Graduated Learning: Life after College

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

Opening an IRA: No Excuses March 28, 2012

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 12:06 am
Tags: , , ,

When I was younger and didn’t feel like doing the dishes, I’d make excuses.  The top excuse usually was “I don’t know how to do it!”  Of course we know that’s a ridiculous lie.  And I’d still have to do the dishes.

We all make excuses.  It’s too hard!  I don’t know how to do it!

No.  No more excuses.

I’ve talked before about how it’s a good idea to open an IRA.  And I’m especially keen on the Roth IRA as a good way to diversify my tax liabilities when I retire.

So, I’m here to show you that there are NO EXCUSES.

Disclaimer:  I’m not a financial advisor or other money professional.  I’m just a blogger.  But I want you to pay attention to what I say anyway.  You don’t have to.  But that’s all I can offer.

Excuse number 1:  I don’t have any money to do it!

No.  You do.  You just don’t realize it yet.  Depending on what company you end up opening an IRA with, you’ll have a certain minimum initial or repeating investment.  If you don’t have enough for the initial investment, start stashing away $10 or $20 in a savings account.  Maybe you’re getting a tax refund this year?  There’s some money you can use!  When you build up enough, go for it.  As I said, it depends who you open an account with, which leads me to excuse number 2…

Excuse number 2:  I don’t know how!

As I mentioned before, that’s a lame excuse.  And if you honestly don’t know how, guess what?  It’s easy.  You pick a discount brokerage or bank (I’ve used Fidelity, I know Vanguard is highly recommended, I welcome other good suggestions in the comments).  Check out their website to find out minimum investment requirements, fees, benefits, etc.  If you’re still confused, call them up.  Tell them what you want to do, find out what is required of you to avoid fees, taxes, etc.  Then do it!

Excuse number 3:  I don’t want to lose money!

Guess what?  NOBODY DOES!  You don’t go to Las Vegas hoping to “strike it poor”.  Yes, investing in the stock market (and in bonds, ETFs, etc.) has risks.  There’s no guarantees.  That ridiculous 2008 downturn?  I remember it too!  But here’s the thing.  An IRA is a really good idea.  You’re putting money away for your retirement.  There are tax benefits to having an IRA.  And if you follow the theories of John Bogle, buying low-cost index funds and invest over the long-term, you’re pretty likely to come out ahead over the long run.  And if you consider that keeping money in a regular savings account doesn’t really keep up with inflation, the market is a good way to go.  Which leads me to:

Excuse number 4:  I don’t know what to invest in!

As I said before, I’m not a financial advisor.  As they said in this Marketplace Money interview, the most important part is just starting that account.  You can start by contributing whatever you can (up to $5k, or $6k if you’re over 50 years old) each year.  Your best bet to start is to invest in a low-cost index fund or life cycle fund.  As you build your account, you can start learning more about investing (by reading books, magazines, blogs, listening to podcasts/radio shows), and diversify as you see fit.  If you want, you can always talk to a fee-only certified financial planner or advisor to get some advice.

So.  What do you think?  Any other excuses you can come up with?  Anything I got wrong here or left out?  Where do you find your investment advice?  Let me know!


Holiday Spending March 12, 2012

Filed under: General Blogging,Just for Fun — Stephanie @ 10:44 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I know.  When you think of holiday spending, you think of the ridiculous amount of money people plunk down for Christmas (and Hannukah) presents.  Followed closely by Valentine’s.  Debt Ninja had a guest post from Jenna at Adaptu about it.

And I’m not immune from holiday spending.  Heck, I splurged on the Xbox holiday bundle for my boyfriend (which is a bit of a boomerang gift…I wanted it, too!)  I’m a big fan of giving gifts, as long as I have a good idea of what to give!

But the other thing that stands out for me is holiday apparel.

What?  Is that a thing?  Yes.

Take, for example, a holiday party I attended last year.  Festive apparel and costumes were encouraged.  So, I wore things like this:

Holly socks in bright red shoes

A jingle-bell ring I picked up at Davis Squared

And the obligatory green on red (green short-sleeve sweater over a red long-sleeve sweater)

There’s something about dressing for the holiday that makes me feel extra festive!


I’ve got Halloween pajama pants and two different pairs of socks (don’t worry, I don’t wear the pajamas in public!)

Red heart earrings for Valentine’s Day

And most recently, on a trip to A.C. Moore for sewing supplies, I caved and bought myself some St. Patrick’s Day socks for $1.  Big spender!

Whether  it’s obvious (like the earrings or ring) or more secret (like the socks), I really love dressing up in holiday colors and designs.  Since it’s usually frowned upon to wear Halloween costumes to the office, wearing fun socks is my own way of secret celebration.  So every once in a while, I’ll pick up a new pair of holiday socks.

How do you celebrate holidays?  Do you buy lots of stuff at the party store every year?  Or have a collection of holiday decorations and swag you pull out every year?

Do you have a stash of holiday socks like I do?  Wear all green on St. Patrick’s Day, orange and black on Halloween, and red on Valentine’s Day?  Because I do! 😀


11 things + 11 things March 4, 2012

Filed under: General Blogging,Just for Fun,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 5:54 pm

I’ve been tagged.  Twice.  By Eric at Postgrad Agenda and by Make Love, Not Debt.  So it’s about time I answer these questions!  The rules are that you answer the questions, then make up new questions and tag people to answer those questions.  I’m going to answer all 11 of each of their questions (22 total) then come up  with 11 new questions.

Questions from Eric at Postgrad Agenda:

1. If you worked in your current job until retirement, would you be happy?

I’m assuming the question is if I’d be happy to stay at the same company until retirement.  I’d be happy as long as I continue to be challenged and learn new things.  My happiness in my career is contingent on gaining additional responsibilities and expertise.  I love working with my colleagues and learning a lot from them, and hope I can continue to grow.

2. What are three things you do that you wish you could change?

I wish I could change my procrastinating habits:  case in point, this post is LONG overdue!
I also wish I could stop putting myself down.  I think I tend to look at myself and find all the flaws (physically, intellectually) instead of embracing all the good in myself!
I wish I could change my addictive behavior when it comes to computers/video games.  I will stay on my computer way too late or play a video game for hours.  It’s bad news.  Go to bed!

3. What do you enjoy doing more than anything?

I love spending time with my family and friends.  Especially if there’s delicious food around 🙂

4. Do you think everyone is born with the potential to change the world, or just a few?

I think everyone has the potential, but not everyone gets the opportunity.

5. How would you like to change the world?

I’d like to change the world by increasing access to education and knowledge.  I don’t know how to achieve it, but I think education is a good way to start.

6. What have you done so far to make that change?

Not much.  Though I try to teach people about personal finance 😛

7. Fiction or non-fiction?

I’m always hooked on personal finance books!  And books about interesting science discoveries.  So sign me up for Non-Fiction. Though I would read a good fiction book, if anyone has some suggestions!

8. Have you succumbed to the Apple influence? Why or why not?

I had the same iPod (or a repair/replacement) since college, until it finally kicked the bucket late last year.  And since then I’ve been using my new iPod Nano.  And I have iTunes.  And I’m always tempted to take my parents up on their offer to get me an iPhone.  But I never do take them up on that offer.  I think the stuff Apple makes is really cool, but I fear having it would make me less productive (too many distractions).  Not sure if that means I’ve succumbed or not!

9. What would you consider yourself an expert in?

Well, I’m not an expert in personal finance, but among friends, I’m definitely a resource.  And I think I’m pretty good at the Materials Science stuff that I’m working on.  And I’d probably consider myself an expert at making puns.  Or at least an expert at making people groan at the puns I try to tell 🙂

10. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’d like to think getting into MIT and then graduating in four years from MIT are two things I’m pretty proud of.

11. Ideally, what’s next in life for you?

I have no idea.  I’d love some big happy changes, but I’m content with small happy life 🙂

And from Make Love, Not Debt:

1.  Have you ever been ripped off and for how much?

Last year I was parked in a lot with signage that I assumed meant I could park there.  Apparently the tow trucks in Allston had a different interpretation of the sign, and they stole my car away and held it for ransom (that’s at least how I see it).  So having to pay this sketchy place, IN CASH, for my own car seemed like a bit of a rip off.  Especially since I thought I was in the right.

2.  Do you have pets? Are they awesome?

I don’t have any pets.  I hope to get a dog when I have a house and yard more suited for one.  I’m ridiculously allergic to cats, so that’s not going to happen.  So, my future dog is awesome.  That’s already a given.

3.  What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

African or European?  Apparently someone actually tried to calculate it.

4.  Why are most children’s musicians terrible?

I think you’re just listening to the wrong children’s music.  Go with artists like Raffi, Fred Penner, and albums like Snacktime from the Barenaked Ladies and a lot of stuff from They Might Be Giants.

5.  What’s the most offensive thing about the $5 bill?

That it’s not a $50 bill?

6.  Prior to Jeremy Lin’s current basketball greatness, he was staying on his brother’s couch because he didn’t have a definitive contract with the New York Knicks. Was the couch long enough to fit an out-stretched Jeremy Lin?

I have no idea.  My guess is regardless of if he fit, he probably wasn’t very comfortable.  I’ve fallen asleep on the couch with plenty of room to stretch out, and I’ve woken up as quite a mess.

7.  What’s the least you’ve purchased with $100?

I’m not sure.  I know that the next thing I’m planning on purchasing with ~$100 is a FitBit Ultra 😛

8.  What’s a reasonable amount of money to spend at a strip club?

Zero dollars.  Ew.

9.  How much do you tip the bartender? Really? That’s it?

I rarely go to bars.  I’ll usually give them a dollar or so per drink.  I’ve even given a tip when I asked for ice water because I felt like I’d be a jerk not to.

10.  How much would you pay for the perfect hamburger?

Maybe $15 max?  But I’d be okay with a $7 hamburger.

11.  Is an iPad worth it?

I only ever really want an iPad when I’m on travel and everyone else has their Kindles, Nooks, and iPads.  It’s gadget envy.

And now, here are the questions I want answers for:

1.  What would you do if you won $10,000?  How would your answer change if it was $1 million?

2.  Is your current job anything like what you thought it would be when you were younger?

3.  What store/brand are you unable to resist?

4.  What’s the last book you read?

5.  Who do you most admire among your friends and family?

6.  What’s your go-to recipe for dinner?  Dessert?

7.  What’s your least favorite food?

8.  Which Disney character do you think you are most like?

9.  What board game do you love to play?  Do you dominate at it?  Or do you always lose?

10.  What’s the longest distance you’ve ever walked/jogged/run?

11.  What clichéd phrase drives you the craziest?

Who to tag?  I’ve already seen Elizabeth, Serendipity, Big City…Beer Budget, Fabulously Fru-girl, eemusings (the Abstract Aucklander, Annabelle (twice!), Nicole, Bridget, and Andrea participate in these.  I’m not going to make any of them make a new answer list (unless they want to!).

So, I’ll tag some new people who (to the best of my knowledge) haven’t been tagged yet.  Hello Below Her Means, Deena Dollars, Stacking Pennies, Paranoid Asteroid, My Pretty Pennies, Money Maus, Penny Pinching Pro, Fig, ShtinkyKatJulia, Mariel, and Katie.  You’ve been tagged!

Anyone else who wants to answer these questions, either in a comment below or on their own blogs is welcome to.  I can’t wait to learn more about you!


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