Sunday, July 10, 2016

Free one-way flight from Taipei to Japan on Air Japan for my dad

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine in Kyoto.  We are looking forward to visiting this beautiful place!
For our upcoming Tokyo trip in March, my father is going to meet us in Japan.  He lives in Taiwan and we wanted him to join us on our family trip.  We had extra Chase Ultimate Rewards points and I didn’t want to make him pay to come visit us.  Ultimate Rewards points transfer over to United Airlines miles with a 1:1 point transfer. 

I logged into my United Airlines account and found the perfect direct flight for him to travel from Taipei (TPE) to Tokyo (NRT) via Air Japan.  He will be flying in to meet us at the Narita airport in Japan when we arrive.  The flight costs $352 if paid with cash or 15,000 United points and $15.50 if redeeming for award travel.  Paying for the flight with points gives us an over 2 cent value per Ultimate Rewards point.

Since I already had 1,000 United Airlines miles in my United Airlines account, I only needed to transfer 14,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points over.  I used my Ink Plus card for the transfer.  The process was instant and I was able to book my father’s free flight on my iPhone in less than 10 minutes. 
I was then able to book the flight on my phone through the United iPhone app. The process couldn't have been any easier.

Sharing our points with family helps us all save money.  We’re looking forward to our first international trip as a family!  After taxes and fees, we've saved $336.50, which we can use towards hotel / Airbnb stays and entertainment.

Friday, July 1, 2016

June side hustles 2016

The great thing about doing side hustles to generate extra income is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more hard work, time, and creative effort you put in, the more extra money you can make.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your extra money, and you can choose how you want to spend it.  Instead of focusing on what ideas don’t apply to you, try focusing on different side hustle ideas that you can implement to work for your situation.

Welcome to July,
As usual, the month of June just seemed to blow past us.  Time is so precious and it definitely motivates us to work hard to save and invest for our future.  We enjoy our jobs, but we definitely don’t want to be working forever.

The big news of the month is that our son turned 1 year old! It’s amazing how fast he’s growing.  Every week or two he hits a new milestone or has a new development in his motor and verbal skills.

Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of June.

Award Travel
On 6.1, we redeemed 327,250 KrisFlyer miles and paid $169.26 for two round trip Business Class flights!  This saves us a conservative amount of $1,524 after taxes and fees. 
On 6.10, I redeemed 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points and paid $15.50 for a free flight for my father to join us in Tokyo when we go for vacation next year.  This saves us $336.50 after taxes and fees.

Cash back
On 6.26, I received a $25 statement credit on my AMEX Blue card from AMEX Offers (spend $100 at Staples and get $25 back)
On 6.26, I received a $25 statement credit on my AMEX SimplyCash Business card from AMEX Offers (spend $100 at Staples and get $25 back)

Search and Win
On 6.8, I discovered that both of our Swagbucks accounts were deactivated!  I’ve read that sometimes Swagbucks decides to deactivate accounts when they deem that the customer is not profitable enough.  They were probably mad that we kept earning free Amazon gift cards for minimal work.  Oh well, we have better things to do with our time.  It was good while it lasted.  If you have unredeemed points, I suggest cashing them out whenever you have enough for gift card credit.

Paid surveys
On 6.5, I received $5 Amazon gift card from Pinecone Research.

Side Job
On 6.20, I received a check for $275 for teaching at the local university

Rental Income
On 6.4, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property.
On 6.1, I received a check for $600 from our temporary housemate.

Miscellaneous Income
On 6.2, I received checks totaling $77.12 for disputing my property value for calculating property tax.

Monthly Totals:
Our side hustles continued to bring in extra income for us in June.
We saved a conservative estimate of $1860.50 on airfare due to using points to pay for our flights
We received $50 worth of cash back
I earned $5 worth of Amazon gift cards from Pinecone Research
I earned $275 for teaching at the local university
We earned $1,030 from rental income
We earned $77.12 for disputing our property value for a reduction in taxes

All of this totals $3,297.62 from our side hustles for the month of June. Not a bad month!  It’s getting harder to find more time for these hustles, especially while trying to make time to spend with the family.  Every hustle counts. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Brexit and what it means for your investment accounts.

The S&P over the last week, notice the sharp decline on Friday
By now I’m sure you’ve already heard about the Brexit.  In a surprising outcome, Britain has voted (not unanimously) to leave the European Union.  In the eyes of the financial world, the U.K. did the unimaginable.  Financial markets hate uncertainty, and this is why global stock markets have taken a small drop in value.  For those keeping track, there was an estimated $830 billion in losses estimated in the United States markets and $2.1 trillion in losses across global markets on Friday, June 24th.  That’s a ton of money lost, for those that decide to sell.  The value of our investment accounts dropped by more than $8,000 in one day! Ouch.

All over the financial news you are going to hear about how “in the red” stocks are.  News outlets are going to use big, scary words like “nose dive, slammed, plummeting, gruesome, catastrophic, blood bath, and meltdown” to describe the market.  The DOW dropped by over 600 points on Friday.  These headline terms are designed to grab attention and cause panic.  This may continue for days, weeks, months, or even years. 

If you’ve been investing for a while, or even if you go back and look at past trends in the stock market, you will notice that stocks are volatile.  Values go up, and values come down.  The best action to take has always been the same: stay the course.  If you’ve watched financial news, you will notice that they always like to exaggerate headlines.  The DOW dropping by 600 points sounds a lot scarier than the fact that a 600 point drop is only a 3.4% drop in value. 

Studies consistently find that the more you trade stocks, the lower your final outcome.  If professional traders can’t get market timing right, how can the average investor?  They can’t.  If you’re in the market for the long run, short-term drops in market value shouldn’t scare you.  In fact, you should be motivated to pick up extra shares while they are on sale.  I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better investing in the stock market when prices are coming down, than when prices are at their peak highs.  Selling your shares when the market is down only locks in your paper losses and guarantees that you make the biggest mistake when it comes to investing: buying high and selling low. 
The S&P over the last 2 years.  It's been a wild ride, but notice how the recent drop looks just like normal volatility.  
We are investing for the long term.  In the long term, stocks go up in value.  In the long term, market timing doesn’t have any significant effects.  If the market continues to drop in value over the next few weeks, there will be great buying opportunities.  For those that haven’t opened up a retirement or investment account, now is a great time to do it.  For those that haven’t increased their 401K contributions, now is as good a time as any.  That being said, I still don’t recommend trying to time the market.  This small dip could be the beginning of a much larger drop.  3% drop is nothing.  I’ll start paying attention when we hit a 20% drop.  Stay the course, but don’t double down. 

There is a great Brexit megathread discussion on Reddit here.

You can read about what Vanguard thinks of the Brexit here
There is plenty of good discussion over at Bogleheads including this thread here.
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