How open should we be about our finances?

In my post about finishing my taxes I referenced how much our refund was going to be. Sarah asked why I included the number with the implication that information about our finances is personal and should be held back from public discussion. Ever since I graduated from college and started moving towards financial independence, personal finance has become an interest of mine. Growing up I never really knew much about our family’s finances, sometimes money was tight, but we always lived within our means. That’s the number one thing I’ve learned about money and is the key to saving for the future and being financially secure.

Personal finance is an important part of our lives, so why are we reluctant to talk openly about money? It might be that we still see money as a symbol of status. We might be ashamed of debts. We might not want to feel like we are bragging or putting ourselves above others. Whatever we feel though, it is most likely tied to emotions and as far as I can tell emotions and money don’t mix. In my life I have “unpersonalized” personal finance.

But how open should we be? I’m not suggesting we announce our income and current portfolio value when meeting someone, but when talking to friends and family I’d be open to asking for and offering advice. Getting advice and working out finance problems is incredibly important considering the opposition we face in our consumer spending driven society. I think we should be open enough to discuss our tax situation and tactics we use to reduce our tax liability. We should be open to discussing how we are saving for retirement. We should be open to talking about problematic debt and helping each other eliminate it.

What do you think, are finances open for discussion or private matters?

New wife, new home, why not a new job?

As some of you know I started a new job with Los Angeles County at the beginning of August and I have been there a month so I thought it is about time I posted about it. At the beginning of July I left my previous position with a consulting firm I had been with for a year and took a month off to get ready for the wedding, honeymoon, and moving out. We got home from Hawaii on the 2nd and I started on the 6th. They hired a group of new developers and put us all through 3 weeks of training classes in a bunch of different areas like communication skills and software testing.

Now that I’m out of training and getting settled into my team I find that I am really starting to like working for the County of Los Angeles. First of all I’m at the Imperial building in Downey so I have a nice 5 minute / 2.5 mile commute which has made a huge difference. This cuts down my time spent in the car by over an hour and fifteen minutes per day which means I get home earlier and incur less stress from the drive home. The shorter commute is also saving me about $1000 a year in gas.

I’m already plugged into a team and working on an active project so I’m feeling good about being able to contribute so quickly. Working for the county is a nice change in that I’m not working for some company whose only concern is making a buck. Here I feel like the money isn’t the only thing motivating me, there is also a sense of being able to help make a difference. A lot of the systems our group creates are used by other county departments to directly serve the public. I see this leading to higher job satisfaction and less potential for burnout.

The benefits were one of the biggest things that attracted me to the county. The private sector can only offer so much and the benefits here made up for the raw pay cut I took. The big benefits include excellent medical and dental coverage for both Sarah and me, 401k with 4% matching, paying into a pension instead of social security, and generous vacation/holiday/sick time. There is also a lot of room to move around since the county is so large and everyone is always looking for good talent.

So that’s what I’ve got going on.

4 Hours

I’ll be married in about 4 hours and I have been looking forward to this day for a long time. I’m excited to start a new life with Sarah and I’m not really nervous. I’ve been getting lots of “your last days of freedom” comments and I’m slightly confused by that. Not sure if people are just joking around or if that’s how they really view marriage. I only see positive things happening by getting married.

You can probably get a good idea about someone’s attitude about marriage by analyzing how they would handle finances. Are accounts and paychecks kept separate and each partner does whatever they want with “their” money after the bills are paid? Or are the financial identities of the partners merged into one where all money earned goes into a pot and both agree on how it should be spent and saved. Financial independence in a marriage just seems strange to me.

See ya all at the wedding or stay tuned for a plethora of pictures when we get back from Hawaii.