Char says I AM affects who You Are

Our good friend, Char Slaughter, who is more like an older sister, had one of her recent blog posts published in an E-zine. Char is a certified professional coach and motivational speaker who shares her gems with the world on her blog,

The title of the post is “Simple Formula To Manifest Your Intentions.” You will have to read the article to get the lesson firsthand. It is the best 688 words you will probably read today. I found several suggestions in the article I can and will apply to both my professional and personal life. How often do you read a blog which offers that?

Thanks, Char!

Planning for Retirement: Your Wealth Score

There are as many methods for measuring financial well-being as there are opinions of what it means to be truly stable financially. Some people track their overall net worth, looking at the balances of all their accounts over regular intervals of time. Others go for a simpler barometer consisting of monthly income vs. expenses presumably as an indicator of how much they have left each month to save — whether that excess cash actually makes it into a savings or investment account (and stays there) is a separate topic. Regardless of the method or metrics used, as long as you are tracking something and making adjustments along the way, chances are you will arrive closer to your destination than going with hope and prayer alone.

TB, being the finance person in our household, likes data. Her favorite financial tool is Microsoft Excel. She likes to run models of where we will be financially in the future based on how we adjust various inputs today. She updates a cell here and there and the results of that update propagate across our financial forecast. I am, on the other hand, the organization & execution person in our household. My favorite financial tool is Microsoft Money. I like tracking balance statements and regularly adjusting the system on-the-fly. I think in terms of quarters and adjust our plan accordingly based on past performance and trends. TB’s long-term, future view and my short-term, past view work well together…most times.

What if you don’t have Excel or don’t have the discipline to use Money? Do you lack the patience to track your net worth or monthly income vs. expenses? Are you looking for a relatively simple, straightforward way to determine whether you are on track or to help define what “on track” might mean?

MSN Money Central ran an article some weeks back entitled “Your free financial report card” (PDF) in which Liz Pulliam Weston describes how to use your annual Social Security statements to calculate your household wealth score which “can help you see what you’ve got to show for the money you’ve made over the years.” That wealth score will either be sobering (“Where did all the money go?”) or encouraging (“Sweet!”) but you have to calculate it to know. (“Now we know! And knowing his half the battle. GI Joe!”)

Here are the steps:

  1. Determine your Net Worth (assets minus liabilities) using either Intuit Quicken, Microsoft Money, Microsoft Excel, paper & pencil, or whatever.
  2. Turn to page 3 of your most recent Social Security statement — these statements are usually sent 3 months before your birthday.
  3. Add up all the values from the Medicare column for each year to calculate your Lifetime Earnings.
  4. Calculate: Wealth Score = Net Worth / Lifetime Earnings x 100

Professional financial planners recommend the following wealth score ranges by age group:

Age Range Wealth Score
20-34 0%-25%
35-59 25%-100%
60+ 100%-200%

These are estimates that provide a good basis for establishing general rules-of-thumb for evaluating your work history, savings strategy and retirement plan. If you are just starting out, chances are you have had little income and little savings compared to someone who has been working 20+ years. If you plan to retire early, you need to be at the upper end of the wealth score range for your age group. Wealthy parents who bequeath assets or inheritances can be huge X factors in any retirement plan. The wealth score ignores such factors.

After doing this calculation for our household, TB and I came up with a wealth score of 28%. Sweet.

Nerd Alert: Switching Web Hosting Companies

In an earlier post I mentioned I took a major step this past month in changing Web hosting companies. I had been a very satisfied customer of PowWeb for 6 years. However, during the last 3 months my service with them began to degrade. After several failed attempts working with their technical support to get things back where I felt they should be, I decided to make the switch to Lunarpages. So far, I have been very, very pleased.

In terms of price and features, both PowWeb and Lunarpages are essentially equal. They are both about $7 per month for all the Web and data services one needs to run a site like Lunarpages outshines PowWeb significantly when it comes to performance.

I had been hosting a couple domains including with PowWeb. Beginning around January, I noticed the response time (how long it takes the Web site to respond when clicking through the site) was getting longer and longer and the transfer rate (how quickly pages and images are brought down to the browser once the site responds) was getting slower and slower. Of course, I was still being charged the same amount despite this degraded service. The only way to know for sure was to run some simple tests to compare PowWeb’s response time, route mapping and transfer rate with other popular and similarly priced offerings.

To find a vetted list of similarly priced and comparable offerings, I consulted the Top 10 Hosting Reviews site. As you can see price, disk space and bandwidth vary significantly among the sites on the list but none of those variables were particularly important to me. I wanted speed. Next came the tests.

Continue reading “Nerd Alert: Switching Web Hosting Companies”

Nerd Alert: Switching Firewalls

A few weeks ago I replaced the cheapest yet, arguably, most important computer in our household: our firewall. We run a Smoothwall Express based firewall which has very modest hardware requirements.

The old box was a P3-166Mhz (160MB RAM, 2GB hard drive). It started behaving erratically around the time our cable modem speed was increased from 6Mbps/384Kbps to 8Mbps/768Kbps. I figured it was due to either the slow CPU or the built-in 10Mbps network card being unable to keep up with the higher bandwidth. I purchase a replacement P3-866Mhz (256MB RAM, 10GB hard drive) off eBay and, after several hours of setup and settings migration, all was right with the World Wide Web.