Thursday, July 1, 2010


So I remember telling my liberal girlfriends in San Francisco "congratulations" after the November 2008 election and promising to give Obama a chance. Nearly two years later I'm more than absolutely disgusted... I'm dejected. It started small -- today I received notice from my health care policy that certain items would "no longer be deductible" as health savings expenses due to "legislation reform" beginning in January 2011. After some digging, I learned that this isn't the only "change" I can "hope" for: there are a huge number of tax increases -- the most in a long, long time. Apparently the liberal majority in Congress slept through or wait... neglected to sign up for Economics and Finance classes -- that's right, they were in Public Policy or some sort of Sociology class discussing the down trodden.

So you're going to raise taxes on the people paying the most taxes. Hmm, have you ever looked at California's little case study -- more people leaving than coming and ultimately decreased tax revenue. That's because people also spend less and hire less when you tax the daylights out of them.

Well, at least we'll all "feel" better. Nancy Pelosi could probably just forgo the use of her jet for personal reasons but that would just be too sensible and fiscally responsible, wouldn't it.

I hope those of you that voted on this "hope and change" will go ahead and pay my increased share of taxes into a black hole. Don't even get me started about oil and off-shore drilling -- we wouldn't be in this mess if we could just drill for the damned oil on our own land.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cool Personal Finance Tool and it's Free!

Mint touts itself as "the best free way to manage and grow your money". Money Magazine rates it the top online personal finance tool. It's simple, quick and just darned cool because it keeps all of your information in one place and provides you with visual charts and email updates.

So what is it? is a free online platform that allows you to track your spending, savings, budgeting, etc. -- think of it as personal bookkeeping. I last wrote about a similar platform for small businesses,, and Mint is just as handy. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Great Financial Site for Small Business Owners

If you're a small business owner looking to save your most valuable resources -- time and money, get to know Outright! This is a free and easy to use online bookkeeping platform that allows you to track your business expenses, income and cash flow. There is also an additional low cost tax service for filing 1099's - for $5 you can take care of each contractor your business hires and eliminate paperwork. Business Week, Wall Street Journal and New York Times are fans so check it out today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Have a Plan and Stick to it

Why is it so difficult for people to come up with and stick to a plan? Whether it be for finances, business, fitness or some other need, doing so is apparently against human nature.

Coming up with a plan can be tough because it feels like a lot of work and it requires a change of operation and mindset. The irony is that having a plan actually saves you time because it creates efficiency.

Challenges to sticking to a plan involve not being fully committed in the first place, not having a specific timeline for implementation, and allowing external factors to derail us.

In my financial life I have a plan and am thankful for it. However, I do have a tendency at times to get derailed when my "now" urge fights with my prior plan. In my business life, I have a plan and am happy to report that I'm sticking to it. The problem is that this focus on business has led to a lack of priority on my fitness, something that is very important to me.

When you put your different plans into place, no matter how solid, having competing interests in your own life may very well be an impediment. I'm beginning to think that my high school French teacher was right -- equilibre (balance) is the key to most of life's challenges. When we put plans together, whether for finances, business or personal, we must be sure that they are not only realistic independently but in the context of each other.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Your *Actual* Entertaining Budget

So what was it? A month ago you were challenged to record your entertaining (not daily individual meal) expenses. Was the number lower, higher or just as you expected? For those in the lower or expected category, congratulations! Knowing your habits is the first step. For those with a higher figure this should be an eye-opening exercise.

Know that even your number is lower or as expected, it doesn't mean you're off the hook. There's not rule as to the entertaining part of your budget but it shouldn't be very significant if you're in debt, without an emergency fund and not fully contributing to your 401(k). (If it is, you're basically paying interest, taking on risk and forgoing retirement dollars to entertain!) If you're not in debt, have a six months stash of cash and contribute the maximum amount allowed to your 401(k) and IRA, then it will be your decision as to what is reasonable.

Every LMF4HMW reader can save money using these tips:
* think drinks instead of dinner
* entertain in private homes instead of at restaurants
* instead of funding a huge dinner party bill ask for guests to bring a dish -- not quite "potluck" but it absolves you of feeding a multi-course meal to a group
* host a wine tasting where each guest brings two bottles of wine -- the guest who brings the winning bottle will take all of the second bottles home (i.e., you're off the hook for party favors)

* think brunch instead of dinner -- less wine and courses involved

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Challenge and a Great Website for 1099s

The average LMF4HMW reader probably underestimates her dining out and entertaining spend quite significantly. Let's do a little experiment: write down your monthly estimate for this budget -- include restaurant spend plus what you buy for entertaining purposes in your home. (No peaking at bank statements!)

Now, put a note on your calendar to check this estimate one month from now (March 17). No need to include groceries for daily meals -- just those you use to entertain others.

I'm willing to bet it will be a lot more than you guessed. And I'll check back that week with some money saving tips to help you decrease these costs.

In the meantime, there's a wonderful website business for filing 1099s online, It is simple, fast and low cost -- only $5 per filing. This is a useful tool for small business owners as well as anyone who employs an independent service provider to the tune of more than $600/year. Filing electronically through Outright means you no longer have to mail in the paper form nor include the 1096. Check it out!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day Trader versus Buy & Hold

This argument is essentially hare versus turtle. With day trading, the average individual often invests a lot of emotion and relies on "hunches" (theirs or those from "experts") to make a buck.

Day trading is for some people as tempting as a Lotto ticket or Vegas get-rich-quick weekend -- a tremendous psychological pull. It's faster paced and promises a much more exciting ride. The problem is trading costs and timing typically eat away at returns and relying on hunches and emotions is a proven route to buying high and selling low.

The bottom line is the old adage, "if it's too good to be true..." All of the commercials, email and websites promoting "hot tips" "new strategies" and "fail proof solutions" are just that. My advice is to allow yourself some fun if you're determined to day trade -- limit the value of this account to no more than 5% of your overall investments and realize that you no longer have a latte account in exchange!