Friday, January 30, 2009

File #90020310

I Did It, and Here's How!
Excerpts from an essay written in Freshman Year for English 101

One million dollars, back in the day, that was everyone's dream. That was all it took, not ten million or billion. But that back then, when a nickel could actually buy you a stick of gum at the store and pennies weren't completely worthless.The times have changed, and things have gotten more expensive. But that hasn't depreciated the amount of one million dollars. one million bucks is still one hefty amount of cash.
Many people aspire to obtain that dream, but that's not everyone's dream. It sure wasn't mine, I wanted to travel. But of course, traveling takes money. Lots of it. So in order to accomplish my want to travel,I needed money. And for a high school student(which I was at the time) to make more money than minimum wage, that was sadly out of reach. Or so I thought. As it turned out, making money wasn't as hard as I thought. Let me tell you how I reached my goal and how it can affect you!
Most people know that the people who make the most money are people who own businesses or have a million dollars in stock on the NYSE. And more importantly, most of us aren't those people. In my sophomore year of high school, I was making $6.50 an hour. And since it was a part-time job, I was only guaranteed about 25 to 30 hours a week. Now that's actually great income for a high school student, but not for me. Call me greedy, but I needed more. Unfortunately, there was no way I could own a business at my age, much less run one. I needed another source of income and another job was out of the picture.
Since I was kid, one financial fact has been shoved down my throat. If you want to save money and see it grow, put it in the bank. Well sure, why not? It gains interest and I know its a no-risk investment. But now let's hit the facts. The interest rate is horribly low. The normal saving account has an interest rate of less than 1%, and the CD(Certificate of Deposit) interest rate varies from 1-5% depending on the bank, amount inputted, and the length of the period. Speaking from experience, I caught on the starting craze of the CD and made out with a little over 5% with my CD of $10,000 for a seven month period. And what did I get out of it, $365. Hey, that's much better than the 0.3% in my savings account, but really now, for seven months I couldn't even touch that money unless I wanted to be penalized for more than I would have made. It didn't work for me, but if you want to at least get some money out of your savings, I suggest heading to your bank and asking about CDs and the high yield money market.
As for me, I turned to rule #2, if you want to make money, but don't own a business, invest. Now when I say invest, what's the first thing that comes to mind? The stock market, right? But for me, that was one of the last places I went to because I was so scared of the risks. I first looked toward bonds, government and corporate. Government bonds had a smaller rate of growth, but corporate bonds had a chance of becoming void if the corporation went under. I found out that if I had invested my $10,000 in a government bond when I was 17, it would have become $1,000,000 by the time I was 40. When I found that out, I was awed. That meant making one million bucks only involved waiting and whatever I did in the mean time only added to that. I could become a homeless bum and then when I turned forty I'd be a millionaire. Instant retirement. But then I started to think, what will one million be worth when I'm forty? There's the largest and most hateful problem for investors: Inflation. And there's also the reason why investing in banks was not a good idea. According to research, inflation was at 3% and creeping higher. What was the bank's rate? Oh right, 0.3%. So you're actually losing money by keeping it in the bank. Wow. Anyway, back to the bonds, I eventually figured that I'll find another use for my 10K and moved on. (A side calculation, if you have a newborn and get him that $10,000 bond, it will be about $750,000 by the time he/she is 20. Isn't that a great way to start off adulthood?)
In the meantime, I looked for better jobs. That's when I first stumbled across the temp agency. There's great things about the temp agency, it lets you choose jobs according to your own criteria. When you want to work, whether it was at night, during the summer, or full-time. And I heard that many people find a permanent job within the first year of working under a temp agency. So I went from job to job, looking for the job with my calling.
Going back to my hunt for mad money making, I was looking into everything. The next thing that came up was real estate. At the time, the real estate market in Florida was booming, people were becoming millionaires by selling a house. I remember one occasion in a area called Champion's Gate, someone bought a house for about one hundred thousand with a little more or less, sold it, and made away with half a million. Talk about crazy. But I didn't have one hundred thousand to begin with. Then I learned of zero cash deals, where you can buy a house for no money out of your pocket. But I was still under 18 at the time, so I stored this piece of information away for later down the road.
I was down to my last option, the dreaded stock market. High rewards, but equally high risk. I explored my options and found out about mutual funds, they're like the stock market, only with less risk involved and someone else is handling your stocks. Now this was a bank option I could go with. It had a return rate of 12% and up, much more than 0.3% or 5%. For those of you looking to invest, I suggest stuffing your beginning money in here while you learn the ways of the stock market. I did just that,while a friend helped me study the stock market, my beginning investment grew by a thousand dollars.
So with my 11K, I jumped into the stock market.I have one thing to say: if you know what you're doing, the chances of losing money are much smaller.The principles are simple,buy low and sell high, the more you have the more you make. Find out where to put your money and when, and then when to take it out. Not to mention there's a lot of help out there. I never watched Bloomberg in my entire life before I started. Jim Cramer's Mad Money, I love that show. Anyway, the point is, if you invest the time, its worth it. And most people think you need a lot of money to start. Wrong, you can start with as little as one thousand dollars. That's what I did until I got confident enough to add more. and before that I practiced on a virtual stock market to sharpen my buy/sell skills. you can find it here, if you want to give it a go. It's fun!
As it turns out, the stock market was my way to my dreams. I have enough money to buy something when I want it and get all my friends something for Christmas every year. I haven't reached that million dollars yet, but at this rate, I'm not worried.

I hope that helps get you a little closer to your dream, be it financial freedom or something else! May the Force be with you!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

File #90029210

Achieving Your Dreams
Excerpts from an essay written in Freshman Year for English 101

I was talking to a few friends of mine the other day about jobs and the economy and such. The little chat eventually led to each of our dreams. For safety's sake, let's get call them J and M. Being a tech college, but wanted careers in the engineering field. J is an aerospace major who dreams of working with Lockheed or Boeing and creating a aircraft of super doom and air supremacy. M is a little more grounded with what he believes to be a little more obtainable. In the current economy, M just wants a good job that pays, for both himself and the cost of going out with his girlfriend every now and then(including that in his rant made me laugh). I then realized I have no dream relating to my future career. It was not that I had no dreams or aspirations, but I already had accomplished them all to some degree that I felt satisfied.
Now, what were my dreams as a munchkin? How did I achieve them? Let me count.
1. Become a Coast Guard captain. Now this one was interesting and "achieved" faster than I could've imagined. I grew up in Hawaii, where the Navy and Coast Guard is overglorified.I could often see coast guard cutters and frigates patrolling the coast in their ever vigilant search for the illegal Chinese immigrant. As a kid, I always wanted to ride one. It wasn't so much that I wanted to be in the coast guard, but to just have fun riding their boats. A few years later, I got that chance.A school trip let us ride both the high speed coast guard cutter, and let us on board one of their coast guard frigates. I even got to sit in the captain's seat and gain an ego boost. But that was the end of that. And just to note, when I was younger, the Coast Guard Academy was ranked the #1 most hardest school in America, in both getting in and getting through. Crazy, huh?
2. Get my parents to retirement. I was a good kid, I saw my folks working day in and day out to provide for my bro and I. You see, the living cost of Hawaii is much higher than in other places. And it takes that much more work to get by. So I wanted to get a good job when I grow up and let my parents retire. I got my chance in high school. A friend of mine came out of nowhere with this crazy idea of jumping into high risk investments, I hesitantly joined in. Several years later, here I am with both a job that recognized my talent in finances and enough money to fund my parents' retirement fund. But they're still working though, since Father wants to work, I let him work. And a little tidbit of information, when I was living in Hawaii, the living cost was three times greater than when I lived in Florida several years later.
3. Being the support for all my friends. This dream stemmed from my friend's dream(the friend in #2). My buddy, let's call him N, was for all sakes and purposes, a rich guy. But he wasn't one of those snobbish and uptight jerks. No, he was cool and everyone liked him. I wanted to be like that. And of course, I got that chance. Using the same opportunity mentioned in #2, I succeeded in what I considered to be "rich" and I already had friends who liked me for who I am. And now when we feel like doing something, I can honestly say I can afford it no matter how crazy the idea is. In 2006, as a graduation trip, several of my friends and myself went to Hawaii for two weeks to relax and have fun. To this day, nothing has made me feel better than seeing my friends enjoy my hometown.
4. Live in Hawaii. Every kid wants to return home someday, whether temporary or permanent. I wanted to return permanently, with a house and all. I haven't completely accomplished this one yet, but I am close. I have the money, all I'm waiting for is the economy to improve in hopes of saving a little money on the expensive real estate I'm looking into. A little more information, the lowest price for a home in Kauai is about $200,000. Yeah, ouch.

That's was all my childhood dreams, all accomplished or about to be. Now, dreams are important to living, they provide us a reason for being. Life is much harder to live without any dreams or goals. That said, I came up with a few placeholders so I'm not vegetating and wasting my days aimlessly.
1. $1 million. Plain and simple, become a millionaire. And with my investments and job, I'm getting closer every year. Some personal stuff,at the rate I'm going, this will be achieved before I am thirty. Sweet.
2. Visit the North. I've traveled the United States and been everywhere except for the northeast(minus one time my plane had a stopover in Chicago).The next vacation I get, I'm there.
3. Europe and Japan. I've been to Japan once already when I was a kid, but I want to see it again. And I also want to visit Europe because I've never been there before. I have my passport ready to go, and I have convinced my business partner(friend N) to let me go for "business purposes". Set to go next summer.

My dreams all nice and stuff, but how can other people achieve theirs? That's why I'm here. I like seeing people happy and achieving their goals. This past year I've helped countless families get out of debt and get a little closer to their respective happiness. And through talking to all of them, here's what I have to say.
1. Probably the most important one, Never Give Up. You're state of being relies on how you see yourself and the world. Negativity will only let your mind see the negative aspects of life and block any possible "happy chances". Never give up and working hard, 'til this day, I've never seen it fail.
2. Remember your dreams. This may sound easy, but it is actually extremely hard for many people. I've talked to many couples who lost sight of their dreams because they got bogged down with the hardships of life.And easy way to prevent this is to not only set goals, but also create milestones. Reward yourself for coming so far, remind your mind and body that your working toward happiness. Back when I first started my job of financial stuff, I had to stay up every night to read textbook after textbook, talk to professionals, and handle a full day of work the next day. As a reward for getting through the week, I let myself indulge in a Starbucks Strawberries & Creme on Saturday.
3. Money doesn't talk, but that shouldn't stop you from listening. Keep that checkbook in order, do those taxes on time. Pay those bills on time. Laziness can always get the better of us, but it can cost you twice as much as what you could got away with if you weren't lazy. And if there's a problem that needs money,don't ignore it thinking it will go away! Pay it off because chances are, if you don't, it will only get worse and cost more money to fix in the end.
4. Share your dreams, thoughts, and problems. This was the most hard for me to accomplish. I didn't like telling people of myself, much less my dreams and problems. I believed that other people have enough to worry about and I shouldn't add to their problems. But it is important to share, not only do you get feedback and advice for those who traveled the same path before you, but you also feel good about yourself for telling others. I solved my problem by telling N and with blogs. Now not only do others know of my dreams and problems, but they also give me advice and wisdom that I didn't have before. Most people I've talked to were couples who could share their thoughts with each other, and for obvious reason, that's impossible for me(laughs).
5. When you need help, say so! Also one of the most hard ones for people, most people don't ask for help when they need it. Be it stubborn pride or something else, most people like to believe they can get through their problems on their own. As it may be the case many times, sometimes it isn't. People believe help isn't really help anymore because of the dreaded "payback". But what they don't consider is the possible cost of doing it alone. A simple example, a friend of mine wanted to build a patio for his new house, rather than paying for a professional to do it, he tried it himself. Normally, it would be a good idea and experience. Except in his case, he not only wasted tons of money, but ended up hiring the professional in the end. His cost ended up to be about three times what he would have paid if he had just called the professional to begin with(note: now its one nice patio).

As I would like to talk more, life calls. Good luck achieving your dreams! Seize the day!

(this rant was inspired by this:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

File #90027210

The WTF Blanket, every moron needs one.