Bambi Ain’t Easy, and Certainly Not Cheap

Wholly unrelated but very beautiful painting "Man and Woman" - Edvard Munch, 1905

Here at Casa USA Financial Service, we could be seen as moderately crunchy: organic gardens, average aptitude for recycling, *some* homemade cleaning products, and solicitous, borderline irrational patronage of local farms and farmers' markets.  Ah yes, and a subscription to Mother Earth News. Mother does good work on the conventionally sustainable:   reviews of home solar systems, the machinations of pesticide companies, the ins and outs of commercial composters, baking artisan bread and infused vinegars.  All that is good and self-reliant, love it.  However, when Mother delves into the arcane depths of personal finance advice, well, all we can say is that that's an endeavor best left to well-trained professional PF bloggers. The … [Read more...]

The Good Retirement Life in Asia (or not)


Every once in a while bloggers get accosted by strangers offering infographic candy. What's not to like, Hey, just share our snazzy and FREE! graphic on your blog, and you'll look like you really know what you're doing, techo-savvy-blogger-like (and we get a link back to whatever blog we're pushing, duh). Presumably, an infographic appeals to the modern short attention span: easily digestible bits of data wrapped in a pretty visual. This one is the first and probably the last to be hosted here at 101 Centavos. Keep reading below the fold for some commentary. Retire in Asia OK, now that we know a little bit about the price of rent, beer and nightlife, let's talk about the REAL reason that mostly male Westerners dream over … [Read more...]

Retirement Worries, Retirement Strategies

Peaches, plums, blackberries, and zucchini

While many look forward to retirement, even early retirement, others fret, fuss and worry. Top retirement fears, according to my not very thorough web research, drawing from no less than a dozen newspaper articles, blog posts and national poll results. Poor health High healthcare costs Being physically incapacitated Not enough money Having to move in with relatives or own children Social Security crapping out Not *ever* being able to retire Having to work as a Wal-Mart greeter Greedy, grasping, needy boomerang kids Discovering the true value of Depends coupons OK, I made up the last three. I can add one more fear, my own: not being able to eat well. Not terribly rational, but that old saw about seniors trying … [Read more...]

Retiring Abroad — A Few Things to Ponder

Sunset on Agta Beach Resort - Biliran - Philippines - Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia

Retirement is like a long vacation in Las Vegas.  The goal is to enjoy it the fullest, but not so fully that you run out of money.  ~Jonathan Clements Here's a nice mental picture: you're living the dream in a some foreign, exotic locale: nice comfortable bungalow, swaying palm trees, frozen margheritas in comfortable hammocks on sun-kissed evenings. Living high on the food chain, with a maid and gardener, all taken care of by a fraction of the passive retirement income you'd need back home. That's one scenario. Let think about an alternate reality. One day, while you're away from your house, the local cops drop by with a panel truck, and vacuum the house empty, taking every single item of value. Carpets, furniture, clothes, down … [Read more...]

Oil Leaks and Experts


Everybody is an expert I heard this line a while back while listening to a podcast about blogging and podcasting. Everyone is an expert in certain areas of interest or hobbies or experiences where they know more than anyone in their immediate circle, or group, or even town.  They’re a trusted resource without even realizing it.  They know it, and more importantly, they’ve done it. For example, I know that for anything to do with finish carpentry, I can call on a friend and former colleague who’s been making sawdust (as he terms it) for 30 years.  He knows wood.  He can repair or make from scratch parts of antique cabinets to where they look more original than the original. If I have a question about woodworking tools, he’s … [Read more...]

Obscure Senators Intrude on your 401K

Some of our overlords in DC are at it again, waggling their tut-tutting nanny fingers at us.   (This kind of stuff just drives me nuts, so rant alert!) A Senate Bill (The SEAL Act) recently introduced by money-grubbing Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) would limit regular peasants Americans from accessing the funds in their 401K’s for emergency loans. I’ve written on this blog about the pros and cons about taking out loans on the 401k, here and here.  It’s not for everyone, and not for every need, and in fact, most uses of 401K loans are ill-advised.  But it’s a personal decision, left to the individual, and not for two douchebag senators to decide. Senate bill Would Limit Savers using 401Ks as Rainy Day … [Read more...]

Gas Prices, Spreadsheet Geekery, and Last Week’s Recommended Links

The USA Financial Service Fleet

A recent conversation with a neighbor inspired me to dig up and update an old spreadsheet on our gas mileage and consumption. My neighbor suggested installing a K & N Air Filter to our cars for at least a two mile-per-gallon improvement.  A Tornado mixer would add another 2 mpg.  He’s installed them on all four of his family vehicles, and swears by the results.  Given that he’s a confirmed gear-head, able to magically rebuild and restore vehicles from the ground up, I listened closely, and planned accordingly. Back to the spreadsheet. Basically, it tracks the incremental costs we face with our two-vehicle “fleet” when gas prices jump from say, $2.49 to $2.79, or to the current $3.39. The end result is that we … [Read more...]

Mainstream Financial Media vs. PF Bloggers: 401K loans

I am constantly struck at the poor advice or below-average research and information put out by the mainstream financial media, and how badly it compares to the good to great writings out out by personal finance bloggers.  Admittedly, I'm a little biased, but still.... One subject I took an interest in recently was taking a loan from a 401k plan.  We were considering doing just that, and  I wrote a blog post on the pros and cons.  Well, we did eventually take out a relatively small loan, and used it as part of a total cash purchase on rural acreage.  For us, it was a good decision and it's worked out.  The loan will be repaid in full by this time next year. In revisiting this topic, I compared some of the sources I used to … [Read more...]

How To Save over $4,000/year – Tips That May Not Be for Everyone

One more post on how to save money. Go Rural Have you had it up to here with paying exorbitant property taxes on that suburban house?   Move out to the country.  Chances are that place of a few acres out in the sticks has a tax bill that's a fraction of the dough you shell out in town for that generic 2-1/2 car garage 1/2 brick.  Your kids will enjoy a bucolic small town school while you get to commute hours back and forth from a real farm to a cubicle farm. Less money:  save at least $2,500/year net-net in property taxes for moving from a 2,500 sf house to a 1,200 sf house on 5 acres 60 miles out of town. Less storage:  bring your junk, your boat, and your motor home out of storage, and park them in your acre-sized … [Read more...]

Budget versus Actual


Budget vs. Actual. That's the key metric when reviewing performance on any project, from a multi-million gas compression skid package, to the last six months spending in your household.  Did we stick to the food budget, or did we absolutely bust it by going out to eat multiple times each weekend? What is reasonable or average to spend on groceries for a family of four?  Run a Google search on "monthly food budget" or "how much do groceries cost for a  family of four" and opinions and facts will be endless.  Every day we can make a choice to pack a couple of PB&J sandwiches for lunch ($0.75) or chow down on a nice Philly cheese steak and 32-ounce cherry cola and big chocolate chip cookie at the local eatery (up to $10).  … [Read more...]