Saturday, August 17, 2019

Ready to Pivot

One of the most mind-blowing television series I've ever watched was "The Good Wife". The premise itself isn't all that fantastic (it's a legal drama), but the idea that a 40 something year old woman who had been out of the legal world for more than a decade can start again and compete with others almost half her age, really struck me.

Of course, Alicia Florrick had no choice but to go back to work after her husband was imprisoned, because there were bills to be paid and children to clothe and feed. There was a palpable feeling of desperation at the start as she tried to revive her legal career through any way possible, but through sheer grit and with the help of well-meaning people who gave her a chance, she pulled through and did it in style.

When I turned 40 this year, it was as if something clicked, or maybe I just finally acknowledged what had been hovering all this time: That this is it. There is no dress rehearsal for life. This sometimes messy and chaotic, but oftentimes steadfast and humming existence, is my life. It's the life I cobbled together with my husband and children, using the foundation and advantages given to me by my parents and social standing.

I can live the next 50 or 60 years of my life (if I'm lucky) working on improving my life and helping those within my sphere of influence, and I would take my last breath content with the knowledge that I did my best. I have no delusion that I can make big, systematic changes because I just don't have that pull or power. But I can make sure that my sons' yaya will be able to put all three of her boys through to college so that they will have more options than she or her husband ever did. Given the scope of my actual influence and capability, that is all I can realistically do, at least for the time being.

The waiting continues and while I pray that the results be delayed by a month or two so that I can qualify for some of the year-end bonuses (sayang yon no!), a big part of me also wants to know ASAP and just get it over with so that I can finally move on from this state of limbo.

If I get the appointment, I'll be making an Alicia like pivot and implement a lot of changes within my immediate family and take on heavier responsibilities. But if I don't make it, I will have the luxury of plotting and preparing for my next pivot.

I love where I am right now and the people I work with, but I only have one life to live and there's a myriad of opportunities out there that I'm eager to sink my teeth into. And so whatever happens, this girl will pivot. Hopefully, that pivot will lead me to a place where I can grow and help people with their own growth, and not leave me flat on my face.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Leveraging Your Credit Cards

I first saw a credit card in action when my US-based cousins came back for a vacation and they would give the waiter a plastic card to pay for our meals or would hand the card to the cashier, who would then swipe it before handing my cousin his/her purchase.

It was pure magic and I wanted to be doused in its pixie dust.

Not long after, my dad received a credit card and I finagled a supplementary card for myself. There was no stopping me now and I quickly made regular stops at the mall.

The statement of account arrived and I paid the minimum, because isn't that what you're supposed to do? But then the second statement of account arrived a month after and I saw that the finance charge and penalties were more than the minimum I paid, so my outstanding balance from last month barely moved an inch.

After that jarring realization, I always paid off the monthly charges in full or at least tried to pay it off in 2-3 months.

While I'd like to say that I wisened up after that experience, the sad reality is that I continued to indulge in useless purchases and was enabled by my credit card. But at least I paid it off in full, or at least tried to, every single time, so I believed that I was OK.

Fast forward to the time I finally faced the mess that was my personal finance life and reassessed the role of credit cards in my life, eventually making them work for me and not the other way around.

I still have credit cards because I'm a firm believer in the conveniences they offer and also because I have developed a lovely lopsided relationship with my credit card where I do most of the taking.

I use my credit cards for our common household expenses like groceries and gas, so I don't have to worry about having cash on me all the time. My credit cards thus provide a credit line with 0% interest and fees, just as long as I settle my bill in full when it falls due.

Another advantage I did not anticipate when I first started using a credit card, was how it could provide me with a quick loan if needed. But take note that I'm not talking about those special PINs you can use to draw money from your credit card, steer clear of those because the charges are ridiculous! Instead, I'm referring to the personal loans that credit card companies offer to select clients.

I would often receive calls from my credit card provider informing me of its special personal loans with limited monthly add-on rate of only 0.45%, or something like that. I remembered inquiring about the effective interest rate per year and it was only between 9% to 10%, way better than the usual bank rates of 12% -15% p.a. or loans through your (not-so) friendly neighborhood lenders which can go as high as 40% p.a. I have resorted to those credit card loans to bridge the gap in our budget and even when I don't need money, I take comfort that I have a credit line at my disposal in case I need quick cash and my savings are not enough.

My favorite credit card benefit to date though is the automatic bills payment feature. I enrolled some of my utilities with my credit card, so now Meralco and PLDT bills get paid right away and those are two less things I have to deal with on a monthly basis.

My credit card provider (RCBC) also has bills payment on demand, meaning you call it to pay your bills, which I personally think is silly because it defeats the whole purpose of automatic payment. But apparently it's the merchant's choice whether to participate in the Autocharge or On Demand program so I'm just waiting for my other merchants to wisen up and join the Autocharge wagon (get on it Globe!).

Ultimately, having a credit card brings with it so many advantages but only if you play it smart by always paying your bill in full and using loans in your favor by taking out a loan to fund a money making endeavor and not to pay for a vacation.

If you're ready to play it smart and use a credit card to your advantage, you can mosey over to iMoney's credit card comparison page and choose which credit card will best work for your lifestyle. iMoney has a cool feature where you click the icon of what you usually charge, or will be charging on your credit card, and then the credit card recommendations change to suit your needs.

Finally, remember that it's not the credit card that gets you mired in debt, rather, it was the impulsive and reckless person holding the card that caused it. So master your emotions and you'll find yourself enjoying a healthy relationship with your credit card. #hugot

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

State of the Jill Address (SOJA)

With President Duterte's upcoming State of the Nation Address causing a tizzy (Who will be the next Speaker of the House? Will there be artsy angles from Brillante Mendoza again? And will he be the director again? Abangan! Dum-dum-dummmmm!), I thought it best to have my own state of the nation address for all 2 of my loyal readers.

First things first, I am still waiting for news on my judicial applications. I was shortlisted for two positions, a second level court in Laguna and a first level court in Biliran, and the appointments for second level courts in Laguna are supposed to come out very soon. On the other hand, the appointments for the Visayas will probably be released during the last quarter of the year at the earliest.

The grand plan is for me to get appointed in Biliran because my parents are already based there and I do miss them terribly. Also, the position I applied for there is a first level court so it's going to have a bigger pay and it will be more challenging than a second level court.

But getting appointed in Biliran means that either I bring my own family to the island, put my kids to school there, and figure out something for my husband to do; or I shuttle back and forth between Manila and Biliran so that my eldest can continue going to school here and my husband can keep his consultancy gigs.

While an appointment in Laguna means that I can theoretically go home everyday since the commute is "only" 3 hours one way, thus, the change will not be that extreme.

This waiting also means that we can't plan a vacation or big purchase because an appointment not only translates to a possible relocation, it also brings with it a 2-3 month salary delay so we'll have to be prepared for that too. Hence, the waiting game is actually a sort of limbo where only the present counts because I can't account for the future yet, but at the same time, have to prepare for it.

Did I just say that we can't go on vacation yet while waiting for the appointment? Let me retract that because my boys and I are going back to Tokyo in a few months. We received free tickets from Cebu Pacific because our flight home in our last Tokyo trip was delayed twice. As in we were in the airport for 2 days and had to be bussed to and from a hotel type of delay. It was no fun at all and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

But the good thing that came out of this fiasco was that I am now more relaxed with travels with my family. After all, we were able to survive that Cebu Pacific epic fail, so everything else will be a breeze by comparison.

On the financial front, my assets received a significant increase or about Php400,000.00 worth of increase. Nope, I did not win the lottery or profited from the recent bull run. I merely updated the valuation I used for my condo units. I realized that I've been using the same property price for the last 3 years and when I checked out the selling price for similar units, I was surprised at just how much I undervalued my own units. So I made a mental note to adjust the value of my condo units in my next quarterly net worth check-in and I'm so excited to see the steep rise in my net worth! True, I can't access that money and it's pretty much worthless unless I sell the units we're living in now, but an increase is still an increase, even if it's only on paper.

Again on financial matters, I have two personal loans that will be ending by August bringing down my personal loans to a total of two, with one ending in December and another in January of next year. I can actually pay off the last two loans in full but there's a pretermination fee and fees are yucky, so I'll let the loans run their natural course.

I also finished with my GSIS loan last March so I've been receiving my full salary without any deductions. Then the last round of salary increases took effect in May(?) so my take home pay also went up.

Not having to tweak and plot our budget to make room for all our loans and accountabilities still feels kind of new to me. I keep waiting for someone in my family to get sick again or for someone to need a bail-out because that's been our normal for the last few years. I've had to devise a plan for my "spare" cash, otherwise, I'd just fritter it away. In fact, my husband just recently sweet talked me into buying a camera because "the kids are getting bigger and we need to capture the memories".

In an effort to counteract my predisposition towards mindless spending, I've created a monthly saving plan which we can dip into during the 2-3 month salary interruption if I get appointed. I'm 4 months into the saving plan and have only had a 50% success rate so I must channel my inner Mr. Miyagi and whip my financial self into a lean, mean, saving machine.

Okidoki, I think I've rambled enough for now. Have a great weekend everyone!