Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Summary

Wow! 3 months since our last post, i guess a post on our blog is LOONG overdue! What can i saw, Facebook has been so much easier to update our weekly/daily status. Blogging, somehow seems so 2005 any more... Oh well, maybe practice will make perfect, i'll try to keep posting more. On to summer, what have we been up to? Here's a few of our greatest hits so far!:

1. Spent 4 nights over in Club Med Sandpiper in early June. At Port St Lucie, FL, its the last Club Med left in the US that caters for Kids as well as adults. All inclusive, so food, drinks (booze), and most activities are covered until your stay. Got an awesome deal on our stay, there were running a last minute special, so we held out booking until 2 weeks before our departure date, and took advantage of the pricing! Priceless was the sailing, sunning, swimming, trapeezing (yes we did that!), partying, and tennis playing that we got to enjoy! Of course, a good deal didn't help either!

2. Few weeks after Club Med, visited Wonderscope Children's Museum in Shawnee. It was a nice day out, and Wonderscope was having a membership drive day, with local merchants sponsoring games, food and ice cream in the Wonderscope parking lot. Also, free entrance for that day to the Museum. Mostly the kids loved the ice cream! Jaz got a little too obsessed with the water toy here. Check out her look when we asked her to go... Inside the museum had tons of stuff for kids to play too! For her age though they had a toddler room, which she had a blast climbing in and out, up and down the play

3. Spent a busy part one of 4th of July visiting the Prairie Village Festival on Saturday morning. Tons and tons of stuff for kids to do. Donkey rides, Puppet shows, food stalls (like pasar pagi), petting zoo, etc. Jaz wasn't a big fan of the donkey's in the background, but was mesmerized with the puppet show, and had fun trying to touch/feed the goats in the petting zoo!

4. 4th of July part two, drove up with the Kinsella Clan to the Missouri Wine Festival in Excelsior Springs, MO. Not as big as some of the wine tasting shin-digs that we went to, and Excelsior Springs is like 1 hr drive from our place, but still had a few good tastings there! Dragged our kids along, but they had at least some things for the toddlers to play with while the parents sampled the wines... As you can tell from the picture, we had a GREAT time. :)

5. Discovered a fine restaurant/grocer in KC "Kim Long" that sells FRESHLY made Roast Duck and Roast Pork last week! Also, they carry an awesome and reasonably priced "Chap Fan" (you pick your own sides with rice) selection in their attached mini-restaurant. So defintely worth the 30 minute drive from Olathe to the Rivermarket!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Phew! its getting close to memorial day weekend already! Time sure flies, especially since we've been back from M'sia. So, on the eve of the summer season, I've been scouring the "internets" in the last few weeks to do some financial spring cleaning. Specifically, looking at some good investment ideas in this current economy. Stocks, for those that know me, I've been dollar cost averaging already as they are still at 10 year lows...

On the other hand, fixed income securities like Bonds, I've never considered until now. Reading cautionary tales of near-retirees being wiped out on the cusp of cashing in their 401ks that were primarily stock based, my attention now focused on fixed-income. For me, I've always been a big proponent of index-based stock trackers, like the S&P500 index and I even have positions in an international index tracker as well, but unfortunately while I am diversified industry wise and regionally, I was not Asset class wise. I'm 100% stocks in my 401k.

How much bonds to put in my portfolio? Some of the suggestions out there was take your age=bond percentage. So 30 years = 30% of your portfolio in bonds... Ouch. Dunno about you guys, but I'm still open to "SOME" risk, especially when stocks are at their 10 year lows, don't want to miss out on probably the best run up (hopefully soon) in decades. So, did the easy (lazy)way, just funneled 15% of my new 401k contributions to an intermediate range bond investment, with low fees (0.2%). I'll revisit at the end of this year to with a target of at least 20%/80% (Bond/Stock) allocation by YE09'.

How would you guys do it? Agree disagree?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

We "Luvs" Southwest Airlines

So Yeesin and I are going to Florida for our Wedding Anniversary at the end of this month, and we booked out flight tickets on Southwest Airlines last night. We thought we got a good deal already to Fort Lauderdale @ about $200 per person and bags fly free. :)

Then the next morning, we find out that the fares dropped overnight, and they have openings for direct flight from KC to Fort Lauderdale now. :( Usually, this is were we normally kick ourselves for booking to early and missing out on a deal. Totally KIASU!

Then, I remembered that SW has a really good change policy where they (1) charge no change fees (2) Give you credit for the price difference (3) Can do all of this online..

The Result: Save $177 on our flight, changed it to direct on the return leg AND got the money refunded on my AMEX, and we did all of this ONLINE! (I was PLEASANTLY surprised!) We LUV Southwest, what more can I say!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Getting some serious paperwork done

Yep, Jaz just turned 1 now, and we finally finished up some long due paperwork. You know, the kind of worst-case-scenario type stuff that you never want to talk about because of "pantang". Seriously though, as parents now, we need estate plans to be inplace for the safety of your children. So, we finally wrote up a living trust for both of us courtesy of a fixed-price legal plan from work.
Interesting few factoids that we found out in the course of getting this done. Wills and living trusts are not the same, look it up on wikipedia to see the details but basically living trust allow you to go around the probate process versus just doing a will. Plus living trusts have have additional other things that you can "legalize", like financial & healthcare powers of attorneys. Wills are cheaper for sure, but with this fixed price legal plan, it defintely made the living trust option cheaper for us.
Anyways, its finally done, so now we can sleep easy now that this is taken care of. :)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Good news, we saved a bunch on our refinance.

Well, we did it. After a 2 month long wait, we finally went and closed on the refinance on our house. Managed to get the rate dropped from 6.125% to 5%, which doesn't seem like much at first. However, after we factored in the existing balance and interest into a new loan, we managed to drop the mortgage payment by about $500 per month. Actually, the main reason we were doing it wasn't so much to get the payment down, the real reason was to get the remaining interest down!
Here's an interesting back-of-the-envelope fact, most people pay at least the same amount of interest on your mortgage. So, instead of thinking how much you need to pay per month, we should be thinking, how much of our money is going into interest. So with this refinance, the monthly minimum payment dropped, but we took advantage of the payment cushion by paying up with extra principal on the loan. Long story short, saved a bunch of (total) interest, to the tune of 70K on our refinance! Plus, we gain the additional flexibility (if we have to) of not prepaying and dropping to a regular payment in cash conservation scenarios...

DIY for the people that are interested Below....

For the Calculator savvy folks out there, check out these free link to see if you can do the same on your own refi's too!

Refinance Interest Savings Calculator
Prepayment Interest Savings Calculator