Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cruising for Christmas

Although Sophie and I had already booked a 18-night stay in Vegas for the Christmas holiday, last night we changed our plans. (Thank goodness hotel reservations can be canceled!)

Instead, we decided to take a Caribbean cruise. Don't get me wrong. We LOVE Vegas! It's kitschy Americana is just our style and the idea of shopping at the Premium Outlet Mall in Vegas right after Christmas gives me goosebumps (both good and bad since I love sales and hate crowds).

Nonetheless, we've got gowns! Sophie and I have found a new favorite store. BCGB Max Azria has an outlet store at the Premium Outlet Mall in Orlando. We've found some fabulous gowns at incredible prices. Who wears gowns these days, anyway? We do!!!

Side note: One nice thing about not having men in the house is that no one complains about dressing up. It's more a matter of finding appropriate places to dress up!

Ever since our first cruise (we've only taken two), we've fallen in love with dressing up for dinner and eating in the formal dining room.

Our first cruise was with Norwegian Cruise Lines where dressing up was optional. We were treating ourselves to a special time and wanted to respect and appreciate each aspect of our experience. Also, we had just found this incredible shop in Barcelona where we bought a boatload of cool clothes which we found ourselves wearing to our dinners. The cruise was 12-nights which mean that it was us and the geriatric crowd. Turns out most people can't take the time away from work or afford long trip (buy them when their cheap! I think we paid $499 per person) unless they are retired. Well, as you might assume, older folks appreciate our desire to dress up for dinner. And we did!

Our second cruise, a 14-night transatlantic jaunt from Barcelona to Miami, was another sensational reason for premium attire at dinner. Especially since Royal Caribbean mandates formal dinner wear. My only complaint with this cruise is that they refused to allow us our own table (two person tables are commonplace on this ship) and forced us to sit with single men. After a few days of this - and one of the men trying very hard to convince my (at the time) 18-year-old daughter that the parties were better down with the crew - I demanded our own table and, by golly, got it! I also got nasty stares from the man and his father for the rest of the trip. lol Deal!

As it turned out there finding people under the age of 65-year-old was slim pickins which was just fine with us. We tend to like to spend our time with a much older crowd as they are more sedate and Sophie always seems to enjoy the conversation... and the games. Everyday there is some game or another that everyone gathers to play. Sophie is right in there with them.

So, after our most recent excursion the our new favorite store where Sophie bought something like 10 new dresses (all at incredibly discounted prices. Think: $39 for a runway Max Azria!) I suggested we might consider a cruise for the holiday as we really don't have anywhere else to wear them (okay, the periodic steakhouse or to the Nutcracker in NYC.) She thought it was a great idea. I looked into it and presto! We've got an all inclusive place to wear our fabulous gowns and little chance of running into places to spend money! (Always a nice side benefit.) When we travel we like to walk around the cities we visit. We aren't so keen on shopping, although we like to buy stickers for our suitcase.

Retirement Plans for Teens

Since Sophie is self-employed and just turned 19-years-old we've started to look into retirement plans for her. Since she lives at home, she can put money away that she would otherwise need for bills.

Her goals are to:
1. Never retire as she plans on acting forever but to be able to retire at 70-years-old.
2. Have a million dollars saved by the time she's 70-years-old.
3. She's planning for a life-expectancy of 95 years.

So the questions are:
1. Which retirement plan is best suited for her needs and goals?
2. How does she want to invest? Stocks? Funds? Aggressively? Conservatively?
3. Does a 401K or IRA plan better suit her goals?
4. Does she want to pay her taxes now or when she withdraws the funds?

Retirement Plans for Teens
It seems like everyday we find a different plan that seems to best suit her needs.

Today, I was sure the Self-Employment 401K (also known as the Solo 401K or the Individual 401K) seemed perfect. She could sock away $16,500 annually and up to a total of $49,000 annually (as of 2010)... if she could. Taxes are deferred. This is probably the most lucrative tax shelter plan on the market and only available to self-employed individuals with no employees.

We discussed it. She felt it was a good fit.

Next was the task of finding the right company or brokerage firm.
1. Vanguard charges maintenance fees unless there is at least $50K in at least one of the owners accounts. She doesn't qualify.
2. Sharebuilders only allows you to purchase funds (no stock purchases allowed) and charges a set up fee of something like $165.00.
3. Fidelity allows for the purchase of funds or stocks with no set up fee, annual fee or monthly fees. The cost to the client is the cost of each transaction which is $8 per buy.

We decided to go with Fidelity. I drove over to Tampa, picked up the booklet and began to fill out the forms.

Planning for an early retirement
Apparently, you must agree upfront to deposit a specific amount into the account each year. We do not know at this time how much she wants to invest. Now we're stumped. Maybe we should buy stocks through Sharebuilders and move it mid December. At that point we could determine the total contribution amount which doesn't need to be deposited in full until April 15, 2011 unless she gets an extension. Don't know. It's food for thought at the moment.

One of the nice things about a Self-Employment 401K is the leeway one has when it comes to purchases. She could buy a house within the plan. That being said, if she were to do that she would lose the annual tax write-offs. Nonetheless, the flexibility is nice.

The bottom line is to save for her future. Her goals are extremely reasonable. She'll have a hard time not reaching them if she diligently saves, especially this early in the game.

Sophie has agreed to put 15% of her earnings into long term savings. This will allow her to save for other things as well and not make her feel like her savings goals are strangling her lifestyle.

These goals will also allow her to flail about as an actress without having to worry about her future - if need be. Hopefully, this won't be a concern but if it is it will be reassuring that her future is taken care of.

Too Cute Willow Smith

As parents and society as a whole, we need to be supportive of creative expression and originality with our youngsters. Out of the box thinkers make great business people.

Kudos go to Mr. & Mrs. Will Smith! Thanks for setting such a wild and fun standard for today's youth.