Browsing Tag: finances

    Miscellany

    $82,000 Later, Financial Peace & Freedom

    April 21, 2013

    cut-credit-cardBack in January, Cari and I started tithing again at church. And wow, did that feel good.

    It had been about five years since we tithed regularly. We reluctantly stopped because we had attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University — a class aimed at teaching better money management skills and eliminating family debt. And during that class, Dave encouraged everyone to continue tithing while reducing debt, but also said that in cases of extreme debt, it might make more sense to stop tithing and dig out first.

    Extreme debt? How about $82,000 of debt? That was us. And it sucked.

    We’d been irresponsible with credit cards going back to the 1990s. We were living well above our modest means. I used credit cards to fund my attendance at eight shows on U2’s PopMart tour, and eight more on the Elevation tour. When Cari got out of retail and started her real estate career in 2004, things got even worse. She wasn’t making any money (almost no one does when they first start out in real estate). We were taking cash advances on Card A to make the minimum payment on Cards B, C and D. Our debt grew each year and reached a high of $82,000 in 2006.

    It was ugly.

    We managed to get rid of a little debt over the next year or two. And then, in early 2008 (as I recall), we attended Financial Peace University and it literally changed our life. That was the inspiration and education that got us on the road to ending the slavery of debt.

    We didn’t follow the program by the book. We should’ve devoted every extra dollar we had to paying off debt — no vacations, no eating out, no unnecessary expenses, etc. But I wasn’t willing to go several years without, for example, getting my kids back east to see and spend time with my parents. So we took a little longer to eliminate our debt than we could’ve.

    But we paid off all our credit cards, one at a time. Each one was closed as soon as the last dollar was paid, and then we got to enjoy the cutting up of the credit card.

    In early December 2012, the last credit card was paid off. Wow, did that feel great! That was the end of a five-year battle to get rid of $82,000 in debt. Today, the only debt we have is our house payment. That’s how it’s supposed to be when you follow the Financial Peace plan — no debt except your house. And that you try to pay off as quickly as possible.*

    We pay for just about everything with cash or our debit card. We do have a credit card, but that’s only used when it doesn’t make sense to use a debit card and we pay off any balances on it right away.

    And we couldn’t have done it without Financial Peace University. Can’t recommend it enough. You can visit the FPU website to find upcoming courses in your area. Want to get out of debt and be the master of your own finances again? Give it a shot.

    *There are a lot of details about the FPU plan that I’m skipping. It’s basically a 7-point plan, as mentioned below in this FPU video.

    (Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

    paycheck
    Miscellany

    One Reason Why I Left TV Sports

    May 16, 2012

    When I tell people that I used to a TV sportscaster, some of them are dumbfounded that I’d ever leave such a job. TV sports is fun! You get paid to watch sports and tell people the scores! You get to show highlights and crack jokes!

    That’s all pretty true.

    But today, I was reminded of one of the reasons that I did get out of TV sports in 1997.

    While going through some old files and paperwork (still unpacking stuff at the new house), I came upon this:

    paycheck

    That’s a bit hard to read, but it’s my last paystub from the TV sports job. And, as you can see from the red arrow, I was making a whopping $9.25 per hour.

    Can you imagine??

    Granted, this is a pretty small town as far as TV goes, but still … I was the Sports Director, the primary sports employee who anchored the 6 pm and 11 pm weeknight sportscasts for a CBS affiliated station.

    There were several other reasons why I got out of TV, but salary was certainly a big one. We were four months away from having our first child and there was just no way I could support a family on that paycheck.

    Heck, I don’t know how anyone can support him/herself now on that salary. The drive-thru guy at McDonald’s must be making more than that….

    Tri-Cities, WA

    One Reason We Love the Tri-Cities

    October 26, 2008

    Since leaving my last company job in mid-September to work for myself, I’ve been contacted by search marketing companies on both coasts wanting to know if I’d consider relocating the family and coming to work for them. In one case, I had to think about it a bit; in another case, it was a quick, “thanks, very flattered, but not interested” reply.

    The reason? Money. Not salary, but cost of living. It’s one of the main reasons we enjoy living here. Cari wrote a few months ago on her blog about surveys showing that Tri-Cities is the least expensive place to live in Washington … and, as I remember my time in 2006-07 when I lived half of each month over in Seattle, it’s true.

    This past week, a similar survey came out reinforcing this idea: the cost of living in the Tri-Cities is about 36% lower than Seattle, and about 11% less than the national average.

    Fact is, our dollar goes further here … and that’s why we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

    Miscellany

    Money School is Now in Session

    August 6, 2008

    I don’t remember learning much about money as a kid. But I remember having it, because my dad started me working around the house and at his office building at around 10-11 years old. He paid me pretty well, and I spent it pretty well. Well, for a little while I did; when I decided I wanted to go to the prestigious, all-boys, private, Catholic high school — the one with a $2,000+ annual tuition — that’s when I learned to save money.

    At Casa McGee, we’re not waiting for our son or daughter to tell us they want to go to some private school to start teaching them about money. It began tonight:

    Financial Peace Junior

    We’re using Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace Jr.” system, which basically works like this:

    • The child has a list of jobs to do each week. Rather than “giving an allowance”, you’re paying the child for the work done. Just like real life, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
    • If the child doesn’t do a certain job, does it poorly, or does something else s/he’s not allowed to do, the child gets “fined” and receives less money at the end of the week.
    • The money earned gets divided into three categories: GIVE, SAVE, and SPEND. We’ve decided that our kids have to put 20% of their salary in the GIVE envelope, and 40% each in the SAVE and SPEND envelopes.
    • The child can use the SPEND money, and some of the SAVE money, to purchase a desired item or experience. There’s a chart where s/he lists what the item is, how much it costs, how much s/he’ll put away each week toward the purchase, and how long it should take to have enough money.

    I think this’ll be good. I’m hoping they learn financial discipline; the value of work; that money isn’t just for spending; that giving to the less fortunate is important; and that good money management has rewards.

    The kids are excited. I think that’s half the battle right there.

    Miscellany

    Agreeing with the 2008 Consumer Action Credit Card Survey

    July 27, 2008

    Mrs. McGee and I are doing our best to get rid of all credit cards in our possession. Unfortunately, it’s slow going because we did some pretty stupid things in our 16+ years of wedded bliss. But we’re making progress, and we’ll eventually get there. Everything will be purchased with cash or debit cards, with (I assume) the exception of homes.

    Why?

    Because we agree with this sentiment:

    2008 Consumer Action Credit Card Survey Declares Credit Cards ‘Really !@$% Evil!’

    Amen.

    Miscellany

    How I Lowered Our Credit Card Interest Rates

    March 13, 2008
    credit cards

    First things first: I hate credit cards. I’m as guilty as anyone of being fiscally irresponsible with them in the past, but I also think a special circle of hell should be reserved for credit card companies. In the past year, the McGees have paid off and cancelled 6-7 credit cards, and we still have some to go. There will be a colossal party (paid with cash) when we finally pay off and cancel the last one. It’ll be so loud, you’ll hear us … no matter where you are.

    Since we still have some credit cards, I decided a couple months ago to call each one to request a lower interest rate. It worked awfully well. I believe we’re paying, on the whole, somewhere around $90/month less simply due to lower interest rates. Doesn’t sound like much, but who wouldn’t take an extra $1,000/year if the only requirement was to make a few phone calls to Satan’s helpers?

    On The Consumerist today, they shared a sample call script for making such a phone call:

    “I think I’ve been a good customer. I’d like to stay with you, but I really want you to lower the rate on my card. Can you help me?”

    Simple, but effective. It’s similar to mine, although I took a more drawn out approach and actually got the credit card employee to agree I was a great customer before agreeing to lower our interest rates. Here’s how the conversations typically went:

    Me: Hi, my name’s Matt McGee. Do you have my account information in front of you? (Several times I had to punch my account number into the phone before reaching a human, but if not, I’d give my account number at this time.)

    Them: Yes, I do.

    Me: Great. You’re going to help me with a few questions and then I have a request after that.

    Them: Okay. How can I help you?

    Me: How long have I been a customer? When was this account opened?

    Them: 1990 … 1994 … (or whenever).

    Me: Great. And according to your records, have we ever missed a payment?

    Them: No. No missed payments. You have a perfect payment record.

    Me: Cool. Thanks. So, we’re longtime customers with an outstanding balance and we’ve never missed a payment. Would you agree that makes us a great customer?

    Them: Yes, you’ve been an excellent customer. (One person even shared with me that, according to their private, internal rating system, we were in the top class of customers.)

    Me: Thank you. Now here’s why I’m calling: We keep getting mail from your competitors offering really low interest rates on balance transfers, usually for the lifetime of the outstanding balance. They’re offering rates that are way below the XX% (I gave them the exact rate here to show I’d done the research) you’re charging me. So, since we’re such good customers, I’d like you to match the rate they’re offering me. Can you do that?

    etc……

    Admittedly, they were never able to match the 3.9% rates that others were offering me, but they were able to come close enough that it wasn’t worth the hassle of switching. (Plus, regular shifting of balances from one card to the next is supposedly a black mark on your credit rating.) And now we’re saving about $1k/year on interest. I’ll take that anytime.

    (photo: Michael Brenton)