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Blogger Showdown #8: Madame X vs. Generation X

by J. Money on Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Showdown: Madame X vs. Generation X
PF Blogger Showdown #8: Madame X vs. Generation X (aka Jeremy Voh)! AKA two bloggers who use my favorite letter in the entire alphabet! Makes me wonder why I didn’t call myself “X” Money actually ;) Though that does sound kinda dirty…

It’s another round of Blogger vs. Blogger, friends! In the left corner, hailing all the way from Brooklyn, NY, and famous for her Reader Love Matchups, give it up for my main girl Madaaaaaaaame XXXXXXX! And in the far right corner, representin’ Northern Indiana, and the king of award-winning chile, put your hands together for Jeremey Vohhhhhhhwinkle!

Two totally different blog-stars, with two totally different backgrounds – here on the same page to dish out the goods. And boy do they go back! Does Wide Open Wallet and Generation X Finance ring any bells?! Well either way we’re ringing them now, baby! Let’s get to it.

Madame XMadame X
3,022 Readers
My Open Wallet
@myopenwallet
Jeremy VohJeremy Voh(winkle)
5,376 Readers
Generation X Finance
@jeremyvoh
How long have you been blogging for?
Since July of 2005– it’s amazing how much the personal finance blogosphere has expanded and changed since then. I’ve been blogging since late 2006. I’ve been running and maintaining various websites since around 1998, but they were not what you’d call a blog today.
Do you find you’re running out of things to say?
Lately I’ve been posting much less frequently because I was very distracted by family matters and I’ve been extremely busy at work, and for some reason I have found it harder to write about money. But there’s always something to say on the topic, and I have way more ideas than I have time to write posts about! That is one of the reasons I started a personal finance blog in the first place– I wasn’t just interested in the basic how-to’s of managing my finances, but more in how money affects every single aspect of my day to day life. I’m not really running out of things to say, but rather running out of interesting ways to say things I’ve already said. After talking about personal finance on almost a daily basis for over three years I find it can be hard to find the motivation to write about some of the more basic topics with a new spin.
What are the first 3 sites you check in the morning?
My personal email via AOL, Facebook, and MyYahoo to check the latest headlines from various blogs I follow. This is probably a really boring list but unfortunately my work computer is blocked from accessing p()rn and gambling sites. This might seem odd to some, but since I’m a big weather nerd the first site I check in the morning is my local National Weather Service office at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/iwx/. After I get a good idea of what lies ahead in terms of weather I typically hit up the WSJ online to scan for the latest business and finance headlines, and then I usually fire up my feed reader so I can start making my way through all the new blog posts for the day.
On a scale from 1-10, how happy are you financially?
I’d say I’m somewhere around 8.375. I’m very happy that I live within my means and am constantly saving for retirement while still managing to splurge a little on things I enjoy. But I’m not immune from feeling like it’s never quite “enough.” I’d like to be making a bigger salary so I could feel a bit less anxious about the future, and I certainly haven’t been happy about the way the economy has affected my investments and home equity. But overall, I think I’m in a pretty good place, barring any unforeseen catastrophes! Right now I’d have to say I’m at an 8. We just bought a new house but have yet to sell our old house, so until we can unload the burden of a second mortgage I don’t think I can go any higher than an 8. Once we sell the house and I get my last student loan paid off I’d easily be at a 10.
Do you use a budget?
Yes, I keep a pretty detailed budget in Quicken. I seem to have pretty regular habits and my spending is quite consistent year to year, so I can usually just budget pretty much what I spent the previous year, plus a little extra just for inflation. There was one year when my budget and actual expenses only differed by $12! These days I don’t follow a strict budget like I used to. Back when my wife and I were just getting started, had lower paying jobs, and were trying to pay off consumer debt we followed a very strict and detailed budget. But these days most of our finances are on autopilot-utilities, the mortgage, car payments, etc are all typically paid automatically and remain relatively consistent from month to month. So our budget now just consists of having ballpark figures for other expenses such as groceries, travel, discretionary spending, etc. As long as we’re close to our budget for those items I don’t go overboard and track every single penny.
What’s one of the best moves you’ve ever made?
I bought an apartment with a partner in the mid-90s, just before the start of the big real estate boom. Its value at the height of the market was 5 times more than what we’d paid. The best financial move I’ve ever made was the decision to NOT declare bankruptcy many years ago. I ran into some major financial issues towards the end of college when I had a business that was funded primarily by loans and credit cards go under. With an almost insurmountable amount of debt the only option that seemed to make any sense was bankruptcy. That was even what various accountants and tax professionals recommended. But I really didn’t want to go that route. I know that being a young college kid with nothing to lose could have used bankruptcy to easily wipe the slate clean, I just felt like I had an obligation to pay back the money I had borrowed. This decision motivated me to change my career path a bit, find more, and higher paying work, and even start my own businesses on the side and do whatever I could in order to come up with the money to repay all that debt.

It worked. Instead of declaring bankruptcy I worked my butt off, learned new skills, made new connections, and learned how to be extremely frugal and do whatever it takes to save money when times are tough. Over $60,000 in debt was repaid in about three years. Bankruptcy would have actually been much cheaper and wouldn’t have hurt my credit much more than it already was at the time, but the lessons I learned during that period of my life would have never been possible.

What about one that pisses you off just thinking of it?
I sold my half of that apartment in 2001– I made a bit of a profit but not as much as I would have if I’d cashed out a bit later, as my ex- did! And what’s worse, I then rented for 6 years and didn’t end up buying again until close to the height of the bubble! I was focused on other things at the time, but in retrospect, I wish I’d done things differently. Bad drivers. Need I say more? People who wait until the last second to merge, fail to use turn signals, hog the passing lane while going under the speed limit, idiots no their phones not paying attention, and of course, those who can’t seem to park their car between the clearly marked lines in the parking lot and take up multiple spaces. See what you did? Now my blood is boiling just thinking about it.
Do you think the Dow hitting 10k means anything?
10,000 is a number like any other, but it’s bigger than the 9,999 numbers before it! Perhaps that extra 5th digit has some psychological effect. But I try to have a pretty hands-off approach to the stock market. I try to put money in and leave it alone unless a particular investment is really tanking. The Dow at 10,000 is meaningless. It’s a nice round number that people can associate with and something the media can talk about, but in the end that’s about all it’s good for.
What’s better – $50k in the bank or $50k off your mortgage?
Given the crappy interest rates banks are paying these days, it probably makes more sense to put $50k into paying off your mortgage. But if that $50k is all the savings you have, then I’d leave some of it in the bank for emergencies and not tie all of it up in home equity, especially in an economic climate when it might not be as easy to get a home equity loan. In most cases, $50k in the bank. Liquidity is nice, and you can do a lot more with $50k in cash than you can with a $50k paper gain on your balance sheet. Life is unpredictable, so having the money in the bank will help you get through a period of unemployment, financial, or even medical emergency without leaving you to resort to more drastic measures to come up with the money in a time of need.
Any cool side gigs or projects in the works?
Kind of– I have another blog and I’m working on what will hopefully be my first novel (ack!) but unfortunately those will be under my real name, not Madame X, so I can say no more… [pulls cloak over face.] Hmm, well I always have a ton of ideas floating around in my head, but very little time to actually put most new projects into action. There is one new project I’m going to be a part of in the coming months. I’m one of the community editors for a new finance startup, but they haven’t officially made the announcement or launched the site yet. But I can tell you it’s coming very soon and I’ll be posting updates about it on my site when I have more information.
*BONUS* Which are cuter – puppies or lolcats?
Both are cute, but I think there’s a great untapped audience that really wants to see more turtles. Lolcats, without a doubt. I love those guys! In fact, here’s a useless bit of trivia. I love lolcats so much that in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games on Xbox I always name my band “I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER”.

Much respect to both of these classy bloggers. To be in the game for that long and still be rockin’ it out is simply awesome. Thank you both for taking the time and chatting with us :) Everyone else – don’t forget to vote for your favorite!

—————
Previous Showdowns:
Showdown #7: Liz Weston vs. Kathy Kristof (Kathy wins)
Showdown #6: Fabulously Broke vs. Krystal at Work (Krystal wins, by 1 vote!)
Showdown #5: Matt Jabs vs. Adam Baker (Jabs wins)
Showdown #4: Flexo vs. Jim Wang (Flexo wins)
Showdown #3: Lazy Man vs. Silicon Valley Blogger (SVB wins)
Showdown #2: Stephanie vs. Squawkfox (Squawkfox wins)
Showdown #1: J.D. Roth vs. Trent Hamm (J.D. wins)


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