To help my cash flow, I refinanced

It’s either networth or cash flow when we measure and talk about the health of our personal finance and how to improve it.

In many cases, money is risked or sacrificed to generate more cash flow through buying some sort of investment to generate monthly pay out. Vice versa is also true when asset that generates cash flow is sold for a lum sum of cash.

I recently just closed on my refinance of my condo… thank god~! This one took longer than I thought. The background story is that I bought my place in 2008 with a 10% down payment when I got lucky in a small window where banks had loosened their lending requirement. That said, I was left to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) as part of my mortgage. That’s a $200+ on top! Oh, what did I choose to put on myself… anyways, with the recent property price coming back up and mortgage rate down more than ever, I decided to refinance.

refinance_take_my_money

So in my case, I “sacrificed” many thousands to get myself that 20% equity to remove the PMI by going through refinance. That plus the 4% interest rate on a 30-year mortgage, I had reduced my monthly payment by more than $500. Although the “sacrificing” makes me feel sad, I think and feel that it is worth it because if I lose my current job, I have more options such as taking my time to find a job I want, doing a simpler job that means less pay, or even starting my own business. Less fixed cost to deal with is good.

A few other take away points from my refinance experience…

  1. Never expect to close with 30 days or on time because most cases… it won’t. It took me about 1.5 months for this refinance.
  2. For condo owner, know your HOA’s insurance coverage of your dwelling. Because if it already covers the reconstruction of the unit to original form, you won’t need to show prove of your OWN insurance coverage. Unfortunately, I had a young loan agent who is not familiar and that caused me some headaches with handling my home insurance coverage and potential higher premium that is not necessary.
  3. Pending sales DO NOT make direct comparables in the property price appraisal process. Only final sales do.

I was hoping my appraisal price to be higher so I can put less money down in the refinance process. Maybe if the market gets really hot next year, I can try again. BIG if. A man can feel greedy, right? Me think it’s ok as long as I don’t act too greedy.

At any rate, it’s hard for the mortgage rate to go much lower… and many real estate market has rebounded in price. That makes now a good refinance opportunity, especially if it does not cost you a lot relative to what you had saved.

Originally posted 2012-12-26 23:14:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Health Care Crisis Is Actually Not A Health Care Crisis

I am amazed. Why? Because I have yet come across any article to realize and articulate the fact that our health care crisis is not actually a health care crisis. Perhaps because it sounds politically incorrect, blasphemous, and anti-Obama? That aside, I am also amazed that no one seems to realize the one simple underlying fact to this crisis, which is merely a symptom of this simple underlying fact, is in fact…

Our health!

Long Lost Health

We have gradually come to behave the ways we are today such that we have forgotten what it means to be healthy. We have forgotten that our body has amazing intelligence to do what is best for us. We have become oblivious to when our body tries to communicate to us. It is the same as how we have become unaware of our own thoughts and emotions and mistaken them as who we are.

Our Silent Body

Actually, our body is not so silent. Here is what we do. When our body feels pain, we pop pain killers. When our body makes us sneeze, cough, diarrhea… we pop anti-histamine drugs. When all else fails, we swallow antibiotics or remove the ailing parts of our body. But alas, there is always a reason why our body feels that way. There are reasons for symptoms to happen!

Instead of trying to help, we do everything to tell our body to shut the hell up, and we wonder why we are not healthy. We silence our body.

Basics of Supply and Demand

We wonder why are health care costs going up?

Well, we are paying a shit load of money because on the average we are un-healthy and are on our way becoming un-healthier. And we will continue to get un-healthier if we don’t stop and reconsider what it actually means to be healthy.

As the un-healthy trend stated above develops, there becomes no wonder that health care cost is shooting up exponentially. There are many factors involved, but we play a part in the increase because we are increasing our demand because we need them (actually, it’s that we THINK we need them). Because we think we need them, they can push the price up on us. Basic supply and demand rule in capitalistic society.

Perverted Capitalism is not Helping

Today, our capitalism has become perverted in the sense that profit is of higher priority to quality products and services. Therefore, on average, it is not in the medical and health care industry’s best interest to make you healthy. I said on average because there are still good doctors and kind physicians out there.

My Skeptical Mind…

And let me say this… that one cannot help but wonder, if the medical field today has deterred from the true meaning of doctor, if we read the original Hippocratic Oath, and then we look at the side effects and deaths related to drugs, and then we also look at the health care system being one of the leading causes of death.

Wait, what about “never to do harm”? I don’t think that is one thing too much to ask for from a doctor… Hmmm, yeah, I do wonder. Doubts aside, I know one thing for sure, which is intuitive, and it is that drugs are not to be a norm in everyday life, and doctors are best performing their jobs when they are least visited.

Back to Health

Let’s set aside my skeptical mind. And Yes, if you broke a bone or have some serious conditions, do go to a doctor. However, it is your responsibility to ask intelligent questions, to learn about what’s happening to your body. Your health is your own responsibility. That is the truth, and it is worth repeating.

Your health is your responsibility.

Only you can help yourself to be healthy.
The key is not health care.
The key is our health.

Therefore, no policy, no plan can solve our “health care” problem because our problem is not “health care”. That is missing the point.

And therefore, we must re-establish the concept of health. First, let us revoke what we seem to think it is but not.

Health is NOT Non-Disease, Non-Illness

We need to truly start looking after our health, which again, does not mean non-disease or non-illness. More technology, medicine are not going to make us healthy. They probably can keep us alive longer. They probably make us feel better in short term, which is synonymous to our irresponsible and instant gratification desiring mentality that also is manifested through our subprime mortgage, consumerist-related issues.

But technology and medicine making healthy for us? Nope. They can help, but for now, they are not really helping because of our misuse.

By the time you start having symptoms, and full-fledged illness, you are already quite far from being healthy, and one last stress factor to the body has brought you over the edge.

Real Change

We need to change. We don’t need the health care system to change for us. We don’t need change that creates a health care system that allows and validates our indulging behaviors in lifestyle and diet. We need to accept that we have developed a lifestyle that is against our own body’s nature, our health.

We need to stop delegating our responsibility to experts. And definitely stop using our genetic disposition as excuses. (Yes, there are unique and extreme cases but most of us are not.)

Being Kind to Others

You may ask, what about being kind?

I understand the concept of being compassionate and charitable. That is why I would ask you, “Is validating other people’s bad behaviors, enabling irresponsibility of one-self a compassionate and charitable action?”

100% Responsibility to Health, to Life

Until you take full responsibility for your health, for yourself, you will always be in trouble. Until you look at your life holistically — body, mind, and spirit — your life will always be “in pieces” because that is how you are treating it. So we have a unique different approach/pattern to treat each piece; meanwhile, we completely overlook that those pieces are all connected. Life is all aspects as a whole!

Final Summary

Health is not difficult. If I must sum up what one needs to do to become and stay healthy, I’ll say 3 things and a few sub-points for each:

  1. Balanced lifestyle
    • Are you constantly stressed out?
    • Do you spend more time working than sleeping?
    • Do you vegetate in front of TV for many hours and claim you don’t have time to exercise
    • Do you take time to connect with others (while not worrying about other things)?
  2. Balanced diet
    • How much processed and junk food (mostly empty calories) do you eat?
    • Do you rely on supplements and disregard your regular meals?
    • Do you drink enough water?
    • How much real and/or organic food (useful calories with things body can use) do you eat?
  3. Thoughtful and sufficient exercise
    • Do you exercise regularly?
    • Do you exercise with mindfulness (vs. just going throught the motion)?
    • Do you challenge your body to fix your physical weakness?
    • Do you ever dig deep enough to understand what exercise you need? (ie. knee pain could be caused by incorrect use of the ankle or hip joints, etc.)

Health only requires a bit due diligence on our part, related to the 3 aspects above, to assist and support our body in what it does. Each of us has to realize what health truly means. Each of us has to rediscover what healthy feels like. Each of us has to relearn how to listen to our body.

And nope, no one else can do it for you.

PS. You don’t have to agree and believe everything I wrote, but don’t you think at least some of them are worth considering? Your health is up to you.

Originally posted 2009-06-18 21:21:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Size Does Not Matter

One thing I notice in Japan was smallness. No, I am not insulting their people. No, I am not insulting their men, either. Actually, many girls there are very cute… uh, yeah, getting off track.

I should say — large space does not matter.

Take a look at this picture.
IMG_3492

It is a picture of my hotel room in Kyoto. There is barely space between the bed and table for my butt. It reminds me much about the living space from my past years in Hong Kong.

But, I am not complaining.

The common sense we have is — “Oh, we got so many things, we need more space”

In a way, our desire for space is directly related to our desire for things. Conversely, when we get more space in the house, we often want to fill that space with more things. Oh, what a dilemma.

Perhaps, we can consider the following chain of thought — “Oh, we got so many things, perhaps we need to make space by getting rid of things, that we don’t need, or use.”

Personally, I loooooove having space, and also cleanliness. They are very soothing.

Let’s face it, most of our stuffs end up sitting around collecting dusts. Instead, why don’t we carefully consider what we reeeeeeeeeally need, and if we are getting something, make sure it is something we will use frequently?

Oh, I am such a genius. Just kidding.

Another thing that is small is the portion of a meal. Each dish and even hamburgers from McDonald’s are smaller, which sucks for me because I am constantly hungry from my intense gym’ing. But for most Americans, who sit most days in office and sit some more in front of TV at home, can be a great idea.

That leads me to my final thoughts.

Perhaps we can use more limits. Yes, you heard me, limits, instead of more freedom.

Perhaps too much freedom had lead us to lots of indulgence, and indulgence is a result of not being clear about what is truly important. More limits in our environments force us to value what we have and cherish the resources that are available.

In other words, physical limits can be a great catalyst for internal growth.

Using the living space as an example, if you have so few square feets, there are only so many things you can have. And what you have will be what you need or truly find important.

Or if parking size is like this, you think twice before getting an SUV!
IMG_4481

Ok, the car example is not very good. The living situation is too different. But about driving in Japan, most people from America probably can’t drive in Japan, uh, due to poor driving skills. I personally DON’T want to drive there.

Anyways, I want to say this…

Evolving the idea on limit. Next time when we are frustrated and want to complain, or feel like we are suffering immensely, or seem to have insatiable desires for other things, consider that, there will forever be somebody somewhere else who are a lot worse off than we are.

IMG_3257Maybe things could be better, but they can be a lot worse. Look at this picture featuring the tight quarters in Tokyo Metro’s human sardines.

I guess that is why seeing the world, experiencing different things, how people live differently, are so important. So we realize how things can be worse.

On this note, I attribute my non-narrow perspective and sometimes unique and bizarre mentality to my fortunate experience (well, also unfortunate because it sucked big times sometimes) of having moved and lived in drastically different places at an age (12) that I could make my own perception already. However, I give myself credits for choosing to look at both sides of things rather than seeing only the green on the other side.

Last thing, totally unrelated, is a picture near the famous cross section in Shibuya, Tokyo by Center Gai (センター街). Pretty, eh? (It was shot in Lost in Translation too — one of my favorite movies)
IMG_3251

Originally posted 2009-07-17 01:06:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Sky is Collapsing on Wall Street and…

…stop checking your portfolio! You heard me right. Stop checking your portfolio. I know you are very tempted to keep checking it these days. But stop. If you must, move away from the keyboard and mice so you can’t log into your account. I tell myself the same.

Unless you are extremely smart or extremely lucky or simply clairvoyant to have bought ONLY in the last 1 months (last few days?), your portfolio is likely in the red. Bloody red. It’s a disturbing image that can turn your stomach inside-out and very tempted to sell to cut the losses. Perhaps I will sell and wait out the downturn and recession, you think. Perhaps that is true for particular individual stocks you own. But otherwise…

Au contraire, you should keep contributing into the solid investments that I’m confident you have selected (need I say index funds?) and keep looking into the long-term. The long-term is that the downturn will last couple months, a year, or even a couple years, and who knows, but for sure, it will eventually go back up. Why not just keep contributing regularly, buying investment on bargains available now, and wait for the upturn to happen? Assuming you listened when I said you are best to have at least 5 years time horizon for your investing money.

Even better would be if you have extra cash and a stomach for volatility to pick up more bargains this year.

One more thing is, if you sit on the sideline and wait, the upturn will likely happen before you know to jump back in. And if you can’t handle the volatility and risk, perhaps it’s best to stick with high yeild savings/CDs and bonds or… your mattress… just kidding.

Originally posted 2008-03-10 11:10:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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