Essays · Personal Finance

The Net Worth Mindset

I didn’t get into studying finance until I was in my 30s, but when I did I studied hard and tried to make myself an expert in it. I had to, because I had to teach it. One of the things I latched onto early was the balance sheet. It fascinated me and continues to command my attention. Predictably, when I learned to look at my own personal balance sheet, my personal financial life literally started to come into balance. Continue reading “The Net Worth Mindset”

Personal Finance

My Year with a Cash Back Credit Card

Like many consumers, my wife and I have long been suspicious of credit card companies. We are generally cautious about debt, not wanting to add to our massive student loan obligations. Credit cards, of course, are among the worst kinds of debt: with high interest rates compounding at a rapid rate.

Up until the end of 2016, the only credit cards we ever had were from making a large retail purchase on credit. For example, I purchased my Macbook Pro with Apple Credit, which is really just a Barclay credit card. The first year has no interest, so I paid off the account in one year and paid no interest. I wanted to keep that line of credit open to build my credit rating, so I set up automatic bill-pay on a bill that is $15/month. I pay off the balance every month, and I don’t use that card for anything else. It has been great for building my credit at no cost. Otherwise, it not very useful and adds to my stress sometimes when I worry about forgetting to pay it.

blue-cash-everydayWhile teaching my high school personal finance class about credit cards and credit ratings, I decided to do an experiment and try using a cash back card. I compared some cards and decided to apply for the American Express Blue Cash Everyday rewards card. Credit Karma informed me that with my credit history, my application would have a good chance of being accepted, and it was. Continue reading “My Year with a Cash Back Credit Card”

Investing · Personal Finance

Robinhood to the Rescue

An app that let’s you quickly and easily trade stocks with no transaction fees? It sounds too good to be true. There has to be a catch, right?

robinhood iconThis was my reaction when I heard about Robinhood, the app you can download for free and use to start trading stocks with no transaction fees. At the time, most of my retirement savings was in a 403(b) and a state pension. These accounts have limited options, mostly made up of index funds. I am not crazy about index fund investing for several reasons, which I will elaborate on at another time. I had finally opened a Roth IRA with an online broker to invest in individual stocks, but I was frustrated with the fee situation. I investigated Robinhood as an alternative, and here is what happened. Continue reading “Robinhood to the Rescue”