Apr 10, 2009

Weekend Respite

In the month of March, I posted at least 5 times a week, at or around 6AM everyday. So far this month, that has not been the case. Here's why.

In the last week, I have had a computer die, got a temporary old laptop from Jordan Shaw, ordered a new macbook, got the new macbook, and started the process of launching a new website (or two). Oh, and I'm also trying to move in the next two weeks.

That's right, the personal finance blog is going to its own domain, and its own host, very soon. I just need the weekend (of which I have four days) to finalize some technical stuff, and then I'll link to it from here. I'm very excited to start a year long project into the world of personal finance blogging. It's going to be great.

I apologize for not posting regularly. It shall resume next week.

Apr 8, 2009

Illusion of Security

My day job requires me to enter into a lot of people's yards. Recently, we've reached a part of Vancouver where the houses are bigger, the dogs are meaner, and almost every house has a gate and a fence. These aren't the normal gates though, the nice ones where you walk up to, open the gate, and walk in. Oh no, these gates are the ones that require you to buzz an electronic system (with camera and speakerphone) in order to gain access. These people have built their fortresses for security, but a lot of the time, it is merely an illusion.

For example, a lot of people will have two gates, one of which is locked, the other is wide open. What purpose does the locked gate serve? Does it keep me out of your yard? Would it prevent a burgler? Other gates are locked, but the fence stops three feet short of the gate, allowing access. Some people have incredible security on the front of their houses, but not the back, signs warning against dogs, but no dogs, and alarm company logos next to doors that are propped open or unlocked.

I've decided that for the most part, people are seeking the illusion of security as much as they are seeking actual security. It is merely the sense of feeling safe that we as humans so desperately desire. It doesn't matter if the fence will actually keep out someone intending to rob us, because in actuality, not even a six foot fence would stop a determined man. But just knowing that it is there, and that it might deter someone, even if just for awhile, is worth it.

I think a lot of us wish that we had more financial security. So we build up an illusion of security around us, by ignoring our debts, or by pretending our credit limit is high enough to handle emergencies. Maybe we have a small emergency fund set aside, but no plan for a job loss or retirement. Financially, there are a lot of things that we could, and perhaps should be worried about, but we think we're okay as long as at least one of our gates are locked.

Where are the unlocked gates in your life? Do you feel secure? Are you one paycheck away from being broke? Do you want a sense of security, a sense of serenity? I know I do.

Apr 6, 2009

Combining Finances: Starting to Date

This post is the second post of a series on Combining Finances.

When two people begin to date, money is often the last thing that they want to talk about. However, money can also begin to cause a number of problems early in the relationship that may not be able to be repaired unless they are quickly and properly addressed.

When a man and a woman go out on a date - who pays? For a number of decades, this was not even a question that ought to be asked. The man would take the woman on the date, and he would pay for the meal, or the movie, or the drinks. Alongside equal employment and wages, however, came a shift towards equal payment on dates. A man and a woman would go out on a date, and they might each pay for their own meal. Or, they might take turns paying for dates, switching between them in order to simplify the dates. No longer can a woman assume that her boyfriend will pay for all of their dates.

Addressing the "who pays for dates" question is one that should come up early on in the dating relationship. It's not the only question that will arise, and its not the only one that must be answered. What happens when one invites the other over for dinner? Does one pay for all the food, and is that going to be reciprocated?

When Ashley and I started to date, we spent the majority of the time at her apartment. My apartment was shared with two other guys, so space and privacy was severely limited. However, that meant that we also spent a lot of the time eating out of Ashley's fridge and cupboards. We had to address if I would bring my own food, if I would feed her, or if she would feed me. I think we both felt the desire to keep it somewhat "fair", but establishing what is and isn't fair becomes and incredibly complicated procedure when you also include who does dishes or cleans up after.

My advice to those that are beginning to date is to talk openly about financial expectations. Your greatest chance for success is going to come when you are able to establish who is paying for what. It is going to be uncomfortable, but a lot of conversations that you have are going to be awkward. Avoiding awkward or uncomfortable conversations is just going to prolong and worsen the situation.

Talk about:
  • Dates (how often, who pays)
  • Food (where, what kind, shared or individual)
  • Commuting (where are you going to meet, hang out, is it farther for one person? does only one of you have a vehicle? will the other share gas costs?)
As it is with so many other things in life, taking action now will reduce the potential for pain later. Establish how you're going to go about dating, financially, and you'll reduce the chance for missed communication and misunderstanding.