Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gonzalo Barr--what an inspiration!

A few days ago I read about Gonzalo Barr, author of _The Last Flight of Jose Luis Balboa_, a collection of stories, which won the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize in 2005. He's such an inspiration to all writers who came late to the game--he started writing seriously in 2000 and just quit his job as a lawyer in December of 2007 to become a full-time write at age 49. I read about him in the Miami Herald and his story really resonated with me. I emailed him and he emailed back almost immediately!

What a nice guy--he says his inspiration came from a nun who gave him a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's _Slaughterhouse Five_ and he was also grateful to a librarian who let him sneak into the library and read all afternoon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Financial book reviews posted

I just posted two new book reviews on my Dollar stretcher blog:


They were_How to Win a Sports Scholarship_ by Penny Hastings and Todd Caven, and _Get Your Assets in Gear!_ by Jan Dahlin Geiger. Two great books!

I read roughly a dozen personal finance books a month and most of them start sounding all the same, so I only review the ones that stand out from the crowd.

The financial books that got me started were (like for so many people) _Your Money or Your Life_ by Joe Dominguez, Suze Orman's early books and _The Millionaire in You_ by Michael LeBoeuf.

_Your Money or Your Life_ put into words the philosophy I have always had but put into practice when I started working part-time. I wanted my life back. Working full-time I basically was "bleeding out" my life-force into something that was not going to give me my life back after I spent it. I decided to get a higher degree that would allow me to earn twice as much and then go part-time, thus keeping the same salary for half the amount of hours worked! It's true that as a part-timer, I have no benefits, but thankfully I don't need them since I get them through my husband. It's also true that I don't get the same raises and don't get to progress as much professionally, but as a trade for my life energy, I'll take it. Before I was too exhausted to do anything besides come home and collapse. Now I have time in the morning to think, to breathe, to sit in the sun, to read, to write, to be.

It helped to have a husband who loves his own work and has great job security (and who doesn't care what I make.) But mostly it helped not having debt or big obligations (or children) so I didn't feel tied down financially.

As a writer, I never expected to make big bucks anyway. As a librarian, I knew it was out of the question!

Learning how to live frugally allowed me to work part-time while still saving for retirement (we save $1000 a month in a 403b and IRA) and still save some besides. So we are basically living off of my husband's salary and saving mine. If my husband decided to go part-time, we could still survive, just not save as much.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Net Worth IQ

I just discovered Networth IQ,, an online net worth tracker that will graph your results and let you compare yourself to your peers. You have to register to use it but it's free. We did well compared to most people in our salary range, but terrible compared to people in our age bracket. I guess starting a late career in academia not to mention starting to save for retirement REALLY late (but better than never) didn't really help.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's resolution: pre-paying mortgage--a strategy that might work

After reading all the pros and cons concerning prepaying mortgages, I've decided to go ahead and prepay. It's true that it's a very low interest rate (5.125) and it will be paid off before my husband retires anyway, but we both agree that we'd like to see it gone. It's our only debt besides a tiny HELOC which will be paid off in the next two months.

In deference to the naysayers about mortgage prepayment, however, I think I'm going to take the extra $400 I was intending to use to prepay and put it into a high yield savings account of some type, which will probably earn about the same as the mortgage interest rate.

In the next two years there may be real estate opportunities in my area and we could use it for a down payment for a second home (retirement) if that presents itself. I don't want to get caught flat-footed if something great comes up. If we decide against this course of action, we can always take the lump sum and apply it toward the mortgage.

The problem: do we have the discipline to keep the money for that purpose only and not use it for any other family emergency?

Also, if my husband decides not to work summers (he's faculty on a 9-month salary) will we be able to save the extra money during the summer months?

But so far this is my New Year's financial resolution.