Uniwide Shopping: Christmas Ornaments

This year, I promise to regularly update this blog and immediately publish posts that others might find help.

No, not really. Who am I kidding? Sometime last November, I was really planning on blogging about my Uniwide finds. The post could have helped last minute Christmas shoppers. Hopefully, my three-part Uniwide posts might help you 11 months from now.

Uniwide is my happy place. My world crashed when I heard of plans of its closure mid last year. Thank God it is still operational. And I am sorry if I caused panic buying.

I was in Uniwide Sucat several weeks before Christmas. The whole store was in holiday mode.

These greeted us at the entrance. I so want the snow-covered-looking tree! So help me God!

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I have been shopping in Uniwide for a couple of years now. It was only last year did I got overwhelmed with the wonderful and affordable ornaments on stock. Whatever your theme is, I am sure there’s something for you there.

Here are some of my favorites

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I got this for my friend Margie who likes the moon

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And this was for another friend who likes dogs

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Santa in sports team uniforms. I’d love to have a jujitsu Santa

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I should have gotten this for another friends who loves the color green. Bad friend me.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAMitch would have loved this because these are her favorite colors.  Tsk tsk. Bad boss me. Continue reading

Wealth Management Series: Mutual Funds

Good morning!

I think my blogging mojo is back. For the past days, I have been regularly waking up at 4:30AM feeling refreshed. The downside is by 8:30PM, even before I finish reading a book to Aki, I am already half asleep. Good luck to me later because I have meetings until 11PM.

Anyhoo, today  I will tackle the backlog that has been sitting on my head since May last year. We started our Wealth Management Project January 2013. Read more about it here. We prioritized sealing the deals for our insurance and emergency funds. One of the cardinal rules of investing is making sure you are secured before you make investments. And by saying secured, I mean you should have enough money in the bank for emergencies and that you have insurance for your family in case something happens to you. Knock on wood.

First let me make it clear that I am no expert. I am just sharing what I know which might be wrong, incomplete or not applicable. Remember, this post was supposed to be published 15 months ago. I would be happy to answer any questions but please take everything with a grain of salt. Read personal finance books and talk to the experts before signing up for a product.

One of the many questions that I asked Efren Cruz, our financial advisor, is what is the best investment tool for us. I was really hoping that he’d suggest mutual funds because that is one product that I am already familiar with. To my relief, we both agree that mutual funds is the way to go.

So what are mutual funds? The idea is that you give your hard earned money to the experts, the fund managers and let them do what they do best, invest. Mutual fund companies decide where it would be best to invest, when to pull out, when to buy etc. My mutual fund agent released an advisory a couple of months ago after the sudden dip in PSEX. They said they had been getting inquiries and complaints as to why our fund was not performing as well as the competition. She advised that they were expecting the pull out of American investors. They waited for the stock market prices to go down so that they can buy stocks at a cheaper price. Information on foreign investor behaviour and trends is something I and probably a lot of other people, don’t have access too. And to be honest, I’d rather pay experts to take on the headaches and the heartaches. I’d rather spend my free time licking mixing bowls with Aki or giving my husband a scalp massage than research about money.

There are other ways to invest in the stock market. The old school way is if you have a lot of money, you can get a broker who will trade for you. Nowadays, you don’t need be filthy rich to invest directly. Some people I know invest thru COL Financial. They are subscribed in Bo Sanchez’ Truly Rich club. They pay a small fee, 500 bucks I think, monthly for expert advice on what to buy and when to buy. Lynn of SmockExchange blogged about it here.

You can also invest in by getting a VUL insurances. These are insurance products that comes with investment components. According to Efren, this is the most expensive option because of the admin fees. He is probably right. I asked one of our MF agents for a comparison of the performance of their VUL and their stand alone mutual fund. At that time, the VUL was at 12% while the mutual fund was performing much better at 19% year to date. VUL’s I think would be an ideal product for those who are not used to regularly saving a portion of their income. With VUL’s, because you don’t want to forfeit the earlier investments made, you will be encouraged to pay the monthly/quarterly/annual fee on time.
There are also UITF’s which is similar to mutual funds but instead of dealing with mutual fund companies, you coordinate with banks. What I like about UITF’s is the convenience. Just go to your preferred bank, tell them that you want to invest in UITF, fill out the form and then come back after several days for the UITF certificate. What I don’t like about it is that there is no agent who gives updates, provides after-sale service and sends greetings on Mother’s day. Ok, the last one is not important but my point is since the money I invested is not picked from a tree, it was something I really worked hard for, I want to be regularly updated on its performance. Funny, when I was filling out the form, the customer service rep of the bank leaned forward and in a semi whispery voice, as if she’s telling me a secret,”Mam I will teach you a trick. …………Buy low and sell high”. I just smiled and thanked her but in mind I was saying, “Naman!!! Hija, my high school economics teacher taught me that back in 1998!.”

Some info that you might be interested to know about mutual funds
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Public Service Announcement: Uniwide is Closing Shop!

Waaaaaah! My happy place is closing for good next month. Special thanks to Tricia for sharing this terrible news. I am sure other Uniwide-fanatics like me felt both panic and sadness. If there is only a way I can save Uniwide… If only I had billions to buy and run Uniwide myself. Haaay.

I have been avoiding Uniwide for months but when I learned about the SEC order, I just had to give my final goodbye, thru shopping of course. Because Rachel was suddenly available, I had a shopping buddy. It was a fun fun day for us. First, the Aki and Coco fought over the scooter. Then we made pizza. Off we went to the Booksale Warehouse. Then to Uniwide. We had dinner at Jolliant. And then went back to the house where the little boys chased each other, the daddies talked about guns, bikes and paint guns and the mommies talked about anything and everything under the sun. The highlight of course was our trip to Uniwide. The best husband in the whole wide world, Franco, who vowed to never go back to Uniwide Coastal Mall, wholeheartedly drove us to Uniwide Sucat. The Sucat branch is much closer to us. It is also not as dusty. The selection is not as wide as that in Coastal Mall but good finds were still everywhere.

For the reference of those who are not from the Philippines, 1 US dollar is around 40 Philippine peso. Some of my favorite finds. Continue reading

DRAFT: New Year’s Resolutions

I like making NY resolutions. And I like setting goals and achieving them. I have been really really busy lately that I have not yet taken time to sit down, make a list and evaluate which ones are doable. Here goes..

Read leadership books. I realized that I devour parenting and housekeeping books and magazine but I don’t invest time in reading  books that will enhance my skills professionally. For 2013, my goal is to read one management book per quarter. If I can read more, then all the better. I am done with the first book.  🙂 DOABILITY – 4/5

Monetize this blog. I just want to place ads especially Nuffnang ads. I was researching about the WordAds feature of WordPress but I learned that the earnings are not significant. Thank you, Leah for answering my questions! I have two options. First get a host and transfer to wordpress.org.  I have no idea how much hosting costs though and I don’t want to spend much. Two, transfer to Blogspot. Nuninuninu.  Haaay. I want to have ads but I don’t want to market. Meaning, I don’t want to promote myself in Facebook or anywhere else. Any tips? DOABILITY – 2.5

Be a little more conscious of how I look. In 2010, I bought new clothes, mostly blouses. While the top part of my outfit I think is okay, the bottom half is so so. My pants are either too long or too baggy. And I don’t have nice everyday shoes. Over the holidays, I bought 2 new pairs of denim pants and organized the few accessories that I have. I also rediscovered St Francis Square. Franco and I might go shopping this weekend. Hopefully, this is the year when I finally learn how to wear skirts. DOABILIY – 3

Learn how to medidate. Last year, I had several anxiety attacks. I would wake up in the middle of the night, that is if I ever get to sleep at all, feeling very worried about things. My goal is to make 50 reps of  breathing exercises every morning.  DOABILITY – 3/5
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Philippine Stocks Rose to A New All-time High For the 3rd Straight Day

Philippine Stocks Rose to A New All-time High For the 3rd Straight Day

Philippine Stocks Rose to A New All-time High For the 3rd Straight Day

Philippine Stocks Rose to A New All-time High For the 3rd Straight Day

Philippine Stocks Rose to A New All-time High For the 3rd Straight Day!!!

I AM SO HAPPY!!

 

 

2012: The Year that Was

A couple of hours before we officially welcomed 2013, Franco and I sat down to write ourselves a holiday card. We started this tradition in 2010. The idea is to reminisce the highlights and lowlights of the current year.

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Looking at the card, 2012 was a good year for us. In fact, when we were already in the lowlights part, we could only think of a few things. See notes on the side.

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So what were the highlights?

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On Emergency Funds

As I mentioned in one of my previous wealth management posts, our financial planner, Efren Cruz, clarified that the emergency fund should be worth the cost of expenses for at least 3 months. This was a major eye opener because all this time I thought the emergency fund should be basic salary times six. We are big on savings so the difference of the expenses and salary is quite significant.

What is an emergency fund?  As the name implies, it is the fund that you set aside for emergencies such as loss of a job, illness or any unexpected major expense. One of the cardinal rules of investing, I read, is to have an emergency fund first before actually investing.
One of the questions I asked Efren is that “is there a way to maximize the returns of our emergency fund?”.  Would it be wise to invest it in low risk instruments?  Efren said that the EF should be placed in a monthly time deposit so that it still earns somehow but we can pull it out anytime. We also placed several weeks worth of EF in a savings bank account that has an ATM since emergencies may take place during non-banking hours.

And so, we recomputed our emergency fund, consolidated it and parked it our trusted government-run bank (let’s use TGRB, ok?). Why government-run? Someone told me that government banks are more stable than commercial banks since they run on the citizen’s taxes. Not sure if this info is true but it does make sense.

Some learnings from our experience in opening an account for our emergency fund

– Banks require two official government ID’s. Company ID’s are not considered official.
– A friendly customer-service-oriented branch manager makes the banking experience a lot better. In general, I don’t like banks.  The offices are boring and services have a lot of opportunities for improvements.  We love the branch manager and staff in TGRB, though. I only brought one government ID. Because the branch manager knows us, she allowed me to open the joint account and submit my ID on another day. I also like that she calls every roll-over date to confirm if we will retain our monthly time deposit.
– There is such a thing as aggregate interest. Franco’s parents also have savings with TGRB. The branch manager, gave us a better interest rate based on the sum of our emergency fund and hubby’s families savings.
– Don’t forget your old signature. Hahaha. Franco had an account with TGRB even before we got married. We closed that account and opened a joint one. The process got longer than necessary because hubby forgot his signature 10 years ago!
– One of the things that bother me nowadays is estate tax. When we die, our beneficiaries may not get the full amount of the investments that we will leave behind. The government will take out estate tax. Grrrr! Being a product of a state university, I am thankful to taxpayers for financing my education. However, now that I am working and see my payslip, I can’t help but wish that one third of my salary does not go to income tax. Imagine, how much more comfortable our lives would be if we get that our salaries in full? Sorry for disgressing. I asked our branch manager if there are ways to avoid paying tax estate or at least reduce it. She bit her lip and told me there are ways but she can’t tell me. Hahahaha! Can someone please tell me?
– PDIC insures deposits only up to 500K per depositor. That means if I have 300K in time deposit and 450K in regular savings, should the bank declare bankruptcy, I will only get a maximum of 500K.

Here is a very informative post on emergency funds.

What I Learned from Our Insurance Shopping Experience

One of the most stressful projects that we did this year was to shop for life insurances. The day after Franco semi-failed the medical exam for his insurance application, an officemate, who was Franco’s batchmate in college, passed away in her sleep. We were all shocked. It was so sudden. She even went to work the night before. Her youngest was only 10 months old. I cried for days because of sadness for her and her family and because I was worried sick for my husband. Not just Franco’s health, I also lost sleep analyzing the costs. First we asked for insurance proposals for X amount. After realizing that the cost would badly hurt our regular savings, we decided to ask for new proposals for Y amount which is equal to X minus the value of our group life insurance from work. Then, I asked for different payment schemes. From 10 year pay periods, I thought of considering the 30 year pay proposals. After Franco’s medical exam, I reconsidered the variable unit linked proposals. Since we are going to spend a considerable chunk of our annual budget to insurances, might as well pay for insurance that comes with investments. In the end, we decided to go with traditional whole life 10 year pay insurance.

We learned from Efren Cruz, our financial adviser, that the best way to compute how much insurance one needs is to imagine the worst and estimate how much time and money one will need to get back on her feet. I think I need  5 years. Franco, since he earns more and he is the more resilient between the two of us, might need just 3 years. From the 20-30 plus proposals that we reviewed and the many agents I met, here is what I learned:

– Depending on the face value of the policy, your health, you and your family’s medical history and your age, you might be required to undergo a medical exam.

– Depending on the result of the medical exam, you might get rated which will effect the premiums and coverage. Or you could be denied. Because Franco is overweight, his annual premium increase by 50%! It was also from the medical exam that we learned that Franco’s blood pressure is considered pre-hypertensive. One of the riders that was important to me, the rider that pays out once the policy holder is diagnosed as having a critical illness like cancer, stroke etc, was not granted at first. I wrote an email to the head of the underwriting department and requested for reconsideration since Franco has no history of hypertension. They granted my request but they doubled the premium for that rider. Overall, the annual premium for Franco’s insurance jumped up by 50% because of his weight and elevated blood pressure.

– Insurance companies have a shared database of the ratings of their policyholders and applicants. If insurance company A denies your application for insurance, insurance company B will most likely find out.

– There is a two-year contestability period. If something happens to the policy holder, the insurance company has the right to investigate the cause of death. If they find out that the policyholder withheld important information or misrepresented facts during the application, the insurance company may opt not to pay.

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Nine Things I Learned from our Financial Adviser

In line with our 2012 Wealth Management New Year’s resolution, we met with a financial planner last January. Yes, I know this post is almost half a year delayed. I wanted to make sure that I have closed all our assignments before I share my learnings.

So who is Efren Cruz? Efren is the national best selling author of “Pwede Na! The Complete Pinoy Guide to Personal Finance” and “Pwede Na! The Complete Pinoy Guide to Retirement and Estate Planning”. He is a contributor for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and MoneySense Magazine. Experience-wise, he is backed with more than 25 years, working for insurance and mutual fund companies as well as for banks. Now, he is the chairman & CEO of the Personal Finance Advisers Philippines Corp.

So why did we meet with a financial adviser? I want to think that Franco and I spend our money wisely but in terms of knowing of how to strategically manage and grow our hard earned cash, we needed help. A lot of people, mostly insurance agents, call themselves financial advisers. However, since they are representing certain products, I wanted to delay meeting them until we have a game plan.

So what happens when you consult an independent financial planner? The first meeting is mostly information gathering for Efren. He wanted to know how are we at managing our finances. It is good that I already prepared a statement of assets and liabilities and a summary of our expenses. These were not required but were very helpful in getting the ball rolling.  Efren wanted to know what our financial goals are. Honestly, we knew what were our goals but how much and when, we only learned during our meeting. Because I prepared a two page list of questions, the first meeting was actually spent doing Q&As. On the second meeting, Efren presented to us a report. The report has 4 key areas: cash management, debt management, risk management and wealth management. If you would like to know the cost of the consultation, I can send the information to you thru a personal message. Please leave a comment or send a message thru the contact page if you would like to know. Let me tell you, it is not as expensive as you think. It is a small amount to pay for information that will help you for a lifetime.

What we learned:
1) Since we are full time employees, it would be wise to let the expert fund managers grow our money. Efren stressed that we do not need the additional and unnecessary stress. Prior that meeting, I was somewhat curious about stocks. Efren made me realize how stressful the stock market is. By getting pooled funds like mutual funds, UITF’s and VUL’s, I am letting the fund managers, the experts,  handle the buying, selling, monitoring, and stress of the stock market for me.

2) It is best to get insurance with pure protection and investments separately. Variable Unit Linked insurance policies offer both insurance and investments but for a higher administrative cost.

3) Not everyone needs and is fit to go into business. Reading Colayco’s Pera Mo, Palaguin Mo, left me feeling pressured to have a business. Work is stressful enough. I don’t have time to comment on my favorite blogs. I wish I have more time with my family. What in the world will I do if my one and only lotto franchise employee goes on AWOL?

4) To know if an investment vehicle is right for you, you have to determine your financial goals first.

5) Emergency fund should be equal to at least 3 months of one’s monthly expenses for employees. This was a major wake up call for us. All this time, we thought the EF should be at least 6 months the monthly salary. Three months is good. More months would be better but one should consider that by over protecting, we are limiting our potential for growth.

6) It is possible to retire at 50 but you have to start planning ASAP. I thought early retirement is an option only for people who are already rich in the first place.
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One Weekend, Four Agents

After months reading at least 30 proposals and checking out reviews of different pooled funds, last weekend, we finally decided and opened accounts. This is in relation, of course,  to our  2012 family new year’s resolution which is wealth management. I blogged about it here.

These are Vicky and Tita Beng, our agents for our life insurances.

Jen, our agent for our retirement, Aki’s education, honeymoon and car funds


The guy on the left is Kevin. He is our agent for our retirement and baby # 2’s education fund. To answer your question, no, I am not preggers. Continue reading