In my last post, I described my lower middle-class upbringing. I mentioned that my parents were terrible with saving money, and that we weren’t really taught to save either. That isn’t entirely true. We did have one person that tried to help us save money. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way she wanted it to. 

Grandma’s Help

We got a small bit of help in learning to save from our Grandmother on our mom’s side. When we were born, she convinced my parents to open a savings account for us. She gave us a check on every birthday and Christmas with “for deposit only” written on it, so we would be forced to deposit it into our savings accounts. We had the option to deposit the rest of our birthday money as well, but we rarely did.

My grandma didn’t have a lot of money, so she was only able to give us each $25 on special occasions. Over time, that does add up, and by the time I started working for my parents, I had about $800 saved up. That’s a lot for a fifteen-year-old!

I Learned about taxes the hard way

Unfortunately, the savings account didn’t work out the way my Grandmother intended. You see, when my parents started paying us for delivering papers, they set us up as independent contractors rather than wage employees. That meant that no taxes would be taken out of our paychecks. We didn’t make a lot of money, but as we all know, that doesn’t matter. The IRS still needs to get their share.

When tax season rolled around that first year, my father did our taxes for us. We each ended up owing the man around $700. My parents took us to the bank and drained our savings accounts so we could pay our taxes. They said we should have known better. We should have been putting money aside each pay check to pay. How we were supposed to know the subtleties of the complicated tax code at age 15, I’ll never know!

 

Making it worse

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson. I continued working for my parents as an independent contractor, and continued spending all of each pay check. When tax season rolled around, I just ignored it. I did the same thing the following year. Eventually, I stopped working for my parents and got a normal part time job. Unfortunately, by this time, I already owed the IRS almost two thousand dollars. Even worse, my father accidentally switched mine and my brother’s social security numbers on our tax returns, so we didn’t even know who owed what!

Digging out of the hole

I was a senior in high school when I realized how big my problem with the IRS was. That’s when I decided to take steps to dig my way out. Surprisingly, it was super easy to get the mess with the social security numbers straightened out. But what was even more shocking was that they were really nice about helping me set up a payment plan and get the tax debt straightened out. They are super willing to work with people who are trying to do the right thing!  It took me about a year to fully pay off my debt to the IRS, but it felt good to make that last payment.

 

Lessons learned

Learning about taxes the hard way had some advantages. I learned to always think about how taxes will work with any job, so I don’t get surprised with a giant bill at the end of the year. I also learned that the IRS isn’t as terrible as everyone thinks they are. One of the reasons I waited so long to call and get it taken care of is that I was terrified of calling them!  All I ever heard was horror stories about going to jail for tax fraud and IRS agents being super rude to people. Maybe it was my age that helped, or maybe it was the fact that I was actually trying, but every time I called, the agent was super nice and helpful. I never had a bad experience.

One final thing I learned is to always check over all the important forms.  One little mistake can cause huge complications down the road (on the plus side, I still have my brother’s SSN memorized, because I thought it was mine for so long…devious, I know!).

What lessons did you learn the hard way?  I’d love to hear your stories!

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"lower middle class"

Sometimes people see a personal finance blogger striving for financial independence and think that we must have grown up with well-off or financially savvy parents. Well, that isn’t always the case. I’d classify my parents as lower middle class and let’s just say I didn’t learn any positive financial skills from them!

I know that a lot of people had things way worse than me. It’s also true that I got extremely lucky with a few of my choices; and a lot of people who make similar choices may not have the same luck. However, I think it’s fair to point out that you don’t have to come from rich parents who are good with money to get on a quest for financial independence (though I’m sure it helps!)

Growing Up Lower Middle Class

I honestly don’t know what my household income was when I was younger. My parents owned a home in the South suburbs of Chicago, we always had food to eat, we got nice Christmases, and we went on vacation (camping) a few times per year. Seems solidly middle class, right? However, we did live across the street from some pretty terrifying apartments that had cops patrolling more often than not.  I’m also pretty sure our neighbor across the alley got busted for dealing LSD. It wasn’t the best neighborhood, but it was far from the worst. We could play outside without fear as long as we stayed away from the apartments, which is a luxury a lot of kids didn’t have.

When I was very little, my father worked as an insurance agent. He sold insurance in Chicago’s terrifying ghettos (shameless plug, but he wrote a fictionalized account of his experiences, Check it out on Amazon!). This job didn’t make him well off, but he made enough money to support the family. 

 

Dad Loses his Job

Unfortunately, when I was still in grade school, my father lost his job with the insurance company. My parents turned to delivering papers to make a living. My siblings and I had to do paper routes three days a week after school to help them make ends meet. For the first few years, this was unpaid labor. At the time, I didn’t understand why I was being forced to work for free, but I get it now. They needed the free labor to keep up with the bills. We were working to support the family.

To my parent’s credit, they were able to take what they learned delivering papers for someone else and make a business out of it. They started hiring more neighborhood kids to deliver papers for them, and they started paying us for the work that we did.

No Savings

Unfortunately, even with running their own business, there wasn’t a lot left to save at the end of each month. Or maybe my parents prioritized vacations and nice Christmases over emergency funds and retirement accounts. Either way, they had no savings.  They spent most of the money they made each month and allowed us kids to do the same. If we wanted something super expensive, they would tell us that we needed to save up on our own for it (my brother was obsessed with getting Scottie Pippen shoes, so he was the best about that!) but that was really the extent of our lessons in savings.

A Divorce

My parents got divorced when I was in high school. My dad kept the business and was able to rent a home from his sister while my mom basically had nothing. After our family home was foreclosed on she had to go live up north near her parents. To be honest though, their divorce kind of worked out in my favor. It’s way easier to get loans for college if you are a child of divorced parents with low incomes.  I got enough financial aid money to pay for my entire college education (via loans and grants, mostly). I didn’t use all of it, because I decided to join the Reserve Officers Training Core (ROTC) when I got to college, which helped pay for a lot of my schooling (My first great financial decision!)

15 years later

Even now, neither of my parents is good with money. I don’t think either of them has a retirement plan or a solid emergency fund. They both work, and I think both of them plan to just continue working until they can’t anymore.

My siblings and I learned very different things from this upbringing. My brother learned that he can get by with working until he dies. He doesn’t worry about saving money and values spending everything he earns on making sure his kids are happy (Just like my parents did). My sister was the same for a very long time.  She valued appearances and expensive things, because she didn’t want to feel poor.  However, in the last few years, through my obsession with financial independence, I have helped her learn the value of saving money for the future. She wants to pursue FIRE too!

I went the opposite way. I saw that my parents were just barely keeping their heads above water and decided that wasn’t what I wanted for my future. Therefore, I took it upon myself to learn financial literacy. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way; but I think I’m getting there.

Financial Literacy

The point of this story is that learning financial literacy is not easy, but it can be done. It isn’t really taught in school (at least it wasn’t in my school!), and if you don’t grow up in an environment where it is practiced every day, it’s hard to grasp. However, that doesn’t make it unattainable.  It would have been great if my parents could have given me a head start on this, but they couldn’t. What I learned instead was the value of hard work, and that I didn’t want to be destitute in the future. These were valid lessons too, and I’m glad I got them.

What did your parents teach you about money? Let us know in the comments!

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"cosigning"

Today I’m writing a cautionary tale for all my readers (because it’s too late for me!). As you know from reading about the Worst Financial Decision of my Life, I cosigned on a car for someone when I probably shouldn’t have. But unfortunately for me (and please learn from my mistakes!) this wasn’t the only time I’ve cosigned. I haven’t even only done it twice. I’ve cosigned for stuff on three separate occasions!  And to be honest, I’m probably going to do it again (because obviously I don’t learn).

The First Time I Cosigned

My first experience cosigning came about 11 years ago. I cosigned on a type of student loan for my then boyfriend. We were getting ready to move from Illinois to California, and we didn’t have a lot of money. He was just getting ready to start college, and we found a student loan program that would give us cash for tuition and expenses. He couldn’t qualify on his own, so I cosigned.

I actually don’t regret this one. We were together and we needed the money. Having this loan really helped us survive during our first year in California. I am a bit annoyed that it’s been 11 years and we’ve only paid about 6K on the loan, but it is what it is. On the plus side, we still get along well and we are working together to pay it off.

Cosigning my life away for family

I don’t really regret the second time I cosigned either, even though I had to pay a bit more than I intended. I helped my brother buy his house. He is terrible with finances (most of my family is) and has horrible credit, but he makes decent money.  His wife has decent credit but works a low paying job. He could afford the mortgage, but with his credit he couldn’t qualify.

I have a little niece and nephew who mean the world to me. They are adorable little kids and I wanted them to have a house to grow up in. I also love my brother, he was my best friend for the first 16 years of my life. I want him and his family to be happy. So, I agreed to cosign. However, I only agreed under the stipulation that I would be co-owner, not just cosigner. This is a very important distinction, as it means I have ownership stake in the house; whereas if I was just a cosigner I would be financially liable but I wouldn’t be part owner.

My brother swore up and down that he would always pay on time and he wouldn’t do anything to hurt my credit. He promised not to screw me over. My brother may be a jerk sometimes (aren’t all brothers?) but he’s loyal to a fault and takes pride in keeping his word. So, I believed him.

How it screwed me

Unfortunately, his family fell a bit on hard times last summer, and he didn’t want to tell me that he missed a payment because he was planning on making it up in the coming months. It would only be behind by one month each month, so he didn’t think I would ever know. He didn’t want me to know because he didn’t want me to be disappointed in him.

Unfortunately for him, this was around the time when I got the job offer for Savannah. That meant I was selling my house and buying a new one, yay!

 

Imagine my surprise when I applied for a mortgage and was told that my other mortgage was thirty days behind. That’s not something you want to hear!  I was livid!  I called my brother and cursed him out like crazy. My sister had my back, she did the same.  He apologized and promised it wouldn’t happen again. I had to pay the one month that he was behind; because I wouldn’t be able to get a mortgage if I waited for him to pay it. I told my brother not to pay me back, but also to not let it happen again.

So of course, it happened again. I checked my credit score in January, and the mortgage was late again. He gave me some lame excuse about the homeowner’s insurance being wrong so they weren’t paying because they were trying to get it fixed. To his credit, he paid right after I called him out, so I guess he was telling me the truth (at least about having the money). It’s been a few months and I haven’t seen a late notice yet, so hopefully he will keep up with it.

The Third (and Worst Time) I Cosigned

I’ve told this story before (remember, the worst financial decision?). The third time I cosigned was on a car for Jonathan. Yeah, lets’ sign my life away to someone who I know is an alcoholic with absolutely no financial literacy. Great Plan Melanie! The good news is that I’m actually the primary on the account, and he’s the secondary so I do have some legal rights to the car.  He’s supposed to take over the payments starting in May, and if he doesn’t I’ll have to “recover” the car from him. I’ll let you all know how that one goes!

Why I’ll Cosign Again

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now. But alas, I probably haven’t. My sister really wants to leave California for cheaper pastures. She’s also planning on taking my mom with her. They want to move someplace on the East Coast with a much lower cost of living. Great idea, right? Unfortunately, they suck with money too. My sister has terrible credit and owns her own business, so has very little income to show. My mom gets by. There is no way that they are going to be able to get a house on their own.

They are family. My sister has stood by me when pretty much everyone else I’ve known in my life turned their backs on me. My mom is my mom. I have to help them if I can. So, although I know cosigning is a terrible mistake, it’s probably one I’ll make again. On the plus side, at least cosigning for a house gives me assets. I’ve got that going for me, right?

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"the honeymoon phase"

Honeymoon Phase

As most of you fabulous readers know, I started seeing someone new about a month after Jonathan and I broke up. Well good news! The relationship is fantastic so far! We are super compatible and have a great time together. I’m definitely enjoying the Honeymoon Phase of this new relationship and loving my life in general.

Problem

This is the problem. I am actually happy! And I want to spend all my time with my new guy. This really isn’t a problem for my life, but it is a problem for the blog. It makes it harder for me to find the time to write. I also am struggling to find time to promote and market the blog. I’m doing the best I can to juggle all of these priorities (I’ve even managed to mostly stick to my Thursday and Sunday posting schedule, woot!) but having a happy life has to come first.

Yes, we met on OKC!

 

Why wasn’t this a problem before?

I was able to throw all of my free time into blogging before because I wasn’t happy. The blog was all I had. My relationship sucked, but I felt stuck. He was cool with the blog, so I could get away with focusing most of my time on it. It made things at home easier too, because I was able to do something and not have to deal with him. Blogging was an escape. It’s way harder to focus on the blog when I’m enjoying the company around me so much. First world problems.

Related: The Worst Financial Mistake of My Life

Why not drop the blog?

I still love it! And I believe in it. I love the concept of Partners in Fire, and I love all the friends I have made in the blogging world. I love the Personal Finance Community on Twitter, and I also love the blogging community. I don’t want to give any of that up!  Also, I’m a realist. I know that this is the honeymoon phase, and that honeymoon phases don’t last forever (it would be kind of nice if they did though, wouldn’t it?).

Who remembers being in a new relationship?  Its so much fun and so exciting that you want to spend every waking moment just hanging out and getting to know each other. But then, after three to six months, as you get more comfortable with one another and start sliding into each other’s lives; things kind of settle down. You fit into each other’s lives and it just becomes right to have them around and also do your own thing. Maybe I’m the only one this happens to, but it seems completely normal to me!

What’s Next?

Moving forward, I’m going to be happy. I’m going to focus on blogging, because it makes me happy; but I’m also going to focus on my life and my relationship because they make me happy too. I have a lot of balls in the air right now to juggle, but I think with a little effort and a little less tv I can learn to prioritize them all and regain a sense of balance in my life. Either way, I’m going to enjoy myself while I do it!

Who out in the blogger sphere has advice about juggling new relationships, blogging, life, and a full-time job? I could use your tips!

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"hidden costs"

Houses are expensive! The median home price in the United States is about $200,000 (Median is a better number to use than average, because it takes away the crazy expensive outliers). That’s a lot of money! But unfortunately, that’s only the upfront cost of buying a home. Make sure you factor these 10 hidden costs of buying a house into your budget!

Hidden Costs of Buying a House

Moving

Do you remember when everything you owned fit into your small two door sedan? I remember that too. I don’t know how I acquired so much stuff, but it most definitely did not fit in a sedan (or an SUV for that matter!). I did downsize a whole lot, so I just used a small pod to move everything that I didn’t want to throw away. The small pod cost me nearly three thousand dollars! Granted, I did move to the opposite side of the country, so that gets a bit pricey, but even moving across town will cost you.

Furniture

Are you going to buy new furniture to go with your new home? If you are moving your furniture, do you have enough to fill the new house? When you go from an apartment or condo to a single-family home, you generally have a lot more space to fill up. And it’s not just furniture! You will need shower curtains (I learned that the hard way!), area rugs, lamps, décor, and all the other items that make a house a home. My first trips to Bed, Bath, and Beyond after buying a new house cost me upwards of a thousand dollars! Granted, I hardly took anything with me when I moved, but it is still something to be aware of and to budget for.

Are you a realtor who wants to provide the best experience for your clients? Check out ClickyHomes!*

Closing Costs

Closing costs aren’t exactly hidden costs, but they are expensive and it’s definitely not something that everyone considers when buying a home. Closing can cost up to 10% of the price of your home!  I paid about ten thousand dollars to close on my house. This includes attorney fees, the first home inspection, escrow fees, and bunch of other miscellaneous things that all the companies involved in closing charge you for. You need to budget for this huge expense at closing so you aren’t caught off guard.

Warranty

Unless you are buying a brand-new home (which usually comes with a warranty) you should definitely look into purchasing a home warranty at closing. In my area, the top- level warranty costs about five hundred dollars. It covers plumbing, electrical, appliances, and anything that goes wrong with the house for the first year. It offers piece of mind.

I’m really glad I got the warranty with my house, because about 3 months after purchasing it, I had a pretty serious leak. I called the warranty company who hooked me up with a plumber; and I was able to fix the problem without having it affect my insurance.

Insurances

Speaking of insurance…homeowner’s insurance is a must have when financing a home. Usually, your lender will discuss the approximate costs of this with you well before you sign the final paperwork. But homeowner’s insurance might not be the only insurance that you need.

Did you know that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover floods or earthquakes? If you are purchasing a home in a flood zone, you will be required to purchase the FEMA flood insurance. Even if you aren’t in a flood zone, with all the crazy weather we’ve been having these past few years, flood insurance might not be a bad idea. You never know when that freak storm will dump 40 inches of rain on you. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you may also want to consider earthquake insurance. 

Renovations

If you are buying your absolute dream house, you may not have to worry about renovations. But most houses have at least some minor cosmetic issues that you will want to improve upon. The house I bought had hideous carpet and paint. These were super easy fixes, but they were definitely something that I needed to include in my budget.

Related: Check out these helpful tips for home buyers!

Inspections

I already mentioned the house inspection when I was talking about closing costs, but did you know that there are numerous other inspections you can get that aren’t included in your closing?  One of the most important additional inspections you should look into getting is a termite inspection. Nobody wants to buy a house only to learn that it’s been eaten away by these voracious pests. It’s much easier to prevent termites than it is to get rid of them when they are established.

HOA

Are you going to live in a community with an HOA?  Sometimes, there is no way around it. Pretty much all of the homes I looked at in Savannah had some sort of HOA. Some of the fees are outrageous! I looked at one house where the HOA fees were almost 300 bucks a month!  To be fair, that neighborhood had amazing amenities, but I wasn’t looking to pay that much. The HOA fee in my current neighborhood is only forty bucks a month, which is way more reasonable.

HOA fees aren’t always bad. Having an HOA helps to maintain the property values. Many of them also offer a club house or a pool. However, be sure to think about the monthly fee before committing to a mortgage payment.

 

Taxes

Ah taxes. One of the few certainties in life. We all know that property taxes are a thing that need to be paid; but the cost can be a surprise. Make sure that you speak to your lender about estimated property taxes before you agree on a purchase. Most lenders will include them in your total monthly bill, but some will only show you the total for the principle and interest. These customers are then shocked when they receive a monthly bill that’s two or three hundred dollars more than they expected.

Related: Check out the one thing I wish my realtor had!

Services

Owning a home is a lot of work. And there are a lot of things that you need to consider once you have one. Do you live in the South? Yeah, you’re gonna need an exterminator. Do you live anywhere near a city?  You’re probably gonna need a security system. You are also going to need to set up your trash, water, sewer, and utility services. And some cities don’t even include fire protection as part of the property taxes, you have to pay for it separately (WTF Savannah??). These are all things you will need to consider and budget for when purchasing a new home.

Bonus!

Miscellaneous expenses – because stuff always comes up. Always! Make sure you have an extra one to two thousand dollars set aside for that one thing that no one warned you about. Because it will come up, eventually.

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"pay yourself first"

Pay yourself first is one of the first pieces of advice you will here from pretty much any financial advisor or finance blogger. It almost doesn’t even need to be said. Almost.

Unfortunately, a majority of people in the United States don’t follow this tried and true advice. According to a recent survey of Consumer Finances published by Business Insider the median amount in American’s savings account is only about five thousand dollars. This tells me that most American’s aren’t paying themselves first.

Why Should I Pay Myself First?

You should pay yourself first because future you will thank you! Future you will be able to live comfortably in retirement. Future you will have the money to take that dream vacation. You should pay yourself first because you want to be secure and comfortable in the future. It may take some sacrifice now, but even saving a little bit today can pay off big years down the line.

What does paying yourself mean?

Paying yourself first means setting a portion of your paycheck aside for future you before paying your bills and before buying stuff. Many people pay all of their bills and buy all of their stuff first, and then decide if they should save something from the (usually) paltry leftovers. I get it, sometimes you have a lot of bills, and there isn’t a lot of paycheck to go around. If you are in this situation, I understand not being able to put aside some money for savings. But before saying you can’t, investigate your budget and make sure that you don’t have any fat that you can cut. Most people have at least a little fat; but we all know how much harder it is to lose that last tiny bit.

How should you pay yourself first

There are a few ways to pay yourself first, but I think the most tried and true way is to put it on autopilot. I have 7% of my paycheck automatically put into my retirement account, and I have another 3% automatically placed into various savings accounts. So technically, I never even see a full 10% of my paycheck. It goes to the most important thing – Me! The remaining 90% is used for bills, fun, incidentals and additional savings (technically, I pay myself first, and then I pay myself again with whatever is left over after the bills are paid).

What should I do with my paycheck to me?

In my opinion, the best way to pay yourself is by contributing to some type of retirement account; especially if you have an employer match. There are other options as well; you can put money into a savings account or a regular investment account. The main point is to put it someplace where you won’t accidentally spend it or include it in your monthly budget. If you need some tips on how to get started, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Investing.

 

It’s impossible to overstate how important paying yourself first really is. We want everyone to succeed and everyone to achieve the type of financial independence that works best for them. Paying yourself first is the first step to getting there.

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Blog Growth Strategies for our Fourth Month

Readership

This fourth month was Partner’s in Fire’s first month with a decrease in readership. According to Google Analytics, we only had 459 users as compared to 516 during out third month. However, given all that happened this month, I think that’s still pretty freaking awesome!

Why did our Readership decrease?

I’m fairly certain that the main reason for our decrease in readership is the fact that Jonathan and I broke up and mutually decided that he shouldn’t be a part of the blog. In previous months, he was sharing the posts on his personal Facebook page and gaining users from Instagram.  Most of his Facebook friends who were supporting us by reading the blog decided to stop following when he was no longer a part of it. I totally understand this though, and I kind of expected it. I knew I’d have to work harder to gain and maintain readers, and I’m working on it.

"4th month stats"

I’ve also been enjoying my life a bit more and that means I’m dedicating a little more time to going out and having fun with my new boyfriend and my friends than I was before. Unfortunately, I don’t have an unlimited amount of time, so that means I spent a bit less time on the blog. But I’m actually really happy for the first time in a long time, so I’ll take the trade-off. I’m sure when the buzz wears off I’ll be able to focus more on blogging.

Posting

Another reason why (in my opinion) our readership decreased is that I didn’t exactly stick to my posting schedule. I missed a Sunday. We only lost a few users as compared to last month, but I’m sure some of it was due to the missing post. However, I went out of town that weekend and had a blast in Orlando, so I don’t regret not posting. You have to enjoy your real life first.

Social Media

The majority of our users are still coming from Social Media. The top referrer this month was Facebook, with 102 users coming from there alone. I think a big portion of that was due to my friend from Tread Lightly, Retire Early posting The Worst Financial Decision of My Life in a group dedicated to helping women in Finance (Thank You!). I think another part of that was my real friends and family’s interest in what was going on with Jonathan for all those years. Either way, I appreciate all the support.

Twitter and Pinterest were neck in neck this month!  I had 85 users from each platform. This is the first time that my Pinterest stats are even close other stats, so maybe using Tailwind is starting to pay off. It’s definitely something that I’m going to keep working on moving forward, and I can already see the potential for amazing growth through that platform.

Monetization

Affiliates

Monetizing the blog through the use of affiliates still isn’t bringing in any income, but I’m still working on it!  We did get a few clicks to Amazon this month, but none of them resulted in any sales. None of the other affiliate networks that we’ve been utilizing has resulted in a sale yet either, however I rarely include them in my blog posts. I don’t want to be spammy or sell products that I don’t believe in, so although I am a member of these affiliate programs, it’s hard to find products that fit with me and the themes of my post. I’d rather be authentic than make extra money pushing products I don’t believe in.

 

Ads

We are still using Adsense to generate ad revenue for our blog. Currently, we’ve made about thirteen bucks with it (one dollar over last month, woot!). We are  still hoping to get enough unique visitors and pageviews in the next few months to upgrade to a better ad program. I keep eyeing mediavine; but I don’t have nearly enough users yet for that!

What’s Next?

My goal for my fifth month is the same as my goal was for this month…get to 500 users on my own!  I was super close this time (I only missed it by 40 users!) so I think I should be able to get there if I stick to my posting schedule and participate a bit more in my Facebook blogger groups (I’ve kind of neglected them this month unfortunately; maybe that’s another reason why my numbers were a bit lower).

All in all though, I’m super happy with the progress that Partners in Fire has made during the four months that we’ve been a live blog, and I’m looking forward to continued growth in the coming months.

What are your favorite blog growth strategies?  Leave a comment and let us know!

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Have you ever heard of Regal Assets?  If not, you’re in luck, because that means you probably haven’t invested with them. 

Regal Assets is an IRA company that specializes in gold. It’s a company that basically lets you convert your cash/investment holdings into gold and other precious metals; supposedly for safety in retirement. 

High Paying Affiliate

I first heard of Regal Assets in a blog post that was discussing the top paying affiliates. Regal Assets was on the list, and the writer stated that they paid super high commissions. This was one of the only companies on the list that was in the financials sector, so like any awesome PF blogger I immediately signed up for the affiliate program. And then I started doing some research.

I found so many blog posts avowing the awesomeness of Regal Assets. This company was featured in Forbes, the Huffington Post, and Smart Money!  But I didn’t stop there, I decided to find out what these major players in the financial industry were saying about this amazing company.

The Unraveling

Unfortunately for Regal Assets, this is where the amazing opportunity started to unravel. I could not find one legitimate article on Regal Assets from any of these big publications. The only legitimate thing I found was that it was featured in INC Magazine’s list of 5000 growing companies back in 2013-ish but there is very little information posted about the company in that article, and I couldn’t find them anywhere else on INC’s website. I did find the Forbes article that they mentioned, but it was written by the CEO of the company, and it isn’t even posted on the Forbes website. That seems a bit fishy to me.

Related: Terrible Investments for Beginner’s

The Regal Assets website itself even lists that it was featured in all of these places, but there are not any links to the articles. I would understand this if the company has been around since the 1980’s, and all of their featured articles were from before the time of the internet. But Regal Assets was founded in 2009, and we all know that anything posted on the internet stays forever. So why wouldn’t the company link to the articles? And why couldn’t I find any of the articles through a google search?  That seems shady to me.

 

So is it a scam?

But is Regal Assets a scam? To be honest, I don’t know. I have found some stories on mainstream finance websites about their new bitcoin IRA, which seemed like a really interesting idea to me. There was a post featured on Market’s Insider (a subsidiary of Business Insider I believe) about this new fund.

Unfortunately, the article was a Press Release issued by the company. It wasn’t written by an independent journalist. This seems to be a common theme with this company. I haven’t found any non-affiliated journalists, market insiders, or financial experts talking about the company at all. To me, this is a huge red flag.

Red flag number two is that a great deal of the affiliates (blogs, you-tubers, etc) open with “is regal assets a scam?”.  If you have to get customers by promising you aren’t a scam, you’re probably a scam.

No Solid Proof

I can’t say for sure that Regal Assets is a scam. It may be a totally legitimate company who’s marketing just rubs me the wrong way. But I am not going to invest with them. I would advise you to do your own research and make your own educated decision before investing with them, but then again, you should be doing that all the time anyway. Happy Investing!

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"Realized vs unrealized gains"

Realized vs Unrealized gains and losses

The stock market is freaking nuts! The Dow is up, now it’s down, now it’s the highest it’s ever been, now its dropped the largest percent in history…what the hell is going on?  You’ve lost big, then you’ve won big, and now you’ve lost again. But have you really lost?  Did you realize your losses? Knowing the difference between realized and unrealized gains and losses is incredibly important.

The Big Secret

The truth is that neither gains nor losses are real until you make them real! (Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. The one exception to this rule is if an individual stock you hold goes bankrupt…that loss is usually real!). But in most other cases, you don’t score big until you realize your gains, and you don’t lose big until you realize your losses.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t always understand this. Maybe they do on a logical level, but when emotions get involved, that logic can fly out the window. When stocks plummet, people tend to freak out and sell.  So, what ends up happening? They realize their losses at the worst possible time, and lose a whole bunch of money. If they would have stayed invested, the markets would eventually improve and they would never have realized the loss. In effect, they wouldn’t actually have lost money!

Related: Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Investing!

Exceptions to every rule

There are caveats to this. Owning individual stocks is way riskier than owning index funds. Your initial investment may be decimated, and it may never regain its value. When I was a novice investor, way back in 2007, I bought a whole bunch of individual stocks. One of them was this random European shipping company. During the crash of 2008, the company lost more than half of it’s value. It’s been 10 years and it still hasn’t improved. I’m still holding onto it (because at this point it doesn’t really matter) but I doubt it will ever improve. However, the losses haven’t been realized yet, so there’s always the possibility (albeit slim) that the company will somehow turn itself around and I’ll recoup that initial investment. There’s also the possibility that the company will go bankrupt and I’ll lose everything I have in it. You win some you lose some.

 

Housing

Housing is a huge sector in which people don’t consider whether gains have been realized or not. People love to claim how much their house has risen in value and talk about how rich they are because their house is worth a pretty penny. But you can’t buy food with that money (unless you take out a home equity loan, which is a terrible idea!!!). You can’t actually make money on your house until you sell it.

That’s the reason why I wanted to move out of California. My house’s value skyrocketed!  It was amazing! But I was still paying the same in mortgage, and the increased value wasn’t helping me financially in any way. I was sitting on a pile of unrealized gains. However, when I sold, I realized (and pocketed!) the gain. I wasn’t going to be left holding the bag when the housing market drops again!  And It will, eventually. All markets have peaks and valleys.

Related: Getting lucky with Real Estate

Never sell?

I hope you aren’t taking away from this post that you should never sell. I’m not! Sometimes it’s prudent to take a loss. If an individual stock is plummeting and its fundamentals are poor, you may want to sell it before the company goes bankrupt, before you lose even more money, or if you aren’t happy with the amount of risk in your investment. Or maybe it’s time to diversify. There are plenty of good reasons to sell even in a down market. My point in writing this is to explain that losses (and gains too!) aren’t actually real until you pull out. No money is gained or lost until you sell your investment (again, unless the company goes bye-bye or something drastic happens – exceptions to every rule and all that!).

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"the worst financial mistake"

It’s hard to be transparent, even with strangers on the internet. So it’s hard to discuss the worst financial mistake of my life. Its not something you would typically hear…I didn’t by a house in the bubble or charge hundreds of thousands of dollars to my credit cards or lose big in a casino. I lost big in love, and it cost me.

What was the worst financial MISTAKE of my life?

The worst financial mistake of my life was getting involved with an alcoholic. And then staying with that alcoholic for over five years. I kind of consider it one big never-ending mistake, since it was the mistake that kept on giving. I was stupid, I didn’t know how serious of a thing alcoholism was, and I thought that I could help a friend.

I didn’t move Jonathan in with me with the intent of having a relationship with him. He was an old friend who was going through a tough time, and I thought I could help him get back on his feet by giving him a place to stay far away from his hometown. I didn’t know the extent of his alcoholism (I also didn’t know about his bipolar disorder).

Eventually, our living together turned into a relationship. I really did care about him, so much.   Maybe that is why I turned a blind eye to the alcoholism at first. Maybe that’s why I let him treat me so poorly for the first few years. I had built up this amazing image of him in my head, and when that didn’t coincide with reality, I made excuses.

My first mistake

So here’s where the financial disaster comes in. Jonathan didn’t work for the first few years we were together. I paid for all of the bills, all of our living expenses, and I even supported his beer habit. But he always had an excuse. It was a bad economy. The area we lived in wasn’t conducive to him getting a job. He wanted to start his own business. He couldn’t compete in the job market. And I, being stupid and naïve, believed him. I let him get away with it, again and again.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the extent of my stupidity.  I gave him money for the business he was trying to grow out of the garage. He collected video games, he’d buy them at garage sales and off of craigslist for low prices and resell them (but not on Ebay, that was too much work, so he sold them to another dude who sold them on ebay). I would help him make a deal occasionally (more often than I’d care to admit) and he’d always promise to pay me back with the profit (sometimes he did, more often he didn’t). Usually he had enough money to keep his small business going and to keep himself in alcohol and cigarettes. He never paid a dime towards living expenses.

Related: See how Partners in Fire is moving forward from this break up

Having a job

J eventually found a decent paying job with our neighbor’s company doing office work. He actually had to get up and go to work every day!  He worked from 6 am to 2 pm, and he was usually drunk by the time I got home. Sometimes, he wasn’t home when I got home, and I’d find him at the local bar, blowing his paycheck on shots (usually he stayed home to drink). Even with this job I didn’t see any money, but I was just glad to not be paying for his habit anymore.

Enough

I finally had enough in January of 2016, when he decided that he’d rather drink than go to work. It wasn’t good before this point by any means, but I was holding things together.

Him deciding not to work was the first last straw for me. We broke up. He promised to try and do better. He would stay sober for a week, then a few days, then another week. But every time he would go back to drinking. It seemed like he would do just enough to get me to stay with him.

By June of 2016, I had enough again. I ended it again and told him the only way I’d stay with him is if he went to rehab. He found himself a rehab facility that would take him (I paid for him to get on a health plan through the affordable care act – another huge waste of money) and off he went.

He stayed in rehab for about 60 days. I was so proud of him! He quickly became a team leader and helped other people stay in rehab too. He was ready to rejoin the real world and give up alcohol!  Woot!

After rehab

Unfortunately, his new-found sobriety only lasted for four days after he got out of rehab. He made up some story about why drinking was ok because he was holding himself accountable (they always have an excuse).

For the next six months, we were very on and off. I’d break up, he’d claim to try, I’d give him another chance, and then we’d be right back at square one. Then he confided that he knew he could quit drinking, he just had to face and overcome his biggest fear – a DUI he had gotten back when he was 20. He was terrified that he would have to go to jail over it.

Another mistake

I helped him (yet again). I lent him two thousand dollars so that he could get a top DUI lawyer. He promised he would pay me back a month later when he received his tax refund check. By this point, he had already siphoned about 10 grand away from me, so I didn’t want to give him the money. I didn’t trust him to pay it back. But, he really needed the lawyer to overcome this one last thing, and if he waited he might not be able to get him. So I lent him the money on the strict condition that he’d pay it back as soon as he got his check.

Well, he got the check and he gave the money to a friend of his who was “in a bad situation” instead of paying me back. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. This was the point where I lost any trust that I ever had in him. Looking back, this was the point where our relationship truly ended. This is what I still can’t forgive him for or recover from.

He did actually get the lawyer though, and he was able to avoid jail with community service (which he completed!). But that didn’t stop the drinking. 

 

Still trying to make it work

I still stupidly tried to make the relationship work. I thought he could get better, even after all that, and even after I knew I could never trust him again. When I got the transfer to Savannah, I told him that this could be our chance to start over. We would be in a new city, where he had opportunities!  He could make some friends and move forward with his life!

Unfortunately that didn’t happen. The first few months in Savannah were a nightmare. But of course, I was to blame for it, because he didn’t have any friends. He couldn’t get a good job close enough to the house. He had nothing and no one in Savannah, so his only option was to drink.

I ended things with him again in October. I set up a Tinder profile and started dating other guys. J realized he was on the verge of losing me and started actually trying. He got a bus pass so he could get around town and signed up for a temp agency and found a decent job. I didn’t give in right away though.  I continued going on dates with other guys; and I told him that I wouldn’t even consider getting back with him unless he was sober for over 30 days. I also told him that if he drank ever again, it would be over. However, I was driving him to and from work at this time; because it was far away from the bus routes and he really needed the job.

One last try

He actually made it the 30 days. He kept his job, started paying for some house stuff, and offered to do some hard tasks around the house as a way to start paying me back. Was he turning over a new leaf?  Was almost losing me for good the catalyst he needed to turn his life around??

I hoped so. I stopped dating other guys and decided to give him one more chance. But I wasn’t done making terrible decisions!  I knew that there was one major think limiting him, and that was his ability to get around. He was relying on either me or a less than reliable bus system. If he was really going to make it, this was unsustainable.

And One More Mistake

So, I told him that for Christmas, I would help him get a car. I meant that I would put 500-1000 towards a down payment or a beater. However, his credit was terrible. There was no way he could get something financed in his name alone. He fell in love with this used Kia, and although I felt uncomfortable co-signing; I let him pressure me into it. He absolutely promised that he would pay and he would work and that he would change and he wouldn’t screw me over. I didn’t exactly believe him, but I realized he didn’t stand a chance without reliable transportation, so I tried to believe him.

From December until our final breakup in January things were shaky. He didn’t keep his word about not drinking, but I was terrified that he’d just leave with the car and screw me over so I didn’t break up with him. Actually, I did breakup with him and he threatened to do just that. He used the financial disaster of the car as a way to keep me with him.  

It’s really over

But a person can only take so much. I finally decided that I’d rather ruin my credit than let him hold me hostage over the car. I broke up with him and promised myself that I wouldn’t let him manipulate, threaten, or guilt me back into a relationship. In addition,  I started seeing a therapist who helped me identify his manipulative behavior. And, amazingly enough, I ended up meeting an amazing man who makes me feel like I’m the only woman on the planet.

Although looking back, I’m deeply ashamed that I let myself be used for so long; I’ve been so happy since he moved out. I feel free. I feel like I can be myself again and that I can relax in my own home! This past month of freedom has been indescribably amazing! 

And for anyone in a similar situation – Get out. Get out now. They won’t change. They will say whatever they think you want to hear so that they can continue doing what they want. Take care of yourself first. You deserve better.

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