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Financial Samurai

This is a guest article by Sam, the author of the blog Financial Samurai and the founder of the Yakezie Challenge and Network. He writes a column for Consumerism Commentary every other Tuesday.

This past summer I went to my friends Peter and Stephanie’s wedding in Hawaii. Peter is 35, but looks 25, and works as a manager at a boutique strategy consulting firm. He probably pulls in between $300,000 and $400,000 a year, but you’d never know it by the way he casually dresses outside of work. Peter is a jeans and a t-shirt kind of guy and was once the quintessential super-motivated boyfriend. Stephanie is 31, but actually looks 22 and makes women jealous because she is so petite. Stephanie is also a manager at an accounting firm and earns between $100,000 and $150,000 a year with much better hours than Peter.

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With roughly half a million a year in combined income and no family to support, Peter and Stephanie are surely considered well-to-do, even in an expensive city such as San Francisco. One would think that Peter and Stephanie would throw a lavish wedding of 200 or more people at some fancy resort for $80,000 to $100,000 like every other couple I know who makes that much. Not so.

Stephanie is even more conservative in her spending habits than Peter. Stephanie’s favorite store is Target, where twice a year she’ll splurge anywhere between $100 and $200 on her favorite clothes. She’s not into jewelry and her biggest vice is collecting $2 magnets and used stamps whenever she goes on trips. Stephanie is as low maintenance and non-material as it gets — a guy’s dream!

Lest you think Peter and Stephanie are cheap, I assure you they are not. They donate more than $10,000 a year to a charity I’m involved with, and they don’t skimp on their vacation adventures abroad.

The wedding

After reading their backgrounds, how much do you think they spent on their wedding? How about $50,000, or just one tenth their gross annual income? Nope, not even close. Including airfare, they spent $2,050, or just 0.4% of their annual gross income! Let’s break down the costs:

  • Airfare for two from SF to Kauai: $1,100
  • Wedding ceremony with ukulele player and minister: $250
  • Photographer with CD of photos: $300
  • Beach venue: Free
  • Hawaiian lunch reception for 20 where Peter first took Stephanie out on a date: $400 after tip

Peter and Stephanie invited their immediate family and closest friends. They didn’t want to make their wedding a big spectacle at all. For those who were able to fly out, fantastic. For those who weren’t, they threw a 50 person house party for them upon their return.

The wedding was absolutely magical. There was no stress and such a casual way about everything. The sun shined warmly and you could hear the palm trees ruffle in the breeze as the ukulele hummed and the minister preached. I’ve been to around 20 weddings, and this one was the most memorable by far.

What’s with the massive spending?

I don’t really understand the point of spending much more than $5,000 on a wedding, no matter what your income is. Sure, you want your moment to be magical, but the magic is more about surrounding yourself with magical people than thousand dollar floral arrangements and lobster tail entrees.

Instead of spending $20,000 (the average cost of an American wedding), you can use the money towards a house down payment or new household items. Invest the $20,000 in your retirement or in your child’s education. There are countless better ways to spend $20,000 than on a wedding that lasts half a day.

Like my one-tenth rule for car buying, perhaps each of us should adopt the one-tenth rule for wedding expenses. If you make $100,000, spend no more than $10,000 on your wedding. The rule helps ensure that you focus on what’s truly important, while maintaining sound finances. If you want to spend that typical American wedding amount of $20,000, make it a goal and try and make $200,000 or more before you get married. Peter and Stephanie spent 0.4% of their gross annual income on their wedding; surely you can spend 25 times their percentage and still have a grand time too!

How much did you or would you spend on a wedding? Do you believe it’s right for a couple to ask their parents to pay if they can’t afford the wedding themselves?


This is a guest article by Sam, the author of the blog Financial Samurai and the founder of the Yakezie Challenge and Network. He writes a column for Consumerism Commentary every other Tuesday.

What a difference a couple weeks makes! Craig has gone from depressed online dater to someone with a ton of self esteem. What happened in those two weeks you ask? First of all, Craig reached his one-month anniversary on his site, so his account was automatically upgraded to “regular member” status. This helps him show up in more search results since many women choose to view men who have been members at least one month to weed out less serious candidates. Second of all, Craig did raise his reported income level from $55,000 to $100,000 thanks to all the advice from readers who said that even though women say they don’t care about money, they really do.

The final major difference Craig employed was to stop feeling sorry for himself and start actively going out and contacting women he finds interesting. The more he contacted, the more responses he got. It’s not like every woman is responding. Far from it. Instead, Craig notes that about one in every five women get back to him. Simple math therefore dictates that if he were to contact 30 women a month, he’d be able to start dialogues with around six of them — and that is exactly what he’s done.

Fabio lives

The key advice Craig tells us during our weekly poker games is that online dating is a numbers game. “Take nothing personally guys! There are so many women out there looking for love, it just takes patience!” “I’ve lined up two dates a week for the past two weeks, and I’m planning on going out with this hot tamale!”

Craig brings up a picture of this one beautiful woman on his iPhone and everybody starts clamoring. She’s incredibly fit with flaming red hair and a body that could very well be in the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit magazine. “Wow, you sure she didn’t respond to you by mistake?” asked one player. “Craig, there’s no way in hell you’re going out with her,” says another.

With each passing of the iPhone, we all take turns busting Craig’s chops, now that he thinks he’s Casanova. All was going according to plan until the phone reached one fella who did a double take. “Wait a minute, I could have sworn I’ve seen her somewhere before.”

“Shut the hell up, Tim. You’ve never seen her before fool!” Craig retorted.

“No, no, I really have seen her before! She was on Craigslist’s Adult Services section before the Feds shut it down,” Tim explained. At this point, we all busted out laughing. All of us, except for Tim. “I’m dead serious guys! Since the Feds shut down Craigslist’s shady section, where do you think all these women suddenly go?”

“Hmmm, good point Tim, but I don’t care. She’s hot and the only thing I’m paying for is sashimi and sake, punk!” Craig says defiantly.

Let’s discuss: he said

I’m sure some of you want to rewind back to Craig’s second initiative, and that is him raising his income level to $100,000. Is it really so bad to fudge a little on income if women fudge on their weight, height, and age? Craig actually went out with one 33 year old woman last week who looked like she was still in her mid twenties from her picture. Surprise, surprise. She looked like she was in her mid twenties because the picture was taken six years ago! Craig couldn’t wait to pay the bill and get out!

What’s the harm in saying you make $45,000 a year more than you really make? Who’s to say Craig can’t make $45,000 more in the next 12 months? Craig certainly can, and until 12 months is over, he’s not lying one bit. So long as Craig treats the woman well, that’s all that matters since he looks exactly like what his pictures show, and enjoys things exactly as his profile describes.

Let’s discuss: she said

Craig is actually incredibly disappointed by this red-haired woman who calls herself AvedaQueen. thanks to Tim’s comments. She is an incredibly attractive hair colorist who hasn’t been responsive, yet she has agreed to go out with him. She’s an eight out of ten in Craig’s mind in terms of attractiveness. Now all Craig thinks about is whether AvedaQueen really is a prostitute and whether she finds Craig interesting.

It doesn’t matter one bit that AvedaQueen colors hair for a living or has a five year old child at 28 years old. He likes her profile and finds her attractive. If she is a part-time prostitute, how does she expect to get paid since most guys will have no idea such a curve ball is coming? Perhaps after a great evening of fine wine, where she’s lulled him in so deeply with her beauty and charm, she can tell him the truth and proposition him? Yes, that must be it because at that point, she’ll have at least eaten a free meal and had a good time.

He won’t know until he tries

Maybe AvedaQueen is not a prostitute, and Tim is just joking around. Or maybe she is, and is using a free online dating site to lure new customers. Whatever the case may be, Tim is still extremely curious and wants to at least take her out and see for himself. Tim’s income exaggeration pales in comparison to AvedaQueen’s deception. A simple role reversion buttresses the point. In the land of online data, nothing is what it seems. As long as you enter the world with your eyes wide open, you’ll be fine!

Readers, is it OK stretch the truth in the online dating world since it is so prevalent? Who is being more deceptive here, Craig or AvedaQueen? Once again, does it really matter how much a guy makes, and if not, does it matter how much Craig says he makes?


This is a guest article by Sam, the author of the blog Financial Samurai and the founder of the Yakezie Challenge and Network. He writes a column for Consumerism Commentary every other Tuesday.

There are 14 income selections one must choose on a particular online dating site my friend Craig recently joined. Take a look at these choices: Under $20,000, $20,000-$30,000, $30,000-$40,000, $40,000-$50,000, more $10,000 increments up to $100,000, $100,000-$150,000, $150,000-$250,000, $250,000-$500,000, $500,000-$1,000,000, and finally $1,000,000+. Wow. Talk about getting granular! Do people really need to know within the $10,000 or $50,000 range of how much one makes? Guess so, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many choices!

Craig is 32 years old, six feet tall and works as a project manager in construction. He doesn’t make a lot of money, with a salary averaging about $55,000 a year. That said, with dark brown hair, a nice smile, four-pack abs and a cheerful persona, he should be considered a catch by many women. Yet, Craig has an inferiority complex. $55,000 is only the fifth choice out of 14 from the income list! He often wonders to himself, How am I supposed to compete with the thousands of other single guys in San Francisco who undoubtedly make much more than me? Earning $55,000 in San Francisco is like earning only $25,000 in Houston.

Income infatuation is strong

Women love to say that it doesn’t matter what car a guy drives, how much he makes, or how much he’s worth. Instead, the gracious woman emphasizes personality, charisma, drive, and integrity! Yet, if this were really the case, why don’t surveys ask a guy to rate his charisma trait between 0 and 14 like they ask about income? Why isn’t there more emphasis on the various types of personalities and ambition levels instead of just one word, yes-or-no answers? The reason is women aren’t telling men the entire truth! High quality literature (like Cosmopolitan magazine) prove that there’s a lot more than meets the eye!

I believe everything is rational, and the 14 point income question is there because women demand it to be there, otherwise it wouldn’t be there! If enough ice cream shop customers demanded double fudge peanut butter cup ice cream with swirls of caramel, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’d find a way to get the flavor on the menu.

Don’t take it from a guy

It’s really easy to see things from a guy’s point of view. After all, I am a guy, so what am I supposed to do, pretend I’m a woman and psychoanalyze myself from a woman’s point of view? Maybe, but there is a better way. The better way is to simply ask women about this ridiculous 14 selection income field.

So I asked Jennifer, a professional woman with ten years’ experience in corporate America the following questions: Should Craig lie and say his income is $175,000 to make him seem more desirable? It’s not like his potential date can really verify how much he makes, especially if he takes her somewhere fancy. Or, should Craig be honest and go with the “love me for who I am” option? I expected Jennifer to choose the latter, and she did.

“Craig should be himself and disclose everything with honesty,” Jennifer says. “What happens if they get serious and she discovers he doesn’t make the $175,000, then what? She’ll start wondering what other lies Craig is telling.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but what does it matter if Craig can’t get a date in the first place since no woman wants to date a 32 year old man in San Francisco earning only $55,000 a year? Craig can’t even get in the door. Wouldn’t it be a better strategy to make him seem as desirable as possible, and allow him to bedazzle her with his charming personality and chivalry instead?

Jennifer smirked, and simply said, “Men.”

What’s a guy to do?

Craig has been on this dating website for over a month now but isn’t getting much luck. He gets several “winks” and messages, but he hasn’t been able to successfully get a woman to go on a date with him yet. He went with Jennifer’s advice and chose the $50,000-$60,000 level. Frankly, Craig is depressed by his bad luck and wants to just give up online dating together.

Every time Craig thinks about lying about his income, he hesitates because women continue to tell him they don’t care about income. Yet, online dating is so full of lies. The five-foot one-inch girl says she’s five-foot three. The slightly overweight guy takes a picture of himself in a black shirt in an upward looking photograph and chooses the “athletic” body type. The list of embellishments goes on and on; it’s as if one is disadvantaged if one doesn’t cheat a little.

Readers, what should Craig do? And consider the opposite situation: if Craig were to make millions each year, should he reveal the figure or pretend like he makes much less? I assure you that Craig is a good guy!


This is a guest article by Sam, the author of the blog Financial Samurai and the founder of the Yakezie Challenge and Network. He writes a column for Consumerism Commentary every other Tuesday.

Patrick is one of the most ambitious people you’ll ever meet. After graduating summa cum laude, Patrick joined Morgan Stanley and made his first $100,000 in the stock market at the age of 23. At age 26, he bought his first condominium, and the very next year he made Vice President. Because Patrick is accustomed to getting in the office at 5:30 am and working until 7:30 pm every single day, he finds boredom on the weekends. Like clockwork, his body wakes up automatically no later than 6:00 am, and Patrick twiddles his thumbs every Saturday and Sunday until his friends wake up at 9:00 am. Sick of the boredom, Patrick decided to start a business during the morning hours and has spent the last year trying to launch it off the ground.

At the age of 30, Patrick married his longtime college sweetheart. He admired her for her kindness and her patience. She is a smart woman who has a steady but un-lucrative career in retail. Yet, after a couple years of marriage things started going sour, not because of the stress from their jobs, but because of the lack of private time outside of the office.

No off switch

Patrick has the same intensity on the weekends pursuing his online business as he has during work. Janice, his wife, on the other hand, loves to sleep in and relax on the weekends. That’s what weekends are for, she would always tell Patrick. She’d ignore him whenever he nudged her at 8:00 am to go out and play. Remember, by this time Patrick has already been up for two hours working on his side business.

Janice is musically gifted and is able to play both the violin and the piano. Yet, she no longer practices and plays her sweet music. Patrick has encouraged her to keep up her talents, but she is too tired during the weekends after a long week of work. It’s disappointing to Patrick because he regularly works 60 hours a week, and then comes home and puts in another three hours a day on average to ensure that his online business grows. Patrick understands that he shouldn’t expect the same type of intensity from his wife, but he can’t help but feel disappointed in her lack of passions.

The breakdown

One Friday night after Patrick had spent several hours working on his new site design after work, he asked Janice to come take a look and tell him what she thought. Patrick was sure the latest version would be the one. Instead of being encouraging, she told Patrick that a competitor’s site was so much better, and that he should work on it some more. This is when Patrick completely lost it. He didn’t yell at Janice, instead he began to cry. After working so hard, for so long, the person he loved the most had told him his work wasn’t good enough.

Patrick’s entire purpose for building his online business is so that they can have a business of their own during their early retirement years. Sure, the online business is Patrick’s vision, but the overall purpose is for both of them. He is so driven by the desire to take care of Janice that he is willing to put everything he has, time wise and emotionally into his project. Yet, he is so frustrated that Janice doesn’t invest the same amount of effort outside of work as he does. Patrick has no parachute in other words, and can’t depend on Janice to save enough money for them. The onus is almost entirely on him and that’s a lot of pressure.

If only things were like before

There used to be a time when Patrick admired everything about Janice. Now, things have faded. He’s sad that she doesn’t share his same zeal, which for the longest time was fine. But, he’s drawing the line now that she is no longer supportive of his efforts. Patrick can’t go on accepting the way things are and wants things to change. He wonders whether his drive to make a sustainable business online needs to be toned down for the sake of their marriage. Most of all, he just longs for Janice’s support again. Things were so good when they were younger. Now, so much has changed.

What would you do if you were Patrick? Do you think he should extend his early-forties retirement goal and his drive to create an online business so there’s less pressure? What should Janice do to ameliorate the situation?


Searching For Love and Money In All The Right Places

by Financial Samurai

This is a guest article by Sam, the author of the blog Financial Samurai and the founder of the Yakezie Blog Network. He writes a column for Consumerism Commentary every other Tuesday. This article serves as an introduction to this new bi-weekly column. At age 15, I stopped growing and I remember being so disappointed. […]

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