If you think money doesn’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right

There are a lot of skeptics out there – don’t let them tell you what money can or can’t buy! I’ve always been a believer of the fact that money spent right brings happiness, but of course it’s not the panacea for all the problems out there.

75kstudy

Over the years, I’ve seen several research papers and read books about it and a lot of those resonate with me. One of the first studies I came across had the point of diminishing returns at $75,000 – the 2010 research talks about evaluation of life and emotional well being and how money affects those.

So those of you who’re reading this article and make more than 75K (adjusted for inflation this would be more like 85K in 2017), let us know in comments whether life has gotten happier after the magic income.

Then I saw the fascinating  research of Michael Norton (see his TED talk below) about how can money buy happiness – when you spend it on someone else. The speech highlights specific data points and details of the experiments that were performed.

If you’re convinced and/or inspired by Norton’s speech, consider making donation to redcross for Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma  disaster relief fund (or DonorsChoose.org for that matter)

The Book “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending” has some great findings too about how to spend money to become happier.

  1. Buy Experiences
  2. Make it a Treat
  3. Buy Time
  4. Pay Now, Consume Later
  5. Invest in Others

Taking examples from my life, I’d be lying if I said I donate money for selfless reasons [it does feel good to help others, thus helping oneself). I’ve also written about enjoying experiences in life more than buying things. Even simpler pleasures in life such as using dishwasher that frees up time adds to the happiness (#3 from the list above).

What are some of the ways you’ve spent money that made you feel happier?

Las Vegas or Cruise vacation

Every year, approx 40 million people go to Vegas and 20 million to Cruises. A recent trip got me thinking that these are not that different. Can we call cruise ships Vegas in sea? Here’s the way I look at it: everyone has different taste, but for the comparable duration, things to do, food etc. cruise is definitely a better deal financially.

Mega Structures: When someone asked me [after my first cruise] what’s a cruise like, my answer was it’s like Vegas; the ship is huge like hotels and everything you can think of is inside – casino, restaurants, entertainment.

architecturevegas

Casinos: Hotels make you walk through the smokey casinos and so do Cruises. On the cruise that we were on, some of the elevators didn’t go to 6th floor – we had to get out at Casino floor (#5 I think) and go through the whole casino if we wanted to go to the Irish bar.

Shows and buffets: Both have good shows; Vegas has more celebrity shows, but those are included in the price for the cruise. We also did escape room at the cruise along with comedy show so all inclusive pricing is definitely better there. Also there are restaurants everywhere, you name a cuisine and there is place – Food at Bacchanal was great and so was the Hibachi at cruise. I gained a lot of weight in both the trips, which I am trying to get off.

It’s crowded everywhere and people walk holding drinks: It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but both places to have a lot of people [walking holding drinks], at times not even knowing where they’re going. On the first day of our cruise, I saw a guy holding drinks in both hands and jumping in the elevator.

Excursions vs Day trips: Vegas has few day trips options and they call it excursions in cruise. With cruise, you can go to Paris and Venice for real. Also when you get our at a port you forget all the drinking and gambling life for a minute and can indulge in other things. I am not a big fan of going to beaches but Atlantis looked great and again reminded me of Vegas.

Views: You can go to Paris tower, high roller or stratosphere tower to look at city view, which is incredible in night. Cruises have great views too – more nature than buildings though.

cruise

If I had to pick a favorite, I’d pick Cruise because you can go to so many places and still gamble, watch shows, eat and have fun!

Which one is your favorite?

How to create a professional website in less than an hour & < $100

Thanks to all the information available online, you can do a lot of things yourself and creating a website shouldn’t be an exception. I created my first website back in 2006 and since then have owned several domain names and blogs.

website

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to create a website yourself; on a broad level a website consists of 3 building blocks:

  1. Domain Name: the name you type in browser; for example google.com or stretching.cash (for my website)
  2. Hosting: This is where the website resides; think of this as a house where you can put your content, web pages, pictures etc. If you guessed that it’s on the cloud, you’re right!
  3. Template (or theme): This has to do with the look and feel of the website (also the functionality and customization)

Let’s talk about details of each block:

  • Domain Name: this can be same as your business name or anything else you choose. You can either pick one of the traditional ones such as .com, .net, .info etc. or new ones such as .photography, .website, .blog, .wedding, .cash, etc. (these are just examples and there are lot more names available)
    • Domains can cost anywhere between $15 – $30 deepening on the name
    • you can use sites such as godaddy.com or 1and1.com to buy domains
    • I like 1and1 because you can get a domain for as less as $1 for the first year and all the domains come with private registration included in the fee (example below)

1and1_example

  • Choose a template:  After you have wordpress installed at your choice of hosting provider, you can use one of several free themes

Ta-da! the website is ready. You can customize and also accept payments on your website. Another option that combines all the steps (if you don’t want to be bother with so many steps) is to register at wordpress.com and buy one of their plans (see current pricing below)

wordpress_plans

 

Can’t decide between 15 vs 30 year mortgage? Lets’s look at what math says

There are several decisions to be made while buying a house and probably one of the most debatable one is the mortgage term [15 year vs 30 years]. When I asked around, there were folks in both the camps – everyone had a valid point. Quick search shows millions of results about endless discussion that are out there.

What if there was a way to get the flexibility of 30 year mortgage and payment terms (almost) of 15 year? With following assumptions, let’s do some maths to find out:

  • Loan amount: 300K
  • 30 year interest rate: 4%
  • 15 year interest rate: 3%
30 yr rate 4%
Monthly payment $1,432
Total Cost $515,609
15 yr rate 3%
Monthly payment $2,072
Total Cost $372,914

Above table shows the monthly payment and total cost of both the options (use any mortgage calculator online to get the numbers for your loan value). Since most of the loans do not have prepayment penalty meaning you can always pay more than the required monthly payment and the extra goes towards the principal.home

Accelerated payment calculation:

If you pay the difference (2072 – 1432 = 640) towards the principal, the total accelerated payment would be $410,289 which gives you savings of $105,318 and shortens the time of repayment by 13 years 6 months. But the original saving with the term and interest difference was $142,695   ($515,609 – $372,914) so the accelerated payment method costs you $37,375 more, which I call the cost of flexibility and piece of mind knowing that if something happens within those years and you can’t afford the higher payment, you’re not stuck with it!

Net Present Value (NPV) of the total payment: 

Since the mortgage payment amount is fixed, above calculation wouldn’t be complete without considering the effect of inflation. Let’s consider the NPV of the total payments considering standard 3% inflation:

  • 30 year payment NPV: $340,504
  • 15 year payment NPV: $300,787

Since the payments are in future dollars, the buying power (value) of the dollar will be less compared to the value of dollar today. To put this in perspective, consider what $100 gets today vs what it bought 20 years ago.

Note: Above calculations doesn’t consider either other payments such as tax, insurance etc. or the tax tax advantages we get from the interest payment.

investOpportunity Cost

Opportunity cost should also be considered to look at the bigger picture. Let’s say you take 30 year mortgage and invest the monthly payment difference in stocks, which historically has given 7% return.

total value of investing $640 every month for 15 years considering 7% annual return is: approx 200,000; which is more than the difference in savings you get from 15 year term.

Paying every 2 weeks:

Lot of online discussions revolve about paying the loan every 2 weeks instead of monthly, with the logic that the interest is based off of the total outstanding principal and if you pay every 2 weeks (half the amount), it lowers the principal and in turn lowers the interest amount in the long run. Check your financing documents to see whether your lender accepts “Partial Payments”; if they don’t, then the amount you pay every 2 weeks will sit in their bank account without being applied towards the loan – which is similar to you giving the bank free loan for 2 weeks.

To sum it up:

While it’s prudent to get 30 year mortgage and invest the difference somewhere else (mortgage is considered good debt), however, there is always an option to pay more and thus early payoff on 30 year terms, which gives flexibility to folks who would like to pay if off sooner.

My favorite credit card perks

I wouldn’t say I have a lot of credit cards [depending on how you define “a lot” ; I’ve read about people who have as many as 60-70], but lately I’ve started to utilize different ones for to maximize the rewards. My all time favorite perk is not having to pay the bill until weeks later without any interest or charge; here are some of the other more tangible ones:

  • Travel benefits: Some of the elite travel cards such as Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum have tons of travel related benefits; few that I like more are: Global Entry fee credit, airport lounge access, transfer points to other partners
    • there are few more clubbed together with travel worth mentioning:
      • Primary rental collision insurance
      • no foreign transaction fee
  • Cashback: this is obviously the most popular one; cards such as Citi double cash gives 2% cashback on everything, which is the most I’ve seen on each purchase. Costco anywhere has 4% cashback on gas purchases along with 3% on travel & restaurant purchases. Amex Blue Cash Preferred has 6% cash back in US supermarkets; there are others with rotating categories, which I am not a big fan of
    benefit
  • No automated menus to go through for customer care: It’s debatable whether this can be considered as a perk, but who hasn’t been in a situation where you keep pressing buttons on the automated menus and it doesn’t go anywhere. One of my cards has has this and I definitely like it when it connects directly to a person
  • Roadside assistance: A lot of cards offer some version of roadside assistance, but with Sapphire Reserve, and Amex gold the card pays for few times a year upto certain amount. This is comparable to basic AAA membership benefit
  • Purchase benefits: Last time I used price protection, with an easy process, I got $30 reimbursed because the price dropped after I bought the product. Extended warranty is nice to have too

P.S.: some of the cards mentioned above have yearly fees, so the perks are not free per se, but most of the time it’s worth the fee if you use it. I’ve also written about advantages of using credit cards for all transactions

Also check out favorite benefits of some other folks at Quorahttps://www.quora.com/Whats-your-favorite-credit-card-benefit

What’s your favorite Perk?