Friday, April 29, 2011

Summer Movies - Deathly Hallows Part 2 Trailer

There are quite a few new movies on the horizon with lots of potential, which is good because I don't recall hearing about very many good movies over the last few months.  I'm probably most excited about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.  Check out the trailer just released on Wednesday...looks to be way more action than Part 1, which was still real good. 

In addition to that one, I think the following have the most potential:

Thor - May 6th
Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides - May 20th
The Hangover 2 - May 26th
X-Men: First Class - June 3rd
The Green Lantern - June 17th
Cars 2 - June 24th
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - July 1st
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - July 15th
Captain America: The First Avenger - July 22nd

Of all those, I'll most likely see Pirates, Cars 2, Transformers and Harry Potter in the theater.  Depending on the hype surrounding the others, there's the potential to see them all.  I'm not a comic book type, wasn't into them growing up, but I do like the movies like Iron Man 1 and 2, Dark Knight, etc. so I bet the others from the list above will be good also. 

Honorable mention goes out to The Smufs on August 3rd, mostly cause it was a cool cartoon back in the day.  I take that back, I just watched the trailer and it's not a cartoon movie.  It's a normal movie with claymation smurfs mixed in with regular characters like Neil Patrick Harris all in 3D.  Neil rocks, but the movie looks terrible.  Bummer...

Which movies are you excited about for the summer?  Any I've missed?  Lemme know!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shuttle Endeavor Launch Friday

In case you are not aware, the 2nd to last shuttle launch overall is scheduled for tomorrow, Friday at 3:47pm Eastern Time.  This is the final launch for the Shuttle Endeavor.  The Atlantis will be the last shuttle launched and that one is currently scheduled for June 28th.  They're expecting approximately 500,000 people for the event, including President Obama and his family.  That is an insane amount of people for such a small area.  Glad we got to experience one prior to all the hype surrounding the final launches.  My boss is heading on a weekend cruise to the Bahamas out of Port Canaveral Friday, hopefully she finds a way to get through all the expected traffic down there.  On the plus side, she should have a great view.  God speed! 

Crowds decent on Cape Canaveral For Endeavor Launch

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Running Headphones


Below is a review I wrote on Amazon last night of the headphones I just bought on the left, Sennheiser MX85 Sport Series II, hoping they would be great for running like most reviews said they were.  Turns out, not so much for me, but they work well for the wifey so that's good.  The Sony MDR-AS20J ones on the right that she was using before, work great for me, so it all worked out in the end.  They sound great and they didn't move once on my jog today.  If you're looking for jogging/workout headphones, perhaps one of these will be a good fit for you!

3.0 out of 5 stars Not For Everyone, April 25, 2011
I felt inclined to write this review because of all the great reviews saying to look no further, these are the headphones you're looking for. These headphones are not for everyone. Unfortunately, they are not for me. I tried all of the different rubber pieces on the top nub, twisted them to try and lock them in place and affixed the clip to my collar and under even slow jogging they do not stay in place. However, that says nothing about the quality of the product, just that people have different ear shapes/sizes and mine must be somewhat abnormal.

When the headphones are tight, the sound is good, but the bass is a little light. An equalizer on your music player will generally solve that issue. Fortunately, my wife likes them and they do stay tighter in her ears, so all is not lost. And on the plus side, I am now using the headphones she was using and they work great! The bass is also lighter than I prefer, but the EQ on my MP3 player fixes that.  If you find the featured headphones do not work well for you, perhaps these will Sony MDR-AS20J Active Style Headphones with Soft Loop Hangers (Black). Hope that helps.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

App of the Day

Today I wanted to highlight/recommend a free game called Doodle Bowling.  It's available for both Android and iPhone and it's super fun!  It's a very simple, yet accurate bowling game and all you have to do is flick your finger and that's about it.  If you want, you can curve your ball left or right after you flick it, if you notice it's not quite going straight, but really you don't even need to do that.  Every time you play a game, you get a credit.  Credits can be used to unlock new themed bowling lanes. 

Each game only takes a few minutes to play, so it is very easy to just pick it up, play a game or two and put it back down.  It's really great that the physics of the game are true to life also.  If you are trying to pick a difficult spare, it works just like a regular game of bowling.  If you hit the pins just right, the pins will slide over and knock down the pins on the other side.  Also, the harder you flick your finger, the faster the ball goes, which also affects how the pins fall.

I wish someone would come out with a similar Golf game like the old Birdie King arcade games where you use the track ball to guide your ball down the course.  That was very similar in control to this game, so hopefully something like that will come out soon!

This is a free ad-supported game, however I have the Ad-Free app running on my rooted Droid X and I don't get any ads at all in this game, so I can't speak to that aspect.  Hopefully it's not something that is super annoying.

All in all it's one of the best games out there for ease of use, playability and accuracy.  Have you tried the game?  If so, what's your high score?  If not, try it out and then let me know how you do.  My current high game is 205.  Do you have any quick and easy to play/put down games that you enjoy?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Choosing a Book To Read For Vacation

We started packing for our upcoming vacation and so far so good with the exception of my reading material.  I had purchased a book called Trend Trading For a Living, but after paging through it a bit I think I need something a little lighter for vacation.  It seems that it would be a bit more work than vacation. 

I usually like to read things that are inspirational or motivational when on vacation, since my mind is more open and relaxed.  Then I come home refreshed and invigorated ready to apply some of what I've learned.  Past books I've read on vacation are Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Jim Cramer's Sane Investing in an Insane World, Jim Cramer's Getting Back To Even and The Power of You.

They were all good and I would definitely recommend them, but the book that stood out at the time was Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  I think I read that one the last time we were in the Dominican Republic 8 years ago.  At the time it was new, exciting information to me and I was excited to get home and try to apply some of what I'd learned to attempt to bring in passive income in some way. Shortly after we returned, I purchased this domain name,  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, but initially I was so excited about the book and the info that I was motivated to at take some action.

This time around I'm thinking I would like to read something a bit lighter.  I will be reading Trend Trading for a Living when I return, so I think it would be more beneficial to actually take time off from learning about stock trading and grab a book or two that is just fun, light reading.  Humor would be good and definitely non-fiction, not a big fiction fan.  I'm thinking I might grab Red, which is a biography by the Red Rocker, Sammy Hagar, original front man for Van Halen and solo artist.  I'm a big fan and it sounds interesting and easy/light reading.

I'd like one more book but haven't had any luck in my searches so far.  I'll probably go to Barnes and Noble on Tuesday, since I don't have time to order them online before we go.  I'm taking suggestions, have you read/heard about any light, easy to read, fun non-fiction books that would be readily available in store?  Thanks ahead of time for any information!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hockey Playoffs and Arena Football Weekend!

First off, happy long weekend for anyone else, like me, that has off Friday-Sunday!  This weekend we have a full schedule of spectator sports on tap.  We start out the weekend on Friday night with some Buffalo Sabres playoff hockey and we're super psyched that we found out that there is a bar in St Augustine that is owned by a former Buffalonian that is a huge Sabres fan and makes Beef on Weck (this one was new to me) and Labatts Blue!  It's a huge event with lots of former Western NYers all there to have a great time!

We found out about that through the WNY-2-Jax Facebook page that we stumbled across Wednesday night after watching the Sabres tie up the series 2 games to 2 over the Flyers.  The wifey saw a post from them on another Sabres fan page.  We are super excited about that.  It's a page dedicated to former WNYers in the Jacksonville/St Augustine area.  So we'll get to hang out with lots of peeps from our hometown, which will be great!  We miss the people and foods from WNY all the time, so this will feel like a slice of home right in our own back yard!

The bar we're going to is Ann O'Malley's Deli and Pub and here's their post about the event from their Facebook Page:

Buffalo Sabres are back to Philli on Fri for game #5! O'Malley's will be serving Beef On Weck Fri & Sun this week. To compliment your salty, beefy treat we will have Green Screamers, Blue Light Bottles & Blue drafts. Gear from any team, get a FREE Blue Draft. Sabres fan, when the Sabres score, get a FREE Blue Draft! Puck down at 7:30 St. Augustine & St Johns County, FL.

I believe Green Screamers are Genny Creme Ale....while I'm a former HUGE fan of Genny Light from Rochester, NY, not a huge fan of the Screamers, but that's still very cool and I will be enjoying the Blue!

Then on Saturday night we're heading out to dinner with our friends Sean and Rachel and afterwards we're going to see our Jacksonville Sharks Arena Football team.  We went to the home opener last year and had a great time with my sister Jen and David.  The Sharks are currently tied for 1st place in their division and Cleveland is 1st in their division as well, so should be a great game!  They've never been before, so will be fun to share the experience with some newbies.

Then game 6 of the Sabres playoffs is Sunday and I think after two nights out on the town, Sunday we'll definitely be watching this one from home to round out the weekend.   Have any weekend plans?  Be sure to root for the Sabres, let's go Buffalo!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

C25K Update

So far, so good on our Couch to 5K program.  We started approx 3 weeks ago and we're still going strong.  I'm actually most surprised that we actually look forward to our jogging days.  I personally have never been a runner.  Never, ever, never.  I still recall being forced to run the 'watermelon' track in I think Jr High and having to do a mile in under 12 minutes.  I finished, barely, but it was a pretty sad effort.  I am by nature/genetics thin, always been that way, always probably will be so people naturally assume I'd be a good runner or already am.  That is definitely not the case.

The pros so far are that we enjoy doing it, we feel good after and it hasn't been too bad during.  I can definitely say that we both get sore, my knees generally hurt pretty good during the first jogging portion each jogging day, but I just continue on and by the end the pain is usually all gone.   So far we haven't run into anything that prevents us from continuing on and hopefully that will be the case from here on out.  We actually enjoy it so much that we plan to keep at it while we're on vacation.  Something we've never done before, except maybe a long walk on the beach.  We really need to do that to stay on schedule in order to complete the C25K program prior to the 5K we're participating in on May 21st.

I must say that the Android C25K app makes ALL the difference.  I remember trying a similar program a while back, having to keep track of when to walk/jog manually and lost interest/focus after a day or two.   This app rocks, there is a built in voice that tells you when to walk, when to jog, throws in a great job here and there and you can also have Pandora and Run Keeper going at the same time.  In addition it will tell you when you're at the halfway point of your workout so you can turn around and head back the other way if necessary, etc.  This is definitely the key to success.

I think that we'll actually want to continue on with this after the 5k.  I don't want to get ahead of ourselves since we still have 2/3rds of the program left, but so far I would definitely recommend it!  It's definitely easier to do it with a partner and if you're at different paces that's fine.  We jog around a Lacrosse field and we have different paces, but it's just good to have someone else to go along with to be sure you get out there on your scheduled days.  Good stuff!  And here's a quick shout out to Jen S for completing her first 5K on Tuesday of this week!  She was a big part of what motivated us to get started on our program, great job!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Vacation Music

Our week long vacation to the Dominican Republic is fast approaching and that can only mean one thing, VACATION MUSIC TIME!  This is around the time when we start to get together our lists of music to add to the MP3 player to enjoy during our beach/pool time.  It's unfortunate that we can't just take our Verizon powered Droid X phones and fire up Pandora like we normally do.  We've gotten quite used to that and it's really great, but I don't believe they have WiFi on the beach and we definitely won't be paying for International roaming, so we'll have to dumb it down a bit and stick with the old school MP3 player. 

The wifey and I overlap when it comes to the tropical music.  The last time we were in the Dominican Republic eight years ago we really loved the music there.  It was mostly in spanish and we came to find out it's a mix of Reggaeton, Bachata and Merengue.  I think we still like it so much because we had such a good time there that we associate the music with good times.  Kinda like the Pavlov's dog thing, ring a bell and I'll salivate. It helps that they also play the same type of music at La Nopalera, our favorite Mexican restaurant!  I believe the best example of the type of music is Frank Reyes, who I think is the most popular Bachata singer.  I just played that for the first time in quite a while and I immediately started to think about the beautiful beaches, warm tropical breezes and good times.   

Since they'll probably be playing plenty of Reggaeton, Bachata and Merengue, we only have a little bit of that on our MP3 players.  What we do have plenty of is Jimmy Buffett / Bob Marley, songs like Beer In Mexico, Tequila, Don't Worry Be Happy, etc. etc.  I just fired up the MP3 player to see what I have on there and actually I think I might be good to go. We compiled a pretty big list for our trip to Mexico last year and I think that should work pretty well.  I also picked up a few 30 Seconds to Mars CDs recently that I really like, so I think that'll do it for me.  Will see what the wifey requests and maybe add a few more songs.  

If you were heading to a tropical destination for vacation, what songs are must haves that aren't already on the list above?  Let me know and I'll probably bring them along!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Redneck Slip and Slide!

We went to the beach this weekend, as we do most weekends when the weather is nice and normally it's just quiet and relaxing and uneventful, as you would expect the beach to be, but not this time!   We didn't know we would be entertained by a new phenomena known as REDNECK SLIP AND SLIDE!!!  A group of guys started to setup the clear plastic tarp and we were thinking perhaps a slip and slide for the two young kids they had with them, but it was very hard packed sand due to low tide, so woulda been painful.  But nope, it was for the adults and these guys had done this a time or two before!  They came complete with baby oil to slide on down the line.  

It really was hilarious, most specifically the last shot when they decided to amp it up a bit.  The one guy got pummelled with a football, bucket of water and a ball that resembled a basketball, which hit the guy directly in the nuts.  Click the pictures for the close ups, as you can really get a feel for the fun these guys were having.  That last one is a great action shot, you see the water splashing him in the face, just after the basketball had smashed him in the family jewels.  You can see the amount of power that went into the shot based on the stance the guy is in next to the water throwing girl.  And all the way on the left in that shot you can see the guy with the football preparing for launch!  HAH...Good times!!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Spend Analyzer

As I've mentioned before, right around the time we rang in 2011, we became debt free (not counting the house) and had moved onto Dave Ramsey step 4 which was to bump our retirement investing to 15% of our income.  I bumped mine to 15% and the wifey makes less and wanted to bump hers up to 30% so we did that also.  In addition we funded Roth IRAs for each of us for last year and we're making regular recurring bi-weekly payments into Roth IRA accounts for each of us going forward for this year and beyond.  So in reality, it's well more than 15% than we're contributing, but we have to play a bit of catchup.  We should have been doing that from day 1 when we started working, keeping it steady over the years, but we didn't have the focus and Gazelle like intensity (Dave-ism) that we have now.

So needless to say, we have a lot more going out now than we did a few months ago.  In addition, we switched a bill or two over from paying montly to yearly, resulting in approx 5% discount/return on our $, however that also resulted in few large bills in the last few months.  Add in tuition for the wifey's upcoming summer session classes and the INSANE amount for books and you got yourself some large outflows all at once.  Luckily she was able to rent one book for the upcoming semester for $50 instead of paying $180, but her Accounting book is $240 with no used/rentable books anywhere online!  Sorry, but $240 WTF?  I had an Accounting major for my first degree in college and I think the max I paid for one book was $80.  That is just ridiculous, but nothing we can do about that. 

Bottom line is I noticed our bank account went down a decent amount last Friday, which is odd because Friday is payday for me.  Upon closer inspection, our credit card payments and mortgage had all hit in the same week, and the larger credit card bill hit on Friday.  Typically over the course of a normal month things even out and we should end up with more in the account month over month.  Prior to realizing why the account went down last week, I wanted to get a better idea of where our $ is going.  We never did the Dave Ramsey budget step, where you layout what $ you have coming in each month and then tell the $ exactly what it will go towards down to the last penny.  Since we didn't have that info, I first went to my credit card online sites and found some good info.

Discover has a great tool on their site called the Spend Analyzer, under a link called Financial Tools.  It breaks down by category everything you've charged and you can go back as far as 24 months.  It was really eye opening to see everything categorized.  They lump things into categories like Travel/Entertainment, Merchandise, Services, Gasoline, etc. and it's sorted by highest amount first.  If you click on the categories, it will sort the individual charges by highest amount first and will lump things together with the same name.  For example, if you get gas at the same place, it will show one large amount with a total of all the times you've been, same for restaurants, stores, etc.  That really is a great tool.  I was most surprised at the amount we spend on gas per year.  We both do drive about 30 miles each way to work, so it makes sense, I was just surprised at how much that adds up to. Great info to have, unfortunately my other card doesn't have any such information. 

My sister Jen mentioned that Bank of America has a 'My Portfolio' option which allows you to enter your information for all your accounts and it looks like it will do the same type of analysis.  I'm a little apprehensive to add in all my account information so that it's all in one place, so I haven't tried it, but she said it works real well.  It sounds similar to the Discover tool and a version of Quicken I used several years back.  It would poll all the accounts you add in online and then it will attempt to categorize them.  It was over 5 years ago that I used it and at the time I had to do so much manual work to categorize things that it was not at all useful.  But I'm sure it's gotten much better over time.   In addition I've heard that the App/website is quite popular and looks like it is similar to the tools I described above and it's free.  You just have to weight the pros/cons of whether you trust putting your financial account information on their site. 

Do you use any similar budgeting/spending analysis tools that you find useful and productive?  Would love to hear what works well if you do.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Adding Facebook Comments to Blogger

I had a prior post on adding Facebook comments to Blogger, but I never did get it working that day.  I just deleted that prior post.  Today I got it working with the help of a few different sites and a bunch of trial and error.  I am currently not getting Facebook notifications when a new comment is made, but everyone else that commented on the step by step instructions on all the other sites said the same thing, so not sure what the trick is there.  I will continue to mess around with that and if I find a fix I'll post it here.

Even without the notifications of new comments, I think giving readers the option to use Facebook comments is a wise choice.  I decided to leave the standard Blogger comment system enabled as well, so you can continue to use either system.  If you're logged into Facebook already, the Facebook comment box will automatically utilize that account.  However, if you are not logged into Facebook, you can grab the pull-down and either comment with Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail accounts in addition to the standard Blogger comment system.

Using either Google Analytics or Stat Counter I find that if someone comments on a blog post and leaves the 'Post to Facebook' check box enabled, traffic to that particular blog post will be at least double the normal amount of traffic a typical blog post receives.  Since most people have a hundred or more friends on Facebook, that's 100+ more potential unique visitors.  If they like that particular post, they may hang around and stay a while.

This particular site works as a step by step guide.  One thing that was slightly different for me was step 2, sub-item 5, where you search for the word body with < > around it.  I had to instead take the trailing bracket off and just search for <body and copy/paste the info directly after that line.  This is another site I used to grab some info off of, but the first link is much easier to follow and it should work for you just fine.  If you have any questions about how to set it up, definitely let me know as I've tried it about 20 times in several different ways.

Please leave a comment on the new system to let me know you were here and I'd appreciate it if you'd leave the 'Post to Facebook' check box enabled to bring in even more new readers.  If you have any questions/comments or suggestions for new blog posts, let me know!  Thanks for stopping by and hope you find this post helpful!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oswego NY Harborfest

It's been quite a while since I've been back to my alma mater, SUNY Oswego.  For those unfamiliar, that's the State University of NY College at Oswego.  My college roommate and best friend Tim and I took our wives to Harborfest in 2002 to help them experience the joy that is Oswego. College was Legen...wait for it...dary!  Oswego NY was known for being in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most bars per square mile, or at least that's what everybody says.  I've never actually seen that in writing, but when searching I found that some sites still do mention that, but couldn't find anything on the Guinness Record site about bars.  It will remain a mystery, but bottom line is that there certainly was a bunch o' bars and good times were had by all!

Every summer Oswego hosts their annual Harborfest, which is a weekend long party with tons of bands, lots of drinking and ummm...I think that's about it!  ;)  This year Harborfest has Barenaked Ladies as the headlining band, with Frostbit Blue for the opener!  Two of my favorite bands from when we were back in college at Oswego.

Frostbit Blue is a local Oswego band that has been rockin since the early 90s in the Western NY area.  They are really good, we had some great times watching them and they're still doing their thing, so that has to say something!  I still play their CDs all the time.  Barenaked Ladies lost their frontman Steven Page to a solo career, but they're still good and to have them on the same stage as Frostbit Blue and to have them both at Harborfest may just be too hard to pass up.

Accomodations for Harborfest are provided to Alumni in the Hart Hall dorm this year, which is the building we looked at outside our Funnelle Hall dorm room window for 4 years.  Yes, we stayed in the dorms for 4 years and loved every minute of it.  It was so convenient to be in the dorms right in the center of campus, with our dining hall and fitness center connected directly to it.  Tim and I both loved college so much we hung around for an extra degree.

We both graduated with an Accounting degree in 1994 and I really wasn't into Accounting, but really was into computers and I had worked for the computer center for 3 years and worked my way up, so I hung around for another year and a half and got a degree in Information Technology in 96 and couldn't be happier.  Tim went on to get his Masters and we both sadly departed college in 96. 

But I digress, as I seem to do often....This year Harborfest also has the Little River Band on Thursday, Kansas on Friday and then the 2 main bands take the stage Saturday night, followed by a huge fireworks display.  How can you go wrong with 'Lonesome Loser' and 'Carry on my Wayward Son'?!  There are a bunch of other bands at various stages all around town throughout the weekend and at the various bars around town.   It's always a good time.

I posted the info on my Facebook page and so far got a few comments from some fellow Oswegonians that sound interested, but many are also far away from the land of Oz like me.  I sent the feelers out to Tim via email to see if he's up for the challenge.  If so I might have to make the trip up there for the weekend in July!

Have you ever been to Harborfest?  Plan to go this year?  Looks like this might be the year to do it up....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Calculating Net Worth

I was checking out several financial blog sites yesterday and came across a few whose entire focus is related to keeping track of and increasing net worth.  It got me thinking that it's been quite a while since I've calculated our net worth and when I did, it was only a very rough estimate and I think it was negative or real close to it at the time.  Since we've recently become debt-free, minus the house, I figured it would be much easier to calculate now, so why not start keeping track of that on a go forward basis and set some goals to make sure things are heading in the right direction. 

There are a few different philosophies out there as to what you record.  I am including the value of our vehicles and our home, but no other assets inside the home such as a flat screen TV, computers, wife's engagement ring, etc.  As far as vehicles go I'm using the Kelly Blue Book Third Party value listed in the 'Fair' category rounded to the nearest thousand.  As far as home value goes I'm using the Zestimate value and subtracting 10,000 since I think that more closely reflects the potential value.  Neither of those sites provide an exact value, since you will only know the true value when you go to try and sell your house or vehicle, but calculating them in that way will provide a conservative baseline value to start from. 

I searched for and tried a bunch of different free spreadsheets.  The one that I found most useful was this one here.  It's very simple, you put your assets such as your bank accounts, 401k accounts, Roth IRAs, etc. in the Asset sheet, your liabilities such as your mortgage, credit card bills, student loans, car loans, etc. into the Liability sheet and then it calculates your net worth on the Net Worth sheet and shows an increase or decrease and a % increase/decrease from month to month.  In addition there is a graph showing you in chart form how you're doing, with the goal being an upward slope over time.

The only oddity is that in on the Net Worth sheet the % increase or decrease shows up as an error, but I think that is because I'm starting with April and there are no numbers for Jan/Feb/March.  But it does create Net Worth just fine and plots it out for you nicely.  So it provides a good template from which to start from.  You can just as easily create your own with the help of the first link below.  I plan to mess with the formulas on the one I mentioned so that they no longer will show errors and I imported mine into Google Docs so that I can share the document with my wife and we can both see at any time where we're at on a monthly basis.  

No matter what tool you use to calculate your net worth, the main goal is to see where you're at now and put together a plan to make that number go up over time.  Whether you use a spreadsheet, website or pen and paper is irrelevant, just pick a particular method that suits your needs, calculate it out and check it at regular intervals over time so that you will know if you're on the right track or need to make some adjustments.  I think it will make a great addition to my financial toolbag and hope you find it useful as well!

The Simple Dollar - Building Your Own Monthly Net Worth Calculator Using A Spreadsheet

2 Million Blog - Blogger with sole goal of achieving a net worth of 2 Million and he shows you ever month exactly where he's at on that goal

NetworthIQ - Online site where you can anonymously share your net worth and track it online over time.  You can also compare yours to others in your age group, gender, etc. 

Let me know how it works for you and if you have any questions at all, just ask in the comment below.  I'd be glad to assist!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In addition to the blogs I've linked to on my side bar, I enjoy checking The Simple Dollar on a regular basis.   My sister Jen mentioned The Simple Dollar to me when I was first thinking of setting up a blog. I'll take a paragraph from his about page...

"The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money. "

There is a ton of info on there and I can't say that I read every post, but I do look most days to see what the topic(s) of the day are and will read if I'm interested.  There are lots of free ebooks, articles, book reviews, question/answer days, even his family dinner spreads...

It's a personal finance related blog, but there really is a whole lot of other interesting topics as well.  Monday's subject was one of Dave Ramsey's favorite lines. "Live like no one else so you can live like no one else".  He does a good job of explaining the meaning in plain english.  So rather than have me just regurgitate his post, check out the site and see what you think.

Which blog sites do you find very useful/entertaining, aside from your own and mine of course?  ;)   Let me know and maybe it will make it into a future Blogerific post!

Monday, April 11, 2011


I was sitting here trying to think of what to write for Monday's blog post and it came to me when the wifey walked by on the phone with her mom.  She was talking about an upcoming weekend trip we're going to take towards the end of May to get PIZZA!  Not just any pizza, PONTILLO'S PIZZA!!  If you're not from the Rochester, NY area, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but stay with me, it just might change your life for the better!  Well maybe I'm exaggerating a LITTLE bit, but this is the best pizza eva!

A road trip for pizza you say?  Yep, but we don't have to head to NY State, we're heading to the Sarasota FL area because they have an authentic Pontillo's Pizza location!!  We were so excited when we found this out recently.  The way I found out was by chance, I happened to post a message on Calabresella's New York Style Deli Facebook page, which actually ships Pontillo's Pizza and lots of other hometown favorite foods.  The problem is they charge $25 for a large pizza and another $25 for shipping, each pizza.  $50 is a bit much per pie, but I understand they have to charge that much for shipping to make sure it arrives frozen in dry ice, etc.  I had asked if they had deals like a buy one get one free or free shipping to FL if you buy a bunch of pizzas and someone messaged me and let me know that there is a Pontillo's in Sarasota, how cool!  Love the internet!!

Since we really like the Sarasota/Tampa area and we were looking for an excuse to head that way for a long weekend anyway, this turned out to be a perfect opportunity to load up.  It'll be right around our anniversary, so we're turning it into a little weekend getaway with a bonus of bringing back 5 large pies.  :o)  We really don't have room for that much, even with our little stand up fridge/freezer in the garage, but we'll make it work somehow.  We actually brought a large pizza back on the plane when we went up there for labor day last year and it worked well.  We savored it and had a piece each when we had a craving, but found out that around the 4 month mark it started to get freezer burn, but luckily it wasn't to the point of no return.  We were able to enjoy each scrumptious piece!  But at least we know there is an expiration point, so we'll be sure not to let it go to waste.

It did not click with me until right now, but checking out another link to the Sarasota location shows that they've been in that location for 12 years!  12 freakin years!  We've been to Sarasota once and have been close by in Tampa at least 4-5 times over the last 8 years that we've been in Florida and WE NEVER KNEW WE COULD HAVE HAD PONTILLO'S many missed opportunities!  :p

A bonus that my sisters found the other day was that Mark's pizza, their favorite from home, just opened a location in Brandon FL about a 40 minute drive north of Sarasota.  We're loving that the hometown places are setting up shop in Florida.  We hope it's the start of more to come and that they head closer to us.  Now only if we could get a Wegman's down here!  If it weren't for Pontillo's being there, we would definitely have had some Mark's while we were there.  It is yummy and blows any pizza here out of the water and Mark's wings are better than Pontillo's, we just prefer the yummy sweeter sauce of Pontillo's over Mark's.  How could you not love this pizza?  Man, we both salivate just looking at it!

Do you have any hometown favorite foods or foods you miss from certain places that you'd travel great distances or go to great lengths to have?  Would love to hear about it!

Friday, April 8, 2011


Whew, it's been a long week, my eyes are still dilated from an eye exam at 3:30 today and this screen is REALLY bright and painful right now as a result, but we made it to the weekend...Enjoy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Blogger Editor!

I was pretty psyched when I saw a link that said 'New Blogger Editor' when I went to add yesterday's post.  Just as I was hoping, when adding pictures to your blog there are a bunch of new features, most importantly being able to add a picture where your cursor is instead of it automatically putting it at the top!  That is really huge for me, as I've complained over and over about this to my sister Jen.  Over the last week or two I adapted to how it worked and uploaded all pictures first, inserting them in reverse order and then added text afterwards.  A big pain.  Now I don't have to, which is super cool.

In addition, even after adding pictures to your blog you can now change between small, medium, large, extra large and original size by clicking on the picture and you can change the justification and add captions as well.  Also much needed and a welcome change!

 And the last main thing I like is a new Preview button that should show you exactly how your post will look when published.  All good stuff and about time.

Here's a link describing all the changes.  I'd definitely recommend you try it out for yourself!  If you're not a Blogger blogger and instead use Wordpress or something more robust, you probably already have these cool features.  If you're not a blogger at all, maybe now's the time to start?  I'm not going to lie, it's tough coming up with topics 5 days a week, but I try real hard to provide something useful, enlightening or if nothing else, visually appealing so that you leave more informed, inspired or in a better mood than when you arrived.

Have a swell rest of the evening and TGIAF (A=almost)!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Birds Eye View

After 4 years in the same building for my current employer, the company is relocating us to a new building a few blocks away in two weeks. There is a bunch of good stuff, the building will basically be new, they completely gutted it and everything is new including chairs, new office furniture, new lounge areas, etc. They're trying to make it into a 'campus' feel to make it more of a 'cool' place to work. The only major downside, aside from having to walk much further from my existing parking spot is that I'll be losing my window view right outside my cube, 28 floors high above downtown Jacksonville. It's really a great view, easy to see in any direction for miles. Take a look for yourself...

I don't work for ATT, but I'm currently on the top floor of this building...

View directly outside my cube looking down on the new/under contstruction Duval County's been fun to watch the progress over time!

View facing West...

View facing East from the other side of the building, St Johns River in the distance..

Cell phone camera zoom isn't great, but this is the Carnival Fascination cruise ship in port...

View of the Jacksonville Landing and River...

View of the Acosta and Fuller Warren Bridges...

Good picture showing our old location on the right and the new location is the 6th floor of the 'little' gray 12 floor building more in the center left. I've enjoyed the view and hope you did also!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dave Ramsey Investing Calculator

An email from the Dave Ramsey site last week included a link to Useful Tools. I clicked it and went over to the Investing Calculator. I've seem similar calculators in the past and have run some numbers, but really didn't pay close attention or change my investment amounts or anything based on the results. Now that we've been following the principles of the Dave plan and have been more actively taking control of our financial future, the Investing Calculator had more meaning to me this time. Pull up the calculator and plug in the numbers I mention below to see the results for yourself.

As far as rate of return goes, Dave generally uses a rate of return over the long term of 12%, I tend to be a bit more conservative and I use a rate of 6% for purposes of this exercise. It's better to underestimate and end up with more money at retirement, then to overestimate your rate of return and end up with less money. If your rate of return does end up being 12% over the long term, great, you'll be in better shape than you figured initially.

I plugged in a generic value of 0 starting, 6% rate of return, $2000 a month and 30 years for the time frame. You end up contributing $720,000, your interest is basically $1.3 million which gives you a total of roughly $2.02 million dollars after 30 years. Not bad, however, if you keep everything the same and bump it up 5 more years to 35 years for the time frame, you end up contributing $840,000, total interest is $2.02 million for a total of $2.86 million. The same numbers, added in over 40 years results in a $960,000 contribution, $3 million in interest and a total of $4 million! Just having an additional 10 years worth of return and compounding interest results in a doubling of your retirement money from $2 million to $4 million! That should really hit home the importance of investing sooner rather than later.

Let's return to the first example and say you're a couple and are both 32 and want to retire when you are 62 and those numbers match what you will contribute and you're starting today. In 30 years, rounding down you'll have $2 million in your retirement account to pull from. Let's say you plan to live 30 additional years, to the age of 92. If you divide 2 million by the 30 years you plan to live, you get $66,667 per year. Keep in mind, the rest of your $ that you leave in there would continue to grow most likely, so it would probably end up being slightly more, but again, it's always good to be conservative with your numbers now and be pleasantly surprised when you have more than you expected when the time comes.

So, you have $66,667 to pull out per year for 30 years. Let's say you're both going to retire and no longer work when you hit 62 to keep it simple and we'll assume the bulk of that is in a 401k account. When you pull $ out of your 401k account, it will be taxed as regular income, so it would be as if you were both working and pulled in a combined salary of $66,667. Let's just very roughly say your tax bracket would be 25%. Taking out 25% for taxes, you would be left with $50,000 per year for 30 years. That would amount to $4,166 per month. To me, it seems like that $2 million dollars you had doesn't seem like all that much any more! It would of course depend on your personal situation. If you are living in a home that is paid for and are in good health, most people could live off of that just fine, possibly making some adjustments to your lifestyle.

However, if you still have a mortgage payment and/or have health concerns, you will probably require a much larger nest egg to be on the safe side and to have a more comfortable retirement. To be prudent and not burden your children or relatives with having to care for you when the time comes, you will probably want to include a worst case scenario as well where you'd require assisted living for the last 5-10 years of your life, etc. That is currently around 40,000 per year per person! So as you can see, that $50,000 a year might be enough in good times, but in bad times you'll be underfunded.

I'd describe our personal situation as needing to play a bit of catchup to get where we want to be for retirement, based on the results above. We're both currently 38 years old and we have 401k accounts that we have been contributing to, but I'd guess probably only around 6% over time. There were also a few years that we had jobs that didn't have 401k accounts or we just hadn't gotten around to bumping our contribution level above whatever the minimum was. In addition, I was at a company called Global Crossing back in the late 90s that went Chapter 11 and my approx $36,000 401k account in 1999 went to not much more than 0. That was a tough lesson, make SURE that you don't have more than 10% of your 401k going into company stock. It was common at the time for all of your company matching $ to go to company stock, but I think that has changed due to situations like that and Enron. I ended up getting I think $9,000 back from a class action lawsuit, which is better than nothing, but still a rough lesson to learn. At least I have the time to make up for that, many others were close to retirement and in far worse situations.

Becoming recently debt free has allowed us to focus on catching up. We recently funded a Roth IRA for both of us for last year and we will have our Roth IRAs fully funded each year going forward with regular contributions every other week. In addition, we bumped our 401k contribution percentages to 15%. The 15% level is what Dave recommends once you have your emergency fund fully funded and are debt free minus the house. Since we're actually funding our Roth IRAs and then contributing an additional 15% towards our 401ks we're actually well over the 15%, but like I said, we need to play catchup.

For us, I'm generically picking a retirement age of 63, which would give us a 25 year time frame. Based on what we currently have in 401k accounts as a starting number, if we were to contribute $2,250 per month for 25 years assuming a 6% rate of return we'd end up right around that $2 million mark that I mentioned above. That tells me we're still not funding our retirement accounts enough based strictly on that information alone.

However, lots of factors can change the formula over time. For example, my wife is currently pursuing her Bachelors degree and hopes to increase her salary a good amount over 5+ years. If she doubled her salary in say 5 years, the amount of $ going into her 401k would double, increasing our total amount at retirement. Also, I kept all other numbers the same for my example, just changing the rate of return from 6% to 10% over the 25 year time frame and my total at retirement went from $2 million to $4.2 million! So that is encouraging as well. I have 1/2 of my existing 401k money in a rollover 401k trading account and my personal goal for a rate of return is over 12%, but that is easier said than done on a consistent basis.

In reality we hope to have the financial freedom to retire much earlier than 63, if that is what we decide we want to do. If you've read some of my prior posts, you know that my ultimate goal is to be able to trade the stock market on a daily basis from anywhere in the world. If I continue on that path and decide it's everything I had hoped for, then I would probably continue doing that forever and never officially retire.

The bottom line is that situations change and you will have to adjust your retirement contributions along the way. However, the sooner you can get started and the more you can contribute early on, the more your $ will be working for you due to the power of compounding interest and time!

Investment Options

If you are looking for a "set it and forget it" investment account, Vanguard has some of the lowest fee mutual funds and ETFs in the industry.   You can pick from one of their Target Date Funds that automatically change the allocation over time and setup an automatic investment schedule to pull funds from a bank account to average in over time and be done. 

100 Free Trades. Visit Today  If you are looking for a place to open an online investing account, OptionsHouse is a great option, pun intended.  You can get 100 free trades and stock trades are only $3.95.  In addition they have excellent webinars and their trading app is available for all the major mobile devices and tablets.

Speaking of tablets, if the idea of 100 commission free trades doesn't get you excited, you could instead choose a FREE Kindle Fire HD from OptionsHouse.  That is an exclusive offer available only through my link.  It could expire at any time, so if you are interested I'd recommend taking action soon. 

Whether you choose the 100 commission free trades or the free Kindle Fire HD, you would still get the amazingly low $3.95 rate for stock trades.

If you happen to be interested in trading options or learning how to trade options, OptionsHouse is also rated as one of the top online brokers for trading options by Barrons for 2013 and they offer very low commissions of $5 for 5 options contracts.  That rate is over 50% cheaper than competing brokers.  

Keeping your costs down is important in order to maximize your rate of return over time and OptionsHouse allows you to keep those cost to an absolute minimum while providing all the tools necessary to make sound investment decisions.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Groupon / Living Social

We all love to save a few bucks right? I know most people out there have seen/tried Groupon and it works pretty well. You get an alert via email/text/web/app with a 'deal of the day' where you usually get 1/2 off at a business for a particular service or dinner deal or whatever it might be. We have utilized Groupon one time so far to try a restaurant called Cellar 6 in St Augustine FL.

It was good to have the Groupon. It was a place we hadn't been to and it sounded like fun, it is a Tapas/Wine bar type place. One cool thing they have is menus that light up and they might be LCD screens, I can't recall exactly, but they are obviously proud of them because they're prominently featured on the main page of their website. We tried the Spring rolls, some Bruschetta and a glass of wine each. We didn't particularly care for the appetizers, but I'll put that on us, not the restaurant.

The Spring rolls were not the fried spring rolls of yummy goodness that we're used to trying, but instead they had a slimy clear cool 'skin like' wrap around the outside. I had one, complained slightly to the wifey and she gives me the 'you're so picky' look without saying anything verbally. Then I got my vindication when she bit into hers and I witnessed the 'oh my god what the heck am I eating' look back. I'm sure it is perfectly good and yummy for anyone that normally eats sushi type stuff, but that is NOT us and so now we know, make sure the spring rolls are as you expect before ordering! But that's where the Groupon was good, it was $20 for $40 worth of stuff, so it was like the appetizers were pretty much free anyway. We've since heard that the fish tacos are pretty good, so if we were to go back, we would try those instead.

But I digress....The point of this post is that everyone loves a deal! The Groupon deals are good, you just have to be sure that you will use the deal before it expires, you have to use it all on one visit and if you're going with other couples, be aware that you can usually only use ONE Groupon per table. But it works good and you can even show the Groupon on your cell phone screen and redeem it that way. For the right deal we'll definitely try it again.

I've seen a few peeps on Facebook post links to restaurant deals from Living Social recently. I hadn't checked it out until today, but it looks very similar to Groupon. The one main difference I noticed is that if you purchase the deal, it provides you a link to share with your friends and if you get 3 other people to purchase the deal yours is free. So not only do you save 50% or more on your deal, you could get it for free. If it's free it's for me!

I purchased today's deal, which you can signup for today, tomorrow or Sunday. It's $15 for $30 worth of food and drinks at our favorite Mexican Restaurant, La Nopalera! We are actually going there today, but as I suspected, I couldn't actually use the deal today. Groupon is the same way, you can't use the deal on the day that you purchase it. It said I will get an email on Monday with the details.

Just one more way to save a few $$. Have you used Groupon, Living Social or any other $$ saving apps? Would love to hear about any that work particularly well and would like to hear any tips/tricks for anyone that has used any of the services multiple times!

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