Tuesday, October 07, 2008

State of Megan - Part Two

Today we're going to talk about money. The state of my money.

See the problem is, I'm not a naturally fiscal person.

My inherent proclivities are towards spending, not saving. Matters of money are a huge source of stress for me. My relationship with it vascillates between love and hate, almost daily. Almost hourly. I've never had *a lot* of money per se, but I'm definitely not poor. I save during months where money is not tight, less than my financial advisor wants, but more than the average person I suspect.

When I started at my current job six and a half years ago I immediately enrolled the max into my 401k. My company matches 6%, so by now I have a considerable chunk of change socked away for when I decide to live my dream of building a gigantic front porch somewhere, spending the rest of my days fanning myself between glasses of iced tea and unreciprocated fetch with my fat, grandfatherly curmudgeon of a dog.

Trust me, it's planned out. There will be cupcakes, too. Lots of cupcakes.

So this morning when I signed on to check my stocks and see this in the activity column: Gains/Losses -$7,313.42, it put a bit of a dent in my day.

I know times are hard for everyone, but that's the largest sum of money I've ever gambled away, ever.

My Year-to-Date Rate of Return is -32.1%.

I don't know much about the stock market, admittedly. I dated a broker for a while, but most of my money I entrust to the good people at Ameriprise Financial. My advisor has honestly helped me a lot to understand good spending and saving habits. He put me on a budget, which I adhere to everyday with a computerized program that my boyfriend wrote for me. It tells me how much money I have to spend for the week and then that's what I spend. I have a Roth IRA, an ING Savings account and a 401k and all that makes me feel is confused. I know it's not enough. Not enough, even still.

Me and money, we don't know the steps yet in this dance. Somehow, I fear we will always being stepping on each other's toes.

The economy is in a sorry state today, this isn't news to anyone. Of course during the years of the Clinton surplus, all I had to worry about were slap bracelets and Slurpee allowances, so its definitely news I am keeping up with. Like most Americans, I have a lot of debt. Credit card debt, school loans, car loans, not to mention the thousands of dollars my parents have lent me over the years.

Short of a miracle, that little nest egg is all I have. So yes, I'm concerned. I'm not an economist. I don't even balance my check book.

What I can't imagine is that anyone would willingly volunteer to take on this country's issues. That is why I am a voter. I have such respect for both candidates in this election. Who would want to be them right now? Honestly.

She wrote an intriguing post today and I have to say, after reading it again, I really think she's right on the money. *Cheesy pun FULLY intended*

Maybe a recession is what this country needs. Learn to live within our means for a while and then appreciate what we have. Its amazing how it takes ridiculously high and rising gas prices to really focus on the energy crisis. I know it sounds socialist, but I really believe there could be worse things. So we buy generic for a while. We buy the sensible, fuel-economic Honda instead of the gas guzzling luxury SUV. I'm up for it. I have enough Ramen to last me another ice age.

But seriously. What this is teaching me is how unnecessary half the things I buy are. I've been wanting a new bed frame/headboard set for my new bedroom. I can't afford what I want. What I want is from Crate and Barrel and is $1200. See, totally unnecessary. But I waaaaaaant iiiiiiit.

With my new fiscally responsible mindset at work, I searched for something that would satisfy my headboard obsession at a lower cost.

Then I found the Ikea "As Is" section.

I peed my pants a little I think upon stumbling across this veritable diamond in the rough, this wonderful section of loveliness. In my current state of newfound frugality, all of those "as is" items looked shiny and new to me. I walked the aisles like a queen ordaining saints. "I'll take this one. And this one. Oh this one. This one for sure. Annnnnnnd this one."

They have this section that just has scraps from returned cabinets, media centers, bathroom shelving units, kitchen counters, backs of chairs. Their collection is amazing. I settled on this little piece, the door from a bookcase unit. The wood was exactly what I wanted, dark brown, the size, perfect. I plan to knock the glass out of the center and replace it with a covered piece of MDF or foam core, maybe in a microsuede with some upholstered buttons.

And all for $10. Plus I had a coupon.

Oh yeah, I'm a coupon cutter now, too.

I know my money is the issue here, but I also know many of you are feeling the effects of the slowly tightening wallet of our goverment. What are some things you do to make ends meet?


Cunning_Linguist said...

don't focus on the immediate "loss" number when you are investing long term like that. If anything, NOW is the time to double your contribution because in the long run it will mean more. Investing 100 when the market climbs ten, good on ya. Investing 100 when the market climbs 50, savvy lil girlie. In the long terms of investing... look at the overall trend, not the today number. It's cyclical and you have maaaaaaaaany years ahead of you to worry about it. Keep saving as best you can. It's all "we" are going to have in the end. You seriously don't think social security will be worth anything at our retirement, do you? Of course not. It actually has a targeted end date for chrissakes.

S said...

I frickin' LOVE Ikea.

For me, this whole economic downturn has been a weird thing: I took a much better-paying job (about a 35% raise) just a little over a year ago, so I'm not feeling a pinch relative to the rest of my adult life.

That said, my fiance and I have cut back on eating out. And as for gas prices, I was smart (or lucky) enough to buy a Prius over 3years ago, so the increases at the pump haven't affected me as much as most.

I totally get that I am the exception, though, and I certainly do not have a lot of money saved and, like you, have lots of debts.

I am sometimes very scared about the future of our country. [sigh]

Muffy Willowbrook said...

I'm an equity trader, and I know more about the doom of the economy right now than anyone ~ and you still have more discipline than I do about my money.

You should be very proud of yourself that you've got those savings vehicles in the first place. Alot of people our age (?) don't. You are farther ahead than you think. And you can't take any of that money out of your 401K for a long long time without penalty anyway - so try not to focus on the here and now.

The market will turn around. You just need to wait it out. In the meantime, drink as many Slurpees as you can.

dmbmeg said...

I actually looked up buying a Smart car the other day. Yep. My vanity has completely vanished.

dmbmeg said...

Also, re: your 401K. Read this. I found it interesting.

Anonymous said...

I'm not very good with financial advice being that I have no money but the only advice I can give you is to not make it a habit of looking at the 401k when the economy is like this. I haven't looked in over a month and I feel like being naive is making it easier to just keep on forging ahead. You have awhile before your retirement so I wouldn't worry too much. And I agree, either candidate is going to have their hands full when taking over.

And you're so right about the furniture. Right now my bedroom set is in total disarray so you telling me about Ikea might really help! Thanks!

JenBun said...

Agreed with the abovementioned-- 401(k) will work out over the long term.

Also, you have a maxed-out-for-matching 401(k), a Roth IRA, an ING account, a financial advisor, a BUDGET, and a computer program designed just for you?!?

You are doing better than most people, my dear, with or without the debt.

As for tightening the purse strings and making ends meet, I'm just cutting back-- trying not to drive up to LA so much just to hang out, not buying stupid impulse purchases just to HAVE things, finding a cheaper alternative (like your headboard, which sounds AWESOME!), and doing different things that are still FUN but require spending less money. Honestly, I haven't felt deprived or anything-- just appreciate more of the stuff I DO have!

(Tia wrote a good post about it too...)

Anyway, mad money props to you! :)

Hellafied said...

Jen, Tia's post was awesome! Thanks for letting me know about it. :)

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