Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why is Networking So Expensive?

There have been a few conferences and other networking opportunities in my city recently that I have chosen not to participate in; not because I did not think I could get value out of them, but because they were so expensive! Conference registration, happy hours/mixers, panel discussions, proper attire and transportation to these events…it all adds up! And there are still a few other events taking place this fall that look really interesting, but I will not be partaking in because they simply won't fit in the budget. As a young professional, I am always encouraged to go to these meet-and-greet/networking/conference opportunities, but unless you have an inside track, the expenses adds up. And this is not factoring in hotel and travel because so many events come to my current locale, Washington, DC.

I don’t think networking should just be relegated to those people who are actively job-hunting. And really, whose job is absolutely secure with our shaky economy? So why do I want to network if it’s not just to find another job? I’d like to gain seasoned mentors that could coach and advise me on reaching my career goals. I’d also like to widen my personal network of professional contacts, because knowing a lot of people in your field (or related fields) is normally a good thing. Meeting new people with skill sets that are different than mine can increase the potential of learning new skills that can be useful in my career. Networking can also open up the door to pursue a lucrative side-job that can pursued in addition to full-time employment.

So, what have I learned from this? I will look on the websites of the organizations that hold conferences and other good networking opportunities annually and plan to attend the ones that would offer the most value to me. I will then earmark a portion of my regular savings to pay for these events so I don’t have to charge anything. Networking is not an excuse to rack up debt! I will also continue volunteering as I currently do for organizations that interest me, which tends to have the bonus of free entry to events that you volunteer for. I don’t think any of my goals are out of reach with planning, so here is to being a mover and a shaker next year by planning for it today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Stocks plummet as House votes down bailout; Dow drops 778

According to this USA Today article, "The stock market plunged Monday, as the House of Representatives voted down the $700 billion financial bailout package, sending the Dow Jones industrial down almost 780 points for their largest point drop ever."

I know I said I was trying to stay away from financial/economic news, but I know others besides myself are thinking (worrying?) about the state of the U.S. economy today.

Wachovia Announces Bank Subsidiary Divestitures to Citigroup

For those of you that bank with Wachovia, I found this press release on their website today:

Wachovia Announces Bank Subsidiary Divestitures to Citigroup
Wachovia Corporation to become a focused leader in retail brokerage and asset management.

CHARLOTTE, NC—Wachovia today announced intentions to sell its retail bank, corporate and investment bank and wealth management businesses to Citigroup. Wachovia Corporation will remain a public company with two main operating subsidiaries: Wachovia Securities, the nation's third largest brokerage firm, and Evergreen Asset Management, a leading provider of asset management services.

"During recent weeks, the financial landscape has changed significantly and presented us with unprecedented challenges," said Robert K. Steel, CEO and President of Wachovia. "Today's announcement is the best alternative for the company, enabling a resolution on the Golden West portfolio."

Under terms of the transaction, Citigroup will pay $2.1 billion to Wachovia and assume the senior and subordinated debt of Wachovia Corporation.

The transaction is expected to close before year-end. It has been approved by directors of both companies and is subject to shareholder approval of Wachovia and the appropriate regulatory approvals. Customers of both companies should continue banking as usual, and feel confident that their deposits are secure. Also, employees and vendors should continue to operate business as usual. At this time, there are no changes to Wachovia's board of directors and two Wachovia directors will join Citigroup's board.

Wachovia Corp. will remain headquartered in Charlotte, NC. Wachovia Securities will continue to be headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Citigroup will headquarter the retail bank in Charlotte and the investment bank in New York.

Wachovia's investment bankers were Goldman Sachs, Perella Weinberg Partners and Wachovia Securities, and its legal advisors are Sullivan & Cromwell and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

About Wachovia Wachovia Corporation (NYSE:WB) is one of the nation's largest diversified financial services companies, with assets of $812.4 billion and market capitalization of $33.5 billion at June 30, 2008. Wachovia provides a broad range of retail banking and brokerage, asset and wealth management, and corporate and investment banking products and services to customers through 3,300 retail financial centers in 21 states from Connecticut to Florida and west to Texas and California, and nationwide retail brokerage, mortgage lending and auto finance businesses. Globally, clients are served in selected corporate and institutional sectors and through more than 40 international offices. Our retail brokerage operations under the Wachovia Securities brand name manage more than $1.1 trillion in client assets through 14,600 financial advisors in 1,500 offices nationwide. Online banking is available at wachovia.com; online brokerage products and services at wachoviasec.com; and investment products and services at evergreeninvestments.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

October's Goals

Well another month is about to start, so it's about time I set my goals for the month, so here they are:

  1. Purchase textbooks (for the cheapest price possible) for session 2 of my fall semester graduate school classes;
  2. Mail off passport renewal application (or do it online...just get it done!);
  3. Put aside money to purchase tickets to see Tina Turner in concert when she comes to town later this fall--I would be doing good if I were half as cool as her when I'm her age :- );
  4. Sign up for Zipcar - only if pricing is reasonable;
  5. Price local young professional and/or networking organizations and choose one to join this fall;
  6. Wake up earlier and get to work earlier. Use these earlier starts to be more productive;
  7. Exercise on a weekly basis.
So how did I do on September's goals?
  1. Exercise on a weekly basis - PASS - I did not exercise as much as I should have, but some exercise is better than none at all right?
  2. Write down/track spending on a weekly basis - PASS - I did track my weekly spending in an excel spreadsheet but can't say I cut spending this month. I still have to compare it to Yodlee to see how it matched up.
  3. Wake up an hour early at least twice a week to do reading. - FAIL...I did get my reading done, just not in the early morning hours.
  4. Purchase a file cabinet. - FAIL...I'm going to hold off on this goal, I want to see if I can find a used file cabinet (Craig's List?) before purchasing a new one.
  5. Attend the next ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Funds’ Meet Up event. - FAIL - one of these days I'll make it...
  6. Sign up for Zipcar to run my weekend errands and start using my driver's license for more than just photo ID. - FAIL...I'll try again in October.
  7. Make comments or ask a question during every class meeting for my grad school course. It’s a good habit to develop in my graduate courses and participation is apart of my grade anyway. - PASS!
I feel like October is going to be a great month, so long summer, hello fall!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I won’t let the country’s economic woes get me down

America’s dire economic situation is being discussed endlessly on all major news outlets these days and though I found economics to be very interesting even before the economic crisis and this week’s recent events, I am seriously thinking about limiting my daily business/economic news intake. I have so much to be thankful for, and its time I start focusing on those things instead of all the negativity in the media. Here are a few things I am thankful for:

  • I’m paying off my debt and saving money which will only help me in the long run;
  • I am young, healthy, and gainfully employed with a decent, livable wage;
  • I have many personal and financial goals to look forward to achieving in the future;
  • I have a great friendships and a family that loves and supports me;
  • The small amount of money I have invested in retirement in the two years I have been working won’t be needed for a few decades, so there is no need for me to stress about their balances and what the market is doing to them at this time;
  • I am obtaining a graduate degree which will increase my earning potential over my lifetime;
  • I only have me to worry about. I don’t currently have dependents (children, aging relatives, pets), so I can live without things that others may deem necessary such as a car. I can count on one hand the amount of times I turned on my air conditioner this year, I personally prefer fresh air and fans when its gets really steamy. If I get cold in the winter, I put on a sweater instead of blasting the heat to keep my energy costs down. I actually like food that costs less but is still nutritious like rice with beans and veggies. Now if I could only bring myself to live without cable…

I do admit to a weakness for shoes and clothing, but I’m working on that. Overall, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I don’t plan to let the country’s economic woes get me down. So don’t let them get you down either!

Monday, September 22, 2008

For Banks, Bailout, For Young People Advice About Credit

Check out this recent NYT article:

"The Treasury Department started a campaign last week to educate Americans about the importance of credit. The campaign was not designed for Wall Street banks, currently awaiting the details on their $700 billion government bailout, but for 18- to 24-year-olds, who are presumably too young to bring the financial system to its knees. The campaign, which includes two videos, two radio spots and an online game in English and Spanish, warns young viewers: “Don’t let your credit put you in a bad place.” To some, the effort might seem a tad late given current events, but those running the project say the timing is just right.“I think that recent events have highlighted the importance of understanding the impact that your financial decisions can have on your life,” said Jennifer Zuccarelli, a Treasury spokesperson."

I have to say, I've learned more about how banks and investment firms function (or fail) in the last week than I ever knew before...Should it really take a credit crisis for young people to learn about how credit works? Sad...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

America's Best Young Entrepreneurs 2008

I came across this while perusing Business Week. I've got to come up with a great idea so I can be on this list next year....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What to do with October's extra check?

I know it's only mid-September, but I have been contemplating what I am going to do with the extra pay check I will receive in October. I get paid on a bi-weekly schedule, and since there are five fridays in the month of October, I get three checks. Sure, there are plenty of things I could do to with my extra check. I could use it to pad my emergency fund and pull myself a little closer to my $5,000 goal. I could add it to my travel fund, because I'd like to take a fun trip somewhere for my 25th birthday next year (yikes!). I could also buy a few household items I've been wanting like a chair, a new comforter or a file cabinet.

But what have I decided to do with that extra check once I receive it? Apply it to credit card debt. My Discover card which would have been paid off by February with my planned $250 payments will now be paid off by November! I will apply $1,000 of my extra check to my balance and pay the remainder in November. By this time next year, I hope my extra checks will go toward something like my travel fund or to start my house downpayment fund. But in the mean time, I have to crush this credit card debt!

Monday, September 15, 2008

For the love of boots

And that was a nice break from your regularly scheduled personal finance-related post. I love fall shoes, boots in particular, are my favorites. I really like the booty style (short ankle boot) that are fashionable this season, but was afraid to purchase them because they are somewhat trendy. I tend to go for classic clothing and shoes because I hate spending the money (and time) updating items that look woefully out of date by the next season. But seeing these pretty inexpensive pairs at Payless has me reconsidering my no short ankle boot decision....we'll see.

Don’t Buy That Textbook, Download It Free

I don't think any of my graduate school professors are doing this, but I still found this New York Times article interesting:

SQUINT hard, and textbook publishers can look a lot like drug makers. They both make money from doing obvious good — healing, educating — and they both have customers who may be willing to sacrifice their last pennies to buy what these companies are selling. It is that fact that can suddenly turn the good guys into bad guys, especially when the prices they charge are compared with generic drugs or ordinary books. A final similarity, in the words of R. Preston McAfee, an economics professor at Cal Tech, is that both textbook publishers and drug makers benefit from the problem of “moral hazards” — that is, the doctor who prescribes medication and the professor who requires a textbook don’t have to bear the cost and thus usually don’t think twice about it.

“The person who pays for the book, the parent or the student, doesn’t choose it,” he said. “There is this sort of creep. It’s always O.K. to add $5.”In protest of what he says are textbooks’ intolerably high prices — and the dumbing down of their content to appeal to the widest possible market — Professor McAfee has put his introductory economics textbook online free. He says he most likely could have earned a $100,000 advance on the book had he gone the traditional publishing route, and it would have had a list price approaching $200.

“This market is not working very well — except for the shareholders in the textbook publishers,” he said. “We have lots of knowledge, but we are not getting it out.”

I am currenly pricing textbooks for the second session of my first semester of grad school and will try to pay as little as possible for them...but nothing beats free!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Progress is still progress even if its small

Many of my financial goals still seem far away but I'm making baby steps toward my goals. I now have a little over $1,100 in my Emergency fund. I still have a ways to go to $5,000 (roughly 2 months of living expenses), but $1,500 is realistic by the end of the year.

Today, I made a $400 payment to my Discover card. I plan to have that card paid off by January 2009. Then, I can focus on the larger balance, the Visa card.

But I say, progress is still progress, even if it's small. I'd insert a really thought provoking metaphor for progress in small steps if I could think of one right now... oh well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Do you remember where you were on 9/11/2001?

I do, I was in my high school English class my junior year and the whole school started watching the news on television when we heard about the tragedies’ that occurred. Those with friends, relatives in NYC or DC were trying to make sure their loved ones were okay. Take some time to reflect on 9/11 and all of the people who have gone through tragic circumstances such as terrorism, war, political strife, hunger, epidemics, etc. not just in the U.S. but throughout the world. My biggest issues these days are when I will have my student loans and credit card debt paid down so I can purchase a house and achieve other non-essential goals like travel and pursing my graduate degree. I have a lot be thankful for, if you do as well, reflect on that today.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Spending

Lunch - 5.52
Marshall's (2 sweaters and a candle) - 68.86
Target (yoga mat) - 9.60

Coffee, egg sandwich, tea - 7.07
Ice cream - 2.74

Donuts - 1.96
Groceries - 66.72

TOTAL - 162.47

It's just way too convenient to live walking distance from a Dunkin' Donuts, I was in there twice over the course of the weekend...

I have no explanation for my purchases at Marshall's on Friday except that when you are petite and find clothing in your size, sometimes you just have to go for it...on another note, I'm adding 200.00 to savings this week.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Slightly Increased My Retirement Contributions

I decided to slightly increase my 403b contributions from 2.9% of my bi-weekly pay to 3.9%. My company matches my retirement contributions dollar-for-dollar up to 3% of my base compensation and 50 cents per dollar beyond 3% up to 5%. I will increase it again to 5% in a few months. I’m sure I won’t miss the money since it's taken out before I receive my paycheck.

I still plan to start contributing to a Roth IRA account in January. The goal is to contribute $200 (automatically) to that every month. Doing things automatically is the only way I manage to save these days. If I see money in my account after I pay bills and other necessary expenses, I tend to substantiate extra purchases and treats for myself. So, doing my saving automatically makes up for my occasional spending impulses.

I recently started using Yodlee to track my expenses and may eventually use the bill pay option the site offers. I like being able to go to one place to see my accounts instead of visiting several sites to see what shape my accounts are in. Mint is good, but I think I like Yodlee a little better. Yodlee seems to be more functional though I like the actual look of Mint (aesthetics matter to me...). I am still tracking my spending daily in addition to checking my balances on Yodlee. Revised budget still to come sometime this month.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Class-Action Settlement for Nearly Every Consumer

I read Michelle Singletary's column today and found out some interesting information:

In a class-action settlement, the credit bureau TransUnion has agreed to provide free credit-monitoring services to millions of consumers to settle claims that it illegally passed along private information for marketing purposes. Although TransUnion denied any wrongdoing, the settlement requires the company to sign up consumers for either six months or nine months of monitoring. Unless you've been a conscientious objector to all forms of borrowing in the last 21 years, you're probably eligible for the monitoring service. But the deadline to sign up is fast approaching. You have until Sept. 24 to register for benefits under the settlement. Any consumer who had an open credit account or an open line of credit from a credit grantor is eligible. The types of credit might include a car loan, bank credit card, retail store credit card, finance company loan, mortgage or student loan. The credit account had to be opened between Jan. 1, 1987, and May 28, 2008.

For more information on details of the settlement or to register visit the website: http://www.ListClassAction.com or call 866-416-3470.