Sunday, January 30, 2011

401k and IRA borrowing for a first house?

Yes, it's a long way off, but I'm planning WAY in advance for this because the San Francisco housing market is nuts. Trying to figure out if it makes sense to borrow from a 401k or IRA to help increase your downpayment for a first house.

Verdict so far: probably not for an IRA. 401k is possible, but there are many pros and cons. Putting more in 401k now reduces your current tax burden, but then you'll need to borrow more out of it later because you are not keeping as much take-home pay (and therefore you'd have less in fluid cash when it comes time to buy a house).

Obvious statement of the night: just having the cash-on-hand (say in CDs, ING Direct, other fluid assets) still seems the winner.

Useful piece of info: Looks like insurance on your loan is only necessary if you have less than 20% down. So if you go for a reasonably modest house in the Bay Area (say, $500,000 - yes, that's crazy), then downpayment would need to be $100,000 to skip the need for loan insurance, which is very important.

Something weird but potentially useful: Apparently you can have a Self-Employed 401k fund. If you can rollover into this fund for your own business, you are essentially borrowing from yourself. If this is plausible, then it might be a good option. I have no idea if you can set one of these up if you're already employed at a company, or if you can set up one with you and your wife as the sole proprietors or something. This might be worth looking into. I wonder if you have to pay business taxes though if you do this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Final Singapore/Malaysia Journal post: Links to all blog posts

Thanks for you interest in my Singapore and Malaysia trip blog! Here is the entire trip journal, in order of posting.

Mike Jutan's 2010 Singapore and Malaysia Trip Journal


Singapore/Malaysia Day 18: Heading home

December 8, 2010
Singapore Day 18: Heading home

And after a glorious 18 days in Singapore and Malaysia, it was time to wave goodbye to "Singapura" and head back to San Francisco. We got up at 4:45am - crazy!! I had no extra alarm since my iPod Touch packed in while we were in Singapore so I was relying on the call from the front desk (and Matt's iPhone, and Matt's call from the front desk), hehe. So we had enough backups I think. Anyhoo I guess I was nervous about waking up on time, but I woke up at exactly 4:43am. Awesome. I got the wake up call a few min late at 4:50 but was already mostly ready to roll by then. Good stuff.

I got dressed, went downstairs and gave in my key and checked out. Matt and the Cab were both already there. We said goodbye to the great staff at the hotel and then jumped in the cab! It was so fast to the airport. We got there so early that the checkin desk was still opening! We checked in, got lounge directions, and headed to the lounge. Wow, it was SO amazing. I was half-asleep after only 4 hours of sleep the night before, but was pretty giddy from the amazingness of the lounge. Wow! Seriously, what an experience.

We got some sandwiches, an omelette, peach yoghurt, papaya and coffee. We even tried some Cognac (at 5:30am?! Why not I suppose?!) Fun. There was a whole business center there with iMacs that already had Skype pre-installed. So useful. So I logged into Skype and called home. Then Matt and I wandered around and spent the rest of our money. There was a big chocolate store, but we wanted to spend it on something else. We found a Billabong store and I got an extra wallet and Matt got a passport holder. We found a Singapore souvenir store and I got a cool Batik shirt. Then Matt found a HILARIOUS Merlion Plush!!!! It was SO perfect. It was so cute that we both bought it. Matt also got pineapple buns and chocolate for his team.

We headed back to the lounge and tried a Campari and Soda and it was super gross. We left it on a spare table :) It was fun to try the machine but we didn't really want it because it was, well gross, and also still only like 7am :) Then we went off to the gate and it was already boarding!! It is a very different experience flying this way, you don't have to line up super early, jockeying to get on the plane early to make sure you get enough overhead compartment space for your luggage. It was just chill and lots of room there, and easy to take your time. Fun. The flight was amazing. The food was great and we had a little taste of sake and plum wine. The Ice Cream was fantastic. The flight was only 6 or 7 hours which got us to Narita with just a very short stopover. I was tired from the early morning wake up so I caught up on my journal and got some sleep.

We got to Narita and we RAN through the airport! We had to pass another security check and were just racing past people and down the hallways. We had to cross to the other side of the terminal and it was pretty tight. The plane was already boarding once we got to the gate, but we got on the plane in good time. I watched the movie "A Single Man" on the plane - very different than what I expected, but it was some excellent acting. Again we had some excellent food on the plane, and the flight attendants loved our animal-faced neck pillows from SFO. Haha.

After a long but super awesome flight, we got back to SFO and it was quick through the airport. It was cold!! 12 C and raining!! I couldn't be happier to be cool :) It was such an amazing trip and plenty of fantastic experiences to remember.

Thank you SO much to everyone who helped make this trip possible. I had such a great time and we really enjoyed doing our part to help out at work, and we enjoyed the people, the food, the culture... everything. What a great trip!!

Matt getting some cheese in the Singapore lounge!

This papaya was amazing

Cool stacked glasses

Ohhh, so fancy!!

Lots of tasty juice options

Some awesome coffee and the best tea, ever. This tea was from the TWG tea company, and looked outstanding. ( I had coffee, but I can say without shame that I happily snagged 4 different amazing flavoured teas to enjoy later. :)

What an amazing breakfast!!! At like 5:30am!! This was really good, the cheese was awesome and the omelet was fantastic. So good.

What!!! Not sure where we were at this point, some point over Fiji or somewhere awesome. Beautiful.

Matt on the plane ride back to Tokyo

Me, VERY excited about lunch :)

Amazing fish and potatoes

Ice Cream (SO GOOD), a cheese plate as a snack, and some tea and a biscuit.


On plane #2, from Tokyo back to San Francisco

haha, a great view of the "bed mode" on the seats!! This was so funny, you could extend it down like this, but it was angled very steeply at the floor, so it basically slowly dumps you onto the floor. So funny.

Back in San Francisco, I unpacked quickly and surveyed the loot I'd bought for myself and gifts for others. This is the sweet hoodie I got at Uni Qlo.

Two plaid shirts from Uni Qlo

A cool paisley shirt I got at the Singapore airport

Plush Merlion!!!!!!!!!! I was so excited to find him, and Matt bought one too. Hilarious.

Merlion, happy to be in San Francisco

Sweet Billabong Australia wallet I bought to use up the rest of my Singapore dollars :)

The Quiksilver Malaysia shirt I bought in KL (Kuala Lumpur)

3-in-1 Old Town coffee, shortbreads, rose lychee tea, Soy Bean Kit Kats, Wasabi Kit Kats, Sakura-Matcha (Green Tea-Cherry Blossom) Kit Kats, and the interesting shirt I bought in Little India

Crazy Kit Kats from Japan

Awesome Yoda shirt I got from work!

Pashmina scarves for Mom and Norm, and a Marks and Spencer Christmas Pudding for Dad!

Amazing mug from work, a bracelet, and a gift for Matt and Kim's new house

Sweet mug from work

Cool Merlion keychain that a guy from work bought for Matt and Me! Also Malay Tea from that tea house where we almost got stuck for life. And a cool happy cat figure for my shelf here.

Cadbury Mini-chocolates that got totally crushed on the way home

Sweet New Balance shoes I got in Kuala Lumpur

New Balance Rainbow Running!!!!!!!! So excited that I found these. They are truly awesome!

They light up when you take a photo with a flash :)

Lion marionettes and Hello Kitty nodding cats

Lion puppet

Handmade pottery necklace that I got in Kuala Lumpur

Me and the Merlion! Extra points if you noticed that we have the same haircut. :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Singapore/Malaysia Day 17: Last day

December 7, 2010
Singapore Day 17: Last day

And so arrived our last full day in Singapore. We leave tomorrow to head back to San Francisco. I started the day by walking to Bugis Station with Jess - word had it that you could shave off a bit of time off the morning commute by walking to Bugis Station and catching the train there instead of going to Dhoby Ghaut and transferring lines. We thought we'd give it a shot for my last day there. We saw a big sign that said "Largest street market!" and it seemed a good place to come back to in the evening.

We got to work and Betty, the awesomest person in the software group, made us Macadamia Nut Butter Tarts!!!!!!!!!! They were soooooooooooo good! That was really awesome of her and we loved them. They were so good!

We met with Nigel for our last lunch there and headed "back to where we started" - Crystal Jade at Chiangi Airport Terminal 3!!! Nigel ordered some different stuff for us this time, and it was all fantastic. We got sweet and sour fish which was probably one of my favourite dishes of the entire trip. Amazing!! We got the same beef dish as last time, and the desserts were all amazing too. Mmm. We then headed back to work to teach our last 2 classes, and then we were done!! We wrapped it up, and said goodbye to lots of people. It was sad to see everyone off, but we had such a great time there and no doubt we'll see those people again. Great times.

After finishing our last goodbyes to all of our friends at work, we took off to Bugis and wandered there in the outdoor market for a bit. It was very hot, so we went to some of the smaller stalls outside of the official mall area. I found funny Hello Kitty nodding cats and got that for myself, and found a gift for Matt Lausch and Kim Lausch for their new home.

And then we found Durian!!! Fresh!!! It was so cool, there was a big truck with a bunch of Durians on it and it smelled terrible. Matt said, "Do you smell that? It smells like garbage? That's durian." It really did smell quite bad. But we were so excited to get a chance to try it as we hadn't seen it anywhere, since you can't transport it on the subway or anywhere, really. I bet we wouldn't have been allowed to take it into our hotel, either. So we tried that and got a small package of pieces cut up for $2. It was pretty weird and definitely tasted like onions/turkey dinner/meatloaf. Wow. We had a taste and then chucked out the rest, giggling at the experience.

Matt and I then walked back to the hotel, and called Jess but she wasn't back yet. We weren't sure what to do for dinner, and wandered around on the streets near our place. We returned our MRT cards and got refunds for the remaining money on them, and then settled on a place called Mad Jack, which was an Australian-themed restaurant. I got a Turkey-Bacon Burger, never seen one of those before! That was fun and a regular kind of meal before our flight the next day.

We booked an early-morning cab with the hotel and packed up our bags. Man, I bought a LOT of gifts!!!!!! This was the case in Japan too... so many gifts. :) I eventually got it all in there and packed the important items safely, surrounded by clothes. Most importantly, I was concerned about the 2 Lion Marionettes, and I got them into a shoebox which seemed safe. After packing for an hour, I took a nice walk with Matt at 11:00 to cool down for a little bit. I then got back to my room, finished packing the last few remaining items, and showered, ready for bed by 12:30. That would give me a solid 4 hrs sleep before getting up for the flight!

Singapore/Malaysia Day 16: Wrappin' it up

December 6, 2010
Singapore Day 16: Wrappin' it up

We're almost done here in Singapore! Today Matt and I got breakfast and then headed to work. We prepped for the special sessions we'd be teaching, and then decided what to do for lunch. We were soooo "high and mighty" when we arrived, scoffing at the idea of eating boring western food instead of taking every opportunity to try something weird, wild, and new. As we were nearing the end of the trip, though, our attitudes changed quite a bit.

Our plan for lunch today? That's right: Subway and Dairy Queen. Yep.

Why? Well, our systems were getting a little weary of the magically rich and spicy foods in Singapore and I'd hit the breaking point at the Zoo a couple days before. So we decided to give our stomachs and internal systems a bit of a break today, and go to the most standard food possible, Subway. It was BEAUTIFUL. "That was the blandest lunch, ever!" I said to Matt in a fit of excitement. It was so good. The bread was so bland it tasted like it wasn't even there. Fantastic. This was a good "taste of home" for our systems and as the rich food was getting a little tough to handle in the hot and humid weather, we were psyched to take 'er easy today.

The classes went super well. After the day of work, we headed down to Harry's Bar for beers and actually found out that we'd ended up at the Indian place beside it - the chairs seemed to be exactly the same so it was hard to tell where we were supposed to order. We shared some Tiger Beer and it was a lot of fun hanging out with the SF and Singapore folks. We had some great conversations and it was awesome to get to know everyone better.

From there we headed off to a GREAT Pizza place called "Spizza". We ordered the Mozarella sticks and it was made with a whole piece of Buffalo Mozarella!!!! It was so good, and came with an excellent pesto mayonnaise. I got a 4-cheese Pizza which was also awesome and really well made. A great time with our work friends, and a nice pre-sendoff in the run-up to our last day of the trip.

Singapore/Malaysia Day 15: Video: Marina Bay Sands

An amazing day on top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel/casino. A crazy infinity pool and view of the Singapore harbour.

Singapore/Malaysia Day 15: Little India, Marina Bay Sands

December 5, 2010
Singapore Day 15: Little India, Marina Bay Sands

Today was our last weekend day before heading back to San Francisco, so we really wanted to get some "must-sees" in before the end of the trip. At the same time, I needed to take it easy after yesterday. I just had a light breakfast and the headed to Little India with Matt. We looked around at all the shops and it was really interesting there. There was some amazing architecture and apartment buildings so I took lots of photos. Today was also a good day for buying gifts: I got pashmina scarves for Mom and Norm and a gift for Tim. We went to the Tekka Centre and I found a weird but cool paisely Indian shirt for myself. It's very long though so I might get it shortened before I wear it. :)

We wandered around, soaking up the local culture of the area. We found an Indian Temple and followed the example of folks around us and took off our shoes and socks. There was a guy about our age sitting on the steps of the temple, his smile just beaming at us. He looked so excited that we were interested in the temple and his culture. That was awesome.

From there we got a full coconut each with a big straw in it. We had a bit of a miscommunication at the store and one of the other guys who worked at the store took my coconut off the counter right after I bought it and threw it out! Oops!! The store attendant started talking to him in a "what the heck, man?!" kind of tone and the guy looked sheepish and embarrassed. I said "No problem!" and thankfully they just gave me another one. Hehe. It was really good and a HUGE coconut. After we finished the coconuts I bought some sweet red sunglasses for $2. :) Matt and I then split ways for a while and I headed to Jurong East (which seemed to be in the West?!) to an Outlet Mall. It was pretty cool but nothing to write home/blog about :) It was fun to see a standard mall there, and wander around the supermarket and stuff too. That is always a fascinating experience in a foreign country. At the mall I got some great Thai food for lunch. It was chicken in a pandan leaf and Iced Lime Tea in a cool carafe thing. Very fun.

Then I took the MRT back to the Marina Bay Sands area. The walk up to Marina Bay Sands was awesome and I took lots of pictures. Then I went up the elevator and WOW - what a view!!!!! It was a glorious view of the city and boats in the harbour. I then wandered by the "piece-de-resistance", the Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool. WOW. I had seen a photo of it about a year ago and decided I had to see this if I came to Singapore. It was SO COOL. Unfortunately you had to be a guest to swim in it, but it was an amazing sight to see nonetheless. There was a dude in there on a cell phone, drinking a glass of champagne and looking out at the city. That was SO baller!!!!

I was going to race back down for some reason and get back to the hotel, but why?! Instead, I just chilled out at the Sky Park and got a ginger ale. I found a quiet spot with a great view of the boats in the Singapore harbour and caught up on my journal/blog notes, and just chilled out. What an AMAZING TRIP!! It was so crazy up there and last night at the 1-Altitude Bar was nuts too. "The big life!" I am really just so happy that this trip worked out, and it was even better that I could share these experiences with close friends. Wow. What a day. :)

After spending some time on my journal, I wandered back to the pool and ran into 4 young friends, I'd say they must have been about 15. I think they said they were from Bangladesh. They gave me the phone number of their brother in Canada, it was area code 902 and they said I should give him a call and say Hi from them. I assumed that was probably Mississauga or Vancouver. (Note: Googling this now, it appears to be somewhere in Nova Scotia or PEI!!). They didn't speak much English but they were excited that I was from Canada. After chatting with them for a bit, I headed back down the elevator and back to the MRT and to the hotel to relax, planning to meet up with Matt later for dinner.

After a couple hours, I met up with Matt and we traded stories of the day. We ate the remaining Marks and Spencer mince tarts and had some tea while waiting for Jess. Once Jess got back from her day, she was pretty tired so Matt and I just went out together back to Arab St for dinner. We went to almost the exact same place as Friday night and got some Egyptian food: Hummus and Shish Kebabs. We also got that amazing Moroccan Mint Tea - and I was really surprised when Matt said it was just black tea, mint leaves and sugar!!

We walked back a little ways to the MRT station and got a photo of Raffles Hotel, and then took the subway back to the hotel. We had a few snacks and drinks, I put my laundry in, and got ready for the last 2 days of work before heading back to SF.

Shrine on the way to Little India

Thought these apartments were interesting

Street near our hotel

Some very interesting architecture around here

More interesting buildings. Check out the outdoor elevator!

Walking in Little India

Fruit market

This place was gloriously painted

Bird and statue

Vegetarian restaurant

Lots of gold and jewelery stores

Then I went to a mall for a bit and got some pandan-leaf wrapped chicken at a Thai restaurant - it was really good

Unusual Pringles flavours - "Seaweed", "Soft Shell Crab", "Grilled Shrimp", "Cheesy Cheese"

Downtown buildings

Durian buildings and lanterns (I think?) on the water

Marina Bay Sands!!! Arrrgghhh so cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shot from underneath the Marina Bay Sands

Singapore downtown

Network on the water

Hot tubs against the glass

WOW. The amazing infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands. I'd seen a photo of this a year ago and decided that I HAD to see it if we visited Singapore. It was SO cool. I really wanted to swim in it but unfortunately you had to be a guest at the hotel - but I took lots of photos anyway. It was awesome.

Ships in the harbour

Crazy "double helix" bridge

Sun setting on the infinity pool

Me, super psyched about the pool

Wow, so awesome

Don't get too close, guys!

What a view!

A side-view of the infinity pool "ledge". Turns out there is a walkway underneath it, so you're not RIGHT at the edge of the building, but close. :)

Singapore downtown as the sun was setting

Then Matt and I went back to Arab St to get some pita and hummus. It was awesome.

Raffles Hotel in Singapore, all dressed up for Christmas.