World Diets: A Week’s Worth of Groceries

Ok, so I saw this post over at FStoppers about What a Week of Groceries Looks Like Around the World, and I couldn’t help but mark it for a second look, and eventually an article here.  Click on that link and go take a look.  Look at what each picture contains and then come back and see if you come to the same conclusion that I do.  I’ll wait.

Done?  Ok, first, let’s talk about some “givens” that I found to be somewhat ironic, simply because they also could be considered stereotypes.  I’ll start at the top.

  • Mexico: OMG, you guys like Coke!  
  • Germany: First thing I noticed was all the beer and wine right up front.
  • Italy: Lots of the expected breads and pastas
  • Japan: Fish, noodles, and rice.
  • Mali and Chad: That’s it?

Obviously, there are some things that we expect.  Countries like Mali and Chad that we’re hearing about starvation or near starvation like conditions in sometimes have an obviously lesser pile of food.  Japan is notorious for it’s high-fish diet.  And Germany.  Germany!  I suppose I can’t expect much else from the country of Octoberfest.

A couple of surprises.  I’m a little bit surprised by the lack of sausages in the Poland picture.  For the number of Polish sausages we eat here in the states that is.  (Ok, that’s kind of tongue in cheek.)

Now, let’s see if you noticed the same thing I noticed.  Every single country on that list eats way more fresh food than the American family.  Seriously. Look at that picture.  There’s a little section of it that’s got some produce (a couple of tomatoes, some onions, and some grapes), and another small section of fresh meat.  That’s it.  The rest looks to be processed and packaged foods.  The only other countries that appear to even be close are Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.  Which is funny.  In an ironic sad way.

All four of those countries are usually lumped together as “first-world” countries.  We’re rich!  We have everything we could ever want!  And somehow, every other country on that list eats better than we do…  Heck, let’s look at Mexico.  Most Americans tend to think of Mexico as a drug addled, gang run, hovel.  But, look at that food!  Fresh herbs right off the plant!  A whole table of fresh fruits and vegetables!  Same story for India, Bhutan, Guatemala, and Equador!

Why is it that we all think that produce is so expensive, but we’ll gladly pay $10 for a large pizza?  Or $10 for a burger and fries?  It also makes me wonder just how much of that food those people grow themselves.  It’s not that expensive to start a garden.  Heck, even a container garden will do.  We’re just getting ready to plant out our second season (see season one’s results) of container gardening.  So far, I’ve spent about $2 on seeds.  Buy a few pots, get some soil, and plant some plants.  Fresh produce!

I’ve gotten a bit ranty, but it amazes me how poorly we eat in our “rich” country.  You’d think we’d be smarter than that…

 

The New Retirement

I recently had the chance to chat with Todd Tresidder.  If you don’t know the name, don’t worry.  Up until about a year ago, I didn’t either.  But, the short of it is that the guy is retired.  In fact, he retired much earlier than most will.  At the ripe “old” age of 35, he retired.  Which must mean he’s off golfing around in the Arizona heat, right?  Or down, sipping OJ at some southern Florida retirement village?  Not likely.

Todd is retired in the sense that he doesn’t report to a boss.  He does what he wants, when he wants to.  One of the things that he wants to do is write books that help people like you and I become better financially.  He’s got several that he’s written so far, and I’m sure he’s working on more.  During that first meeting, Todd and I spoke for a while on retirement.  Speaking with another financially minded person, I usually expect to hear people talk about 401(k)s, IRAs, and stock purchasing.  I don’t discount those tools, but I just don’t feel that, like Social Security, you should be depending on them for your whole retirement.  Surprisingly, Todd agrees.  The longer we spoke, the more we found that we agreed on.  At the end of our conversations, Todd offered me a copy of his book on retirement. I accepted.

How Much Money do I need to retireLong story short, I finally read it.  It took me a while, but I’m glad I got around to it.

If there’s anything that stands out about the book, is that Todd knows what he’s talking about.  He’s got the experience behind him to talk about the subject in an informed and educational manner, and technically, probably knows more about some of his subject matter than I ever will.  He spends the first several chapters of the book dispelling a few myths about retirement, and about the way in which most people tend to think about it.  He then takes off on a few chapters of some of the math and logic behind the different ways of calculating your retirement needs, and calculating that mythical “number” that everyone seems to be seeking out that will indicate that they’ve saved all that they need to save for retirement.  Not only does that one perfect number not exist, he argues, but the calculations that we make to arrive at it are completely flawed.

The rest of the book is focused on what I like to call the New Retirement.  He goes into detail on the ways to properly estimate your income needs for the future, and then into ways that he believes (and I agree) that a properly diversified retirement “portfolio” should be structured.  I don’t want to spoil too much of the book so I won’t say much more.  What I will say is that the book isn’t terribly long.  It’s not a deeply structured manual on all the different retirement accounts.  And it’s not terribly expensive.  It’s $4.99 on the Kindle (free for Prime members), and about $10 in paperback.

Pick up a copy of How Much Money do I need to Retire at Amazon.  You can check out Todd’s site as well as the other books he’s written at FinancialMentor.com.

 

Lending Club Return Update 1Q13

If this is the first of my Lending Club return updates that you’ve read, let me catch you up a bit.  It all started with a little Lending Club / Sharebuilder experiment.  It’s moved on past that, to an ongoing series here at Beating Broke where I share, on a quarterly basis, how the account is doing, the things I’ve done with the account recently, and the things that I might be thinking about trying over the next quarter.

How I invest in Lending Club

Because of where I live (North Dakota), I’m not able to directly invest in fresh loans.  I’m forced to use the FolioFN trading platform to buy (and occasionally sell) the notes that I’m investing in.  But, based on my returns, I don’t think I’ll be complaining anytime soon.  If you’d like to read more about how I select my Lending Club notes, you can read my post on that subject here.

Beating Broke Lending Club UpdateLazy Lending Club Investing

While I consider investing in peer-to-peer investing to be a nearly passive income source, it isn’t a pure passive income source.  What I mean by that is that it does require some active management in order to keep the money invested in loans, and not just sitting fallow in your account.  Without meaning to, I put that to the test this last quarter.  In February, I don’t even know if I logged into the account.  I certainly didn’t buy any new notes.  What that means is that for the better part of February, the money that I had coming in just sat in the cash account not doing a darn thing.  By the end of February, the cash account was nearly 10% of my Lending Club portfolio.  I invested all of that back into notes in March, but it was a lesson in needing to log in and check the account once in a while.

Lending Club Loan Analysis

Analysis might be a bit too strong of a word.  At the end of the quarter, I had invested in a total of 62 notes.  Of those 62 notes, 19 had been paid off, and there have been no written off loans.  There is one that has slipped into the delinquent status column, however, and is showing signs of ending up in the written off column. The balance on principle of the loan is less than 1% of my total portfolio.  I might be able to sell it, but it’s far enough delinquent that I’d have to sell it at a significant discount.  Honestly, I haven’t decided if I’ll do that or not.  I’d rather it just came back around and was paid off, but I’m more of a realist than that.  Maybe we’ll be talking about the written off loan effect at the end of next quarter.

Lending Club Return

So this is the part that everyone’s been reading for, right?  If you look back at the 4Q12 update, you’ll see that my rate of return (displayed as NAR in the account dashboard) was 14.48%.  I screwed up a bit and didn’t record the NAR displayed at the end of March.  As of 4/24/2013, it’s being displayed as 14.63.  That still includes the one delinquent loan, so it’s likely to go down some if that loan is sold at a significant discount, or if it is written off.  The spreadsheet I use to keep track of the numbers shows a a return of 15.86% and 13.26% (adjusted with inflation, which may or may not be necessary).

The cash flow in the account remains pretty good.  I had several loans paid off in the last quarter that was reinvested.  All told, the portfolio of active (principle remaining) loans grew by 2 over the first quarter.  The average amount of money churning back into the account each month is averaging well over $30 a month now allowing me to invest in one new note (at $25/each) each month and then another when the balance grows beyond $25 again.  Monthly interest received is teetering around the $10 a month line.  I think my next goal might be to get the interest income up to $25 a month.  That would be pretty sweet.  I’d be investing in a new note each month on just the interest along.  If I want to do that anytime soon, however, it means I’ll have to start putting money into the account again.  I haven’t put anything into it since November of last year, and I haven’t yet decided when I’ll start putting money into it again, but it will likely be soon.

Embracing Risk, and Increasing Returns

I suppose that somewhere along the way, here, I should mention risk.  The notes that I’m investing in all carry a risk of potential default.  If they all were to default, I’d lose every penny in my account.  The odds of that happening are pretty small.  But, the odds of having one or two loans default out of a couple hundred is significantly higher.  If you’re going to invest in Lending Club notes, or any investment, you need to know and understand the risks.  That’s your warning, and my disclaimer.

Now, take a minute and go look to see what your bank or credit union of choice pays on their savings account.  How about their best rate on a CD?  Now, even if I were to invest my portfolio into loans with a better credit rating (and, supposedly lesser risk), I could easily be making 6-9% if there weren’t any defaults.  It beats the heck out of the rates at my credit union.

One last disclaimer.  Please don’t put your liquid (or, emergency) savings into risky investments.  You need those readily available, and relatively risk free.  Even at a paltry 0.25% in a savings account, it’s in the best place.  Every other drop of savings is fair game though.  Your money needs to be working for you, not the bank.

If you think Lending Club (or Prosper) is something you want to give a look (maybe you’ll want to try an experiment like I have?) you can sign up at the following links: (Lending Club | Prosper)