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Archive for February, 2008

Networking & Market Timing

February 29th, 2008 at 02:24 pm

You know, things have been going good, but yesterday was hell.

The good side is, and I hesitate to say it, but this year feels rather CALM. (knock on wood???) 2007 will go down as the tax season from hell for sure. It seems like last year all my clients came in with deaths in the family, brain tumors, and other horrid/complex tax issues. It just never ended. We lost a manager so the workload was insane, and we just didn't have enough management to catch mistakes.

Likewise, I thought most of it had been cleared up but I Was very frustrated yesterday to catch my own mistake. Grrrrr. This is why I work for a firm; why I am not a fan of being out on my own. So a second set of eyes always looks at my work and catches my dumb mistakes before they go out the door. IT's very frustrating to me. Likewise, I am happy the pace is much slower this year. I am not rushing as much; which helps.

So anyway, crisis averted. Life goes on. But I have been a little preoccupied.

On the flip side, this year has been kind of boring and most of my tax returns are done. It isn't even March! Hey, I might have time to care for my Corporations. Those are really our bread and butter, and they really get the short end of the stick this time of year. I keep wondering if I am forgetting something. I think a bulk of my tax appointments ended up in February, and I think that is awesome. Since March/April is a very busy time with our Corps.

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This morning though I did reply in the forums about a question from someone who "had to" pay $130k to go to film school. He has to network after all. I started choking when I read it; particularly knowing a large pool of unworking film students with FANCY degrees. Hehe.

Anyway, I have heard it said many times you can't be an engineer without the fancy degree and the connections. I just roll my eyes. My dad is actually an engineer and he just has a bachelor's from state. It is from him I get most my attitude about money; I must admit. But who can argue with success?

Anyway, I know networking is a huge part of my dad's career. I couldn't tell you how many times he has been laid off. HE is usually hired on for a project and let go. That's the nature of the industry. Maybe he's worked for 30 companies and been laid off 30 times. I honestly would not be surprised. I don't know.

Likewise, with the networks he has made in the WORKING WORLD, I never have known him to be out of work for more than a week or 2. The only exception was back in 2005 I think - he hit 55 and had a hard time finding a job, for about a year. We attributed it to age. However, he thought his current job was in danger and took on a side job recently this year. Now he is working 2 jobs. Sometimes when it rains, it just pours. Now that he's almost 60.

From my experience, networking was really key to helping me land a good job right out of college. I was in the networking clubs and familiar with all the CPA firms in the area. However, I have to say, I don't talk to any of those people today. I run into them here and there; mostly at seminars. I know how to look them up. But my career network is far more solid with the people I have met at various jobs. Once you get to your first job, your college and your college experience suddenly doesn't matter so much. You get your foot in the door and you move on.

Likewise, my husband has a pretty large network of friends in the film industry. He didn't have to go to an expensive school to network with the people who went to the expensive schools. Wink

I just had to cringe when I Read that post though because most of my dh's friends in the film industry work minimum wage jobs. It might be a little different if we lived in LA or NY. But for the most part, seems to be a thankless/volatile career. I would put it akin to the music industry. My dh is lucky he has me, but I ain't shelling out six figures so he can hob nob with the best. LOL. He'll just have to meet them outside of college. His friends are pretty talented and are starting to land jobs. & I think that is awesome for dh. The friends he has will make or break his career. I agree. He just didn't have to meet them at school.

My point is, yes, networking is key. But no, it doesn't have to cost 6 figures to network with the right crowd.

I mean, if you believe that, be my guest. I rather keep that money in my pocket, personally.

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Anyway, that was my rant-y post of the day. Now for something more interesting.

I have totally noticed with a good 18 months of tracking my investments that the market seems to behave similarly on a monthly basis. For example, the market is ALWAYS up on the last day of the month. From what I Can tell anyway. It tells me that the last day of the month is probably a horrible time to invest. Of course that is probably a big chunk of why investments up on the last day of every month. BEcause everyone gets their paycheck and funds their 401ks??????

So I did a web search on best days of the month to invest. Just curious. For now I dollar cost average in on the 10th and the 20th. Not to be different. It's just I get paid on the 1st/16th and it gave me a decent grace period to get my paycheck to the bank. I don't have direct deposit and I don't always rush to the bank on payday. So I had been doing one deposit a month, on the 10th. This year I added another one on the 20th. Just sounded nice I guess. My account is usually pretty flush on the 16th, paycheck or not. So I gave myself less time on the second half of the month.

Anyway, if I read this article correctly, it says about the 27th/28th is the best day to invest.

Of course, it goes on to briefly explain a plan to buy and sell certain days of the month, which reduced volatility by 45% (? I think that is what it said - you can read for yourself). This was an elaborate market timing plan to keep your money in money markets most of the month and jump into an index before the end of the month for the run ups, then sell back to MM. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Don't worry, I am not going to bother doing that. But I found the concept rather intriguing all the same.

Anyway, didn't see much else on the topic. Will have to research more. Maybe I should just put my money in my money market every month until the 27th/28th and then invest. An idea! But more practically, I may invest on the 27th instead of the 20th. Of course, I am not sure that feels very settling. I generally fund my investments from my interest-free checking. So it seems to me I just want to transfer when I get it. & I think in many regards that just makes the most sense.

[url]http://www.kiplinger.com/columns/value/archive/2004/va0...





Who needs cash...

February 28th, 2008 at 12:46 pm

I have mentioned many times before that we don't use cash for the most part.

Anyway, I roll my eyes at the idea that just because you have a credit card you spend more. Sure, may be true for many. But I find quite the opposite.

I earn 2%, on average, on every credit card purchase I make.

It is easy to track. When I spent more cash, I have to tell you I had NO IDEA where most of my money went. Now with the magic of online banking and Quicken I know where every penny goes. With pretty much no effort on my part. (That's the best part. I don't have to write anything down).

Likewise, we have a budget and we know how much we have to spend. Whether we use credit or cash, doesn't make a difference.

HOWEVER.

There is a BUT here.

I keep cash for my fast food/junk food purchases. My small luxury I guess. We don't have a lot of room for eating out, but I give myself a cash allowance of sorts.

I am just so used to guaging how much I have and how much I Can spend by the cash in my wallet.

Anyway, while we were sick dh ran to BK a few times for dinner/lunch. I saw all these BK charges on the card. I asked if he had paid through the drive thru. The thought had never occured to me, though I usually swipe the card when I go INSIDE a fast food place (generally only to let the kids play).

Anyway, so I tried it today. HAd leftovers all week and was in the mood for something greasy. Went to McDs and swiped the card.

Well, wasn't that easy?

It's just going to take a bit of mind shifting.

I think my best bet is to set up something in the budget. "Burn money" or something. Just limit it to the $20/month or so I usually pull out of the ATM. There's really not much need for cash any more. I could hardly think of anything else we need cash for. The occasional split lunch with friends or gambling money (poker/bunco). That's about it. Dh and I always carry an extra $20 in our wallet for this kind of stuff, or for emergencies.

I really enjoy handling cash less and less. Woohoo!

Plus, heck, I earned a dime of "interest" on my lunch. Big Grin

P.S. It's 70 degrees here and beautiful. Neener neener (LOL).

Hope the weather holds...

February 27th, 2008 at 07:46 am

Well, I guess I don't have to work saturday, but I generally prefer to work saturday and take sunday off. Though I guess I could rearrange my schedule according to the weather. If I really wanted to.

But I luck out. Weather looks to be 70 degrees/clear this sunday.

I picked out an easy looking hike that isn't too far from hear, to try. There is also the nature center. I have only been once, but they have a lot of activities. The kids loved it. They have a few easy hikes around. I figured that one would be a good warm up for LM. See how he does. Before we go on a 2-hour hike (the other one).

Anyway, one reason we don't frequent the nature center is because it costs $5 to park. There is plenty that abounds around here for FREE. But it looks like it will be a good place for some nature hiking, and I could buy a membership in the $30 range. I think we'll just give it a try. I have never been on the hiking trails. But will probably end up getting a membership if it goes well.

We had also talked about going to Family Camp this summer, and decided against it. I was looking at the cost today. The nice thing is all the food and activities are provided. It really is a good deal, and great with small kids. I have never been, but I guess dh has been before. Many times when he was a kid.

Well, this is through our old city and I just figured out that they charge quite a premium for us not being residents any longer. What a bummer as it is really the best one around. It is right by Yosemite.

Anyway, so I was reconsidering. With LM only being 2 yet, it would have been $125/night (food and everything!). All we need to bring really is sleeping bags.

Our non-resident status puts us at $180/night. Frown

Sacramento has something similar. But it is NOT Yosemite!!!!

I think we can get around this for the most part. We need to plan a big trip with the family. If grandma signs up and pays, I assume she will get the san jose rate. We'll have to see. Of course in that case she would just pay for us anyway.

I think since LM is free though, it might be worth a try this year on our own. It's still a good deal. It will cost in the $600 range for 3 nights. Just that and the gas to get there, really.

I am considering it because we have a free room for our LA trip (wasn't expecting it). & with this whole economic stimulus rebate thing. I am thinking I want to go to Yosemite!!!! I think it would be good to gauge how the kids do though. & heck, take advantage of having a 2-year-old (free). Cost will be more like $210/night once he turns 3.

Anyway, the nice thing is registration opens up in May. Gives us some time. I guess the other thing is planning around my vacation. I have an unused 7 days or so I did not know what I was going to do with. So I don't know if I want to tie it up with another trip. We'll see... I had wanted to just cut back my working hours in the summer. Decisions, decisions.

Oh anyway, I was going to go to the gym last night (it has been weeks, since I first got sick) and dh talked me out of it. Weather was really nice so kids and I went for a walk. I think that was a good start. Though I will probably hit the gym tonight. Just the treadmill; going to take it SLOW. I have lost so much weight but it's not good weight loss. Losing a lot of muscle tone from being sick. Blech.

Likewise, I know hitting the gym will help me fend off future germs. This thing was just so nasty; knocked me off my feet for so long. So it is nice to be building up strength again.



Spring is in the Air...

February 26th, 2008 at 09:33 am

The weather has been gorgeous and the trees are starting to bloom.

Big Grin

Makes me VERY happy. Did I mention I Was so over winter???

I can't believe Easter is in 4 weeks!!! It's always a fun family event. We don't host but it is in OUR city which makes it nice. & I have 2 new baby nieces to enjoy this year.

Dh spent a lot of money this week. He has been a bit depressed. I think I see a pattern. Depressed = spending. Just more crap for the kids. Like the NEED more crap. Ugh, I have to update my list big time.

I had an epithany when it comes to our medical insurance situation. I had totally forgotten that our deductible was $1500 per person. So even if we do get an insane/over blown bill, it will be $1500 max. It's $1500 per person, but $3k for the family. Which is much more reasonable. I had just forgotten about that part. As long as we have a boring week, I'll have a good $1k for the medical bill by march. Going to try to deposit an extra $250 since February is a short month. Our expenses have been low this month. We'll see. No medical bill yet. Buys me time.

Well, my first balance transfer is due back next month. It's due in April, so I am paying it back in March with the March payment. It's the shortest one. IT was 9 months. So at about $50/month interest, we will have earned $400. That was EASY money. This one was in dh's name. We'll pay it back and just have him close the card.

IT leaves 2 outstanding in my name. One I just started and will replace dh's money in our 5.7% CD. Big Grin

I have a few thousand due back in June/July. It's with WAMU though and they send me my FICO score every month. As long as I get my FICO for "free," I am going to keep the card open. But the other one is due come December and I will close it when I am done.

HAving a good score, we always close old cards. I Don't care how old they are or how big the limits. IT has never made a noticeable difference to our scores. I mean it may have dropped from 800 to 780 or something, when I did close my oldest card because they started charging an annual fee. I think we'll survive. IF nothing else I don't like having old cards opened, rife for theft. Or unnoticed fees. Likewise, since they are old cards I Don't use or pay attention too, I am likely to not notice if there was some weird activity or fees, etc. That makes me nervous. I have always just closed all my cards, but kept open one extra one for backup.

Likewise, though it was easy money, I think we'll take a break from the balance transfer game. IT was very helpful to our emergency fund and all that. But it was a lot of juggling with the 3 cards, and I think it will be nice to give our credit scores a break for a while. Well, dh's score will get a break. My 0% is still good for another year. We'll see how I feel in a year I guess. I admit it was easy money and it will be tempting to keep playing the game...





Got out of the house!!!!

February 24th, 2008 at 06:59 pm

Isn't winter OVER yet??????? Oh, soon enough...

It didn't help that nice weather taunted us the whole time we were sick. So I looked extra forward to getting out this weekend. Instead, we got big STORMS.

Of course, to be fair, it looks to be 70 most of next week. Big Grin How nice! We'll see how next weekend is...

Anyway, I had told the kids we would go out this weekend. so with the weather, we went to McDs instead. We drove a good 20 miles to the one I knew LM would enjoy. He's a little on the young side. But there is one over by the preschool that I take BM to, to meet up with his friend monthly. The play structure is a lot bigger and is mostly stairs, instead of those stupid tubes. Easier for LM and easier for us adults if he needed help (which he didn't, phew). So the kids had fun. I expected it to be PACKED. But it wasn't too bad and not a lot of big kids. So LM definitely enjoyed. Of course BM enjoyed.

Anyway, so feeling VERY antsy, I wrote down a list of all the activities I wanted to do this year.

*sigh* The list is huge. Some festivals, a trip to San Francisco and Monterey, the SF zoo, another small amusement park, Disneyland (which we have all booked) as well as quite a few hikes. Hikes - Bay Area, the coast, Tahoe, local... Really, just too many options!

Of course, I am a get up and go person. I always have a list a million miles long of things I Want to do. Dh is happy to stay home and watch TV. Just the way he is. So I think he is very scared. LOL. It has been easier to stay home and watch TV with babies and wee ones and all that. But one main thing I have been wanting to do more of is some serious hiking. & BM LOVES it. (Dh enjoys hiking as well. He must admit). But anyway, we did a couple of small hikes last year with LM; he just was not quit ready. I am hoping this year will be better. Plus he is moving past diapers too (extra plus). So it's not only this winter I guess. Just the last 5 years or so stuck with small babies and toddlers. I am so excited to get PAST that and get back to some of our old habits.

Anyway, on my list were quite a few things I Want dh to do with us. So I think he is scared. But it will be good for him to get out more too. Big Grin

On the flip side, I feel a little overwhelmed. There are only so many hours in the day; week; month. It's just not ALL going to happen.

But I Am looking forward to a FUN year.

There are a few expensive/pricey things on my list. But most of it will cost little more than the gas to get there. So that I can really appreciate.

I think having such small kids, too much of our own lives have been on hold. So I am a little giddy that they can start doing more things that we want to do with us. & it's just fun to show them the world.

But I totally get this form my dad. I just want to do EVERYTHING. & the list is getting a little too long...

So yes, winter is making me antsy. But so is the last FIVE years of caring for babies. I just want to get OUT there again. WITH the kids. BEcause I Wasn't going to go hiking every weekend without them, when they were too little. (I have big babies - there was no carrying them around on hikes. No way!!!!! LOL).

Beyond all that, I bought a project to work on. Isn't it cute?



It's a latch hook. It is a small one. I am making it for BM. He wants to hang it on his wall. Then I'll go from there. I figure if I could finish a small one; maybe I would tackle something bigger.

I tore the house apart looking for my half finished giant latch hook project and I could NOT find it. Dh offered to run to Michael's to pick up a new hook for me. He saw the model airplanes and all sorts of stuff and ended up spending $15. (I wondered what was taking him so long!!). OF course, not bad for all he made off with.

I'll have to post a picture of my "kool kat" when it is done. I am not much one for pastels, but I kind of liked it. Big Grin

I think I like cats more than monkeys, truth be told. So had to get the cat. But, yeah, it amazed me all the selection out there in internet-land. How fun!!!! How things have changed. I have no idea what I would pick next. Decisions, decisions. Well I'll start and see if I can finish this one, this century!





Credit Card Usage 2007

February 23rd, 2008 at 06:06 pm



Well, I got an e-mail a long time ago my annual summary was ready, but I hadn't looked at it.

Here it is in all its glory.

we try to budget around $1200-$1300/month for regular purchases. But we put so much other stuff on the cards. (Whatever we can anyway). So it really skews the balances. All in all, I think we spent less than the prior year. I can already tell 2008 started out much less spendy.

Misc. - was primarily medical/dental bills

Services - mostly diaper service and utility bills

Merchandise - mostly groceries & all our other purchases

Auto - repairs and Fuel

April - dh spent $2k on video stuff (TV & PSP)

May - We had a $1k car repair

June - we used a new credit card to get some rewards (so spent less than usual on this particular card).

August - I put a good $3000 on my card for our Japan flights. My parents reimbursed me since they paid. But I am the travel agent of the family. Big Grin

So, the total for the year was $26,000.

Really $23,000 when you take out the flights. Probably a good $1k charged to other cards, so comes out to a pretty even $2k/month.

Some things we spent in 2007:

Travel & Entertainment:
Museums, Aquariums, Amusement Parks
Expenses for Cruise, Japan, Vegas, Florida (mostly dining since most of the rest of these trips were free).

So all that was only $1200.

Dining Out - $1300 Not a ton; mostly take out/fast food

Auto - about $3k gas; $1300 repairs/maint.

Merchandise - was $10k.

I'd peg $6k groceries/household. $2k dh's purchases. & another $2k on other merchandise.

Services - $3400 - gym, utilities, diaper service, ID theft monitoring, blockbuster online, etc.

Misc. - $1600 - was medical/dental, charity. Also DMV renewals and payments to city for programs/classes.

& that sums up 2007!

I always find it interesting to see it all laid out like that.









Paid Auto Registration

February 23rd, 2008 at 09:19 am

Which reminds me, I answered on the forums that the most debt we ever had was $6k. (Outside mortgage). I actually borrowed money for 3 of my cars.

Anyway, it just occurred to me that I am the debt one in the family. Which is funny because I am pretty anti-debt. Dh has never had any sort of car loan. $0. I was thinking - hell - he paid cash for all his cars.

To be fair, his first car was GIVEN to him. I borrowed a good $1000 to pay for mine. (Worked an entire summer to pay for it. But bought it before I had the cash because I needed to drive to work).

So on that count I will consider him spoiled.

Likewise, he paid cash for his second car in college because he was living at home and had his college paid for. I can chalk that one up to spoiling too.

Likewise, I wasn't SAVING money in college. I was just trying to survive and get through. My car conveniently died about a month after I graduated. Actually, it really was good timing. I had just tripled my wage. But a few more months would have been nice. (I drove that car a good 7 years - certainly a good deal). So I borrowed around $6k to buy my second car. I paid it off within a few months though. It didn't take long to pay off $6k, with my new paycheck.

We replaced dh's crappy car after we moved here and had like a years' salary in the bank. So that was easy peasy. Paid cash.

When I had BM, I sold my convertible for $3k and bought an interim car for $1k cash. So that is the only car I have ever personally paid cash for. I was in STRONG denial. To be fair, we did not originally plan to have kids so soon. But I was determined to keep my convertible and didn't sell it until BM was 3 months old. I finally gave in that babies and tiny convertibles do not mix!!! But it took me a while. Likewise, if I had known at 22 that I Was going to have kids at 25... The thought hadn't crossed my mind. LOL. Likewise, my denial didn't put a better car in the financial plan. But it worked out.

Then we upgraded the interim car to a minivan 3 years later. We had the cash, but it would have drained most of our cash. So we borrowed $5k for about a year. To keep a nice $5k emergency fund.

So, looking back, I have borrowed on most my cars. Dh has borrowed on none. Just the way it worked out.

You could call him pretty darn spoiled too. Big Grin I can't imagine I would have ever borrowed money for a car either, if I was GIVEN my first one, and I didn't have to pay for college and living expenses myself. So I guess that is how it goes.

Likewise, I don't mind these debts at all. They were small, manageable and no/low-interest. We always bought very modest cars, so it's not like we were borrowing beyond our means. I seriously expect both these cars to last a good 10 years longer. Plenty of time to save up a wad of cash to pay cash for some nice cars for a change. Plus cars are just getting so much cheaper. Dh would be thrilled with a brand new subcompact Toyota in the $12k range. Probably what our next move will be. If he can bring in some money we'll pay cash for a hybrid. Depends how long his car lasts too. If it lasts another 10 years, we can certainly swing a hybrid. 5 years? Then he'll get another subcompact. HE loves tiny cars and that's good for the pocketbook. We paid $8k for his little used Ford and these days you can get a new Toyota for $12k. That just boggles my mind. So I guess with age we have more means AND cars seem to be getting cheaper. win-win.

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Well, back to the topic at hand. I paid dh's auto registration renewal.

The California DMV is the only government agency I am aware of that takes credit card payment with No FEE or SERVICE CHARGE. The county and the IRS will definitely charge you for putting things on a credit card. Which is a bummer because I love to pile as much as I can on the card.

I don't know why I checked the DMV last year, but I Saw no fee!!! I think it mentioned on the bill. Sounded too good to be true.

Anyway, it was due in March, but I was just looking at the Feb. budget and we are WAY under. Mostly from being so sick.

So I popped it on the card for this month. Will be able to just pay it out of the budget instead of the escrow account.

We also had a $75 charge for a doctor visit. It "should" come out of our deductible fund. But we have the cash this month for that as well. So I think I will not take it out of the deductible fund. It will end up going to retirement or savings then. An extra $75.

We still have another $80 for a date night too.

I think our auto gas bill will be $100 this month. Being home sicked helped that much. But we have been doing so much DRIVING these past few months. We have been averaging more like $300/month on gas. So that really created a lot of wiggle room in the budget this month.

Yay for February!!!

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ETA: I wish I had my camera with me. The sky was just BEAUTIFUL this morning. Apparently a lot of snow was dumped in the Sierras. They were a brilliant white this morning, from the sun, and the sky above was cloudy and pink and blue. I was driving in at 10am and looked a little sun-setty, though it is clearly not sunrise or sunset at 10am!!! So I really wish I had my camera. I couldn't even find a good picture of the view online, just to give an idea. Bummer.

Gorgeous.

It's the calm before the storm. We are s'posed to have another brutal wind storm this weekend. It had been so nice while we were sick, I had looked forward to going outdoors. But I am guessing we will stay indoors all weekend. Not a weekend to leave the house. IT seems to me these storms are worse than usual. Not the norm...

Anyway, we were going to go to the snow last weekend, but were all too ill. Maybe we can make it up when the storms settle, in another weekend or 2.

Something Else to Purge

February 22nd, 2008 at 07:45 am

Man, this week has really sucked. Blech. I guess yesterday in particular. Just a bad day. & still sick of being sick. LM is doing a little better, but still quite grumpy. He worries me a bit.

I hope one of these days we all feel well again. I don't feel so confident that will be the case. Just hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I also talked about taking BM out this weekend. (We just need out of the house!!!) But all I see is rain rain rain. Blech! It was nice and sunny while we were sick. Of course!

BM and dh seem to be doing well enough. I think I am getting there. Trying to take it easy this week.

Anyway, we will have something else for the purge pile. LM, in his grumpy mood, has refused to use his booster seat at the dinner table.

So dh took it away.

We should probably wash it down. I think it is something we will just donate. I can't see getting more than $5 for it. Likewise, I can't see it is worth the effort of selling it... Though I will peek and see what they are going for.

I still have to sell his crib bedding though. So hopefully we will rid the house of these things by the end of the month. I expect to get some cash for the crib bedding/room decor. Big Grin

We also trashed the changing pad last weekend. We bought a changing pad for his dresser (didn't see the point of a changing table). Likewise, with baby #2 we rarely used the changing pad either. Anyway, so we took it apart and trashed it this weekend.

Of course all this reminds me LM's room needs some work. Dh said he would paint it but I don't exactly see him taking the reins. The bottom 1/2 of the wall is brown and there is a ripped up wall border around the middle of the room. I am tempted to tear it down, but the 1/2 brown wall isn't exactly pleasant to look at!! So I will have to get on dh's case. I think that is a good project he can work on while the kids are at school! Poor LM in the meantime. Well, he is the one who ripped the wall border in places so his room looks like crap. Maybe I shouldn't feel too sorry for him. It would still be pretty cute otherwise.

Challenge $$$

February 21st, 2008 at 07:47 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$ 50.00 - 1/10

$ 100.00 - February Contributions

------------------
$ 150.00 - Balance 2/20
------------------

**All retirement monies to challenge for 2008**

With my raise I am now adding $100/month to retirement. This will be bumped up to $300/month come summer.

$50 to T Rowe Target Retirement Fund
$50 to Vanguard total Stock Index

Retirement has always been an after thought as we were much more focused on other things (getting into a house, being there for our kids, etc.). So, it may be a small start, but it's a start. Trying the "automatic" and "pay yourself first" thing.