Monday, January 28, 2008

LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley dies

We found out about President Hinckley's death last night around 8:30 pm MST. He passed away around 7 pm. The news was a bit shocking and I really couldn't believe it was happening. So, we searched all over the web until we began finding the news release of his death. It was true, our beloved prophet was dead. This is my first experience with a president of the Church dying during my adulthood and I'm sad to say that I don't like this feeling at all. I know he was old, but he lived so unbelievably healthy and energetic throughout his older years that I thought he would live forever! The feeling I have is almost as if my own grandfather passed away. I am reassured that he is happier than ever to be back in the presence of his sweetheart and other family members. I'm sure the reunion there is a large and exciting celebration.

I have learned so much from this prophet of God and am grateful for his example, service and love. Here is an article I found in the Houston Chronicle

Hope and life, in Gordon B. Hinckley's own words.
From Staff and Wire Reports

"Many people are looking for something that they can hold onto, an anchor to which they can attach their lives. That's one thing. Two: We expect things of our people. We expect them to do things. We expect them to measure up to certain standards. It isn't always easy to be a member of this church. It's demanding. But it's wonderfully fruitful and has a tremendous affect on people."
— On CNN's Larry King Live Sept. 8, 1998, in answer to the question on what attracts people to the Mormon church.

• "What I am suggesting is that we have had missing from our society a buoyant spirit of optimism. What I am asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our culture and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live; that we speak of one another's virtues more than we speak of one another's faults; that optimism replace pessimism; that uncertainty and worry be pushed aside by an enduring feeling of hope."
— Page 101 in Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues that Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes (Three Rivers Press, $14.95).

• "A little play and a little loafing are good from time to time. But it is work that spells the difference in the life of a young man or young woman. It is usually work and effort that explain the difference between the gold-medal athlete and those who finish even a fraction of a second later. It is work that provides the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the homes in which we live, the grades and training we receive. It is work that gives us a feeling of accomplishment. And it is work that allows us to feel that we are making a difference in the world."
— Page 37 in Way to Be!: 9 Ways to be Happy and Make Something of Your Life (Simon & Schuster, $14.95).

• "Those of us who are American citizens stand solidly with the president of our nation. The terrible forces of evil must be confronted and held accountable for their actions. This is not a matter of Christian against Muslim. I am pleased to see that food is being dropped to the hungry people of a target nation. We value our Muslim neighbors across the world and hope that those who live by the tenets of their faith will not suffer. I ask particularly that our own people do not become a party in any way to the persecution of the innocent. Rather, let us be friendly and helpful, protective and supportive. It is the terrorist organizations that must be ferreted out and brought down."
— During an address in Salt Lake City, Oct. 7, 2001.

• "Our desire everywhere is to make bad men good and good men better. Wherever we go, we go in the front door. Our representatives honor the laws of the nations to which they go and teach the people to be good citizens. We teach, we train, we build, we educate, we provide opportunity for growth and development. We give hope to those without hope and there is nothing greater you can give a man or a woman than hope."
— National Press Club address, March 8, 2000.

As a freshman at BYU, we had this quote on our dormitory hall: The gospel makes bad men good and good men better!

I pray we all have the desire to become better through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know it surely is the truth because I have definitely become a better friend, daughter, sister, mother and wife because of my desire to live the gospel, which is the good news, the word of God.

We will miss you, President Hinckley!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Door to Door Salesmen

Beware of door to door salesmen, especially anyone talking about carpets/vacuuming, i.e. KIRBY. Never let them into your house. We learned this the hard way (late 2004). Our house ended up smelling worse after they left, which they truly never would leave, so we had to coerce them out of our house (11:30 pm at night). Dave actually drove the guys to their "van" because the driver refused to pick them up because they hadn't sold us the vacuums. HORRIBLE experience!

So the other night we had some people knock at our door. Nobody ever knocks at our door because we live in a gated community where you have to be on the "homeowners list" to even get in, well at least M-F, because on Sat-Sun the gates are left wide open for current home sales. So I am in my pajamas preparing for my church talk (Sacrament meeting) and wonder who is at our door. I have Dave get the door and I go upstairs. Well it turns out it's a guy and girl trying to sell magazines to earn "points" for who knows what, they say their education, I say probably a cell phone, MP3 player or plasma TV. They basically travel around the country ripping people off and basically are themselves scammed by the companies who hire them to do this for a chance to see America.

These two were from New York and Atlanta. They did a good job talking Dave into helping them out, it's not like they're promoting the product but rather themselves. So we give money to some unknown charity hospital and buy a kids magazine. The last thing I want is another magazine in our house. I don't like magazines, most are not worthy of my dollar. I get enough junk mail to keep me "happy". So the guy leaves his binder of magazine info and his expired illegitimate permit at our house. He never came back for it, which made me worry even more so I canceled the magazine subscription and we'll see if I even get my money back. I thought maybe in my sharing of this experience that I might spare one of my friends the regrets of getting scammed or even imposed upon.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Tell yourself you will never buy something from a stranger at your door unless they are the girl scouts. Your home will thank you for it; It always seem to smell worse after an experience like this.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Copied from another site: Renting vs. Buying

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This is a guest-post from Tim Ellis, author of Seattle Bubble, a blog and forum dedicated to discussing real estate market conditions in the Seattle area.

“If you rent, you’re throwing away your money.”
“Owning your own home is a forced savings plan.”
“Home ownership is an excellent path to build wealth.”

You’ve probably heard statements like these plenty of times. On television, radio, the internet, and in casual conversation. Such sentiments are common in any discussion that involves home-buying and personal finances. It’s common knowledge that buying a home is a better financial move than renting. After all, you’re building equity instead of throwing away your money, right? Well, maybe not quite… Rather than assuming the “common knowledge” on this subject is accurate, let’s take a look for ourselves at some of the financial differences between renting and home-buying.

A Real-World Example
For the purpose of comparing renting to owning in this article, I’ll be using real-world data gathered from my area (northeast of Seattle). Although most first-time buyers tend to move from renting an apartment to buying a larger, stand-alone house, as much as I can I will compare apples to apples.

  • For rent, I located a 3-bed, 2.5-bath, 1,840 sqft house with an attached 2-car garage, on 0.2 acres. Monthly price: $1,495.
  • For purchase I found a 3-bed, 2.5-bath, 1,850 sqft house with an attached 2-car garage, on 0.22 acres. Price: $424,950.

The two homes are located within two miles of each other in similar neighborhoods, and neither is located on a busy road. We’ll assume that our hypothetical homebuyer is a married couple with $85,000 in the bank to make a 20% down payment. To calculate mortgage payments we will use a recent 30-year fixed interest rate of 6.25%.

Let’s look at how the monthly costs break down (approximately) for our hypothetical potential first-time homebuyer:

Renting Buying
Rent/Mortgage: $1,495 $2,093
Insurance: $20 $163
Property Tax: - $407
Tax Savings*: - ($327)
Maintenance: - $354
Total: $1,515 $2,690

*: (less standard deduction)

Right off the bat, you see that simply trading straight across from renting to owning results in a 78% more expensive monthly bill. That’s not exactly chump change. With even a slight upgrade from renting to buying (which most first-time buyers are prone to do), you can easily see how the total monthly costs would be more than double.

“If you rent, you’re throwing away your money.”
Common knowledge says that despite today’s large premium, buying a home is a “good investment”. Hey, at least you’re not “throwing away” your money, right? True, the renter in our scenario spends $1,515 every month that they will never see again. I wouldn’t exactly say it has been “thrown away” any more than money spent on any other good or service is “thrown away,” but granted, there is zero financial return on that money.

However, when you take a look at the breakdown of the homebuyer’s monthly expenses, a large amount is money that will never return, either. Insurance, property tax (less tax savings), and maintenance, add up to $517 every month that is being “thrown away.” Even worse is the amount spent on mortgage interest. Consider how much of a mortgage payment is applied toward loan interest throughout the life of a 30-year fixed loan:

Years % toward interest
0-5 ~80%
6-10 ~70%
11-15 ~60%
16-20 ~50%
21-25 ~35%
26-30 ~10%

In the first five years, approximately 80% of the mortgage payment goes toward interest. That’s an additional $1,674, for a total of $2,191 being “thrown away” every single month by the homebuyer for the first five years. Ouch! In fact, not until the homebuyer has been paying down the mortgage for over 20 years will the amount they are “throwing away” be less than the renter.

“Owning your own home is a forced savings plan.”
As you can see above, if home buying is like a savings plan, it’s probably the worst savings plan on Earth. Would you voluntarily sign up for a savings plan where well over half of the money you deposit in the first 20 years simply vanishes, and from which you can only withdraw money by relocating and paying a 6-9% fee (not on the amount you have “saved” mind you, but on the total sale price of the home)? Of course not. That doesn’t sound anything like a savings plan.

If our potential homebuyer has that $85,000 saved up for a down payment and deposits it along with just half of the monthly savings over buying ($578 per month) into an account at 8% interest, the balance will be nearly $300,000 in just 10 years. That’s a liquid investment, that can be used for whatever you want, no relocation required. Buying a home is not a savings plan. Actually saving money every month is a savings plan.

“Home ownership is an excellent path to build wealth.”
If your goal is to build wealth, you will be much better off investing your money in the stock market than buying a home. While both stocks and housing are cyclical markets, long-term historic trends show that housing appreciates at a rate barely above inflation, while stocks tend to return an inflation-adjusted 7-10%. In our hypothetical scenario, a renter who invested in the stock market with the $85,000 down payment plus the monthly difference between the $1,515 rent and the $2,690 home-buying costs would be over $500,000 better off after 30 years than the homebuyer, assuming 4% average appreciation.

An important thing to consider is that home prices in the United States are just now beginning to correct from an enormous unprecedented run-up in recent years. Despite what those in the business of selling real estate may insist, the correction in housing is still in the early stages. Four percent is most likely overly optimistic for most areas in the next 5-10 years. The only thing we know for sure is that double-digit gains are gone and won’t be coming back any time soon.

Also keep in mind — I mentioned it above but it bears repeating — in order to cash in on any “wealth” you build through your home you will need to sell that home and move. No, “extracting equity” does not count, since that simply results in a larger debt. Debt is not equal to Wealth.

For most people buying a home will result in their largest monthly bill (by far), and because they believe that it will bring them wealth or that they are “throwing away their money” if they rent, they often take on a much larger home debt than a prudent budget would allow. It is a real shame when people are driven to get into the housing market because of misplaced notions of imagined financial benefits. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different, and for some (particularly those that live away from the coasts) the numbers may actually work out in favor of buying.

Don’t misunderstand me here. I am not saying that no one should buy a home, or that my example scenario is a golden standard of truth for all. Don’t take my word for it. Run the numbers for yourself, check out other articles (a small collection is listed below), and do what works for you. I highly recommend the great graphical calculator from The New York Times for comparing the financial aspects of renting and buying. Many people will consider all of the consequences — financial, emotional, etc. — and conclude that buying a home is the best decision. Just don’t trick yourself into thinking it’s a good financial decision if it’s not.

I myself intend to buy a house some day. However when that day comes, I will be buying a house because I want a nice, “permanent” place to live where I’m the boss, not because I think it will help me get me rich.

Additional Resources

Wall Street Journal: Your Home Isn’t the Nest Egg That You May Think It Is
New York Times: A Word of Advice During a Housing Slump: Rent
New York Times: Is it better to buy or rent? (graphical calculator)
The Motley Fool: The Worst Investment Ever Renting Makes More Financial Sense Than Homeownership
CNN Money: Stocks vs. Real Estate
Priced Out Forever: Renting vs. Purchasing

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My first real post for 2008

So, I have been MIA for quite some time in the blogging arena. I decided it would be a good place to keep track of our busy life and hopefully be more faithful in keeping a record of our family. I feel like I am getting behind technologically and need to brush up on my computer skills.

We now live in Gilbert, Arizona and are enjoying the beautiful weather and plenty of sunshine. I think the sun is out 98% of the year. We bought a condo unit and have filled it to capacity.

We had a great Christmas even though both of our boys were sick.Here are the boys Christmas Eve before putting them to bed. Tim actually threw up shortly after taking this picture. Having sick children is not pleasant!Nathan couldn't believe his eyes on Christmas morning. I think we went a little overboard on the presents and will have to do better next year! So, I have a question for you all, does Santa wrap or does he not wrap? We saw The Polar Express at the IMAX and it clearly shows that the presents are wrapped. Santa must have been lazy this year or at least the presents he left for our boys because not much was wrapped! We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family in Gilbert.

A cute little Santa Claus even visited us Christmas morning. Tim just barely learned to walk before Christmas. It is amazing how quickly they take off once they learn a new skill.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mommy tag

1. How long have you been a Mom?
For 3.5 years

2. How many kids call you mommy?
Two super sweet boys.

3. When you were pregnant did you know what you were having?
Yes. We found out by ultrasound but before that we pretty much knew we were going to have boys. Plus I have a "source" that can foretell the gender of her children and grandchildren. I believe her record is 23 correct and one not so correct! For the record she says I am having a girl, which is what I believe also. We find out on Feb 4, 2008.

4. How old were you when you became a mom?

5. How long were you in labor?
With Nathan, I was in labor for 5 hours. My "water broke" and then I pushed through three contractions and there he was, a huge 9lb 4oz, 22" red headed baby boy! On Timothy, I was induced and I think my labor was around 10 hours, pushed for maybe 15 minutes. You can read all about on a prior post.

6. What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
I LOVE bedtime! There is something about giving them a bath, putting on the pjs, reading books, hugs and kisses and then to experience the peace and quiet that comes after a full day of "fun"! Another thing I love is being the absolute favorite person in the whole world to my kids. Nobody ranks higher than their dear old Momma (I try to soak it up because it only lasts so long)!l

7. What’s your least favorite thing?
The whining and lack of sleep.

8. Do you want more kids?
Yes, but we'll take them one at a time and see how many we can handle!

9. Have you ever taken your kid(s) on a trip?
Yes. They have been on flights with us to visit family and we drove from Georgia to Arizona last summer with both of them in our packed Honda Accord. Staying at hotels with kids is not fun!

10. How many times have you been peed on?
Not too many, thank goodness!

11. How many times have you been vomited on?
Nathan unloaded on me during our Ream family reunion luncheon. Yeah, I'm sure we spoiled lunch for quite a few that day. I was glad they were my family and not strangers! I think it has happened since but nothing can quite compare to the first time it happens.

12. Are your kids named after someone?
Nathan Thomas is named after brothers on both sides of the family and other ancestors. Timothy David is named after Dave's uncle who died of cancer at age 35(?) and ancestors on both sides of our family. His middle name after his daddy, especially since he was born on his birthday.

13. When is the last time you had a sitter?
Two days ago. I cannot be more grateful to have girls in our church who are willing to babysit our kids. We LOVE having so many options and to have them live so close!

14. When your kid gets in trouble, who is the bad guy?
Usually me, Dave works most of the time they are awake. Although on weekends he might get the title.

15. What is the longest you have been away from your kid(s)?
Two weeks in Eastern Europe. This was a huge step for me and we made the most of it. We visited Dave's parents in Ukraine and spent one night in Munich, Germany.

16. Are your toes painted?
Yes, but really need to see some polish remover.

17. Last movie you saw in theater?
The very last one was The Polar Express at the IMAX, Arizona Mills, but we had the kids so needless to say I didn't really "see" the movie. I did see the new National Treasure last week though.

18. One thing you will not give up just because you’re a mom:
I don't know how to answer this question. I'm drawing a blank, does that mean I've given up everything? Perhaps date night is something I'll never give up.

19. One thing you did give up now that you’re a mom?
I liked Lindsey's answer, freedom! Most couples without kids don't have a clue.

20. Favorite Cartoon:
I really like the Backyardigans!

21. Favorite Snack:
Anything salty. I like salt and vinegar chips!

22. When the kid(s) are napping, you are:
Usually only one of them naps now, but I find myself doing laundry, fixing a meal, cleaning house or browsing the internet and hopefully soon I'll be scrapbooking on the computer (New Year's Resolution).

23. Where is/are your kid(s) now?
Right by their mommy, like always! They can't get enough of me!

24. If I could do it over, I’d do this differently:
Give up wanting to be in control of everything and just enjoy life more.

25. What is a lesson you’ve learned as a parent?
Repent and forgive! I cannot say enough about needing the Savior to help in the weak areas of my life. Don't try to take a nap it will only make you angrier because it is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE with more than one child!

I thought this would be an easy way to make my first post of the new year and since I didn't post anything in 2007 (sorry about that).

I tag anyone that wants to do this! Lindsey Snow, thanks for your post.