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  1. I like Costco's business model better; they seem to treat their employees better and don't squeeze their suppliers to make everything so cheaply that you end up with crap that falls apart, or food produced in suspicious conditions. It's just DH and me so we have to avoid mass quantities of perishables, but our grocery bills are still down since we started using Costco.
  2. 1. I had Verizon's cheapest plan for my iPhone (bought the phone, no contract) and it was $51/month. I kept Cellular Data off unless I needed it and only rarely streamed anything unless on Wi-Fi. Just switched to Ting and last month it was $17. 2. Podcasts. Any subject, any language, free on iTunes. I get video news in French and German. Downloaded while on Wi-Fi, of course. 3. Be careful of how much food you're throwing out. Freeze it, stir-fry it, add it to stews. Eat leftovers before they get funky. 4. We got an offer from our power company - a free programmable thermostat (including smartphone app!) in return for allowing them to cycle our A/C on and off during peak demand periods. No break on the rates, unfortunately, but when we went on a 2-week trip we could keep the house at 55 degrees and then turn it up a few hours before arriving home. It's even programmed to cool down Sunday mornings while we're at church.
  3. Four is not too young. They learn when you tell them "no" or "not now" or "you can have A or B but not both." DS learned very early that sometimes if he asked and I still had discretionary funds left in the budget, I'd say yes. Sometimes it had to wait till the next pay period. He knew the bills were paid and we had savings, but we got his favorite cereal only if it was on sale. It seems to have worked. By the time he got out of college (with no loans), he'd been to Rome, Australia, Bermuda and Spain (twice). I put a high priority on travel, He's happily married and hasn't asked for a dime since graduation.
  4. You really need to separate the emotional (ex-BF) from the business part of it. Business part: you owe him money, fair and square. I'd hesitate to hand over $4K; if your money is as tight as you say it is, that's your emergency fund. What if your car dies or you have unexpected medical expenses? I'd suggest setting up a payment plan AND STICKING TO IT. At 1% per year interest, you could pay $8,000 off in 36 months if you paid $225/month, or 48 months if you paid $170/month. That way you pay what you legitimately owe but keep your funds intact. Prepare a document that says he agrees to accept $X per month for Y months in full settlement of what you borrowed, and have him sign it. (I am not a lawyer but this seems reasonable to me.) If you think he'd accept a lower amount (say, $100/month for 48 months), you can suggest that, but put in a provision that says that if you default the payment goes back up to $170. That will give him reassurance that you're serious, and give you motivation to pay on time. The emotional side: send him the checks in the mail. There's no reason to meet with him in person or talk to him if you don't want to have any relationship with him. Consider this a learning experience. You got into debt, you took responsibility for it, you'll be careful taking on debt again (I hope).
  5. Not sure if the OP will want to take advice from a moron (just celebrated 11 happy years of marriage with a dear man who had about 1/10 of the assets I did, no prenup), but.. Do NOTHING in haste. Get yourself some books on investing that you can relate to. The public library is a good source- it's free and they'll have a lot of different styles, from the complicated to the "Investing for Dummies" types. I really like the "Dummies" series, by the way. They have a sense of humor and they assume you know nothing about the subject. Educate yourself because no matter how good your advisor, YOU have to live with the consequences. What you really need to learn is long-term perspective. Many newbies jump into an investment when the market looks great (like now) and then bail out when things get bad, meaning they miss the recovery and their loss is permanent. OTOH, you need to have a good feel for when to dump something, too. It's the crappy investments that never recover. You'll need to learn about the tradeoffs between risk and reward; income-producing investments like bonds and dividend-paying stocks will be less affected by market swings but may not keep pace with inflation. A portfolio of 100% stocks will likely have more volatility than you can handle. One possibility on relocation to a LCOL area: we love the Kansas City area. It's perceived as a boring "flyover" state but before I retired I worked within walking distance of Tiffany's and KC has a new concert hall that's getting rave reviews internationally. Take your time. You're in this for the long run and haven't had the luxury of making investing mistakes with small amounts of money when you were younger. It's a learning curve.
  6. As others have said (and I see you agree), handing money over to your boss to invest, with no legal protection, is a bad idea. And remember, not everyone who takes delivery of a flashy new car is rich/financially successful. Some just want to look that way but they're in debt up to their eyeballs. One thing you need to remember on stocks: they go down. The cash you've carefully accumulated appears to be your emergency fund, too. The last month in the market has been great and I can see why stocks might look like a really good idea, but I guarantee you they'll go down at some point. What if you want your money out because you can't afford to lose any more of it but your boss wants to hang on and see if it recovers? Stick with the banks- a real building around the corner or a good on-line one. It may be scary for you to hand over the cash but it will be a lot safer there.
  7. I've always said that what really matters isn't whether or not you have separate accounts- it's whether or not you're on the same page. In my case, Husband #1 was Mr. "How can I be Overdrawn, I Still Have Checks Left". Wanted the best of everything, and when he didn't have enough to pay for it, he just opened another credit card or made promises to pay that he never intended to keep. Of course, separate accounts protected me to an extent, but it mean that a whole lot of the household income was spent on what mattered to him and not to me, and he had no savings. If we needed a new roof or the water heater died, well, guess who had to wave a magic wand and come up with money. We eventually divorced. He just couldn't change. The concept of a budget drove him up a wall. "There's no money for this" was not an acceptable answer. He died penniless despite coming out of the marriage with $100K from the proceeds of selling the house. Husband #2: also separate accounts. I chose better this time: a dear, easygoing man with modest tastes who had no debts other than a reasonable mortgage on his house. We keep separate accounts because (a) I'm a control freak and it would drive me nuts to think there's $X in the checking account and have him make an ATM withdrawal and ( he doesn't care a whit about investing so all the investments are in my name. When we got married and his home sold, he gave me $100K and told me to put it in my account and invest it. (My advisor said, "does he realize that if he calls and wants the money back I won't be able to give it to him?" Yeah, he did. That was 10 years ago. He still hasn't asked for it back. ) I retired a month ago and we'll be living off the investments and his SS (I'm only 61) so he's the primary breadwinner now! If your wife isn't on the same page as you, I'm sorry to say it's a losing battle. Whatever you give her, whatever you make won't be enough. I hope she can change. I've since added DH to my credit cards as a co-borrower so he maintains a credit rating. I never would have done that with my Ex.
  8. If you're not on theknot.com, I highly recommend it. Plenty of Bridezillas and princesses planning $50K weddings, but a lot of good advice, too. I was married 11 years ago (second time) and one thing that worked was doing a lot way ahead. I printed my own invitations and bough the invitation stock a year ahead of time. There are many things you can do well ahead of time and then you've got those costs out of the way. Other random thoughts: plenty of good used wedding stuff on e-Bay (decorations for the reception, tiara for your veil, even the dress itself). Skip favors and limos. Most brides say later that's what they would have cut. Best advice I got: decide which 3 things are really important to you (dress, music at reception, food, photographer, flowers, etc.), do those every well, and just do something reasonable for the rest.
  9. I'm a recently-retired actuary and heck, annuities scare ME. Just too many moving parts, and too much raked off the top immediately to pay the salesperson. My brother is a CPA and his expertise is taxes; he got sold one of them because it looked like a good way to defer taxes, and he isn't happy, either. I suppose there are times it makes sense; I've thought of buying an annuity that starts at age 85 (if I'm still alive then) so I have a guaranteed income stream for life even if I spend the rest of my savings, but I just don't want to let go of the large up-front $$ that would cost.
  10. Slow and steady, and don't let yourself get discouraged. I think one of the reasons people don't save is that they look at that big number that the experts say they'll need at retirement, figure it's impossible, and then don't save at all. It's pretty easy to send it all instead- there are so many bright, shiny things out there just begging for you to buy them. I'm 60. In 1991 (age 38) I had $91,000 in investments, excluding the equity in the house my then-husband and I had. I now have $2.4 million. It was not a smooth and straight path. In 1992 my husband lost his job and never recovered from it. I divorced him 5 years later after dealing with his alcoholism and abuse and financial irresponsibility. With no child support, I got DS through a private boarding school for HS and then through college. It helped that my share of the equity in the house at the divorce was $100K but I immediately put that into a down payment on another house and added a $250K mortgage. I sold it 7 years later for a $200K profit when I changed jobs, married and moved to a LCOL area from Bergen County, NJ. DH came into the marriage with $100K equity in the house and about $12K in savings. So, no trust funds, lottery wins, handouts from parents (paid for my own daycare- in-laws deceased, parents lived 500 miles away). DH and I have even enjoyed some of the money along the way aided by judicious use of mileage and hotel credit cards (we always PIF). We just went to Paris last May. What worked: 1. The savings/investment accounts are a one-way street. Money goes in. It doesn't come out. 2. I've been steadily employed- the only exception was 6 weeks of unemployment in 1995. I've had to scramble to get out of jobs that weren't working out a few times- most recently I got a new job last year that's a great job but at a 10% pay cut. 3. Living in a LCOL area for the last 10 years. I admit I lucked out on making a big profit on the house in NJ. I never want to have that % of my income (almost 50% of take-home pay) tied up in fixed costs again. 4. Having only one child and staying in the workforce. 5. Cars are a very low priority. DH is 74 and does a little freelance work for home and we have one car- a boring sedan, bought used. The last time I bought a new (current-year model) car was 1991. I doubt I'll ever do it again. 6. Zero debt except for a mortgage we're on track to pay off when I hit age 65. 7. Being VERY careful about anything with a monthly payment. I cringe at our cable/TV/Internet bill but if we had to pare it down we could. You can't do that with a lease payment on a shiny new SUV. Don't get discouraged. Just do it.
  11. I'd been with B of A for years. No problem with them, but switched to BankDirect (on-line) because they had a generous program for awarding AA miles based on your balance. When they instituted a $12 monthly fee, I dropped them like a hot potato. I still liked the on-line model so I went with USAA. (You don't have to have a military connection to bank with them.) User-friendly, no BS, and they refund ATM fees (might be a $ max, I forget) so I can use pretty much any ATM I want.
  12. You could be describing DH and me. No trust funds, less than 8 years of college between the 2 of us, and only one house, but other than that... For the average person who doesn't have a trust fund and hasn't founded a wildly succcessful business, the way to wealth is long and boring, tinged with a little luck and a few setbacks. Save early, save often, don't sentence yourself to a lifetime of car loan payments, don't get the best of everything you can afford. Live on less than you make. DH and I have an enviable travel budget but a laughably small mortgage payment relative to my income, and it will be paid off when I'm 65 (he's 74). We own one car and it cost us $20K. We haven't bought a piece of furniture in 10 years. We keep our clothes for longer than that as long as they aren't falling apart (and I know how to mend clothes). We hit the multimillion net worth mark last year.
  13. As you just pointed out, SS can be taxable if you have other income. So, they take your SS payroll taxes out of income that's already been taxed, "give" some of it back to you in the form of SS, then tax it again when you receive it- in my DH's case, we paid $7,000 extra in taxes due to his SS income. So they double-tax already. To answer the OP's question, I hedge my bets. Right now 50% of my contributions are into a traditional 401(k) and the rest into a Roth.
  14. I like LAKPR's strategy- as much as I don't like debt, I think a good emergency fund should take priority. How much you need to have around depends on what risks you have in your own situation- job security, the furnace breaking down (not a problem if you rent), unfunded medical expenses (depends on how good your health insurance is). But I agree that at 8.2%, the car loan is a good debt to get rid of sooner rather than later. DH and I borrowed from a HELOC at 2.75% to buy a car and I still paid it off at the rate of $600/month because I wanted to get rid of it.
  15. I'm not fond of rolling a former employer's 401(k) into a new employer's plan even when you can- I did that once and it turned out to be a crappy plan, and there was no way to get it out till I quit. Another disadvantage is that if you quit (or are canned), if they don't have provisions allowing you to keep the loan active, you have to pay it all back within something like 60 days or it's considered a taxable withdrawal. Having said that, though, I don't know if there are any brokerages that will let her take loans against it if she rolls it over into a self-directed IRA.

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