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New Year, More Focus

January 15th, 2022 at 05:15 pm

I’ve slipped out of the habit of blogging and financial things are still happening.

 

My paychecks are back to the normal lower level since social security and 401k contributions are again being deducted. The company for the first time in decades (and maybe ever) increased its matching contributions from 50% up to 5% of total compensation to 50% up to 6% of total compensation. I still think that’s lower than the benefits offered by some of our major competitors but I was pleasantly surprised.

 

I’m targeting to retire in 18 months and I have a ‘This is the home stretch!’ feeling. I want to get some home projects done that could become pricey and I want to begin transitioning the way I spend my free time. When I finalize annual goals, I’ll focus on those aspects.

 

Happy new year!

Vehicle Insurance Admin

November 29th, 2021 at 01:35 am

DS5 is now a licensed driver. I spent about $350 on six hours of driving lessons several months ago and it was worth it to me. With DS1 & DS2 I wasn’t so afraid to ride in the passenger seat with a driver-in-training but I am now. Relatives helped on getting driving time for him too when we visited them last month. I’m glad that we’ve got the last one over the line.

 

I don’t know how much the insurance will go up from adding a third teenaged boy to the policy. Yikes! I’m expecting an invoice soon.

 

I had an annoyance with the car insurance & our state’s DOT but fortunately it didn’t cost me money – just inconvenience. While we don’t buy cars for the boys, I am willing to have them in my name and to insure them while the boys are in school if they choose to buy a car. [And their driving record is clean.] As a result, I have four cars in my name though I drive just one of them.

 

DS4 decided to sell his car and buy a different one so for a short while I had five cars insured. I didn’t realize it until later when I noticed different policy numbers, but apparently only 4 cars can be on one policy so the insurance company had the fifth car on a separate policy. Then when DS4 sold the car, the newest one was moved to the original policy so all the vehicles were together again. That’s when I received a notice from the DOT that they had been informed that my policy was cancelled. I know from the experience of one of my boys that if the DOT doesn’t receive proof of insurance by the deadline, they assume that you had a lapse in coverage and they fine you $500. You can appeal it by going to court and showing proof of insurance but the appeal is $150 for court costs. Sooo, I sent my proof of insurance to the DOT by registered mail so I’d get confirmation of its receipt. I may complain to the insurance company. Why would they contact the DOT when they just changed the policy? I don’t know if it was a mistake or if they’re required to do it.

 

I’m enjoying the last few weeks of our CSA season. My brother and his wife gifted me a couple of boxes from Farmbox Direct for my birthday so right now we’re getting fresh organic vegetables AND fruits! Heaven.

New Fireplace

November 23rd, 2021 at 04:23 pm

Our gas (with fake logs) fireplace gave out last year. We were able to hire a handyman to do some tweaking to limp it along last winter while I planned to replace it this year. Replacing it became a bigger and bigger deal. No place could just replace the ‘guts’ of it. Even the mantel couldn’t stay because it would break when the fireplace was pulled out. The fireplace came with the house so it was almost 20 years old.

 

That meant that an upgrade that I originally thought would be a couple thousand dollars was about ten thousand dollars. And the two places that sold & installed them were booked out for months. I think it was in July when I signed the contract and the installation was finally completed yesterday. The good news is that we have it in time for cold weather and it is far (far!) superior to our older one. This one is heating the house! It has a remote control that allows us to control the flame (5 settings), the lighting, the ‘embers’ (cosmetic only), and the fan. With the fan, it blows the warm air out into our family room which is open to the kitchen. I’m in love with it.

 

I set aside the money for it in the online Ally savings account so it would earn interest while we waited. I paid with a credit card and will move the money into checking when the CC is due next month. I’m doing the same thing with the money set aside for the fence – contract signed in May and it looks like it’ll be 2022 before it is installed because of material supply chain issues. Another post…  A picture of the new fancy fireplace:

Crypto

November 8th, 2021 at 02:55 pm

I know it’s my age/generation but whenever I hear anything about cryptocurrency, it seems like fake money to me. I don’t get it. And I do realize that our paper money is no longer backed by precious metals so in effect its value is debatable too. I admit that I’m an old fogie in this area.

So recently DS2 installed something on DS5’s computer that earns cryptocurrency. The best I can understand after asking for an explanation is that DS5’s graphics card is being rented out for processing power when he isn’t using it. He’s making the equivalent of $2/day by having his computer run this. That piqued my interest. DS2 has his computer set up with multiple graphics cards connected to a single motherboard and he’s making a few hundred dollars a month while he’s at his real mechanical engineering job. That’s wild to me. He occasionally converts the crypto to dollars and transfers them to his bank account. Apparently the only gotcha is that you have to have a quality graphics card and they’re hard to come by now because lots of people are doing this. I assume that all that processing uses some electricity too.

 

 I just find it interesting that young adults have discovered an automated income stream. Kids today!

 

Life of leisure

 

Expanding Fur Family

September 6th, 2021 at 04:17 pm

A recent post in an online neighborhood app touched me and as a result we have three more felines. Making a total of five plus a dog. It’s not a frugal move!

 

The woman who needed to rehome them is terminally ill and nearing the end. She doesn’t have a husband, children, or siblings. It’s very sad for her – having to let go of her pets but knowing that it needs to be done. It’s traumatic for the cats too – I’m being very patient with them as they get accustomed to their new home. So far they are living in the master suite only.

 

DH says that I’m now an official crazy cat lady. I’m okay with that.

 

I'm Back

August 3rd, 2021 at 01:14 am

I’ve been back home since the middle of April and just haven’t gotten back in the habit of blogging. There was quite a bit to do to get the house back in order and my office set up. And catch up to do with neighbors and friends after being away for months. During the time I was gone, two people that were part of my regular routine died – not friends exactly, but folks I chatted with regularly in the neighborhood and the grocery store. That discovery put a damper on last week.

 

At work it’s like I never left. Finances are trucking along. The company stock has been a huge help with that.

 

This post is to push me back into the habit. I’ll blog on particular topics in the upcoming days. I need to organize my thoughts.

Boy Scout campBoy Scout camp

CC Rewards

March 22nd, 2021 at 06:08 pm

I redeem credit card points for gift cards as soon as I’ve earned enough to qualify for one. This month I chose a Lowe’s gift card for the $50 reward. I’m sure we’ll use it this spring for yard work or a home repair.

 

Stimulus

March 20th, 2021 at 06:19 pm

As hoped, we received a stimulus payment based on our 2019 AGI since we haven’t filed our 2020 taxes yet. The $2100 is a pleasant surprise and will be used to pay for our annual CSA membership and the travel costs of returning home next month.

Battery Life

March 12th, 2021 at 02:24 pm

I started replacing some things before they failed several years ago. Like water heaters and car batteries. The kind of things that will certainly fail at a time that’s inconvenient and possibly risky. It may be a little more expensive to replace an item prematurely but that beats being inconvenienced when it eventually fails.

The newest (2010) car’s battery just got us though. We bought it used about a year and a half ago so I didn’t know how old the battery was. Because we weren’t sure it was the battery, it was taken to the shop. Now we’ll pay for a new battery and labor. Not next time though. I will place a tickler on the online family calendar to replace this battery at the end of its warranty.

 

Battery cost with labor: $198

 

Company Coffee

March 10th, 2021 at 02:20 pm

One day this past week was ‘Colleague Appreciation Day’. I’m not sure if that’s a thing or if it’s just something that’s created and celebrated at my company. We each received an e-mail with an electronic coupon for a free Starbucks drink. How nice that it’s everywhere – I got a free fancy coffee at a Starbuck’s with a drive-thru between the hospital and our temporary home.

We've gotten to know one of the neighborsWe've gotten to know one of the neighbors

Timing for Tax Filing

March 9th, 2021 at 03:26 am

I’ve probably mentioned before that we received stimulus payments during 2020 because they were based on 2019 income. We lucked out because 2019 is the last year the twins qualified for the child tax credit and that positively impacted the payment we received. Our adjusted gross income is within the phase-out range but even the reduced amount was a pleasant surprise.

 I’ve held off on filing our 2020 tax forms because we’re going to owe money this year as a result of the unexpected stock bonus just before the company went public last year. It could be that my delay will work in our favor and result in another reduced stimulus payment. I’ve read that the phase-out range is smaller and steeper so even if we qualify, it may be next to nothing. But again, anything would be a pleasant surprise.

 

 

Financial Learning from Cosmo?

March 7th, 2021 at 12:12 am

A funny thing happened. Somehow my dad received an issue of Cosmopolitan in the mail. We joked about it but I did read it before it went to the trash. And guess what? I learned a financial fact. According to the article inside, the last coronavirus relief legislation (CARES Act) increased the list of allowable expenses for HSAs and FSAs. Now in addition to medical co-pays and medications, items like menstrual products, over-the-counter meds, and sunscreen are now qualified expenses for reimbursement.  And Amazon even has a filter for them: www.amazon.com/hsa  That’s useful information!

Property Sale

March 5th, 2021 at 01:32 pm

In 2009 when my Grandma died, she owned a piece of land that she’d inherited from a childless sibling. We didn’t realize that she had it because she’d never mentioned it or used it. The South Carolina land is bounded by train tracks on one side and has huge power lines running over it. My brothers and I inherited the land and decided to keep it. We paid the property taxes each year but we haven’t done anything with it either. After a brief conversation with them two weeks ago, my brother put an ad on Facebook Marketplace. Within a few hours, we had offers! It turns out that the little town is growing and despite features that I would consider undesirable, the 3-acre lot was attractive to several businessmen.

 We accepted an offer and have just completed paperwork to have the closing done without us in attendance. My third of the proceeds will be about $8000. Unexpected money is always nice and I know exactly what I will do with it. I will pay off the 0% interest credit card that expires next month where I have $7400 of debt parked. I feel fortunate that it’s just enough to pay it completely without touching savings and that I don’t need to look for any more 0% CC offers.

 

 

 

February Monthly Net Worth Update

March 4th, 2021 at 02:44 pm

I calculate our net worth each month on the 3rd after the house debt payments have cleared. It’s up $32k from last month. The increase is due mostly to the market rather than anything new or different – savings and investment contributions are automated. Our house value is up too according to Zillow.

The weather is getting warmer here so we've begun getting outside to exercise. I want to make sure I'm consistent with walking to support my bone density.

 

Medical Prices

March 3rd, 2021 at 08:50 pm

Even though I’m living away from home, I followed up on some medical tests – bloodwork, an ultrasound, and a baseline bone density scan. I am thankful that my doctor suggested the bone density scan because it showed that I already have osteoporosis in my spine. Yikes! I’m researching osteoporosis now.

 

Our family deductible was already met so the out-of-pocket costs for those things was insignificant, about $30. What surprised me though was the price of the bone density scan. It was about $100. Given my results and the fact that it’s a quick and painless procedure, I may choose to have them annually even if insurance doesn’t cover them that often.

 

On the other side of the fence, Dad’s hospital bill – just the hospital bill – for his organ transplant is $289k. With the associated bills for the professionals involved, it’ll be at least $350k. He’s doubly insured so his cost should be a tiny fraction of that.

Company Went Public

February 5th, 2021 at 07:50 pm

In the Fall of 2020 while I was working but mostly focused on Dad, the company launched its IPO. It’s the third attempt so I think that most colleagues didn’t think it’d really happen but this time it went through. The company was profiled on the NASDAQ billboard in Times Square that day with pictures of our colleagues.

 

How ironic that it was in 2020 – a year in which we took 10% pay cuts because the company expected to perform poorly. Instead, technology companies excelled because of the broad dependence on technology forced by the country’s extended shutdown. Our initial stock price is now double.

 

I haven’t heard any talk of returning our 10%, but now my stock options are worth much more than before. Many are still unvested so I can’t exercise them yet.

 

Every colleague also received some shares of stock just before the IPO. I appreciated the unexpected bonus but it threw a wrench into my tax planning. We will owe thousands of dollars in taxes this year partially because the stock gift caused our income to exceed the threshold for the American Opportunity credit. We lost that credit, we lost a dependent (for a good reason – he’s on his own now!), and the twins are too old now for us to get the generous child tax credit. It was good while it lasted. On the positive side, the stimulus payments were based on our 2019 situation so we did get a break in 2020 despite their being 17.

Taking Time Off

January 27th, 2021 at 04:50 am

I did decide to take family medical leave from work. On the first day of leave, as though it was planned, Dad was unexpectedly discharged early.

 

It’s time off one area but time on another. I’m looking forward to these months. I hope to focus on three areas: Dad’s return to health (of course!), my twins’ schooling, and my health habits. For Dad there are frequent doses of many drugs to administer, things to check, and appointments to attend. It’s a little stressful because I’m afraid of messing something up. The drug choices and doses have been and will continue to be changed frequently over the coming weeks.

 

Hospital view

 

While FML is unpaid time, the company does allow accrued sick time to be used. I am very thankful that I have been well over the years so now I can continue to get paid while I focus this time on the family. I’m hoping too that as Dad gets stronger, we can plan small outings to enjoy the city that is our temporary home. It’s a strange time but these will be memories we’ll hold forever.

 

My finances have done well on autopilot over the past few months. I’ll get back to regular financial posts after month-end. I hope to have more time to keep up with blog posts.

 

Quarterly status of retirement prerequisites

August 9th, 2020 at 10:20 am

I mentioned in a previous post that I have a deadline set for the start of my retirement. And that I have a list of prerequisites to determine whether I’m in a safe-enough-for-me position to retire sooner. Each quarter I evaluate my progress against those prerequisites, and my quarterly check-in for this is aligned with my birthday instead of the standard calendar quarter. That’s because a couple of my prerequisites are based on my 60th birthday so the calculation is simpler.

Result for this check-in: It's not time to retire now, but I’m continuing to make progress!

In order to pull the plug immediately, I’d 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

Currently my progress is:
(1) 100+%
(2) 50%
(3) 39%
(4) 6%
(5) 8%

Assumptions for these calculations: average annual return on investments will be 5%, no further contributions to investments, full funding = 40 semesters (8 x 5 boys), $36,000k annually for basic expenses, starting consumer debt was $10k. (At one time I had negative progress on this! For the record though, it’s at 0% interest.)

The next time I check-in on this progress will be around my birthday.

Net Worth Update

August 6th, 2020 at 11:09 am

Despite the continuing market volatility, July was a good month for the net worth. It’s up by $39k.

Since I set up my numbers in Excel last month, now I get to see the total picture that reminds me of my overall progress even during months that don’t look so healthy. I like projecting the lines forward on the graph to see when I might expect to hit milestones.


2011-2020

Refinance Offer Didn’t Pan Out

July 17th, 2020 at 08:15 pm

I got a marketing flyer from my credit union for home loans about a month ago. The rate to refinance was lower than my current rate with PNC and there were no fees or closing costs. It seemed like a no-brainer. After seeing Amber’s success in refinancing, I was inspired to follow-up.

I talked with the representative to verify the no costs, including no prepayment penalties, and then gave them to go-ahead to move forward. The paperwork arrived a few days later and I read the fine print. I saw a gotcha. They assumed that the homeowner’s insurance had a low deductible. I deliberately have a high deductible because I figure that’s what EFs are meant to cover. It keeps my premiums lower. I called to see if that requirement was negotiable and unfortunately it wasn’t. I asked them to trash the application. It’s not worth saving money in one place only to spend it in another.

Car Insurance Increased

July 17th, 2020 at 12:18 am

So I did drop DS2 from our auto policy once he moved to his own place and bought himself a car as I planned in an earlier post. And our insurance price increased as a result! I guess the insurance company figures that with DS2 out of the picture, DS3 drives the vehicles more. And that’s true. One of the vehicles is in my name but is actually DS3’s – he paid for it. DS2 was 22 with a good student discount. DS3 is 18 without a good student discount. Ah, that’s what I get. I can only imagine how much it’ll be once DS4 and DS5 join the policy. They’ll be getting permits in the Fall and licenses sometime next year. Then I’ll have 3 teenaged boys on the policy. Eeek!

Our current 6-month premium is now $1070. That covers three drivers using two cars with liability coverage only. The liability coverage is 250-500-100.

June Financial Update

July 3rd, 2020 at 03:35 pm

Once a month I calculate our net worth and today was the day. It’s always just after the mortgage payment hits. We’re up $15k since last month. All the numbers moved in the right direction except our house value. According to Zillow, it decreased by $3k since last month.

I used to use a site call networthiq.com to enter our monthly numbers, but the site shut down. I have kicked myself for being dependent on a site because while I do have monthly net worth totals for the past decade, I don’t have the components of each calculation. Those numbers were all lost when the site shut down.

What I especially liked about the site was seeing the graph of my net worth over the years. It was an encouragement when I felt that our budget was tight. I also enjoyed looking at the numbers for others to inspire me. There is another similar site but it’s not quite as easy to navigate and I’d have to start over. Ugh. So, I finally decided this morning to recreate a net worth tracker in Excel. It was easier than I expected though that’s mostly because it’s not fancy. But I got the graph I wanted. It also graphed each component by default and I started to remove that but then decided it could be interesting to see when lines cross. For example, when my Roth IRA account value exceeds our house debt.

Graphs show trends with one look. The graph so far shows how volatile the markets have been because most of our net worth is invested in the stock market.


Net Worth ride from Oct 2019 to June 2020

I think I’m going to take the time to enter all my monthly NW totals without the components for the past decade into the Excel table. That graph will tell a more complete story.

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.

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?