January 15th 2014
At work, I’ve always loved thinking through processes. There’s just something about identifying the most efficient way for inputs to lead to outputs, and I should have figured that I could apply the same rigor to my personal finances.
In “I Will Teach You To Be Rich“, Ramit discusses automating your finances. Your paycheck lands in your lap at the start of the month and just imagine all of your prescribed percentages being carved out and allocated to the desired accounts, bills, and budgets.
Here’s a sample of what Ramit recommends...
On the 2nd of the month:
Part of your salary goes into your 401k
The rest of your salary is direct deposited into your checking account
On the 5th of the month:
Automatic transfer from checkings to savings accounts
Automatic transfer from checkings account to Roth IRA
On the 7th of the month:
Automatic payment of bills from checking account and credit card
Automatic transfer from checking account to pay off credit card bill
It’ll take a week or two to setup all of these recurring transactions with your banks, funds, bills etc. but it’s well worth it.
To manage this process, some online banks like Alloy or Capital One 360 (previously ING Direct) offer neat systems for managing multiple savings accounts so you can break your savings up into meaningful buckets (e.g., Emergency Fund, future laptop purchase, vacation money). Once you get into the groove, Mint.com is similarly super helpful for tracking your transactions + monthly budgets (bonus: their iPad app is pretty impressive.)
I’m also a big fan of Chase’s system for sending checks automatically on a regular schedule (never worry about remembering your rent check!) as well as repeating Chase Quickpay payments (for the other certified adults sending money to parents for that Verizon family plan).
There you have it. Money comes in and it’s like the neat little robots chop everything up and distribute the wealth accordingly. It keeps the monthly process consistent and care-free.
If you’re all set, treat yourself to a self high five, kick back, and enjoy the J-pop stylings of Utada Hikaru and their 1998 hit “Automatic.”
December 30th 2013
Personal finance is one of those topics that’s easily overwhelming. Last year, I caught myself repeating the same worries.
“Stocks, bonds, 401ks, IRAs? There’s just too much to comprehend.”
“I have no idea what all of those experts are talking about. How could I possibly understand all of this stuff?”
“Am I making enough money for it even to matter?”
“I’ll just keep putting a bit into my savings account each month.”
“I know finances are important, but I’ll tackle it when I have more time…”
The unknown can be paralyzing, and the worst part is that inaction snowballs into guilt.
“I know I should be doing something, but where the hell do I start?”
At the opportune moment, a friend of mine turned me on to Ramit Sethi’s book “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” which is a nice intro to personal finance for the overwhelmed twenty-something. The book touches on debt, credit cards, budgets, saving, investments and more in a snarky I-get-where-you’re-coming-from-bro tone.
IWTYTBR really is more of a primer. Like anything, you need to absorb and evaluate the advice but Ramit’s book provides a great jumping off point for many money-related topics. One of my biggest takeaways was Ramit’s 80% approach. You don’t need to become an expert. You don’t need to understand everything. Many times, getting 80% of the way there is enough. An 80% solution can be more than adequate.
Inaction is in fact the worst option of all. We know money doesn’t buy happiness, but it’s core to how we navigate our daily lives. You can’t escape it. If you don’t invest a bit of time to understand the fundamentals, you’ll pay dearly for it later.
A few days ago, I polished off Larry Swedroe’s “The Only Guide To A Winning Investment Strategy You’ll Ever Need.” I have to say, I genuinely enjoy the topic. Maybe it’s the numbers and logic, or maybe it’s just the idea of being rich (which I hear is among the top 10 things Asian guys in their twenties love).
Whatever the case, the process of defining finance terms I’ve long avoided and getting a grasp on how money today affects money down the road has been a liberating experience. I understand how much I spend and what I spend on. Knowing the numbers is a hell of a lot better than guestimating whether or not I can afford a special purchase or that summer trip.
If you were in the same financially-confused boat, I encourage you to just pick up a book and dive in. My plan is to continue learning and sharing my finance findings as a way to help personally synthesize. Any tips or coffee chats along the way are more than welcome.
As I look towards 2014, there are plenty more guilt-inducing-“I’m overwhelmed by what I don’t understand” topics to tackle. Here’s to the new year.
June 2nd 2013
34oz bottle of Valentina Hot Sauce
$1.99 at Associated Market, Park Slope, Brooklyn
The setting: March 10, 2012, shortly after my 24th birthday. In either a complete lapse of judgement or ultimate gift to the hot sauce heads of P. Slope, next-door Associated Market grocer slaps a $2 price tag on monster bottles of put-it-on-everything-delicious Valentina hot sauce. It would take a year to finish amidst generous daily usage. (Folks wised up, offer is no longer available. Bottles pictured are 1/3 of the size.)
3 Cup Pyrex Lunch Container
$9.99 on Amazon
It doesn’t matter what food options your office is surrounded by (in DUMBO that equates to not many), all work week lunch options will eventually lose their tasty glimmer. The way I see it, if you have to eat it every day you will inevitably result to grabbing “the usual” overpriced spinach salad or expensing Seamless.com sushi on the reg as survival food. In February, I spent an exorbitant amount of time identifying the optimal sized (good meal portion + appropriate flat shape for work bag packing) microwave-safe, dedicated lunch container. Ever since, my go-to Pyrex has helped me continually cook, save money, and even lose weight. Oh hell yes.
Tooth Brush + Mini Toothpaste for Office Desk
$Whatever at Bridge Fresh in DUMBO, Brooklyn
Never underestimate the usefulness of emergency teeth brushing utensils stashed at your desk. That one day a year you realize that you forgot your morning brush 10 minutes before the big meeting, you will thank me.
Handpulled Noodles with Minced Pork Sauce + Pan Fried Dumplings
$6.50 total (before tip) at Lam Zhou, Chinatown, NYC
They recently moved the noodle-slapping/hand-pulling out of customer view, but I forgive them. When I first ate at Lam Zhou on a friend’s recommendation, they had a C health rating and were damn delicious. All that’s changed is their fresh health code B-status. Do yourself a favor, hop off the East Broadway F stop and find this spot. The guy who takes your order may not smile at you like he does for me, but the noodle texture is a beautiful thing and their dumplings (which you will douse generously in the magical four: Vinegar, light soy sauce, chili oil and Sriracha. Repeat that to yourself.) are out of bounds. I’ve had a number of great meals in great company here. Tip ‘em well.
6 Hour Bike Rental
$10 at Greenbikes in Barcelona, Spain
The highlight of a week in Barcelona con mi madre. Copped a sweet beach cruiser (with lock included!) from a Santa Cruz to Barcelona transplant in the Gothic Quarter. So ensued a perfect 80 degree half day of pedaling along the Barceloneta beach, diving into cold water in my underwear, and grabbing a burger + Orange Fanta with my feet in the sand. Unforgettable.
May 19th 2013
Until the beginning of this year, I didn’t read books. When envisioning the quintessential 21st century gentleman, amidst the brogue boots and well sculpted scruff, I’m convinced the man reads. He’s read classics, he reads regularly, hell he’s read his favorites multiple times because every go-over he “learns something new.”
My mother is a voracious bookworm, tearing through a couple crime novels on the weekend, working her way through every free book the Kindle library has to offer. You’d think the genes might have been passed on, but my unfortunate personal truth was that as of January I hadn’t read a book recreationally (excluding Harry Potter) in nearly five years.
I read a handful of classic novels in high school and college as part of English requirements but at the end of the day, me-time reading was a hobby that never stuck. But when 2013 came around, my fear of the “What’s your favorite book?” question came to a head. My feed of blogs and long-reads were beginning to bore and spending enough time around a few habitual readers moved me to take on the embarrassing lack of books in my life.
Five months in, I’m proud to say I’ve finished seven books and enjoying numero eight. It’s admittedly a funny mix of fiction and nonfiction, following my fickle interests of the month.
Here’s the lot:
Shape of Design by Frank Chimero
A short read by a fellow studiomate. Loved his anecdote on putting a little extra “love” into your work.
Purple Cow by Seth Godin
Best-seller by last month’s CreativeMornings/NYC speaker. A whip-smart dude, helped me make a few business decisions as of late.
Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu
The remarkable life story of another NYC speaker.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
A Second-Life like world, language viruses, futuristic pizza delivery. My brother raved about this scifi classic ten years ago.
The Hunger Games TRILOGY by Suzanne Collins
Born to Run by Christopher Mcdougall
Didn’t exactly inspire me to run a 100mi ultramarathon, but close.
Currently reading – Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang
Food, hip hop, Asian culture. What more can I ask for?
They might not all be gentleman-worthy American classics, but I’m damn proud to say I’ve read these books. Here’s to new stories in the new year.