No. of Recommendations: 4
Hi everyone,

I'm been trying to take better care of my financial life over the past year or so, having decided to settle permanently in the US (I'm from England originally) and I'm looking for some input and suggestions on how I can improve my current approach - or just reassurance that I'm doing OK :) I also have some specific questions highlighted below.

You can read some of my previous posts here http://boards.fool.com/new-to-us-banking-system-cont-2883213... which give some background, but no need, I'll lay it all out now.

I'm 33, living with my boyfriend in a rented apartment we're very happy in, in San Francisco. No plans to buy as rent is so cheap here compared to purchase prices, and neither of us are particularly fussed about home ownership.
I have a good job that pays well in terms of both salary and (barring a double-dip recession) bonuses. Right now I am paying 13% of my salary and bonuses into a 401K, of which 5% is going to Roth and the rest regular. My employer also contributes a further 6%. I am not eligible for an IRA. Is there anything else I should be doing for retirement, or any changes I should make?

I am saving around 1/3 of my net pay (1/3 goes to rent and bills, 1/3 to groceries, clothes, entertainment etc) as I am technically debt free, but would like to repay my mother a ~$28K "gift" that she gave me to help me through graduate school (I got my MBA so feel I should be able to repay her sensible investment in me).

I have $10K in an ING Sharebuilder account in short-term bond ETFs (expect ~4% return) set aside to pay back my mum, and have also been trying to learn a bit about stock investing and put my toe in the water with two purchases a month ago (APOL and SMSC - both bumped >5% on earnings announcements recently so I'm doing well/ really lucky so far). I also have ~$5000 set aside in an account that pays 1.3% with smartypig, and save $1500 per month to that, with the plan of paying back my mother early next year with that plus my annual bonus (paid in Jan) and the other savings mentioned.

I have $1000 in an emergency fund, $1500 saved up for a long trip home to the UK with my boyfriend this summer (flights and hotels paid for with airmiles and Starwood points respectively - one upside of the travel required by my job) and $1000 saved for a trip to his parents at Christmas plus gifts etc for his (large) family. I also now have a decent credit rating and have three US credit cards - a United and a Starwood used for work travel expenses and a Capital One cashback for everyday, all paid in full every month. I still have a UK one too, paid from a UK bank account I keep open with a few hundred pounds in in case I need to go back for a while at any point (if mum was sick etc).

I have not told my mum that I intend to pay her back - I want to wait until I have the full amount and just pay it into her bank as a fait accompli, as she may be offended and try and talk me out of it. There is also a good chance she decides to give it right back and persuade me to use it for a wedding or down payment, but if so I want it to be her money again first, and hope she'll at least take a bit to enjoy herself with.

Given all this, I feel that I should maybe have a more solid emergency fund, to cover the 6 months living expenses often mentioned here. However, as long as my mum doesn't know I intend to pay her back I can always use that money if something awful happens. Does that sound OK, or is there a better way I should think about my emergency fund and investments?

Additional questions: my mum lent me 15K pounds sterling - I'm in a real quandry as to whether I should pay her back in the value of the dollars then (at exchange around 1.9) or now (around 1.6). Not to mention whether I should repay her interest, and at what rate! Current plan is to pay back the higher amount, which may confuse/insult her more, but I'll get there faster if I decide to just pay back 15K in today's sterling. Any thoughts there?


Sorry, this has ended up a bit more of a ramble than I intended. Does anyone have any thoughts, or are there any other details you need from me?

Ali
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