Category Archives: About Anthony

Posts relating to the blog author, personally!

Recommendation from Deb Harper

I was working for Transportation Northwest, a research group under the College of Engineering until July 2011, when we suddenly lost our federal grant. My supervisor, Deborah Harper, was incredibly supportive during this period, despite being worried about her own livelihood… When I told her I had applied to a position at the UW that I was incredibly excited about, she took it on herself to figure out who the hiring managers would be and address them directly. I was selected for the position, Programmer Analyst for a group working under the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel, my first choice of all the positions I’d applied for! I am incredibly grateful for Deb’s kind words, which I’ve reproduced below.

Greetings from Engineering.

My name is Deborah Harper and I am the Associate Director of Transportation Northwest, a transportation research center in Civil Engineering. Over the summer, our federal program learned that the entire, national, UTC program was being cut (60 centers nationally). Unfortunately, I had to lay off my staff of 5.

My former “IT guy”, Anthony Curreri was one of those people. I just learned he has applied for an opening in your department and wanted to write and tell you a little about Anthony.

I have worked around the UW for 15 years. In that time, I have met and worked with many “techies”. Anthony is truly a special individual and possesses a unique ability to understand and execute the technology while also being able to communicate to the “non-technology” people (like myself). He is extremely patient, an excellent listener and very innovative. TransNow is basically a mini-research foundation and Anthony built our online proposal submission site which included a very slick process for proposal reviewers. In addition, he built an “add on” on the financial side as a solution to a compliance issue I was seeing.

I would hire him back in a second. I thought you might appreciate a “proactive” reference. Feel free to call me if you have other questions.

Deborah Harper

What do my co-workers say about me?

Here is the unattributed feedback I got after a staff retreat.

Anthony is awesome. His steady nature is an asset to everyone.

Anthony has a great sense of humor and is an incredibly well-rounded IT person. He either knows right away how to fix or improve something or he knows where to go to find a solution. It’s rare in IT that one person wears so many hats so well.

Anthony has been a dream to work with. All three techs that I have worked with at TransNow have been extremely patient with me and taught me lots of things, often even before I asked for help. They could just sense that I needed their input. Anthony has done that, but he has also been very cooperative about working with Larisa and me with keeping the paperwork complete. Not all “techies” think that part of the job is important.

Anthony: always there to help when asked and suggests his help when sees something is wrong even if it’s out of his responsibility.

Anthony: a kind and outgoing person always makes the mood lighter. He is willing and happy to help.

A Nice Note From My Supervisor

I went home sick yesterday, which is pretty unusual; I take sick time so rarely I actually have over 250 hours of sick leave right now. When I came in this morning I found this nice handwritten note from my supervisor:

Anthony,

Sorry you’re not feeling well. But just a quick “Thank you” for putting on a StarLab hat and driving the van on Tuesday. I appreciate your help and your always upbeat attitude. 🙂 Have a good weekend —

Deb

That’s a nice way to start a Friday!

PS, I literally put on a StarLab hat. They had hats made with their logo!

Simple retirement investing for 20-somethings

So, you are a twenty-something who doesn’t want to think too much about saving for retirement.

Welcome to the club! Here are the basics:

  1. Find out if your employer has a matching program. Meaning, if you contribute $100, they put in $75 or something like that. The $75 is free money that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t in their program. Stop reading this now, and join their program… now!
  2. If your employer doesn’t have a match program, again welcome to the club! What you will need is an “IRA”. This is often referred to as the whole savings plan, but for our purposes when I say IRA I mean the mechanism we are using to transfer money. The “fund” is the place where the money resides. This two-part deal is more complicated than a savings account, because the different types of IRA (the mechanism you are using to save money) have different taxation rules, which I’ll get into in a second.
  3. The fund you buy is basically what kind of stocks you want to buy. You can buy really safe things that will never lose money (but never make money), or you can buy riskier funds which have higher returns.
  4. Just remember: the fund holds your money (and hopefully grows it), and IRA is how you are transferring money into your fund.

Roth IRA, the mechanism

The Roth IRA is great for young people. This is what I use to do all my investing right now. You pay all your taxes on money that you put into an IRA now, but you don’t pay taxes on the money when you withdraw it in retirement. If you are young and not making a lot, you will probably be taxed more when you are old and want to “make” more money (by withdrawing it from investments you make now). When you look at your account balance you know that you will actually have that money when you retire!

With the Traditional IRA (sometimes just called an IRA) your contributions are tax-deductible. This sounds nice–ooooo I can pay less taxes now! However when you withdraw money from the account in retirement you pay taxes on it then. So your account actually has less money in it than it looks like there is! You can save the same amount of money with the Traditional IRA as you would with a Roth IRA, but you’d have to take your tax savings and put that money into your IRA. No one has that kind of financial discipline! It’s probably not a bad idea to have both, but personally I’m going to wait until I’m able to comfortably max out my Roth (currently the limit is $5,000 a year) before I open a traditional IRA to put money into as well.

How much should you put in your IRA? As much as you can afford, every single paycheck. If you put the same amount of money in your IRA at a set interval (every paycheck is best) you will benefit from something called dollar-cost averaging. Just ignore how your chosen fund is performing, and always put the same amount of money in it. Easy, right? This will protect you from market fluctuation and mistakes you might make as an investor. If you don’t believe me, I gave you the term so you can look it up. Yes, yes but how many $$$ each paycheck? Financial advisers say you should save at least 10% of your salary, so divide it out: If you make $50k/year and get paid twice a month: $50,000 divided by 10 to get 10%, then divided by 24 is: $208 you should put in every paycheck. ($30k would be $128/paycheck.)

Choosing a fund

Some people get snooty and choose a fund managed by a well known investor who chooses stocks he thinks are going to perform well. The problem with this is two-fold. One, you have to pay the guy who chooses the stocks. This is called simply ‘fees’. Any fee’s that get levied against your money is obviously less money for you, but also less interest accrued, and this ends up being a lot. The second is that investors and fund managers who outperform the market are just lucky, and no one is lucky forever. You want a long-term solution that you don’t have to think about, that won’t cost a lot in fee’s, and performs the same as the stock market in general (which is considered to average 10% over large amounts of time, by the way). So just buy the whole stock market. I have an account at Vanguard that allows me to do just this: when I buy shares in my fund, Vanguard is just buying equal shares of stock in whatever companies are listed in the S&P 500. The fees are low because it takes no brainpower to do this (a computer probably does it). And this is a long term investment, so I’m not even worried about temporary downs like we are experiencing right now.

So, before we get into the specifics of how to set up this system, lets take a look at how I’ve been doing. I bought into this account with $3,000 right before the stock market crashed. I want to show you that I made a terrible mistake, and it’s fine. Long-term investing is easy and fool proof, and you should start right now. Not when the economy is better, start right now!

I opened my account in 2007, before the crash, spending $3,000 to open the account. I’ve done my best to put in the same amount every month and utilize dollar-cost averaging, though there are times when I’ve had to change the amount I’ve paid in slightly due to some other budget priority. Here’s what my balance looks like over time:

My account balance goes up pretty steadily, because I am always feeding money into it. It feels good to have a growing amount of savings. However, notice that the line goes up higher recently. That’s because in the early days of my investment, the S&P Index was going down, so I was pumping in money, and the money I put in was actually losing it’s value! Look at this:

If my investment were making money, the line would be over the zero dollar mark. Even to this day, I would have more money if I had just made all my deposit’s directly into a savings account. But I invested “at the worst possible time”, and I’m currently only down about $500, whereas at my worst, it looked like I had lost $3,200. You have the benefit of time and dollar cost averaging, you can’t lose!

How to Get Started

  1. First, figure out how much money you can afford to “give away” every paycheck. This is money you will “never” see again (until you retire). Try to put away at least 10% of your salary, but put in whatever you can.
  2. Second, do you have $3,000 sitting around? My guess is you don’t. So the first step is to open an Orange Checking Account, which has no minimum balance, and set up a transfer to automatically put the amount you put away in step one into the account. Using an Orange Account is better than using the savings account at your bank because you won’t see the money every time you check your balance.
  3. Once you have $3,000, then you can open your RothIRA at Vanguard. Go to Vanguard.com, and open a Roth IRA, selecting the S&P 500 fund. I’m not posting instructions because their site has changed since I’ve done this, and will likely change again, but you can do the whole thing online without ever talking to a person if you like!
    • Note, I think you select the fund first, then click buy. Try this link to the S&P 500 fund.
  4. Now set up your automatic transfer. At time of writing, you have to log in to your Vanguard account, click “Accounts and Activity”, then click on your fund–probably: “Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares”. Then scroll to the bottom, and find “Automatic Investment.” This is also where you can change the amount you invest.

How to budget and never get another overdraft fee from your bank

How to budget, never get another overdraw fee from your bank, never pay another ATM fee, live well and stay inside your budget. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out this amazingly simple system, so I hope to help you by passing on this info.

 

Step one, make sure you have enough bank accounts

Bank accounts are buckets of money. You can have your banks automatically move money from one bucket to another, which I think is the key to success.

Here is the minimum number of bank accounts any person should have, and what they are used for.

  1. Main Checking Account
    • This is your main bank account, the one that receives your income each month.
    • This bank account is used to ‘pay’ other bank accounts, pay rent, and make debt payments.
  2. Short-Term Savings Account
    • This should be at the same bank as your Main Checking, and tied to it in online banking so you can easily make transactions between the two accounts.
    • Your Main Checking account should automatically be set to ‘pay’ this account a set amount each pay period.
    • You should try not to think of this as spendable money, but don’t feel bad if you use money from this account for unexpected monthly expenses (doctors bills, car repairs, etc)
  3. Medium-Term Savings Account
    • This account should be at a different bank than your other accounts, so that transfers and checking the balance are more difficult. You want to forget that you have money in this account.
    • Online-only bank accounts are great for this, as you typically get slightly better interest rates on your savings than from a brick and mortar bank. I use Orange Savings from ING.
    • It might help if you decide this money is going to be used for something specific on a specific date. Like I need the $x for a down payment for new car next winter, or I need $x for a vacation in summer of 2011. Then divide the amount of money you need by the number of pay periods you have between now and then, and set up an automatic transfer to pay this account that much each pay period.
  4. Spending Money Checking Account
    • Your Main Checking account will pay this account with the amount of money you’ve budgeted for yourself to spend each month.
    • At the start of each week, you will visit your banks ATM, and withdraw the amount of cash you have allotted yourself to spend that week.
    • Now, when you look into your wallet, you will know exactly how much money you have to spend on buying lunch, buying dinner, buying gas, going out to drinks, buying coffee, shoes, albums, etc, etc. You don’t need to track any purchases made with this money, but you will start to think about how big a piece of the spending money pie each thing is; you will begin to feel whether or not certain purchases are worthwhile.
    • If you need more money in a given week, you can check your account balance online. Because you don’t use the debit feature on your ATM card, the account balance will almost always be accurate. If you don’t have any money left in the account, you can choose to use a credit card–but you’ll know that you’re going over budget with every single swipe.

 

Suggested additional accounts.

  1. Credit Cards
    • I have two cards. One with a balance from before I started using this system (which I am steadily paying off), and one without a balance which I pay off every pay period.
    • The credit card should only be swiped for must-have daily purchases, when you run out of money in your spending money account. You must focus on the fact that every swipe of the card is you going over budget.
    • The credit card can also be used for emergencies, like car repairs and doctors bills. Then, transfer money from your Short-Term Savings into your Main Checking, and (hopefully) pay the credit card bill in full.
  2. Long-Term Savings (retirement account)
    • I have a Roth IRA with Vanguard for my retirement money. If you want to know what that is and how to set one up for yourself, visit the post I wrote about that!
    • This is an account which you probably will not be able to withdraw money from without loosing a bunch to taxes. That’s OK. You should think of money you put into this account as an expense, as money that is leaving your possession.
    • You can have multiple Long-Term Accounts, one retirement IRA from work, one Orange Savings for a down payment on a house, one for your (or your kids) college education, etc.

 

Step two, creating and keeping track of your budget

I use two spreadsheets for this. If you are not familiar with how spreadsheet programs work, you could make some lines on a piece of paper and do the calculations by hand.

The first spreadsheet

The first spreadsheet is used to manage each what you pay each pay period.



Click the image above for a larger view, or download the Weekly Budget Sample Spreadsheet.

What is on this Spreadsheet?

  1. There are two worksheets on this one sheet, the one the left is your scratch pad and the one on the right is a monthly breakdown just for informational purposes (not strictly necessary).
  2. This spreadsheet looks simple, but only because you aren’t actually tracking all your expenses, just the big, regularly occurring ones. The smaller more irregular transactions come out of your Spending Money Checking Account (IE your wallet). If your wallet is empty you do something cheap like go to the park instead of to a concert.
  3. I also have a little ‘fooling yourself’ pad of a minimum balance in this spreadsheet. I have it set to $100 on this budget, but you should change it (as soon as you are able) to be the amount of one pay period. The reason for this is that your work can screw up and accidentally not pay you (this has happened to me) and you don’t want to have to scramble to make transfers and cover things. The pad is also useful in case you forget you wrote a check or some unexpected thing hits (like something that recurs every six months). The moral is you want a pad against mistakes, either your own or your employers.

Tailoring the Spreadsheet to You

  1. The hard part here is to find all of the things that you pay a set amount for each month, then find out at what time of the month you pay for each thing. Put each under the appropriate pay period.
  2. I try to make a little payment on my debt every time you get paid. I don’t do this for my student loan only because the company that I pay can only automatically withdraw money once a month. Make as many regular withdrawals and transfers automatically as you can.
  3. For the things you can have flexibility on when to pay (Savings, credit card payments), try to balance the money you pay out so that you are paying approximately the same amount each pay period. For example, if you pay $400 in rent from the second pay period of the month, make $400 in payments to your savings accounts from the first pay period. If the pay periods are somewhat balanced, then you won’t feel like you are waiting for a certain pay period, because that’s your big payday, and the other just goes to rent.
  4. Lastly, make sure that the amount you are paying out during each pay period is less than you are taking in. You want to have about $100 of breathing room (what I call Available Money). If you don’t spend this, let it accumulate in your Main Checking Account for a rainy day. I end up spending my breathing room money paying my the Credit Card that I use for my ‘over budget’ spending money purchases.

How to Use this Spreadsheet

  1. To use this sheet, open it up every time you get paid. Put x’s next to all the items from the previous pay period items which have been debited from your bank account.
  2. Next, log in to your Main Checking Account’s online banking, and get your account balance. If you have x’s next to all the items from the previous pay period on your spreadsheet, you know that your account balance is for real, so put that at the top of your worksheet, in the ‘starting balance’ cell.
  3. Next, for every payment amount that fluctuates each month (credit card balance), find out what the debit amount is this pay period and fill it in. If your free money drops below $0, you have to make a transfer from your Short-Term Savings.
  4. All of these line items should be paid from your Main Checking Account. If you have automatic deductions happening to other accounts or Credit Cards, have them moved to your Main Checking Account. You want to only see those CC balances go down anyway, and not having things automatically withdrawing from your CC’s gives you more freedom to close or change credit card accounts later.

 

The second spreadsheet

The second spreadsheet is your planning sheet, or your motivation.



Click the image above for a larger view, or download the Planning and Motivation Spreadsheet.

What is on this Spreadsheet?

  1. Each row is a pay period.
  2. I have one or two columns for everything I want to track over time. The required column for each thing I want to track is a ‘transaction column’ (labeled ‘Trans’), or how much I put in or took out of a bucket during that time period. The second column is a running total.
  3. Rent doesn’t have a total, and the long term balance fluctuates with the stock market, so I don’t have total’s columns for them. I do want them on the sheet so I can see how much money I pay in rent and for retirement over time.

How to use this Spreadsheet

  1. I call this my motivation sheet because I can see about how much money I’ll have at a given date in the future.
  2. I’m trying to calculate interest as the totals go (download the spreadsheet with the link above and look at the formulas if you want), and in the totals lines I’m calculating interest so I can see how much my debt is costing me, and my ‘investments’ (savings accounts) are earning. This is not totally necessary, the money accrued from interest is pretty insubstantial, as you can see.
  3. This spreadsheet is incredibly useful for figuring out how much you should pay each pay period on a certain debt (for use on the first, budget sheet). For example, I want to pay off my Credit Card by July 2010, and now I know if I make these payments I’ll have it done by then.
  4. Open this sheet every pay period and enter with how much you’ve actually paid towards each debt or savings account.

I am a great Driving Instructor

Though I like doing techy things, I’m also a part time driving instructor. I got the following from the head instructor at the driving school I work for. It is quite the ego boost:

Tony,

During my debriefing with the trainees last week, we spent a lot of time talking about what they saw when observing experienced instructors at work. Your name kept coming up. The instructors that observed you couldn’t stop talking about how great of a job you did. Here were some of the highlights I took from a couple of the eval sheets:

“Tony made both drives fun”
“Lorraine kept seeing 2 ropes when setting reference points – Tony had her close eyes, open them and look way ahead – it solved the problem”
“Gently had her go a tad faster”
“Tony appeared to really enjoy instructing”
“When he had a correction, he always led off with what they did well or what he liked, then added the correction – they weren’t upset nor did they shut down. He really had a great rapport with them”

“Tony is very positive w/ students”
“Lots of questions and looking ahead”
“Noticed her foot to brake and told her he liked it”
“Corrected once about waiting to change lanes, next time she waited and he complimented her”
“He gives feedback. Tony talked and commented entire drive – Either Tony or student was talking”
“Giving examples of what might happen”
“He talked to student while writing eval and explained it in great detail”

Here’s the kicker:
“Tony is the driving instructor I would like to develop into”

Great job Tony. The last time I rode with you, I was very impressed with the work you were doing. It’s obvious to the trainees you’re very talented and have worked very hard to build your instruction skills. I just wanted to make sure you know that we’re all aware of the great job you’re doing.

It’s nice to be appreciated. I teared up a little when I read this.

Then the next day I got the following from one of the founders of the parent company of my driving school. This man was a racecar driver, I saw the matchbox car with his name on it. He makes a good business training racecar drivers.

I just wanted to say thanks for doing an awesome job! When a new instructor, who we know has had the best training we’ve been able to provide yet, makes a claim like, “Tony is the instructor I want to develop into,” that’s impressive. It’s obvious that you’ve put a lot of effort into being as good as you are, and if the instructor trainees noticed what they did, we know the students are getting the training they need. From the comments, it sounds like you’re having fun and interacting really well with the students – way to go!

I don’t even know how to respond to these emails.