Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

2013 Fitness Wrap Up January 18, 2014

Filed under: Fitness — Stephanie @ 3:23 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I already wrote a review of how things went for me moneywise in 2013.  So, just like last year, I’m going to review my year in fitness.  And think about what 2014 will bring in fitness.

I set out some fitness goals for last year.  Let’s see how I did:

Goal 1:  Keep working toward running an entire 5k.  And once I hit that goal, it will help me reach my stretch goal of coming in at the top half of finishers.

Achievement:  Of the five 5ks I entered this year, I fully ran 4 of them!  The only one that I walked part of was the Tory Row 5k, which was on a VERY hot day, and my body just couldn’t handle the weather.  I’m still a far cry from the top half of finishers, but I’ve managed to attain a few new Personal Records (as noted in my Steph on Fitness page)

Follow-on goal for 2014:  Keep improving my speed/stamina for my 5ks.  More personal records!  Keep training!  Get a sub-30-minute race time for a 5k (was so very close at the Turkey Trot, with a time of 30:02!)

Goal 2:  Enter some more 5ks.

Achievement:  As mentioned above, I ran in 5 5ks last year.

Follow-on goal for 2014:  Sign up for more 5ks!  And sign up for a 10k!  I’ve heard really good things about the Tufts Health Plan 10k for Women, though I’d have to take the day off to do it (Columbus Day, not a holiday at my job).  Anyone have some favorite 5ks or 10ks in the Boston area?

Goal 3:  Keep going to the gym, including surviving this month’s UXF Ripped program that I won through a raffle at the gym.

Achievement:  I survived most of the UXF class (reviewed here) and also tried out Barre exercises.

Follow-on goal for 2014:  Keep going to the gym (duh).  Add more outdoor runs and longer runs to my training.  And maybe track down a training plan that I will actually stick to.

Goal 4:  Lose a few more pounds of fat/gain a few more pounds of muscle (basically, keep training!)

Achievement (and also the 2014 follow-on):  I was pretty close to my goal weight, and, when I’m really trying (i.e. practicing mindful eating, exercising regularly, tracking everything on LoseIt) I can get down to my goal weight.  But at my last physical, my doctor told me that she’s very happy with the weight I’m currently at, so I’m just going to maintain healthy habits and just try to sustain this weight

Goal 5:  Sign up for the Walk for Hunger again this year, and raise even more money!  And complete the entire walk even faster than last year!

Achieved:  Completed the Walk For Hunger in just over 5 hours.  Not that much faster than in 2012.  But I raised over $2000!

Follow-on goal for 2014:  Sign up for the Walk for Hunger yet again this year (can’t wait until February to sign up!).   Thinking that, since I raised over $1000 my first year, and over $2000 my second year, can I raise over $3000 this year?

Other than working on all these goals, I’ve been getting more involved in the health and fitness community on twitter.  I usually participate in tweetchats hosted by HealthYourWay (follow @HealthyWayMag and #HealthyWayMag) and Runchat (follow @TheRunChat and  #Runchat), where I meet new people interested in health and fitness, and learn and share ideas about warmups, workouts, and food (and other helpful hints!).  It’s become a pretty great community!  I also like checking in with my fellow personal finance bloggers with the hashtag #pfworkout.  And trying to keep up with #plankaday (information on that here)

A related goal to this twitter fitness stuff is finally meeting up with some of the local tweeters I’ve met online.  Let’s hang out, maybe we can go for a run together!

What have been your 2013 health and fitness achievements?  What do you have planned for 2014?

 

Payoff.com: The Foursquare of Personal Finance September 26, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:18 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m a big fan of trying out personal finance tools (please don’t call me a personal finance tool).

Most of you know about mint.com.  That seems to be one of the top sites among personal finance people (and “normal” people :P).  But there are A LOT account aggregators out there that let you import your accounts and track things.  They’re all a little different, and each have their own features and flaws.

Of all those sites, I’ve tried quite a few.  There’s Mint.com, of course.  More recently, I’ve been trying out LearnVest‘s new My Money Center.  And I’m also testing out Adaptu.  I’ll try to fully review those sites at a later time.

So, let’s get to the main topic of this post:  Payoff.com.

Like most of these account aggregators, once you sign up, you can enter your login info for your assorted accounts:  Credit cards, checking/saving accounts, loans (auto, student, mortgage, personal).  Don’t worry, like most other aggregators, they are very serious about security of your data.

A big part of Payoff’s system is setting goals.  You can set any number of goals, big or small.  Then link an account with that goal.   By working towards those goals, and doing other financially smart things, like finding out your credit score and saving up an emergency fun, you earn badges.  And for every badge you earn, you get an entry into their weekly Sur-prize drawing.  It’s a chance to win $15-25, just for being smart with your money!

So, what do I like about Payoff.com?

  • It’s free!  Always a good start when you’re trying to take control of your finances!  (As with many free sites, they have recommendations of accounts and websites to check out, but you’re not obligated to click on anything.  They’re just suggestions)
  • The gamification of personal finance encourages users to be smart with their money and achieve their goals
  • There’s a page for every badge.  Each page provides advice and guidance for how you can earn that badge, including next steps and links to related posts on the Payoff Blog.
  • The website is very playful and fun:
    • It’s fun to earn the badges, and the badges themselves have fun names, descriptions, and icons.    Look how many badges I’ve earned so far!
    •  The Sur-prizes are an awesome…well, surprise!  I actually won one a week or so ago!  It felt really good to be rewarded for doing good things with my money!
    • When there’s an error message, they show the background image upside down.  And when the site is down for maintenance, they show a night-time version of the background scene, with the message “Ssshhh! We’re taking a nap! Don’t worry. We should be awake and ready to play again in a little bit.”  That being said, I’ve only seen the down for maintenance page once at an ungodly hour when I shouldn’t have been awake.
  • They are very responsive to feedback.  I have tweeted @payoff a lot, and they respond really quickly!
  • They’ll categorize your expenses for you.  At first, I was wary of this, but so far, they seem to be doing pretty well with it.

So, are there any downsides?

  • Because the focus is on building up your savings and paying off your debt, there’s not as much of an emphasis on retirement accounts.  In fact, it looks like they don’t currently support retirement accounts in their account managers (they don’t have companies like Fidelity or Vanguard).
  • The expenses categorization isn’t always right.  And there currently isn’t a way to edit the categories (that I know of).
  • While it does show where you spend the most money, there aren’t a lot of budgeting tools.

Overall?  I don’t think I’d make it my only account manager.  I like the fuller capabilities of Mint.  But I do find myself more motivated to payoff my loans when I know I could get a badge for it!  And I think that it is really great for people just starting out on their personal finance journey.  It’s a simple site to use, and it provides positive reinforcement!

What about you?  Have you tried out Payoff.com?  What do you think of it?

p.s. I was not compensated for this post.  While I did win a Sur-Prize a few weeks back, that was unrelated to my decision to write about Payoff.com.  In fact, I’d been thinking about writing this for a while, but I wanted to spend some time fully checking it out.

 

Dealing with Saver’s Fatigue May 31, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:14 pm
Tags: , , ,

Saver’s Fatigue?  Yeah, I made it up.  But basically, I’m getting sick of saving money.

I started automating my savings, transferring money monthly from my checking account to my savings account, back since at least 2007.  Possibly earlier than that.  My bank doesn’t provide my records beyond 2009.  And those were the days when savings accounts were making decent interest.  Do you remember when ING Direct had ridiculously good interest rates?  Man, those were the days.

Now, don’t get me wrong!  I’m really glad I’ve been stashing away money in my savings account these past 4 or 5 years.  I’ve been building up a pretty big emergency fund, and I don’t even miss the money.

Knowing I have money stashed away gives me peace of mind.  And it’s fun logging in and seeing it go up, even if most of the increase in my balance is from my auto-transfers and not from interest earned.

But now what?  I’ve got goals, sure.  But they’re big goals.  Buy a house.  Get married.  Have a few kids.  And I’m going to need money for all of those.  The only time I’ve taken money out of my savings account was when I decided to pay off my car loan 3 years early.  But what am I supposed to do in the meantime?  Just keep up with saving until I eventually have enough for each of these big events?  That’s frustrating and not rewarding at all in the short-term.

I know there are other things I can do with my money.  I could pay off my loans faster.  Maybe that’s a good idea, since I’m paying more in interest than I’m earning in interest.  The mathematical/logical part of me knows I should take a huge chunk of my savings and apply it to my loans.  The emotional part of me just feels safer having more money around, even if it’s costing me something.

I could also put my money into investments with higher returns.  I’m about halfway through “Get A Financial Life” (will have a review on that book soon!), and I now have started considering other ways to earn interest/dividends/etc. on the money I put into savings.  Will have to think on that more.

I have a lot of options for earning more, if I’m willing to take the risk.

But what about spending?

I realized the other day that having savings for non-emergencies is still a valid use of money.  I was getting anxious buying plane tickets and booking hotel rooms for my friends’ weddings.  But then I realized that I’m not going to end up on the streets just for going to their weddings.  My savings provides a cushion for the times when I’m going to spend a little extra.

It’s like AS Green said on her blog post:  “if you are being smart financially (paying off debt, saving for retirement, having an emergency fund) then you should also enjoy your hard earned money.”  She was also referring to Debt Ninja‘s post, where he asserted that “it’s important to enjoy our money”.  I’m not saying you should go buy fancy stuff all the time, or go on 10 vacations a year.  But the whole point of getting on a good financial track was so I wouldn’t have to worry about my future.

So.  I’m going to keep on saving.  I might actually create more “sub accounts” in my ING Direct account so I can assign goals or budgets to different pools of money.  But I’m going to spend a little, too.  I’m going to remind myself that I’m going to have to spend money sometimes.  And I’m going to enjoy that bright blue KitchenAid Stand Mixer I bought for myself when it was on extreme sale :)

So, what are you doing with your money?  Do you have specific goals in mind for that money?  And how do you fight off Saver’s Fatigue?

 

Happy New Year! January 5, 2009

I hope everyone is enjoying 2009 so far!

New Years gives a chance to both look back and look forward.  I did a bit of a review of the past year in my blogoversary post (and what a year it was!).

And, while I tend to be crummy at these sorts of things, it’s time to set some goals for the coming year.

Financial goals:

  • Attain positive net worth.  After analyzing my net worth changes using NetworthIQ, and assuming the trends will continue, I should hit a positive net worth by August.  To speed this up, I also intend to pay extra on my student loans every month.  I think I’ll pay an extra $500-1000 each month, or perhaps just change my monthly payment to what it used to be back when my rates were higher.
  • Rebalance my retirement portfolio.   My Roth IRA, rollover IRA, and 401(k) are all run by the same financial company.  They’ve run some analysis of my overall portfolio, and there are some chances that could be made overall.  I set up my new 401(k) as balanced on its own, but when you include my IRAs, the percentages of assorted get thrown off from my ideally balanced portfolio.

Other life goals:

  • Live more healthily.  I know that goals should be specific  if you’re hoping to accomplish them.  But I’m looking to you guys for some suggestions.  I know there’s exercising to be done, and healthier foods to be eaten, but other than that, I’m not sure what definite goals to make.  Well, one is to drop my BMI by 1.5.  That might sound extreme, but that means dropping less than a pound a month.  I like the idea of being a bit more in the middle of “normal” for my height than towards the top.
  • Get and then keep my room clean and organized.  My sister is pretty good at this sort of thing, so she’s offered to come by and help me with the initial clean.  I’m also reading some organization books to get myself motivated.
  • Blog more often! Let’s try at least once a week.  I’ve got some ideas in my head (including a post that further discusses the goal to be a healthier person).

So I think those are some good goals!  I’d love to hear what your goals are, and how you hope to attain them (especially if they’re health related goals, as that’s something I want to learn more about).  Are there any other goals I may have missed?

 

What are you saving for? December 7, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 6:03 pm
Tags: , ,

I was updating my net worth calculations, and it got me thinking:  What am I saving for?

My current financial goals are not very specific.  Many pf bloggers have noted their short and long-term goals, often using nifty status bars.  They’re saving for an emergency fund, or a new puppy, or a down payment.  And I realized that I’m just saving to be saving.  At least for the short term.

My goals are stepwise.  First goal is to have a positive net worth.   Then I want to eliminate all debts (currently $60k+ student loans and $17k+ car loan).  After that, I guess I’d be saving for a down payment.

I think I’m sometimes just saving for the future, but I have no idea what I’m going to use that money for in the future.  Will I be buying a house?  I hope so, assuming it’s the right time and place for it.  And if marriage and kids are in my future, will I be paying for the wedding?  I’ll need money to raise kids, and maybe consider putting money away for their college education.  But really, I think I’m just hoarding money, with the intent of having it around in case I find myself in need.  It’s almost as if all of my savings is one big Emergency Fund.  The money’s there if I need it, but I don’t really have a plan of ever using it.

I realize that I could probably use some of my savings to pay down my debts.  But I just feel safer having a larger emergency fund than having a smaller debt, even though, mathematically, it’s not the best choice.

Should I start creating a “fund” for everything?  My long-term financial goals seem so far away.  I feel like I’m just saving and avoiding spending, and hoping that it will all fall into place.

 

Looks like I’m a brazen careerist September 14, 2008

Every once in a while, I get an email asking if I’d like to be part of a blogging network.  It’s kind of cool, makes me feel special.  I’m definitely nowhere near the top when it comes to personal finance bloggers:  I don’t post very often, and I haven’t been doing this nearly as long.  And I’m sure I don’t get anywhere near the number of visitors as the likes of The Simple Dollar or Free Money Finance.  But anyway…

I got an email from someone at Brazen Careerist Blog Network.  It seems to be the sister site to Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog.  Now, when I hear the words “brazen careerist”, it makes me think that you’re gung ho about climbing to the top in your career, often at the expense of other priorities.  I’m pretty sure that’s not quite what she means (I’ll admit I haven’t read her book.)  From what I’ve gathered, the term still relates to doing what will help you climb the corporate ladder, but it’s not all about ignoring other values and priorities.  So I think I’m cool with that.  It’s more about being smart about what the current work environment is like.

So, anyway, this invite basically means that I am now a member of a blog network!  The network is geared towards members of Generation Y and covers topics such as careers, finance, and other general topics for our generation.  Frankly, I didn’t actually know what “generation” I was part of, but I was born in within the year range listed at the wikipedia page (1982-1994).  I was asked about another blog network before, but I didn’t think I could commit to the number of posts they were talking about “requiring”.  Mostly, the site I’m part of now merely posts my feed under my profile.  So I can handle that.  It sounds like sometimes you might write an article specifically for the site, but for now, I’m just going to go with this.

It’s got me wondering…Am I a brazen careerist?  I enjoy meeting new people, which comes into play nicely when it comes to networking.  I’m thinking it might be a good idea to read this book…so I know what I’m actually talking about.  I did read The Big Sister’s Guide to the World of Work, which has a lot of those types of business tips.  Guess I should put the book on my request list at the library.

I think I should start thinking more about my goals, not only for my career, but also for finances and personal life.  Looks like I’ve got a topic for my next post!

 

 
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