Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Personal Round-Up: November Edition

I apologize to all of you, my readers, for the HUGE gap in posting. I've been a bit off the grid, which sounds odd, I know, considering I work in the Internet business. I've just not had the chance to catch up, read, study, synthesize and think as I usually don't have time to. I really do it all for you, all 3 of you. Without you, there would be no me.

So let's get caught up generally. As noted previously, there is progress on the debt reduction. In this environment, with the markets taking the drubbing they are, and the dollar becoming ever more toilet paper-ish, that's a good thing. A little deflation is probably in order. Just a little though. I don't want deflation on the scale of Japan from '89 until 2002/2003. (Some, including yours truly, might say Japan has yet to really escape it.) I definitely won't be mad about 10% or more price cuts in my local RE market. You won't hear me complaining about share prices taking some downward action either. I think, over the short to intermediate time frame, the US economy is dynamic and resilient enough to survive and thrive. Taking a longer term stance, I plan to diversify my holdings into non-dollar denominated assets like any risk-adjusted, absolute return mandated manager. I've like Japan for a number of years, and I have some dollars there now; I think that will be increasing. Otherwise, I have to bump up my international and emerging market fixed income exposure to 5% as my asset allocation dictates. An additional 3.5% of emerging market equity exposure is lacking as well, so we'll turn the spigot on in those directions. Maybe I'll hold off a bit on FI though, until we start seeing a wee bit more stabilization in rate increases from foreign central banks. Yeah, that's the ticket.

I think I'm back down to a balance of $7200 on my AmEx. The only reason it is so high is because I just put $4000 into my car to replace the transmission, head lights and catalytic converter. Thankfully, all of that came out of my emergency funds. (Well, except maybe the headlights.) If you don't have such a fund, you're doing yourself an immense disservice and quite honestly, you're not managing your risk at all. I mean, that's pure neglect. Life happens. Some liquid funds (hopefully not in a money market account, as things are going these days) are order of the day, because you never know when $4000 worth of expenses will show up on your doorstep mere weeks from winter. If anything, I feel confident that my trusty 8 year old Honda Accord will survive the coming season now.

Now, I really have to get my daily expenses under control, especially food and snacks. I've been tracking my monthly expenses in Excel since last month. I used to do this more regularly, but it fell to the wayside with all the personal circumstances I have been dealing with this year. I figure doing this for the 4th quarter will really give me visibility into my problem areas, however, I know instinctively that food is kicking my ass. There is no good reason I should spend as much as I do, not even the fact that I don't cook. I think I use food for comfort as much as nutrition. Thank God I'm always moving and my metabolism is still high, otherwise I'd be 30 pounds heavier. Since food is my biggest financial weak spot, I'm going to have to start cooking though, and I really don't relish the thought. As I like to say, that's why I have money, so someone else can do it. I do what I'm good at, they do what they're good at, and everyone gets a fair exchange. It had been working for me...until now. We'll see how December looks, as I have to acquire some ski gear for my planned snowboarding expeditions. For now, I'm just going to keep an eye on the expenses, purchase frozen meals for work, and just stay present to my spending. Once the 4th quarter tally is in, I'll look at putting in place measures to rein in the food spending. Unless November is particularly horrible.

I figure that by the end of the year, I can get my AmEx balance down to $5K, which is roughly 1/3 of the high water mark this year. Again, since I only use the AmEx, I really am not worried about this too much. My other card is only to be used in case of emergency, when all else fails. Until such time, it will sit in the freezer, entombed in ice, and helping me build up actual credit history. I figure all of this should get my credit scores back in the 750+ range. (Only one of them is above 770 right now, and 1 is actually below 700.)

On the business front, I'll file Form TX next week, once things start opening up again after Thanksgiving. Form TX is the copyright submission form from the US Copyright Office. My partner and I are submitting our source code to this process, for legal protection. There will be more of this in the future, undoubtedly. I also received the trade name application back from Maryland, along with the check. Seems they were missing a signature. It would have been very helpful if they had bothered to tell me a signature (or 2) was (were) missing the day I hauled myself up to Baltimore to file it. Sometimes I wonder... Anyway, there is slow progress on the software front. Not quite as dynamic as we'd like, but we're getting there. Once Santa Season really kicks in, my partner, student that she is, will have more time to really hack out some code. Being a student is a HUGE drain on one's productivity. In the meantime, I have a base Apache 2.x build in place for our website, and since my partner is a Ruby on Rails fanatic, I have some work to do setting up our application server. we plan to launch our public alpha on 1 January 2008, so there is a bunch of work to do!

Thanks to the recent market action, there hasn't been much (forward) progress in the net worth department. Such is life. This is why we stay liquid, or at least keep our credit ratings solid. When the time comes to buy, we should have some powder at the ready (or at least be able to negotiate it on reasonable terms).

I've been having some ideas for little businesses to generate cash flow recently. I hate it when this happens. While I'm all for "getting a bigger plate" as my Landmark Education coaches are fond of saying, I haven't quite mastered it as yet. I am making progress. I'm using my calendar regularly, and scheduling almost every moment of my day. Now if I can just execute on getting more sleep, I think I'd have a huge breakthrough in my overall effectiveness. In the meantime, anyone out there have any experience in the bumper sticker business? I have some ideas for stickers, and I think I'll have my roommate do some mock-ups after Thanksgiving. On second thought, I *do* have Photoshop installed, and the holiday is tomorrow. I think its clear what I'll be working on this Thanksgiving while I await the feast my mother is preparing. Now I need to get my head around the business of making money with bumper stickers. There has to be a way to do it!

Ok, I think that's it for this post. Anyone who is still awake, look for part 2 coming soon. I'll talk about the real estate investing and take a closer look at the recent markets and news. Maybe I'll get into a brief discussion of my modeling efforts too.

Until part II...

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