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Archive for November, 2011

Finally, able to do some planning!

November 20th, 2011 at 09:09 pm

The past 2.5 years have had so many ups & downs, with a long bout of un/under-employment, two pet final illnesses and my mother's final illness, that I just gave up the ghost on trying to plan ahead, and I racked up a lot more credit card debt than I am comfortable with paying for veterinarian bills, some major plumbing & other house and car repairs, and travel between my east coast home and my mother's west coast home.

I've been at the new job three weeks, and today I logged in to the payroll company and got a sneak peek at my next paycheck, which will actually be direct deposited on Wednesday. Because I'm salaried, each of my future paychecks will be the same (except that health insurance contributions are likely to go up come January, and the Social Security tax withholding is scheduled to go back up to 6.2% from its current 4.2%.

Knowing what I'm making, what I own, what I owe, and what I expect to inherit when we close out and distribute the assets from my mother's trust next summer allowed me to actually make some reasonable plans for the first time in a long time.

The first year will be tight, because I have a lot of debt payment going on. Nonetheless, I'm contributing 5% of my pay to retirement because it feels so good to be able to contribute again after not having been able to for 2.5 years!

When the trust distributes next summer, I will be able to pay off the balance of the debt, and increase my retirement savings. I'm also going to take a chunk of the expected distribution to put away for a new car and roof replacement, both things I expect that I may have to do within the next 3-5 years. Plus I'll also leave some of it accessible in a taxable account as an emergency fund in case I become unemployed again. Anything that's left after that I'll probably put towards retirement.

I also downloaded a preview of the tax package that I use at home (TaxAct) and ran the numbers on this years' anticipated taxes. This year, I'm in the 15% tax bracket and next year I go back to the 25% bracket, so I need to think about whether there's anything that, given that fact, it would be advantageous to do this year rather than next (maybe a second pair of glasses, since I definitely was way over 7.5% on Schedule A for medical expenses, given the fact that I paid my own insurance for 11 out of the 12 months this year.

What a massive relief to know that there is light at the end of the debt tunnel. I've been hoping and praying that this would happen, but now is the first time that I actually can begin to *expect* that the nightmare of debt will end.

First Week, New Job

November 5th, 2011 at 06:28 pm

I started my new job on Nov. 1. The first day was quiet, as half the firm was off at a continuing education seminar. I spent the first couple of hours filling out paperwork and reading over the details of benefits information (health insurance--I'll save over $300 a month from what I was paying on my own, plus there's $0 copay for doctor visits and only a $500 deductible; and there's a SIMPLE IRA with a 3% company match). Then the two partners who were there took me out to lunch, so we got to know each other a bit better. I was pleased to find out that they are dog people, too. In the afternoon, I started working on my QuickBooks ProAdvisor Certification--there's a 16 hour CPE course (which takes more than twice that long to complete if you're relatively new to QB, as I am). Most of the rest of the first week was spend on this certification course, with one of the partners throwing little assignments at me for an hour or so each day. Next week, I learn the billing system, as that will become my responsibility. So far, so good--I am enjoying things so far, but definitely have to get used to being away from home for 9 or more consecutive hours a day. As a professor, I worked that much, but was able to do lots at home, so wasn't away from home that much. And even last tax season, when I was working about 65 hours a week, it was at two firms, one of which was near my house, so that I'd come home for lunch and dinner. The new firm is 15 miles away, so these days I go home for dinner, but come tax season, I won't. At least there's a refrigerator and microwave at work (though no sink in this "kitchen.")

Once I have my first paycheck in hand and verify my take home pay, I'll have to start putting together a plan to get myself out of debt. It will be such a relief to finally start turning that debt around!