Nov 30, 2007

Well, Don't I Feel Important?

This week I was interviewed for a article on online personal finance sites like Mint, Wesabe, Geezeo, Yodlee and all the rest. I didn't expect for my quote to end up in the lede. Ok, so here goes my anonymity, but I think it's worth pointing to a personal finance article where I was quoted on my personal finance blog.

The thing is, my quote on there isn't exactly right. It's not wrong either, it's just that I didn't say "I'll stick with that" when I was talking about Yodlee. I basically was saying that for now, I'm sticking with Yodlee because they have all the features I want. As soon as Mint ads the ability to track my mutual funds and such, I'll go back to using that site. Actually, I still use that site, but I use Yodlee to keep track of my net worth since it's interesting to see how my overall savings goes up or down depending on how the market is doing.

The funny thing is, Mint is powered by Yodlee's back-end software, so they're both very similar sites. It's just that for one reason or another, Mint has yet to add Yodlee's full functionality to its site. But I have a feeling they will at some point, and the day they do is the day I stop logging into Yodlee.

I wouldn't mind so much that my quote says I'm going to stick with Yodlee, except I recently wrote this glowing review of Mint for a technology blog I used to work for -- and I didn't just change my mind. But if anyone read both articles, I'll sound like a hypocrite. And no one likes a hypocrite.

Oh well.


Hello December

I can't believe it's already almost 2008. Seriously, wasn't New Years for 2007 just yesterday? It's kind of scary how fast life starts going by once school isn't around to make everything go sooooo slowly. I want to figure out a way to slow life down. Now that I'm 24 (oh yea, I turned 24 a week ago, happy birthday to me) I need to somehow figure out how to make each day count just a bit more.

Thank goodness my job situation is starting to piece together into a picture I like. Freelancing with steady contract work is obviously the ideal situation for me.

Right now I have three steady gigs, plus some random projects thrown in. My logic is that each extra project I take on is more money I can save, while my steady work is generally for bills and such. Any extra money from my 'steady' work goes into savings, either my IRA or some other savings account that I need to set up.

My jobs:

Writing for a Company -- 30 hours per week, 3 months, $3300 a month
Assisting at another Company -- 5-10 hours per week, $25 per hour
Steady work from uncle's marketing business -- $400 a month retainer

So, I imagine that should turn out to something like $3900 a month. Take taxes out, it's down to maybe $2800? Then take out $1050 for rent, $200 for bills - phone, internet, TV, gym membership) and $200 for health insurance and potential medical bills. That leaves me with, um, about $1300 for food, entertainment, gas, etc. If I'm lucky, that'll be enough to save some money too.

What I want to save for...

$3000: Laser Hair Removal.
$1000: Digital SLR camera + lense and accessories
$100,000: Grad School

Time to start saving!


Nov 28, 2007

It's Been a While, Time for an Update

I was just interviewed for an article about personal finance sites, and the brief early-morning chat reminded me that I haven't updated this blog in a while. I'd like to start writing regularly again, it's just tough to keep up with my blogs and my life. I don't know how some personal finance bloggers find the time to write, like, three posts a day.

That said, I know I left you all with that wonderful long health insurance rant cliffhanger. Cue the cheesy suspense music please... "Duhn, duhn, duhn"....

There's good news, and there's bad news. I still don't have health insurance. The good news is that's mostly because I'm lazy and less because I've been denied. Well, I haven't been denied because I haven't applied yet. I've been speaking with a health insurance agent who seems to think my best option is to lie on my applications, although he won't go on record as advising that. Meanwhile he's also helped me put together a quote for Pacific Healthcare where I don't have to lie, and that seems pretty reasonable (something like $140 a month for catastrophic insurance).

COBRA turns out to be a whopping $405 a month, so unless it turns out I actually get denied from every other option, it's looking like COBRA, an aptly named snake, is a type of insurance one ought to stay away from even though it's enticing from afar.

Money matters are looking up. I'm actually getting more work than I know what to do with right now. And old colleague who is the editor of a journalism-y startup just asked me to work a few hours for her a week helping with admin stuff, doing site maintenance and at some point writing some short and fun features for the site. I have a feeling she's going to try to encourage me to get back into writing longer-format features and news stories at some point, but I'm not sure that's the direction I want to head in. I'm kind of happy with the freedom (and better pay) that comes with controlling my career as a freelance writer out in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, my journalism expertise is in technology writing, and if I'm going to work for any startup in the area, it's too conflict-of-interesty to try to swing a career half-time in journalism and half-time in writing marketing copy for these sites. This gig for my old colleague is kosher because it's covering a specific area of technology that I will not be doing writing work for. So, that seems alright.

My biggest concern at the moment is the upcoming tax season. I just hope I get my W2 and 109 forms my way early so I can start figuring out how many zillions of dollars I owe, or don't owe. I honestly have no idea what taxes will look like this year, and it scares me a bit. See, from Jan-June of 07 I was making "35k a year" and having taxes taken out of that. Then From June 15-Nov 15, I was making "50k a year" and taxes were swiped from my bi-monthly checks. That's good. But after that, my tax situation turns into a bit of a mess. I've done a bunch of freelancing here and there. Some of it was for $50, some for $600, some for $1000. Obviously I'll report all of the larger gigs, and try my best to remember the tally of my smaller gigs. Smart me, I haven't been keeping track of my checks as I cashed them at the bank because I just assumed I'd have access to the scan of them later. I could have sworn at one point I saw these scans on my account. No such luck. Apparently they charge some fee to pull up the scans of old checks. I don't really want to find out how much that fee is. I guess I'll just wait for my tax mail to come, and take it from there. And hopefully, at least for this year, it will turn out that my average pay was so low (due to periods of unemployment, without being on unemployment) that I'll somehow break even on the whole tax situation. If not, there's a chance I could owe a lot.

This is also the first year I'm going to see what having some cash in a mutual fund does to my taxes. Apparently I have to pay tax on my dividends. But right now it looks like my mutual fund, despite being 'in the bank' for over seven months, has returned to its original buying price. So I'm not sure how that all works out come tax time. Can someone explain this to me?


Nov 17, 2007

the nightmare that is figuring out taxes and health insurance as a freelancer

the absolutely marvelous news is that i just landed a steady, well-paid, 30 hrs/week contract gig for the next three months.

the bad news it that now i have to figure out how on earth to get myself decent health insurance... and how to sort out my income and expenses for tax season.

contract work is great because of the flexibility, but all the additional "work" I have to do to be self-employed is rather terrifying.

first off -- health insurance: i already know i will be denied if i tell the truth on my health insurance applications, because i took lexapro ONE MONTH for "major depression." On the Tonik health insurance application, you get to click off your pre-existing medical conditions. Guess what category major depression falls into? "Bipolar disorder/Major Depression/Schizophrenia"

Um. I went to a psychiatrist for about two months, took meds for one month, and i kind of feel better now.

My psychiatrist kind of warned me about the potential health insurance issues, but she wasn't very clear about it. She just said that she doesn't like working with health insurance -- because it takes her forever to get paid. And then when she was considering diagnosing me with bipolar, she asked me if it would be ok to note that on my diagnosis form, since most clients don't want that on there, as it could hurt their chances of getting health insurance later on.

First off, I was rather ignorant at the time, thinking that health insurance existed to help you get better (wrong) and that it would be cheaper for me to use my $15 co-pay visits with a 'major depression' diagnosis as opposed to 50% pay for ADD or anxiety or anything else that I probably actually have (I doubt I have major depression. It's probably recurring, but I go through phases in my life. Life is hard and sometimes i'm sad and sometimes I need someone to talk to, but I don't think this is a life-long condition). Anyway...

So I got my $15 visits, which was nice for the two months I say my psychiatrist and my therapist. And now? Well, chances are I won't be able to get health insurance. Because apparently whatever it is I have is just as bad as SCHIZOPHRENIA in the eyes of my potential insurers.

I spoke with a health insurance agent who, off the record, basically suggested that i take the risk and lie on my application, because that would be the only way i could get decent insurance. but, of course, then i could basically screw myself over by doing that, since health insurance companies could find out that i lied and make me pay for EVERYTHING since when i signed up for their insurance. that's a scary thought.

Or - do I just be honest and watch as my applications get denied? I haven't got my forms for Cobra yet, but I'm sure that will be ridiculously expensive. I had really good health insurance (Blue Shield PPO) through my employer with a $250 deductible, and now I'm looking at whatever I can get with a $1500-$5000 deductible and poor benefits. And to get that I might still have to lie.

But I should have health insurance. I realize it's stupid to be living without health insurance. I just am not sure what kind to get. Basically I need the doctor to prescribe me Yasmin birth control pills each month (and hopefully for them not to cost me a fortune) -- I need "Yasmin" specifically for hormonal imbalances and such, but unfortunately getting cheaper pills through something like planned parenthood will not let me get that brand.

Besides health insurance, there's the issue of taxes. Gosh, I'm so behind of keeping tabs on what I've made in contract work this year. I know, bad me. I just set up a google docs spreadsheet to start taking detailed notes from hereonout, but I'm not 100% sure what I've made thus far this year. In any case, I know that taxes are going to take a HUGE CHUNK out of my income, which is fine, they did that before, but it's just really hard to determine how much taxes will be when I don't even know how much work I will have each month.

At least now I have a stable three month gig where I will be making $3300 a month, assuming they like me and want to keep me for the entirety of the contracted position. After that, either I get to stay on board, or it's back to the drawing board. We'll see. Meanwhile, my goal is to pick up one or two freelance web design projects per month, where I'd make anywhere from $500-$1000 per project (although I'm starting out with really cheap rates of like $200 per project.)

Anyway... for the next three months, my 'income' before taxes, minus any additional web design projects, should be $3700, which includes the contract gig and another ongoing contract project where I make $400 a month writing a few articles for my uncle's marketing firm. $3700 a month is definitely not a bad wage, but after taxes, and health insurance, I'm not sure how much that actually is. It'd be something like $2700 a month or something? So after rent, that's $1650 a month. Phone bill, gym membership and cable tv/internet are like, $200, so then I have $1450 left. Ok, not bad. Health insurance, assuming I go for a decent kind, will be like $300 a month. So that's maybe $1150 left for food, entertainment and such.

Ok, I guess that's not awful. But I just am scared about not understanding taxes and all the complicated stuff that goes into expensing things and such. Meanwhile, I just read that self-employed individuals pay a lot more in taxes because usually the company pays for like half of the taxes, but when you work for yourself you are your own company.

So. I guess I have a lot of figuring out to do. In the meantime, I have to wrap up three projects I'm working on. I'm writing some company for a startup (basically, I'm writing all the copy that will go on their site), then I have to finish this one website for a client, and then I've got to wrap up the basic design for a project I'm doing in a 'trade' deal with a personal trainer. 5 hours of web design for 4 hours of personal training. It's not a bad deal, considering she charges $78 an hour and I charge $50. Anyway, I can tell she's getting antsy to see the page (I already had three training sessions this week, but I told her I'd show her something this weekend.) Well, I've got to finish that. I'm trying my darndest to figure out Flash because A) she seems to really like pages with Flash in them and B) I need at least one site for my portfolio that incorporates Flash, so I can show clients that I can atleast put some basic animation on their pages.


Life is going pretty good, minus all of this confusion. My birthday is coming up next week. I'm turning 24. Happy, uh, confused birthday to me.


Nov 8, 2007

how to get in touch with me...

"Anonymous" asked how to get in touch with me regarding employment, so here's a quick post with an answer. To contact me privately, you can e-mail


Nov 7, 2007

unemployment and depression

they say if you pursue your passion, money will come to you. i still don't know what my passion is. i can't figure out one job that i'd be happy doing 40-50 hours per week. i've tried public relations, admin, arts marketing and journalism, and ultimately i got bored with every single position.

you know what? some days i wonder what it would be like to be a photographer. i love taking pictures. but so many people are good at photography. pursuing a career in writing just feels safer. all businesses need copy. sure, most businesses need photography as well, but i just don't believe in myself enough to pursue that career.

i just feel like spending my life writing will help me get by. maybe. if i can hold a job long enough to save some money, instead of failing every four months to a year.

i guess i'm writing at the moment because it's one of my down days. i'm feeling rather hopeless about my future and question why i bother trying. i know that i've accomplished quite a bit for my age, but really, the accomplishments i have made all feel rather pointless and don't bring me any sense of pride. if i was working as a photographer, or a graphic designer, i think i'd be somewhat happy.

i'm just too scared to take out loans and figure out how to get from where i am now to a new career. and emotionally, i feel like i have no where to turn. i love my boyfriend more than i can express, but he isn't a very expressive person when it comes to empathy, and if i'm sad i just make him sad, so it's not even worth telling him anymore. my parents are no help, they don't really care about how i'm doing, as long as i have a roof over my head. but as for my emotional well being, i guess sometimes i feel like no one really cares. perhaps that's just my depression speaking, but it's just frustrating to feel that the only person i can really talk to about my problems is my therapist. I guess what i'm saying is I feel rather empty because the few friends i have all seem so happy. they might be working as hair stylists, or editors, but they're all so content with their lives. i'm not content at all with where i'm at now. i feel like such a waste. i want so much more for my life. but sometimes i think i'm just the dumb kid who snuck through the system. maybe i should have ended up working as a hair stylist or something. not a writer. not a designer. maybe i should work at starbucks. or safeway. i mean, i'm losing faith in myself and my abilities. i want to be brilliant but i'm not even close. i want to help people, but i feel like i can't even help my family, so how could I help anyone else? i really hate money, even though i love buying things. i hate that i'm such a capitalist.