My 1st Million At 33 – yes, you can do it too

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  • Archive for the 'Miscellany' Category

    Amazon starting to require California tax on Sep 15

    Posted by Frugal on 12th September 2012

    There won’t be any more tax advantage for Amazon starting in September. It would be interesting to see how Amazon will compete vs the big discounters like Walmart and Target. If you have any big items and know that they’re priced cheaper, you may want to get them before the tax deadline.

    Frankly I find that items at Walmart are usually cheaper, even after considering the tax factor. This year I bought just $50 from Amazon, and that is after many hours of searching just to try to put myself over the $25 for free shipping. Besides books & music which I don’t buy much these days, I often find that more than 50% of the 9% California sales tax goes into Amazon’s bottomline, while the buyers gain less than 50%.

    The stock of Amazon is at all time high, due to its new Kindle release. From that aspect, I believe Amazon has a very good chance in competing against Apple products. After all, people want to access content (music/video/books/games). A platform that allows you to access the greatest content at the cheapest cost will be the winner. Long battery life & easy access to any of your Cloud storage also counts. Cheaper price of $199 also goes a long way. A heated competition is always better for consumers.

    Posted in Miscellany | Comments Off

    Going from thirties to fourties

    Posted by Frugal on 14th August 2009

    People say that one may have a mid-life crisis around 40s. That’s definitely true.

    When I started blogging, I have always thought that I’m “young” and energetic. But a reader while in college addressed me as “Sir” as if I’m so much older. Come on, about 10 years ago, I was still in grad school. I didn’t feel that I have grown out of the school years at that time.

    And just a couple of days, I asked my dad NOT to come to airport to pick me up for my upcoming trip to go back home. I needed to remind my dad that I’m almost 40, and he is almost 70, and I’m not a kid anymore. Time flew by so quickly.

    I still remember when my dad was 40. He appeared to me as “old”, since I was a little kid. I wonder how my own kids look at me now. I even have white hairs that can’t be hidden anymore.

    The same story goes for personal finance. I really thought that I was young and capable of taking bigger risk. After 2008 stock market debacle, suddenly I realized that I’m not as young as I thought. What I have lost from peak to bottom, I could have never recovered that by decades of saving until retirement. In reality, if I assume that one could accumulate savings from the age of 28 to 58 for thirty years, I have already used up about one third of the time. Doesn’t that sound a little bit scary?

    That’s why it’s always better to start saving as soon as one can. If you save for consecutive 30 years, you multiply and compound your savings for 30 years. But saving for 40 years will be at least better by 33%=40/30-1. Now, if you only save for 20 years, you will be worse off by 50%=30/20-1. But if you could only manage to save for 10 years, well, I sincerely wish that God will bring you some good fortune. Or alternatively, you can always go out and buy a personal finance book, 99% of which is always overly optimistic. These authors always play games with “stock market return” percentage from 5% to 12%, and then tell you that by math of compounding (if stock markets consistently returns 10+%), you will just become magically rich and retire.

    Is that really so? Maybe it works for this generation of baby boomers, since they’ve got all the entitlement programs supported by all the younger generations which are bigger in numbers. When a population graph looks like a pyramid, with few people retiring, and many youth working, it always work by the Ponzi scheme principle. But most of other generation won’t be so lucky, especially we are already over-burdened by trillions of fiscal deficit.

    Am I too pessimistic? No, I’m advising you to take actions NOW! When you don’t let time (and money) work for you, then time will just go against you. And the only way to break the spell is to take actions now. Whether you’re on a job, or out of jobs, take actions for yourselves. Don’t just sit there, and lament what has transpired. If you don’t do something, your situation is not going to change for you. Plan for the worst, but try your best and hope for the better. Even if nothing happens, at the end of everyday, if you have tried your best in everything, whether it’s saving money, doing your job, or finding your next job, you can always tell yourself and God, that you’ve got a grade of A+ today for the 105% effort that you’ve put in. And therefore, there is absolutely no regret. That is how can a great man and a great task (saving for retirement) get accomplished, one day at a time, even when there may be a long stretch of apparently zero progress.

    That was how I learned my first hard lesson in money.

    Posted in Miscellany, Retirement | 9 Comments »

    How much will you get in food stamp?

    Posted by Frugal on 10th July 2009

    I finally know what EBT is, whenever I swipe my credit card at the grocery stores. EBT is Electronic Benefits Transfer, an electronic system designed to reduce food stamp fraud.

    Ever wonder how much you could get in food stamp?

    The other day when my family ate at the Boston Market, a lady pushing her toddler in a stroller came in to beg for food. She went around in the entire restaurant, begging for money and chicken. I insisted on not giving her any cash, but I will buy a meal for her. Before I had a chance to order while waiting in line, she had got what she wanted: some chicken from one of the tables, and then she left without my order. I felt a little sad for her, because she must be ordered by her husband to come out and beg for chicken. Yeah, she didn’t really want any other food, but only chicken (and cash of course). But because of her assertiveness of being an unashamedly beggar, it was a bit hard to feel lots of compassion towards her. A beggar picking her own food?! I can’t help but recall another incidence where an old man in a grocery store commanding me to pay his bill, and convinced the cashier that I would pay his bill. No, I told the cashier! He didn’t even ask me nicely. Instead it was commanding with entitlement, as if I and/or the society owed him something.

    Anyway, so I found this site where it will estimate the amount of food stamp that you will receive: Assuming zero income and no assets, a family of four can receive $588 a month, to my surprise. That’s about $5 per meal per person, for 3 meals a day. Without counting any dine-outs, I can say for sure that whenever my wife cooks, my family probably seldom exceed $5 per meal per person, and obviously breakfast is probably $1 or less. There is really no way that you can go hungry with $588 of food stamp per month.

    Of course, I reckon that one still needs to pay the rent, utility, and transportation costs. Regardless, the welfare system in United States is not that bad. I guess I don’t need to worry about people going hungry at least in this country, thank God.

    Posted in Miscellany | 8 Comments »

    Should you settle your car collision outside of your insurance?

    Posted by Frugal on 6th July 2009

    I had a perfect accident-free driving record for the last twenty years until this weekend. Coming back home from vacation during the July 4th long weekend, I hit the bumper of the car in front at a speed of less than 2 miles per hour. Why? Thanks to all the new distractions provided by modern technology, I was looking at my GPS navigator, instead of the traffics.

    Because the collision was so minor with barely visible mark on his bumper, I was going to settle with him with some small amount of cash. But this guy apparently wants to scam me for a lot more, by claiming that his bumper is tilting now due to collision (yeah right, tilting by 0.0001 inch). We exchanged insurance information like usual. At the end, he asked me for my personal phone number, possibly wanting to settle with me later. Because of his bogus claim, I was afraid to deal with him personally. I asked him to call my insurance company directly.

    My reason for wanting to settling outside of my insurance initially was that I didn’t want to have my insurance premium increase. However, after calling up my insurance company (now GEICO which matched and beat Ameriprise through Costco), I found out that actually for any paid-out claims less than $750, there won’t be any change in my current $730 annual premium. I also checked some online quotes from Ameriprise, and an incident of claim less than $1000 didn’t change my insurance rate ($900) either.

    I guess that the premium increase will probably be different for each individual. But without this incident, I would never find out that actually there is some “allowance of minor incidences” in the insuring industry. I still remember my brother’s car incident caused the insurance annual premium increase by about $1000, which last for several years. However, that was during his adolescence years, and it was more than 10 years ago. Insurance companies are more competitive now.

    I have always paid my car insurance, thinking it’s money thrown away. And I actually settled a similar collision once to maintain my “perfect driving record”. I guess the correct way of using my insurance should have been always letting insurance company do their job.

    Posted in Insurance | 6 Comments »

    Just back from my vacation & some notables

    Posted by Frugal on 8th December 2008

    With Xmas seasons here, I probably won’t have a lot of posts before the year end.

    Here are some of the things that I thought you may want to know:
    1. Bob Hoye continued to call for a upward march towards March, and that gold shares have bottomed.
    2. There is a backwardation in gold for 2 days, first ever in history. Think about it for a second. Why on Earth do you want not to cash in your gold/silver if you can get 2% more (annualized return) in the next 1 or 2 months? If this happens consistently/persistently, I think the only good answer would be that holders are not sure whether they can get them in 2 months.
    3. For those who have spent time reading thru my last link on Armstrong, here is some of my thoughts.

    1. He played a lot with numbers, which doesn’t have much ground in physics. But it actually got me interested in more decodings of it. As I have always said long time ago that I don’t believe in 3.14159 * 1000, because 1000 is not very meaningful in physics, yet 1000 is the third power of 10. 10 means nothing in physics also. But I just found out where 10 can be fit in. When you walk around the unit circle (with a radius of 1) by 10 divisions (36 degree = 360 / 10), that is the only way to get an Y or X-axis projection of the walked arc to be the length exactly equals to (the inverse of golden ratio)=~0.618. I’m using golden ratio as 1.618, but 0.618 is much more commonly known in the Elliot waves or fractal analysis of financial prices. An X or Y-axis projection in physics usually mean a realization of the physical phenomenon. Most mathematical or physical waves including sines and cosines are projections from unit circle.
      I know 99.9% of you are not interested in this, but 10 and 12 are the two most important numbers in Chinese astrology, which creates the famous 60=10*12 year cycle. And of course, 12 is present in Armstrong’s cycle work, as the two complementary private/public cycle of 6. Along the same thought, I did find a number very close to 12 from the golden ratio also. It’s the golden angle which in radians is about 2.399963, from which you can get pi divided by the square of golden ratio is approximately 1.2=12/10. I don’t see any physical meaning for 1.2, except for the fact that 2.399963 is simply way too close to 2.4. That would be a prediction error of 0.0015% if that is actually how 12 is derived.
    2. Armstrong’s computer had a conversational interface. That is beyond most of the published reports of techonology in his time. However, it is not impossible. Here is a company which created such conversational system in about 6 years. The other extremely important factor to consider is that a conversational computer system is highly dependent on the scope of vocabulary words. With a limited (financial) vocabulary, such systems could easily be created.

    Posted in Astrology, Investing | 2 Comments »

    Ron Paul understands economics better than any other politician

    Posted by Frugal on 15th July 2008

    I just read the full article at DailyReckoning by Ron Paul. He has such a lucid understanding on the whole economic mess. It is a GREAT PITY that we don’t even get the chance to vote for him. I’m giving you some excerpts so that I don’t copy over everything here. Please go to DailyReckoning for the full text.

    It’s the post Bretton-Woods system that was responsible for globalizing inflation and markets and for generating a gigantic worldwide dollar bubble…

    Ironically in these past 35 years, we have benefited from this very flawed system. Because the world accepted dollars as if they were gold, we only had to counterfeit more dollars, spend them overseas (indirectly encouraging our jobs to go overseas as well) and enjoy unearned prosperity….

    But it was never destined to last, and now we have to pay the piper. Our huge foreign debt must be paid or liquidated. Our entitlements are coming due just as the world has become more reluctant to hold dollars. The consequence of that decision is price inflation in this country – and that’s what we are witnessing today. Already price inflation overseas is even higher than here at home as a consequence of foreign central bank’s willingness to monetize our debt.

    Printing dollars over long periods of time may not immediately push prices up – yet in time it always does. Now we’re seeing catch-up for past inflating of the monetary supply. As bad as it is today with $4 a gallon gasoline, this is just the beginning….

    I tried to explain the global inflation in my previous post on global economy in a nutshell, but I think Ron Paul did a MUCH BETTER job than I could have explained. It is such a pity that we have one of the best presidential candidates around, and yet the mass media pooh pooh on him all the time. It is so sad for American public, not being able to recognize the leader of their time. “Obama for change” sounds great. But changes cannot be just verbal. The United States seriously need changes. I’m not sure that it can be provided by Obama.

    Posted in Miscellany | 5 Comments »

    Happy July 4th

    Posted by Frugal on 4th July 2008

    Today is a holiday and it’s a long weekend. I wish everyone have a nice break.



    Posted in Miscellany | 1 Comment »

    The purpose of this blog

    Posted by Frugal on 23rd June 2008

    With the blog reaching more people now, it’s a good time to reflect on the past.

    When I first started this blog, I never thought that there may be quite some ambivalence triggered among readers and other personal finance bloggers alike. After all, you can’t buy much with one million dollar these days, especially in the high-priced housing area in California. Besides I have always felt personally that the amount of money is just a number on the paper. Any other number such as 500K or 200K is just as good as 1 million. I have never attached any importance to such numbers. Choosing the title as “My 1st Million At 33″ was simply a marketing whiz, but definitely not a boastful gesture which has never entered my mind.

    The other subtlety that few people have noticed in the title is that it stated “My 1st Million At 33″ instead of “My 1st Million By 33″. I used “at” because I know so well that money comes and goes, and I don’t want to misrepresent myself as saying something untruthful. Certainly, I could have lost enough to let my net worth go below 1 million. Furthermore, the word “at” reflects my attitude on life. Life to me is about a journey of how we live daily, rather than a series of goals that one has to reach for. Every day in life, we shall strive our best. Do not waste your time to dwell in the past glory nor sorrow. Do not waste your time on futile worries or day dream about future extravagance or success. TAKE ACTION TODAY to improve your current and future life.

    Changing the title to “My 1st Million At 33 – yes, you can do it too”, fully reflects my original and continual purpose of blogging on this site. Yes, I have always believed in the best of everyone. I have always believed in everyone’s potential to go far and beyond, and I have never doubted that any of the visitors coming to this site can achieve further financial success (if not already) than I can. Yes, you can do it too. In fact, you can do better.

    Having said that, a financial success is not easy by all means. Achieving any kinds of success requires lots of hard work, perseverance, and some luck. I only hope to inspire the younger generation, or older alike. Yes, it is possible. And yes, given enough time, you can do it too. Even if you doubt it, I won’t doubt you.

    Have a long term plan. Start daily inching forward. And whether you can reach 100K or 1000K, or several millions, it doesn’t matter that much. What matters is that you’ve gained more financial independence for yourself throughout years of efforts, instead of staying at the same old comfort zone and do nothing about your own personal finance.

    (From Nike, ) Just do it.

    Posted in Miscellany | 4 Comments »

    Tips from Selling My Old Camry

    Posted by Frugal on 13th June 2008

    I finally sold my 1994 camry for $2500.

    It’s not a bad price, even though Kelly’s Blue Book showed a higher price of some $3000. These days, it’s hard to sell any car, whether it’s new or used. Car sales are way down.

    I have advertised my car at craiglist which is a great advertising resources. Got a lot of email inquiry, but much less actual physical visiting. It appears that there are many people who wanted to get a car for close to nothing.

    Here are some tips that I’ve gathered around for selling used cards:
    1. Price competitively. There is a good demand for cars priced from $1500 to $3000. That also means that you probably won’t get any top dollars if you are planning to sell your new car just after 2 or 3 years.

    2. Washed, waxed, and detailed. Appearance matters. Remove all junks.

    3. Keep a good records of maintenance.

    4. Smog your car, and sell it in 90 days (at least in California). A car that has passed the smog, or guarantee to be smog-free, gives the buyer a peace of mind. A report from mechanics is pretty good too.

    5. Advertise your car in every way possible. Choose the venues where people are looking for bargains. You know, for people buying an used car, they are obviously bargain hunters. You should think like a bargain hunter, and put your ads where people will look at.

    6. Yes, you should add in your price that it’s NEGOTIABLE. OBO, or best offer is good too.

    7. Make all of your buyers to come to see your car with prepared CASH, and have all of them come on the same day, preferably one after another. This way you have a little upperhand in price negotiation. Yeah, you can definitely tell your buyer that if you don’t buy it now, it could go to the next buyer.

    So now I end up with just 2 cars. My insurance only went down by about $150 annually. I guess they figured that I could have only driven so much. I still have a camry that I drive. I’m contemplating when I should sell it and get a tiny commuting car, such as Smart from Mercedes, which gives some 60 miles per gallon. Don’t you wonder why car manufacturers don’t make cars like Lego blocks, so that you can drive just half of the 4-seat car, when you’re commuting, or even add another 2-seat to get to 6+ seats whenever needed. Wouldn’t that be extremely energy-efficient? Just a thought.

    Posted in Miscellany | 4 Comments »

    Earthquake in China

    Posted by Frugal on 20th May 2008

    This is certainly not news, but I just want to plead people to donate for this cause. When we all still have our beloved ones around us, and food on the table, we should be all very grateful, and think of anyone who doesn’t. The two disasters in Asia, cyclone in Myanmar, and earthquake in China, have been just very terrible. Please help out in any ways if you can in.

    When I was in a break room last week, reading newspaper on this, one of my colleague asked me about what is the count on the casualties. I literally couldn’t talk to him because I felt so sad for these people. He sensed my sorrow, but a couple of minutes later, he said, “See the problem is that if you want to donate, it’s the fat cats who are going to get most of your donated money.” I didn’t know what to reply, but I wanted to say to him, “so I should be doing nothing for these unfortunate people?”

    I have donated $1500 to Tzu-Chi for the two causes. I have been searching around internet, and the only good charities for this seem to be mercy corp, and red cross in HongKong, and Tzu-Chi. Tzu-Chi was founded by a Buddhist’s monk, and the organization has a very long good record on charitable deeds around the world. I have also checked out Tzu-Chi’s report at charity navigator, and 96+% of the money will go towards the actual people in need. It’s less than what I would like to see (98+%), but at least it’s not less than 90%.

    Posted in Miscellany | 5 Comments »