A Few Things that I Think I Think

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That title is completely stolen from one of my favorite sports writers, Peter King. I haven't done one of these in a long, long time. I blame Twitter for making it so easy to write very short thoughts such as these without having to put them in an article. However, I don't blame Twitter too much since I'm a shareholder. Also, these are a little longer than 140 characters.

  • I'm embarrassed that I wasn't able to publish a post yesterday... or Friday. While I may not be a Bostonian any more, I've spent a vast majority of my life in the suburbs (and I'm not far from the city). I should have written something about the Boston Marathon bombing such as this article. I will never forget the conflicting feeling of my oldest son first focusing on TV only to see the tragedy discussed.
  • I'm resurrecting this writing construct because I'm so busy. I'm all about full disclosure.
  • When I started dog sitting, I thought it would be a tiny thing that would make a hundred dollars a month. At most, I thought it could cover some utility bills. I was wrong... it appears to cover our utilities AND both our car payments. For some it might actually cover a mortgage payment.
  • My wife calls me the Walter White of dog sitting. I think she means two things. First, I provide a superior value (in my case, service rather than product) to my clients. Second, that value seems to have cornered the local market. I hope she doesn't expect millions in a storage locker.
  • Dog sitting is far from easy. It works for me, but it might not work for you.
  • I'd like to add Blaze and the Monster Machines from Nick Jr. to my article The Best Educational Streaming Shows for Preschoolers. Maybe not, since it isn't streaming, but it is one of my top educational recommendations. This week my son learned about adhesion.
  • I'm "worried" that my 2 and 3 year old sons are already smarter than I am. I put worried in quotes because it is a "first world problem." The younger was putting together a 24-piece Blaze puzzle (thanks local dollar store) and he found pieces and placed them when I thought they didn't belong. (In hindsight this might say more about me.)

    I've written about how my oldest challenges me in the past. He's a September baby, which means that he'll always be the oldest in his class.

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Last updated on April 20, 2016.

5 Statements Your Significant Other Makes About Money that Should Raise a Red Flag

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According to a study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, feeling like your partner spent money foolishly increased the likelihood of divorce 45% for both men and women.

But talking about money is touchy -- especially in relationships -- because when you talk about a person's money, you are also talking about his power, control, and freedom. But before you begin a life with someone, those uncomfortable conversations about money are paramount. If you do not understand each other's attitudes toward spending and saving, you can risk losing power, control, and freedom over your own life. Because, ultimately, the way your partner treats money can affect you both long-term.
While I encourage you to talk about finances regardless, here are five statements (and behaviors) that are cause for a talk:

1. "Everyone has debt. It's not a big deal. I'll eventually pay it off." (But makes no plan to do so.)

Someone who continually accrues debt and feels no sense of urgency or responsibility to pay it off may not know how to handle money responsibly. As you likely know, the more debt you have, the more money it costs you over time -- that's the way interest on loans work. So, if your partner is unconcerned with his or her debt and continues to dig deeper into the negatives without making any effort or plan to pay it down, could lead you to bankruptcy. And should you marry, any unpaid debts or bad credit will taint your own perfectly stellar credit line just by being attached.

2. "I work hard, so I deserve to buy [enter expensive item]."

Lifestyle inflation and feelings of entitlement can be kryptonite -- they'll blow your very rational, reasonable budget every time. And in a relationship, there are few feelings that are worse than working hard and skimping on luxuries of your own for the greater good of your combined future or financial freesom, only to find that your partner has spent the money on themselves. If one party continually violates a joint budget, it is likely to cause feelings of resentment.

3. "I don't have to invest much for retirement, because I'm great at picking stocks."

People who always look for shortcuts can be a red flag in many areas of life. But financial shortcuts, like picking stocks, are especially not something to bank on. Stocks are not a sure thing; old age is. If your parner has extra money to invest in stocks after other responsibilities are met, go for it, but not at the expense of a secure, steady retirement fund. Otherwise you'll see your own plans for retirement slip away.

4. "I need this pair of shoes because everyone has them and I don't want people to think I lack taste."

People who tie stuff to status -- e.g. the sort of people who buy nice cars so people think they are wealthy and meanwhile can't pay for their mortgage -- indicates something is askew not just with how they handle money but also about their values. In this case, actions speak louder than words: when someone spends their limited resources on flashy material gains, it says to me that they lack confidence and are trying to buy happiness. If you do not share that outlook and your partner does, it will likely take a toll on your own happiness and on your bank account.

5. People who make no statements about their finances at all (i.e. People who aren't up front).

Communication is key in resolving money issues. Being unwilling to talk and be honest with your partner about your financial history indicates a lack of understanding and respect that permeates beyond finances.

I understand that it can be hard to discuss your staggering student debt or a previous credit card mishap, but everyone makes mistakes and most financial problems can be resolved with time and willpower. In the end, none of these things have to be deal breakers. In fact, studies show that couples who made a plan and tackled their debt together remained happier with each other over the long-term.

Often times, an honest and open talk where you hear one another out can rectify any red flags.

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Posted on March 24, 2016.

Five Reasons Side Gigs Aren’t Just for Freelancers

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According to a CareerBuilder.com survey, in recent years, 20 percent of full-time workers have picked up a second job. Since the economic crisis in 2008, more and more people are seeking side income to avoid falling at the mercy of corporate layoffs. Today, diversifying your income is a good idea even if you do have a full time salary that covers your needs. From greater financial security to a more rounded resume, here are five ways locking down an extra source of cash can go a long way.

1. You’ll build greater financial security

A second study by CareerBuilder.com found that 42 percent of full-time workers usually or always live paycheck to paycheck just to make ends meet, making it difficult to save for the future let alone enjoy the present. Whether you turn your spare room into a B&B or you start a dog sitting business on weekends, earning extra cash off of assets you already have will lift the weight of worrying about every dollar spent and help you save responsibly for your future.

[Editor's Note: I can give you a ton of information on dog sitting having hosted nearly 150 "dog days" (number of dogs times the number of days.]

2. You’ll be more marketable

Building a career is, in essence, incumbent upon the ability to hone a skill that makes you valuable and hopefully indispensable to an employer. Therefore, the more new skills you acquire, the more opportunities you have to be indispensable. And the easiest and most economical way to acquire a new skill is to learn it on the job.

By diving deeper into skills you already have — like learning to use new data analytics software — for a side job, you will be better apt to get a new job (if you are looking) or to bring more to the table at your primary job, which could earn you a promotion. Plus, the balancing act that comes with working multiple gigs will help you prioritize and manage your time better.

3. You’ll save more

People are more likely to save a tax refund than they are to save that same amount of money when they’ve earned it in smaller increments throughout the year’s worth of paychecks. Similarly, money from a side gig — because it’s separate from your standard paycheck — has a better chance at finding its way into retirement savings or other investments. You might find that having a steady stream of income separate from your paycheck helps you to better compartmentalize and commit to your saving strategy or debt pay off.

4. You'll build a better professional network

Getting a freelance writing gig in addition to my full time job ultimately primed me for more writing opportunities, which enabled me to form a full-time freelance career. By maintaining several side jobs at once, I was able to multiply the number of good professional references and contacts in a shorter period of time. Furthermore, many companies like to test out employees on a part-time or freelance basis to make sure they are a good fit before offering them a full-time job. Getting a side job with a company or organization you like or aspire to work at can be a good way to get a job there in the future.

5. You'll make friends and get free perks

A friend of mine wanted to get her yoga teacher training certification. Instead of shelling out $2,000 on a training program, she offered to work the front desk at the studio near her apartment, where she took classes several times a week, in exchange for the certification. I’ve known people who have gotten similar perks from working at running and surf shops as well. Working at a place where people share similar interests can also open you up to a broader network of people who share your interests — a great option if you move to a new city and are looking to make friends.

Overall, having a side gig puts you in better control over your finances. Whether you are saving up for retirement or for a big vacation, the odds are always more in your favor if you have several ways of getting there.

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Posted on March 8, 2016.

We Bought Lottery Tickets… Here’s Why.

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Over the last few days, I've read a lot of articles about the lottery. I'm sure you've read your share of Powerball articles too, right?

I've learned that personal finance bloggers HATE the lottery. They say that "hate" is a strong word, but it seems applicable here.

powerball-logo

Here's a great article summing up the hate: The Deception of a Billion Dollar Jackpot. Here are two of my favorite quotes from that:

"You are 12 times more likely to die in a car crash while getting the ticket as you are to pick all six Powerball numbers. Skip the lottery, save $2, save your life."

and

"Are there alternatives to losing the lottery? Fortunately, there are. One alternative is to light $2 on fire (without burning down your house) and at least enjoy some light and warmth from the fleeting flame."

Let's review the basics

We all know we aren't really getting 1.5 billion. By taking the lump sum, you are going to be left with around 930 million.

Before I go any further, let's cover that lump sum choice. I was a big proponent of not taking the lump sum... and taking the money over 30 years instead. However, I saw that The Today Show a few day ago reported that if you die Powerball can weasel out paying the money to your estate. I'm seeing a lot of people source Powerball's official website that the annuity can be passed on on death. With such conflicting information, I'd suggest that winners consult their lawyers.

If Powerball has to pay out the annuity to the estate, then that's the way to go. I'll take $50M each year over 30 years. Even if it wasn't a huge jackpot like the current one, getting the money over 30 years solves a lot of problems. It prevents you from overspending. It gives you a fresh money start every year. You can keep all the moochers away by saying, "Hey, I only got to keep $25M after taxes." Maybe they'll forget next year.

If Powerball isn't paying the annuity on death, then the way to go is to take the 930 million right away. You'll probably be left with around $500 million after federal and state taxes. With some portion of that money, you're going to want to buy an annuity or something that guarantees that you'll never be broke. The idea here is hide money from yourself, so you don't blow it.

What does a Huge Jackpot Buy?

We know that winning the Powerball won't solve your problems.

Mark Cuban has some sound advice. Winning won't make happier unless you were happy already. Also tell your friends no to requests for money. In his words, "No one needs 100k for anything. Anyone who asks is not your friend."

Unfortunately, Cuban has some advice that I don't agree with: "You don’t become a smart investor when you win the lottery. Don’t make investments. You can put it in the bank and live comfortably. Forever. You will sleep a lot better knowing you won’t lose money."

With a huge jackpot like this, you can put 20% in the bank and live comfortably... forever. I would invest the majority of the money everywhere - stocks (domestic and foreign), bonds, REITs, commodities... etc. Honestly, I'll sleep best knowing that I have all the money I ever need in the bank and that if something should ever happen to that bank (it's beyond the FDIC insurance level) or the banking system, I've got a bunch of other things to fall back on.

But Why Did We Buy Lottery Tickets?

As the saying goes, "The lottery is a tax on those who are bad at math." I like to consider myself pretty good with math, so why would we choose to pay this tax?

I should explain that it is my wife who buys the tickets. If it were up to me, I wouldn't go out of my way. However, I'm using "we" here, because it comes from the family budget.

I'm not a supporter of the lottery, but my wife makes a great point. She explains it better than me, but her argument goes something like this:

"If you don't play your chances are 'goose egg.' You don't want to be 'goose egg.' Goose egg."

She has a great smile with the last "goose egg." I'm laughing at the way she says it, but I manage to make the point that I'd rather have an actual goose egg than a lottery ticket... as that is surely more valuable. (I can imagine Justin from Root of Good having all sorts of fun with goose eggs instead of lighting money on fire.)

It's that smile with last "goose egg" that makes it all worthwhile. We have a great laugh about goose eggs. Our annual budget is around $20-30 on the rare occasions that the jackpot gets really high.

By any math, a laugh over goose eggs is a lot better than arguing over such petty cash.

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Posted on January 13, 2016.

Easy Ways to Cut Down on Gym Costs

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Starting a workout routine can be one of the best gifts we give ourselves. It improves our physical health and mental wellbeing. However, if you’re looking to join a gym or even take a few classes, you may be surprised at the cost. Between equipment, race bibs, subscriptions, drop-in fees, and memberships, being physical comes at a price. Fortunately, there are ways you can cut down on gym prices without missing a workout.

5 Ways to Cut Down on Gym Prices

Class-Hop

For those living in cities or larger towns, you are likely aware of social deals such as Groupon and LivingSocial, which offer discounts on activities and local goods. One of the most popular deals are for gyms and classes – especially when you buy in bulk.

While most of these only last a month, you can become a “class-hopper,” going where the deals take you. Each month, purchase another bulk deal on a gym membership or drop-in card as a new client. You’ll save 30-40% or more – a huge savings when you consider that gym and class memberships often cost $80 or more per month!

Save at Home

Gyms aren’t the only way to stay fit. If you don’t live near a workout facility or can’t get away, try internet workouts! YouTube, SparkPeople, and MyFitnessPal are all free sites that provide users with short workout videos or even home exercise lists that anyone can do without gym equipment.

That being said, you must be careful when trusting a YouTube or other popular video instructor. They may not be as qualified as you think. For peace of mind, consider investing in online programs that guarantee high-quality instructors that have been vetted. I personally love my monthly membership to an online yoga studio where I can learn from various teachers. Prices range from $15-25/month with unlimited sessions, which is significantly less than even one yoga class a week at my favorite studio!

Let Tech Take Over

Sometimes, the best workouts are the simplest ones. Staying active throughout the day can make a huge difference to your health and even assist you in losing weight. That is why one of the most popular fitness tech items out there is the FitBit. In the past, you would need to purchase a heart rate monitor, pedometer, food tracker, and more to make up what this one nifty device does. Even the older versions such as the Flex work great and are steals compared to the latest version!

But I really love the FitBit because it shows just how much I can do at home. It gives me encouragement to get up and move, and I never feel pressured to go to the gym to meet my goals. The option to workout and even compete against friends breaks me of the social need to attend a class.

Experiment With New Fads

From circus pilates to dodge ball leagues, fun new classes are popping up at gyms all over North America. The best part about them (besides being a ton of fun) is that they’re inexpensive! That is because, unlike Zumba or Barre, these classes are relatively untested or beloved. Teachers often put up trial classes to see what the interest level is before offering it to a wider audience. Take advantage of these testers to see if you like it enough to pay the full price and to get in a unique workout without the boutique prices you’d pay down the line.

Train With a Student

Personal training is a great investment on long term health, but training fees can be outrageous, especially if you want to work out with someone licensed or with great credentials. But all of those super star trainers and athletes had to start somewhere!

Many colleges and universities that offer degrees in athletic training, physical therapy, or exercise science need their students to have hands on learning experiences with their own students. Signing up to be a guinea pig doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with a newbie as more than likely, you’ll get the help of not only the knowledgeable student, but also the professor with years of experience.

Your health doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Instead of cutting down on your workouts, look for creative ways to get your sweat on without opening your wallet.

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Posted on January 12, 2016.

Deal: Get PlayOn Plus (Lifetime!) for $40

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I'll keep this short... I've got a lot of writing to do today. I usually don't write articles to share deals (that's what my Twitter account is for), but I this is special deal that I wanted to specifically call out. It's too good to just let it slip off your timeline.

I've previously written about PlayOn Plus. You can read the review, but I think the title really says it all: PlayOn Plus Will Change How You Watch Television.

If you aren't familiar with PlayOn Plus it allows you to turn a Windows computer into a DVR recording just about anything that's streamable online. That's hundreds of channels including all the popular major networks. You can simply set up a subscription and tell it to tape all episodes of NCIS and they'll be there waiting. It even has an "skip advertising" option.

PlayOn

It doesn't just work with the networks. You can record Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Video, Hulu and others. Perhaps the best feature is that you then have a file that you can bring anywhere. This means that my kids can watch Amazon's awesome Tumble Leaf or Go Diego Go! in the car on a long trip. I don't need to worry about having an internet connection and/or the cost of streaming data on my wireless plan.

And until the end of the year, you can get this for just $40... forever. It would be a great value at $10/mo., but the one-time low-fee is probably the best value in entertainment today and a must for any cable-cutter. I'm not even a cable-cutter and it is a great supplement to my cable's plan and DVR (though I'm trying to ween myself off of that).

The deal ends in 2016, so you should probably grab it now before you get busy with the rest of the holiday rush.

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Posted on December 21, 2015.

Homemade Gift Ideas for Under $10

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The best gifts are from the heart and the hands. But so many are intimidated in fear of not being perfect or spending too much on supplies. However, there are some easy, stress free, and low cost DIY’s out there that anyone can do. Here’s my 5 personal favorite gift ideas that will have them wow-ing for under $10 in supplies.

5 Great Homemade Gifts for Under $10

1. Chapstick

We all need them, and we all lose them too! So why spend $10, 20, 30 on chapstick every year? Instead, you can make your gift receiver homemade chapstick they’ll want to keep handy all year round.

Supplies:

4 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tbsp. beeswax palettes
1 mini baby food jar or lipstick tube
Optional: Essential oil (your favorite flavor); red fruit punch mix (for color)

Directions:

  • Mix all of your ingredients together, including optional items in a bowl. If adding red color, add a little bit at a time before you get the desired red or pink color.
  • Microwave at 15-second intervals and stir between warming.
  • While still in liquid form, pour into container and allow to cool at room temperature.

2. Personalized Mugs

Personalized mugs are the hottest item this season. From initials to fun sayings and pictures, your friends and family will love these! But they don’t cost much to make, especially if you have a great eye for design or if you have kids who want to get creative to make a grandparent a gift.

Supplies:

Dollar-store ceramic or porcelain mug
Paint- or oil-based pens
Alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol

Directions:

  • Clean mug with alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol and allow to completely dry.
  • Use pens to draw or design. If you make a mistake, using the rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to erase.
  • Let dry at room temperature in a cool area.
  • Place in oven set at 425° for one hour.
  • Turn off the oven and let it cool fully inside.

3. Personalized Apron

Chefs and want-to-be foodies love gifts that can be used inside their favorite space. One of my personal favorites is receiving aprons that are personalized to my kitchen or full of humor. But you don’t need to sew or embroider to create a quality apron. Here’s how to do it for less.

Supplies:

Apron in color of your choice
Iron-on letters or quotes

Directions:

  • Lay out the letters or quotes first and use a pencil to make small marks in case things get moved around.
  • Follow the directions for the iron on letters, especially paying attention to times and heat settings.

4. Vintage Chalk or Cork Board

Vintage is still in style, especially bold colors or golds and bronzes. A quick trip to the thrift store can help you complete this cute project any girl or college student will love. Change out cork and chalk to make it more personalized for your needs.

Supplies:

Ornate vintage frame
Sandpaper
Spray paint (or regular paint with brushes)
Corkboard or chalkboard paint (for frame backing)

Directions:

  • Select an ornate frame and use the sandpaper to take the shine out of the original color.
  • Spray paint or paint with regular brushes at least two coats.
  • Cut the corkboard or the backing piece to fit into the frame.

5. Photo Drink Coasters

Photo gifts are always a hit, especially for loved ones and family members. However, you don’t need to get yours outsourced or wait for weeks for an online site to create it. Making yours can take just minutes, but you’ll be sharing a lifetime of memories.

Supplies:

Porcelain tiles
Printed photos in tile size
Modpodge
Sticky felt pads

Directions:

  • Clean tiles thoroughly and let dry.
  • Put a thin layer of Modpodge on the front of the tile and then lay photo carefully on.
  • Dry for 15 minutes and then place 3 more coats, allowing the same drying time between. Do not place anything on tiles for at least 1 day to allow to fully set.
  • Apply felt pads to corners of the tiles or cutting so that it fits the bottom
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Posted on December 15, 2015.

Making Employees Happy: Not Just About Money

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Most of us wake up in the morning, curse at the alarm clock, and punch the clock in an effort to make money.  Money, then, is the ultimate goal of employment, right?

Of course not.  Nobody works simply to have more money.  They work so that they can have what money buys.  Money is simply a currency that can buy happiness comfort.  What you really want is the food, clothing, shelter, or entertainment that money can buy.  Even Scrooge McDuck only wants money for the pleasure of swimming in it.

Today's article is geared toward employers and focuses on what employees value in terms of non-financial aspects of a job.

Location flexibility

I work for one of the largest financial services companies in the country.  Twelve years ago, I asked for the ability to change locations from corporate headquarters to a smaller office closer to family.  I am still in the same role, and all my team members are back at corporate headquarters, but I work remotely from a satellite office that houses about a dozen people.  I'm perhaps even more productive as a result, because I don't have to walk to meetings, but can attend via audio conference.  My company's Systems department has about 5000 people located at corporate headquarters, so a non-trivial amount of time can be spent walking to meetings in other parts of the complex.  Many people can work effectively from any location that has high speed internet.

Flexibility in the work

If your employees find the work they are doing interesting, they will likely be more productive.  It's still work, and it's not always possible to align people with work they find interesting - and sometimes a person's interest don't match up well with their actual skills.  This is why I'm not currently the cleanup hitter for the Colorado Rockies - I have a great deal of interest, but lack "some" of the necessary skills.

However, if Amy and Bob both dislike the work they are doing and are interested in the work the other person is doing, it may be beneficial to have Amy and Bob switch roles.  An added benefit is that Amy and Bob can now back each other up when one of them is absent.

Time flexibility

People in my department also have time flexibility.  Some people start at 5 AM, some people work 6 PM, and some people work four day weeks.  There's a core set of hours for which people are expected to be available (and may of us are on call during off-hours), and a specific team should ensure adequate coverage to handle any issues that arrive.  However, the teams have a lot of autonomy in deciding who works which hours.

Clothes make the man

Just before I joined the company, corporate employees had to wear a suit and tie every day.  That was changed to business casual - Dockers and a nice shirt.  About five years ago, the dress code was relaxed even further. Jeans, t-shirts, and running shoes were now perfectly acceptable, as long as they were clean and in good condition.  When meeting with customers or other outside entities, business casual would still be required.  However, if you're an IT geek buried in a cubicle all day (yep, that's me), then Wranglers, rainbow Asics, and a T-Rex t-shirt was now acceptable work attire.  I nearly cried the day the announcement was made. I'm much happier - and much more productive - in casual clothes.

The key takeaway is that you'll still expect the same work product from the employee.  However, you'll be giving the employee more control over their evironment

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Posted on June 2, 2015.

There Is No Today

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Last week, I woke up and I had a most unusual "first thought." There was no "today."

I thought this because I sometimes play Devil's Advocate with myself. I try to see if I can convince myself of the opposite thought. The opposite of "today" is "no today", right?

Now obviously the day existed and I lived it just like any day. (That is unless I died half way through and you reading this as a scheduled post, but let's move away from such morbit thinking.)

By there being "no today", I'm referencing the famous "There is No Spoon" scene from The Matrix:

Applying that thought, I came to an interesting realization:

Do not try to change today. That's impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth. There is no today.

By this time, I'm sure half of you are wondering who my drug supplier is... (and if you aren't, you probably should be). However, I prefer to think of today as "last year's next year." That is to say that the current day is in large part dictated by the decisions that I made last year... or the year before that... etc. The wife, car, kids, house, dog... everything about today is from choices I made previously.

By the same token, the day I'll live a year from now will be reflective of the choices that I make today. There's a lot of hype of YOLO (You Only Life Once) and people using that to make rash and sometimes not the best decisions. What if you instead thought of today as a foundation for living a better tomorrow?

Paraphrasing the wise kid in video, "Then you'll see there is no today, it is yourself that bends."

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Last updated on July 18, 2014.

Looking to Buy Your First Home?

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It's been almost 10 years since I bought my first home. I remember it being a whirlwind of information. Most of the information I got was from friends and family. There weren't few personal finance blogs out there and I didn't know they existed. Here are a few things that I knew and a few things that I wish I had known at the time:

First-time Buyers Can Get Special Terms

It can be tough to save up a big down payment. As a landloard, here's something I hope my tenants don't know. FHA loans may be worth looking into. Their down payment can be as little as 3.5% of the purchase price. (Interestingly, other countries have similar programs. For example, on the other side of the world, Australia has a first home buyer account that requires a minimum of 5% downpayment.)

Get a Friend or Family Member to be Your Agent

It's tough to know who you can trust out there. Your agent is supposed to be on your side, and I'm sure that most of the time they are. However, if they are your friend or family, you know they really have your best interests. I was lucky to have a friend who was a real estate agent and another who was a real estate lawyer to help with the closing. It was two fewer things to worry about.

Get a Home Inspection

The above might be the four useful words of advice I can give. It really is some of the best money I've spent. To know what needs repair is vaulable in itself. Being able to leverage it to get the previous owners to fix it or give you a lower price is gold.

Don't Over Extend Yourself - Know the Key Ratios

When I was buying my first home, I don't think anyone told me about a couple of key ratios until I applied for lending. Typically lenders like to see a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of less than 36%. They want to know that you'll be able to pay the loan back. Additionally, you'll want your housing payment to be 28% of your income or less. Some suggest it can be more, but I like to be conservative. Plus, the lower your housing payment, the more money you can save to build assets.

Don't Buy a Home in 2004

How's your time machine working? Mine has a few problems. When I get it going again, I'm going to go back tell myself not buy a house at the top of the market. Yes, that seems like a simple solution in hindsight. If your time machine is broken like mine, I'd simply suggest keeping up with the market. When you see a bunch of years of double-digit price appreciation, perhaps it is time to reconsider buying.

Any readers out there buy their first home recently? Maybe you have some tips that are fresh on your mind. Care to share in the comments section?

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Last updated on June 18, 2014.

 
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