Quote of the Day

January 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older – by Tom Stoppard, Czech-born British playwritter. From Bloomberg.

Consumer Spending Weaker?

December 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Being a finance professional, I read about Consumer spending being weak this year during black Friday, but as a mother, and as a consumer, I don’t believe in it.

My example is very simple. My younger daughter wants to have a Lego Friend Dolphin Cruiser for Christmas, so I have been tracking the price of it – thanks to third party website and smart phone apps, it is very easy now.

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I was being stupid when I saw the price under 52$ but thought there could be better deal over black Friday and passed. Then, the price only went higher, and finally the toy gone completely out of stock for at least a week till now from Amazon. On Amazon, you still can have it at 99$ from a third party retailer.

Looking at other places, I found it is completely sold out in Walmart and target, online and in local stores. It is still available at Toys r Us, at 69.99$ but no coupon can be used as it is a “hot price item”, together with a sales tax of 6$, I am looking at 24$ more expensive then 2 weeks before. 24$ may not be a big amount, but that is 46% higher than what it was at 52$ 2 weeks ago! What’s most crazy is that I found it at 159$ at Barnes & Noble:

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I am not trying to say Barnes&Nobles is evil, because no business is evil. If they over price, then they are stupid. I believe in efficient market, I believe it is really a “hard to get item” to justify such a crazy price on their website.

Okay, Dolphin Cruiser is on fire. I don’t want to pay the 46% premium although I love my daughter to death, and it is the top item on her Christmas wishlist. I started looking for similar replacements. Lo and behold, the same story happened to many other Lego friends products. For example, Olivia’s house can be found at around 75$ now from third party retailer on Amazon, but it was less than 50$ 2 weeks ago from Amazon itself.

Not sure if it is a marketing strategy, and I am still debating if I should take the 46% loss. What I know for sure is, man, consumer spending is NOT weak!

How to report IRA Rollover – by 美西游子

February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Copied from Wenxuecity.com

1099-R input:

1. manualy on form 1040:  Enter the total distribution on line 15a. enter “0” on line 15b. enter “Rollover” next to line 15b.

your AGI keeps unchanged that way.

2. TurboTax:  You enter the 1099-R at

Federal Taxes (Personal if using Home and Business)
Wages & Income
choose Explore on my own
Scroll down to
Retirement Plans and Social Security
click start or update on the appropriate line, –

Enter all of your information exactly as it appears on the 1099-R form. If box 2a is zero or says unknown then leave it BLANK!

After you enter the 1099R be sure to answer all the follow up questions on the next screens to determine how much is taxable or not. Go all the way to the end of the section. You have to enter it from the 1099R because there are codes on it you need to enter properly.

at the end, proof-read your form 1040.

for details, please read instruction carefully on line 15a/15b and 16a/16b as follows:

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040gi.pdf

How to save thousands on Tax Legally? – For my Mandarin Readers only

February 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

I ran into this youtube video about saving taxes. It is super thorough. I wish I had seen it earlier.

The only drawback is that it is in Mandarin. Sorry for my English readers.

Logistics about my most recent Real Estate Investment

February 13, 2012 § 5 Comments

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My most recent investment property was built in 1990, – it would probably be considered very new in Boston, but it is the oldest property I have ever purchased.

The last time the property was sold was in 2001, for 92k$.  Since it was foreclosed in March 2011, it has been on the market from April to Oct. The listing price, not surprisingly, has been heading south since then, from 99.9k$ to 74.9k$. I closed it at 50k$. Of course, I paid stamp fee, title insurance, etc., anything related to a REO sale.

I do not know when, but at some point of time, someone changed all the appliances, including stove, dishwasher, and even the HAVC.

The carpet was new and even the paint was fresh. The cosmetic changes they, I assumed the bank, did made me very light-headed. I started posting “For Rent” sign almost the next day after getting the keys, without a single check, not to mention improvement.

The timing was bad. It became obvious after a few shows. It seems those who are looking for a place to live before Christmas are those irresponsible enough to be kicked out during holiday seasons. People with quite a few eviction records within a year, people who do not keep promises, people who are not willing to take any credit checks.

I wasn’t nervous, as this wasn’t my first time as landlord. I was ready to stay vacant during the holidays, or even longer – who wants to move in winter? However, that doesn’t mean I was not annoyed – I was, really. The house was 40 minutes away from mine. And the guy I used to hire to show my other property was on vacation too. I really hated to take my 2y old and drive 40 minutes to meet someone who may not even show up! I started losing my patience. I decided to do a few cosmetic things for it – including painting the stairs, and entrance. The most significant change was lowering my rent. For a 3b2.5b two story house with a nice yard, I am only asking 985$ for rent. I even offered half off for the first month.

The house got rented, but the story did not end. The tenant was not able to give me the security deposit and the first month rent (which was already half off) immediately. They offered to give me 500$ deposit. The check bounced. The next time we met, they gave me part of the deposit. I had to meet them three times just to collect enough security deposit!

By the time they collected the keys, they did the regular walk-through, which I thought they already did three times during the first three times we met, for showing, and first and second deposit attempts! Anyways, they were very thorough with every details, and they wanted to have three windows tuned. – I called three contractors, and the best price was 942$ to have all of them changed, as they are too old to be tuned.

After they moved in and had all the electricity, gas, and water turned on, we had another set of problems. The bathrooms started to leak, one after another. ‘Cause that was quite an emergent thing, I did not have time for price comparison. Those three bathroom bowls costed me 1725$.

I learned a lesson – whether how great the property looks, I need to have it checked.

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Great Saturday Lunch

February 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

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When hubby cooks, we have better meals. – I have to admit…
Sashimi, kidney, fish, and tomato eggs.