Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's a Minion Halloween!

Halloween is a fun time especially for kids! I love to see how creative people can be. There are some parents that hand make costumes which is awesome! I settled for the minion mania! There are a lot of events in the area besides trick or treating in the neighborhood.  One was on October 27, 2013 in Japan Town in San Francisco. With huge inflatable pumpkins, games, and trick or treating at the West and East sides of the mall, this is a very family friendly event!

There was even a guy in a banana suit! Ba-Ba-Ba...
Other events that were posted:
Stonestown Mall, Trick or Treating, 1-3 pm 

Tanforan Mall
Halloween Costume Parade & Contest
Thursday, October 31st, 3:30-5pm by Old Navy
Children ages 1-10 years old can participate in a costume contest for a chance to win mall gift cards! Children will also receive a Halloween bag* filled with goodies to kick-off the festivities. Bags are available while quantities last.
Children in Kindergarten and younger can line up starting at 3:15pm by JCPenney on the lower level. The costume parade will then start at 3:30pm.
Children in first - fourth grades can line up starting at 4:15pm by Sears on the lower level. The costume parage will then start at 4:15pm.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

#BenandJennWedding: Red Lips & Tribal Peplum

Red lips and Tribal Peplum

I love bold, red lipstick! As Taylor swift said, "It makes you look like you spent more time getting ready than u actually did."  I did just quote Taylor Swift lol *SMH.   It makes a dull outfit turn into something magical. I use a lipstick from the Matte Mac family . My friends were getting married and I wanted to wear a new dress and I recently purchased this tribal print dress from forever 21 at the  50% off sale. I had been looking for a tribal print that I could actually pull off; wear it too big and it looks like an over-decorated tent! Peplum is very flattering so when I saw it, I bought it immediately! Pairing red lips and tribal print was a fresh outfit for the wedding season! Add some gold-toed, sequinned shoes...Ready!

Enough about my prep and outfit, the true beauty was the bride in a gorgeous strapless gown and train. A breathtaking golf course in San Jose, CA was the perfect place to marry the love of her life! The wedding was fun and full of memories. This was the only wedding I've been to that rented a taco truck for a late night snack. Yeah, we spent an hour there!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Re-Post (URL Changed): Money Club: Where are you putting your retirement?

I will start and close with a disclaimer: I am NOT providing financial advice.  This is merely a reflection of an experience I have had that was beneficial to me.  If you would like to further your knowledge, you may follow up with finance professionals and/or begin a Money Club of your own.
A close friend of mine who is highly successful invited me to a Money Club, a group of minority women discussing financial planning and health.  A Money Club can obviously be composed of any demographic. However, as highly educated women, many of us have never received an
education on finances.  Unless you specifically majored in Accounting or Finance, many of us have not taken courses in college, and therefore do not understand how to: a) make a budget, b) save for retirement, and c) financially plan for the present and future.  I appreciate HR representatives immensely.  However, many of us tend to get 15-30 minute presentations on 401k’s with the bottom line: “Max out your 401k.  It’s good for you!” Therefore, forming a monthly Money Club seemed like a good idea to improve our financial health.

The benefit of this particular Money Club was that a highly successful woman in Finance was hoping to give back to other women in the form of education and knowledge.  We met at an informal place for snacks.  To start the meeting, we each introduced ourselves and what brought us to
the meeting.  What emerged was that each of us had varying levels of financial knowledge, fears about finance, differents hopes of what we wanted to gain from our
attendance.  Instead of overwhelming everyone, we began to focus on 401k’s/retirement.

So as to not overwhelm the reader, here are the main points that emerged:
• 401k’s used to be a vehicle for very wealthy people to
receive tax breaks
• 401k’s were implemented by companies in order to reduce the burden of providing pensions
          o Most companies have stipulations on the 401k’s 

         (e.g., you can withdraw after X date)
•  401k’s charge management fees and/or index fees, which I did NOT know.
            • Scenario: If you are making a 7% return but you are               being charged management fees of 2%, well you 

             do the math…
• 401k’s tend to provide you with only a few funds to invest your money vs. a Roth IRA that allows you to choose from a variety of stock options and funds
• If you want to lower your tax bracket, you can choose the 401k (pre-taxed dollars) and/or Roth IRA (taxed now not upon withdrawal)
• If you choose to open a Roth IRA, most people maintain a diversified portfolio of companies and/or index funds
• Some companies pay you dividends.  The caveat is this counts as income vs. capital gains (the tax is lower).
• When choosing where to put your money, one of the important aspects to consider is the cost of the service
       o To manage/invest index funds, there tends to me low  

          rates (e.g., .02%).
 To manage/invest in other companies, the cost tends 
          to be higher
• Do not just consider past performance of a stock, examine the strategy of the investment manager

Following a very fruitful discussion, the homework for the upcoming month was examine:
1) What portion of your net worth is in your 401k?
       a. Net worth includes salary, other income, cash 

           savings, retirement minus debt (e.g. value in 
           balances vs. what you owe)
2)      What are the fees and returns of your 401k?
3)      Once you know these answers, what are you going to 

         do about it?

I am so excited about this Money Club, which seems like a rare opportunity.  I hope to spark interest among others, including minority women to begin a club of their own.  It is great way to share ideas related to financial health.  It always helps to have a financial expert and/or individuals with more finance experiences in the group.

Disclaimer: I am NOT providing financial advice.  This is merely a reflection of an experience I have had that was beneficial to me.  If you would like to further your knowledge, you may follow up with finance professionals and/or begin a Money Club of your own.

How not to eat Ramen everyday as a Student (particularly Grad Students)

Mystery Shopping

After I was able to settle down from the excitement of gaining acceptance to a great graduate school program, I realized that a) I was lucky to have a stipend and b) I had to make my budget work on a stipend.  Let's face it, I was tired of being creative with Top Ramen.  A person near and dear to my heart suggested that in order to get to know the area better, we sign up for Mystery Shops.  Have you ever seen those sketchy looking ads about Mystery Shoppers (e.g., Eat for Free)?  Well, we took a chance, and signed up for one of the companies. What transpired after that was a six year+ run of free food, paint, hotel stays, and shipping fees.  Now, it took awhile to get the prime time shops: Hotel stays.  To start, we would mostly eat at a chain restaurant (2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and dessert, and 2 drinks).  Then you fill out a detailed review and submit a copy of the receipt). Therefore a mystery shopper is a person who pretends to be an regular old customer, but you are expected to assist in ensuring good business practices, including customer service, quality of food, extent of an employee's knowledge.  Each assignment will ask for specific things (e.g., Did the employee greet you)?  An example of a company is Inteli-Shop.

There are two caveats: 
1) For every legitimate company that we have used, submission of SSN is required, as you are technically making money on some of these shops.  I am not advocating you do this.  You must evaluate the credibility of each company before you give anyone your information.
2) You need to pay for the items first and you will be reimbursed within 30-60-or 90 days.  For some people this is difficult for start up and makes some people uncomfortable.  
3) Be weary of the cost-benefit analyses of some assignments.  Some assignments will give you money to use to purchase items during the shop.  However, the survey may take 5-6 hours, and it  may not be worth your time.

Ok now that I've provided some caveats, I do have to say, the best shops are:
1) Staying at a hotel for one night, getting free dinner at the lounge (2 appetizers, 2 entrees, drinks), room service for dessert, and free breakfast for two people.
2) $100 for two people at a fine dining restaurant
3) Free massage + free parking
4) Free gallon of paint

Needless to say even after I graduated, it is still nice to save a buck AND have some luxuries.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article are solely my own.  The reader is solely responsible for researching companies and enrolling at their own risk.
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