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Archive for June, 2020

Five Years

June 30th, 2020 at 01:45 pm

A few years ago, I read a financial article, book, or blog (I can’t remember unfortunately.) that had an impact on how I prepare for retirement.

Before then I had just focused on a number to achieve for my retirement account – one that would support a ‘retirement phase’ budget with a 4% annual withdrawal. My thought, like many others, was that my retirement date would be the day I achieved that number. I could project that date but not count on it. The article made me rethink the approach and instead think more about my remaining time and its value. So, make the DATE the goal, not the AMOUNT. After reading, I decided to set a deadline for my retirement start date and then work to make that happen. There’s a mental shift, at least for me, in having a “deadline” instead of a “target date”. A target is something that I work toward and hope it works out, but know it might not and that’s okay. A deadline on the other hand is something I work toward with some sense of urgency because if it doesn’t work out, I have to resort to a back-up plan that isn’t as nice. When I have a deadline, I tend to make sacrifices earlier if necessary so I won’t miss it.

June 30, 2025 is my retirement start deadline. I will be retired on that day. It makes me excited just to type that! That makes today a milestone – my retirement is a maximum of 5 years from today. What if I don’t have the magic number in the retirement account? Then I will adjust my retirement lifestyle, but I will not change the date. One thing that has reinforced my view has been this site, where I see several of you in retirement living quite well without a huge nest egg. There are so many accounts too of people who had a sudden disability that resulted in that date being selected for them and they weren’t prepared. And others who achieved their magic number but have the ‘one more year’ syndrome for several years because they worry about the potential flaws in their calculations. I also encountered one of those Monte Carlo simulators that included the probability of being dead along with the probabilities of being broke or wealthy. That drove home the concept to me: I want to control how I spend the rest of my life.

2025 is the year I turn sixty. I can access my retirement account without penalty then. I won’t qualify for Medicare yet. My youngest boys won’t be finished with college. All those factors are included in my planning.

I set a list of prerequisites that must be met if I voluntarily opt to retire before June 30, 2025. In order to allow myself to retire earlier, I have to have these things accomplished:
(1) Retirement account on target for 7 figures on 60th birthday
(2) College savings on target for full funding
(3) Mortgage paid off
(4) Savings of basic expenses until 60th birthday set aside
(5) No consumer debt

I track my progress against those prerequisites each quarter. I have a countdown set too – today I have 260 more Mondays until my deadline.

Health Habit for June

June 28th, 2020 at 01:47 pm

My 2020 goal #2 is to adopt a permanent health-enhancing habit each month. My new health habit for June is to have two resistance training workouts each week.

I have a book that illustrates a few no-equipment-needed strength-building moves for different body parts. I have a health club membership too where I can use machines. This is an area of weakness for me. (I feel like I’ve said that about several of my health habits!) DH is disciplined with workouts but not with diet. I tend to be the opposite. If we could combine ourselves, we’d be the ideal, or the worst…!

The reason I chose strength training is that as I get older it seems like my muscle tone is deteriorating before my eyes. And I want to maintain my strength so I can remain active as I move into my retirement phase of life. So, it’s for both aesthetic and quality of life reasons.

Do strength training exercises twice a week.

Strength training can do all this & more:
• maintain lean muscle mass
• preserve bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis for women
• raise metabolism (once muscle mass is improved)
• reduce risk of injury
• improve balance
• improve the muscle’s ability to use glucose, decreasing blood sugar levels
• reduce cancer risk by lowering visceral fat
• increase mental resiliency (anti-anxiety effect)
• improve flexibility & mobility

Upfront – zero
Ongoing – $20/month health club membership

2020 health habits so far:
(1) Fast one day per month
(2) Consume fresh organic juice at least 3 times a week
(3) Stop storing food in plastic containers
(4) Spend at least half an hour outside every day
(5) Drink 32 oz filtered water every day
(6) Do strength training exercises twice a week

DS2 Officially Out of the Nest

June 27th, 2020 at 01:09 am

Today was a milestone day for DS2. He’s moving into his own place. He graduated in May and then started working in a town about a 45-minute drive away. He was unable to get an apartment for months mostly because of Covid-related shutdowns. Property management companies weren’t even showing places. He also had decided only to consider apartments that were biking distance to his work and reasonably priced.

Finally, he found a place that suits him. It’s a two-building complex where each building is a 4-plex and it’s in the town where he works. It’s not pretty-looking on Google maps, but it’s practical for him. There’s even a laundromat across the street. He said he could walk to work in about 15 minutes. It’s basic – a one-bedroom apartment with a bath and a combined living room and kitchen area. He’s living alone though and wanted to live cheaply so he can save money for the next couple of years. I think he’ll be paying about $600/month in rent. In preparation for the move he bought a router for his internet, arranged for utility accounts in his name, bought a window A/C unit, and rented a U-Haul to move all his belongings. I’m surprised that he was allowed to rent the U-Haul since he isn’t 25 yet but he didn’t ask for help so I guess it was okay. Maybe the rental companies are being more lenient since their business is slow these days. But all those things are adult activities and I could tell that DS2 is feeling proud that he’s independent. I’m proud too.

Before he drove away in the big van loaded with his things, he told me that we could go see his place in a week. I think he wants time to get his place sorted before he shows it off to us.

DS4 helping DS2 load the moving van

I guess my next move is to have DS2 removed from our auto insurance. Hopefully that will save a few bucks because having DS3 on the policy is costing us plenty.

2020 Goal #1 – Done

June 23rd, 2020 at 01:31 am

I have met my first goal for 2020: Get EF back to 3 months’ basic expenses. It feels nice especially in the current economic environment. For us three months of expenses is $10,500 and the EF bumped to $10,700 with my recent regular monthly contribution. It was close last month but I didn’t feel comfortable taking funds from something else and throwing it in.

I’ll be evaluating my progress on all annual goals at the end of the quarter which is in just a couple of weeks.

I may set a goal in 2021 to get the EF to 6 months of expenses.

The Best Day of the Year

June 22nd, 2020 at 02:05 am

June 21st – the longest day (for natural light) of the year. I love the long days and made a point to spend a good part of the day outside. The only bad thing is that the days get shorter from here, already. DS4 started his life-guarding job today. He has rosy cheeks from the sun so he’ll remember to take sunscreen tomorrow. My boys don’t usually burn because their skin has a slight olive tone like mine – even the blond one – but it is the very beginning of the season here so they need to be careful now.

On the money front: I received an EOB from Aetna and they paid DH’s antibody test at 100%, like a preventive service would be covered. I didn’t expect that. It was $55.

Points Redeemed

June 19th, 2020 at 03:40 pm

I redeemed credit card points for a $50 Subway gift card. I like choosing a physical card so I have the option of using it or gifting it. In this case, it’s likely I’ll use it to treat the family to our local Subway since we are no longer ordering out. They are open for pick-up only. The previous gift cards I ordered with points were for Staples and Lowe’s.

Surgery Finally Done

June 17th, 2020 at 01:45 pm

The stray cat that we adopted is now neutered. Twice the surgery was scheduled and cancelled, I think because the county wasn’t officially yellow yet so non-life-threatening surgeries weren’t allowed. (even for animals) This time it didn’t get cancelled thank goodness. We’ve been eager to get this done because this male cat had been marking his territory in our house. I think the behavior has stopped now.

The total bill for neutering (including IV fluids and pain meds) and microchipping was $407.

Another Refund

June 16th, 2020 at 12:18 pm

We received another refund from the high school. This time it was $20 that we had paid for a class lab fee. It was refunded since the school was closed in March. That class – Foods – wasn’t fun for DS4 to do online. It would have been a challenge to make fun & interactive online and that teacher just wasn’t the type to change her lesson plans. The school just sent out a survey to get feedback on parent preferences for safety measures vs going online so I guess the Fall semester is in the air. Hopefully if it is online the teachers have time to learn how to teach effectively that way.

Matching Contributions

June 13th, 2020 at 02:20 am

About a month and a half ago the company announced a contribution matching initiative for donations to Covid-19 support organizations. The employee contribution can be to any qualifying organization that is helping prevent the spread of Covid-19 or addressing other damage caused by it. The match from the company though will go to one of about half a dozen organizations that the company has chosen. The employee can select which one. And it’s clear from the wording of the memo that the company thinks that those organizations would be ideal for the employee’s contribution too.

So here’s the rub for me: First, we just all took 10% mandatory pay cuts. But more importantly, while the organizations chosen by the company are reputable, they don’t reflect my personal values around the pandemic. In my opinion, all the guidance provided by the government and health organizations has been a defensive strategy – avoiding the virus. That’s fine. But what seems to be missing is a complementary offensive strategy – planning for the encounter that is likely to happen and making all of us healthier so we aren’t taken down by the thing. I wish we’d spend some of the money being thrown around to provide Vitamin D (& C and zinc) for free to anyone who wants it. This is my view – I know everyone doesn’t think like I do.

I opted not to contribute and instead our family found ways to support our local community. Now I wonder though: will it hurt me at the company? Do they keep a record of who participated in the initiative they promoted?

Have you ever skipped a work fundraiser and worried that it could negatively impact you at work?

Boys' Inheritance Plans

June 11th, 2020 at 12:50 am

When FIL died at the end of January, he left most of his assets (IRA & other accounts, vehicles, etc.) to his wife. In his will he left one savings account to be split among his grandsons. Noone expected this. Our boys will each receive about $10k in the next month or so. They each inherited a gun from FIL too but they weren’t surprised because they’d been asked in past years which one they preferred. (FIL was an outdoorsman.) His will might be entertaining for another hunter to read because one line after another says something like “To my GS1 I leave my Winchester blah blah rifle with the blah blah scope, serial number blah blah” through about 20 guns. He covered all his grandsons, his sons, his son-in-law, former son-in-law, step-son-in-law, former boyfriend to his daughter, and his daughter.

I’m not eager to have those guns in the house – I resisted this with DH for the past decade because our boys were the have-to-touch-everything type of little boys. I guess I’m glad at least that they are older now and two of them don’t live at home any longer.

As for the money, because two of our boys are minors, we will be given the money on their behalf. The other three will receive it directly. I told the twins (DS4 & DS5) that I would allow them to spend some of their money if they chose to but that I would be doing it on their behalf. I’m not trying to be controlling but I just don’t want them to be vulnerable to someone taking advantage of them. In fact I worry about DS3 in that regard but he is 18 and typically not receptive to advice from me.

This is what each boy plans to do with his windfall:

DS1 - $5k to Roth IRA now for 2019 since the deadline is extended, $2k student loan debt, $3k current desires including $1k to “play” with stocks

DS2 – All of it to top off Roth IRA for 2019 and 2020

DS3 – undecided, but has talked about a newer more reliable car

DS4 - $1k to buy the bed he wants, $9k to savings for a car purchase after he’s 18

DS5 – up to $3k for a fancy gaming computer setup, $7k to long-term savings with no goal yet

I’m curious to see if all their plans stick when the money arrives.

Now the spammers are putting 'Don't delete' in the subject

June 9th, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Please delete

Going Grey

June 9th, 2020 at 02:02 am

In our county hair salons aren’t yet open. I haven’t been covering my grey hair growth except with a temporary solution when I’m forced to do a video conference. I have to say I’m starting to like the grey and I’m seriously thinking of keeping it. My hair is now naturally salt & pepper with the salt/pepper proportions different in some places.

Once salons open I may even ask my hairdresser to dye it all grey and then I’ll just have some dark roots but less over time. A while back I saw a model online with grey hair even longer than mine and I liked the look. (Rosemarie Fern is the name in case you want to search.) I think that influenced me to break that unwritten rule that middle-aged women shouldn’t have long grey hair.

Anyone else considering a permanent switch to grey?

Recent Money Moves

June 7th, 2020 at 08:24 pm

A few weeks ago I was celebrating the arrival of unexpected money: $212 from the car insurance for cancelling Bertha (minivan that departed), $54 voluntary refund from insurance to account for the stay-at-home order, and $40 refund from the school for the pay-to-play fee since the sports season was cancelled.

I also cancelled the 0% CC that was paid off which didn’t bring in money but did simplify my financial life by removing an account.

Then it went the other way and in a big way. The company implemented a 10% pay cut on total compensation across the board. The reasons were valid – they are trying to avoid layoffs and foresee the revenue being much lower this year. The pay cut is supposed to be for this fiscal year only and if the revenue doesn’t fall as sharply as anticipated, we may get some of it back later. Other cuts were made too – travel, hiring, and summer interns were some of them.

As a result, I had to make tough decisions about items in our family’s budget to cut or eliminate. No more ordering in dinner from local businesses once a week. No more family trip planned for this summer. Of course it wasn’t fun relaying this information to the kids but despite it being unpleasant, I did think it was a teachable moment. They got to see my response (as our family’s CFO) to a sudden unexpected reduction in income. And we’ll be fine.

I wish our local school board had enough fiscal maturity to go through that exercise. They also have realized that revenue will be impacted by the shutdown this year and instead of making tough decisions on budget line items, they are planning to raise taxes in hope of making up the difference! I usually don’t have strong feelings about local politics, but this time, maybe because of my situation, I am annoyed by them. One of every five neighbors is unemployed and probably wondering how they will pay the whopper property tax bill this year without selling their homes and you’re going to raise it? Such a lack of compassion and responsibility.