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

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.

June 2, 2008

guest post – to be a frugal bride, be a flexible bride

Filed under: guest posts — Tags: , , , , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

A nice guest post to start the week. Amy at My Daily Dollars blogs about her day-to-day battle with her debt. As she pays off close to $9,000 of credit card debt, she’s also saving for her upcoming wedding. Fortunately, her new frugal habits are helping her have a lovely, frugal wedding!

Wedding season has arrived once again. In past summers, I blissfully ignored all the wedding magazines, chuckled at a few episodes of whatever Bridzella show was hot, and sent off a gift or two. After a flurry of weddings in my early 20s, I wasn’t too involved in all the drama past idle daydreams about my own wedding day.

Now, in my early 30s, its 60 days and counting until I’m at the epicenter of the wacky world of weddings. Yes, I bore my friends with the minutiae of how I stuffed the wedding invitations. Yes, I read magazines, and planners, and websites. Yes, I even had a near-bridezilla meltdown about my dress.

During all those years, one thing I never daydreamed about was the budget. In my 20s, I had grandiose dreams about cocktail receptions, designer shoes, and string quartets. How I would pay for it all never entered into the fantasies.

Now, determined to start my marriage on the right foot financially, I’ve set the wedding budget at $4050. My parents are helping, and I’ll have the rest paid for by the wedding date. And, one month after that, I should have close to $9,000 in credit card debt knocked off.

How am I doing it? I’m flexible about everything about the wedding except for the budget and the groom.

In My Frugal Wedding series of posts, you can see how my thinking has evolved from fanciful to sensible. In “5 Tips for a Wedding Under $5,000,” I discovered the most important thing. This wedding is about the beginning of something, a marriage; it’s not an end in and of itself.

If relatives are grumpy that they didn’t get an expensive meal, it doesn’t matter. If the typeset of my invitations doesn’t match the RSVP cards exactly, it doesn’t matter. If we serve wine and beer without a signature cocktail, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I am committing to share my life with a wonderful, supportive, interesting man. All the rest is window dressing.

Armed with a firm sense of who you are and what you want from your wedding, the next important step is to set a budget and stick to it. I have every budget category written in my planner, and I treat each category as a final purchase. That way, when I’m looking for photographers, I keep thinking $500, my photography budget, not $4000, my total budget.

If you think about the big number, it’s so easy to go over budget. What’s $80 for disposable wedding cameras compared to $4000? But, what’s $80 for cameras compared to a $70 budget for wedding favors? Too expensive! By being flexible about everything except the numbers, I’ve done a nice job staying under budget for each category. That will give us more wiggle room for the unexpected costs that may come closer to the big day.

So my advice for a frugal wedding? Stick with the right guy and the right budget. Be flexible about everything else.

Ten years from now, you won’t worry about the color of the bridesmaid dress matching the color of the jordan almonds. You won’t care if you served roast beef, chicken, or a choice of sushi rolls. Heck, you probably won’t even remember what the invitation inserts looked like. After that one day, two things will remain: your debt and your husband.

Pick the right guy and the right budget and be flexible about everything else!

Image by Manassas Cakery

May 27, 2008

guest post – saving 10 percent is death

Filed under: guest posts — Tags: , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

Today we have a guest post. Rob Bennett is the author of “Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work.” It is available for sale at his web site,, which includes nearly 200 articles on saving and investing strategies developed in the Retire Early Community.

The conventional advice is that all workers should aim to save 10 percent of income. I reject this idea.

It is a bad idea to consult a rule of thumb when deciding how much to save. Effective saving plans are customized saving plans, not prefab saving plans. What you need to determine is, what percentage of income should someone pursuing your particular Life Goals and faced with your particular financial circumstances be pursuing?

Someone working a low-paying job because she believes that the skills she is acquiring will pay off big down the road may well not be able to afford to save 10 percent. Someone who has recently received a 50 percent raise can almost certainly afford to save far more than 10 percent.

There are many people today saving negative percentages of income (by going into debt). But a high percentage of effective savers save far more than 10 percent of income. It is not uncommon for effective savers to save 50 percent. In my best year, I saved 80 percent of post-tax income.

It is hard to save 10 percent of income if you are not pursuing a saving goal that provides strong motivation. That’s why most today are poor savers.

For those who are effective savers, saving 10 percent per year is usually a frustrating experience. When you only save 10 percent, you only save enough to be able to afford an old-age retirement. That’s none too inspiring a saving goal. Who gets excited about giving up things he could be doing with his life in his 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s to provide for his needs in his 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s? Most effective savers quickly graduate to more inspiring saving visions and higher saving percentages.

Save more and you will see results from your saving effort far more quickly. That will cause you to love saving more and more. Saving begets saving. It is when you begin saving more than 10 percent that your saving efforts kick into high gear.

Telling people to save 10 percent places a ceiling on their saving efforts as often as it places a floor on them. The save-10-percent advice encourages a way of thinking about saving in which people see it as something that must be forced, something that is boring, something that requires self-denial. Saving 10 percent is death.

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