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September update

September 18th, 2016 at 11:29 pm

It's been about a month since I last updated, so I'll check in here. Still unemployed, still in shock over it. My activity has been up and down. I did a presentation for my group of unemployed professionals about informational interviewing, so that spurred me to go out and do some. It seemed like that led to one possible job interview, but the person said to call him back after he returned from vacation, and I haven't heard from him yet. I'll have to check in again; he went to Australia and that's a 12 hour time difference so he's probably still adjusting (he got back to the states on Wednesday). I also went to an interview with the Accountemps agency. Some weeks I seem to do a lot and others just minimal. I need to ramp it up: according to one recruiter, the best months for getting hired are September (nearly gone), December, and January.

The area where I have felt productive and competent is in health: I've lot 15 pounds since being laid off and am back to walking 10,000 steps many days during a week. I've also been doing a lot of cooking. The walking and the cooking are basically the things that make me feel good right now.

On Friday, I checked my credit card statement and found a $163 charge that I didn't recognize, so I had the card cancelled. This was the card that I use to autopay several expenses, so I have been going through and cutting many of those.

I also have been looking at health insurance. I am covered through the 30th on my employer's plan; my options after that are continuing the employer plan through mini-COBRA for 102% of the premium, which is about $750/month, or switching to private insurance (either on the marketplace or off). I'm just looking on the marketplace. I won't qualify for a premium subsidy this year, but perhaps next (I pray NOT). I'm on an HDHP plan with an HSA, and to maintain the tax benefits of that I have already reaped through the HSA, I need to keep an HSA in force through end of the year. Fortunately there are now individual HSAs on the marketplace; I don't think there were in 2014 when I last had marketplace insurance. With the HSA, a chunk of my annual long-term care insurance premium becomes deductible even though my medical expenses aren't above the 10% of AGI threshold, and, now that I am unemployed, I can deduct those premiums as well as long as I am either receiving unemployment benefits or paying COBRA. I'll do that for the remaineder of this year, then reconsider for next year (information about the 2017 plans will be available on November 1).

This week is another busy week: I have three professional education seminars and networking opportunities plus two other meetings for my unemployed professionals group plus lunch with a former co-worker. I need to fit time for applying for jobs in there!

Trying to emerge from my black hole

August 22nd, 2016 at 03:21 pm

So it is just over a month since I was laid off. I have basically spent the past month trying to absorb the shock and personal sense of devastation while focusing on the non-work domain, which I really let go in order to focus on the new job and career. I have also "gone through the motions" with regard to some basic steps in preparing for a job hunt, without my heart really into it yet. That needs to change.

I've spent a lot of time over the past month with the friend whose dog was diagnosed with cancer the same day I lost my job. The good news is that whatever is wrong with the dog is NOT cancer after all and he has improved but there is still something wrong that remains undiagnosed. But at least the threat of 4-6 months remaining lifespan has been removed. And we've watched the Democratic convention, the Olympics, and several DVD movies. It's been very good to have someone there for me, living alone as I do.

My biggest focus has been on my health, which I felt suffered during the time I was at my job. Not only did I gain back the weight I had lost during the year previous to starting at the job, but my exercise plan, which I started investing in last summer, got derailed by a foot injury the beginning of March. I had started a course of physical therapy, so I finished that out during July and then went back to the gym, which I have been continuing to go to twice a week (I have a one-year contract which will get me through October and then I can no longer afford this gym), plus this past week I started walking and even doing a bit of jogging again now that the injured foot is 99% healed.

I also started to follow an Intermittent Fasting (IF) eating plan. A friend of mine has been doing this for a year and has lost some weight. After talking with her I read a book on the topic by Dr. Bert Herring and then started in on the plan, while continuing to do some research on my own both on the plan and on myself. There are several versions of IF eating; the one that I am following is the idea of time-restriced feeding, in which you start by limiting the timing of your meals, so that each day is divided into an eating window and a fasting window. Dr. Herring recommonds a 5-hour eating window and 19 hours of fasting, while another popular protocol (LeanGains) suggests 8 hours of eating for men and 10 for women, with corresponding 16 to 14 hours of fasting. While my daily eating window has varied between 2 and 8 hours since I started this on August 1, my average has been about 6, usually from 2 pm to 8 pm. And I am down 4-6 pounds since starting (the scale is bobbling a bit this week), plus I lost some weight just from the shock of the job loss decreasing my appetite, so I am down about 10 pounds altogether. Another six will get me to where I was when I started the job, and I hope to continue on to see if I can finally take off the excess weight which has gradually crept on over the years.

So far I find doing this very sustainable. Surprisingly, eliminating breakfast has meant basically eliminating mid-morning hunger, and it's usually pretty easy to delay lunch until 2. I drink lots of water with lemon before breaking my fast plus one or two cups of black coffee as well. Then during the eating window I usually have two meals, with the largest one being the earlier of the two. Not only do I end up eating less but there is both a time savings from not having to prepare breakfast and will eventually be some money savings as well as I eat less.

Exercise is what Charles Duhigg, in his book "The Power of Habit," terms a keystone habit--one which, when adopted, tends to lead to one making other positive and beneficial changes in one's life. Hopefully that proves true.

In addition to work on the health front, I also have done some work on the home front--a bit of organizing inside the house and redoing the front garden patch with the extensive help of a retired neighbor.

I've also been attending the weekly meetings of the local networking group for unemployed professionals as well as joining their training committee, plus I went to a networking meeting of a group of business women that has led to some useful connections that I am still in the process of following up on, including the possibility of an interview. I also reconnected with a fairly new acquaintance in the business who was unemployed herself last year and who has connected me with another person in a similar position. Ironically, the possible job interview is for her old job. We will be getting together later this week. So--good progress in networking but I really need to work on updating my resume further and developing different versions of it for different jobs, as well as getting together my "exit story" and documenting the job stories I can use in answering behavioral interview questions. I'm not feeling ready for an interview yet.

Plus I need to start investing more in studying for the online CFP course I am enrolled in. So far I have attended virtually all of the live webinar classes but I have not invested much in going through the printed materials online.

I also have a lot more decluttering to do. I've got my living spaces livable, but that doesn't mean that my kitchen is optimized. Too many things I don't use and should get rid of. Plus, as always, too many books, too much clothing, and then there is the whole second bedroom, which has become a "storage room" rather than a guest room or study over the years.

Lots to do, and lots more people to contact.

I just need to get over myself and the feeling of shame and humiliation and keep on keeping on.

A little bit of fun first. My birthday is later this week and today, three friends are taking me to lunch and then we are hanging out at the swimming pool that one of those friends has.

Investing in my Health

September 6th, 2015 at 09:22 pm

Certain classes of "Expenses" are also "Investments," not in the traditional sense, but in oneself.

There are a few key categories of these self investments: one's "human capital" or job skills/performance; one's relationships; and one's health. And one invests in these not just with money but with time.

Looking at my sidebar goals, there are two that have been lagging the others--taking better care of myself and getting my house in order.

I want to make progress on both of these by year-end.

I'm starting with health. Or, I should say, I started with it back the end of June. I joined a gym and also an online nutritional coaching program.

That gym I really liked, even though it was more expensive than my previous Gold's Gym membership ($75/month vs $19/month). It was worth it, though, for the first two months. The classes I were taking were the "Lite Intense" classes, which tended to be smaller than the regular classes at the gym (maximum class size in any case is 10). And all the trainers are certified, and the gym uses a heart-rate monitoring system to motivate students and make sure they are working out appropriately--every student wears a heart rate monitor and one's heart rate is displayed on a tv screen.

Then in mid-August the trainer that I was working with went back to college, and the gym decided that, since the "Lite Intense" classes were less popular, that they would stop offering them (at least at the times of day I could go...they still have one such class each weekday at 10 a.m.). They still had classes, but "Intense" ones, and the class sizes were longer, and the exercises were harder. And although the instructors were VERY good at modifying the exercises for me and my fitness level, I still found myself doing a lot of social comparison and negative self-talk and coming out of class depressed at my performance--even though my heart rate showed I was working harder. I have a degree in psychology; I understand this; but I still do this. And it was seriously undermining my enthusiasm for going to the gym.

So I began to look for another gym, and I found one--but at another step up in price. But, not only do they have the advantages of the other gym that made it so appealing--certified instructors, heart rate monitoring on a tv screen, but the membership that I am going to go for involves "Semi-Private" classes, maximum class size four, which is just right. Private training is too expensive and when you DO private training, the trainer ends up standing around a lot while you put in the reps; with semi-private, you get personal attention and the trainer stands around a lot less as they go from person to person. When there are only four people and sometimes they are doing different routines, there's much less opportunity for the social comparison/negative self-talk trap that I fall into. And they also have a larger group class called "Foundations," which is for people who are just starting out, to get you READY for the intense classes, which they also offer. I went to this class on Saturday and it is a good fit--I am NOT the heavest, slowest, and oldest person in the class :^). They also have body fat/lean body mass percentage testing with an impedence monitor every six weeks so you can see if you are getting results. They also have a monthly social gathering outside the gym and encourage the gym members to be a community. I already know more names of members there after one week than I did after two months at the first gym.

I know myself, I know that I have spent hundreds on exercise equipment and DVDs, and I know that what works for me are classes where I can get personal attention. If I cancel the online nutritional coaching (which is good, but I find that I am not making the time to participate), my net health expense outlay for each month will be the same. Also the gym is having a weight loss challenge starting the beginning of October leading up to Thanksgiving, so that should motivate me to start putting some of the good nutritional habits and principles I've learned more in to practice. My weight has crept up a bit in the new job as I am sitting at my computer so much....it will be 15 pounds down to where I was last year (not that that is all I would like to lose, but that is my target for by the end of the year).

March roundup

March 29th, 2008 at 09:08 pm

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).