Friday, February 26, 2010

BOOM OR BUST: PLIGHT OF THE BABY BOOMERS


I just finished reading yet another article regarding the plight of the baby-boomers and their lack of retirement savings. Because so many have not saved enough for retirement or lost a huge amount during the financial crisis, the boomers are behind in their needs for retirement income. The longevity expected for many of these boomers only adds to their dilemma regarding ample incomes for their golden years.

Simple enough, right? They need money. But how to get it?

The article went on to say that the boomers must be careful not to invest too cautiously so that they can make up their losses in time for retirement. Experts believe that a portfolio heavily weighted in stocks is still they way to make up for lost ground.

Now I wouldn’t be so angry about this article had it not be for reading multiple others just like it on so-called “reputable” news sources and which quoted “experts” giving similar advice.

Okay, let’s think about this. Haven’t many of these boomers just lost close to half of their retirement savings in the stock market? And now the experts are advising them to continue putting the rest of their money at risk?

“Sure”, the experts say, “you have to have a strong return to prepare for retirement.”

I say to the “experts” -- “Do you?”

Is it really necessary to risk whatever you have left for a chance at happiness in retirement? The same retirement that is lacking in many of the expenses found in a pre-retirement lifestyle? The same retirement that is often devoid of expenses bound to raising children, educational costs, a mortgage, a higher tax bracket, work-related costs such as transportation, and a variety of other pre-retirement expense categories? The same retirement bolstered by social security, Medicare, a possible pension, tax-related senior benefits, and a slew of senior discounts for everything from movies and food to garbage collection and public transportation?

Are these “experts”, whose salaries are often paid by making investments at the risk of others, truly advocating what is best for the boomers? Or are they simple advocating what is best for them? Maybe, a low return on investments isn’t such a bad thing after all. Having your money making a small return is better than loosing half of it in another bursting market bubble or crisis. What then?

I say to the “experts” -- “Give the boomers some credit. I think they are resourceful and innovative enough to find ways to cut costs in retirement or supplement income in other ways if they have to. They have made it this far on their own, stop interfering with their money and let them make their own decisions. Don’t you realizing you’re ripping off your own parents?”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

CASH DOWN THE TOILET: THE INSATIABLE THRIST OF MY DOWNSTAIRS COMMODE


PREFACE
First, let me say that that I am not the all around handyman that many men are. I don’t like fixing things around the house. This is one of the reasons I battled my wife regarding the issue of homeownership in the first place, but that’s a topic better left for later. As a homeowner however, I make my best attempt to fix things on an as need basis…if it’s within my realm of expertise, which doesn’t stretch far.

THE PROBLEM
It wasn’t long after we moved into our first home that I noticed the downstairs toilet would run occasionally. This wasn’t something that particularly bothered me – at least not until we got our first water bill, which was $112 (for a three-month billing period). At the time, I thought it was a bit high, but since it was our first home, I wasn’t quite sure what the norm was.

Three months later the bill was $125. I was staggered by the cost of a commodity that falls from the sky with regularity here in Chicago.

Something was amiss! It was time for a little experiment.

THE TEST
Here is what I did:
· Turned water off to the problem toilet tank.
· Emptied tank completely.
· Used one-gallon milk jug to fill and gauge volume of tank – 5 gallons.
· Timed how long it took for water to leak from tank – 45 minutes.
· Divided 45 minutes into 24-hour day – 32 refills per day.
· Multiplied 32 x 5 gallons – 160 gallons per day.
· Multiplied 160 x 30 days in a month – 4800 lost gallons per month.
· Multiplied 4.8 x $6 per 1000 gallons (our water/sewer rate) = $28.80.

I was losing nearly $30 a month literally down the drain!

THE SOLUTION
By looking, I could tell the flapper valve (that little rubber gasket that covers the toilet tank’s drain hole) was leaking.

Here were my next steps:

1) Left water shut off to toilet to prevent further pecuniary distress.
2) Visited local home supply store and purchased a new flapper valve for $4.
3) With the tank empty, I installed the new piece. It can’t be too hard if I did
it.
4) Refilled tank with water.
5) Turned water to tank off again and let toilet sit for an hour to gauge any loss.
6) Seeing no water loss, I reveled in my handyman achievement.
7) For extra water savings, I placed a filled, 1.75-liter bottle inside toilet tank
to displace water, decreasing water consumption per flush.

LESSON LEARNED
When you hear your toilet running regularly and without reason, jump on the issue right away. A new, $4 flapper valve is a heck of a lot cheaper than thousands of gallons of lost water, not to mention better for the environment too!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Upcoming Topics

So I’ve already had a few questions as to what exactly will be posted on this blog. Well, there will be a number of topics to which I will pen my thoughts and ideas, most of which will be related to saving money. A few posts related to investing or similar finance or market topics might sneak their way in, but I hope to keep most of my blithering contained within savings related subject matter.

Finding ways to save on utilities, your home, food, childcare, and related topics will all be in the mix. But those are the old standbys for thousands of other blogs. So what will make this blog different? Well, I have a couple of ideas.

Mistakes
First, I plan to discuss my savings mistakes. While most blogs plug their successes, I feel that we often learn most from our mistakes. Lord knows I’ve made more than my share, especially when it comes to money and saving money, and I hope that readers can take my failures and turn them into their successes.

Resale Updates
I’m a big fan of resale, and I’d like to share with you my experiences in a number of resale categories and how I learn and earn from those experiences.

Thrift Through Thoreau
Finally, one of my favorite authors is Henry David Thoreau, and I feel that Walden is a great book for those who are interested in getting back to basics, especially when it comes to saving. I plan to do a series of posts related to Thoreau’s writing. Who knows, I might even advocate a little civil disobedience, but let’s not get too crazy just yet.

I hope this clarifies what this blog is to be about and where I plan to take it.

About The Penny-Wise Provider

Yes, yes, I know, yet another blog added to the untold millions already out there. Like a dying star, I have a feeling that the entire blogging world will eventually collapse inward upon itself due to the weight of billions of utterly useless blog sites. However, for the moment, I’ve decided to take the plunge, join the foray, and give blogging a shot.

I’ll be the first to admit that there is already a surplus of savings blogs out there, and certainly no lack of savings blogs run by stay-at-homers. It seems however, that the vast majority of that same at-home, saving-style type blog is written by women, not men. Try looking around for a stay-at-home dad who also advocates saving money, coupon clipping, grocery purchase prudence, and a Depression-era style of reuse, and I think you’ll discover there is a surprising dearth of fillers for that particular niche.

And that is where I come in…

Writer, father, husband, son, faithful son-in-law, and consummate penny-wise provider, I plan to use this site to bring to you a unique, and at times, possibly unexpected male perspective upon the world of saving.

I hope you take a moment to enjoy yourself here, learn a little something from my experience with saving (and saving faux pas), and discover something that will help you to become a penny-wise provider to your family and friends as well.

My first full provider post should be up later this week. Until then, remember -- Efficiently!
Effectively! Economically!