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Announcing the Save Sense iPhone App

Hey guys,

Just wanted to let you know that I have recently released the Save Sense iPhone App.  It’s a lightweight app that helps you figure out the best value for your dollar when shopping for multiple sizes and units of measurements.  Go here for deets and the link to purchase from the app store.

Thanks, guys.


To LLC, or not to LLC? That is the Question (Part 2)

In the previous post, I talked about a friend who asked if they should set up an LLC for investing.  I outlined a barebones explanation of what an LLC does and what it can do for you.  Read that first.  If you decide you need an LLC, here’s how to do it.

  1. Make sure you can actually register as an LLC.  There are still a handful of states that do not allow single-person LLCs.  If you live in one of them, you’ll have to find someone you trust to go into business with you.  Always, always, always do your own due diligence.  Like I said in the previous post, I am not a legal or tax professional, so it would be foolish to do anything solely on my say-so.  The best I can do is share my experience, your mileage may vary.
  2. What are you going to call it?  Not quite as simple as it sounds.  Each state carries a registry of company names that are currently licensed to do business.  Once you’ve chosen a name, check with your state to make sure the name is available for use.  In Iowa, you have to send a name reservation document along with a fee.
  3. Fill out the paperwork.  Depending on your state, setting up an LLC is a matter of sending in a document that declares your LLC.  In Iowa, it’s called a Certificate of Organization.  It’s basically a document that outlines the purpose of the company (to make money), the members entering into the agreement, and the name and information of the person who is responsible for making decisions (the managing member/partner.)  There are all kinds of resources online that charge money for this document.  But all you really need to do is go to Staples.  Office supply stores will have LLC packets that you can fill out.  I started Bag of Holdings, LLC with an LLC packet from Staples for 30 bucks.
  4. Create an LLC agreement.  Even if you are going to be the only member of your LLC, it’s a good idea to put together an LLC agreement.  An LLC agreement outlines things like frequency and amount of disbursements, the decision making process, and most importantly, the terms of dissolution.  The packet I used to start BOH had a LLC agreement template included.
  5. Get your paperwork notarized and send it in with your fee.  Find your local notary public and get them to sign off on it.  Send the paperwork in for both the Certificate of Organization and the LLC agreement.  You don’t strictly have to send in the LLC agreement, but it’s useful to have it on file with the state.  Make sure you pay your fee to avoid having to go though it all again.
  6. Set up a bank account.  For bookeeping, you’ll need at least a checking account in the name of the company.  Depending on the bank, you just need a notarized copy of the Certificate of Organization identifying you as the principal agent of the LLC.  You’ll use this bank account as the bucket for your income streams.
  7. When you get your copy of the Certificate of Organization packet, you are ready to go.

You now have the basic information you need to start setting up an LLC.

Thanks for reading.


The Baggage of Being Poor

I grew up poor.  This article pretty well sums up the mindset that plagued me for 30+ years.

The 5 Stupidest Habits You Develop Growing Up Poor


You Probably Don’t Know What You Think You Know

If you don’t mind some vulgarity, this article is pretty good:  6 Logical Fallacies That Cost You Money Every Day

To most people, Logic means “Anything I say is logical.”  But if I put a truth table in front of them or asked them to tell me what the slippery slope fallacy is, they’d just stare blankly.


Getting Admission to the Walled Garden

Hey guys, how’s it going?

Today, I spent the day adding some minor functionality to my nascent app and getting started on the process of releasing an app to the app store.  Apple is very protective of their app store and puts any potential developers through a vetting process before you’re even allowed to download an app onto a development machine for testing.  I have to fax them a copy of my Certificate of Incorporation and hope they don’t take too long getting back to me about it.  I want to submit to the App Store by December 14.

The app isn’t related to personal (or any other kind of) finance.  It’s a very niche app that I’m doing more for my partner than for anyone else.  Although it turned out to be a much larger effort than I anticipated, it’s done a pretty good job of getting me started up the learning curve for developing in Objective-C and the process of submitting an app.  The next app I’m planning will be more of a personal finance app.

Thanks for reading, guys.


Out With the Old, In With the New

Just got back from my last visit to the office for a while.  I had to turn in my badge and remote token for the client and make sure everything is straightened out on my desk.  All of the apparent loose ends are tied off and I’m ready to be unemployed for a while.  Tomorrow is the beginning of the grand experiment.

Scratch that.

Tonight is the beginning of the grand experiment (which has actually been going on since I saw the layoff coming a couple of months ago.)

So what’s the grand experiment?  How many stable income streams can I create in three months?

The first phase of the experiment is an iPhone app I’ve been working on for the past couple of months.  I have a couple of bugs to work out, but it will be deployed on my beta iPad this weekend.  Then I have to work on the gui.  The target release date (or at least submittal to the app store) is Dec 14.  More details to follow.

Time to get back to it.  Later, guys.


Layoffs: Turning Crisis Into Opportunity

Hey guys, how’s it going?

It’s been a while since I posted here.  There were a couple of reasons.  I suppose the biggest reason is that I just ran out of important things to say.  I’ve started 30 posts since the last one but they all felt hollow.  Like I was just talking to hear myself talk.  While that’s supposed to be good for your site (more articles -> more visitors -> higher possibility of revenue) it just left a bad taste in my mouth.  I also felt disillusioned about the personal finance online community.  It feels like just a bunch of personal finance bloggers talking to each other and occasionally clicking a link.

Another big reason has to do with the title of this post.  I was incredibly busy at work.  When you’re working 10-12 hours a day and driving 3 on top of that, it’s hard to muster the energy to write up a half-baked essay restating what you’ve said before.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not quite as busy as I was last week.  I got laid off from my regular job.  But I’m okay with it.  I’ve spent the last 4-1/2 years burning myself out at this job, so I’m not terribly disappointed.  You could even say I’m eager to stop collecting a paycheck for a while.  How can I be so cavalier about it?

  1. Preparation.  The prospect of losing your job (even temporarily) can be stressful unless you’re prepared for it.  The difference between me and 10 years younger me is that I’ve been preparing for something like this for years.  I’ve been maintaining my emergency fund and growing my regular savings for a long time now.  This gives me a pretty good cushion for paying bills during my downtime.
  2. Spending Discipline.  Before I finished my degree and got the job I was just laid off from, I was making crap money working temp jobs.  Just surviving on the money I made was difficult but hardly impossible.  Now I have some old skills in the toolbox that I can dust off and start using again.  While I have enough in savings to maintain my pre-layoff standard of living for a few months, I can go a whole lot longer if I cut back on my spending.
  3. Time.  Now that I don’t have to dedicate 12-15 hours a day towards the regular job, I have time to pursue other interests.  Some of these interests even have the potential to generate some income.  This is the thing that I’m most excited about.  The goal I’ve set for myself is to get some income streams set up independent of my regular job.

I’m probably going to re-purpose this blog away from a purely personal finance perspective.  Turns out I have lots to say about other subjects and now that I have time to do it, why not?

That’s what I’ve been up to.  Thanks for reading!


Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

Hey guys, how’s it goin’?

When I was growing up, I had to endure the daily proclamation that my mom was going to get laid off any day now.  For as long as I can remember, her entire existence was permeated with the fear of not being able to take care of her kids.  That fear made home life edgy, to say the least.  According to her, the wheels were always in danger of coming off at the next unexpected expense.  An accident left her unable to stand for more than hour at a time and forced her into an early retirement.  When she passed away, she had less than $500.  She lived her entire life either not knowing or not bothering to build up more than a nominal amount in savings.

That’s one of the many reasons personal finance is a very important subject to me.  After many years, I was able to drag myself out from under the fear that drove me to make all manner of poor financial decisions.  Part of turning my financial situation around was resolving to not be put in a position where I would have to deal with the kind of fear I grew up with.  It’s one of the main drivers behind going back to school for my degree.  Today I make a good salary in a high-demand industry that is about as close to recession proof as it gets.  On the off chance I lose my job tomorrow, I have enough savings to pay my bills for six months.  I’m building a portfolio that I hope will allow me to retire while I’m still young enough to enjoy it.  I’m hardly financially bulletproof but I can handle some adversity without going into a tailspin and losing everything.

And yet, I still occasionally feel it.  I feel the anxiety of not having a job tomorrow.  I feel what’s best described as preemptive despair that tomorrow is the day when the wheels finally come off.  The only real way to deal with this feeling is make sure I’ve done everything I can to handle a financial catastrophe.  If I didn’t have a sizable emergency fund, I’d be in much worse psychological shape.

If you or someone you know is like my mom, the only real way to handle the fear of financial catastrophe is to do the kinds of things I’ve done.  Build and emergency fund.  Pay down debt.  Stay out of debt.  Plan for the future.  That fear may never go away, but a little preparation will keep it from owning you.

Until next time, keep on saving!


Don’t Give the Bastards More Than You Have To

Hey guys, how’s it goin’?

I’m expecting my car insurance bill soon.  Even though I paid off my car and I can drop my policy to just liability, I decided to keep paying for the full package.  Maybe not the most frugal thing to do, but it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.  I spend a lot of time on the road, so there’s lots of opportunities for something to go sideways.  What I refuse to do is give the insurance company one penny more than I have to.

Back in the bad old days, I was forced (by my own financial ineptness) to pay my insurance bill on the payment plan.  Six months of coverage for five monthly payments.  Insurance companies being what they are, it wasn’t enough to charge out the nose for their product, they had to add a $5 monthly surcharge for the privilege of paying on time every month.  What a bunch of sweethearts, eh?

Anyway, one of the first things I did when I started getting my finances together was arrange to get off the payment plan and pay up front for each six-month period.  Fifty bucks a year may not seem like much, less than a dollar a week.  It doesn’t seem like much now, but back when I was getting started, that five bucks each month was appreciated.  That five bucks went straight into my savings and helped put me on the road to financial stability.

You’re going to spend a lot of money on insurance over the course of your life.  It’s the cost of living life.  But there’s no point in paying one cent more than you have to.  It may be a little scary to think of paying out a few hundred bucks on one bill every six months, but if you include it into your monthly bill account you’ll be just fine.

This goes for any bills that offer a payment plan.  If they charge you for the service, you’re better off just saving for it and paying it all at once.  You can put the extra money to better use.

If this post has been helpful to you or you know someone who could use it, pass it on.  Follow us on Twitter, fan us on Facebook, sign up for the RSS feed.  Thanks.

Until next time, keep on saving!


That Financial Voodoo That You Do So Well

Writing about personal finance can seem like a thankless task.  As I bop around the Personal Finance blogosphere, it seems like the community is made up almost entirely of people who are trying their damnedest to pimp their own personal finance blog.  There are some exceptions, to be sure.  But the vast majority of the communication is between personal finance bloggers and other personal finance bloggers.  When you’re stuck in the vast echo chamber of people who are basically repeating the same things back and forth, how do you know you’re actually helping people who need help?  After all, that’s why I started this blog.  I want to help people.  I want to help people who are up against the financial ropes.  I want to help people who are doing okay, but could be doing better.  I want everyone to get their finances together because it makes life easier and more fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty as the rest.  I have an RSS feed for a bunch of personal finance blogs I read every day, looking for a way to interject myself into the discussion and drive traffic back here.  It’s how the world of internet marketing works, after all.  Ask Gary Vaynerchuck.

Anyway, a guy I know was talking about how he was meeting with a financial adviser who asked him for an outrageous amount of money.  I gave a semi-tongue in cheek answer, “Vanguard Index Funds.  That will be 10%, please.”  As the discussion continued, more folks chimed in and the general consensus was that they all basically either didn’t care or couldn’t be bothered to manage their own finances.  They make good money, but they consider investing (by extension, personal finance) to be beyond them or not worth looking into.  That bothered me, probably more than it should have.  But I don’t want to be the douchebag at the party who starts evangelizing about IRAs and Value Investing, so I let it drop.

These are all very smart people and it mystifies me how they could be so blase about their money.  How do you get to the point where you can’t be bothered to figure out how much money you’re giving away through maintenance fees when all it takes is twenty minutes and some math?  Or spend a couple of hours figuring out which index funds to invest in for the next year?  Or even considering how much of your savings is being eaten by inflation just sitting in a bank account?

Personal finance is something we all need to think about to some extent.  The world is too dangerous not to.  I bet those folks who lost all their money to Enron wished they paid a little bit more attention to what the company was doing.  Bernie Madoff’s victims probably wish they had taken a harder look at what he was up to for all those years.  If you are going to protect yourself from the financial sharks, you really need to know how to manage your money.

That’s the challenge for personal finance bloggers.  How do we engage people the people we should be engaging?  How do we make people care about their finances?  It’s easy to comment on each others blogs and make a few bucks clicking on links.  It’s not so easy to convince everyone else that it’s in their best interest to take better care of their money.