Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: The Year In Review

So, it's that time:  time to look back at the year that has passed.  It is time to look at successes and failures and to consider where we want to go from here.  I'm going to paste the text from my goals post from January and, in blue, talk about what went right and wrong.

1.  Continue my Loyal3 Lunch portfolio, adding an average of $20 per week, or $1000 over the year.  More would be better, but a lady has to live a little, right?

Very few people were reading my Loyal3 Lunch posts, so I quit doing them.  I also lost my motivation to avoid the lunch counter on an off during the year.  I do continue to invest via Loyal3 using money I earn in dividends from Motif investing or using money I am pulling out of Kickfurther.  I know I should avoid that lunch counter more and since one of my 2017 goals is weight loss, that should be more motivation.  

2.  Devise a budget and work with my husband to stick with it.  We've never done this in a formal sense and despite the fact that we have limited some of our large expenditures, it seems that money is slipping through our fingers rather than going to meet long-term goals.

We did this for a couple of months and it showed about what we expected--we spend too much on food, both in restaurants and in grocery stores.  However we aren't real motivated to change that.  I'm going to suggest we budget for food away from home this year and see if we can reduce this cost.   

3.  Unless we end up needing to buy a car this year; do not take any money from savings; live on current income.

Except for what we spent on cars (yes, plural) we succeeded.

4.  Add $300/month to our Prosper or Lending Club accounts as savings for another car.  We have enough money in the bank for our next car and should we need to use it, we will stop investing in these accounts to replenish our savings.  

We added $850 to our Prosper account this year and we bought new (to us) cars in August (for our college girl) and September (for my husband).  The car for college girl was a planned expense; the one for my husband came about because my son wrecked his car and since my husband was driving an old high-mileage car, we passed that down to my son and got my husband a nice car.  Of course with new cars comes more expensive insurance so our transportation expenses have increased significantly this last quarter.  Hopefully college girl will get a real job shortly after graduation in May and take over her own car expenses.  

5.  Continue our 401K savings at the current level.  Maybe next year we can increase them, but right now, holding steady is about the best we can hope for.  

This goal was accomplished.  However, neither one of us are expecting substantial raises this year and we've both been hit with increased health insurance premiums.  We've left those saving rates alone.  

6  Add $100 per month to each of our Roth IRA's.  This will be a challenge.

At tax time we were looking a pretty big bill so we contributed $1000 each to our regular IRAs.  Later in the year we contributed $1000 each to our Roths. We also transferred some money from a non-IRA retirement account to our Roth IRAs but that's not new money invested.  While we didn't contribute monthly, we did add $4,000 to our retirment money and that's a good thing.  

7.  Renovate my den.  I'm expecting about another $1500 from my dad's estate.  I want to pull out some paneling, put up sheet rock, and paint.  If there is enough money, I want new flooring. 

Still waiting for the IRS to finish with my Dad's estate.  On the other  hand, I now think the final installment will be a little over $2,000.  

8.  A second honeymoon for me and my husband.  My youngest is going on a Girl Scout trip this summer, and since she won't be home, we'd like to leave the big ones and go off on our own for a week.  

We did this and had a great time in New York City this summer.  

9.  Earn at least $50 per month from freelance writing.  I currently have a client and I'm going to try to pick up some more work.

Success!.  The client I talked about here only hired me once more, but I've picked up two regular clients for whom I enjoy working.  I've earned over $1,500 this year as a writer. 

I spend most of Memorial Day looking at job offers on Upwork and responding to them.  As a result, I picked up several jobs this summer and actually spent a good deal of time this summer writing for other people.  However, the bottom line is I wasn't paid a whole lot for most of the jobs, I didn't particularly enjoy doing them and I haven't actively pursued new clients.  

I write regularly on education-oriented topics for Classloom, which is a social media app for teachers/schools.  This week's topic is standardized testing and it includes a link to a survey where you can give your opinions about whether standardized tests have become monsters.  I picked up that job on Upwork and at least right now, there is no end in sight.  

One regular topic on this blog is Kickfurther and one of my Kickfurther Merchants of the Week, Mulberry Silk Comforters, pays me to write blog posts for them. 

What are your financial goals for the next year?


Friday, December 23, 2016

Gifts Money Can't Buy

I wrote this last year and since it is all still true (and I have stuff to do to get ready for Christmas) I'm just re-posting.

If you read personal finance blogs, you've noticed a lot of posts lately about thrifty gift giving; and ideas range from homemade gifts, to IOUs for services, to garage sale finds.  My list is going to be gifts that money can't buy.

Money can't buy family or their love, and without them, life would be so empty.  Thank you God for the gift of my family.

St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church (Greenpoint, Brooklyn).jpg

Money can't buy faith; and without it there is no long-term hope.  Thank you God for the gift of faith in You.  

Money can't buy the beauty in nature.  Yes, it may cost money to go and see places far from home, but most of us live close to natural beauty, beauty we may not even notice because to us it is so normal.  Thank you Lord for the beauty of the earth You made.


Especially in light of recent events, we realize that money can't buy peace.  It can buy weapons, it can support armies, and the lack of it can make men easy pickings for terrorists, but money can't buy peace, either worldwide or within our homes and hearts.  Please God, grant us peace.  

May the Joy of Christmas be with you and you loved ones now and forever.  God Bless each of you--you are another thing money can't buy--readers for a blog!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Financially Savvy Saturdays #173: I'm Co-Hosting!

Welcome to Financially Savvy Saturdays, the savviest personal finance blog hop on the planet, created specifically for personal finance writers! We welcome all things money here. Whether you've written anything from how to hit your 2016 financial goals to frugal holiday gift ideas, you're invited to link-up. If it ties into personal finance, we want to read it!

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Racing Towards Retirement

This weekend we're excited to welcome back Ruth Ann from Racing Towards Retirement, where she writes about, you guessed it, life closer to retirement and how to prepare for that next step in life.

  Tweet about it. You can use #finsavsat when tweeting about the party!

  Concerns about SEO? Recently many bloggers have decided to stop participating in events such as Carnivals. If you're worried about how participating in this link-up could effect your SEO, I'd encourage you to check out this article

Interested in co-hosting? Co-hosting is fun AND easy. If you’re interested, you can email us via brokeGIRLrich(at)gmail(dot)com or info(at)diseasecalleddebt(dot)com with any questions. Or if you're ready to take the plunge, you can sign up on this Google doc.

If you’ve co-hosted before and enjoyed it, please consider doing it again! If you’re interested but nervous about getting involved, please email one of us, we love talking to new bloggers and would enjoy explaining how blog hops work and getting you more involved!

Feature of the Week

As this week's visiting co-host, Ruth Ann has selected her favorite post from last week's blog hop to be this week's feature - 5 awesome books about money - for women, by women at NZ Muse.

Click here to read her post!
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If you submit a post, you could be featured in next week's party!

We do have a couple of rules for participation. Those who don't follow the rules will have their link taken down.

1. Your post must be written in the past seven days, related to personal finance and not be solely a giveaway. 2. Be sure to include a link to one of your hosts by copying and pasting the html in one of the boxes below into your linked up post. You have the option of the button or a text link. 3. Follow your hosts. You can follow brokeGIRLrich on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, OR by subscribing to her RSS feed. Also, you can follow Racing Towards Retirement on Twitter, Pinterest, facebook, OR Bloglovin. 4. Comment on at least one post before and after you that have joined the party. 5. HAVE FUN!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What Should You Do When You Retire?

Once upon a time, it seems not so long ago, I was the mother of infants.  My hair's natural color was brown and retirement was a long way away.  Now my "baby" is twelve, my middle child is graduating from college and the oldest is twenty-four.  Time has flown by; I won't talk about my natural hair color, and before I know it, retirement will happen.  

Most of us realize we need to plan financially for retirement and so we pay off debt, contribute to our 401k plans and invest in stocks, bonds and real estate.  We want to have money when those paychecks stop arriving. 

But what are we going to do with our time, once our employer doesn't fill 35% or so of our waking hours?  Last time I checked, one of the best reasons to get a job was to avoid daytime television.  Are there other ways to avoid that wasteland?  While we don't want to turn retirement into another "to do" list or job, having a plan will help us get the most out of our golden years.

Friday, December 9, 2016

2016: Expenses: The Year in Review

This is the time of year when bloggers start looking back at the year, seeing what went right, and seeing what went wrong.  I'm going to take some time this week to look at this year's major expenses and comment on them.

In either December or January we will make our last contribution toward my daughter's college education.  We've been lucky--for tuition, room, board and books we've paid about $24,000 for four years.  This has been a planned expense but one I'm glad is about done.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Another Look at Motif

I've spent the last two weeks reviewing no-commission stock brokers so I thought that I'd spend this week taking another look at a low-commission broker, Motif.  

When I started investing with Motif, they offered the ability to buy a motif--a basket of up to 30 stocks--for one commission of $9.95.  You could invest as little as $300 in the whole basket.  Now they have added the ability to trade individual stocks for a commission of $4.95 per trade.  Periodically Motif offers reduced commissions for certain activities.  For example, on Black Friday they offered 50% off all commission.  

How Does the "Motif" Concept Work?

Motif offers some professionally designed motifs--baskets of stocks based on a certain theme or investing goals.  I own two  motifs of dividend paying stocks, one of companies which have bought back stock, one that contains stock in companies involved in cyber security, one of stocks with low beta, one dealing with video gaming and one of stocks in companies with whom I do business.  The professionally designed motifs include companies I've never heard of, much less considered investing in.  The professionally designed motifs are rebalanced regularly, and investors are encouraged to rebalance their holdings in that motif accordingly (and to pay the associated commission) but they are not required to do so.  I have not chosen to rebalance my holdings and taking a look at all of them, using 20/20 hindsight,  at least so far, it has been the right choice. 

Does Motif Have Anything New?

The latest thing Motif is offering is "Motif Blue", which is a subscripton service.  Users pay a fee of between $4.95 per month and $19.95 per month based on the level chosen.  The starter level is for people who have only one motif and it  allows you to auto-invest in that motif and to auto-rebalance it monthly.  The mid-level "Standard" offering is $9.95 per month and allows auto-investing in any number of motifs, auto-rebalancing of all professional motifs and one commission-free stock or motif trade per month.  Users are also entitled to some market reports.  The $19.95 level gives real-time stock quotes and gives up to three free stock or motif trades per month.  If you'd like to try Motif Blue, use this link and you can try it for three months, free.  If  you do, I get free time too.  

Do I Recommend Motif?

Somewhat.  A motif is similar to a mutual fund or ETF in that it is a collection of stock shares.  It offers a level of diversification that purchasing shares in one company does not.  If you want someone to do the work for you and assemble a basket of stocks fitting a theme, then Motif can be a relatively inexpensive way to achieve that diversification.

However, unless you have an aversion to trading via smartphone, you can get lower costs (though not factional shares) via Robinhood.

For small investors though, due to fractional shares, you can get a higher level of diversification via Motif.  You can purchase a motif for as little as $300 and that motif can contain shares of as many as thirty different companies.  Obviously, $300 will not buy you anywhere near full shares of those companies but Motif allows the purchase of frational shares.

What Are My Plans With Motif?

My plans for my Motif account are to basically hold it.  I have eight motifs.  I created one of them, the other seven were "motifs of the week", offered for sale at no commission the week I bought them.  There are far too many companies involved for me to have a life and keep current on the details of each one.  

If I decide I want out, I can either sell the shares in a particular company in a motif, and pay a $4.95 commission or I can sell the whole motif and pay $9.95. Considering that a "large" position for me is $200, selling off share of individual companies is going to eat my profits quickly.  I plan on reviewing the motifs I own on a periodic basis and if they are not keeping up with the market, I will probably sell the motif as a whole and reinvest the money via Robinhood or Loyal3.  

Many of the companies I own via Motif pay dividends I have been withdrawing those dividends and reinvesting via Loyal3.  Now that I have a Robinhood account, it will be getting those dividends.  

Have you invested via Motif?  Do you think it is worthwhile?