How much $$$ do I need to Retire ?

A lot of people go through their lives doing what they are supposed to do. Get education, get a job, get married, make kids, retire and finally the inevitable. Most forget to live their lives amongst all these. What if someone told you that you didn’t have to do all these, or at least…some of these.

Recently, I asked a colleague what was the age that he wished to retire. His surprise was genuine when he said he had not given any thoughts to the matter since it was decades into the future.

On yet another occasion, I asked another colleague how much did he think was needed to retire peacefully. He scoffed and said ‘Probably in the millions’.

The two scenarios above kept making loops in my mind.

  1. Most people do not know that Retiring early is an Option.
  2. Most do not know how much they would need to retire.

For this article, let us concentrate on the second point. How much does one need to retire? Many financial geniuses, much smarter than I am, have answered this question with logical explanations and immaculate research.

Calculate the following

  1. Average Returns from Investments (usually stocks) per year.
  2. Average Inflation In your country of residence per year.

When One’s annual expenses are covered by the difference between 1 and 2 above, one can retire peacefully knowing that the funds will outlast one’s lifespan.

For example, in the USA

  1. Average Stock Market Returns for long term investment = 7%
  2. Average Inflation = 3%

So, if one’s annual expense <= 4% (1 minus 2) of their total investment, then they can retire comfortably knowing that their assets would outlast their lifespan.

hypothetically, if Tom spends 25,000$ on all his yearly expenses then he would need 25000$ to be the 4% interest that is generated every year. i.e he would need (25,000 *100)/4 to be the invested amount. Tom would need 625,000$ to retire.

What if there is a stock market crash? every crash has a corresponding rise. Historically, the stocks have always risen. 7% is the average gain in stock market in the long term. This involves not day trading and being in it for the long haul.

Add all the buffers you need but at the end of the day, all you really need is your annual income times 25 invested wisely in stocks. Happy Retirement Planning!

Universal Orlando in a Day: Part I

PARKING:

We reached at 8:30am. We asked for Regular Parking (20$) but the lady at the counter suggested that we go for preferred parking (25$) as it means less to walk. We paid for preferred parking, it was near the entrance and saved us a lot of time both in the morning and in the evening while leaving the park.

THE PARKS:

The park is located in the form of a circle. When you walk in from the parking, you have an option of going Left to Island of Adventures or going left towards Universal Studios. The day we visited, Universal Studios was set to close at 7:00pm and Island of Adventures at 8:00pm. We started with Universal Studios.

There is a Train – Hogwarts Express to go between the parks.

TICKETS:

I was visiting Tampa for a weekend and I wished to visit Harry Potter World at Universal. After a lot of online research and landing up on fake sites, I decided to chuck it and got my tickets from the official universal site.

  • $147 for One Day Park to Park Ticket
  • $70 for One Day park to Park Express Pass
  • $14 Taxes
  • $14 for FedEx Delivery

*(I spent 465$ for tickets for 2 people).Use the Print at Home option and save 14$ for yourself.

The Express Pass can be bought in the Park at one of several kiosks. There was absolutely no rush on the day we went. But I would still suggest getting it beforehand to save you some time.

Once you have the tickets, walk straight to the entrance turnstiles. If you used print at home option, you would need an id card as well. Get an ID-Tag holder with you. You need to present this ticket\print out at every ride and pulling it out of the pockets can get pretty irritating.

Express Pass: We saved 10minutes at couple of rides and more at couple more. While this is a Nice to Have, I don’t think it is a must have. However, if I had to go again, I would buy an express pass.

LOCKERS:

Not All Rides need Lockers. Most of them allow you to take things along and you can place the bags near your foot. The lockers are very easy to operate.

  • Walk to any of the locker screens and touch the screen. Click on “I wish to rent a locker”. It would be free for first 1 one hour of the ride. The machine asks for your fingerprint and after recording it, a locker would open and the number would flash on the screen.
  • Remember the locker number. Stuff all your loose items inside, close the door tight and press the small green button next to it to lock the door.
  • When you want to get your stuff back, head to the same monitor in locker room, click on ‘I wish to reopen a locker’. It would ask for locker number and your finger print for authentication. The locker would have to be emptied when you reopen it.
  • If you have forgotten to add something to your locker, rent a new locker instead of trying to reopen an existing locker.

FOOD and REFRESHMENTS

Based on prior blogs, I expected the food to be wildly expensive. But I was pleasantly surprised.

  • We had Lunch at 11:00am at ‘Louie’s Italian Restaurant’ at Universal Studios. I had Chicken Parmesan Sandwich with salad. My Husband had a Chicken Alfredo Pasta with salad and my friend had a Slice of Pizza. Since we are not Soda people, we asked for a cup of water each. The cost came up to 30$ for all of us.
  • (*The chicken Parmesan was the best one I ever had in my life)
  • The butterbeer beckoned to us at the Diagon Alley section for Harry Potter. We had a butterbeer ice cream and butterbeer slushie for 10$. We also had a box of Cotton Candy from one of the shops for 6$.
  • For Dinner, we had Chicken Fry\Gyro\Chicken Stinger and a Hot Chocolate from Fire Eaters Grill. The Bill came to around 30$ again. The food was decent though not extraordinary. (We walked past Mythos after eating here, else we would have given it a shot)

*All Information is as of 14 November 2015.

*For More Details on the Rides, Read the Part II

 

What’s in a Name ?

As a rule, a bunch of colleagues head out for lunch on every Friday. We try out different restaurants in the area. There is this one restaurant that most of us love and pretty much have our ‘Usual’ defined. Today, we had been to this restaurant.

I asked for my favorite – Cashew Nut Rice. Stir fried veggies in a special gravy, rice on the side and golden brown roasted cashew nuts on top. When we were served, the cashews were no where in sight. I called the waitress and asked her about this. She dismissed me and said they are below the veggies. Surprised that they had changed the way they serve their food, I took my fork and shifted the veggies around searching for my much loved cashew nuts. But Nope, no cashews were to be found in my plate. I called out to the waitress again and pointed out that there were no cashew-nuts anywhere around my plate. She looked at me, with no expression and said ‘ I shall get you cashews’ and much to my surprise, she was back in a minute with a small bowl of non fried cashews. She set it on the table and walked away without another word.

I guess this restaurant wont be on my to-go list of restaurants  for anytime in near future.

 

English We-nglish

Before coming to the USA, I had always been prepared to face difficulties related to accents. As difficult as it is for me as an Asian-Indian, to understand other foreign accents, it is equally difficult for the others to understand the distinct Indian Accent. But more than the accents, I faced difficulties in the way words are used and so did many others with whom I had a chance to discover my adventures. Here are a few of my experiences:

1. This was at a local Store near my place and was within the first week of me landing in the US. I wanted a couple of postage Stamps as I had to mail something to another part of the USA. I walked to the counter and asked for couple of stamps and when I asked how much it was, the man at the counter said ‘Dollar Ten’. When I looked up at him blankly, he repeated ‘Dollar Ten’.  I was still getting used to the Dollar to INR Conversion rates and thought that the stamps were outrageously expensive. I reached into my wallet and gave him a 20$ note. He gave me a 10$, a 5$ and bunch of coins. That is when I realized that ‘Dollar Ten’ means 1 Dollar and 10 Cents. I walked out of the shop with a smile on my face.

2. I was at Chipotle having dinner with a few friends when there was a need for an additional Bowl. I walked up to the counter and this is the dialogue.
Me: Can I please have an extra Bowl?
Lady at the Counter: A What?
Me: An additional BOW-LL
Lady: Excuse me, a what?
Me: A B-OWL?
Lady: (Calls another person and they are now trying to decipher what I am saying)
Me: Bowl, BOW-L, B-OWL?
Lady: Oh, You mean a “BOHL”, of course you can. Here you go.

3. This one was at a Costco . My weighty issues were getting out of hand and I wanted to buy a weighing machine. I went to my nearest Costco and when I could not find it after a couple of aisles, I went to a Costco Associate
Me: Excuse Me, Where can I find the Weighing Machine?
Him: Hmm, Let me see. What is it for?
Me: For measuring my weight…
Him: (With a Smile on his face) Oh, You mean Scales? We have them right here.

The Full Circle

For the uninitiated, the Hierarchy at the IT Office where I work is as follows:
Software Developer Reports to the Business Analyst who reports to the Project Manager who takes inputs from the Data Architect, who in turn, may at times consult the Solution Architect.

Software Developer to Business Analyst: For the files I have been asked to build, is there any specific order to be followed or can I start with the easiest one first.
Business Analyst: Let me check with the Project Manager.

Business Analyst to Project Manager: The files do not seem to be interconnected. Can I ask the developer to build the files according to the level of ease?
Project Manager: Let me check with the Data Architect.

Project Manager to Data Architect: I have been asked if there is an explicit sequence in which the files should be built?
Data Architect: Let me check with the Solution Architect.

Data Architect to Solution Architect: Would you be able to shed some light on whether there exists a predefined framework to arrive at the precise arrangement for the files to be built?
Solution Architect: I shall find out and get back to you on this in sometime.

Solution Architect to Software Developer: Do you have any idea if there is a specific order in which the files should be built or do you think you should start with the easiest one first ?
Software Developer: I don’t think there is any specific order and I can build taking into consideration time to build.
Solution Architect: Great !

 

This is a slightly exaggerated version of what happened to me sometime back !

List of things to take to USA

The following are a list of items I suggest that one brings to USA if they are going for a duration > 6 months. While going through the post, remember it might not be a complete list and also that if you miss out any of these, they are easily available in the US. To make it easy, I have listed down an approximate cost of item in US.

  1. Umbrella. (5$ to 15$ )
  2. The work laptop with all accessories including an adaptor for US Plug Points. (Get an additional adaptor. They are worth around 5$ here )
  3. Pressure cooker + 1 tava + 1 pan. All should be flat bottomed heating method could be Coil Based and not necessarily Gas. Get a chapathi rolling pin. And two additional rubber, safety valve for pressure cooker. (A 3L pressure cooker costs 40$. And a safety valve costs 5$ )
  4. If you want steel utensils, bring them from India as they are very expensive here. A small serving bowl costs 4$. But if you are fine with ceramic variety mugs\plates, they are available for a lot lesser than in India.
  5. Micro Wave Safe tiffin Box. A nice one that serves the purpose can be around 10-15$ here.
  6. Kitchen masala – Lots of famous brands are available here but if you are specific about what masala you want, bring it from India as local varieties are not available here. Some brands that are available are: Baadhshah, Everest, MDH, Nirappara, Haldirams, Eastern, Deep, Swad etc.
  7. Get any speciality utensils that you might need – like idli maker or puttu maker. They are all available here but a small Puttu Maker is 10$. Idli Utensils can easily cost 20$ and above.
  8. If you are a coffee or a tea person, bring 2 or 3 packets of your favorite brand as it is a bit expensive here. ( 200gms of Bru Instant Coffe Powder = 6$)
  9. If you are fond of homemade pickles, bring them from India. Most of the brands are available here for 3$ and above. Oil – can be bought here.
  10. Do not bring rice, grains, cereals etc as they r not allowed on flight. They are also cheaper here and will simply add weight to your luggage.
  11. Footwear – most homes are carpeted and dont need home slippers. Bring one summer wear sandals and one running shoe. You can bring formal shoe if your office demands it. Decent footwear usually cost 15$ and above.
  12. Socks – get at least 5 pairs. ( Each pair costs around 1$-2$, so it can be bought here too )
  13. Clothes – check about dress code at client site and plan accordingly
  14. Bring at least 2 pairs of Indian clothes. Lots of Indian functions festivities around.
  15. Thermal wear if you are travelling to a cold place.
  16. For the clothes – the laundry is usually done once in a week. So plan to bring that many sets of clothes. Indian Clothes tend to get spoilt within 3 months or so. They either shrink or fade.
  17. Bring any cosmetics that you might need. Lots of good cosmetics are available here too but not the specific brands.
  18. Keep a spare set of clothes in your carry bag. Sometimes the luggage arrives late. Keep a small travel kit ready.
  19. Medicines – bring antibiotics, Crocin, allergy meds, pain relief medicine, vicks, zandu baam etc whatever you need or you might need, get doctors prescriptions for them too.
  20. Get a complete dental checkup, do a cleanup and fix anything that needs fixing. Dental issues cost heaven and earth here even with a good insurance policy. Do not travel till all tooth issues are fixed. (My Husband recently spent 1500$ from his own pocket on an emergency root canal. His insurance pays 80% of charges)
  21. Get an eye checkup. If you have power, bring at least 3 different pairs of glasses. Reading Glasses, Travelling Glasses, Spare Glasses. (Spectacles cost around 100$ and above.)
  22. Bring good quality Sunglasses. They are available here too but you might not wish to go shopping as soon as you land here.
  23. Bring 4 pillow covers and 4 plain bedsheets. I would suggest you buy the blankets here.
  24. Carry travel pack of following in handbag Toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, small soap, small talc – in case you have a long airport wait or wish to freshen up somewhere.
  25. Iron for the clothes (They are available for 12$ onwards. So it is your choice whether you wish to buy it here or bring it from India)
  26. At least 4 recent passport size pics. (You may not really need them but if u do, they are expensive. 2 photos for 9$)
  27. Get any photos of god, holy books, idols etc that you might need. Get calendar if you wish to keep track of stars and moons etc.
  28. Additionally, if u are staying at hotel till you find accommodation, bring a few of those instant MTR curries as after a 20hour flight you would crave Indian Food.
  29. Spare Ear phone\Head phone. (I lost mine today and it seems to cost 7$ and up). And while you are at it, get an additional USB charger for your phone.
  30. Water bottle – You will have to shell out around 5$ for a decent water bottle in the US.

Additionally, a software engineer who earns around 35000INR per month in India would be earning around 3500$ in the USA. So essentially, based on salary comparison 1$ would weigh down on his purse as much as 10INR in India. Converting everything by the Dollar to INR conversion rate is simply not worth the trouble.

8 Commandments to discuss with your Spouse-to-Be

The following are not amongst the things that are generally discussed with a soon be to be spouse. For a match made in India, food, movies, books, financial background of the family, love for pets and many such day to day stuff are discussed to check for compatibility. Sense of humor, good looks and a level of romanticism are also considered for the much awaited ‘I Do’. However, I believe that no match should be complete till the bride and groom discuss the following 8 commandments beforehand.

  1. Finance: There are some who track their expenses meticulously and then there are some who don’t. There are those who save at the beginning of the month and then there are those who never save. There are those who send their parents a part of their paycheck, some who donate to religious institutions, some who donate to animal shelters. There are those who love to take from parents and there are those who expect the spouse to be the provider. When it comes to money, every person has their own ideology and making sure that this ideology matches is of utmost importance.
  2. Equality: While the concept of “women are equal to men and deserve to be treated as such” is catching on, not all men are ready to treat their wife as an equal and not all women wish to be treated so. Talk to your spouse-to-be and make sure that your views on this match. You really do not want to spend half the night at office trying to fix some issue of utmost priority, only to come home to find out that your other half has problems with you coming in late.
  3. Kids: Discuss this no matter how awkward you think it is. Not everyone is open to the idea of waiting for a few years before having a kid. Not many are open to the idea of adoption. Not many are able to decide how many kids they want and then there are a few who believe kids are god’s gift and humans should not interfere to stop the process. So, regardless of what you believe, having your partner on the same page is of utmost importance.
  4. LGBT Rights: This one is close to my heart. I believe everyone should have the freedom to Love. Make sure you and your partner share same views on LGBT Rights. You might think it is not significant, but it is more significant than you think. Recent studies suggest that more than 8% of world’s population may be LGBT, most of them who have never come out. There are chances that the child you bring up in future might be in that 8%. Having diverse LGBT views can affect your relationship more than you give it credits for.
  5. Religious Ceremonies: Religion is a vast subject in itself and can touch upon variety of topics. On one hand there are the atheists who question the existence of god and on other hand there are folks who believe nothing happens without the grace of god . Then there are a few who spend most of their lifetimes in prayers\rituals. Make sure that you are tolerant of each other’s habits, beliefs and practices.
  6. Parents and Relatives Trap: There are several big decisions one has to take in life – where to buy a house, where to settle down, which school does the kid get to go to etc. Some can make these decisions easily while some folks have to consult others on their big decisions and ensure their approvals. While discussing these with others might not be a problem, awaiting approvals from far flung relatives might be. Discuss the role the relatives will be playing beforehand.
  7. Hobbies and Habits: Nobody can change who they are for someone else no matter how much they want to or they try to. So, finding a partner with matching habits ensures that the changes are limited to a bare minimum. Make sure your hobbies and pastimes align. One should not be a globe-trotting adventurer while all the other wants to do is curl up in front of the TV with a packet of chips.
  8. Fitness and Food: It is easy to let go of oneself and gain the flab as the responsibilities build up with age. Your partner might have different ideas about that. If you are someone who believes that one is born to eat and your partner checks calories before picking up anything, there might be a time in future where you are headed for a disagreement, and those issues my friend, are bound to be heavy.

That being said, compatibility on the above 8 points does not ensure a Happy and Loving Marriage. I know a few couples out there whose views do not match on any of the 8 points but they still make the best of couples.

USA: Save your Account from Online Thefts

Like many others, I too came to the USA with the great American dream. As in India, I share my Account Details with anyone who owes me money. 3 months later, I used an online site to transfer some money to India and all they wanted was my Acct Number, Name and the Routing Number (Which is unique to a bank). They did not ask for passwords or any other details. This lack of security seemed odd, so a colleague and I walked to the nearest Bank and spoke to their representative. We thought he would assure us that our accounts were safe. Instead, he told us the exact opposite.

He said that anyone with our Account Number, Name and Routing Number* can transfer money out of our accounts.

a. Every time you gave someone a check, you gave them your name, account number and routing number on a piece of paper.
b. Every time you signs up for auto pay using any site, your name, account number and routing number are being stored in a database with access to many.

The solution to this risk:
1.Maintain a Savings Account to hold most of your money.
Cons: No debit cards and a limit of 3 transactions per month.

2.Maintain 2 Checking Accounts.
Pros: Split your salary in such a way, that the account through which you do online transactions, gets at least 250$ a month through direct deposit from the employer and the rest goes to the new checking account.
Cons: Your employer should have the ‘split the salary’ option.

3.Always use the legitimate Bank Website to set up automatic Bill Payments.

If there have been unauthorized fund transfers from your account, please approach your bank and file a claim at the earliest.

* Routing Numbers are Unique to the Bank and hence very easy to find out.

5 Tips to remember in Washington DC

1. Go on a weekend. Almost all the parking spots are free of cost. All museums and places of interest are free throughout the year.

2. Make a list of Must Visit Places and set yourself a time limit for visiting each place and stick to it. Most of the places can easily rob you of 4-5 hours of precious time. Know that no one can see all that DC has to offer in a single trip. DC can be very crowded so be ready to improvise on the plans. And no matter how much you plan, you will still be late. Accept it and the tour will be a lot easier.

3. Take one of those Trolley Tours. Do not get down at White House early in the day. Get to the white house only at around 3 or 4 in the evening as this place is quite crowded and getting back into the trolley buses can be a pain.

4. For the months of June and July: Do not take any Trolley Service to Arlington. Arlington Cemetery has very reasonable parking rates. Plan to reach there at 4:30pm to 5:00pm. Walk or take a bus to the ‘Tomb of Unknown Soldier’ Watch the Change of Guard. Proceed to Arlington House. From there, visit and pay homage at the JFK Burial Site. Visit the Women’s memorial. You should comfortably be able to take in all these sights by 7:30pm. Drive to the Marine Corps Memorial.

5. DC has a lot of food trucks and places to eat. It has something for everyone. So unless you have hard and fast rules about what you would eat and what you won’t, DC has a lot to offer on the plate.

6. Save the Lincoln Memorial , Washington Memorial and a stroll around the Basin for the evening when the crowds are thin and weather pleasant.

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Late Indeed

Lunch Hour at the Food Court. As usual, we were busy with the day’s chatter. Halfway through a friend got up to get a glass of water. And it was at that exact minute that I recollected that he had asked me to remind him about a meeting.
I called out loudly to him: “Aren’t you getting LATE”

The next thing I know, everyone around stopped what they were doing and looked at me. I did not understand what was happening till all my friends burst out laughing.

The way I pronounce the words had made ‘LATE’ sound ‘LAID’.