THIS IS ABOUT my crypto journey. Spoiler alert: I still don’t own any.
My journey began in 2013, when I was serving as an assistant principal in Philadelphia. Since I was always giving advice on our 403(b) plan based on my voracious reading of personal finance blogs, a colleague asked what I thought about bitcoin and whether she should invest. Back then, the price was well under $100—close to $30, I think. I dismissively told her to avoid it.
EVER SINCE OUR OLDEST was born three years ago, my wife and I have had to confront the cold reality of paying for childcare. We visited four different daycare providers in the Boston area. None was below $2,300 a month. The gap between what we saw as the best and the worst was only $200.
Our monthly childcare outlay—now covering two kids following the birth of our second child last October—is close to $5,000.
WORKPLACE RETIREMENT accounts can be confusing and intimidating. Often, human resources departments serve as the contact point for employees, yet HR folks rarely know much about the nuances of a plan’s investment options—and, in any case, they aren’t legally allowed to offer advice.
Not sure how to handle your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan? My first step was determining how much to contribute per pay period, so that I could hit the $18,000 annual limit.
TOWARD THE END of high school, I landed in some predictably adolescent legal trouble: I purchased alcohol underage and had to shamefully explain what happened to my parents. As I dejectedly declared that I would pay the fine and admit guilt, my parents—concerned about potential career implications—instead insisted that I hire a lawyer with my own money. I had to work for more than a year as a busboy and caterer to reimburse my parents for the cost,
I DON’T THINK my parents ever had any sort of five-step plan to teach me about money. I was always parsimonious, so they weren’t very focused on how I spent. They did, however, teach me two powerful life lessons—which changed not just the way I thought about money, but who I am.
Everything has a cost. I attended private school from fourth to ninth grade, coasting by with B plusses and A minuses.
AS I PREPARE TO MOVE from Philly to Boston this summer, I’ve struggled with how to handle my home. Do I sell the place and pocket the profit—or keep it as a rental property for future income and price appreciation? A quick Google search provides plenty of good reasons to choose either option. But when making a decision of this magnitude, what really matters is your personal situation—and that prompted me to sell. Here are my five reasons:
The financial benefits of renting out the place don’t outweigh the costs.
AFTER SHARING MY best investment in my previous post, it’s only fair that I follow up with my biggest blunder. I was 22 and working my first real job, as a high school English teacher in south Texas. Thanks to the job, I quickly kick-started my “adult” life: learning about health insurance, taxes and retirement savings.
A colleague introduced me to his brother, who worked as an investment advisor. We scheduled a meeting to talk about my retirement plan.
WHEN WE MAKE investment mistakes, often bad advice is to blame. Someone recommends a stock or annuity or no-risk rental property, and we’re so tantalized by the upside that we completely miss the pitfalls. Sound familiar? As a counterpoint to this common trope, I wanted to share my best investment—one I never would have made if I hadn’t listened to those around me.
Before I officially closed on my house in Philadelphia, my parents drove by,
MY WIFE AND I JUST got back from two weeks of travel through Vietnam and Cambodia. For us, traveling strengthens our relationship and reminds us what we want in life. International travel is a luxury—there’s no doubt about it—but it’s also a meaningful experience that is easier to afford if you follow some basic principles before crossing oceans or international borders:
1. Save in advance. Before booking a trip, take the time to build up the funds needed to cover your expected costs.
BY THE TIME WE REACH our late 20s, we’ve made a set of fairly inflexible choices that dictate our ability to spend and save. Our career arc and earnings potential are established. Our debt from undergraduate and graduate programs has been accumulated. The number of dependents we’ll support is getting clearer. Changing any of these decisions is either impossible or mighty tough.
But there’s a second tier of financial choices that are in constant flux—and where we have the greatest flexibility to influence our spending and saving.
WHEN I BOUGHT MY small rowhouse in Philly, I was swept up by the idea of homeownership. Like many of those I talked with at the time, owning meant no more wasting money on rent, plus it was a great no-risk investment.
Six years later, whenever I hear that friends are considering buying, I’m more cautious and often advise holding off—or at least peeling back the onion, so they’re aware that buying a home is rife with tradeoffs and not obviously “the right thing” to do.
I BOUGHT MY HOUSE in 2010, when I was 28. I was lucky to get good advice from my parents and some finance blogs I read. Even with that, there were parts I didn’t understand until after all the paperwork was signed and the deal closed. Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase any of us will ever make, so it’s best to reduce rookie mistakes as much as possible:
1. Plan backward.
WHEN THE AXLE OF MY 2006 Honda broke in the middle of a North Philly thoroughfare in December and I needed $500 to fix it, I knew where to turn: my family’s “life reserve” fund.
Every year, there are articles about how most Americans have little or no emergency money. Whether the unexpected cost is a car bill or an unanticipated job layoff, it’s critical to save for expenses that aren’t accounted for in your normal budget.
WHEN MY WIFE AND I started dating, we were both in the habit of budgeting through rough approximation. We made ballpark guesses about the percentage of our income that went toward specific spending categories and goals. But in truth, neither of us had much idea how much we spent on most things, other than obvious fixed costs like rent or car insurance. As a result, our ability to plan for long-term goals was limited.