‘Malcolm has landed’ is true but admittedly grandiose


View of central Phnom Penh from roof of my apartment building.

View of central Phnom Penh from roof of my apartment building.

Life in Phnom Penh seems to start unfailingly around 7 a.m., two hours after what somehow has become my routine wake-up time.

Sitting in the apartment that we’ll occupy probably for no more than six months, I hear construction starting on the house 10 floors below me in the neighboring lot.  I can see tuk-tuks gathering on street corners, hear Buddhist chants and notice other sounds of life, including birds, rising in volume.  Later this morning, the city’s inescapable energy is sure to peak.

(One reason for expecting to move is that the apartment we had to grab was merely acceptable and available following our arrival here on Dec. 3.  Two weeks in a basic hotel was quite enough, and the building is well situated in an area with a concentration of ex-pats, upscale coffee shops and, heaven help me, a Burger King that soon will open.  There goes the neighborhood.

(But I expect that the open kitchen with its two-burner electric stovetop, bath with pink tiles, master bedroom with bubblegum-pink sheets, lukewarm water in the shower and fluorescent lighting will prove to be too much to bear for an extended period — that and a bigger reason that I’ll detail toward the end of this post.  One attraction is the rooftop pool, however.

(For the $1,000 a month we’re spending on a furnished 2BR, how can I complain?  Well, you’ll see.)

Since I spent three weeks here in March, I have encountered a few surprises.   Continue reading

I got an e-mailed mortgage offer that was easy to refuse

In a serendipitous coincidence, I received an e-mail from CitiBank and noticed an entry on SmartMoney.com the same day last week.

Each concerned the concept of paying off a mortgage early. The e-mail was temptingly headlined:

Pay Off Your Mortgage Years Sooner!

The message went on to promise Continue reading

Do extra mortgage payments make sense?

Citibank was kind enough to e-mail me the other day about my mortgage.  The message, with details that I have obscured, reads as follows:

Dear Malcolm N Carter:

Take 5 years and 3 months off your current mortgage and save $1,xxxxxxxxxx — all without refinancing!

The BiWeekly AdvantageSM Plan puts your mortgage on your pay schedule, potentially saving you thousands in interest. Not only does this make paying for your mortgage more convenient, it can help you pay off your mortgage years sooner. Many homeowners try to make extra principal payments, but it’s easier said than done. Let The BiWeekly AdvantageSM Plan do the work for you.

Here’s how it works:

Instead of you making 12 monthly payments per year, FNC Insurance Agency withdraws half of your monthly payment every 14 days.

FNC then sends your full mortgage payment to CitiMortgage every month, on time.

At the end of the year, you’ve made the equivalent of one extra monthly payment, which is applied against your mortgage principal.

In my naivete, I actually gave the suggestion more than a moment’s thought.  At the same time, my cynical view of banks tempered any enthusiasm for the notion that Citi proposed.  Then, I fortuitously came across a Washington Post column by Jack Gutentag on the very subject. Continue reading