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October check-in

October 23rd, 2022 at 09:50 pm

I haven't blogged here in about two months, so just some quick updates focused on changes since my last blog post.

1. Changes to retirement plan contributions:  I made a change to my retirement plan contributions.  I had been contributing 20% to my 401(k) and 3% to my Roth 401(k).  I changed the total contribution to just 20%, but now it is 10% to the traditional 401(k) and 10% to the Roth 401(k).  That increases my Roth balance and gives me about $50 more cash to spend each month.  I will reassess next year after we get our annual pay adjustments.

2. Personal trainer:  After losing weight pretty steadily for a year (32 pounds), I came to a plateau.  I know that one of the elements that has been missing in my health routine has been regular strength training.  I had joined Planet Fitness to address this, but the trainer that I was working with there had some health problems of his own and missed appointments plus I got bored with it after about 6 weeks.  I haven't yet canceled but what I did do was to find a personal trainer at a Cross-Fit gym near my house and I am working out with her twice a week.  This isn't cheap but I'm learning more about form and I am being pushed beyond what I would do on my own.  In addition to a Cross-Fit certification, my trainer also works as a Physical Therapy Assistant at the local hospital, so I feel reassured that she has good credentials and won't push me in a way that will lead to any injury.  Plus, I just relate so much better to a woman trainer than to a man.  I did lose another couple of pounds off my plateau after starting with her.  At the moment, I've gained those back temporarily as we just had our company retreat this week, which threw my schedule and eating totally off, but 3 separate people who hadn't seen me since July noted that I *looked* thinner since they last saw me, so I'll take that.

Looking at my 2022 goal, I can see that I'm close on my step count to my goal of 9,500 steps a day on average--the current average since 1/1 is 9,471.  I'm sure I can increase that by at least 29 steps by year end (maybe even by 529 steps).

3.  Work--We had our annual company retreat, here in Pennsylvania.  Usually the PA team travels to our company's main office in Richond VA, but this time, the VA crew came here, which I enjoyed.  We spent part of our time at our company office but we also went to a lovely retreat center in the woods for half a day, which was inspiring.

The tax "extension" deadline is passed, thank goodness.  I had a 396-page draft of a tax return dropped on my desk on Wednesday  the 12th to review, then the 392-page revision arrived Thursday evening.  I have a little bit of a break before the year-end planning gets heavy.  And my calendar always gets filled up with meetings towards year-end.  November will be a pretty busy month.

4. Wealth:  Obviously with the markets down, it's not been a good year for my portfolio balances.  Debt is a little higher than I would like, but in general moving in the right direction.  I have been fortunate (knock on wood!!!) that I've been able to avoid big veterinary, car repair, or home repair bills this year.  Also I haven't yet replaced the refrigerator or dryer, as I'd intended.  So far they are each holding up.

Birthday week review

August 28th, 2022 at 09:00 pm

My birthday was this past week.  As a single person, my birthday and Thanksgiving are the two ostensibly celebratory days of the year that I usually dread most--the days where you "expect" to be with others who care about you (but if you are single, you might not be).  But this year was actually a relatively good birthday.

When I opened the door that morning, my mail from the previous day was in the mailbox and included a watercolor painting of my cat Buffy done by a friend of mine.  I didn't even know she painted.  It's lovely, and I will frame it.

I worked that day, and in fact had 3 client meetings (which is about as many client meetings as I will ever have in a day), so the day was busy.  But the birthday actually began the Friday before with the arrival of a mystery gift at my door which arrived without a card.  I was able to trace the sender by posting a picture of the gift on Facebook--it was my friend who had come to visit me at the beginning of August.

Then when I arrived at work, there was a birthday card on my desk, and all of my coworkers greeted me with birthday wishes.  One of my colleagues even sang to me!

After work, my boss took the clients to dinner and invited me.  I was again serenaded.

Then the next evening, four of my personal friends took me to dinner at my favorite little Korean restaurant (where I am friends with the owner as well).  I received an additional card and a couple of gifts, and the restaurant owner gave me an extra dinner to take home for the following night as a gift (I saved it and just ate it for Sunday lunch).

And of course, "Facebook" birthdays are fun since you hear from all kinds of people you never hear from the rest of the year.  All in all, it was a pretty good day.

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Last week was super-busy as work, and Mon-Wed are this coming week, but I'm taking next Thursday and Friday off, and we have Labor Day off, so I'm looking ahead to a 5-day weekend.  I took some time off in May but ended up spending a good chunk of it reading a textbook that I had long wanted to read.  I'm very glad I finally got a chance to read that book, but reading and taking notes on a finance textbook is not exactly "R&R."  Then the other long weekend that I took was right before my annual visitor came, and I spent two solid days working on decluttering and cleaning my house in preparation for her visit.  Again, productive but not restful.

So this coming weekend, I am determined to use the time for more relaxing pursuits.  I've scheduled a kayaking lesson (which includes the boat rental) through the nearby LL Bean outlet, which runs classes at a lake 20 miles south.  I'll probably schedule one or two social things, but mostly I want to leave time for reading, walking, and taking a nap or two.

 

My summer month

July 23rd, 2022 at 10:19 pm

Sometimes things at work calm down for both July and August, but this year, August is getting pretty booked, so it looks as though July is basically my summer "down" time, and I'm really only realizing this as it is drawing to a close.  

I do have several more PTO days I can take this year; just need to figure out a reasonable way to schedule them.  Generally taking a 3-day weekend (or expanding a 3-day weekend into 4 days) works best for R&R.  *Nothing* really seems to work for decluttering, other than my friend coming to visit once a year.  Tomorrow and next weekend will thus be busy preparing to make my home less cluttered before her visit the first weekend of August.  I DO intend to make decluttering a major focus for next year.  I don't seem to be able to take on more than one major non-work goal at a time at the moment given limitations both of my work schedule and my energy levels, which are impacted by Hashimoto's even though my TSH levels are normal (even improved, all while the thyroid antibodies have worsened).  

So "summer" means actually making more of an effort to see and do things with friends, seeing people maybe once a week rather than maybe once every six weeks.  Now and the holidays are the only times most of my friends hear from me.  I did call one of my friends today whom I haven't spoken to in a year or so; she told me that she turns 75 this fall and her husband turns 80, which is sort of startling since when we met, she was in her 40s and he was in his early 50s.  Makes you realize how time flies.

As a single person and  one of the few people in my local friend group who is not already retired, it means that I have to make an effort to reach out and arrange things--and these days, I generally don't have the energy that I did in my 40s and early 50s.  Since most of my friends are retired, they usually get together for lunch or to see a matinee when I'm working.  I'll have to make efforts to expand my friend group, but one thing at a time.  Last year, CFP exam; this year, focus on health, next year, decluttering so I have a place I feel good about inviting people over to, and THEN a focus on the social.

I've had a few dinners with friends, including last night and tomorrow night.  One of my friends owns my favorite local restaurant, so tomorrow night, I am going over to her restaurant (which is closed on Sundays) for a private dinner with her and her husband, and then we are going to see Where the Crawdads Sing at a nearby movie theatre--my first visit to a movie theatre since COVID began.

I also uses the summer time to catch up on doctor's visits.  I still need to get glasses following my eye doctor visit back in May.  And I had my annual primary care visit last week, generally all good news except mildly elevated LDL cholestorol, and then those TPO antibody numbers (which were based on a test that *I* ordered; he just ordered TSH and free T4).  A couple of friends had suggested that I might try going on Levothyroxine at a low level to see if it would reduce the fatigue and brain fog, but my primary care doctor didn't want to do that since my TSH numbers are normal and even improved.  I DID decide to change endocrinologists and will be seeing the Head of Endocrinology at the local hospital, who a friend recommended, but I'll have to wait until Oct. 25 to see him.

In the meantime, I realized that my increase in thyroid antibodies directly tracks with an increase in dairy consumption.  I've decreased my carbs and increased protein to lose weight, and a lot of the increased protein has been one or two servings of Greek yogurt each day.  So I decided to eliminate dairy and retest my antibodies in another 6 weeks.

Another summer experiment is that I just purchased a "Slack Block," a device for balance training.  This is a purchase I have been toying with for a couple of years, and, after hearing my friend today talk about the balance problems that both she and her husband have, and having had 3 of my colleagues who still have living parents had a parent hospitalized this year after a fall, I've decided that it is better to start being proactive about this before I develop any problems.  (I don't have any balance problems, but neither do I currently have the strength to stand up from the floor without using any hands whatsoever....at best, I can stand without putting a hand on the floor but I do need to brace a hand on my knee to stand up--and I can only do this on one side.)

Planet Fitness; also Fitbit Sleep Profiles

July 6th, 2022 at 02:33 pm

I'm on my last day of a 5-day "weekend."  The two major accomplishments are making some progress towards my continuing professional education requirements for the year (I need to average 40 hours a year, and had only completed 4 as of 6/30; 4 more added and another 6 in progress), and taking a concrete step on my health and fitness journey by deciding to join Planet Fitness.

I had been looking at two more expensive options (and I haven't ruled either out yet for a short period later), but I decided that Planet Fitness is an affordable place to start, and if I want additional help, I can add that on later.

There are two PF locations within 3 miles of me; I visited both on Sunday.  One had slightly higher ratings on Yelp and I was initially leaning towards joining that location, but after visiting both, I ended up joining the other.  It's only half a mile closer but the commute time each way is 5 minutes less and the parking lot is far, far nicer at the location I joined.  It's a funny criterion, but parking in a "real" parking lot near the entry feels far nicer than parking in a vacant lot where you have to walk past a vacant store front to get to the gym entrance.  I joined on Monday, worked out on the cardio machines, and then went back on Tuesday for the "formal" new member orientation and to meet with the club's trainer to set up a program.

Since I have more discretionary time during the next two months than I will during the rest of the year, I opted to start at the "black card" (higher cost membership) that allows you access to the "spa" area with hydromassagers, tanning boths, and a red light/vibration plate booth, as well as the ability to bring a friend.  The plan is to keep this level for three months and then downgrade to the $10/month level for the rest of the year.  I do have one friend who I haven't seen much the past few years who I think would go along with me to the gym and would help with reconnection.  Our previous connections have mostly been on various fitness ventures, but she is far fitter than I, and a year ago, I injured myself trying to keep up with her, and since then, we haven't connected much.  Plus the massagers are pleasant.  I stopped having "real" massages after having a reaction to the oil used at the last massage I had, so this is a reasonable alternative.

I was surprised to find out that PF has *free* personal training.  Every other gym I have belonged to, (and this is the 8th gym I have joined in this area during the past 30 years, and the 10th in my lifetime) you joined the gym and then the trainer tried to upsell you on personal coaching.  But I met with the trainer yesterday and he told me that his services are free with your membership.  So I am starting on a 3 times a week schedule meeting with him, focusing on strength training and learning proper form.  I suspect I will only keep this up over the summer months, but hopefully it will give me momentum and confidence to keep going on my own afterwards.

And of course, hopefully I won't catch COVID by increasing my exposure this way.  I will definitely have to start keeping greater track of case counts again now that I will have increased exposure risk. 

First real training session tonight!

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Also, today FitBit rolled out a new feature, Sleep Profiles, which analyze your long-term sleep patterns over the course of a month.  They have ten different metrics, which they then group into "sleep animals" to give you a sense of the overall pattern.  I learned that I am a "hedgehog," which refers to a cycle where you fall asleep later and wake up earlier, leading to shorter sleep duration, and typically lower REM and deep sleep cycles.  The more alarming part is seeing your comparison to the typical range and to the ideal.  I'm in the ideal range on only 2 of 10 variables, bedtime (before 11:30) and time to fall asleep (20 minutes), and out of the typical range on the variability of my sleep schedule and my sleep duration (5 hours & 24 minutes).  I like this because it gives me a concrete target to focus on in improving my sleep--getting to bed earlier more consistently.  It will be interesting to see if I can make a dent in my long-term patterns in this area.

Halfway through the year

July 2nd, 2022 at 10:37 pm

We're over the hump and on the downswing for the year!  Always a good time to stop and re-assess.

Financially, of course, my retirement plan balances have seen a decrease, counterbalanced somewhat by increases in the "comp" value of my home.  We did get a bonus, which I used to pay down debt.  As of 6/30, my assets are down 4.9% for the year (all due to retirement plan assets being down), my debts were down 10.6%, and overall, my net worth was down 6%.  

But the key is really in the ratios.  On 12/31, my debt to equity ratio was 10.71%, and now it is 9.8%.  And my asset to liability ratio was 10.33, and now it is 11.3.  Having gotten to a point where my debts (liabilities) are a much smaller portion of my net worth makes me feel like I have reached a tipping point, even if the absolute dollar value of my net worth is down a bit.  [For reference, a decade ago, my debts were 23.4% of my net worth and my assets were 5.3 times my liabilities.]

Now we'll see what the second half of the year holds.  The average bear market is nine months, and it's unlikely that we'll see the very sharp recovery that we saw after March 2020, so it's possible that the entire year will end up down compared to 12/31/2021--but I expect to meet and possibly even exceed my debt reduction goal, assuming (knock on wood!) no major veterinary expenses for Miss Buffy or big home/car repairs.  So even if my retirement plan balance doesn't fully recover, I expect my debt to equity and asset to liability ratios to improve.  I've got a 5 to 8 year period until I retire (and even after retirement, it is likely that I will work part of the year doing tax prep for at least a few years), and I expect all my current debt to be paid off by retirement, so I'm not too worried.

I walked (and jogged!) 1,757,874 steps during the first half of the year, exceeding my goal of walking at least 9,500 steps a day.  I have not yet consistently added in strength and mobility training, so that is a goal for Q3.  My weight is 13.8 pounds lower than at the beginning of the year (and 32 pounds lower than it was about a year ago, around the time I took the CFP exam).  Increasing sleep remains elusive.

No progress on my estate plan yet; I will work on organizing things during July and August, which are my lightest months of the year at work.

Only slight progress on decluttering; that is another July/August project.  As long as the old dryer and refrigerator are still working, I will hold off on replacing them.

I have off through Wednesday, so I'll have some time to work on some of these "personal" projects, but mostly I hope to get some rest. 

Staycation

May 15th, 2022 at 12:09 am

I took the first week of May off of work to recover from tax season.  Even though I no longer actually do tax preparation, as the CPA in our office, I do get extra work both at the end of the year and at the beginning of the year until tax day.

Because my kitty is 17 years old with medical conditions, I don't want to leave her if I don't have to (I will have to leave her for 2 days in June--just one overnight--for a required work trip), so I don't even think about going anywheres these days.  I didn't even do any day trips--I've gotten out of the habit of driving and at the moment, anything longer than a 5 mile trip makes me a bit nervous).  

I had plenty to do, though, mostly catching up with household stuff.  I brought my car in for its 60,000 mile service, had my bicycle refurbished, did some decluttering, and caught up with a few friends I hadn't seen since the holidays.  I also read a lot.

I went to services the last weekend for their first in-person potluck in two years, and, wouldn't you know, someone who was there tested postive for COVID the next day, so my first few days back at work were spent working remotely.  I am fortunate that I did not come down with it.

Now things will be a little calmer at work until they rev up again in September.  I'm going to try to make more of an effort to work fewer evenings and weekends during this relatively "slow" time of year.

Q1 wrap-up

April 2nd, 2022 at 04:51 pm

It's been a very hectic quarter work-wise.  I had 28% more meetings this year compared with last, plus more tax projections to do, and I am BURNED OUT.  I have another horrid week this coming week but I am taking Thursday and Friday off.  While generally I like my job, the thing that I dislike is that I have very little control over my schedule.  Meetings get scheduled for me and are based first (of course) on the client's needs and second on the lead advisor's needs, and my needs are not taken into account (we don't use the term, but I am essentially a "sub-advisor.")  I work with 3 lead advisors who don't really bother to coordinate with each other (even though we all can see each other's schedules)--it's on me to say, "wait a minute, I already have 5 meetings that week, please don't schedule any more for me" and I might or might not end up making a difference.

But things should calm down a lot from the second half of this month until September, at least.

As far as my goals--I *have* lost 3 inches off my waist and a solid 10 #s in Q1, getting close to 25 pounds overall since I started focusing on my health back in August after finishing the CFP exam.  I haven't done the intermittant fasting yet this year, but I will probably get back to it once the weather gets warmer.  I've been doing it on and off since 2016, and I always end up falling off the plan once the weather cools just as my schedule ramps up in the fall, and then I usually get back to it in the summer, when it's warmer and less hectic at work.

I walked 879,345 steps in Q1 per my FitBit, which is 9,770 steps a day, which slightly exceeds my goal.  Strength training, though, has been minimal--I do some light weights and some TRX exercises rather sporadically.  I'll focus on that for Q2 once I can get back to a gym.

I'm hoping that *this* is my year for weight loss and that I can take off (and KEEP OFF) at least another 30 pounds this year.  

Wealth:  Thanks to the bonus we got last month, I am actually within a hair's breadth of reaching my orignal year-end goal of 70k total debt, and I should reach that goal within the next month, so I'll hope to get the year-end total closer to 60k debt.  After several years where I'd pay down debt and then have emergencies and incur more debt, I'm hoping that this debt reduction is "real."

Of course, my kitty just turned 17 this week, and there is always the possibility of major expenses for her, but I am knocking on wood that she stays stable.  I spent last weekend going over to a friend's house twice daily to help her administer subcutaneous fluids to her cat and talking with her while she made the decision to put the cat down, so this is very salient right now.

No progress yet on systems/habits/and routines goals other than getting into the habit of regular exercise and logging my food.  Will need to wrap my head around getting the household more organized but not until after I've had a break and am not longer feeling so wiped out.

Taxes filed

February 27th, 2022 at 12:10 am

Filed my tax returns today; getting a bit of a refund.  Also the paycheck with the bonus arrived in my account today (I didn't expect it until Monday but was very glad to have it early).  I paid down some debt and am actually almost to my goal for the end of the year already (meaning that I will adjust that goal downwards).  

I also am keeping aside a couple of thousand of the bonus & refund for the home/car repair and veterinary expenses that are bound to arise during the year, plus another few hundred to either repair my bicycle or buy a new one.  Will be taking the old bicycle to the shop in the next week or so to get an estimate of cost to refurbish it.  It's 30+ years old but they don't make frames like they used to--this one is sturdier, so it IS a bit heavier, but it's not *that* much heavier than a similar bike manufactured today.

Looking forward to a time when I will have time to ride it--even though I don't do tax prep any more, my work load early in the year is always disproportionately busy.  

Bonus and Raise!

February 24th, 2022 at 02:13 am

Our company gives out bonuses--if any--last year there was not--at the end of February.  Bonuses are the same throughout the company and are based on our firm meeting its target profit margin for the year.  We did, so this year, we all got a 15% bonus--one of the largest in the time I've been with the company.

This time of year is also when merit increases in pay are announced.  I got a 7.5% increase--not my highest, but still one of the top increases percentage wise.  This will take effect with my March 15th paycheck.

We had the option to change our 401(k) elective deferral for our 2/28 paycheck (which includes the bonus).  i usually contribute 22% of my pay to my 401(k), but for 2/28, I will contribute nothing so that I have have the maximum amount available after tax to pay down some debt.  After the debt is paid off, I should be close to my target for the year--whch of course means setting a new target for 12/31.  I've really been focused on paying off debt for the past 2 years and it is coming down nicely, although it's still a ways from being paid off.  But I think in about another year of dedicated debt paydown, I will get rid of most of the non-mortgage debt, and the mortgage is coming down nicely as well.  It would be paid off in less than 8 years if I paid no more than the minimum required payment, but I usually pay some extra, so it should be paid off sometime between 2025 and 2027, which means it should be paid off before I retire, which is the goal.

I won't use all of the bonus to pay down debt, though--I'll be leaving about a third as a sinking fund for upcoming expenses like home and car repairs and veterinary bills.  And I might use about $700 or so to buy a new bicycle or otherwise do something that I can use to improve my health.

 

 

Putting the bow tie on 2021, and 2022 Goals

January 1st, 2022 at 11:12 pm

Assets up 13.6%

Debts down 2.7%

Net Worth up 15.7%.

Steps walked: 2,602,440, which is 7,130 on average per day, and 1,097 miles in total (3 per day on average).

Dollarwise, this is about $104k increase in assets, $2.5k decrease in debt, and $106.5k overall increase in net worth, the first year in which the increase has been over $100k.

Debt reduction was slower than hoped for because of a number of large expenses, particularly for home repairs and maintenance plus vet bills when I lost Bridget back in April.

I've been in my 106-year-old house for 16 years, so appliances that had been replaced shortly before I bought the house are reaching the 20-year mark and are beginning to break down.  I'm seriously contemplating replacing the refrigerator, dryer, and oven (especially the refrigerator, given remaining supply-chain delays) before they actually break down.  Then the only major system that I would not have replaced (I think) would be the furnace, which I do have maintained annually (reminder--time to schedule this!).  Over the past 2 years, I've done the roof, hot water heater, and washing machine plus a lot of plumbing upgrades.  I might look at January sales for the refrigerator and wait and see whether and how much we get for a bonus before deciding on the oven and dryer. 

Had a very quiet New Year's Eve--went to bed early, woke up and talked to my sister on the west coast around 10pm and then lights out.  This morning, I joined a walking group and did 2 miles of a group walk in the rain.

My "theme" or "word for the year" for 2022 is "Foundations."  I want to rebuild and shore up my foundations and regroup after finally completing the CFP designation in 2021 before deciding what my next "stretch goal" might be.

I'll have 3 areas of focus:  Health, Wealth, and Systems, Habits, and Routines.

Goals within these are as follows:

1. Health:  Losing at least 3" off my waist is the primary goal.  To do this, I will try to  fast at least 14 (preferably 16) hours daily and try to eat a diet that is 80% unprocessed foods.  I want to figure out a way to get more sleep more consistently, more than 6 hours (7 ideal).  I'm going to challenge myself to increase the daily step count average to  about 9,500, which would be 4 miles a day. Adding in two strength training sessions per week is the last sub-goal here.

2. Wealth:  Continue to save, and to pay down debt to 70k or less. Get estate plan in place.

3. Systems, habits, and routines:  Improve workflow to get tasks completed earlier.  Refine Morning, Evening, Work Start-up and Work Shut-down routines.  Make intermittant fasting and 10k steps/daily exercise habits (i.e., done w/o thinking and developing an intrinsic desire to do so when I lapse.)  Systematize reading/note-taking/note-making processes.  Develop daily habits for meditation, reading, and journaling that are part of my morning or evening routines.

Finally, I want to think during the year about what my goals for 2023 and beyond might be.  I see 2022 as a year of regrouping after putting most of my efforts into my new career during 2009 to 2021.  The next several years are more of a preparation for retirement--which I still think will be several years away--but I would like to expand my social circles once the pandemic has died down and focus somewhat more on avocational interests.  One of those "avocational" interests is to do some writing that integrates ideas from my two areas of professional expertise. But for now, regrouping in order to refocus my energies is enough.

Trying not to count my chickens

December 26th, 2021 at 05:22 pm

My company often gives us a bonus if we meet our revenue goal for the year.  They announced at the monthly company meeting earlier this month that we had met it, so I am very optimistic that we will be getting a bonus. 

This used to occur at year-end, but a couple of years ago, they changed it to giving it out at the end of February so that the books could be formally closed for the year before they figured the percent that they would use (the bonus is typically some percentage of your base salary).  In past years that we've gotten a bonus, the percentage has been 10% or 20%, but that was before they increased everyone's base salary by 20% at the beginning of 2020, so I'm not sure what percent bonus to expect.  There was no bonus in 2020 and, with higher base salaries, the percentages for bonuses are likely to be lower. 

If we get 10%, I'll be able to wipe out one of my debts completely.  Then in January of 2023 (bonus or no bonus) I will be able to wipe out a second debt (0% balance transfer credit card), and that will bring my debts down to my mortgage, a HELOC, and one other loan (plus monthly credit card debt that is paid off) by early 2023.

I don't think I'm going to have all of my debt paid off by the end of 2025 as I had once hoped, but if we get a couple of additional bonuses between now and then, it's still possible. 

By January, my debts should be less than 10% of my net worth, and my assets about 11.5 times my net worth, which is a big improvement from 5 years ago, when my debts were over 20% of my net worth and my assets were 5.6 times my net worth. 

My retirement assets are at about 8x my annual income, which is still too low to retire (ideally you have your retirement assets at least 10x your annual income, or better yet at 12x your income or more), but, as less of my income will need to be devoted to debt reduction by 2023 (assuming no more really major debts--I'm already assuming there will be some fairly large veterinary bills and capital expenditures), I should get to "retirement-range" assets (10x income) by my mid-60s (I'm 61) assuming that we don't have a protracted slump in the markets.  (I'll be looking at my allocations during this next week that I have off and considering how much more conservative I want to get--I remain at about a 60/40 allocation overall).  I'm currently saving 22% of my income to my 401(k), and getting another 3% contribution from my company.  Any additional savings will be put into conservative investments in a taxable account because I need to increase my liquid reserves.  I was also really happy to see that my retirement savings from my current job (which I have been at for 5 years and 2 months) are at about 106k even before the 12/31 contributions.

Done with work for the year!

December 21st, 2021 at 11:53 pm

I had accumulated time off that I needed to take, and it worked out to be able to take it at year end, so I am officially OFF until January 3rd!

It's kind of scary, actually.  When I work, I don't really have to think about what to do with my time.  The to-do list is longer than can be accomplished but the priorities are clear.  There are invariably lower-priority things that *Don't* get done, so now I have to figure out which of *those* I want to accomplish.

The big goal for year end is always doing a year-end review and planning for the year ahead.  I've already started doing some of that.

In 2021, I did manage to complete a long-term "big" goal of attaining my CFP certification, so that gets moved off of the list.  I've decided that my 2022 "word of the year" is "Foundation," with a focus on physical foundations, specifically health and home decluttering.

I actually started the health project right after completing the CFP, and (working with a health coach) I've become much more consistent about exercising.  When I look at my Fitbit graphs you ca see that, from January thru July (when I took the CFP exam, I was averaging somewhere between 5 and 18 "active zone" minutes per day.  My activity level ramped up during August and I've averaged over 30 minutes a day from September on.  I even have managed to jog a non-stop mile a couple of times so far--something that I hadn't done in over a decade.

I'm happy about my exercise progress and want to continue that, and build up more of a strength component, but during the new year I also want to see if I can make some progress on my weight (or, as my coach encourages me to call it, "body composition," a less loaded term).  I just finished reading a book, "Burn," by Hermann Pontzer, that makes a really strong case against the "Calories in/Calories out" model.  Our bodies are so good at adapting to our exercise activity that increasing it doesn't really make any difference in your weight, unless it's in the very short term.  Losing weight needs to be really all about food, and particularly about eating "real" (that is, minimally processed food (though cooking the food is fine--this is not about a raw diet.)  I'll also be going back to my 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule as often as I can, since I can often stick with that, and will try to add in daily "fasted movement" before breakfast and a post-prandial walk after dinner as often as I can.  I'll actually be working with two health coaches during Q1 of 2022--one, who ran a free 7-day challenge this past month, who is really good at focusing on the day-to-day granular entries and who is more of an expert in nutrition and exercise physiology, and the other, the one who I've been working with since August, who is more of a "mindset" coach and is all about the big picture.  So the first big goal for Q1 of 2022 is to keep up the exercise consistency and tweak my nutrition plan with the goal of taking off 3" off my waist (which would be about 20 pounds).  That would be lower than anything that I have weighed since 2000.

I also have a goal during 2022 to start decluttering my house.  I want to make a *start* at this during my break, but I'm giving myself the whole year to make some progress.  The big goal during break is to 1. clear off my dining room table and file/toss the recent mail (bad habit of mine; bills always get paid on time but organizing things only gets done sporadically); 2. get the old bed out of the bedroom since I have been happily sleeping on my shikifuton on the floor for over a month now; and 3. if I can, clear out some of the unworn clothes from my closet, clear out the bathroom cabinet, and clear out the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator.

Because I'm staying close to home so I can be with my Buffy cat, I have no plans to travel, but I hope to fit in a few meals with friends I haven't seen (provided the pandemic doesn't get too crazy).  Otherwise I mostly just hope to unwind and rest up for the busy year ahead--I have to hit the ground running on January 3 and it will be very busy during Q1.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Replaced my bed

November 13th, 2021 at 08:46 pm

The bed that I have been sleeping on for the past 21 years was purchased for me (by a friend using my credit card) when I was in the hospital having had major abdominal surgery, a 10.5" incision.  (They now do the same surgery laproscopically).  For the 18 years prior to that, I had slept on a futon on the floor.  For the past year and a half or so, I have been debating replacing the bed as it doesn't feel as supportive as it had previously.  I had been thinking to wait until January to move the expense into the new year as this year has been a costly one already in terms of home expenses, but after a couple of successive poor night's sleep and coming up on my busy time of year, I decided not to wait.

I also decided to go back to sleeping on a futon on the floor for better support and because I just prefer it--especially since I always have one or more "fur-kids" and they often sleep with me.  Actually when I had my last Basset Hound Henry, once he became ill, I slept on a foam pad in my living room for about a year and a half because he couldn't get upstairs where the bed was and we both felt better when I was near him.

So I bought a Japanese-style futon, although this one is 4" thick rather than the traditional Japanese 3" thick and it is the size of a twin bed rather than the smaller traditional Japanese dimensions.  I've slept on it 3 nights so far and so far so good in terms of how I'm sleeping.  Since this was delivered by Fed-Ex and left in a box at my door, I still need to get rid of the old bed.  A friend is going to come over next weekend and help me deconstruct the old bed so I can put it out in the trash.  I've never done this before but she has.  I remember when they moved the bed INTO my house, they needed to take out the window because a full-size boxspring would not make it up the narrow stairs (with turns at two small landings) of my hundred-year old house.  I'm glad that the window won't have to be removed from the frame again in order to get the old bed out!

Getting rid of the old bed will be step one of decluttering.  In other news, because my firm very kindly counted the week that I took off to study before the CFP exam as work time rather than as vacation time, I found that I had 8 days of vacation time accrued (with another 3 days still to accrue by the end of the year (as of 11/1), so I'm taking off next Friday and then from December 22 to December 31.  With weekends, that will give me a 12-day stretch away from the office.  Since Miss Buffy was hospitalized back in 2019, I've not gone away from home overnight and I've taken my vacation time as a series of long weekends.  The problem with that is that I never get any larger projects done around the house.  A long weekend is time enough to catch up on rest and to do something fun and catch up on the household chores, but there never is time for any larger household projects, so they just accrue.  I really want to make some progress decluttering over the next year and this will be time enough to pick at least one of the larger projects and just do it.  I'm going to start with the kitchen over Thanksgiving weekend and maybe I can get that decluttered then and use the time at the end of the year to turn an upstairs bedroom from "the storage room" to a home library/study/gym (which is what it was when I first moved in, before I decided to change careers).

Benchmarking Retirement Savings and planning next year's home purchases

October 30th, 2021 at 05:59 pm

I found a particularly useful article on where you should be in terms of your retirement savings (assuming you are still in the accumulation years) at https://www.troweprice.com/personal-investing/resources/insights/are-my-retirement-savings-on-track.html.

I like this article because they don't just give you a multiple of your income by age, but they also split it out by marital status.  Further, if you are behind, they also give you a percentage of your income to save that is needed to catch up.

For example, my retirement savings are currently at 8x my income.  At my age (61) and income, it should be about 8.5 to 9x my income.  I'm behind because I lost several years of savings due to making a major career change and having some very low income years from 2009 to 2014 when I didn't add to my retirement accounts.  The chart says that in order to catch up, I should be saving at least 13% of my income.  I currently contribute 22% (and my employer contributes another 3%), so that is reassuring about catching up to where I should be.

My debt continues to decrease but more slowly than I'd like as this year involved replacing a number of things in the house that are breaking down now that I've been here (today is my 16 year anniversary of home ownership).  This year it's been the hot water heater, washing machine, and some major plumbing (plus veterinary expenses associated with my cat Bridget's illness and passing).  Next year I'll probably replace the dryer, refrigerator, and my bed, and possibly the range.  (I've been living without a working range for 2 years now and getting along fine with an Instant Pot, Air Fryer, and coffee maker but the house should have one.)  I know appliances go on sale in January so I may shop the sales then.  I'm particularly worried about the refrigerator going on me and I hope that I replace it before it just goes, especially given the current supply chain problems and delivery delays.

Finally! Cell phone # ported over

October 19th, 2021 at 11:59 pm

I called the Porting Department of Consumer Cellular directly, since the last Customer Service Rep gave me their number after about 4 previous calls.  Once I reached the representative, he was able to conference me in to his call with Tracfone.  They sent me a code to verify my current phone and then they released my number and they at long last were able to port my phone number over.  I just tested it from my work phone and the new iPhone rings when you call my number.  At long last, success!

Now I have to copy all of my old contacts over manually.  My dumb phone is so old there is no easy way to transfer--I spent about 45 minutes a while ago copying all of the phone numbers I had in there and I need to make sure that they are in my contacts.  I think my gmail contacts are already in there but a lot of the phone numbers I call most often--like my work colleagues--are not in the gmail but just in the old phone.

Very relieved this is done!

STILL trying to transfer my cell phone!

October 19th, 2021 at 01:00 am

Checking in here, I see that I have been trying to transfer my cell phone number to a new smart phone for OVER 6 weeks now!  I started by ordering an iPhone SE from Tracfone, my original provider, on 9/4.  By 9/23, after having received an iphone with the SIM card not installed and not being able to get any help from Tracfone (I found their online instructions incomprehensible), I returned the iPhone to Tracfone and ordered the same phone from Consumer Cellular for $50 more than Tracfone charged--but oh well, at least you can talk to people at Consumer Cellular.

But since 9/23 I have been trying to get my phone number ported over from Tracfone to Consumer Cellular and it STILL isn't done.  And while Consumer Cellular answered right away before I had signed up with them, I now find myself waiting on hold for 25-45 minutes every time I call.  I don't always have time to do that, so it can be a week between calls if I am too busy or tired.

Consumer Cellular claims that this is Tracfone making things difficult.  I finally DID get Tracfone to get someone to give me a call and he said that the number would be ported over, but that was about 3 phone calls ago

At least Consumer Cellular gave me a number direct to their "porting department" rather than making me go through the general customer service for my next call, which I hope to make tomorrow.  Too tired/busy to tackle it today.

Can I just put it out there?:  I HATE CELL PHONES!!!  They are a device of the Devil himself as far as I am concerned!  G-D- electronic leashes.  UGH!  the only thing I like about them is having a phone in hand when I am driving, and I will like having a GPS once the iPhone is hooked up.  My old cell phone is a dumb phone so I haven't had that.

First world problem though.  Frustrating nonetheless.  Since this so far (knock on wood!!) is my biggest problem of the year (other than poor kitty Bridget passing away in April), I am overall quite blessed.

 

Smartphone again

September 24th, 2021 at 02:57 am

Well, Tracfone has proven to be a miserable experience with getting the new smartphone set up.  They sent a phone without a SIM card installed and I could not understand the instructions for inserting it....they had a web page with pictures but my brain does not process that kind of information well and there was no way to actually speak to a person to ask a couple of questions.....so I gave up and called Consumer Cellular and ordered an iPhone from them instead.  They will ship it with the SIM card installed and best of all, you can TALK to a real person (based in the US) when you have a question.  I am having to spend a lot of time online with Tracfone anyways to transfer the service over, but I will be glad to be done with them.  A decade ago when I started with them, you talked to a person when you had questions, but no longer.  The only way to actually talk to a human being is to book a service call.  I do have one of those set up for 11:30 am tomorrow.

The Consumer Cellular phone should arrive by Monday at the latest and then it will take a couple of days to ensure that my phone number is ported over and then I will be able to cancel with Tracfone for good.  I'll lose at least a hundred dollars all told in pre-paid service that I won't be using plus the same phone purchased from Consumer Cellular costs $50 more, but it's worth it to me to call up and speak to a human being.

Smartphone ordered

September 4th, 2021 at 03:33 pm

I purchased an iPhone SE, 64 GB.  I paid $4.95 for shipping  (rather than the free 2-day option) so hopefully it arrives tomorrow and I can get it activated and play around with it over the long weekend.  I decided to stay with Tracfone for now with the prepaid plan since that gives me flexibility.  I started off with a $25 for 30 day plan, which includes 2GB of data, but I can move to a $15/month ($14.25 with autorefill) plan if i am not using much data.

I also realized that having the smartphone will allow me to use my fitness app, OpenFit, for outdoor walks as well.  I've been using OpenFit since mid-July and their interactive "Easy Step" walking program has been a real motivator, keeping me much more consistent with my daily step count (except when work gets overly busy, as it did last week).  I've been walking indoors in the A/C so far, but now that the weather is beginning to cool, I look forward to resuming outdoor walks along with their program.  So there's another benefit besides GPS that I will get from having cell phone service rather than sticking only to WiFi access.

I also stayed with Tracfone because they will give me credit for my existing service, which is good until February of 2023, and the unused data can roll over month to month.  That savings alone would save me compared to the 5% AARP discount I would get if I switched to Consumer Cellular. Also my primary network will be Verizon, so that's good.  They also have contracts with ATT & T-Mobile so I should be covered whereever.

Coming into the 21st century at long last!

Question: smartphone plans?

September 3rd, 2021 at 03:08 am

I've been using a basically "dumb" cell phone on a prepaid plan with Tracfone for over a decade.  In the past few years, I've coupled the dumb-phone with an iPod Touch, which has allowed me to access various apps as long as I am connected to WiFi.

I have been thinking of a while now of upgrading to a "real" cell phone and a monthly service plan, rather than the prepaid phone that I have now.  I got a kick in the pants about doing this today when Tracfone messaged me that my phone is no longer supported on their networks and that I can expect to start seeing my calls dropped or unable to go through progressively more often.

I need the phone for my job (especially once we are out and about more; we still have 2/3s of our client meetings over Zoom), but I've never researched cell phone plans.  Since I'm used to the iPod Touch, I'm planning to go with an iPhone, but I'd be curious to hear about what cell service plans people have and like and especially *why* you like --or dislike-- your plan.

It's just me, so I won't get any benefit from any family plan.

Any thoughts you care to share are appreciated!

Birthday Week

August 29th, 2021 at 02:53 am

My birthday was this past week.  It was a pleasant enough day.  Everyone at my office knew and wished me a happy birthday when I arrived at work.  I have a couple of friends who have promised to take me out for a meal, but since my birthday fell mid-week, I didn't have any plans for the day itself.  Rather than being upset at being alone on my birthday, I decided to treat myself to a dinner at a nice restaurant in town that I've always wanted to try, but one that is more upscale than I would pick for a meal that a friend was treating me to.  The dinner was very nice; I was seated at a window overlooking our local extremely quaint historic district.  (The restaurant was the 1741 Terrace, so that gives you an idea of how old our local history is!)  I used the opportunity to do some reflection over my life to date.  Since I just completed the CFP(r) and have spent a good chunk of the last 20 years focused on changing careers, it was a good opportunity to reflect over what I will want out of the *next* 20 years.

And I still have two meals with friends to look forward to during the next month.  (Hopefully by then, the current wave of COVID cases will have peaked and be on the downswing again....I did read that if our pattern in the US follows what happened in the UK, Labor Day should be the peak of the current outbreak).

Day trip to meet up with Patient Saver

August 6th, 2021 at 11:41 pm

I took the day off work today and headed north into the Poconos about 90 minutes to meet up with fellow SA blogger Patient Saver.  This is about the fifth or so F2F get-together we have had.  We both started on SA around the same time in 2006, and met in person for the first time a decade ago when I was driving to New England for a cousin's wedding and realized that I would be driving by where PS lived.  That first visit was a meet-up and walk as a break on my drive back to PA from New England, but since then I have visited and stayed over at PS's house, and once we booked rooms at the same B&B in the Poconos.  In recent years as we both have older kitties with health problems, we opted to meet for day at a town near where PA, NJ, and NY converge.  

The last time we did this was in 2019, and we took a hike to a nearby water fall, did a walking tour downtown and had lunch at a restaurant in town that had been originally opened by a chef from Delmonico's in NYC. This time, with PS having an injured knee, we rented bicycles and headed out to the trail that runs along the Delaware River.  I will confess that I was VERY nervous about this, as I had not been on a bike in over a decade, and I'm even more out of shape than usual since I've spent so much time in recent months hunkered down studying for the CFP exam.  We didn't get tremendously far (certainly not the 7 or so miles the guy at the bike store estimated we would be able to do before hitting a construction point where the trail is currently blocked), but we did a few miles and I survived and even re-mastered shifting on the bike (which was a 7-speed; my own bike is a 21-speed).  I know that PS was up to go further, and I am grateful that she was gracious about my limitations.  Maybe after getting back on my own bike and getting much more in shape than I am currently, I'll be able to manage the longer ride.  

I'm ridiculously proud of myself for having done this even at the same time as I am embarrassed at my abysmal performance.  If you don't push yourself outside your comfort zone, it will just continue to shrink.  I know my comfort zone shrank during the pandemic when I spent over a year not driving further than 12 miles from home.  So even a 90 minute drive is still more of a challenge than it used to be, when I wouldn't think twice about it.  This time, I took my car to the shop and had my annual safety inspection done beforehand "just in case."

After the bike ride, we ate lunch at a nearby seafood restaurant, blissfully uncrowded and blissfully air-conditioned.  We both treated ourselves to dessert after our exertions.  Then we went and explored some antique stores, which reminded me a lot of my grandparents, both because many of the contents were from the era of the contents in my grandparents' home and because my grandfather owned a stall in an indoor antique-mart for about a decade as a retirement career, and I thus spent a lot of time roaming around antique stores as a child.

It was good to catch up with PS in person and I'm glad that she pushed me outside my comfort zone even if I whined and complained a lot!

Considering a refinance

August 2nd, 2021 at 07:52 pm

I paid my mortgage down to an even $42,000 this morning (it was just about an extra hundred dollars beyond the usual payment to get down to this amount).  That is an amount that feels do-able before retirement (I will turn 61 this month and plan to work at least until my full retirement age per SS of 67).  I now own approximately 3/4s of my home's value.

The rate on my original 30-year mortgage, taken out in 2005, was 5.875%.  I refinanced in 2012 to 4% and a 20-year mortgage.  I've been paying extra on the mortgage monthly for years.  While officially there's 8.3 years remaining on my current mortgage, I'm aiming to pay it off by the end of 2027 at the latest.

My bank sent me a notice offering me a 2.5% rate on a 10-year mortgage.  I think I'm going to take it.  The monthly payment will decrease by about a hundred, which either I can use to pay down principal or which I can use to pay down some of the non-mortgage debt, which never really seems to go down. 

As a home owner now almost 16 years into home ownership, I've hit the point at which repairs, maintenance, and replacements are beginning to take their toll.  So far this year, I've replaced the washing machine, A/C, and hot water tank, and had a couple of costly plumbing repairs.  Yesterday the neighbor approached me about redoing the concrete stairs.  My house is a twin, so it really makes sense to redo my stairs at the same time she does hers.  A neighbor has been patching them yearly for the past several years, but they really do need to be replaced.  They also will probably no longer squeak by city code--they're too steep and we will have to add an additional step  to meet code.  But that will have to be done in any case--and it will be nice to no longer worry whether my older friends can make it up my steps!  There have been times when I have had to let older friends in through the bathroom that has a door out to the back porch, since there are fewer and less steep stairs if you go in that way.  That job will not be cheap, but it's also something that should be done.

I had actually approached the former owner of the twin next door about replacing those stairs a couple of years ago, but he wasn't interested in doing it.  I'm glad the current owner is.  When you live in a twin, cooperation and good neighbor relations are important!

Visitor; goals

July 24th, 2021 at 05:10 pm

I have a friend who has traveled to visit me virtually every year since I moved back to Pennsylvania from Vermont in 1999 (with two exceptions: last year due to COVID and 10 years ago, the year my mother died).  We met because we taught at the same small (now-defunct) college in Vermont, she as an English professor with a special interest in the medevial period and me as a Psychology professor, and both of us owners of Basset Hounds.  A local college sponsors an annual Shakespeare Festival with a mix of equity actors and students, and each year we have gone to a production at the festival as well as had time to catch up with each other and what has been going on in our lives.

So this week was my friend's annual visit, from Thursday afternoon to Saturday morning.  Her visit prompted me to actually do greater cleaning and decluttering of several areas of my house than I have done since her last visit in 2019.  I can actually see my dining room table top for the first time since March of 2020!  Once we entered the COVID shut-down  in mid-March 2020, my dining room table became my work station as well as my CFP exam study area, with extra piles for mail that needed to be dealt with.

The decluttering was only superficial--there are ten banker's boxes in the living room with papers cleared from the dining room and other assorted surfaces.  Some of it will be kept, much of it will be recycled; at least it is now coralled to be dealt with gradually.  

Thursday after she arrived, we spent an hour on the porch chatting over glasses of iced tea.  The performance at the Shakespeare festival ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") was outdoors. It started at 6:30 and ended just as dusk was starting.  One of the chores I had not had time for before my friend's arrival was grocery shopping, so we ate out beforehand at a Greek restaurant that we have previously eaten at.  That restaurant had had a fire in June of 2017 and had been closed since then, finally reopening last December.   We had missed being able to eat there in 2018 and 2019, so it was nice to get back to our usual pre-theatre restaurant.

Friday morning I was able to run out to the grocery store before my friend woke up.  I had pulled together a list of local activities we could do and my friend chose to go to the arts trail in the next town over.  We walked the trail, stopped for an ice cream at the small upscale mall/condo area where we had parked, then drove over to the local indoor Farmer's Market and browsed around there.  We got home around 1:45 pm, had some sandwiches for lunch, then headed back out to explore the shops on Main Street in my town.  By the time we got home, the Achilles tendon I injured a couple of months ago was throbbing, so we took an hour for me to ice my tendon while my friend worked some puzzles on her iPhone.  Then I pulled out the sous-vide machine I bought myself last month and my trusty Instant Pot and made dinner (zucchini-fennel soup, salmon, potatoes, green beans and mushrooms, with chocolate truffles from a store at the Farmer's Market for dessert, as well as Sauvignon Blanc with dinner).

This morning, we went out to breakfast at a local cafe before my friend got on the road to drive back to upstate New York.

It was great to catch up and have some real time to spend with someone.

***************************************************************************************

In general, I still am very much "unwinding" and refocusing my perspective after having been laser-focused on the CFP exam since last October.  Today, I may go back to an old favorite coffee shop along the Delaware River, which I have not visited since pre-pandemic.  They have tables outdoors along the canal towpath, which provide a nice place to sit and write.  That is, I'll go there if I can summon the nerve.  I have driven so little since March of 2020 that this undertaking is a real endeavor.  (Actually, when I took the CFP exam, I had to take it in King of Prussia, outside of Philly, and I was actually more nervous about doing the  55-mile drive down and back than I was about the exam.)  Other than my trip to take the CFP exam, I haven't been more than 12 miles from home since sometime in 2019.

Now that my "goal #1" for 2021 (on my sidebar) has mostly been achieved (though I am still working on timeliness of meeting preparations), I am turning my major focus for the rest of the 3rd quarter to Goal #2 and building/rebuilding (new) habits to better support my health.  I also want to continue with the home decluttering--now that the surfaces are cleared and the excess coralled, I want to sort through and winnow down what is in those boxes.  I have a nearly-empty file cabinet sitting in my living room that I inherited from work when we went paperless and I have a general file system structure that I developed with the help of an organizational consultant a few years ago.  Now I just need #1 systems and routines for better dealing with incoming material as it comes in (and systems and routines for maintaining my health) and #2, a chance to deal with the backlog.

"Refining systems and routines" is really my focus for the rest of Q3.

Year to date net worth changes

May 30th, 2021 at 09:28 pm

Bank accounts: up 22% but balance is still too low.  I've been putting $$ in retirement and paying down debt rather than adding to my bank account balances lately. 

I try to keep a few thousand in cash/CDs in my Roth IRA rather than investing it.  That cash serves as a potential emergency fund since I can pull it tax-free if needed, and if not needed, it adds to the Roth IRA balance.  I'll do this for another year or so while I try to aggressively reduce debt and then invest the cash inside the  Roth.  (You can take contributions but not earnings tax-free from a Roth as long as the account has been around for at least 5 years.  I'm now over 59.5 so I don't need to worry about taking the earnings--under 59.5, you have to worry about taxes and a 10% penalty.) About 1/3 of the total Roth IRA is in cash, the other 2/3s IS currently invested.

Retirement accounts: up 6.2%. I currently contribute 22%, get a match of 3% plus a profit-sharing plan contribution, which comes in early in the year.

Use assets (home + car): up 12.8% due to living in a relatively hot real estate market.  With the coronavirus, people living in NYC have flocked to eastern Pennsylvania, where I live.  Houses that go on the market here typically sell within a few days and often at above-asking price.

Overall asset increase YTD = 7.6%.

Debt: down 7% YTD

Net total: up 9.4% YTD

Under the wire

May 16th, 2021 at 08:27 pm

Finally submitted my tax return.  I had a recovery rebate credit based on my 2020 income being less than my 2019 income.  I've heard that having this credit might slow refunds down; hopefully my refund will come in a reasonable amount of time.  The amount of my refund will cover both my new washing machine and my new air conditioner.  Hopefully I will receive the refund before the credit card bill is due.

The new washer and A/C arrived Friday.  The new washer is more powerful than the old one, and revealed a plumbing problem that needs to be dealt with before I can actually use the new machine.  The plumber comes Tuesday morning.  What with COVID, I didn't call the plumber all year last year and a number of non-emergency issues arose--my list of things for the plumber to check totals 5, just one of which is the washing machine issue.  I don't know that I can afford to get everything done that needs to be done, but I will deal with the most pressing stuff and possibly defer the things that can get let go, in particular fixing the outdoor spigot connection inside the basement.  I don't really use my backyard at all; I just have a gardener mow the grass and I pull out the biggest weeds in the beds.  But *next* year I'd like to do a little gardening, so if need be I can put that one repair, at least, on hold until 2022.

53 days until my exam!

It's looking to be a spendy year

May 10th, 2021 at 10:32 pm

I moved into my house in 2005.  The house itself is 106 years old, but the last owner had done a good job of keeping things up to date.  Now that I've been there 15 & a half years, "durable goods" are starting to reach the end of their lifespans.

Prior to last year, the only real upgrades I had done were to replace the gutters.  There have also been periodic large plumbing jobs along the way (two so far, and I'm worried that I may have another issue this year.)

I've also kept up with the roof.  It's a flat roof that needs periodic coating.  I have done that more often than suggested.  The last time I did it, there was a new product out that had a 10-year warranty, so I chose that option.  I'll still have to get someone to get on the roof and check it every year or so, though.

Then last fall I had a roof leak where the back porch joined the main house.  This led to replacing the two porch roofs.

Now this year, so far, I have had to replace the hot water heater, a window A/C, and (today) the washing machine.  Plus I need four new tires on my car by the summer, and I'm worried that there may be another plumbing issue. 

So far the dryer is fine.  The range died about two years ago but so far I haven't replaced it.  (I do all my cooking in the Instant Pot and Air Fryer, and I boil water in a coffee maker  and reheat in the microwave, so I get by.) I'm hoping that the refrigerator will last another couple of years but with my luck it will die this year.  I am hoping that I can have it last until I am ready to do a kitchen refresh (new appliances, countertop, floor, backsplash, and resurface but not replace the cabinets), but that won't be for a copule of years, so I'll probably have to replace it before then.  Hopefully not this year tho!

Also, knock on wood that the furnace lasts another few years.  That's another thing that was replaced by the last owner.  I see that furnaces can last 15 to 30 years; I do have my maintained every year, so I hope to eek another decade out of it--it's close to 20 years old right now.

The piper is finally having me pay his due.

May Day

May 1st, 2021 at 09:45 pm

I get a message about an "invalid page URL" when I log in, so I had been thinking for the past 3 or so months that I wasn't able to post--but then I discovered that, even if I get that message, if I just go to the blog page, I am indeed logged in.  So this is just a quick catchup for March and April of 2021.

-Work has been busy, as it always is this time of year.  Busy is good, but I am looking forward to things slowing down a bit over the summer.

-I am now deep into reviewing for my CFP exam, scheduled for July 8th.  I take a review course that starts June 11, and there's about a thousand pages of "pre-study" material that you are supposed to get through before the live review.  I'm currently about 400 pages in.  I started meeting (virtually) with a group of half a dozen other people preparing to take the exam at the same time, and that meeting starts off my Saturdays and usually gets me into the mood to dig deep and study for most of the weekend.  Not today, though.

-The biggest news is that my beautiful cat Bridget passed away on April 14th.  She was my quiet kitty and generally the one in better health.  I noticed in late March that she had developed a cough and that her appetite had decreased.  I took her for a vet appointment and they took x-rays and diagnosed possible pneumonia, possible pancreatitis, and some worry about possible cancers in both areas.  I opted to treat her with antibiotics for a week first to see what that did.  Her cough decreased, but so did her appetite, so I scheduled her for an ultrasound to get better diagnostic information.  I was thinking that I would get more information about what was going on and, assuming she had some kind of cancer, learn what the prognosis was and then baby her and keep her as comfortable as possible and have her euthanized after a weekend, a week, or a month.  But she passed there in the parking lot of the veterinary clinic while I was waiting for them to come out and get her (covid restrictions).  Bridget hated going to the vet with a passion, so she avoided her last visit.  The house seems strangely empty with just one cat rather than two.  But with all Buffy's health woes, I won't adopt another cat until she too is gone, for fear that the stress of a new companion would be worse than the stress of spending more time alone.

-I am now fully vaccinated (as of this past Wednesday) and will be going to dinner at a friend's house for the first time in over a year.  I also had dinner at another friend's on Monday, and braved going into an actual store for the first time since last summer. I'm also planning to start walking more regularly with a friend who is a "snowbird" and who just came back up to PA from her winter digs in Florida.  And I can start going back to grocery shopping in person after having had them delivered for an entire year!

-Financially the year is off to a good start:  assets up about 7% (including savings as well as income and capital appreciation), debt down nearly 9% (though I am worried about having to potentially replace the washing machine and about having a potentially expensive plumbing repair this month), and overall net worth currently up nearly 60k since the beginning of the year.

-Have to finish filing my taxes.  I drafted them last weekend but need to review the recovery rebate credit calculation.  Once those are done, I stand to receive about a $1,500 refund.

I wish I remembered how to add a picture since I would love to add one of Bridget.

January/February Check-In

February 21st, 2021 at 07:01 pm

Wow, we're getting towards the end of February already.  Tempus fugit!

The year to date has been busy, as the first and fourth quarters typically are at my firm.  I've basically been working at home again since Thanksgiving (I was at home mid-March to mid-June 2020, then back in the office from mid-June until Thanksgiving).  The COVID rates in my area are finally getting back to what they were back in October, so I am gradually beginning to go back into the office again, depending on who else is there.  While I'm technically eligible for a vaccine now because of a health condition, I haven't yet found an available appointment slot.  One of our clients pressed redial 137 consecutive times in order to get an appointment!  Not being retired, I don't have that kind of time or patience, so I'm hoping availability opens up more by the end of March.

Other than work, I've been working on my CFP review--a self-study review that I am trying to finish in the next two weeks, having started it back in October (and I am pretty much on target for being able to do that), then signing up for the exam itself and a second review program that my firm will pay for (I paid for the first).  The exam will be in July and I am targeting July 6th or 7th for taking the exam.  I have also found a group of accountability partners off a CFP Board candidates board and we are meeting every Saturday morning to check in with each other, set goals for the coming week and report progress on the past week, and, eventually, go over tough review questions together.  So far there are five of us in the group and we are all planning to use the same review provider, which means we will have the same study materials.

Other than that, I've spent a lot of time digging out from snowstorms the past month and I haven't spent very much time outdoors.  I've had a couple of emergency expenses--my water heater went in January, and my car battery died Friday night when I stopped at a restaurant to pick up some take-out.  Fortunately the restaurant was only 8 blocks from home, so I left my car and walked.  Then yesterday, it took a good chunk out of my day to walk back to the restaurant, call road service and wait for them to respond, then drive my car around to let the alternator continue to charge the battery, then take the car for a battery test and replacement.  But, the restaurant owner saw me pop the hood on my car and let me wait inside where it was warm, so it was really just a minor hassle on a Saturday when I have the time.

And thank goodness and knock on wood that so far there haven't been any veterinary emergencies yet this year.  Both kitties are still holding stable, thank goodness.  Buffy turns 16 on March 30th and Bridget will be 16.5 on March 26th, so they are getting up there.  I pray I can keep them going for some time longer, since they certainly keep ME going.

Quick Net Worth Recap

December 31st, 2020 at 11:37 pm

Assets up 14%

Debts down 6%

Net Worth Up 17% -- and just under 100k in one year, which is amazing to me.  At age 60, I'm at long last seeing the real benefits of compounding.

What a crazy year in the markets -- and in life!

Right now I have one more chapter of my self-study CFP review studying that I want to complete before 9 pm, which will put me having completed 4 out of 6 of the review booklets, leaving the Investments book for January and the Taxation book for February.  Then I'll sign up through my company for a second CFP review program in March, in order to take the exam in July.  I want to feel very confident as I go into the exam that I'll pass.  Then after the exam is done--I'll think more about what ELSE I want to do in life.  But having the CFP studying has been a good way to make productive use of time during COVID.

I'll probably come back tomorrow to blog about other goals.  Meanwhile--Happy New Year (and GOOD RIDDANCE, 2020!)

Milestone & Holidays

December 18th, 2020 at 05:51 pm

I'm taking the day off today (and the whole last week of the year off, too), so I decided to do some catch-up on my records.

My retirement savings hit a new hundred-thousand mark, only 7 months after hitting the last hundred-thousand dollar benchmark.  At this rate, I'll have a million by the time I am 65.5, but I'm not counting on that.  I'm expecting we'll have another recession to dig out of that will slow things down, but I'm optimistic in the long term for Wall Street if not Main Street.  There are literally trillions of cash dollars that have been sitting on the side since the pandemic and with low interest rates, they are coming back more into the stock market as bond rates are not as attractive.  Main Street will take longer to recover, but the new administration gives me hope that they will help this part of the recovery.  This is one of Janet Yellin's focus areas so I'm glad she will be in charge of Treasury.  Less income inequality helps all!

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Today was supposed to be our holiday party at work, but with the COVID surge, we've canceled the regular holiday lunch.  Usually we have two holiday celebrations:  one in early December, when the company President is in town (he visits our office about 10x/year for about 3 days each time); that is always a dinner event at a relatively posh restaurant.  Then we have the in-house lunch for the local staff.  For the first 3 years I was with the company, that was accomplished by catering from a local grocery store (which I always found disappointing as a meal, but the point was the celebration, not the food); then last year, we started catering from local restaurants.  We had this year's catering scheduled too, until the recent surge.  This is the day when we do our two gift-exchanges:  we all draw one person's name from a hat and buy a gift of no more than $25 for that person, plus we do a "white elephant" exchange of gag gifts costing no more than $5.  I'll send my giftee her present as an Amazon gift card via email today, and if anything's been left for me, it will be on my desk the next time I go in.  So this part of the celebration is emotionally unsatisfying but physically safe, which I'd druther.

I seem to have missed out on Chanukkah altogether--really no point in lighting a menorah all by oneself--and all the less so when your dining room table has been transmogrified into your desk.  My congregation had a Zoom get-together for the final night last night, but I forgot and missed it.  As far as Christmas, since I'm Jewish, it's never a big day anyways.  My congregation will have a dinner get-together and Shabbat service on Friday evening.  As a single person, the holidays have always been more of a pain to get through than a celebration anyways, although I really do enjoy looking at my city during the holidays--we ARE the Christmas City, and downtown is always a very cheery place during the holiday.

I have been catching up with some friends over the holiday season via phone, and that is very nice.  Other than that, I've picked up my knitting again for the first time in a decade, and *my* big ritual this time of year is always doing an annual review and some goal planning for the new year.  That--and some decluttering, and some CFP review--are what I will work on during my week off at year end.


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