Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Ongoing Learning

I for one am a huge proponent of on-going learning.  Whether reading a non-fiction book attending finance seminars, scouring the net and finding articles and posts on personal finance, I am all about learning something new and continually feeding my mind. This past week I attended a personal finance session that more or less covered the basics:  plan to save, plan to retire, plan to budget – along with a few things in between.
I figure if I can walk away either learning one new thing that I didn’t know before, or get a pulse reading on how others in the room are feeling about personal finance, that it was worth my time.  I entered the session with my notepad out and ready to learn.  Content wise there was nothing ground breaking presented. The speaker talked about the importance of savings, needs vs. wants, and envisioning retirement. So in this session what stoked my interest was the temperature in the room.
From the onset the mood was tense. Some questions were asked and emphasized and I again began to realize there are a lot of hurting families out there. They are worried about how to retire with dignity, cover healthcare costs, sent their kids to college and of course manage their perceived crushing student loans.
Empathy oozed out of me as I sat in the back of the room and watched and listened to the presenter field these questions. It almost struck me as if many people in the room had not recovered emotionally from the market crash of 2008, but that’s just my opinion.
It then began to make me proud that this blog exists. That I am exhilarated to be the voice who says you can live debt free in the 21st century, plan to pay cash for a home, plan to retire with millions, give like no one else and not make an exorbitant income.  Then it happened.
The topic of debt management was on a slide and immediately the feel of the entire room perked up from dire straits to high energy.  The very same people who were worried about sending their kids to college, saving for retirement and outliving their money, suddenly turned into sophisticated financial snobs.  The room talked about how wise and smart they are and it is to own credit cards and carry levels of debt throughout their lives. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see those that were struggling with their own personal finances, accept all of the debt myths as facts and not even piece together that there is a direct correlation between the two.
At first I was disappointed, then sad, and now encouraged.  I’m encouraged that this blog is my voice out in the world declaring that I am building wealth and financial security without debt.  No credit cards, no student loans, no car loans and no mortgage is how I am living my life all the way through to the end. And with each passing quarter my net worth is building and building and the core component of that is becoming and staying debt free. So consider me extra motivated to keep posting here as proof that wealth is best built without debt and that if I can do it, believe me you, definitely can too following the same principles Dave Ramsey teaches.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Problem With Target Dated Mutual Funds

One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to personal finance is the debate amongst mutual funds. Tons of topics and questions are explored and it just drives me nuts how the most important factor is never weighed. I’ve seen forums, articles and posts that explore the ‘to load or not to load’ argument, then there’s the ‘active versus passive management’ debate, promptly followed by the ‘should I just follow an index fund’ deliberation.

NONE of these topics or discussions address the fundamental question that should be on our minds when looking at investments: What is going to make me the most money in the long run?

What investing is not?

To me investing is not for any money that is needed for less than 5 years. If I have money that I plan to use within a 5 year time frame then I keep it as far away from the stock market as possible. I don’t use government or corporate bonds as safe havens. If I want a safe haven I’m going to use a simple savings account through my bank. Bond prices can fluctuate just as wildly as single stocks in the short term and in the long term barely stay ahead of inflation.

 I maximize the stock market by leaving investments alone for at least 5 year time spans. I research and find historically proven mutual funds and buy and hold for (say it with me now class) at least 5 years. To me if I need cash and plan to make a purchase/live off money needed within that 5 year time span then I need it to be safe and secure in an FDIC insured savings account. I’m not even going to risk losing value in that cash beyond inflation; to me it’s simply not worth the risk. Investing in the stock market is about riding the wave of growing businesses for long term periods of time. So I follow a rule of thumb to only invest in the stock market for long term growth results, not as a safe haven.

My beef with target dated funds

From there exists a perceived hierarchy of the types of mutual funds. One that I loathe with every ounce of my being is the target dated fund. A target dated mutual fund works like this. Say I entered the work force in 2010 and was 21 years old and I planned to retire at 65. At my planned retirement age the year would be 2054. So a target dated fund person would encourage me to invest in a target dated mutual fund that has a target date close to the year 2054. Most of these target dated funds, name wise, run in 5 year increments so I would be encouraged to invest in a target dated fund with a target year of 2055. During the time I am investing in this fund, the fund itself will hold a sliding balance of assets between stocks and bonds. In 2010 the fund might hold around 80% stocks and 20% bonds, and in 2050 it would hold 80% bonds and 20% stocks. Obviously the sliding scale begins heavy with stocks and slides towards a heavier holding weight in bonds as the target date approaches. Target dated funds are low fee and have built in risk management. And that is how they sell this trash!

And it’s trash because the longer you hold bonds the lower your overall investment return becomes. From the “get-go” target dated funds hold bonds which barely stay ahead of inflation, and you hold that pathetic investment over decades, missing out on the long-term lift that comes with equities.

“But I paid a lower fee…”

Yes I may have paid a lower fee buying the target dated fund, but it’s lack of growth over decades, simply by holding bonds, makes the fee discount look like a ridiculous argument. I’ll paint an extreme example. Say you invest $10,000 in a target dated fund that returns 8% over 20 years and pay the super low target dated mutual fund fee of .002%, you would net $49,169.42

Pretty impressive right??? WRONG! With a historically proven growth mutual fund earning 12% over that same time frame AND let’s say paying fees that total out to an absurdly high 5%, you would net  $103,429.19. That is over a $50,000 difference! $50,000 is way too much to pay for low fees and perceived “safety.”

“What about a real life example?”

You want it? You got it.  Let’s use a similar scenario with two real life comparable funds.  Let’s say the year is 1992, I am 21 years old and just began working.  Let’s also say I’m ahead of the game and have $10,000 to invest and I plan to retire at 65, in 2036.  I could invest in a “trusted” name when it comes to target dated fund investing so in option 1 I go with VFORX, Vanguard Target Retirement 2040, widely considered a Vanguard Safe haven, VFORX also has a considerably low expense cost through my broker at 0.19%.  Flash forward to today, since inception this fund has averaged 4.39% average annualized returns, and after expenses paid, if I redeemed everything today that 10K would now be worth $66,429.38. 

Then there’s option 2 - a good growth stock mutual fund that meets my criteria to invest in – BPTRX, Baron Partners Retail Fund. Through my broker this fund has a higher expense cost at 2%. Since inception BPTRX has an average annualized return of 11.92% and through this superstar fund my 10K is now worth $118,301.02 – AFTER EXPENSES ARE PAID here at the end of January 2013.  Even with expenses that are 10 times higher BPTRX is the superior choice to VFORX by over $50,000 over the last 20 years.  And guess what? VFORX is only going to get more conservative in its investments as the years go on.

“But Rob, that wasn’t a fair comparison…”

You might be right.  After all, I couldn’t even start investing in VFORX until 2006. That’s right friends, target dated mutual funds not only have horrible returns, but the ones meant for you are still in diapers when you are just starting out in your career!  I want a proven winner in my portfolio, not a schmuck with mediocre returns.  But pound for pound let’s look at the last 3 years, all post the 2008 market drop.  VFORX over the last 3 years has averaged 9.06% average annualized returns, turning 10K into $13,109.88 after the same expenses are paid.  BPTRX, as it may surprise you has averaged 13.01% average annualized returns over the last 3 years, netting $14,743.21 after 3 years with a 10K investment.  So when you break it all down, there’s really no doubt about it: target dated funds suck.

Friday, January 25, 2013

My 5 Year Anniversary

This seems to be a year of monumental anniversaries for me. As these events and markings of time come and go I will definitely talk about them in this space. And this particular time of year marks an anniversary that I am going to go into detail on today. This coming week will mark the five year anniversary that I have been with my employer.

The five year mark itself kind of blows me away. 5 years is longer than I was in high school, and it was longer than I was in college. As I am embarking on the final years of my 20s I am thoroughly amazed at how fast time has gone by. I can still recall 5 years ago like it was a few weeks ago.

I was fresh out of college and just starting out my real adult life. My first gig out of college was actually working for the US State Department in New York, and I hated every second of it. The waste of taxpayer resources on events that didn’t impact meaningful change in our world, witnessing firsthand the general ineptness and procedural hurdles that is government work, I mean really, I could go on and on. Plus, I was still seeing my college sweetheart and we were trying the whole long distance thing, and admittedly a big piece of my heart was in Chicago (she’s now my wife thank you very much J).

So almost without hesitation I left the big apple for the windy city. My first bite in the job hunt came in the form of recruitment for JP Morgan. I had filled out paper work, had a start date on the calendar and then was informed that a hiring freeze was taking place and that my services would not be needed. Funny side note, when I tell friends this story the feedback I usually get is, “I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, did you look into a lawsuit?” So to answer that question through this blog I’ll say no, I never looked into a lawsuit. Because when you are $20,000 in debt with no emergency fund and your portfolio consists of a pair of vans shoes and a Euro, you really don’t have the resources to pursue legal action.

So I scrambled to find a job. I sent my resume literally all over this town. After what felt like an eternity a temp agency presented two offers to me. One was working with a government entity (sigh), but with the added twist of getting to work in a publication unit where I would be drafting and editing articles (I was a communications major in college, so yes it was tempting even though it was a government job). Or an entry level-esque temping assignment at my current employer, an international financial services company headquartered here in Chicago. The temp job that lined up with my major was significantly less than the one with the financial services company, so guess which one I picked??

When I tell this story to friends I jokingly say that choice was when I decided to sell my soul to the highest bidder. But the truth is that I turned that opportunity into a path that is leading towards prosperity.  My relationship with my current employer of course did not start on the right foot. I was in over my head in debt and honestly needed them more than they needed me. But I slowly got my act together and started working Dave’s baby steps. At home we made a budget and started living on it, and I happily mutilated and closed each and every credit card I held. Every pay day was an exciting event because I was reaching my goals of having an emergency fund, becoming debt free, saving for retirement and saving for my first home.

I feel that the relationship with my employer has definitely changed for the better over these last few years. I am getting less dependent on the tokens of appreciation they show me every month in the form of paychecks. As a result I am under a lot less stress now than 5 years ago. Yes life still happens and there are good and bad days and great and tough people to work with. But my perception and attitude at work genuinely changed when I got my personal financial house in order. I seriously could quit today, throw pizzas for a living and maintain our household’s cost of living. But I go to work where I do because I want to, not because I have to.  And I think that change in mindset has given me a great foundation for the first 5 years of steady employment in my adult life, and will definitely influence how I plan out the next 5.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My 1st (of 4) Daily Motivational Mantras

This year my wife gave me one of the coolest presents I think I’ve received in a really long time.  It sits on my desk at work and it fills my soul with happiness and joy on a daily basis. It’s a picture frame of my lovely wife zoomed in on her face and it shows her relaxed smile with Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head set as the background, honestly it is my favorite picture of her and it was taken last month when we vacationed in Hawaii.  Across each side of the rectangular picture frame reads what I consider to be mantras.  I don’t know if she got it custom made but each of the statements might as well be family mottos for us.
So I’d like to unpack each of these mottos and how I’m applying them to my life. The first I want to cover is, “Live Simply.”  I couldn’t think of a better mantra to have in my life, especially when it comes to my personal finances. My creed at the top of this blog touches on this.  We live comfortably in a cheap apartment. I have no credit cards and use cash for all purchases I make.  We plan out what we expect to make before every month begins and we follow through on our plan.
Many years ago when we began our assault on debt we cut our living expenses to right around $22,000 a year.  We cut cable, phone and paying retail for just about anything.  I have been debt free for almost 4 years now and this year we have just started to lift our annual cost of living expenses.
When it comes to investments and insurance, I like to keep it painfully simple.  I don’t use tricks or gimmicks or get rich quick theories.  I invest in 4 types of mutual funds with proven track records and hold them forever. J  I keep investments and insurance separate, and buy insurance products based on how much risk I’m willing to take and use high deductibles to lower my premiums.
So without smoke and mirrors to chase what do I do with my free time? Simply put I put energy and focus into areas of my life that I want to excel in. First is my marriage: I have been reading as many relationship books as I can get my hands on, my wife and I see a couples counselor and soon I will be seeing a counselor individually to unpack the baggage I have carried around all of my life.  I also try to stay connected spiritually to God. Admittedly I’m not a perfect person (very far from it) and don’t pray or read my Bible everyday but I am trying.  I am trying to be a great witness and be a beacon with how I live my life so that living below my means, slowing building wealth and being “religious” seems attractive to you. J
I don’t have an ipod, ipad, kindle or a smart phone.  I have not owned a car for 10 years and have loved every minute of it.  So in my humble opinion, living a simple life really isn’t about being simple.  It’s really about focusing on what’s most important day in and day out. With less noise and fewer distractions, I’ve found that living simply is simply the best - the best way to discover what’s important in life, the best way to build character and the best way to be the best version of yourself.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My 2nd Ever FPU Group

Hello out there to all of my awesome readers out there! I know that you have been on pins and needles awaiting my next post and so have I. My transition to a new job at work is taking up a more generous amount of time than I had anticipated and I have not been able to give this endeavor the love and attention that it deserves L

But alas I am happy to be writing again today. Today I want to spend a bit of time sharing (without too much detail) about the current FPU group that I am leading. We went old school with this session and are completing Dave’s 13 week version. We are 3 weeks out from finishing and I have looked forward to and have enjoyed each passing week being able to gather and share this material with my church family.

This past week we covered retirement and college planning and the discussion that ensued was inspiring to me. Each week in itself it is a blessing to watch our little group mold and snowball into a support system for one another as the time carries along.

In retrospect even when participants cross examine the Ramsey ways, it is a questioning that genuinely springs from a loving concern of spirituality. One participant was interested in exploring and reconciling the concepts of building wealth and God’s messages of living within one’s means. And before I could open my mouth another participant began to share their ideas about what our world would look like if Christians who were inspired by the Spirit built for themselves and possessed wealth on levels that would make King David blush. Giving would increase on unprecedented levels and the private sector would out give the government - not to mention be better at it!

My jaw pretty much dropped (I hoped no one noticed) but I was completely moved at how organically the group is moving in a direction together, to also share a view that money can be used as a tool to further God’s kingdom on Earth.

I can’t wait for our next gathering but at the same time I don’t want it to end. And this is only the 2nd FPU course that I have ever facilitated. The power and influence of consumer empowerment with handling financial resources truly is picking up steam, and even motivated me to MAKE TIME to write a post to help in this mission.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Relationship With Money

This is a topic that I have wanted to write for a long time and also one that I have held back from writing. But today I feel that I am in a clear enough headspace to be able to tackle this topic without taking you on wild tangents that address the world as a whole. I want to use today’s space to talk about my relationship with money as it impacts my life directly.

Fundamentally I believe that the inward and outward flow of money in my life is reflective and representative of my priorities and values. It may come as no surprise to you (or maybe it does) that I do not worship the almighty dollar. Money does not bring me peace of mind nor make my soul feel joyously happy to be alive. Single handedly, money in itself does not make my marriage stronger, make me a better team member at work, make me a better Christian nor bring complete fulfillment in my life.

I probably should state this in one of the tabs of this blog, but I do not correlate an abundance of money with happiness nor a lack of it with despair. I also do not believe money is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10 states that, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and caused themselves a lot of pain.”

I’ll state this again because I think it drives my point home: money is reflective and representative of my priorities and values. Hard work and diligence were embedded into my psyche by my father. When I go to work, along with my skill set and work experience, I bring with me a can do anything attitude and relentlessly work my tail off. My employer, in gratitude of the service I provide in fulfilling their needs, show me gratitude in the form of monthly paychecks.

With those monthly tokens of appreciation my wife and I plan and dream, and vice versa. First we take care of our own household. 1 Timothy 5:8 states, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” So we budget and plan first and foremost taking care of our own living essentials: shelter, food, utilities and clothing.

But the fun is only just beginning from that point J! From there we dream and plot out ways to make those dreams a reality. From saving to retire early to saving to vacation to saving to buy our first home together to giving away a tithe of our net income, we dream and put together a tangible plan to make those goals happen.

Giving though is the most enjoyable part of the entire process. Even with money we set aside to travel with and use for monthly entertainment we still find ways to use that money to give. Let me happily tell you that when you get excellent service at a restaurant and had a phenomenal meal, it has filled me with impeccable jubilation to leave a 20% or even a 25% tip in cash, yes it is entertaining to see the waiter/waitress freeze in their tracks – do a double take – and reconcile the bills laid down with my seriousness, but it’s even more than that. To me it’s letting someone know, with tangible dollars, that I appreciate their care and attention that made my day that much more special. It’s even more fun to be travelling during the holidays and when you see a military service member walk into the same establishment, to covertly and anonymously pay for their meal.

I’m not saying any of this to brag or make myself a big deal. I am hoping that this piece, and this blog for that matter, inspire you to change how you see and handle money and transform your household, your legacy and those around you. My wife and I have been blessed over the last 4 years. We held an open heart to be receptive to God’s word on how to handle the financial resources available to us. In turn we are slowly building a rolling snowball of our own to find unique and inspiring ways to be a blessing to others. I’ll throw another biblical verse out there because I can, Genesis 12:2 says that God said to Abraham, I will make you a great nation, I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

God had huge plans for Abraham and his legacy. In following His call Abraham would be blessed (wait for it)…and in turn he and his household were blessed so that they could be a blessing to others. Personally I do not feel that God called me to become debt free, invest and earn over 12% on my returns, tithe my net income, all to head off to Atlantis to never be heard from again. The biggest central message in my walk, that resonates the most with me, is to be blessed to be a blessing. To help spread hope, and tangible steps to get there, to as many people as will hear me with an open ear.

So money is not evil, in fact as Dave Ramsey says, it’s actually in fact amoral. What I do with the resources I am provided, how I treat it and how I use it, truly says a lot about my values and character.

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Blue Collar Marital Hard Hat

I’ve ranted and raved and have not shied away when it comes to matters of personal finance but today I want to give my perspective on communication and closeness in marriage.  My wife and I have been married under 5 years and have been together under 10 years and with each passing annual calendar I am finding that I am learning so much more about myself, about her and about us.

So far in my adult life being married has been for me what I hear a lot of parents say about raising a family: it’s definitely challenging as an individual, but the best thing I have ever done with my life.

One of those challenging aspects is staying connected to my partner. Yes we too can get wrapped up in our careers (surprise right?!), the day to day, the focus on our finances and ultimately unintentionally not take the time to nourish our relationship and love for one another.

Over the last quarter or two we have been more intentional towards nurturing and making time for our relationship. I shared with you in an earlier post that we see a couple’s therapist almost weekly.  But we have also undertaken reading, “relationship oriented” books by therapists from our local library and try to implement some of the suggested practices as well.

I must say that I am dumbfounded to find how many EASY opportunities we let slip by to stay connected with one another.  I mean like painfully simple – things like saying good morning and good night to each other, stopping what we’re doing when the other comes home and lovingly greeting one another …the list goes on and on.

But now that we are in a few weeks of being honestly intentional with making time for one another, I definitely feel myself walking a bit taller and not stressed as much. I think the honest intentionality reassures me that together, my wife and I are connected and working and striving towards the same goals in life and growing together. I mean, I am jaw-droppingly amazed at how being more intentional kind of jump-started our love for one another to a gear I didn’t even know could be reached this way.

Plus we are continuing to learn new ways to communicate and reassure each other and that helps us both know we are on the same page. For me the reassurance comes from wanting our relationship to be firing on all cylinders leading up to and through when our little family begins to grow.

It’s kind of funny. I used to be afraid of having children because of a fear that it would disconnect me from my spouse and we would lose what we once had.  Now I feel so much more confident, there is less fear and more of a certainty that we will meet the next chapter of our lives with open hearts and work together through any challenges that come our way.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My New Job

It may come as no surprise that in the last few weeks I have not generated as many posts as I would like here at “from 0 to one million.”  And that is primarily because I have found myself thrust into the spotlight of transitioning to a new job.
Without getting into too many details I will try to summarize with this: I am still with the same employer I have been with over the last 5 years and am staying within the same division I was previously working in – I will be just moving to a new team.
Please don’t misunderstand one aspect though, I previously enjoyed my old team and its daily job functions.  But when management came knocking to inform me of the vacancy and offered me a promotion and raise to fill the vacancy, it was something I decided to consider accepting.
In my fiscal journey leading up to this point I have been evolving an interesting point of view towards my career.  I have been finding that a top priority in getting our fiscal house in order is to get my own time back into my life - time to spend with my wife, time to spend with our future family, time to travel whenever I want and time to volunteer for organizations and programs that inspire my soul.
So when it comes to my career in the short/medium and long term there is definitely some interesting debate that occurs.  When it comes to pay hikes, promotions, long hours and devotion to a company the truth is that we really don’t need it.  Our bare bones living expenses come out to around $22,000 a year, so when new work avenues present themselves I definitely take a holistic approach in evaluating the change.
Apart from the obvious perks this new role requires me to get into the office a bit earlier, but I also get to leave a bit earlier.  Long term if we have kids in Chicago, it may mean, if my wife chooses to be a stay at home parent, that I leave before she wakes up and come home with some daylight left in the day. If she works then she can take our kid to daycare a little later and I can pick up from daycare a little earlier.  And truth be told, if we still are in Chicago in 5 years, I would like to be with my current employer in the overall division that I have been in for the last 2 years.  So this new role helps me show management that I’m a “team player” and I get to add a completely new skill set to my resume, a win-win scenario for myself and my employer if you ask me.
But overall it was a tough decision to make.  I gave myself a week to weigh the pros and cons and discuss it over with my wife. In the end accepting this promotion and moving teams helps me be the employee I want to be without damaging or harming the husband and person that I am.
Admittedly, it was the very first time for me that money was not a major factor in taking a new job.  Granted I still found the idea of change to be a bit nerve wrecking, having the financial aspect of changing jobs not play a major role really helped me to evaluate the offer in ways I had never considered previously.  “The bottom line” of a dollar offer really only touches the surface when it comes to a job transition, and I’m surprised at how my evaluation has changed from today, against when I first walked through the doors of the company I work for 5 years ago.  So with a big learning curve ahead of me, I feel blessed that I only have to worry about stress on the job, rather than being compounded with the stress of mismanaged personal finances.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Quarter End: Q4 2012

Now that was a fun quarter! Greetings everyone and Happy New Year!  I have been happily looking forward to 2013 and finally it is here. For those on the edge of your seats, at the end of Q4 2012 my total net worth stood at $288,124.84.  Now you might be asking yourself, why in the world is he so stoked about a 2000 loss in net worth from Q3? The answer of course lies in the details. The bulk of the quarter over quarter loss came from a 9% decrease in appraised value of a property I jointly own in California. But when it came to my all star team of mutual funds spread across our brokerage and retirement accounts, we had growth of 10% over the past quarter.
Even with the overall economy sliding back into recession and down market week to close 2012, our mutual funds, as a group, earned 10% over the last 3 months.  I feel like a proud papa watching his kid dominate on the sports field.

But of course the ebb to that flow was my gross miscalculation of how the market would react to the fiscal cliff. Technically our government went over the cliff and entered 2012 with automatic cuts and tax increases.  In pure reaction, the idiots in the Senate passed a 170 some odd page fiscal cliff deal at 2 am EST.  Now, you tell me if you can do anything with efficiency at 2 am, especially if you are an elected official drunk on spending. The deal raises taxes on those earning over 400K annually, raises taxes on EVERYONE by allowing the social security tax break to expire and did nothing to curb the impending debt ceiling.

So in preparation of our government’s unique ability to negotiate like 5- year olds, we set aside about $5,000 in cash to buy more shares of our favorite mutual funds after year-end when the market sank further.  As the market began to dip at year end we did buy $500 worth of one of our mutual funds, leaving me with $4500 ready to buy at great prices.  The cliff came and went, an awful deal was passed, and with it came the only thing the market asks for: certainty.  And these first few trading days of the new year have been phenomenal and making me wish I bought more in the last week of 2012.

I am hopeful that upcoming earnings reports will be lackluster from a modest Christmas season and that the unresolved debt ceiling will contribute to a significant market drop later this month.  But if a drop doesn’t come to fruition we will carry on our merry way and use our built up cash to make mutual fund purchases over a series of months.  And our principles remain the same: buy a diverse group of historically proven mutual funds and hold for at least five years.

On the personal side I feel 2012 was a great one for us and 2013 amazingly is looking just the same, if not more promising.  We are planning to do more of what Dave Ramsey says are the 3 things you do with money: invest, give and have fun. We are continuing to save and invest.  We will be getting back to giving away to charitable organizations a tithe of our net income. And we plan to have fun by traveling to Charleston- South Carolina, Nashville- Tennessee, take a big trip to Europe and make several trips to California to visit my family.  

Yes 2013 is finally here and I for one am waiting in excited anticipation to embrace and really enjoy this New Year.