Monthly Archives: May 2013

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The whole bonds to stocks move I made back in December has been pretty darn successful in the grand scheme of things. Had I not purchased a cent worth of Apple, well, things’d be even better.

Honestly, I’m not even sure *why* we hooked up… Upset with myself.

So, rather than wait anxiously for Apple to recover (when deep down, I hope they never do), I’m going to sell now and buy up some stock in other companies that I have legitimate confidence in.

The first company that came to mind about a month ago was Tesla.

No, it’s not that I think electric-powered luxury roadsters are cool — though I do think electric cars are a better investment than any hybrid.

To me, a hybrid is kinda like half-assing it.

You either do it or you don’t.

You can’t have it two ways!?

Like how Subarus, in particular, which aren’t even hybrids anyway have that “PZEV” insignia badge on the back with the little green leaf.

“Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle”.

Partial Zero?

Say what?

Anyway, since I’m not in the market for an electric car — having just purchased a swagger wagon — why would I invest in Tesla?

Well, I’ll tell you…

First, the company is not named after 80’s and early 90’s rock bank Tesla. You know, that one hit wonder with the song “Signs” where all the girls would sing along with the “Huh” during the break?

Did you know that was a cover tune? It was originally recorded by a Canadian band named “Five Man Electric Band” over 40 years ago now… Look it up.

So, the company is actually named after Nikola Tesla — a bad ass inventor from back in the Thomas Edison days that probably should have electrocuted himself multiple times. In fact, I’m sure he did.

Anyway, geeks know who Nikola Tesla is. I used to be a geek.

And the CEO of Tesla Motors is a geek — a geek that I went to school with.

Elon Musk went to the same university that I did and though we only crossed paths once or twice (he’s a couple years older), I didn’t forget him.

The unusual name was partially to blame.

Okay, mostly to blame. Ever notice how many people you encounter with really really unusual names in University? Where do they all come from?

Anyway, after leaving school, he went on to create PayPal of which I was an early adopter prior to it even being called PayPal since I’d heard around campus that it had been developed by “one of ours”…

So, he hit the ground running right out of school, started a bunch of really successful companies — including Tesla Motors, and hasn’t really looked back since.

He’s a winner — and having done it repeatedly, dumb luck can’t be to blame.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

So, to recap: Nikola Telsa played with electricity, the band Tesla covered a song by Five Man Electrical Band from Canada, Elon Musk grew up in Canada and founded a company that he named Tesla to make electric cars.

To quote a line from the song, “Can’t you read the signs?”

I should have bought this stock a long time ago.

Of course they’ve been on a tear this past week or so having now started making more “regular looking” electric cars — that just got great reviews — and are probably over-valued in the short term but once the price settles into a groove, I’m going with them.

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So it’s been 3 years since I last did this, which kinda disappoints me because I like constant and plentiful data…

Bank of America Business MasterCard
Limit: $26580 | Rate: 9.99% | Account Opened in 2005
This is the credit card that I use for all of my business related purchases. For a long time my personal spending and business spending all came from the same pool but obtaining this credit card put an end to that. My income is all still flowing into one pool but my expenses are clearly divided.

Bank of America MasterCard
Limit: $14000 | Rate: 12.99% | Account Opened in 1997
I have no clue where this credit card is. Physically, it’s probably in the still un-opened envelope it arrived in buried in one of my big “piles of stuff”. As such, as I became quite certain that it was slated to be my next plastic casualty due to lack of use (where the account would close automatically), so I recently used one of those convenient checks — which I still receive in the mail on a near weekly basis — to show some “activity” and keep the line open.

A little bit of credit card advice — don’t let your accounts evaporate.

Citi AT&T Universal Rewards World MasterCard
Limit: $12500 | Rate: 17.99% | Account Opened in 2007
This is the card that I use for day-to-day purchases when I don’t have cash in my back pocket. The ony reason it’s the card on top is because it offers the best rewards — rewards I haven’t taken advantage of for years now cause they tend to be, well, less than exciting

Slate from Chase VISA
Limit: $19200 | Rate: 18.24% | Account Opened in 1998
I have a sticker on the front and back of this card that says “GAS ONLY”. It’s not a gas card — just a regular old credit card — but I did that to shame myself from using it for any other purchases. I’m pretty disciplined anyway but this really keeps me from running up multiple (and un-payable) balances.

You’d also think that 15 years of loyal use (and on-time payments) would be rewarded with a more competitive rate. Clearly, that isn’t how they operate. My oldest card is also my worst.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It’s funny to me that my current line-up is predominently MasterCard.

For reasons unknown, possibly because it’s what my parents usually carried, when I think of a credit card, VISA is what comes to mind first.

I know I had at least one, and possibly five or six, VISA cards in the past but they’ve all apparently now fallen victim to various bank mergers and automatic account closures due to inactivity.

Hmmmm… Might be time to seek out a VISA card with CapitalOne…

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Here’s the recap of past roll calls:

» Jun 2007 : Limit = $98500, Balance = $13026
» Jan 2008 : Limit = $108400, Balance = $8125
» Apr 2008 : Limit = $110820, Balance = $0
» Dec 2008 : Limit = $111820, Balance = $0
» May 2009 : Limit = $98420, Balance = $0
» Apr 2010 : Limit = $69320, Balance = $0
» May 2013 : Limit = $72280, Balance = $0

Looks like an upswing!

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When it became apparent that a new car purchase was imminent, my wife and I initiated a bunch of transfers from savings to checking in anticipation of, well, emptying the coffers to make a down payment.

It’s crazy how we can come up with money fast when we need it — I mean, we practically live paycheck-to-paycheck it seems and each subsequent daycare payment drops us even lower but, when push comes to shove, we were able to scramble together nearly $7k in cash in the span of 36 hours.

Weird how that happens.

Anyway, upon inspection of the Land Rover, we were given the dire news that we were already completely aware of — it’s a 4500 pound paperweight with an original sticker price of $50k.

Trade-in value…$1500.

Ouch.

Not what I’d hoped for but what are you going to do, right? It was just a month ago that we finally trimmed our automotive fleet down to 3 vehicles — I wasn’t about to jump back up to four.

Fifteen hundred bucks to take it off of our hands was a deal I was willing to make.

Following that, they asked if we were going to write a check as an additional down payment — as if they didn’t think we’d intended to.

Now, we’ve been in this situation before. The most recent occurance that I can remember was our big interior renovation project. We’d saved up a bunch of money and paid it *all* out at the onset only to find ourselves cash strapped for what seemed like forever.

Sure, it gave us a huge jump on paying for the whole thing but…well, it wasn’t a great idea.

It sucked actually.

Being a lot wiser now, I realized that writing a $7000 check right then and there would only alter my monthly payment by maybe $100.

A hundred bucks is nothing compared to $7k in the bank.

In my eyes, anyway.

My wife and I looked at each other, shrugged, and decided, “Yeah, okay, we’ll toss another $1000 in towards the down payment.”

So I wrote a check for $1000. No rhyme or reason to that sum.

But that’s it — a $1500 trade-in and a $1000 check for the car and the rest went right back into savings.

So, along with a $444/month payment, we still have money to fall back on *and* a new car.

Yeah, while that payment kinda sucks, it’s still a much more comfortable setting than a new car, a $344/month payment, and an empty piggy bank…for months.

Always a better move to use other people’s money — especially when they’re practically giving it away for free…

If only construction loans could be had as easily as auto loans…

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So, as expected, last night we bought a Swagger Wagon.

Nothing notable about the experience from my perspective but people at work were horrified when I mentioned that we hadn’t even taken it for a test drive.

In a nut shell, we emailed the guy who sold us the Scion in 2005 and completed the entire transaction via email.

Last night was just to sign a few forms, drop off the Land Rover, and pick up the Swagger Wagon which, until last night, we’d only seen in pictures.

Whole thing took an hour — 25 minutes of which were spent waiting around while the finance folks finished up with other (slower) customers.

It was a darn near perfect transaction and just the way I like it.

No negotiations over floor mats, no back and forth over price, no closed door visits to the manager, no pointless test drive (more on that inna sec), and no sleazy sales pitches — though the finance guy did talk up a number of “warranty” offers which we obviously declined. Thankfully, he wasn’t pushy.

Once we had the keys, there weren’t demos on how to move the seats around or turn on the radio or use the keyless entry as if the entire concept of operating an automobile was foreign to me.

I’m not an idiot.

Apparently a lot of folks are, though… Really, the family next to us was getting schooled on stuff like power windows, glove compartments, where the turn signal was located, and which corresponding lights would light up.

“This is called the brake pedal. When you push it down with your foot, the red lights on the back turn on!”

Really?

Seriously, power windows have been around for 30 years. If you don’t know how they work, well, I’m not sure you should be allowed to buy or operate a car.

Now, yes, it’s true that we purchased a car sight unseen.

In fact, when I first saw it 5 minutes before owning it, I wasn’t real keen on the colour. It wasn’t exactly what I expected or how it looked in the picture online but that certainly wasn’t a deal breaker.

And a test drive? They offered, of course, but we turned them down. Complete waste of time, in my opinion, when you’re buying from a major dealership.

As you’ve probably guessed, I can’t be sold a car. I know what I want.

If I were to go in thinking that I wanted a Nissan and they had me test drive a Honda, a Toyota, a Volkswagen, and a Subaru all of roughly the same value, guess what? Regardless of the “ride”, I’d still be purchasing a Nissan.

If they had a green Nissan and a white Nissan of the same model, I wouldn’t take both out for a test drive to see which “felt” better. White cars look like storm troopers to me — I’ll take the green, thanks.

(Side note — I’ve driven Nissan rental cars twice in the past — a Sentra and an Altima — and can confidently say that I’ll never purchase a Nissan.)

So driving around the block in a bunch of different cars, to me, is an utter waste of time. I wanted a Toyota Sienna. It couldn’t be white. It couldn’t be red. Oh, you have a blue one? I’ll take it.

If it craps out on the ride home or even next week, I’ll be back. Big dealerships aren’t in the business of screwing people on the sales end of things.

Now, if I were purchasing from a small used car lot or a private party, well, that’s a different story. The Land Rover came from a small business — guess how many cars I took out for a test drive that time?

Yep, one. The one I purchased the next day.

The entire “idea” of the iconic car salesman and purchase process is very old fashioned to me. No one can tell me what I want — I’ve done the research and I already know.

Now, for the one percent thing referenced in the title of this post…

During the finance portion of the evening, the guy ran our credit scores and, I feel, went of of his way to mention that we have great credit.

My score was 857.

I’m not certain what that means since the last time I looked into stuff like this the highest a score could go was 850 but whatever… Different scale, I guess…

But underneath the score, where the “explanation” was, it said that my credit was better than 99% of the population so I now officially consider myself among the one percent and will shake my fist defiantly/triumphantly at the Occupy Wall Street welfare camp that I think might still exist in tatters in downtown Hartford as I drive by in my Swagger Wagon.

Rebel scum.

(If you’re under 25, that’s just another Star Wars reference…)

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So, while the bottom line isn’t all that great, I’m pretty happy to report that the assets that I have active control of are all going up.

Sure, the uptick in my checking account is mostly due to a favorable tax return but I’m gonna keep telling myself that it’s *all* due healthy financial habits.

Yeah, that’s what I’ll tell myself.

The not so great indicator here is that I’ve been using my credit card pretty much like I always have but at the end of the month, just before I put these reports together, I haven’t been paying the balances down to zero.

See, this site holds me accountable and I will freely admit to making HUGE credit card payments on the last business day of the month just to make these reports look their best.

I haven’t been doing that.

Mostly because I haven’t been doing these reports as diligently as I used to but, well, I’ve gotta start getting back in the habit.

A $1600 balance is nothing to sneeze at…

Grrrr…

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It’s about time I catch up on these postings as I’m a few months behind…

I’m not really sure what to say about the numbers being that it’s been so long but I will say that I’ve happy to report that things are moving in the right direction.

February was a wonky month for me — for the first time EVER, I didn’t file my taxes in February and didn’t even start doing them so I was a little cautious with my spending.

Not sure it that’s a good thing or a bad thing but I’m happy with where the numbers (that I calculating in MAY!?) fell.

Oh, and pay no mind to the red and green colours on the chart — they’re all screwed up but the numbers are correct.

Can You Dig It?

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