Maybe money does not buy happiness after all

January 12, 2010

Interesting article and slide show found on CNBC. Here is the text:

As it turns out, some of the highest income states are among the unhappiest, according to a recent study by economists Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu, of the University of Warwick and Hamilton College, respectively.

Taking into account both subjective and objective factors such as sunshine, congestion and pollution in a survey of 1.3 million Americans between 2005 and 2008, the researchers determined which states have the happiest – and unhappiest – residents. Among the happiest are Louisiana, Hawaii and Florida.

“Some might be surprised that states in the south with lower income ranked as high as they did,” said Wu, economist at Hamilton College. “States with high income rate fairly low on the happiness levels. To some it might seem counterintuitive; it’s not just about income levels, but those places might be more crowded, more congested on the roadway, [have] less available land.”

For the slide show click on this link: The Unhappiest States in America


Rent or Buy?

January 2, 2010

It can be very tempting to buy a home before you are ready.  Why pay rent when you can pay a mortgage instead, and own your home? 

When you buy, you have to pay the mortgage, and property taxes, and pay for repairs that become necessary.   When you rent, you only have to make the agreed-upon rent payment.  Most repairs are not your responsibility.  You can move easily when your lease is up if your life changes.

If you borrow $300,000 to buy a home, and the interest rate is 5%, you must make a payment of at least $1250 a month just to cover the interest that is accumulating.  If you want to pay down the principal of $300,000, then in the first year, for example, to reduce the principal by $12,000, your mortgage payment would be $2250 per month.   If you only pay the interest, you are just renting from the bank, and you are still responsible for repairs and property taxes. If interest rates go up, which will happen eventually, as they have been at or near historic lows for many years, then either your payments must increase, or it will take longer to pay off the mortgage.

There are many mortgage calculators on the internet. The calculator on the Coast Capital website,  provides a good comparison between renting and buying.  Create a few scenarios, and pay close attention to the amount of interest you pay.  The numbers may shock you. 

Take the time to accumulate a good down payment, and funds for property taxes, closing costs, and unexpected repairs.

Buy when the time is right for you, not because your family or friends or news reports say that now is the time to buy.

You Know More About Investing Than You Think

September 22, 2009

j0367528[2]Before you begin researching potential investments or asking an advisor for advice, understand that you already have within you the most important piece of information you need to choose investments. Always ask yourself, “what am I going to do with this money, and when do I hope to do it?”. 

It is very important to match the type of investment with the purpose of the investment.  The best investment for one purpose, such as saving for a vacation, is not the best investment for another purpose, such as saving for retirement.   The funds to be used for a vacation should be accessible (liquid) and have a predictable value at the time you plan to pay for the vacation. A high interest savings account or a short-term certificate of deposit matches the purpose.  If you invest in a high-risk stock, with the intention of selling it to use as your vacation fund, it is quite possible that the original amount you invested could have dropped in value, twenty per cent or more.  It is equally possible that it may have increased as much as twenty per cent.  It is the uncertainty of the value of the investment that makes it a bad choice for a shorter- term goal such as a vacation.  If you choose to gamble, which is what you are doing when you make a short-term investment in a high-risk stock, you take the chance of not having enough money to pay for your cruise when you book it.

If an advisor starts suggesting investments before asking why you are investing, RUN AWAY. The advisor clearly is only interested in his or her commission and/or selling you the hot product of the moment.

Once you choose a purpose for the funds you are investing, keep with your original plan whenever possible.    Don’t deposit your emergency fund into your RSP, with the idea that you can make a withdrawal if necessary. Even if you keep the “emergency fund” money in a safe investment within the RSP, withdrawing RSP funds earlier than you intended to can have negative tax consequences. (In a future post, I will explain why I believe it is a bad idea to withdraw from your RSP to buy a home.)   You will have tax withheld from the withdrawal depending upon the dollar amount of the withdrawal, and you may have to pay additional income tax the following year.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.