Updated to WordPress 2.7 & The iNova Theme

I have freshened things up around here and switched over to the iNova theme for WordPress. My old K2 theme has not seen a lot of development lately and I like the clean layout of iNova.

I also upgraded to WordPress 2.7 and love it!  They have made some great improvements to the usability but the best feature by far is the auto-update functionality!  I was using TypePad for some corporate blogs because updating WordPress was always a pain. Now that updates can happen in the background I highly recommend WordPress for all your blogging needs!

Take Back Your Inbox From Spam!

I recently talked about how to take back your mailbox from junk mail. Today’s post is to talk about how to do the same for your email!

I registered andrewknight.com back in 1998.  Back then, SPAM was not the problem it is today. I had used my andrew at andrewknight address for years.  I had given it out to hundreds of people and organizations and quietly over time it had started collecting a lot of spam.

At the end of 2005 I tried using some spam filters but found that I was missing some legitimate emails and I was still getting spam in my inbox. The solution? Create an e-mail alias system for all my e-mail. Here is how it works:

1) Create a new email address that you only give to friends and family.  This is a painful step as you need to update your contacts but I found that people caught on quickly.

2) Keep your current e-mail on for about a month and then turn it off. This will force people to start using your new email.

3) Now to the alias part. For EVERY website or company that needs your email address create a unique email address to use.  Currently I have over 350 of these!

The beauty of this system is that if an address ever starts getting spam on it you can simply turn off that email. You will also know who the culprit is so you can “plug the hole”. I did this recently with 2 of my emails that started getting SPAM on them.  One was website at thisdomain.com and godaddy at thisdomain.com. Both were published on the web and the spammers picked up on them.

I have used this system for the past 3 years and I highly recommend it for taking back control of your inbox!

Take Back Your Mailbox From Junk Mail!

After a particularly bad junk mail day last week I decided I had had enough.  It was time to take back my mailbox from the unscrupulous marketers. It would not be so bad if it were just a couple things a week but I estimate we get 50 pieces of junk mail a week! Here is what I am doing:

  1. Converted as many bills as possible to online payments.  Most companies will stop sending you a paper bill if you are on automatic withdrawals. The only bill I actually have to still open is the water bill. At least I can pay it with a credit card!  Everything else is on cruise control.
  2. Went “paperless” with all my account statements that offer it.  Last week I found a few more of my accounts that do!
  3. Opted out of all credit card offers for all family members:
  4. Signed up for the Direct Marketing Association’s DMAChoice to opt out of all member marketing: http://www.dmachoice.org
  5. Signed up for an account at ProQuo and walked through all the steps to opt out.
  6. For companies not covered by the above, I started contacting them directly to be removed.
  7. If the junk mail has a postage paid business reply envelope I mail the offer back with “Remove From List” written in big black letters! If they are going to send me junk at least make them pay for it!
  8. I just found this tip which might eliminate the need for #7:From: http://www.obviously.com/junkmail/
    First class mail: Cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write “refused: return to sender”. Drop in any mail box, it will be returned to the sender.
    Bulk mail: The post office throws away bulk mail it can’t deliver, so returning it does no good. Bulk mail is the hardest to deal with because the USPS actively provides addresses, support and encouragement to mailers. However, if “address correction requested” is written on the label: circle “address correction requested” and treat like first class mail.

Hopefully these steps will have an impact.  In addition to the environmental benefits, doing this will also help your finances. If you don’t get the shiny new catalogs you won’t be tempted to buy anything!

Foundation #9: Your retirement is YOUR responsibility

I am counting on absolutely nothing from the federal government during retirement. If they figure out how to save social security it will be a nice bonus but until then I am not counting on it! 🙂

This post had to follow foundation #8 because it is one of the great examples where the numbers are dead simple but behavior always gets in the way. Saving for your retirement is really very simple you need to just DO IT! I recommend people put 20% away for retirement and here is how I suggest you do it

Step 1: If you have a 401k availiable, contribute up to your company match.

Step 2: Max out your Roth IRA, which is $5k in 2008.

Step 3: Increase your 401k contribution so that the total of all 3 steps equals 20% of your total income. The max 401k contribution for 2008 is ($15,500).

So let’s have a little fun and play with some numbers to see what kind of nest egg you can have with 3 simple steps:
Start contributing: 25
Single Income 50K:
401K 3% = $1500 + $1500 company match
Max Single Roth: $5k
Additional 401k %: 4% / $2,000
Yearly Retirement Savings: 20% / $10,000
40 years @ 10% = 5.3 Million!

Start contributing: 25
Household income 100K:
401K 3% = $3000 + $3000 company match
Max 2 Roth’s: $10k
Additional 401k %: 4%
Yearly Retirement Savings: 20% or $20k
If you start this at 25 and grow it 40 years @ 10% = 10.6 Million!

Start contributing: 30
Household income 150K:
401K 3% = $4500 + $4500 company match
Max 2 Roth’s: $10k
Additional 401k %: 7% ($11k)
Yearly Retirement Savings: 20% or $30k
If you start this at 30 and grow it 35 years @ 10% = 9.5 Million!

Notice how the 100k income that starts 5 years earlier will outrun the $150k income! Starting earlier is key but either way you will have 10 Million! And the real kicker – half of that is not taxable as a reult of the Roth contribution. I did not start maxing out my 401k and Roth IRA until a few years ago and it was one of the few financial regrets I have!

Let’s take a different angle. Maybe you don’t have access to a 401k. As long as you make less than $99k (single ) $156k (married) you can contribut to the Roth IRA. If you did just that, the numbers would look like this:

Start contributing: 25
Single Income 50K:
Max Single Roth: $5k
40 years @ 10% = 2.6 Million!

With just the Roth you can have $2.6 million at retirement that is TAX FREE! A 4% draw on $2.6 million equals $100k a year TAX FREE! So the bottom line in all this: you need to find $416 in your monthly budget to max out your Roth IRA and fund your retirement. This is right around the average car payment in America!

Andrew & Crystal’s Wedding…

This post is a little late but 5 weeks ago Crystal and I finally tied the knot! After being together over 9 years it was about time 😉 We had an amazing weekend and everything went really well. It was great to spend time with lots of friends and family that we don’t usually see. We don’t have the official photos from the photographer yet but we do have lots of friends & family photos on Smugmug.

Here are a few favorites:

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The ring was a little bit of a tight fit! 🙂

The wedding party: