I haven't been here since my birthday this summer, so I thought I'd check in before the year-end updates.
Health: I might be back later this week depending on what I learn at my doctor's appointment on Thursday. I had a biopsy done on my thyroid and will learn the results. (I learned I had a nodule earlier this year, had one biopsy shortly thereafter that gave indeterminate results, so had a second biopsy, so praying it checks out as benign). I guess, having said this much, I'll make sure to post something in either case, either the bad news or the good. In the meantime, I've been trying not to think about it, but this does mean I need to put a lot more focus on my physical health as a goal for 2019. For one thing, I don't have a primary care physician. I had one whom I liked who I had been with for over a decade, and she died the same week that I started my current job, which is now over 2 years ago. I've gone to my ob-gyn annually, and she connected me with the endocrinologist, so I've had basic bloodwork and such. But it's high time to have a physician I trust whom I can turn to to coordinate results from any specialists I might see.
Plus I need to get back on the exercise bandwagon. That's been another thing that I became very inconsistent with after starting my current job. At my last job, I earned about 20% more and had about 20% less work, which gave me the money and the time to belong to a nice gym. Right now I can't afford that, but I do have home equipment and need to get more consistent with using that--plus there's a $25/month gym nearby that isn't too bad, for use of the cardio and weight equipment for some variety. I'll probably see what kind of new year's special they have and join that gym then. In the meantime, I had my neighbor install some wall mounts for resistance bands and am starting to do some exercises using those (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drXN_xIbv8Q). Actually, my home equipment would be enough if I just had the discipline and motivation to use it consistently! I need to find a new walking buddy, but will wait until the weather warms up again and then post an ad on the Next Door app to see if I can find someone.
I was good at intermittent fasting from 5/24 to 11/3 and I lost about 12 pounds, but feel off the bandwagon during a business trip and have had a hard time getting back to it with the colder weather. I gained about 4 pounds back during November and now that it's a new month, I will try again. Breakfast is so much more appealing in cold weather than it is the rest of the year!
Kitties: I am very happy at the moment. My older kitty, Bridget, now 14, started having some problems in the middle of her 13th year, losing weight and hair and having chronic loose stools. She is incredibly terrified of the vet (it takes multiple people to handle her and she screams), but I did manage to get bloodwork done for her in March and it looked good. We tried a different diet and that helped a little but not much, and she is soooo stressed out by the vet that I didn't want to put her through more vet work. But recently, I found a food online that is a more natural food (smalls for smalls). They had a trial offer for one week of food for half price. I tried it and even using just 50% the old vet prescription food and 50% the new diet, I could start to see improvements, so I've been transitioning both cats on to it. Bridget's stools have firmed up a lot and I'm hopeful that with a diet that agrees with her more, she'll gain back a little weight and hair too. Buffy likes this food better than her own prescription food (which is just a weight loss food--she needs grain-free for her diabetes but as long as the food is grain-free, her diabetes is controlled), and I can feed both cats the same thing, which is great. For the past year, I was trying to monitor two cats with two different prescriptions who each preferred the OTHER cat's food. Each cat ended up eating some of the diet that was prescribed for her and some of the diet that wasn't, and it was stressful trying to monitor them constantly. This food costs a bit more, but since they were on prescription food anyways, it's not massively more costly, and better health for two senior kitties is worth it, since the girls are now at the ages (14 & 13.5) where I lost my two previous cats (who were both on dry food for most of their lives and who both died of kidney disease, probably as a result of that diet). So the current kitties eat canned food but do get dried treats. I would love it if the girls lived into their later teens.
Social Life: I've continued, generally, to attend rehearsals of the orchestra I joined in August, and I've been in 3 concerts so far (usually at senior living facilities). The last 6 weeks are the busiest time of the year at work, so I've skipped the last two rehearsals (next concert is in mid-January), but I do plan to be back regularly after the new year. I've kept up with my friends, but I've seen them a bit less than I used to since I started this job, but still fairly regularly.
Work: Work is busy but generally good. I have my annual evaluation meeting this coming Tuesday, and hopefully, their assessment of me is as positive as my own. I know places I can make improvements but also places where I am particularly an asset, and I enjoy my co-workers and being part of a team.
CFP exam: I've not made progress since July on studying for the CFP exam. But I did complete two courses, Insurance and Estate Planning, back in the first half of the year, and both courses have been very helpful. I have 3 more courses to go and I have 10 months left to complete them, so I know I should be able to complete the courses and I have some incentive to do so. This probably means that I won't take the CFP exam until March 2020, however. As long as I complete the coursework in 2019!
Although this time of the year is overall busy, my personal schedule was not booked up with meetings for the last two weeks of the year (it's mostly the last week of November and the first two weeks of December that are overloaded), so I'm taking a week off at year end and hopefully will make some progress on other goals during that time (maybe get 20% of the Retirement & Employee Benefits class done and do a little decluttering and make calls to find a primary care doctor)
Finances: Well, after my last post in August saying that my retirement accounts had broken the half-million mark, the market had a correction. So I'm going to have to build up to that mark again. Right now my retirement accounts are pretty much where they were at year-end 2017, and with depreciation on the car and a little bit of a decline on Zillow's home value estimate, my total assets are 3K down from the beginning of the year. My debts, however, are down about 6k--which includes my mortgage now being more than half paid off from its original starting value. I will be restructuring some of my debt in the new year after I see whether I get a bonus and if so, how big it is, and I feel like I have a good shot at getting the total debt down to at least 80K, with 70% of that being the mortgage. As long as we don't have more market losses in December, that will put my debt at less than 15% of my net worth.
I'm finally admitting to myself that, given the exigencies of life, it will probably take me longer to get rid of the non-mortgage debt than I would like (for example, I have about $1,300 of car repairs that I've been advised to make, and I need to replace my oven and will replace my refrigerator at the same time, early next year, so that's about another $1,200), but my mortgage paydown acceleration is on track (just 56K left as of today!), so if it takes me a couple more years to get the debt paid off than I'd planned, that's fine, as long as I am working! I still feel that I am on target to have the debt paid off by retirement, just so long as I can work until my mid-60s.
I'll check back in next weekend and report back on the thyroid biopsy results, and other than that, I'll be back the last week of the year to wrap up the year and set up some goals for 2019.
Viewing the '$$ balances' Category
I haven't been here since my birthday this summer, so I thought I'd check in before the year-end updates.
I got a birthday present from the universe--I logged online today and for the first time ever, my net total was over 500k. Yay! That's actually 498K in retirement savings and 2K in an emergency account.
So I went away for a 2.5 day weekend Friday-Sunday for my birthday. I read Amish romances for fun and only live about 90 minutes from the area and had never visited, so I made a reservation at a nice B&B and left Friday morning.
I crammed in a lot over the weekend: several tours (a touristy farm & home tour, a private farm & home tour, a bus tour, a buggy ride, a film on the Amish, a train ride over in Strasburg, and ate a few good meals. I did a little shopping at a roadside stand where they sold yard art (got a few metal decorative pieces) and a "quillow" (small quilt that folds up into a pocket to make a pillow) and I browsed around the Bird In Hand Farmer's Market but all I bought there was some ice cream.
The best part was staying in the countryside and learning more and getting to interact with a people whom I in a way envy in their community organization and support and family lives and values-based way of living. The B&B where I stayed was on a rural road and all the neighbors within a mile are Amish, so that the B&B owners will get called upon for emergency drives (e.g., a farmer neighbor took a bad fall recently, and while the ambulance took the farmer and his wife to the hospital, the B&B owners were called upon to bring his parents to the hospital). Sunday morning I sat outside from 8 to 8:30 and saw about 15 buggies drive by as people went to church. The B&B is in the middle of 4 different church districts (a district has only 25-30 families, which can be about 250 people and since they hold church inside their barns, there's a limit and when a district gets too large, they subdivide), so the buggies were headed in different directions.
It was fun to see everything but another time I'd like to go back and just mellow out.
Today I'm off of work and catching up on chores and errands, so back to that!
(one of the chores is consolidating a couple of retirement accounts. I have two SIMPLE accounts that are no longer active from old jobs and the accounts are more than 2 years old, so the tiny one I rolled into a traditional IRA and did a Roth conversion on, and the other I'll just consolidate into my traditional IRA. gets rid of the $20 annual account fees, too!)
My last blog post was about my cat, Bridget, who has lost some weight and hair. (see https://www.flickr.com/photos/elissaw/41121285262/in/dateposted-public/; I can't remember how to insert images here). The home vet visit was traumatic (long leather gloves, a muzzle, and kitty screams were involved, sigh), but it revealed that her bloodwork is, to my great relief, completely normal. The vet thinks the hair loss is behavioral, so she is going on transdermal Prozac this week, and I've changed her diet to a hypoallergenic prescription diet. We'll give it two months and re-assess.
My other kitty is scheduled for a dental on 4/18 as her teeth are in bad shape. It hasn't prevented her from eating, though; she gained another .75 pound :^(. At least her diabetes continues to be very well controlled by her diet change--totally normal glucose.
On another note, I decided to change one of my annual goals from increasing my net worth to decreasing my debt. With the markets being so volatile so far this year, it seemed better to focus on the debt reduction, which is more in my control, than the net worth, which is out of my control.
If you count HSA contributions and employer matches, I am currently saving 24% of my salary, which is as much as I can reasonably afford while also paying off the debt.
This is offset by the fact that I have to take RMDs (required minimum distributions) from the two IRAs I inherited from my mom, but so far it looks as though this year I may be able to limit myself to just taking the RMDs and nothing else, and the accounts generate more in income than I take in RMDs, so there should be some small growth in those accounts.
Overall, for Q1, my assets are down 1.43%, mostly because the losses in my retirement savings are greater than the contributions YTD. My debts are down 7.12% because at the beginning of the year, I took the RMDs and applied them to debt reduction.
Overall, my networth is down $2,225 from 12/31, or .42%.
In other news, I spent $450 to have a landscaper clear out and re-mulch my very overgrown yard and place weed barriers to reduce the weeds along the fence.
Something that I would like eventually to do is to hire someone to build me some raised beds to do a little bit of vegetable and herb gardening. I was fantasizing about that yesterday, but am not sure if I will do it this year or next. I think my next outlay of money for the house will be to hire some home organizing help. I went to a presentation by an organizer last week and actually made some progress on my own this weekend, but there are certain areas of my house where I need a coach and some assistance to inspire me to get through in the very limited amount of time I have to deal with this. She charges $235 for a 3-hour session and I will be scheduling this for May, I think.
After putting that goal of "creating a peaceful and inviting home environment" in my sidebar year after year, I think I may actually make some progress towards that goal this year!!
Heady times on Wall Street these days. I updated my personal balance sheet and find that my net worth is up by $14,540 so far this year. My retirement accounts are up by about 10K *despite* the fact that I took almost 8K in required minimum distributions at the beginning of the year and set them aside to create "sinking funds" for other big expenses expected during the year (so I won't end up putting those expenses on credit cards as I have in the past). I also took the bonus money that I received for last year and used it to pay down some debt. All together my assets are up 8.3K, my debts are down 6.2K, for the total net worth change of 14.5K. That's an improvement I would usually be happy to see in a fiscal quarter already in three weeks.
I'll enjoy it while it lasts since one always wonders just how long the current boom times can last.
My debts have stayed fairly steady--the usual beginning of the year decrease when I take some extra money (required annual distribution from an inherited IRA) and use it to reduce the debt, followed by an increase over the year as extra bills mount--things outside the ordinary budget I can't really afford at my current salary but feel are worth the expense (paying for my CFP coursework, long-term care insurance, some household improvement stuff) so that by the end of the year, the debt ends up back where it had been around the beginning of the year. It's just that less of it is in the mortgage and more in the form of other types of low-interest debt. Fingers crossed that this coming January I can reduce the debt below what I have been able to do in past Januaries so that next year is a permanent reduction. Depends largely on what happens with year-end bonuses. If the firm I work at meets its revenue target and pays a bonus this year, that could mean a larger inflow this January than previously (I've never, ever, worked at a place that paid bonuses before, but this firm does, but not every year, and they can be a decent size) and a permanent reduction in debt. That is my goal, but obviously not something I control.
Fortunately, the increase in assets more than compensates for the fact that the liabilities are flat YTD--over a 40K increase in my accounts as well as an 8% increase in my estimated home value, for a net worth increase YTD of over 50K.
Of course I, like everyone else, am waiting for the other shoe to drop on these high markets. My boss (who routinely ends up on the Barron's list of top 100 financial advisors) thinks that, while there will undoubtedly be a correction at some point, the markets are not unreasonably overvalued, so that while we may see a 10-15% dip lasting for a month or two, he is not expecting a long-term bear market.
Of course, with all the crazy on the political scene, who knows what will ultimately happen. I was following all the politics avidly early in the year and it was just too much. So now I focus locally--there's an active group in my neighborhood, the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association, and I go to their meetings when I can. Think globally, act locally and all that.
I have switched recently from tracking my net worth on networthiq.com (where I have been tracking monthly since June 2006, the same time I started here on SA) to networtshare.com, which is kept more up to date. It took networthiq until the end of January to all 2017 entries. I input my yearly values for the past decade onto the new site, but I won't spend the time to enter the monthly data.
I'm hoping that I have reached a tipping point: if you look at my sidebar, you'll see that my debt is the lowest and my net worth the highest since I began tracking. The lowest my debt has been prior to this was the month before I left my teaching career, and back then it was 100% mortgage.
The urge to spend is still high--only by regular posting here can I keep on track.
Work is going well, very busy--in January and February, we have to get out letters to clients with tax info for the year, telling them who to expect official tax documents from, what our fees for the year were, whether they have made IRA contributions or taken IRA distributions, etc. It's an extra 30-40 hours of work over the two months, when the regular workload doesn't slack at all. And it is taking me longer because I'm new and don't yet know the whole client base yet, do I have to check on everything. Next year, when I know the clients better, a lot of the information I am having to look up on s case by case basis will be stored in memory, which should make the task faster.
It's Restaurant Week here, so I am taking myself to an early lunch at a Tapas Bar and then going in to work for a few hours to make more progress on the darn things.
Overall, my net worth is up $17,213 (3.79%) for the year, from 454,015 at the bginning of the year to 471,228 at year end. The change is due approximately to a 7K increase in assets and a 10K decrease in liabilities.
I'd set a goal of 92.5K total debt in my sidebar near the beginning of the year, and I'm ending the year with 94.4, so that's somewhat close to my goal and a significant decrease in any case (9.86%)
My retirement balance increased even though I used some of my beneficiary RMD to pay down debt rather than just taking it, paying the tax, and contributing to a Roth, which is what you would *ideally* do with with that kind of account. But it's what helps get the debt down.
I still have $28.628 in non-mortgage debt, which I estimate will take me until January 2019 to pay off, if I take part of the RMD and put it to debt reduction at the beginning of eatch year. But the amount that requires grows steadily less, so after this next draw, I'll be able to roll part of the RMDs over to a Roth.
(And if the company does well and I get a full bonus next year, I might even be able to use the bonus rather than the RMD to reduce the debt.)
I was able to add over 10K to my retirement accounts (about 8K on my own and 2K employer match). That helps balance out the RMDs, though the draws still exceed the contributions. It's net growth, though, because of income generated by the assets in the account. I like to look ahead to the point in a couple of years where I'll just be able to roll the beneficary RMDs to a Roth and it will be all contributions--that will definitely help my retirement balance--as long as I manage to still stay employed, knock wood!
I saw a pop-up ad on this site for the above-mentioned card when reading some entries about debt and clicked through to the offer. 6% back on groceries (based on up to $6,000 of spending, which is close to my grocery budget for the year), as well as 3% on gas and select department stores, 1% on everything else and 1% on everything after the $6,000 spending limit is reached. That's quite good, and NerdWallet had a postive review. My credit score has rebounded back to 814 after dipping down below 800 when I opened the HELOC six months ago, so this seemed worth it--even though there IS a $75 annual fee. There's also a $250 joining bonus if you get the right click-through ad AND spend $1,000 on the card within the first three months. No problem for me to spend $1,000 on groceries over 3 months, unfortunately--my average for the past year is $380 per month, or $1,140 over 3 months. Even if I just use it for groceries, with the 6% cash back and minus the $75 fee, that's net positive $200 over the course of a year, PLUS the $250 signing bonus if earned. So we'll see. Still waiting on approval--although the site says a 30-second decision, I received a screen asking for me to call in at the end of my application--and then, because I called in after 4:30 pm on Saturday, I'm stuck waiting until Monday for the decision.
I find that more and more I'm segregating spending for certain items onto certain cards: I have a debit card linked to a checking account that I keep at a low balance (and not linked to my main checking account, given the potential limits on debit card reimbursements if the card is stolen) which I use to give myself an eating and entertainment budget. Then, if approved, the AmEx will be used for groceries. I buy at least half my clothing at LLBean and I use their Visa card for that, in order to earn the $10 coupons. (The LLBean card also had great 0% balance transfer offers back during the few years I was using those heavily.) The rest of my CC spending--my monthly gym fee, gasoline, professional association dues, my monthly phone and cable bill, and shopping, goes on a Visa card through my main bank and give me a $25 credit towards my mortgage for every $2,500 I spend on that card. So I'll probably earn $50 less in mortgage credit by moving the grocery card spending to the AmEx account, but I'll definitely be using the cash bonus to pay down debt so it's all to my new benefit.
After having had my debt spike back up to the low 6 figures after my 7 month period of unemployment back in 2014, I am pleased to announce that I am finally back down to 5-figure debt ($99,195). This includes my mortgage.
For part of the time that my debt spiked, I was moving things around from 0% balance transfer credit card to new 0% balance credit card when the old term expired. Then a year ago, I decided that the debt would be easier to get rid of--at least psychologically--if I had a steady schedule of debt repayments which I then could try to exceed. So one year ago next week, I took out a 20K personal loan from Discover Bank, technically at 10.99%.
I paid it off yesterday and today, the account has even disappeared from my login page. Over the year, I ended up paying a total of $21,757.04 on the loan, making the effective rate actually 8.79% because of early and extra payments.
Some of that amount is a real decrease in my loan balance, but the rest has been transfered to lower rate loans collateralized in part by my house and by another financial account, so at lower rates (3.67% and 4.44%).
I prefer loans to zero percent credit card balance transfers because there is a predictable schedule to the loan payoff, which I can make a game of beating. Currently, I believe that can have the non-mortgage debt ($32,045) paid off by the end of 2019, and the mortgage ($67,150) paid off by the end of 2024. Technically, I could take longer to pay off the non-mortgage debt, but there's no point to that. My required minimum payments are now lower, giving me a bit more liquidity in the case of short term needs.
Cutting away at the debt...over 3k down so far this year. I'll be moving some debt around this month, paying off the personal loan I took out with Discover a year ago but will take out another loan at 4.44% (rather than 10.99%) to do so (and the loan balance will be 10k, not 20k!!) I still have north of 30k non- mortgage debt and north of 101k total debt, but by mid -year, I expect to be down on both. Debt reduction is still the main focus here, but I think by next year, I might be able to think about increasing the savings as well. I'm currently saving 10% per pay to retirement and I'd like to increase that to 12% and ultimately 15%, but with the debt load, I'm not there yet.
I do a monthly net worth calculation. Last year, my debt crept up a bit the last quarter when I spent more of the money from the HELOC I took out than I had originally planned to spend. As of this morning, my debt ratio (liabilities to assets) is back down under 20% (19% to be exact); a month ago, it was at 23%. That will go down further when the April mortgage and loan payments hit the accounts this weekend. The big goal for this month is to get the 20K loan I took out last May down to 10K (it's under 12K at the moment) and then use another loan from my 403b at a much lower interest rate (4.58% rather than 10.99%) to transfer that debt. I'll then lower the payments slightly to build up the emergency savings fund a bit and give myself more liquidity. I'm still feeling confident that I'll have the non-mortgage debt paid off by 2019 and the mortgage paid off by 2024, well in advance of retirement sometime between 2027 and 2030.
The weather was almost balmy today--high of 76, and I went home for lunch. Tomorrow it starts dropping and the lows early next week are back in the 20s with the arrival of another polar vortex. Hopefully no snow, however!
Tomorrow I'll stop at the annual Home Show--I need a bit of landscaping done once I finally can get my taxes filed and get my refund (see my Health care marketplace entry for why I haven't filed yet).
And Sunday there are a couple of activities at my congregation I will attend, and a friend from there will bring me an electric mower that his neighbor gave him that he doesn't need. Just in time as the last lawn mower I was gifted seems to have some problems and I was getting ready to take it into the shop!
I've lived in my house a decade and this will be my third hand-me-down mower. Haven't had to buy one myself yet!
Very glad that Friday is here this week. Going home now to go to bed early--never really felt awake all day.
The past five years were financially a struggle, as I was either under- or un-employed, and I lost my mother and three pets during that time. I went from a position of having no debt except the mortgage to having nearly (gulp!) $30,000 of non-mortgage debt (most of it on 0% or very low interest loans, but STILL...
Finally with my new job, I can whittle away at this. Or, actually, carve this year and whittle over the next few. This year, for the last time (I also did this last year), I took the RMD (required minimum distribution) from my inherited IRA and used it to pay off some of that debt. Plus about half of my January pay is going to debt reduction. I won't be able to keep that pace up all year, but by month's end, the non-mortgage debt will be under $24K, and I aim to halve that by year end, while also contributing 10% of pay to my retirement. At year end, I'll re-consider my plan for paying off the rest of that while also increasing savings.
Meanwhile, I did re-finance my house during that time to a shorter term and lower interest, so I feel confident that I'll have the house paid off before I retire.
Here's a summary. First the pictures, then the words; first the past four years and then the current one.
A look at the past four years shows that both my assets and my debts climbed (with the exception of the year when the recession hit, when my assets fell). On this balance sheet graph, which gives a sense of overall context. the debts line actually looks relatively stable, but the actual amount of debt increase was significant and scary. That comes through better on the income statement graph below.
The debt ratio, by the way, is total debt relative to total assets, and shows an increase for the first four years of the period. Currently it is at about 25%, down from a high of close to 40%. My goal for the next year is to bring this down below 20%, ideally to 18%.
On this graph, you can see that, for most of the time during this period, my expenses outpaced my income, due to a 2.5 year period of unemployment combined with unusual, large expenses.
No amount of emergency fund planning that I might have done prior to this period would have been sufficient, and the financial planning literature I've read tends to significantly underestimate emergency needs as people, pets, homes, and durable goods age. Of course, I haven't read much financial planning stuff the past two years as I've been focused on finishing the CPA. The literature that I'm familiar with is from before the recession and overestimates expected retirement returns and underestimates expenses. I'm hoping that the recent literature is more realistic. (Not unduly pessimistic--realistic.)
The profit margin is net income (income less expenses) divided by income; here I just include "operating" income, i.e., salary, unemployment, and gifts, but not the investment income that accrues in my retirement accounts. As you can see, I had losses rather than income for most of the period.
As for the past year, you can note a turn-around on both graphs. This reflects a "bad" (sad) reason and a good one. The big increase in my assets is because my mother died and I had a bit of an inheritance; the recent increase in net income is because I worked a full tax season (lots of hours) back last winter and because I landed a full-time job with benefits this fall.
Hopefully the next time I do a five-year assessment, I'll be able to show annual profits (ideally, 10% for this next year and 15-20% thereafter) and a big reduction in debt.
Well, March was a spendy month; I spent about double what I spent in February (gulp). Much of the addtional spending was justified but still I hate to see so much variability--and I *really* hate it when my spending for the month surpasses my income for the month, even with the tax refund.
Extra spending was as follows:
$600 another expensive vet trip for Henry and his allergies
$165 getting a broken tooth fixed at the dentist
$500 buying the beginnings of a new professional wardrobe as I prepare to transition from academia into the corporate world
$200 in professional expenses (books, software)
$100 stocking up on wine, beer, sodas and extra food for a party
another $200 in extra food expenses--not that the food was wasted, but that it was eaten out or bought prepared, thus unnecessarily expensive
$82 to buy 200 "forever" stamps before the price increases on May 12
$132 prepaying an extra month early on my home gas bill--they changed the date the bill was due and refused to change it back, and I really like to pay my bill immediately after my monthly paycheck arrives and not a week before it arrives, so I decided to get a month ahead to avoid any late fees.
$90 extra prepayment on the mortgage to get it down to 89K.
As so often happens, financial and weight control go together--I slacked off a lot on exercise during March, and gained back 2 pounds. Still down about 7 from the end of last year, but I can feel those two pounds.
So the goal for April is another personal "challenge" month to see how close I can keep my monthly total spending to about $2000. No "extras" this month (unless I get a job interview, in which case I still need a professional pair of shoes), and I need to start back shopping more at Aldi's and Giant, much as I hate them, rather than at my beloved Wegmans. And I pulled out the pricebook I put together two years ago--time to update it since the last time I used it was in 2006. Should be interesting to see how food prices have changed in that time.
And it's a challenge month for health, too--I've joined an online "April Boot Camp" challenge on Leslie Sansone's walk club board, the goal of which is to lose 8 pounds during April. So I'll tighten up and refocus on fitness, too. I just started another round of "First Strides," the local women's walking/running program (that was another $40 out the door); those two workouts a week with other people (in addition to the two mornings a week I walk with my friend Anne) should help keep me from slacking off).
Income after deductions for taxes, health insurance contribution, & retirement contribution: $44,473 (38,210 from my full-time job, 3718 from part-time work, 1244 income tax return, 1000 gifts from Mom, 301 in survey income and rebates. I need to do better planning to get less of an income tax return; I’m a relatively new home owner, so I’m still having to adjust my tax planning for the extra deduction I get for mortgage interest payments.
Mortgage & PITI (property insurance & property taxes): $9240. This includes $575 in mortgage prepayments.
Food (Groceries & Eating Out): The books say 7616 (5963+1653), but it’s surely less—as much as 1500 less (2006 food expenses were 6152). The problem in my record-keeping this year is that my detailed records were lost when my last computer died in mid-July. I had to reconstruct my file from bank statements rather than receipts, and since I did a lot of buying at a warehouse store, toiletries, household supplies, clothing and even books got lumped in here—since I had no way to estimate actual expenses, I just categorized everything as groceries, the biggest expense at the warehouse store. Also, when I do ATM withdrawals, I also tend to list those as dining out expenses initially and go back and recategorize as I spend money, but all of those recategorizations got listed as food for January through July. All of that said, my food expenses are way too high.
Pets: $4032, most of that on Henry the Pricey & Priceless Hound, who suffers from several chronic illnesses and is on prescription food and several prescription meds for life, plus who requires about half a dozen vet visits per year. The two cats, Phoebe and Teddy, cost little in comparison—one vet visit per year, and food, kitty litter, and the occasional toy or treat. Between the two of them, there’s only ever been one vet visit for illness—knock on wood, as I hope it remains so. I also include money for bird food in here—I maintain two feeders by the windows for the amusement of myself and the kitties, and that costs about $5/week during the months when the plants are dormant.
Utilities: 3915 (gas heat 1841, electricity 462, phone, internet service, (basic) cable TV (package deal at 76/month for the three), water/sewer 315, trash 385)
Car: 2684 (about 600 on insurance and a thousand each on gasoline and maintenance & repairs, plus my first moving violation ticket ever, for running a stop sign I didn’t see.)
Business Expenses: 2616 (a new laptop computer and software for it (Office 2007, etc), lots of money trying to repair the last laptop, plus the usual array of books and videotapes I use in teaching, and some office supplies and postage.
Personal Care Expenses:2270 (clothing 1304, gym 445, toiletries, vitamins & supplements,521). I spent more than usual on clothing this year, as the only clothing I bought last year was a single pair of athletic shoes, and clothes were beginning to look raggedy and shoes to wear out, plus I gained 15 pounds (which I hope soon to lose) and some items did not fit.
Household: 1691. This includes handyman repairs, items for DIY repairs (that the boyfriend handles), small home appliances, furniture, gardening items, and supplies such as paper towels, light bulbs, and salt for the walks.
Entertainment (385), Gifts (266) & Charity (296): 947.
Health co-pays and disability insurance: 919 (there’s also 104/month health insurance contribution that gets taken out of my pay each month that I haven’t included here.)
Total Spending: $36,430 (compared to $38,653 in 2006. Biggest changes compared to last year are more in savings, less in taxes, more on food, less on pets (no major veterinary emergencies this year, thank god!), a bit more on utilities, clothing, and household; and this year, I didn’t have education expenses because those were picked up by the college.
Change in Net Worth in 2007: +8261 in short-term savings, +8739 in retirement accounts, -1796 decrease in home mortgage principal balance, -1000 loan from mom settled = +19,796 (plus the estimate of my home valuation on Zillow.com is up about 15,912, which I know is not a great estimate, but it’s what I have.)
My goal for next year is to cut down food expenses down to 5800. This is always a “spendy” category for me, as I buy a lot of food that is either pre-made or has a high labor margin—e.g., I buy a lot of pre-chopped veggies, and this past year, I bought a lot of pre-cooked chicken breasts—since that seems to make the difference between my cooking at home or not. Working a full-time job, a part-time job, AND going to school part-time, I do not have the time, energy, or inclination to cook, but I’m going to try to do a bit more so in 2008. I also expect business expenses to be lower, since the big one was buying a new computer this year. Ideally these two cuts will give me an additional 5% to put towards savings.
I'm up 20% for the year so far--partly due to increases in my retirement accounts and partly due to the fact that my home is still appreciating (I'm lucky to live in an area where the housing bust hasn't hit quite as hard.)
To celebrate, I made an extra $300 payment towards my mortgage, bringing it under $90,000 for the first time.
Nice to see progress
July 8: kayaking trip, $15
lunch, 7.90 + ice cream, 3.29
July 9: grocery, 31.30
July 10-12: no spend days
July 13: 20.29 household
2.92 iced cappucino (unnec)
July 14: gas: 31.72, grocery: 28.44, household (flower baskets on sale, unnec, replacement fan for one that broke, 20% off): 52.98
Total weekly spending: 214.98
proportion unnecessary/"fun": 13.5%
A little bit over my 10% "fun" limit, but if I recategorize the flowers for the front as household rather than a pure "fun" expense, I'm still under 10% frivolous expenses.
Flowers are frivolous, but they also feed the soul!
I'm up 15.5% so far for the year according to the updates I do on NetworthIQ.com.
The biggest source of the increase is (presumed) home valuation, as judged by zillow.com. The area where I live has *not* been enduring the nationwide housing slump--things are definitely slower than they were in 2005, but still expanding. My retirement accounts are also up 5.5%, and my emergency fund, which I'd pretty much decimated last fall with all of Henry's medical problems is back up to over $4200.
Net Worth 12/31/06 $153,979
Net Worth 3/31/07 $169.871
Looks great, but most of the increase is from the estimate of my house's price on Zillow.com, which took a big hit a few months ago and is just rebounding.
Retirement accounts are up $1743, of which $180 is my contribution and the rest is interest.
Retirement contributions are low because I have been focusing on rebuilding my emergency savings, which I wiped out when Henry had his surgery last October. That is now up to $2213, an increase of $1478 over the end of last year.
Debts are down $1416--$1000 of that being loan forgiveness from my mom, which I'll take.
I downloaded the TaxAct program (basic) for free from their website and used it and the information from my December paychecks and statements to run-through a draft of my 2006 taxes. Looks like I'll be getting about $1450 back, which will make a nice boost to the Emergency Fund (which desperately needs it).
I also made a last-minute donation to one of my favorite charities, Co-Op America. They actively support sustainable and socially just businesses, and I think that making in-roads on the environment and social justice concerns by supporting corporations that act in favorable ways is a tremendously smart move. Until midnight tonight, Co-Op America has a donor grant that will MATCH any contribution you make, making your gift twice as effective. (Of course, that doubles the money that Co-Op America gets, NOT the amount you can deduct on your taxes.) But since this is one of the groups that I most consistently support, I made an extra $30 contribution (I'll get $13 of it back when I file my taxes, according to the calculations I did with TaxAct.)
Other than that, today has been a "no spend" day--in fact, other than taking the dog for a short walk, it wasn't even a "leave the house" day.
The picture shows a big drop in the last month, but that's due to my home value. I use the zillow.com appraisal in order to use a consistent methodology, and that sometimes has big changes without clear rhyme or reason. It shows my home value plummeting 10% this month, while my boyfriend's house mysteriously rises over 200% in value! If you follow the zillow prices over time, you see that there are occasional odd blips, and the thing to do is to look at the overall trends. So I can't know whether these changes are temporary blips or part of a more enduring pattern. Also, my town was awarded a casino license Dec. 20th, which will surely impact housing prices, and I doubt the zillow data incorporates any of that impact yet. I didn't want the casino but I'm still praying that the impact on property values (and quality of life) is for the better.
Probably a better comparison than the changes over the past 6 months is a comparison with my end of 2005 data.
Net Worth 12/31/2005, 149,279
Net Worth 12/31/2006, 153,979
Change: +3%--This is due to a 2% increase in assets (mostly retirement funds) and a 1% decrease in liabilities (mostly mortgage).
Taking the year-long view, 2006 wasn't a great year but at least my net worth still rose.
Paycheck came today and I immediately transferred $1000 to pay off some of the accrued credit card debt. That still leaves about $370 left to pay on the CC, but the latest car repair expense hasn't yet been posted, nor have I done my holiday shopping (limited tho that will be), so I'll pay the rest of the CC off after Christmas. That still will leave $1000 that I owe my mom that I was supposed to pay off by year's end--but (with her permission), I'm delaying that another month, given the $955 worth of unexpected car repair and veterinary expenses this month.
Finally did the last of the end-of-semester chores today so I am officially closing my books on the Fall semester. Relieved to be done. Mostly tired and not very much in the holiday/celebratory spirit. Not trying to be, either. I live in the "Christmas City" and maybe I'll take a walk downtown tomorrow and try and feel a little "holidayish." But we also learned today that we got one of the state's coveted slots licenses, so that the casino will indeed be built on the old steel mill, and for me, that's definitely NOT cause for celebrating--I worry about the crime and traffic that will soon begin to befoul my beloved historical city.
Well, the goal in moving $1000 out of my ING account back into my checking account over the weekend was to pay off the credit card bill. But not quite. First there was the $150 in emergency car repairs on Friday that got added to the credit card bill. Then I forgot about last weekend's $95 gym fee...by paying $95 once up front, my monthly fee is reduced to $19 for life--something I should be able to afford regardless. Doesn't save me much the first year but is a good deal thereafter, and Gold's Gym has been around long enough that I'm not worried that they're going to fold anytime soon. Then there were my two impulse buys: $113 on two accounting textbooks for a class that is required at one school but not at another. I'm working on an accounting certificate through the community college (generally cheaper) but can take a class through the college where I work this term, so I thought I'd familiarize myself with the material from the prerequisite class at my college that's missing from the community college curriculum. The "real" impulse purchase was a pair of speakers for my mp3 player that I got on sale for $37 including S&H (retail price $99). So with all of that extra spending and the $800 payment, the credit card bill is now down to $380. I also owe my mom $1000 to be paid this month. Things will be tight but I think I can squeeze $1380 out of my Dec 20th paycheck and be out of debt (late edit: other than the mortgage) by year's end. That's the plan, anyhow.
I started keeping track of my net worth on NetworthIQ around the same time as I started keeping this blog. It's good to see that things are moving in a positive direction. Increases are mostly a result of increases in the estimated worth of my house (I use Zillow.com for the estimate for my house, and also Kelly blue book for an estimate on the worth of my car) and the rising value of my retirement accounts, since what with the unexpected $5000 in veterinary expenses I've had over the past few months, I've actually spent a little more than I've brought in in income during the past 5 months.