Pay for a Wedding – with Cans?

Andrea and Peter wanted a nice, modest wedding for their 150 person guest list. Nothing grand. In fact, their $3,800 budget was light years below the $19,581 average wedding cost for U.S. couples. How did they pay for it? With cans of course:

“From the start, we knew we wanted a simple wedding, an event that was more a celebration of the friends and family that made us who we are and are a part of our lives. Basically, get an awesome space large enough to hold everyone, and have a party — with a small ceremony held somewhere in the middle of it all”, Andrea said.

So they decided to raise the money by recycling aluminum cans—400,000 of them. What prompted them to go the frugal route when so many couples seem to have budgets that are bursting at the seams?

“When we started the project, it was the budget friendliness. I just got a job after 10 months of unemployment, we had just purchased a house a few months before I got laid off, and in general live pretty frugally. The prospect of dropping even $3,000 to $4,000 on a wedding just hurt.”

They were already living a frugal and environmentally friendly lifestyle so adding the can collecting to their already full schedule wasn’t a stretch.

They’ll say their “I dos” July 31 in Spokane, Wash., with their goal met, thanks to a little help from their friends, 1,487 Facebook fans, 247 Twitter followers, a blog and a worldwide media blitz. True budget snobs indeed.

Read the full story at MSN Money Central.

Focus on Job First then Investments

What does it mean to focus on job first? According to a recent article in the online Wall Street Journal

“You have more control over what you do in the work force than in your portfolio,” says Ms. Hogan [a financial planner in Milwaukee]. That’s why she focuses more on understanding her clients’ job profiles and growth prospects than she does on trying to figure out which asset classes are going to deliver market-beating returns, she says.”

This is interesting because it’s not conventional advice. Most gurus recommend saving right away regardless of profession and that the younger you are the more aggressive with stock allocations you should be. Which is true. But I don’t think most people associate their career path with their long term savings plan. Not in the strictest sense anyway.

“General knowledge about what is happening in her clients’ professions sometimes figures into Ms. Hogan’s advice. When some of her physician clients told Ms. Hogan that reimbursements in their procedure-oriented specialties were going down, she made their portfolios more defensive by cutting back on stock allocations. If clients’ income is tied to the stock market, such as is the case with brokers, she suggests a low stock allocation because these individuals already are exposed to stocks through their jobs.”

I think about my career/job in terms of income but not necessarily how it should affect my investment strategy. Other than if I can work then I should work. And I should work for as long as I can.

How Men and Women View Money

Differently, of course. Thankfully, my better half is the bargain hunter. I, on the other hand, think that higher price = better value. According to,

“Men and women have very different attitudes toward saving for retirement, levels of bargaining ability and confidence when dealing with investments. Not only that, but on average, women make a significantly lower amount of money than men, even when they work in the same position.”

Men Women and Money
See the full-size infographic at

Looking for 10% Returns? Not so Fast.

Or so says bond guru Bill Gross,co-chief investment officer of Pimco and manager of the planet’s biggest bond mutual fund.

“The important thing to recognize is that if you’re looking for 10% returns to pay for college or to retire on, they’re not going to be there. We’ve been an asset-growth-based economy for so long. We’ve skimmed off the top, living off second and third mortgages on homes, and capital gains on stocks and even on bonds. Now instead of having money work for you, you’ve got to work for your money.”

No more investment books touting 12% returns “over the long haul”. The new normal will require more hands on, thoughtful investment strategies. So what should we expect?

Instead of 10% returns for stocks, look for five or so. And instead of the past 20 years’ returns on bonds, which are actually better than stocks — close to double digits — it’s 4% going forward. So that’s what the new normal is. And it’s based upon the primary assumptions of a deleveraging of the private sector and the public sector being limited in what it can spend.

Read the entire article on

As Money Dries Up, Despair Settles In

In a recent article, Michael Luo from the New York Times chronicles the trials of one lady’s plight to find permanent work after losing her job in August of 2008.

Ms. Sadler, who lost her job at an automotive parts plant in October 2008, learned last month that her unemployment insurance had been cut off.

Ms. Sadler, who lives in Carlisle Kentucky, continued…

“I’m basically applying for everything, trying to get something,” said Ms. Sadler, 52, who since early June has not received an unemployment check, which used to be about $388 a week before taxes. “If I don’t, I’m going to lose everything. I’m not going to have a roof over my head. I’m just going to have to walk away with what I have on my back, and my dog.”

On Tuesday, Ms. Sadler scored just her third interview since 2008, for a $7.50-an-hour job at a check-cashing business that is an hour’s drive from her home. It would have paid less than she received on unemployment benefits and left her still unable to cover her expenses, but she had little choice.

It took all her willpower not to reach across the table to shake her interviewer and beg for a chance. The company said she would know by Thursday, but as of Friday she had not heard back.

I know the feelings. I’ve been there although not as desperate but desperate enough nonetheless. It’s a situation that never goes away. A situation that always hangs over your head. Nights became my favorite time because I knew I had made it through another day and that I could at least forget about my situation for a few hours of fitful sleep.

America’s Most Affordable Places to Retire

So, why am I writing about places to retire when I’m nowhere near retirement? Because if a place is affordable for a retiree, then it’s most certainly affordable for a working man, no?

I’m fascinated about places. Whenever I drive through a small town, I’m thinking, “How do people end up living here? What do they do for a living? Do they want to leave but can’t? Did they move here from somewhere else and love it?”

Continue Reading…

How Optimistic are You?

That question was posted on the BankRate Wealth Blog on Friday. Here are a few highlights according to a poll  1,002 Americans:

65 percent of Americans are more concerned about their finances today than they were at the beginning of the financial crisis two years ago.

37 percent expect to see their personal finances improve in the next six months, versus less than half (46 percent) who expect to hold onto what they currently have and 16 percent who expect to lose money.

80 percent of Americans say that Congress and regulators have not done enough “to deal with the financial market problems and their impact on American investors.”

44 percent of Americans expect the U.S. economy to improve in the next six months, while only 28 percent expect things to get worse. A smaller group (22 percent) anticipates no change in the economy.

What to make of this somewhat downer report? Seems like a cautiously optimistic, “wait and see” approach. I know for me, two years ago I was a hurtin’ dude. Failing business. Bad investments. Large mortgage. My financial picture has turned around dramatically in the last two years. Dramatically.

What about you? Do you identify with the poll answers?

Where did we get the $ Sign?

In a recent Slate article, writer Christopher Beam states that…

We got the $ from the Spanish. In the late 18th century, merchants in the North American British colonies traded mainly with two currencies: the British pound and the Spanish dollar. When the United States adopted its own currency in 1785, it used Spanish money as its model–a deliberate “screw you” to the British. Scholars have since theorized that the $ sign evolved out of an abbreviation for peso: The plural for pesos was “ps,” which eventually became “ps,” and then simply an “S” with a single stroke denoting the “p.” One early instance of the $ symbol crops up in a letter written by the merchant Oliver Pollock in 1778. Pollock also uses the “ps” abbreviation, making the letter a bridge between the two. The double-line through the S variation is less easily explained. Some believe they represent the twin pillars of Gibraltar depicted on the Spanish coat of arms. Others say it’s shorthand for the letter “U” superimposed over the letter “S”–for U.S.

Meh. I was hoping for a stork.

Read the rest of the article at Slate.

Dow 1,000? Oh my.

In a recent online New York Times article, Jeff Sommer interviews Robert Prechter, a stock market forecaster, who predicts…

“…we have entered a market decline of staggering proportions — perhaps the biggest of the last 300 years.”

What is this “staggering” market decline?
Continue Reading…

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