grocery store or park. This could be why we haven't made any friends.

10. When my oldest was born, I was determined not to let him watch TV until he was older. Then I joined the real world, where the TV is always on even if no one is watching it. This helps to drown out pleas for candy and toys, whining, fighting, screaming just for fun, etc.

11. I don't always listen to what my kids are saying. Sometimes I just repeat what they said, reposed as a question, and they think I'm participating in the conversation. (Example: "Mommy there was a worm crawling in the grass and I was gonna keep it and teach it tricks and Carson picked it up and threw it over the fence!" and I'll be like, "He threw it over the fence?" even though I wasn't listening at all.) Sometimes I screw up and Spencer will talk and talk and then ask, "So can I Mommy?" and I either have to admit I wasn't listening; say "No", and then find out he just wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; or say "Okay", and then he grabs the hose, opens the door and starts pulling it into the house. I'm working on this one.

12. If my boys won't stop fighting, I put them in their room together to either work it out, tire each other out, or fight to the death, whichever comes first.

13. My 1 year old can work my iPhone and iPad better than I can. My 5 year old could probably get a job at Apple.

14. I spend about 4x longer in the bathroom than necessary. When my kids ask why I didn't answer when they were calling me, I tell them I couldn't hear them.

15. I throw away my kids' artwork, unless it's especially good. Otherwise we would be featured on "Hoarders: Buried Alive in Finger Paintings".

16. In marriage, a bit of unearned ego-stroking is necessary. My husband dutifully praises and eats a ruined meal, and I thank him and try to act excited for whatever new upgrade/download he did on my phone for me that I will never bother learning how to use.

17. My husband secretly thinks he works harder than I do. He never says it aloud, which is a smart choice. If he ever subtly implies that I have it easy as a stay at home mother, I really do take it easy for a day or two and let him scramble for his meals or clean pants. That usually does the trick. 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I should have taken the black kid when I had the chance.

My boys are like night and day. My 5 year old, Spencer, is soft-spoken, thoughtful, sensitive. He's a thinker, an analyzer. My pregnancy was easy, he was an easy baby, an easy toddler, and he's become a very smart and curious kid, even if he does ask 45,000 questions a day until I want to wrap duct tape around his head.

My 22 month old, Carson, is also a great kid, but he is an entirely different breed than Spencer. Carson is his father, a doer. He never stops moving. He's always sure of himself and he doesn't back down on anything without a brutal battle. He tried to kill me from within when I was pregnant, making me sick, giving me a heart condition, and paralyzing me with his lethal blows to my spine, lungs and crotch. He was a colicky baby, throws tantrums all day long, he throws things (hard things, at people's heads) and went through a painful biting and hitting phase. And he somehow finds the energy for all these activities from only tiny snippets of sleep throughout the day and night. 

Don't get me wrong here; it may sound like Spencer is my favorite, but that isn't true. I have yet to establish a favorite child, and in the meantime I tell each of them privately that they're my favorite. Spencer reminds me a lot of myself when I was a child, and although Spencer isn't nearly as painfully shy or as awkward as I was, it makes me find Carson's unabashed confidence and boldness quite endearing because those are qualities I have always admired in others. He will never be the kid people push around; or at least they won't push him around and walk away unscathed. I can appreciate his passion, even if I do want to lock him in a kennel some days.

Today is a kennel day. After he spent most of the night shrieking because he wanted to sleep in Husband's and my bed (believe me, NO ONE sleeps when he's in there with us), flung himself on the floor every few steps at Spencer's kindergarten orientation, ripped a few classroom posters off the walls, asked for a banana, then screamed and threw it when I gave it to him, spread peanut butter on the carpet, and threw himself against the stone fireplace because I wouldn't let him grab my hot coffee (presumably to throw at me), I said to him, "How are you even my kid?? I should have taken the black baby when I had the chance."

Husband laughed hysterically. True story: When Carson was born, they tried to send me home from the hospital with a different kid.

I'm mixed, black and white and a little Native American. My husband is white, and my kids are 1/4 black and 3/4 white, roughly. Today, they've got matching tan skin and curly medium brown hair. They're beautiful kids. Exotic-looking, but you can't quite tell what race they are. When they were born, however, they both came out, well...white. With straight brown hair.



Anyway, on the second day of his life, a nurse took Carson from me for some tests, assuring me they'd have him back to me in about 20 minutes. An hour later, they still had my baby. Hormonal, puffy, and pissed off, I grabbed my IV pole and hauled myself out of my hospital bed, storming through the halls in search of my 24 hour old child. As a breast feeder in a not-so-nursing-friendly hospital, I wanted to be sure they weren't doing Satan's work—feeding my baby a bottle of formula.

I found the nursery and demanded my child. The nurse looked me over and chirped, "He's not quite done with his tests yet, but we'll have him back to you in a jiff!"

"No, you won't. He's been gone an hour. He needs to nurse. Give him to me; you can finish your tests later."

The nurse was clearly confused. "It says on his chart he's formula, and we just gave him a bottle. He's in good hands, I promise."

"You did what?!"

The young nurse was now clearly nervous. This wild-haired, enormous, angry black woman was stepping closer to her. "The chart says..."

"I don't give a shit what your chart says. I never gave my consent for any of you people to give him a bottle, ever. Give. Me. My. Baby. Now."

I was yelling now. The poor nurse looked like she might shit herself. She set the chart down and wheeled one of the two bassinets in the nursery towards me. "I'm sorry. There must have been a mistake. I'll check with my supervisor and get it fixed. Go ahead and take him back to your room."

"Yeah, see that you do," I said rudely, jerking the bassinet away from her. I peeked into it, relieved to be reunited with my little nugget.

The brown skinned, curly-headed peanut in the bassinet was definitely cute. He was also most definitely not my kid.

Me: Um, excuse me? This isn't my baby.
Nurse, clearly distraught that I'm not yet headed back to my room and out of her sight: I'm sorry?
Me: This. Isn't. My. Baby.
Nurse: Well then, that explains a lot. Are you sure he was brought here?
Me: Yes. I'm sure. What is going on?? What have you guys done with my kid?? What kind of 3rd world country hospital is this?!
Nurse: Well these are the only 2 babies I have, and...

I was nearing hysterical. I marched over to the other bassinet in the room and felt joy beyond belief when I found Carson, chewing on his little fist, clearly ready to have his lunch. 

"This is my baby. We're going back to our room now."

The nurse eyed me skeptically. She looked from me to Carson and back to me again. "I'm just gonna have to cross-check that with your ID bracelet."

Apparently they don't bother checking ID bracelets before releasing the brown babies to crazed, hostile women in hospital gowns.

Anyway, I got my kid, they did not give him formula (or so they said, and I choose to believe it to preserve my sanity) and we left that god-forsaken hospital about an hour later. But sometimes on days like today, I wonder if, had I taken that little brown baby, he would be bashing my eldest child in the skull with a metal race car, like Carson is doing as I type this.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Don't stress about college; teach your kids what they'll never learn in school

I was reading one of my new favorite blogs, The Conservative Income Investor, and came across a comment from another reader that stuck with me:

I've always planned to teach my kids to invest early and often, as I wish someone had done for me. My 5 year old has a new business plan nearly every day ("I'm gonna save my money from chores and make a mini-golf course and everyone has to pay to get in. Except you and Daddy and Carson." "I built a barn with animals on Minecraft and then I shoot them with my bow and arrow and everyone has to come and pay me for the meat. If they don't have money I'll give it to them but they have to pay me later.") It makes me happy and proud that at 5, he's already thinking about financial security.

Okay, I'm done bragging about my little business genius. I've worked since I was 14, which is more than half my life, and had nothing to show for it up until I discovered investing a year ago. After reading that particular comment posted by Tampabay, I wondered, What if I had done that? If I had paid myself 10% of my take home pay before I spent a dime of it on bills and things that I don't even have anymore? How much money would I have socked away today, at 29?

I had to find out. I went to the social security website, where you can find exactly how much money you've made over your lifetime. I subtracted 20% from the figures to account for taxes and, at the risk of becoming a laughingstock because of my paltry earnings/pathetic Excel skills, made this graph for all the world to see of what I personally could have in an account, had Tampabay given me his words of wisdom 15 years ago:

So, had I just learned to live on 90% of my earnings rather than 100% (or let's face it, more than 100%), I would have nearly 40 grand in a brokerage account–over $10,000 more than I've ever made in any single year of my life. At 29 years old, as a pretty low income employee, that seems almost like magic. I could use the yearly dividends towards a family vacation every year, or pay a years worth of car insurance. I could cash it out and have a nice down payment on a house, buy an investment property, open my own business, or (my personal favorite) just keep contributing 10% and let the money continue to compound. By the way, my contribution to this CouldaWouldaShoulda account is only $17,589, over 14 years. The remaining $21,113 is the result of my money hard at work growing and compounding all on it's own.

This is basic stuff they should teach in school, but they don't. If you worry about your childrens' financial future, you should think less about paying for college and more about teaching them good financial habits while they're young. There are loans, grants and scholarships for college; not so much for a nest egg. 

If this were my kid's earnings, I'd have forced him to fork over that first $46 out of his earnings from his (my) summer corn detasseling job, then did the same the next year, then the 10% from his (my) after-school fast food job, and so on, all the while showing him where the money is going, how it's working, what it's paying him, and how taking that small slice of his pay can become a fortune if managed properly. I'm sure with his eye for business, his 10% will be much more substantial than mine has been. And I'll hope during those teenage years that it's one of the few pieces of advice that I tell him that he'll take seriously, with no eye-rolling, right up there with saying no to drugs and using condoms.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

When sex becomes terrifying

It's absolutely true that children are the best form of birth control. Sometimes you'll hear about people having a first or second "oopsies" child; it is far less often that you hear about a 3rd or 4th and beyond (some of you lunatics do this on purpose; you are a rare and remarkable species.) This is simply because unless you can't get enough of tantrums, messes, and shitty diapers, you get what a long and difficult road ahead of you you have, should you happen to see that second blue line appear on a pee stick. If you feel your family is complete, you will do whatever it takes to not have another child, including allowing someone to cut you open and snip away at your reproductive organs. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids more than can be described in a blog post. But every parent knows that rearing children is the most exhausting, emotionally-taxing, guilt-producing, financially-draining, pressure-inducing and anxiety-ridden job ever. To have a child is to be 100% committed...for a very, very long time.

To that end, I had my IUD removed because it was ruining my life. I started the pill, which I've never been much good at taking and is actually how my first-born came to be. This time though, I have 2 little boys spilling liquids all over my carpet, breaking all my shit, leaving Legos and Hot Wheels laying around for me to amputate my toes on, waking me up at all hours of the night...I take that pill like clockwork. The problem is the lapse in protection between the removal of the IUD and when the pill kicks in. Husband and I use condoms. As a stay-at-home mother who is tormented by small children 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, I voted that he just keep his filthy hands off me, just in case, but we compromised.

Without going into too much detail, we had a one-thing-led-to-another moment when we caught ourselves in a rare moment alone upon his return from a week-long business trip. 

Fast forward several minutes (sorry babe, but in your defense, it had been a whole week...) By the look of shock and horror on Husband's face, I knew the whole "Let's just do it for a minute without, then we'll grab one" thing had gone awry. When I became aware of the situation, I almost cried.

Husband: I'm...scared.
Me: Why did you do that?!?
Husband: It was your fault!
Me: How is it my fault??
Husband: You know what you did. You know you can't do that.
Me: I have no idea what you're talking about!! This is on you dude!
(I actually did know what he was referring to, but no way I was taking the blame.)
Husband: Oh my God. Oh my God. 17 years, almost 16. That's all we had left. 16 years until I got my house and my wife back to myself. Now I'm back up to like 20. At least. Im gonna get sick.
Me: You're counting?!
Husband: I can't believe that just happened Alanya.
Me: Okay, calm down. You're hysterical.
Husband: I might have to leave in the middle of the night. Just know that I love you.

I predict a vasectomy in the very near future. In the meantime...just pray for us.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Buy yourself some money trees

I love investing. That's no secret. Maybe you've considered it, but it seems too complicated and risky–and with the news screaming headlines like "Stock Market Plummets" and sad stories of retirees losing their life savings in the last 10+ years, your fears are not unfounded. The truth is, however, with the increasing costs of goods and services, low interest rates, scarce jobs, and wages that aren't keeping the pace with inflation, there are few other paths for a low-to-middle income family to create wealth besides putting your money to work for you.

I have friends and family ask me all the time, "What stocks should I buy?" and I will throw a few names out that I've had success with. But in order to really be successful as an investor, you have to adopt a plan or strategy and stick to it. The strategy I've adopted is dividend growth investing. Essentially, the idea behind it is to plant little seeds that grow into big ole money trees. Sounds simple huh? That's because it is. The catch is that you've got to have some patience, discipline, and time to allow your money to compound.

The idea behind dividend growth investing is to invest your money in companies with excellent track records of increased revenue and dividends. These are not risky stocks; many of these are household names that have been around since before our parents were born and will most likely continue to be profitable long after we're dead. I personally own a stake in Coca-Cola, Disney, Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor and Gamble, and Johnson and Johnson, among others. These companies are income producing machines, and they pass their wealth along to their shareholders in the form of cash dividends. Not only are these payments reliable (as long as the company is profitable, but could you really imagine Coca-Cola going out of business?) but these cash dividends increase every single year. It is entirely plausible that after years and years of leaving your shares alone and letting them compound, you'll be getting annual 

dividend payments that exceed what you paid for your original shares. You could be getting back the money you put in (or more) every single year until you die or sell, without even touching your original investment. If that isn't a real-life money tree, I don't know what is.

Seeking Alpha and The Conservative Income Investor are excellent online resources to learn more about getting started with investing.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

My sleeping husband is the source of endless fodder for Ladybits

Lately I've been suffering from insomnia. It sucks. I lay awake til about 5am, praying for sleep, then I finally pass out and awake with half the day gone. Wash, rinse, repeat. The only silver lining in my insomnia is that my husband talks in his sleep. I've heard him before, and it's usually hilarious and/or obscene. Now that I'm awake all night, when I hear him mumble I encourage conversation by asking him questions and, if necessary, poking at him or plugging his nose til he's just awake enough to keep talking. Hey, you have to make your own fun when you're awake and sober by yourself at 4am. 

Husband: Mmmm, you smell good.
Me: What do I smell like?
Husband: I'm wearing underpants!
Me: Well, that's great babe.
Husband snores. I pull his armpit hair.
Husband: This is not what I paid for.
Me: What did you pay for?
Husband: You know! Stop playing dumb!
Me: Tell me.
Husband: Just pull it out with those tweezers.
Me: Where are the tweezers?
Husband: I got gold teef. My grill.