On Deck

Here is a list of the questions I plan on tackling in the near future.  If you have a suggestion of something you’d like to read about, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I’m not a very prolific writer, so you can expect a new post about once every few months.

  • What investments should I choose in my 401(k)?  Any chance I get I sing the praises of target date funds and index funds.  But what if you can’t buy either of those funds in your 401(k)?  How do you know which funds to choose?  This post will explain all this and provide a real life example (my own 401(k)) to show you how its done.
  • What is the Market’s Average Annual Return? One of my fundamental assumptions about retirement investing is that if your portfolio can match the market’s returns you will be just fine.  So what is the market’s average returns and can we expect that average to continue in the light of changing financial markets?
  • How much of your mortgage payment do you actually keep? One of my biggest headaches about paying rent is that I literally am throwing away hundreds of dollars a month that I will never see again.  As I see it, the main benefit to owning a home is that at least your monthly mortgage payment is actually doing something for you by contributing towards equity in the home.  But I’m not sure its that simple.  When you look into what makes up your mortgage payment you will find things that you didn’t have to pay for as a renter; Things like property tax, condo/association fees, mortgage insurance, and even mortgage interest are parts of your monthly payment that you will never see again. So is renting really that different?
  • Debit vs. Credit? When friends tell me that they would rather use their debit card I usually stare at them in disbelief and demand that they start using a credit card instead.  This post will provide logical reasons as to why it is wise to use credit – including rewards points, and better credit scores.
  • Miles vs. Cash back? I’m a huge fan of rewards credit cards, in fact I can’t imagine having a card that doesn’t get you rewards.  The big question in many people’s mind however, is if they should get a cash back card or a card that gives them airline miles.  I’ve always went with cash back myself, but I’m curious to know which is a better deal.  Do you get more for your dollar by getting free plane tickets?  Obviously this will heavily depend on how much you travel and how much the plane tickets are, and this post will try and take all of this into account.
  • How should I make a budget? It has taken me almost a year of obsessing about every transaction and mining the data on mint.com to realize that a simple annual budget is all you need for good financial planning and peace of mind.  I’ll share the journey from over-detailed budgets to how I use mint.com in this post.
  • Should I sell my stocks to get a tax deduction? Its something no one likes to do – sell individual stocks at a loss.  But you can actually reduce your taxable income by up to $3,000 if you claim capital losses for that year.  When does it make sense to sell and how much does this tax “deduction” really soften the blow?  In addition, if a stock is down, you may consider selling at the low price and then buying it back (after 30 days) to take the deduction but still remain a shareholder.
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