plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

September 30, 2008

incidental expenses whilst travelling

Filed under: shopping — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

Travelling can be hard work. I got back from the Munich Oktoberfest on Monday in an epic 12 hours, (including an hour at work picking up and sorting out my replacement laptop).

One of the biggest problems with extended journeys, especially on the way home is that it’s often slightly boring, and you end up spending money for something to do. I didn’t do too badly, I picked up some sweets for work at the airport, where I also had a slice of cake and a Sprite. Then on possibly the most circuitous route from Heathrow to my house, I bought a cookie at one of the places I had to change.

I wasn’t really being good, I was just too tired, otherwise I might have bought a magazine or a book to read, plus ideally I’d have had a chance to get some actual lunch (Lufthansa gave out a snack, but I don’t like salami sandwiches – fussy I know).

With flights, now that you can’t bring your own drinks in, I just put up with the fact that I’m going to buy an overpriced coke or something there. I did hear a pretty cool suggestion of taking in a collapsible water bottle and filling that up, although I don’t know if it’s against the rules.

Most of my fun travel is actually by train in any case so I pick up a bottle of something sweet on the way, and some food if needed. It’s generally cheaper to buy neither in the station nor on the train. I’m never sure what to do about entertaining myself on a trip which is why there have been many emergency magazine and book purchases. I guess a newspaper would work out cheaper.

How do you cope with incidental expenses whilst travelling? Do you just suck them up? Go without? Or any other great ideas?

September 26, 2008

are joint finances necessary

Filed under: guest posts — Tags: , , , , — plonkee @ 1:00 pm

This is a guest post from Living Almost Large about finance and the American Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

Sort of a financial topic but a funny spin on it. I have to say joint accounts are absolutely necessary when you are marrying a foreigner. Sounds counterintuitive, that you should have separate accounts, but actually when you are doing the INS paper work you WANT joint accounts. Otherwise you will be crying I promise!

Since I have experience with this area, I’ll tell you a story. When you are married to a foreigner, everyone else who is thinking of marrying a foreigner or dating a foreigner will ask you what the process is like. For us it was easy-peasy compared to most!

Probably because everything was joint, we were really married, and we documented everything. I did cry at the INS, but heck we had been waiting hours only to find out we hadn’t filled out all the paperwork necessary.

At the time we were too broke to afford a lawyer so we had to sit and meticulously fill out everything. We carried a box with EVERYTHING. We had our mortgage, bank statements, copies of credit cards, titles of cars, pictures, etc. You name it we had it.

But back to why you want a joint account. Our friends got married at the same time and were interviewing at the same time, etc. Except the man was an American and the woman Brazilian, and they had meet while he was vacationing in Brazil. My DH and I met while in school and were living together. They were “long distance” dating and then got married.

So we had everything together because well we lived together. We knew the day was coming so we set up everything joint, insurance, car titles, bank accounts, etc. But our friends well it was hard to do everything because they had to apply for a fiance visa, then get married, then start making everything joint after the wife moved here. And they had only been dating 12 – 18 months or something short. We had been living together almost 5 years prior.

Anyway, the husband hadn’t had time to add his wife to his accounts, she wasn’t on the mortgage, not on the car, not a beneficiary for life insurance. And it looked bad. They had a very rough time with the interview and getting their spousal green card.

For us it took us 6 months to get the card, they waited over 1 year. They were investigated and interviewed more intensively than we were. Our interview was 15 minutes and basically the person just reviewed all the paperwork. You submit everything, wait a long time, then go back for an interview. They review everything, then get back to you.

As we were relating our stories, they admitted they hadn’t planned or thought through the process at all. Hence the difficulties. After 2 years of green card you get to remove the conditional status and apply for permenant status.

Anyway, the moral of the story? After hearing their story and others similar to it, we figured our we had cruised through our interview and process WITHOUT a lawyer. Yep we were probably more married than the rest of them. So if you are considering marriage and getting a green card, tip – start setting things up joint asap. Trying to show you are married with all seperate accounts is more hassle than it’s worth.

Beside you have to talk finances eventually. And it should be done before marriage anyway.

September 22, 2008

and what do you have to show for it?

Filed under: retirement — Tags: , , , , — plonkee @ 8:34 pm

I don’t know if any of you have read Your Money or Your Life, but there’s an exercise at the beginning where you have to add up all the income you’ve ever had, and then calculate your net worth. I was a little bored on the train the other week, so I had a go at this in rough.

I ended up with approximate figures of £150k in income after tax since the age of 18 (including wages, bonuses and major gifts) and a net worth of about £12k (depends on share prices so could well be less, but good enough for an approximation). This means that of all the money that has come into my hands as an adult, I have about 8% of it left.

That’s not a lot, especially when you consider that since I graduated, I’ve saved about 20% or more of each pay cheque. To be fair, I assumed that house prices have gone down, and my house is now worth as much as my mortgage, whereas I had a £10k deposit. Also, although I save quite a bit of money each month, some of that is planned savings for specific things like travel, or home maintenance.

Still, to see how I’m doing in the great scheme of things, I calculated my anticipated earnings across my lifetime (assuming only that I get a cost of living increase each year). This came out as £2.6M, but the pot of money that I need to retire on is nearly £1.7M. I need a net worth to total life income ratio of approaching 65% in order to retire.

I’m not panicking yet though. One of the key factors in becoming wealthy is allowing time for the magic of compounding to take place in a good way. A lot of the planned for growth in my net worth is going to be caused by earning interest on the interest rather than me saving three quarters of my income. Although saving more probably wouldn’t hurt.

Anyway, has anyone else done this exercise or something similar? And if so how did your numbers come out?

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