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Hump Day

February 27th, 2024 at 06:40 pm

"Hump day" usually refers to Wednesday as the middle of the week, but for me, it was yesterday, which was probably one of the busiest days I will have at work all year.

At the beginning of the year, we get a bunch of what I refer to as "administratrivia" tasks to do--preparing tax letters for clients, in which we tell them which tax forms to expect based on the assets they have under management, and reminding them of tax-related transactions that might not be reflected fully on the documents, such as making a Qualified Charitable Donation (QCD).  That additional work (at least 20 extra hours in total) comes on top of more meetings than usual being scheduled.  Plus our marketing team reached out to me to do my annual blog post for our firm's website, and then one of my co-workers came to me and asked me to switch places with her and do a presentation at our monthly financial planning roundtablem since she was supposed to present but was overwhelmed with her workload and she knew I'd just written this blog post.

So yesterday was super-busy, but my annual marketing piece for the firm is done and my annual presentation at our roundtable is also done.

Plus yesterday was the day when we were given information about our annual bonus and salary increase.  The bonus was about 15% and the salary increase was about 5%, and both will help my overall net worth--I'm expecting that it will hit a new milestone either after this paycheck or else sometime this coming month.

Attention Savings Advice webmaster

February 16th, 2024 at 01:56 pm

The usual login page I use, https://www.savingadvice.com/login/, is giving me a 404 error.

I was able to login by using the link on the Forums page, but both the direct login link and the link that comes up when I am not logged in and try to reply to another blogger are not working today.

2023 Wrap-Up and 2024 Goals

December 31st, 2023 at 01:32 am

2023 was a quiet year.  The most notable happening in my life was losing my beloved Buffy cat.  Other than that, I took two long-weekend B&B trips and had my usual once-a-year visitor.  No other traveling, even though with Buffy gone, I have more freedom to travel. 

2023 Goals & Results

1.GOAL:  Health: Maintain/improve on health gains from 2021-2022. 150-300 "zone minutes" per week.  Maybe run a 5k?

Results:  I DID run that 5k!  I achieved the goal of 300 "zone" minutes for 16 weeks during the year, and over 150 minutes for 36 weeks.  While there was some up and down in weight, I end the year within 3 pounds of where I began it.

GOAL: 2. Wealth:  Continue to save, and to pay down total debt to 60k by January 2024.  

Results:  Wealth accumulation was a success--I did add savings, through my retirement plans, and my total assets are about 120k more than they were a year ago.  My gross estate (including life insurance) surpassed a million, so I suspect that my total assets excluding the insurance will pass that in 2024.  Debt-reduction, on the other hand, was a near total miss, down only $3,200.  Buffy got lymphoma in March and I did not have pet insurance, and I took on some debt to try to save her, since the research indicated that it was not unreasonable to expect the chemo protocol to add many months to her life.  But she only survived 2.5 months post-diagnosis.  I'll aim for that 60k total debt by the end of 2024.  

GOAL 3. Systems, habits, and routines:  Improve workflow to get tasks completed earlier. At home, DAILY and weekly routines including 4 hours a week decluttering.  Bring in some professional help to really make progress this year!

Results:  Nope.  I did follow a program for about 3 months and made some temporary progress, but nothing lasting. Well, the SYSTEMS I set up are good, and lasting but I didn't keep up with the routine maintenance that is needed to keep the clutter from accumulating.  I need to build that in as a weekly and monthly practice.  (For me, most of the clutter is paper, and this means recycling or filing papers WEEKLY or MONTHLY and not just when the piles are so high that they cover my dining room table and desk.)

2024 Goals--basically same, just moving the needle a bit. 

The Health goal is "net negative" on weight--end each month lighter than I started it.  If I can lose half a pound on average per week, that's 25 pounds during the year and at my goal in two years.  But 25 pounds from where I am now would be a signficant improvement from where I am now and is actually what the average woman of my age and height weighs.  

Also, now that I've done the 5k, my goal for 2024 is to keep it up.  I found a group on Facebook that hosts "virtual" 5ks from May through January.  You *really* run the race, at a place of your choosing, and during a 3-hour time window.  You connect your GPS-enabled smart watch to the site to report distance and time, and they send you a medal for finishing.  I could care less about the medal but am willing to pay the race fee for the extra incentive.  I'm signed up for my first virtual 5k with this group next Saturday.  My intention is to do the monthly races virtually all year, and run enough during the interim that running a 5k once a month is just part of training.  I'll probably do two 1.5 mile runs during the week and a 3 mile run on the weekends (3.1 miles is a 5k), and maybe more once we get to next fall.

Then I want to run the "live" Turkey Trot again in 2024 (the race that I ran this year), and hope to boost my performance.  My time for 2023 was 1:03:31 (very slow, but I wasn't last, I was 17th out of 19 for women over 60) and in 2024, I'll hope to break an hour.

Also I'm hoping to do more regular resistance training during the year.  There are a limited number of basic movements (Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Rotate) and I found a book called "The Simple Six" that lays out some exercises and recommends a routine every weekday of doing 1 set of 10 of each of 5 basic exercises (the 6th is walking), and each day, adding 4 additional sets of one of the exercises.  I've found that I can do this in less than 10 minutes after I've had a couple of cups of coffee.  I've also been reading up on "Micro Workouts" and found that there is research to substantiate this as a way of adding muscle.  The gym and working with a personal trainer is definitely more intense (but also takes more time and $$). aybe I'll go back to that over the summer, but the "microworkouts" is a good way to get started and to maintain during the busy times of year.

Also, I want to take advantage of the fact that I live near an LL Bean outlet that has a "Discovery School," and I want to take some kayaking lessons and maybe even try stand-up paddle-board next summer.

My debt goal is the same as last year--bringing me ever closer to Financial Independence.  And I DO plan to declutter significantly next year, but I'm not going to expect myself to do a regular 4 hours a week.  It's going to be more irregular than that.

I'm planning to hold off on adopting another cat (or two) until I make some progress on the decluttering, so there's the incentive.  And I'm most likely to get decluttering done during LONG weekends, especially when there's more light during the day.  Daily decluttering is not going to work for me; I need to focus on trying to do some filing each weekend (on top of the grocery shopping and laundry that I do) and some decluttering of some small area each month.  I'm going to try to make sure that I have at least one 3-day weekend a month in my schedule in order to keep up with my filing. So I'm planning to hire some help to clear out the other clutter areas that are a problem (one room in particular which once upon a time was a guest bedroom and now is just a MESS).  The piles in that room are currently dangerously high and unstable for a kitty who might try to climb them. I REALLY would like to have new kitties by sometime next spring!

Belated Thanksgiving Day weekend post

December 3rd, 2023 at 08:54 pm

So I accomplished one of my 2023 goals last weekend.  I completed the town's Turkey Trot 5k!  And I wasn't even last.  There were about 550 runners, and I was 3rd from last.  All 3 of the last in were women over 60 and I was 17/19 in that sub-group.

I'm taking my running back indoors for the winter but I'll probably aim to run 3 5ks next year.

Otherwise I spent a few hours of Thanksgiving Day with a friend's family.  It's nice not having to think about where to go (I have a standing invitation to Thanksgiving at her house), but I also felt as though I would have been fine on my own for the day.  

When I was in my 20s and on my own for Thanksgiving for the first time (I was in Michigan in grad school and my family was in Los Angeles and it didn't really make sense to go home just for the weekend, especially so near the end of the semester), finding a place to spend Thanksgiving was a big issue, and it was something that I worried about well into midlife.  But these days, I actually feel as though so much of my free time is taken up by thinking about things relevant to work and that I'd rather have some truly free time to myself rather than fulfill a social obligation.

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

Other news:  I still haven't made any additional progress in decluttering since my friend's visit in August--and, predictably, the dining room table is a mess again.

In particular, the "cat room" (storage room/someday guest bedroom/study/workout space) is a mess.

Meanwhile my best friend in town, who has been retired for over 15 years, has been feeding feral cats around her house.  One of those moved indoors a couple of years ago.  Another lives in a heated bed she keeps on her porch.  Both are females.  The indoor one is friendly and the outdoor one is not.

Then there is a young male who is very affectionate who has now moved into her cellar, who she refers to as "your (i.e., MY) next cat."  He seems interested in meeting her indoor kitty, which is a good sign.  Meanwhile it is my busy time of year and I don't have time to clear things out or organize!  My schedule is light the last two weeks of the year--maybe then?

I'm also still paying off Buffy's final expenses, and I had intended to adopt two kitties together so they could keep each other company because I do spend lots of time at work--especialy this time of year.  My heart is ready for more pets but the house isn't.  Unsure what I'm going to do.

 

 

Labor Day weekend

September 4th, 2023 at 10:41 pm

It's been a quiet Labor Day weekend, the centerpiece of which was taking a ride (my fourth of the season, actually) on a mule-pulled canal boat at the National Canal Museum.  I *was* thinking of going kayaking but the hot forecast deterred me.  I might try to do that kayak trip (through LL Bean) later this month. 

I also started Phase 2 of my decluttering project.  Phase 1 occurred during July, when I cleared the surfaces in the living areas in my house.  So far (knock on wood!) I have maintained the clear surfaces.

However, during Phase 1, I moved even more STUFF into the "storage room," a/k/a guest bedroom/study/exercise room, and there is now just barely a path through the room.

So Phase 2 is actually beginning to get STUFF *out* of the house.  So far, about 10 bags of clothing and shoes are gone.  I'm going to see how much else I can get rid of during the next month and may end by hiring one of those "1-800-Got-Junk" services to haul some stuff away.  My goal for the moment is to get that room "cat-safe" (get rid of the too many piles and hiding places) so that I can adopt another pair of kitties sometime this fall.

My work schedule has been crazy-busy in August and is again in September.  November and December and January promise the same, or worse.  So either I adopt kitties in October or I wait until the spring, since I do want to be able to spend more time at home with them early on.

I usually do have the option of working from home but it's harder when my schedule is busier.

I also need to get my health program back in gear; it took a stumble in July and August.  I just need to get back to it.  With the start of the school year and the Jewish New Year almost upon us, I need to take advantage of "Fresh Start Effect" motivation.

Appliance shopping

July 30th, 2023 at 09:02 pm

My refrigerator chose to die on the hottest day of the year.

Actually, it IS repairable, but would cost more than a thousand to repair, so I was advised to go shopping instead.

And I can't really complain--the machine is 29 years old!  (The previous homeowner left me all the manuals for appliances and things she'd purchased that stayed with the house.)

In the meantime, it's actually not 100% dead yet, just dying, and a purchase of two big bags of ice from the convenience store plus the refrigerator's insulation seems to be keeping things cool enough that I'm not worried.

Delivery of the new machine is Thursday morning--just in time for my annual houseguest, who arrives on Saturday.

I also thought about replacing the range at the same time.  

The range actually died two years ago (it works, but I smelled gas, so I had the neighbor turn off the gas and haven't used it since.)  I do most of my cooking with my instant pot and air fryer anyhow, so it wasn't a major loss.  Plus I have a countertop kettle for boiling water.  That has sufficed.

The advantage of replacing the range now is that they are probably going to have to remove doors to get the fridge in.  My house was built in 1915 and the entry to the living room is through a 29-inch doorway (with an antique French door).

The disadvantage is the additional cost right now, plus I'm still a little iffy on whether I want to replace the old gas range with a new gas range or if I want to convert to electric or induction.  It's cheaper to just replace gas with gas.  I anticipate remaining in the house for another 7 to 10 years.  If I thought I would live here for longer, my preference would be to switch to induction, even though that's pricey.

Right now the plan is to wait until January (when there are likely to be sales) and buy a new range then.  Maybe a dryer too.  At that point, I will have replaced every major appliance except the furnace.  I don't want to wait too long to replace the range since I think that gas is going out of style, so I don't want to wait until it becomes hard.  And in the interim, I'll think about whether I might want to convert to electric or induction.

Two minor $$ wins

July 1st, 2023 at 11:45 pm

Got two long-outstanding "to dos" done today:

1.  Canceled a magazine subscription that had automatically renewed for a refund.  I like the magazine but have no time to read it.

2. Called my internet service provider (which was also my cable company back when I had cable TV, which I haven't since 2008).  Every year they yank up the price--but if you call them and request a promotional rate, they'll give it to you.  My promo rate had gone from $47 to $65 a few months ago (plus the assorted fees and taxes) and I had been too busy to call.  But I saw the payment go out of my account today and that was the prompt to call them.  Got the base rate back down to $30 for now!

Mid-Year Assessment and Re-Boot; also Belated Blogoversary

July 1st, 2023 at 08:15 pm

Well, this year got knocked off track by Buffy's illness and passing :^(.  Still feeling like the wind was knocked out of my sails.  This next month is the lightest of the year at work and I have already arranged to take every Friday off, and hopefully I will both be able to make some progress on personal goals and get some R&R.

With regard to my 2023 Goals:

Health:  Well, I lost weight from Buffy's diagnosis to passing, then gained it back.  I'm currently at about 1 pound down from the beginning of the year.  Exercise was going well until Buffy's passing and even for a bit after, but the combination of my overall sense of exhaustion after the stress of Buffy's illness with the record number of poor air quality days has put a dent into things recently.  Working with the personal trainer twice a week, which I did from September until Buffy's diagnosis in March, was very helpful, but I'm still paying down the debt from Buffy's illness.  I'm planning to get back to my regular "slogging" (very slow jogging) and join a nearby gym to work out on machines a couple of times a week just so that my muscles don't go to complete mush, then I'll go back to working out with the trainer again in the fall. 

North Star goals:I tend to organize my life by major goals.  Ever since 2009, the year that I left academia, (and my last long-term romantic relationship ended, and my mother and Henry the Pricey and Priceless Basset Hound were diagnosed with their terminal illnesses), the goal that served as my North Star was becoming a financial planner.  Well, I've been one for nearly a decade now, putting the cap on that achievement with my official CFP certification 2 years ago this week.  Then I turned to restoring my health as the major goal.  Even though I gained a little weight back recently, I'm still down about 30 pounds from 2 years ago and even with the exercise slow-down, I can jog a mile and still do so a couple of times a week at least.  I certainly need to continue on the health improvement path, but I've got some decent habits generally in place, and what's come in to view recently is planning for retirement as the next "North Star" goal to organize my long-term planning from now (about 7 weeks shy of 63) until age 70.  And what *that* means is trying to focus more on finding a place to live in retirement (in my area; I don't plan to move away from here), getting ready to move, and focusing more on relationships and hobbies (as well as my health) so that I have built something to retire TO, not just to retire FROM.  I'm a creature of habit, with my identity very (too much) tied to my work, so this too will be a long, slow process.  [I just noticed that my 17-year Blogoversary was a bit over a week ago; any of you who have been with me since that 2006 time frame when a lot of us seem to have started here can see that transition in real time in my blog.]

Systems, habits, & routines:  This is where I've gotten off track recently.  My performance at work had improved before Buffy's illness, then slowed down again.  But right now I have NO CLIENT MEETINGS scheduled for July, so it's my chance to catch up and get ahead.  Although not much is on the calendar yet, it looks like August could end up being super-busy with as many as 16 meetings on the administrative assistant's "to schedule" list.  Typically, I have 8-12 a month.  Plus, we just adopted new tax-planning software at work, which I am trying to master ahead of everyone else since as the only CPA in the financial planner role in my firm, people look to me for support.

My big goal for July is to make some significant progress on decluttering my house.  I have a houseguest arriving 5 weeks from today.  Every year when she comes, I manage to get the surfaces cleaned off, so that the place is reasonably presentable.  But every year the piles in my various storage spaces in the house just end up expanding.  This year, I want to actually GET SOME OF THE EXCESS OUT of the house, rather than merely re-arranging it.  Wish me luck!

My incentive for this:  I'm not allowing myself to get another cat until I make some progress.  Hopefully I can make decent progress during the next month, then adopt two new cats (my plan is to adopt a bonded pair of young adult cats) sometime this fall.

In the meantime, I probably spend several hours a week watching cat videos and missing my Buffy.

Hit a net worth milestone this week & A Weekend Get-Away

June 11th, 2023 at 09:50 pm

My net worth hit a new milestone (increment of 100k) this week.  What with 2022's down market, it took a couple of years to get there.  In a good market year like 2021, it currently takes just about a year to increase my net worth by 100k.

Debt is currently a bit higher due to Buffy's 3-month battle with cancer.  I reshufffled around some of the debts this weekend and still expect to be able to reach my year-end goal barring (knock on wood) any big surprises.

One pleasant surprise was that I brought my car in for a repair 2 weeks ago, which I anticipated would cost me about $300, and it turned out to be covered under warranty.  So I only had to pay for the oil change and tire rotation.

After getting my car fixed, I spent last weekend (Friday afternoon through Sunday morning) at a bed & breakfast that I like that sits along the Delaware River.  It sits on "Scenic Drive," and there is a restaurant about half a mile away along the same road.  There are also two small museums, the Zane Grey Museum and an exhibit about the Roebling Bridge, which was in some ways a prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge, which is also along this road.  Scenic Drive is about a mile or so long, and at one end there is Veteran's Park, which has a jogging loop.  So I walked and jogged, visited the two small museums, and did a lot of porch sitting (or sitting inside the dining room at a table with a view of the river when it was too cold to sit outside).  I had dinner both nights at the nearby restaurant, and the B&B had a microwave and mini-fridge available for guests, so lunchs were freeze-dried reconstituted meals and fruit.  This was a lovely period of decompression after the stress of the past few months, but I could use longer!

Then the middle of this week was marred by the horrid smoke-filled skies from the fires in Canada.  For about two hours on Wednesday, my town had the questionable distinction of having the worst air in the country.  I monitored airnow.gov until we temporarily got back to "good" air; now we are back to "moderate."  Living in a valley, our area tends to collect smoke and allergens.  I also ordered two new air purifiers, one for each story of my house.  I figure bad weather events are just going to get more common in the future, and with my asthma, my lungs are a weak spot.

I've started on my decluttering project.  At the beginning of the year, I had stated this as one of my goals for the year, but Buffy's illness put that on hold.  This weekend I started by taking two big tote bags of cat food and two cat carriers (the ones that Buffy and Bridget arrived in in 2016) over to one of the local shelters to donate.  I'm really going to try to focus on getting things cleared out over the next two months.  I know that I'll only make limited progress, but hopefully I'll do more than the usual mere clearing off of surfaces and actually get some of the excess out of the house this year.  The last time I took any photos of my house was in 2016, when my old college boyfriend stopped by for a visit.  That was just before I started my current job, which has kept me busier than my last one, and the clutter has increased since then.  This is my year to get things back to where I feel like I can have visitors again.

Heartbroken

May 21st, 2023 at 05:19 pm

I lost my beloved Buffy on Mother's Day.   I took her to the emergency vet on Saturday morning for an issue which resolved itself while she was there, but they said, "while she's here, why don't we just do an x-ray and see if anything we don't know about is going on?"  and they gave her a pain shot.  

It was more intervention than she could tolerate and she was not the same cat when she got home.  I waited 24 hours in case she improved--sometimes before after pain meds or being hospitalized, it took her 18 hours or so to get back to herself--but not only was she not herself, but she was hunching over (a sign of a cat in pain) and occasionally putting herself in her carrier to hide (a new behavior).  She did drag herself out to the porch to lie in the sun for a while and I did get a few minutes of purring from her when I was lying by her side, but it seemed kinder to put an end to what was clearly suboptimal experience and the sooner the better.  I tried to schedule an at-home euthanasia but the earliest I could get was Tuesday, and I didn't want to wait.

I have now been pet-less for a week, which is the longest period in 29 years.  My head's intent is to adopt another two cats later this year, towards year-end, but who knows what my heart will end up doing?  I'm still kind of numb and in shock and grieving profoundly.  I have loved all of my pets, but there are some who touch you more deeply.  A decade ago, Henry was my heart hound, and Buffy was my heart kitty for the past 9+ years.

Quick Kitty update

April 13th, 2023 at 07:01 pm

My Buffy was diagnosed with lymphoma on March 9th.  She started chemotherapy on March 17th.  She had her fourth treatment this past Tuesday.  According to the vet, it is typically the fourth treatment that puts them into remission.

We will see if she is in remission on April 25th and determine how to proceed based on that morning's ultrasound results.  Either the chemotherapy will continue for another 3 months, but at increasingly spaced intervals, or the vet will determine that she is not responding and we decide how to keep her comfortable for the longest possible period (which would only be another 1-2 months at most).

The third chemo dose was particularly hard on her, but I learned some tricks after that--like making sure I have an anti-nausea drug and an appetite stimulant on hand, requesting subcutaneous fluids to be administered at home to make sure she is hydrated, adding Prednisolone and Denamarin (which contains milk thistle and helps the liver clear toxins).  She will have that same drug on the 25th if we decide to proceed, but hopefully it will be managed better, plus I will know what to expect.

And if the results are not what I hope, I am steeling myself to not keep her around too long, just as long as her life seems to have quality most of the time.  I've learned that one day of not eating might be followed by a good eating day, so I won't pull the trigger too early, either.

Photo from a couple of years ago:

My kitty has lymphoma

March 10th, 2023 at 11:16 pm

Buffy, my kitty who turns 18 on the 30th, was diagnosed with lymphoma yesterday.

The two veterinary oncologists at my local clinic are booked out for the next 6 weeks so we have a consult with a veterinary oncologist next Friday at a clinic 70 miles away.  (This will incidentally be the furthest I have driven since before the pandemic.  I kinda stopped driving distances back then.)

I believe that the chemo can be administered locally.  

It's intestinal lymphoma and I think it's the large cell variety, which has the better prognosis.  I'm praying that we are just dealing with a 3-month course of chemo and then remission (although they never say that kitty lymphoma is cured).  Some varieties of cat lymphoma have a 2-3 year prognosis with chemo, and that is about how long I would expect her to live anyways.

She is my miracle kitty who was expected to die back in 2019 when she was hospitalized for 10 days.  She's been consulting the internal medicine specialist quarterly since then, so we caught this relatively early.  She did not have enlarged lymph nodes at her last check on 12/5.  Also her bloodwork is normal except for somewhat elevated neutraphils.

Yesterday when I went to pick her up, there was a Basset Hound named Albert in the waiting room.  Bassets are my "spirit animal" and seeing one felt like a good luck charm to me.  I pray it is.

I know that she doesn't have a long life span remaining in any case, but I've been walking around with a hard knot in the pit of my stomach since hearing the news yesterday.  If her lymphoma turns out to be more agressive, she could be gone in 4 to 8 weeks.  So I'm praying for longer with her than that.

February update

February 28th, 2023 at 11:19 pm

My company pays our year-end bonus for the prior year in the second paycheck of February--if we get a year-end bonus.  Bonuses are company-wide and based on whether the company met its profit-margin goal.  Most years, but not every year, we get a bonus, and the bonus is the same (in terms of % of salary) for everyone.

The 2022 bonus was 15% of 2022 pay.  I'm using the extra to pay down some debt.  I'm still in process of that, since some payments hit my accounts automatically this coming week. Even with what I paid out today, my debts are now the lowest they have been since I began tracking back in 2006, when my debt was my mortgage plus 5k on credit cards.  My total debt is down about 15k since the end of 2021.

I also got a merit increase, which will show up in my next check, of 6%, which was at the top end of pay raises given.

For the moment, I'll use the extra to either pay down debt or build up cash savings rather than contributing more to my retirement account.  I'm currently contributing 20% of my pay to my retirement, 10% to the traditional/tax-deferred option and 10% to the Roth option.  The dollar amount will increase because my pay is increasing.

I'm still not ready to declare myself "financially independent," but it's a step in the right direction.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2023 at 11:18 pm

Time for a fresh start!

I've updated my goals in my sidebar for 2023.

Here are results for 2022 and thoughts for 2023:

Health:  I lost weight during the first 3 quarters of the year but regained 8 pounds during the last quarter, so need to lose that again.  I was pretty consistent with activity and came just shy of my goal of 4 miles on average per day (based on total step count), for an average of 3.89 miles daily and 1,422 miles for the year.  I'm aiming for 1,500 miles in 2023, just a slight increase.  However, one of 2022's gains was that I started jogging, so I'm focusing more on intensity rather than just distance.  I want to continue the jogging and might try a 5k this fall.  I also started working out twice a week with a personal trainer back in September and that has also helped improve my fitness.  I'll continue the one on one sessions for at least another quarter and might try moving to a group class later in the year to save $.  But for now, the fact that I'm working myself harder than I would EVER work out on my own WITHOUT injury is enough to keep me with the one on one sessions.

Wealth:  Overall net worth is down about 18k due to the markets.  Debt down about 4k for the year.  I changed my retirement savings strategy slightly:  instead of saving 22% of my salary, with all of the savings going to the regular 401(k), I reduced my savings to 20% of my salary, with 10% going to the traditional 401(k) and 10% going to the Roth option.   Since I expect to be in the 25% tax bracket in retirement, the after-tax effect is a net increase to after-tax retirement savings. I will look at this again once we get our annual salary adjustments, which are announced in February and take effect in March.

Systems, Habits, & Routines  I didn't make much progress here OTHER than in the regular exercise habit, so I'm stepping up the priority for 2023.  I'm spending my break doing some decluttering, which I want to be a bigger focus for 2023.  The goal is to spend 2 hours each weekend day tackling a task--that's over 100 hours during the year. 

Over the holiday, I completely emptied out my freezer, refrigerator, top of the refrigerator, and microwave cart and steam cleaned the refrigerator and microwave before restocking the refrigertor and freezer.  Then tonight I'll be cleaning out my 2021 annual files to make room for 2023.  I bought an accordian file for any 2021 paperwork that I want to keep in archives, such as correspondence received (tax information is stored separately).  (I use the Freedom Filer system (https://www.freedomfiler.com/pages/filing-system-demos) with a 24-month purging cycle.) 

I'm starting by tackling the low-hanging fruit, but I'm also planning to allocate some money and time over the summer to hire help to make some more rapid progress.  Each year, I have a friend who visits over the summer and I take a couple of days off and get the most-used rooms of my house presentable for my guest, but each year, the clutter resurfaces because I'm doing more moving things around rather than moving them OUT.  I have two major storage areas in my house, the spare bedroom and the basement, and I end up just moving more stuff in there rather than moving it out of the house altogether.  This year, I'd like to move stuff OUT of the spare bedroom to make it an actual usable room rather than a storage area.  I have a friend who's living on disability and what she can make from selling things at flea markets when she feels well enough.  In the spring, I will see if she can sell some stuff for me (and she can keep the proceeds for her trouble).  For anything she doesn't think she can sell, it'll be worth it to me to hire one of those services like Dr. Clutter to move stuff out.  For the moment, I'm piling stuff in the basement and then when the weather warms up, I'll actually move it out of the house.

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.

 


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