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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.

YTD progress

March 2nd, 2019 at 01:01 pm

12/31/18
Assets: 606,524
Debts: (91,282)
Net Worth: 515,242

2/28/19
Assets: 631,367
Debts: (84,400)
Net Worth: 546,967

Change
Assets: 24,843 (4.1% increase)
Debts: (6,882) (7.5% decrease)
Net Worth: 31,725 (6.2% increase)

New month

February 3rd, 2019 at 11:19 am

Thank goodness for last month's market recovery--for as long as it lasts. As of 1/31, my retirement funds recovered by about 13k, and, compared to year-end, my debts were down by 7k due to the application of bonus and some of my inherited RMD to debt reduction, for a net increase in net worth of about 20k.

As far as 2019 goals: I did ok at work with 12 meeting preps and getting started again on the CFP coursework, which I last tackled in August. Currently 22% done with the current course, hoping to get to 25% done by the end of today, and hoping to finish it by the end of March. So I'm behind (should really be at 33% done by end of January, but I've made progress nonetheless, and the next two weeks are fairly quiet at work, so hopefully I can catch up to where I should be to finish the class by the end of March.

Exercise has been sporadic due to the cold, but I am currently going thru a short course of PT for a recurrent shoulder issue and found a free Saturday morning Qi Gong class at the library to take, so that at least keeps me mobile. I'll get more active as the weather warms!

Meditation practice has been good, and I signed up for a program funded through my health insurance that provides a health and weight loss coach (kind of like Noom, whose ads seem to be frequent on MSNBC) which also provides me a digital scale. The program I'm using is called Lark. It is supposed to be able to connect with your 23andme data and use that for guidance, but that's the part I still have to figure out. I learned of the program because I have a 23andme account, but so far, I don't see any evidence that the program is making any use of my genetic data in its guidance.

Update

December 1st, 2018 at 04:17 pm

I haven't been here since my birthday this summer, so I thought I'd check in before the year-end updates.

Health: I might be back later this week depending on what I learn at my doctor's appointment on Thursday. I had a biopsy done on my thyroid and will learn the results. (I learned I had a nodule earlier this year, had one biopsy shortly thereafter that gave indeterminate results, so had a second biopsy, so praying it checks out as benign). I guess, having said this much, I'll make sure to post something in either case, either the bad news or the good. In the meantime, I've been trying not to think about it, but this does mean I need to put a lot more focus on my physical health as a goal for 2019. For one thing, I don't have a primary care physician. I had one whom I liked who I had been with for over a decade, and she died the same week that I started my current job, which is now over 2 years ago. I've gone to my ob-gyn annually, and she connected me with the endocrinologist, so I've had basic bloodwork and such. But it's high time to have a physician I trust whom I can turn to to coordinate results from any specialists I might see.

Plus I need to get back on the exercise bandwagon. That's been another thing that I became very inconsistent with after starting my current job. At my last job, I earned about 20% more and had about 20% less work, which gave me the money and the time to belong to a nice gym. Right now I can't afford that, but I do have home equipment and need to get more consistent with using that--plus there's a $25/month gym nearby that isn't too bad, for use of the cardio and weight equipment for some variety. I'll probably see what kind of new year's special they have and join that gym then. In the meantime, I had my neighbor install some wall mounts for resistance bands and am starting to do some exercises using those (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drXN_xIbv8Q). Actually, my home equipment would be enough if I just had the discipline and motivation to use it consistently! I need to find a new walking buddy, but will wait until the weather warms up again and then post an ad on the Next Door app to see if I can find someone.

I was good at intermittent fasting from 5/24 to 11/3 and I lost about 12 pounds, but feel off the bandwagon during a business trip and have had a hard time getting back to it with the colder weather. I gained about 4 pounds back during November and now that it's a new month, I will try again. Breakfast is so much more appealing in cold weather than it is the rest of the year!

Kitties: I am very happy at the moment. My older kitty, Bridget, now 14, started having some problems in the middle of her 13th year, losing weight and hair and having chronic loose stools. She is incredibly terrified of the vet (it takes multiple people to handle her and she screams), but I did manage to get bloodwork done for her in March and it looked good. We tried a different diet and that helped a little but not much, and she is soooo stressed out by the vet that I didn't want to put her through more vet work. But recently, I found a food online that is a more natural food (smalls for smalls). They had a trial offer for one week of food for half price. I tried it and even using just 50% the old vet prescription food and 50% the new diet, I could start to see improvements, so I've been transitioning both cats on to it. Bridget's stools have firmed up a lot and I'm hopeful that with a diet that agrees with her more, she'll gain back a little weight and hair too. Buffy likes this food better than her own prescription food (which is just a weight loss food--she needs grain-free for her diabetes but as long as the food is grain-free, her diabetes is controlled), and I can feed both cats the same thing, which is great. For the past year, I was trying to monitor two cats with two different prescriptions who each preferred the OTHER cat's food. Each cat ended up eating some of the diet that was prescribed for her and some of the diet that wasn't, and it was stressful trying to monitor them constantly. This food costs a bit more, but since they were on prescription food anyways, it's not massively more costly, and better health for two senior kitties is worth it, since the girls are now at the ages (14 & 13.5) where I lost my two previous cats (who were both on dry food for most of their lives and who both died of kidney disease, probably as a result of that diet). So the current kitties eat canned food but do get dried treats. I would love it if the girls lived into their later teens.

Social Life: I've continued, generally, to attend rehearsals of the orchestra I joined in August, and I've been in 3 concerts so far (usually at senior living facilities). The last 6 weeks are the busiest time of the year at work, so I've skipped the last two rehearsals (next concert is in mid-January), but I do plan to be back regularly after the new year. I've kept up with my friends, but I've seen them a bit less than I used to since I started this job, but still fairly regularly.

Work: Work is busy but generally good. I have my annual evaluation meeting this coming Tuesday, and hopefully, their assessment of me is as positive as my own. I know places I can make improvements but also places where I am particularly an asset, and I enjoy my co-workers and being part of a team.

CFP exam: I've not made progress since July on studying for the CFP exam. But I did complete two courses, Insurance and Estate Planning, back in the first half of the year, and both courses have been very helpful. I have 3 more courses to go and I have 10 months left to complete them, so I know I should be able to complete the courses and I have some incentive to do so. This probably means that I won't take the CFP exam until March 2020, however. As long as I complete the coursework in 2019!

Although this time of the year is overall busy, my personal schedule was not booked up with meetings for the last two weeks of the year (it's mostly the last week of November and the first two weeks of December that are overloaded), so I'm taking a week off at year end and hopefully will make some progress on other goals during that time (maybe get 20% of the Retirement & Employee Benefits class done and do a little decluttering and make calls to find a primary care doctor)

Finances: Well, after my last post in August saying that my retirement accounts had broken the half-million mark, the market had a correction. So I'm going to have to build up to that mark again. Right now my retirement accounts are pretty much where they were at year-end 2017, and with depreciation on the car and a little bit of a decline on Zillow's home value estimate, my total assets are 3K down from the beginning of the year. My debts, however, are down about 6k--which includes my mortgage now being more than half paid off from its original starting value. I will be restructuring some of my debt in the new year after I see whether I get a bonus and if so, how big it is, and I feel like I have a good shot at getting the total debt down to at least 80K, with 70% of that being the mortgage. As long as we don't have more market losses in December, that will put my debt at less than 15% of my net worth.

I'm finally admitting to myself that, given the exigencies of life, it will probably take me longer to get rid of the non-mortgage debt than I would like (for example, I have about $1,300 of car repairs that I've been advised to make, and I need to replace my oven and will replace my refrigerator at the same time, early next year, so that's about another $1,200), but my mortgage paydown acceleration is on track (just 56K left as of today!), so if it takes me a couple more years to get the debt paid off than I'd planned, that's fine, as long as I am working! I still feel that I am on target to have the debt paid off by retirement, just so long as I can work until my mid-60s.

I'll check back in next weekend and report back on the thyroid biopsy results, and other than that, I'll be back the last week of the year to wrap up the year and set up some goals for 2019.

Half a million/birthday weekend travel

August 27th, 2018 at 10:56 am

I got a birthday present from the universe--I logged online today and for the first time ever, my net total was over 500k. Yay! That's actually 498K in retirement savings and 2K in an emergency account.

So I went away for a 2.5 day weekend Friday-Sunday for my birthday. I read Amish romances for fun and only live about 90 minutes from the area and had never visited, so I made a reservation at a nice B&B and left Friday morning.

I crammed in a lot over the weekend: several tours (a touristy farm & home tour, a private farm & home tour, a bus tour, a buggy ride, a film on the Amish, a train ride over in Strasburg, and ate a few good meals. I did a little shopping at a roadside stand where they sold yard art (got a few metal decorative pieces) and a "quillow" (small quilt that folds up into a pocket to make a pillow) and I browsed around the Bird In Hand Farmer's Market but all I bought there was some ice cream.

The best part was staying in the countryside and learning more and getting to interact with a people whom I in a way envy in their community organization and support and family lives and values-based way of living. The B&B where I stayed was on a rural road and all the neighbors within a mile are Amish, so that the B&B owners will get called upon for emergency drives (e.g., a farmer neighbor took a bad fall recently, and while the ambulance took the farmer and his wife to the hospital, the B&B owners were called upon to bring his parents to the hospital). Sunday morning I sat outside from 8 to 8:30 and saw about 15 buggies drive by as people went to church. The B&B is in the middle of 4 different church districts (a district has only 25-30 families, which can be about 250 people and since they hold church inside their barns, there's a limit and when a district gets too large, they subdivide), so the buggies were headed in different directions.

It was fun to see everything but another time I'd like to go back and just mellow out.

Today I'm off of work and catching up on chores and errands, so back to that!

(one of the chores is consolidating a couple of retirement accounts. I have two SIMPLE accounts that are no longer active from old jobs and the accounts are more than 2 years old, so the tiny one I rolled into a traditional IRA and did a Roth conversion on, and the other I'll just consolidate into my traditional IRA. gets rid of the $20 annual account fees, too!)

Kitties and Net Worth

April 1st, 2018 at 10:27 am

My last blog post was about my cat, Bridget, who has lost some weight and hair. (see https://www.flickr.com/photos/elissaw/41121285262/in/dateposted-public/; I can't remember how to insert images here). The home vet visit was traumatic (long leather gloves, a muzzle, and kitty screams were involved, sigh), but it revealed that her bloodwork is, to my great relief, completely normal. The vet thinks the hair loss is behavioral, so she is going on transdermal Prozac this week, and I've changed her diet to a hypoallergenic prescription diet. We'll give it two months and re-assess.

My other kitty is scheduled for a dental on 4/18 as her teeth are in bad shape. It hasn't prevented her from eating, though; she gained another .75 pound :^(. At least her diabetes continues to be very well controlled by her diet change--totally normal glucose.

On another note, I decided to change one of my annual goals from increasing my net worth to decreasing my debt. With the markets being so volatile so far this year, it seemed better to focus on the debt reduction, which is more in my control, than the net worth, which is out of my control.

If you count HSA contributions and employer matches, I am currently saving 24% of my salary, which is as much as I can reasonably afford while also paying off the debt.

This is offset by the fact that I have to take RMDs (required minimum distributions) from the two IRAs I inherited from my mom, but so far it looks as though this year I may be able to limit myself to just taking the RMDs and nothing else, and the accounts generate more in income than I take in RMDs, so there should be some small growth in those accounts.

Overall, for Q1, my assets are down 1.43%, mostly because the losses in my retirement savings are greater than the contributions YTD. My debts are down 7.12% because at the beginning of the year, I took the RMDs and applied them to debt reduction.

Overall, my networth is down $2,225 from 12/31, or .42%.

In other news, I spent $450 to have a landscaper clear out and re-mulch my very overgrown yard and place weed barriers to reduce the weeds along the fence.

Something that I would like eventually to do is to hire someone to build me some raised beds to do a little bit of vegetable and herb gardening. I was fantasizing about that yesterday, but am not sure if I will do it this year or next. I think my next outlay of money for the house will be to hire some home organizing help. I went to a presentation by an organizer last week and actually made some progress on my own this weekend, but there are certain areas of my house where I need a coach and some assistance to inspire me to get through in the very limited amount of time I have to deal with this. She charges $235 for a 3-hour session and I will be scheduling this for May, I think.

After putting that goal of "creating a peaceful and inviting home environment" in my sidebar year after year, I think I may actually make some progress towards that goal this year!!

Market boom

January 24th, 2018 at 01:59 pm

Heady times on Wall Street these days. I updated my personal balance sheet and find that my net worth is up by $14,540 so far this year. My retirement accounts are up by about 10K *despite* the fact that I took almost 8K in required minimum distributions at the beginning of the year and set them aside to create "sinking funds" for other big expenses expected during the year (so I won't end up putting those expenses on credit cards as I have in the past). I also took the bonus money that I received for last year and used it to pay down some debt. All together my assets are up 8.3K, my debts are down 6.2K, for the total net worth change of 14.5K. That's an improvement I would usually be happy to see in a fiscal quarter already in three weeks.

I'll enjoy it while it lasts since one always wonders just how long the current boom times can last.

Year to Date

December 1st, 2017 at 10:21 am

My debts have stayed fairly steady--the usual beginning of the year decrease when I take some extra money (required annual distribution from an inherited IRA) and use it to reduce the debt, followed by an increase over the year as extra bills mount--things outside the ordinary budget I can't really afford at my current salary but feel are worth the expense (paying for my CFP coursework, long-term care insurance, some household improvement stuff) so that by the end of the year, the debt ends up back where it had been around the beginning of the year. It's just that less of it is in the mortgage and more in the form of other types of low-interest debt. Fingers crossed that this coming January I can reduce the debt below what I have been able to do in past Januaries so that next year is a permanent reduction. Depends largely on what happens with year-end bonuses. If the firm I work at meets its revenue target and pays a bonus this year, that could mean a larger inflow this January than previously (I've never, ever, worked at a place that paid bonuses before, but this firm does, but not every year, and they can be a decent size) and a permanent reduction in debt. That is my goal, but obviously not something I control.

Fortunately, the increase in assets more than compensates for the fact that the liabilities are flat YTD--over a 40K increase in my accounts as well as an 8% increase in my estimated home value, for a net worth increase YTD of over 50K.

Of course I, like everyone else, am waiting for the other shoe to drop on these high markets. My boss (who routinely ends up on the Barron's list of top 100 financial advisors) thinks that, while there will undoubtedly be a correction at some point, the markets are not unreasonably overvalued, so that while we may see a 10-15% dip lasting for a month or two, he is not expecting a long-term bear market.

Of course, with all the crazy on the political scene, who knows what will ultimately happen. I was following all the politics avidly early in the year and it was just too much. So now I focus locally--there's an active group in my neighborhood, the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association, and I go to their meetings when I can. Think globally, act locally and all that.

Progress

February 4th, 2017 at 08:14 am

I have switched recently from tracking my net worth on networthiq.com (where I have been tracking monthly since June 2006, the same time I started here on SA) to networtshare.com, which is kept more up to date. It took networthiq until the end of January to all 2017 entries. I input my yearly values for the past decade onto the new site, but I won't spend the time to enter the monthly data.

I'm hoping that I have reached a tipping point: if you look at my sidebar, you'll see that my debt is the lowest and my net worth the highest since I began tracking. The lowest my debt has been prior to this was the month before I left my teaching career, and back then it was 100% mortgage.

The urge to spend is still high--only by regular posting here can I keep on track.

Work is going well, very busy--in January and February, we have to get out letters to clients with tax info for the year, telling them who to expect official tax documents from, what our fees for the year were, whether they have made IRA contributions or taken IRA distributions, etc. It's an extra 30-40 hours of work over the two months, when the regular workload doesn't slack at all. And it is taking me longer because I'm new and don't yet know the whole client base yet, do I have to check on everything. Next year, when I know the clients better, a lot of the information I am having to look up on s case by case basis will be stored in memory, which should make the task faster.

It's Restaurant Week here, so I am taking myself to an early lunch at a Tapas Bar and then going in to work for a few hours to make more progress on the darn things.

Net Worth Change 2016

December 31st, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Overall, my net worth is up $17,213 (3.79%) for the year, from 454,015 at the bginning of the year to 471,228 at year end. The change is due approximately to a 7K increase in assets and a 10K decrease in liabilities.

I'd set a goal of 92.5K total debt in my sidebar near the beginning of the year, and I'm ending the year with 94.4, so that's somewhat close to my goal and a significant decrease in any case (9.86%)

My retirement balance increased even though I used some of my beneficiary RMD to pay down debt rather than just taking it, paying the tax, and contributing to a Roth, which is what you would *ideally* do with with that kind of account. But it's what helps get the debt down.

I still have $28.628 in non-mortgage debt, which I estimate will take me until January 2019 to pay off, if I take part of the RMD and put it to debt reduction at the beginning of eatch year. But the amount that requires grows steadily less, so after this next draw, I'll be able to roll part of the RMDs over to a Roth.

(And if the company does well and I get a full bonus next year, I might even be able to use the bonus rather than the RMD to reduce the debt.)

I was able to add over 10K to my retirement accounts (about 8K on my own and 2K employer match). That helps balance out the RMDs, though the draws still exceed the contributions. It's net growth, though, because of income generated by the assets in the account. I like to look ahead to the point in a couple of years where I'll just be able to roll the beneficary RMDs to a Roth and it will be all contributions--that will definitely help my retirement balance--as long as I manage to still stay employed, knock wood!

American Blue Cash Preferred

June 4th, 2016 at 04:44 pm

I saw a pop-up ad on this site for the above-mentioned card when reading some entries about debt and clicked through to the offer. 6% back on groceries (based on up to $6,000 of spending, which is close to my grocery budget for the year), as well as 3% on gas and select department stores, 1% on everything else and 1% on everything after the $6,000 spending limit is reached. That's quite good, and NerdWallet had a postive review. My credit score has rebounded back to 814 after dipping down below 800 when I opened the HELOC six months ago, so this seemed worth it--even though there IS a $75 annual fee. There's also a $250 joining bonus if you get the right click-through ad AND spend $1,000 on the card within the first three months. No problem for me to spend $1,000 on groceries over 3 months, unfortunately--my average for the past year is $380 per month, or $1,140 over 3 months. Even if I just use it for groceries, with the 6% cash back and minus the $75 fee, that's net positive $200 over the course of a year, PLUS the $250 signing bonus if earned. So we'll see. Still waiting on approval--although the site says a 30-second decision, I received a screen asking for me to call in at the end of my application--and then, because I called in after 4:30 pm on Saturday, I'm stuck waiting until Monday for the decision.

I find that more and more I'm segregating spending for certain items onto certain cards: I have a debit card linked to a checking account that I keep at a low balance (and not linked to my main checking account, given the potential limits on debit card reimbursements if the card is stolen) which I use to give myself an eating and entertainment budget. Then, if approved, the AmEx will be used for groceries. I buy at least half my clothing at LLBean and I use their Visa card for that, in order to earn the $10 coupons. (The LLBean card also had great 0% balance transfer offers back during the few years I was using those heavily.) The rest of my CC spending--my monthly gym fee, gasoline, professional association dues, my monthly phone and cable bill, and shopping, goes on a Visa card through my main bank and give me a $25 credit towards my mortgage for every $2,500 I spend on that card. So I'll probably earn $50 less in mortgage credit by moving the grocery card spending to the AmEx account, but I'll definitely be using the cash bonus to pay down debt so it's all to my new benefit.

Down to 5 figures debt

May 18th, 2016 at 01:44 pm

After having had my debt spike back up to the low 6 figures after my 7 month period of unemployment back in 2014, I am pleased to announce that I am finally back down to 5-figure debt ($99,195). This includes my mortgage.

For part of the time that my debt spiked, I was moving things around from 0% balance transfer credit card to new 0% balance credit card when the old term expired. Then a year ago, I decided that the debt would be easier to get rid of--at least psychologically--if I had a steady schedule of debt repayments which I then could try to exceed. So one year ago next week, I took out a 20K personal loan from Discover Bank, technically at 10.99%.

I paid it off yesterday and today, the account has even disappeared from my login page. Over the year, I ended up paying a total of $21,757.04 on the loan, making the effective rate actually 8.79% because of early and extra payments.

Some of that amount is a real decrease in my loan balance, but the rest has been transfered to lower rate loans collateralized in part by my house and by another financial account, so at lower rates (3.67% and 4.44%).

I prefer loans to zero percent credit card balance transfers because there is a predictable schedule to the loan payoff, which I can make a game of beating. Currently, I believe that can have the non-mortgage debt ($32,045) paid off by the end of 2019, and the mortgage ($67,150) paid off by the end of 2024. Technically, I could take longer to pay off the non-mortgage debt, but there's no point to that. My required minimum payments are now lower, giving me a bit more liquidity in the case of short term needs.