Archive for the 'Finances' Category

And Now You Are One

Thing 1 and Thing 2 once again played the role of cutest flower girls in the world at a family member’s wedding. It has been a few years since my nuptials with Hot Momma, so I began to seriously question the state of marriage ceremonies these days when the priest advised the group at the rehearsal that some things are inappropriate for a wedding ceremony in the church and then proceeded to give the example that at the end of the last wedding he presided over the bridesmaids streaked down the aisle. I sat there pondering the logistics of such a feat (e.g. how did they get the dresses off so quickly?) as well as cliche manly thoughts (e.g. were they hot?). Then, realizing that I was having these thoughts in church, I snapped back to reality to discover the priest had actually said shrieked. Totally different.

The beautiful wedding was a traditional ceremony in a very ornate church complete with tall stained glass windows and a long center aisle which provided everyone with ample opportunity to see Thing 1 and Thing 2 strut their stuff. The bride looked good too. Everyone kept their clothes on, minimal shrieking occurred. The priest proclaimed that they were now joined together and not to let anyone separate them. Weddings make me reflect on Hot Momma’s and my oneness.

I remembered reading a post by J.D. Roth (no not that J.D. Roth) from GetRichSlowly.org discussing life after debt. He frequently shares that travel is an important interest in his life. He told us of a travel opportunity which had come up but questioned whether he could afford it. He said he needed to come up with his $5,600 by February and parenthetically explained that because he and his wife keep separate finances, she had to come up with her own $5,600 but that would not be a problem since she is the responsible one and has tons of money in savings.

FrugalDad.com had a guest post by Elle from CoupleMoney.com on setting up a financial system as a couple. She described her budgeting system in which she and her husband tally their family expenses and then deposit a proportional amount in accordance to their income. For example, if one spouse brings home 70% of the income, they deposit 70% of their income into the account from which they pay the family expenses. She says they “feel like proportional deposits are a more fair way to handle the bills” for them and acknowledges that everyone has their own budgeting system. She goes on to explain that “it’s fair for us because the bills don’t become a burden on one person.” To be fair, Elle does explain on her blog that she writes from her personal perspective and that you should appreciate that what works for them may not work for you.

Then there is Dave Ramsey’s take on marital budgeting. Anyone who has ever listened to Dave knows that he would disagree with J.D. and Elle. Ramsey’s explanation for combining finances is “when you budget together and put both incomes at the top of the page, and WE spend OUR income on paper and on purpose, WE have agreed on OUR goals and dreams. You need each other. As a long-term means of being effective with your money and marriage, you need to work together and have shared goals.”

While I can see how it could make things more convenient to just have yours, mine and ours; I tend to agree with Ramsey that a married couple should throw everything into a unified pot. Here are only a few reasons why:

Communication
If communication is key to a healthy marriage, communication on finances is one of the most important topics. Aside from communicating about longer-term goals and aspirations for their money, couples that are actually budgeting and tracking their spending need to communicate on the day-to-day spending so that it can be accounted for in the budget. If couples are able to communicate openly about money, they should be able to communicate effectively in other areas of their marriage.

Commitment
I am an attorney, I handle divorces, and I know that often one of the first things a spouse does when they decide they are getting divorced is to start putting money aside either to hide it from the other spouse or to have a cushion for starting their separate life. When a couple combines all assets it makes hiding away funds more difficult and, at least to me, shows a degree of commitment to the marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that people who have separate finances are less committed, but I know that it is significantly easier to begin the process of unwinding the joint venture when the accounts are already split.

Sharing
Yours and mine seems incongruent with being “joined together” in marriage. Maybe I’m old fashioned but, in contrast to Elle’s concern, I have never felt burdened by paying the majority of the family expenses since I am the main income producer. Hot Momma is primarily a stay-at-home mom. We made that choice together. I do not view it that I pay the bills or that she should contribute more to the bills. We pay the bills. She needn’t feel controlled and she doesn’t need permission, she is free to buy whatever she wants. The money is ours. We have already communicated our plans for money in our budget and if either of us is wanting to go off script we communicate again but the money is ours and it is a shared decision. It seems to me that it is hard to be selfish when you are sharing.

We are not the only couple that has benefitted from Dave Ramsey’s teachings. Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo claim that Dave Ramsey saved their sex life. So what do you think? Yours, mine and ours or we are one?

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The iPad as a Laptop Replacement

I bought an iPad two weeks ago. I had been considering the purchase since the product was announced and did a fair amount of research on the product so that I would know what I was getting. Plus I already have an iPhone so I am very familiar with the interface, and so are my kids, as I’ll discuss. I have read many articles complaining that the iPad is nothing more than a huge iPhone and cannot replace a laptop for getting work done. I agree to some extent, but the fact that the iPad is like a huge iPhone is appealing to me because I like the touchscreen interface. At this point I would not scrap the laptop completely but I can see myself using my iPad for things that I used to use my netbook or bigger laptop.

I did buy the Apple Wireless Keyboard and find that it greatly improves my ability to draft longer items. The keyboard is very thin and light and is very easy to bring along with you. I find typing on the iPad screen very similar to typing on the iPhone and I have already become fairly comfortable but the wireless keyboard is much faster and allows for touch typing whereas the iPad screen keyboard seems to work better when I use more of a two finger approach.

I recently went on vacation and opted to take my iPad instead of my netbook. Here is a brief list of how I used my iPad on my vacation:

Viewing PDF files

As I have discussed before, my office has digital client files along with the paper files. I was able to load my iPad with files to review on the plane. I also loaded some magazines that I had scanned. Viewing PDF files is a much better experience on the iPad than on a netbook or laptop because of the ability to rotate the screen to read the document in portrait view rather than landscape.

Pictures

We took a lot of pictures on our trip. I used the Apple Camera Connection Kit and we were able to load pictures taken on our digital camera card and our iPhones for viewing on the iPad. The pictures look amazing on the iPad.

TV shows

I bought a season of an HBO series that I had not yet seen. It helped pass the time on the plane (when I was supposed to be viewing those client files, remember) until Thing 1 decided she wanted to watch some of the shows I had loaded on it for her. She is five years old and had no problem navigating the video app to view her shows because she is already a notch below expert at using my iPhone.

Internet Browsing

Once we were at our destination, I used the Safari app extensively to check out restaurants and attractions in addition to keeping track of the goings on with Facebook.

Kindle

The Kindle app is nice. I have a Kindle which I brought with me to use for reading outside. I also have the app on my iPhone. It is nice to be able to pick up wherever I left off on any of the platforms. I had a travel guide-book that I could use on my iPad and iPhone on my trip.

VPN + RDP

This is the thing that for me make this close to a laptop replacement. I was able to set up a VPN tunnel to our server and then use a remote desktop app to log in to my computer and the server from my iPad. There were a few issues that came up while I was out of the office and I was able to log in to the server and fix them without any problem as if  I was physically in the office. The connection is a little slow over the cellular connection but was workable and was even better when connected to Wi-Fi.

Conclusion

I often leave my bigger laptop docked at my office now anyway and would use my netbook to remote connect if needed. I still have my netbook and will probably still use it from time to time but now that I can use my iPad to remote connect I see less of  a need for the netbook. The iPad really provides a much better viewing experience than the netbook, especially for PDF files and pictures. One of the best things about traveling with the iPad was the ease of traveling with an iPad. The charging source is much smaller than with a laptop, the iPad itself is much thinner and lighter than a laptop, and I did not have to take it out of my carry-on bag at security. Unfortunately, I did still have to take off my shoes.

Steinbrenner family might face tax battle

ESPN, the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports, posted an article titled Family of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner might face tax battle – ESPN New York. As my loyal reader(s) may recall, this is something I touched on a few months ago in a short post which was cleverly titled: Certainties: Death – Yes, Taxes – Probably, Death Taxes – Depends.

The ESPN article points out that there are legislators attempting to enact legislation which would allow for the retroactive collection of estate taxes. This hardly seems fair or, as attorneys like to say, equitable. We are governed by the rule of law. The current laws read that there are no estate taxes due for deaths that occur in the year 2010. If Congress wanted to require the payment of estate taxes it had years to get something done before the repeal kicked in. They failed to do so. It is also their inaction which will allow the estate tax to pick back up in 2011 with lower exclusion amounts and higher rates than the year 2009. At least we know the rules and can plan for 2011.

Certainties: Death – Yes, Taxes – Probably, Death Taxes – Depends

I met with a couple yesterday for some preliminary information on estate planning and once again I had to explain that things are not very clear at the moment regarding estate taxes. In 2009, the federal estate tax exemption was $3.5 million with a 45% tax rate. In 2010 there is an unlimited exemption as the estate tax has been repealed. Some have said that 2010 is a great year to die if you have a multi-million dollar estate. In 2011, unless Congress changes the law, the exemption level will fall to $1 million with a 55% tax rate.

I came across an estate tax internet resource guide put together by Trusts and Estates magazine that has articles on the fate of the estate tax and suggestions for practitioners. The article at the end puts a damper on the whole “die in 2010” plan as the TaxProf Blog points out that the re-enactment of the estate tax in 2010, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, likely would pass constitutional muster.

Why Fat Daddy, Esq?

I’m an attorney, I’m a dad, and, as my four year old often reminds me, I’m fat. I have been married to my beautiful wife (hereinafter “Hot Momma”) for eight years and I am the proud father of two little girls, ages four and two (hereinafter “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” respectively). I have been a licensed attorney for about five years and I have been fat all of my life. It appears that my greatest area of expertise, having a big butt, is also my greatest area for improvement. Thankfully I am a much better husband, father, and lawyer than exercise guru but I am not satisfied in any of these areas. I believe that no matter your situation in life there is always room for improvement.

This site is a resource for a wide array of information on parenting, fitness, finances, lawyering and life improvement. This blog is an entertaining yet informative resource to help you in your pursuit of improvement and a place for Fat Daddy to learn from you through your comments and emails.