<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
You are viewing: Main Page
 

A visit with a fellow blogger

May 12th, 2019 at 04:57 pm

Yesterday, I had a chance to visit with Patient Saver, the fourth time, I believe, we have met in person. We've both been on the site since 2006, and met in person first back in 2011, when a trip to a family wedding took me near where she lives. Last year I drove to visit her. This year, we opted to meet in the middle for a day trip. We live about 3 hours apart, so each of us had a quite reasonable 1.5 hour drive each way.

We met in a small town near where PA, NJ, and NY converge. First we went for a hike to waterfalls that are part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Then we had brunch at an historic 1800s Hotel. We stopped at the visitor center and I bought a brochure for a walking tour of some architectural highlights of the town. Then we did the tour. There was a museum along the way that we had hoped to stop in at, but it was closed despite the sign on the door saying that it opened at 1 pm on Saturdays. We each got our 10,000 steps in! After a stop for ice cream, we parted ways and I got home around 5.

Definitely a nice change of pace after being all but chained to my desk the past month, and we lucked out on having gorgeous weather--it's gray and rainy today, but yesterday was perfect!

Last weekend and this one..and then two after this

April 27th, 2019 at 07:39 am

I did go to that squat workshop last weekend. Useful but my quads hurt for the next 3 days! Good hurt tho, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). I need to work into some kind of routine of doing strength and mobility work, but that is something for after May 10th (which is when my schedule at work will calm down a bit).

I have been successful in walking most mornings of the week since tax season ended, so I'm getting 10k steps or more 4 days a week. That's my beginning fitness level for the year and I will build from there. 2018 was a bad year with only 21 days with 10k+ steps all year according to my Fitbit. I will have that many for the year to date after today, and we're not quite a third of the way through. If I get about 4 per week for the rest of the year, I'll have about 160 10K plus days by year's end. I'm going to target that as a goal.

My walks have been ending most mornings with a talk with a neighbor who lives half a block away. I've known her vaguely for the entire time I've lived in my house. Back when we first met, when I had Henry, her younger son was a toddler who would come out to greet Henry, and she was teaching sociology at the local community college. Now I'm the one who stops to pet *her* dog--a cute 4-month-old yellow Lab puppy named Daisy. The neighbor sits out with her most mornings at around 7, which is when I've been walking. I've learned through our discussions that the neighbor is now too disabled to work because of fibromyalgia. Her younger son, now 14, is living with her ex-husband 80 miles away, and, though she has a roommate to help with expenses, she's fearful about the possibility of losing her house while she waits for the disability claims to actually kick in. The puppy is what prevents her from becoming seriously depressed. She's a decade younger than me, and my talks with her make me very glad that I have a private disability policy as well as one through work.

Last weekend I had two seders I was invited to. I didn't go Friday night because it was rainy, half an hour's drive away, and I was cranky and feeling unsociable. That seder, I heard, lasted over 3 hours so I am glad I didn't go. Not what I needed on a Friday night after a tough week. I did go to a different friend's seder on Saturday, and the folks who hosted that seder were much quicker about going through it (probably because there were four grandkids ages 1-8 in attendance), and I left early in any case.

I finally got going on studying for my current CFP course, but I'm behind. Hoping to make some progress this morning after I finish this entry.

Then the local Food Co-Op is hosting a craft fair and I will go out there for a couple of hours and take a long walk somewhere other than my neighborhood, and go and do my weekly errands and then chores at home.

The servers at the office were bogged down Wednesday through Friday--Wednesday they were pretty much non-functional, and Thursday and Friday response times on any work that required using our online documents were slow as molasses. I have a super-busy week next week, 5 big client meetings and only 2/3 of one meeting prep is done, so I will be in the office most of Sunday, except for my daily walk and a spiritual writing group meeting with women from my congregation.

Next weekend will be another weekend of more of the same: errands, chores, CFP studying, walking, and work, but in two weekends, Patient Saver and I are planning a meet-up. We've met 3 times before--first back in 2011 when a trip to a family wedding took me past her town, then in 2015 when we met for a night at a bed & breakfast part-way in between, last year, when I spent a night at her house. This year, we're meeting part-way in between again, but won't stay overnight since we both have senior kitties to go home to tend to. We live about 3 hours apart so a 90-minute drive for each of us brings us to a quaint town on the PA-NY border, which we will spend the day exploring. That will be my first real adventure of the summer!

On financial matters: my retirement account hit an all-time high with the day's close yesterday; currently 8.8% up from year-end, and nearly 100k higher a balance compared with 12/31/16. My spending credit cards are currently up since I did a little bit of clothes shopping plus the usual, but by the time both the 4/30 and 5/15 paychecks have hit, my total debt should be down 1k from 3/31. Chipping away bit by bit.

Day off & A couple of financial moves

April 19th, 2019 at 05:00 pm

It's a holiday but I'm not feeling very celebratory. Not bad, just tired and burnt out. I was supposed to be at a Passover seder tonight but I didn't go--it's rainy and I'm just a wee bit grumpy and needing some time to myself. There's another seder tomorrow night (different group, though).

I spent the day puttering. It was a work holiday since the markets are closed. I went over this morning to the university campus (where I once taught), and found that the building that I used to teach in is being renovated and the whole thing is fenced and boarded off. I went to the library instead and spent some time reading, then went to my current office and puttered online.

I made a couple of financial moves online while I was puttering. In my last "Day off" post, I mentioned the new bank account I opened at a reputable local bank. The $50 bonus has been received, and I set up automatic $50 deposits from my current main bank to the new bank for purposes of growing an emergency fund. A lack of "liquid funds" has been a problem because I've either been saving or paying off debt with my discretionary funds (I'm now up to 15% per pay to my 401k).

I also have my eye on my two 0% balance transfer credit cards. Both of the 0% balance transfers are over in September. For the smaller one, I'm moving it over to another 0% balance transfer, and I applied to increase the credit line on that card--not because I have any intent of using the additional credit, but because one factor in your credit rating is keeping the balances on your credit cards at 30% of the credit limit. I want to transfer $4,500 from one card to the other, so I had to increase my credit limit on the card where I am moving it to from 10k to 15k (since 30% of 15k is $4,500).

Tomorrow I am going to a "squat workshop" at the Physical Therapy center where I have gone to for PT 3 times now (most recently in January & February for a shoulder issue). I'm working my way up to getting back into the gym--I've set a new goal for myself to get out of the house and take a walk within 30 minutes of waking up, and I managed that five mornings during the past week. Then I hope to get some studying done for the next CFP class--I've been having problems getting going studying again what with the busyness of the end of tax season.

Last night was a fundraiser for the public library. Since I'm on the finance committee, I felt that I should attend, so I did and paid for a friend to go along too, so I'd be sure to know someone there. It was a good chance to do some networking (which I did), but probably is why I'm in a bit of an anti-social mood today. This introvert can be out there only so much.

Day off

April 11th, 2019 at 03:24 pm

I have been pushing very hard non-stop for the past few weeks (other than taking last weekend off and spending much of it in bed because I felt like I was coming down with a cold; fortunately the extra rest has seemed to forestall that illness, knock on wood!). So today and tomorrow, with both of the major lead advisors that I report to out of town, I decided to take some personal time off.

I was working until 10 pm last night finishing a tax estimate that one advisor had promised to a client, and with that behind me, I was able to take off with a free conscience.

First on the docket was an annual doctor's exam. I hadn't known when I scheduled it a year ago that I would be taking the day off, but that worked out nicely.

Then I went out to breakfast and then over to the local mall to do a little bit of clothes shopping because I have been feeling the need for a bit of a wardrobe update. Picked up 3 pieces priced at over $300 for about $195 that will be good office wear.

Then I went to one of our local banks. I had received a postcard from them promising a bonus $50 for establishing a new checking account with at least $1,000 that stays in the account for at least a week. This particular local bank has an excellent reputation for service and a commitment to stay local, so I've been meaning to establish a relationship with them for a while. Checking is free for life with no monthly maintenance fees and their rates are competitive. At the moment, all of my other banking relationships are with Wells Fargo, whose reputation I have been dissatisfied with (although personally, things have been fine). What I would like to do once my schedule calms down is to transfer my main relationships over to this bank--set up direct deposit for the paycheck, establish a savings account as well, and then move the mortgage and HELOC (balance $0) and safety deposit box over as well. They have a long-running special that does a refinance with closing costs of $525. They promise not to sell your mortgage. My current mortgage is a 20-year (in year 9) at 4% and I could refinance to a 10-year (cuts one year off) at 3.625%. I will probably do that in another month or so. The only pain will be that they don't handle the escrowing of the tax and homeowner's insurance bills, which I'll have to handle myself anyways after to mortgage is paid off. (I'm still feeling good that it will be paid off by December 2025 at the 20-year mark.) I'll probably keep at least one small checking and savings account open at Wells Fargo as well, just because Wells Fargo has a branch just down the block from where I work and they also have lots of branches in Los Angeles, where I am from and where I still visit occasionally.

Those few things were the main accomplishments of the day. I also handled a couple of emails at work and listened to an online professional educational webinar for an hour.

Tomorrow I need to make a dentist appointment because I broke a small piece off a tooth last night--it's not painful but the sharp edges are annoying. Then I need to finish my own taxes--I drafted them back in February in order to figure out my IRA contribution, but now I need to dot all the i's and cross all the t's and submit.

Then I'll work on getting a bit more organized at home--there are too many piles of paper on the dining room table, on the desk, on the coffee table, and on the dog crate, and I need to toss some and file the rest. Being able to see the tabletops will make me feel more relaxed here at home and I'll buy some flowers to put in a vase on the dining room table when it is clear again (which it has not been since Thanksgiving).

I'll also be working on my next CFP class over the weekend and I'd like to take a drive out to a coffee shop I like that sits on the banks of the Delaware. I visited there at least monthly over the summer but haven't been back since September. This is just a weekend to catch my breath and recapture some sense of spaciousness or margin in my life than a weekend where I will really "do" anything. Just getting a chance to spend some more time reading will be a pleasure.

I'm supposed to be attending an orchestra rehearsal in an hour. I should go since I have slacked off during tax season but part of me wants no more commitments today. Whether or not I go, I'll end the day by watching one or two episodes of "Boston Legal." I was delighted to find that it is once again free to wach on Amazon Prime, after having been available only with a charge previously. This was one of my favorite series so I am enjoying re-watching it. I like James Spader and it is nice to see him in his prime. He seems to have aged a lot lately. He's about my age so seeing recent pictures of him makes me feel my own age more acutely. I'd like to think I am aging better than he is! But then, so much of our first impression of faces is about the hair and he has gone semi-bald recently. This is one reason I find it worthwhile to pay to have my hair colored! I grew up believing in substance over form and that image didn't matter so much, but while I still believe strongly in substance, the real world and my education taught me that appearances matter a lot, too!


Milestone Redeux

April 4th, 2019 at 04:55 pm

My retirement savings first hit half a million back around my birthday in August--stayed there for a few weeks but then dropped below by October. Today was the first time that I've logged on that my total is above that benchmark again.

Debt after early April payments is down to 82.5k total.

Heading into Q2

March 31st, 2019 at 03:56 pm

Q1 wrapup:

Debt down 8.3k since 12/31/18 (the biggest push of the year because of when I get my bonus). I am going to try to manage 1k down in debt per month for the rest of the year. Since I'm now at roughly 83k total, that would bring me to 74k at year end. (By the way, the January numbers that I post in my sidebar are the numbers AFTER getting and applying my annual bonus to the debt. Timing of our bonus payout will change next year to March.)

If you look at my side-bar, ALL of these numbers are the lowest I've posted since starting to blog here in 2006, so that feels good. If I make it to 600k net worth and 10% (60k) total debt (which would be mostly mortgage) by the time I am 60, that will be a good place to build on for my last decade of work (I am planning to retire at 70, but hope to spend the last five years working part rather than full-time and want to be financially prepared to be able to retire before then if necessary. The "need" could be either job loss (but as long as I'm healthy, I feel confident that I'll at least be able to add to my income by working tax season) or health (in which case I would expect my longevity and financial need to be lower, and I have multiple disability insurance policies and long-term care insurance in that case).

I finished one of the 3 classes I am trying to complete this year so am on track to complete 3 by 9/30, when my online course access expires. Just two more classes and then the big exam next March stand between me and the goal I set for myself way back in 2004 to become a certified financial planner. I have been *working* as a financial planner since the end of 2014,u but I'm an employee of a firm, in essence, a sub-advisor. Getting certified would give me the ability to go out on my own, not that I have any desire to do so, as I am approaching 60. If I'd made the career change at 40, that would have been a possibility, but at 58 1/2, I'm perfectly content to be an employee for my entire career!

Still, certifications and the "stamp of approval," as well as making sure that my knowledge base is reasonably complete for the job I do is important to me. I've certainly learned a lot in this coursework about things such as educational funding, insurance, estate planning, and the various types of retirement plans that are out there and which type of plan is suitable for which business concerns.

The last "substantive" course that I start tomorrow is Investments, and then Q3, I will take the Capstone course which reviews and applies all the previous course content to case studies. I took a couple of finance classes as electives back when I was studying accounting, but it's been more than a decade and all of those equations look a bit intimidating now! Hopefully, they will come back quickly.

So, after being a veritable slug this winter. I am making movement and exercise a priority this spring. In fact, ever since I started my current job, my exercise goals have taken a low priority, in part because of the Hashimoto's related fatigue. In 2017, I was so exhausted, all I did was work and sleep. I spent 6 months going to a functional medicine practitioner and I have been somewhat less fatigued since then by taking the supplements he recommended, but I still have 2-4 days a month where going home, feeding the cats, and crawling into bed at 6:30 or 7 pm is all I can do. Confounded with all of this is that I went through menopause during the same time frame.

Back the end of last year, I was diagnosed with a thyroid nodule (common for people with Hashi's) and a biopsy led to an indeterminate diagnosis, but the recommendation was to have half of my thyroid removed just because of the size of the nodule because of the risk of cancer. But only 5% of the thyroid nodules that are removed prove to be cancerous--this is one of those areas of overdiagnosis.

I opted back in January after consulting with the surgeon to take a "watch and wait" strategy instead and have myself re-assessed every six months. If it IS cancerous, it is most likely to be a slow-growing cancer, and I am not in a rush to remove an organ that affects every other cell in my body. The doctors blithely asset that you just take Synthroid and you'll be fine, and while that IS true of the majority, I did some digging in the research literature, and 18% who have a thyroidectomy or lobectomy never really feel the same again, and that is not a risk I am willing to take at the moment. If the nodule grows or I start feeling the effects of it (hoarseness or trouble swallowing), I would go ahead with the surgery, but I resolved back in January to have this risk serve as a motivator to take even better care of myself. With the busyness of tax season and the cold weather, that has been difficult, but I'm making it more of a priority for Q3, especially as I have my 6-month followup on June 24.

As a matter of synchronicity, a gym about a mile from home had a $1 joining fee special this weekend. I'd actually belonged to this gym before, but that was when their membership was $50 a month and included everything--towel service, classes, etc. Since I left, they've come up with a multi-tier membership model. All I really need is access to their equipment and the chance to be in an environment where "the thing to do" is to exercise. To join and just be able to use their equipment (and the sauna) will cost me just $15 a month, much more reasonable.

Even though I have a good deal of fitness equipment at home, I don't tend to use it very much. I work out at home more than I would without the equipment, but certainly not on a regular basis. One of my friends is a member at this gym and works out there, and another pair of acquaintances regularly use the gym at around 7:30 in the morning, so just the incentive of possibly seeing people I know and having a chance to chat should motivate me to go. And at least once I get out of the house and away from my book and coffee cup, it will be easier to work out.

I still think I'll spend about 6 weeks this spring or summer working out with a personal trainer to improve my form while doing exercises, but I'll figure that out in May. Right now my goal is just to build a base of regular movement and to work on mobility so that I don't end up in PT again. I have a DailyOm course that I bought to guide me with mobility exercises, and for right now, I'll focus on doing regular cardio and using the machines for strength. Later on, I'll ramp up the strength training with a personal trainer and eventually, once I'm moving regularly, I'll work on ramping up the intensity by adding some metabolic training. My mistake in the past, which has landed me in PT a couple of times, is to take metabolic training classes before my body has been ready for it.

I'm also kind of targeting walking a half marathon as a goal. I've walked two in the past, but that was back about 15 years ago. I'm lucky enough to live on the route for the Runner's World half-marathon, which is one of those I walked previously. These days they no longer allow walkers (and the registration fee is now $87!) but I have the route already mapped out for me. There's also a local women's only running group that has two 13-week sessions a year, each culminating with a 5-k race. The spring session just started and will culminate in a race on June 5. Then the summer/fall session starts on July 30 and culminates in a race on Oct 5, so my goal for the moment is to get myself into shape to START the "couch to 5k" type training the end of July, try to jog the 5k on October 5 and be able to walk the half marathon route on October 19th (the day before the actual race). Then it will be the busy season again and the CFP exam final preparation will be looming, but as long as I can build up some fitness now and at least do some basic maintenance from next October through next March (when I'll finally take the CFP exam), then when I get back to focusing on fitness again a year from now post-exam, hopefully I'll be starting off at a higher level then than I am now after two years of slug-dom!

Gradual goal progress

March 24th, 2019 at 01:59 pm

1. Total debt balance is just under 83k (82,997) as of today. After the 3/31 paycheck hits, I'll get close to 82k with additional debt payments. I'm feeling confident about getting down to 75k total the end of the year, possibly even down to 72k, depending on whether or not there are big expenses with house/car/cats or just routine maintenance. Much better than the nearly 90k that I started 2018 with.

2. I finished another one of my online CFP courses today! Just two more to go, one per quarter, and then I'll start the CFP review process. I expect to be taking the exam a year from now, which will wrap up for now the process of getting financial certifications (CPA exam finished in 2010, Enrolled Agent 2013, then CFP hopefully in 2020). I started my career change path in 2004 so that will be 16 years of pretty continuously being enrolled in SOME kind of course. After that, I'll just do my annual professional education and will try to branch out and do more hobbies and business development/networking kinds of activities.

3. On the subject of networking, I was invited to join the Finance Committee of our city's public library. It's been hinted to me that I could later be invited to become a full-fledged Board of Directors member as a result of this service.

4. This next week is another super-busy week, with five client meetings, but I am delighted to see no more than two meetings per week so far scheduled on my calendar for April. That could change, but it looks like we are moving from the extra-busy time of year to the "business as usual" time of year, which is much less stressful. I'm planning a long weekend in mid-April to focus on doing some spring cleaning, as I noted this week that the last time I saw the actual top of my dining room table was around Thanksgiving!

5. I went out last night with two friends to dinner and a movie ("Gloria Bell"), the first time I've done anything sociable since February 15.

6. I walked to the office today and now that the weather is changing, hope to start walking more regularly. It was nice to see the snowdrops, crocuses, and even a few daffodils in bloom already. Ramping up the exercise and working with a physical trainer for 4-6 weeks to master some exercises is a Q2 goal, but now thru April is just for getting my blood pumping and myself moving much more regularly than I have been. I've only had 10 10,000 step days so far this year, and I'd like to get that number to about 40 by the end of April--in other words, work a lot harder on getting there almost every day.

Busy, busy

March 12th, 2019 at 07:31 pm

This is certainly busy season for CPAs, and even though I'm no longer doing tax prep, it's busy season for me as well as I'm still in an affiliated industry (I work for a Registered Investment Advisor as a financial planner). So right now there are a lot of tax questions to answer for clients as well as making sure that each client's tax preparer has the information needed to do the returns. That layer of work lies on top of the ordinary work of preparing to meet with clients.

The client meetings side of things for me depends a lot on my boss's schedule. I have 3 advisors I work for, two of whom who are housed in the same office as me, and the third who generally comes into town for about 3 days each month. When that advisor is in town, that just means more meetings on top of the meetings scheduled by the home office. With that advisor in town twice in March and then at the end of February, that means I'm having more overly busy weeks in close proximity.

I did take a day off on Friday, after having two jam-packed weeks in a row, but I used the day (the whole weekend, actually) to work on my current CFP course. I'm 75% of the way through that one and am trying to finish it by the 24th.

Both of the major advisors are off at the same time in early April; I may take those two days off as well to take some real R&R time.

I'm optimistic that I will actually complete the CFP coursework this year, after having started it back the beginning of 2016. I changed jobs that year, so I only completed one course (the intro course) in 2016. Then in 2017, I was learning how my new firm worked, so I only managed one course that year as well (taxation). In 2018, I completed the two courses where I had the least amount of knowledge going in (insurance and estate planning). This year, I'm 75% done with retirement, will take the investments course Q2, and the capstone Q3. I have a financial incentive to keep with this schedule as my course access expires 9/30! THen Q4 this year and Q1 I'll be doing a review course, and I'll be taking the exam a year from now. After that, I'll look forward to having more different types of opportunities come back into my life after having worked to earn 3 designations in just over a decade.

I had my quarterly review today and discussed this with my supervisor. I also had a chance to mention the unreimbursed business expenses again, and I'm hopeful after today's discussion that I'll finally get some of those covered, which will help with cutting down on the debt.

I've been enjoying the later sunsets and slightly warmer weather, but my sleep schedule hasn't yet adjusted to the time change. I'm hoping tomorrow to get up early enough to be able to walk to work, after having intended but failed to do so the past two days.