Google Spreadsheet

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I usually use Microsoft Excel to track my monthly spending and save it in external hard drive. I update my balance sheet whenever I spend, so it is almost on a daily basis. However, whenever I go to visit my boyfriend or visit my parents, I do not carry the portable hard drive with me, so it is more convenient to use Google Spreadsheet online. It has formulas in which sum I use the most and other basic tools. I find it work for me. There are many online tools to help people keep track of their spending. One of them is Mint.com but it requires users to input their credit card numbers which I do not feel comfortable to give out that information. Many finance bloggers also create their own software and market them to readers.

Do you keep track of your spending on a regular basis? What tool do you use?

One of the Google Docs Templates:

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Home line of credit part 2

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I just realized that the interest of Home equity loan is much higher than mortgage loans :(. Look at the interests: (from Yahoo! Finance 10/18/2011)

So actually it is not a good decision to trade off my student loans with the Home Equity Loan/HELOC. Historically, the interest of 5.66% or 4.27% is low, but not as much as I want it to be. I may consider the 4.27% but still have to look closely on the loan fees. What you do think?

Home line of credit and Federal Reserve Education

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On Marketplace Money today, a student asked whether she should get home line of credit to pay for her student loans. Because the subsidized loans would be unavailable next year and the unsubsidized loans had an interest of 6.8% which was high comparable to current interest rate in this economy, a home line of credit with 3.5% would be a very attractable option. However, the host said that historically 6.8% was not high and student loans were fixed while home line of credit had variable interest rate. This information has drawn my attention. I intend to buy a condo, pay it off and get home line of credit to pay off my student loans which has 6.8% interest but I have not thought about the variable interest rate issue.

Although student loans from government has 6.8% interest rate, it has flexible plans for student to pay and it also has deferment and forbearance for certain situations. Home line of credit is riskier and you have to make monthly payment no matter what. In my situation, if I get a home line of credit, I have to think about loan fees, closing costs, and variable interest rate in the trade-off of 3.5% interest rate. I am not sure I am willing to take this risk. In case of interest rate going up, I will be able to pay off the loans in the next three years. So if thinking about short term plan, a home line of credit is a very good option minus loan fees. I wonder how many percent the loan fees cost out of the total loan. Examples of loan fees:

– Appraisal fee for the property

– Application fee

-Up-front cost

– Closing cost, including fees for attorney, title search, mortgage preparation and filing, property and title insurance, taxes

In addition, you may be subject to certain fees during the plan period, such as annual membership or maintenance fees and a transaction fee every time you draw on the credit line. I feel the headache now :D. Will keep you updated about my plan.

The information above is from federal reserve website which is another good resource besides HUD.gov. You can find more information about finance at Federal Reserve Education: http://www.federalreserveeducation.org/ Interestingly, the website also has education games and simulations for students from Grades K to Grades 12.

 

Parents as household workers

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It has been a month and I am still too lazy to write anything :(. So, on one of my boring days as usual, I just think of this topic as I cannot find a clear information on websites out there.

Here is my situation. I want to hire my dad as a household worker so that he can have enough social security credits (40 credits). However, IRS does not allow us to do that. I even call the IRS and confirm with them. There are exceptions that can be found under publication 926 on the IRS website (or you can order the publication to be sent via mail):

Wages not counted.  Do not count wages you pay to any of the following individuals as social security and Medicare wages, even if these wages are $1,700 or more during the year.

  1. Your spouse.
  2. Your child who is under the age of 21.
  3. Your parent. Exception: Count these wages if both the following conditions apply.
    1. Your parent cares for your child who is either of the following.
      1. Under the age of 18, or
      2. Has a physical or mental condition that requires the personal care of an adult for at least 4 continuous weeks in a calendar quarter.
    2. Your marital status is one of the following.
      1. You are divorced and have not remarried,
      2. You are a widow or widower, or
      3. You are living with a spouse whose physical or mental condition prevents him or her from caring for your child for at least 4 continuous weeks in a calendar quarter.
  4. An employee who is under the age of 18 at any time during the year. Exception: Count these wages if providing household services is the employee’s principal occupation. If the employee is a student, providing household services is not considered to be his or her principal occupation.

If your situation is not under the exception, you will not be able to provide social security and Medicare wages for your family members. They can claim themselves as self-employed if they want to file income tax and earn social security credits. However, if you have your own business, it is a different story. You can hire your spouse, your parents, your children and other family members.

It is kind of early to talk about tax at this moment, but I think it is better to prepare ahead of time :).