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My summer month

July 23rd, 2022 at 09:19 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 01:33 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 09:37 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. 

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.

Considering a refinance

August 2nd, 2021 at 06:52 pm

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

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

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

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

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

May Day

May 1st, 2021 at 08:45 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Day of Q3

October 1st, 2020 at 12:58 am

Year to date, assets are up nearly 40k; debt is down about 13.5k. That includes a downpayment on the roof replacement, which is happening tomorrow, so the balance of $2,600 will come due. Also, Buffy is due for an ultrasound and tests tomorrow so there will be a vet bill of $800 or so, and I have a contract to have my trees trimmed this month for nearly $700. So after all of that, I'll only be ahead about 9k. Still, progress.

Something else to report this quarter: I decided to start actually investing money into my brokerage account. I've had one for a while, but so far, it has just been a pass-through account, where money came into the account when I took money from an inherited IRA, then transferred the money into my checking account (and sometimes then, ideally, into my own IRA). But with my "big birthday" last month and working for a wealth management firm, I decided to take $500 and invest in individual stocks--mostly high dividend payers, some for growth. I did that around my birthday which was near the peak, so currently I have a small loss in that account.

Work is getting busy--September has been busy, October and November and the first half of December will be busier yet. Then a couple of calm weeks at the holidays and back to busy time for Q1 of next year.

Work is good but I have been struggling some with fatigue. Without being willing to travel anywhere, when I DO take days off, I am not finding them particularly restful since I'm not getting out and about anywhere. Oh well, at least, knock on wood, I am reasonably healthy, the kitties are holding stable, and work is generally good.

Last item to report: I enrolled in a program this month called "Data Driven fasting" that involves measuring your blood glucose several times a day and learning how your hunger sensations correlate to your blood glucose levels. The focus is on your pre-meal BG levels; you try not to eat until your BG is below a personalized trigger that gradually ratchets down based on your average pre-meal scores over the past week. It's been pretty successful for me--I've lost 8 pounds this month and my waking blood glucose, which was creeping up to the pre-diabetic range, is down too. And while I'm still intermittent fasting, I'm tying it more to my blood glucose than to the clock, so my fasts have been somewhat shorter with somewhat less hunger and struggle than when I'm just going by the clock. So I'll keep this up. I was very happy when my morning weight hit a major "along-the-way" milestone this morning. Still I have weight to lose but I'm happy with my progress--in total down 18 pounds over 4 months.

The last 4 months

July 18th, 2020 at 04:54 pm

The last time I blogged here, we had just been put on shut-down orders.

I've now been back at the office for a month, although I'm working around the person whose desk is nearest mine. That's still 10' away, so not too scary. Her son works at a grocery store, though, so I worry that she is the likeliest person in our office to have an asymptomatic exposure. Over the summer she is part-time, so she works at the office 1 day a week and I'm in the other 4. Once school starts in another 5 weeks, I'll have to work with her there. Hopefully the case numbers will be going down again by then.

We're just beginning to do client meetings in person, but so far I am able to participate in those by Zoom, and as a business centered around client meetings, I imagine that we will see some of our clients who prefer to meet that way all or most of the time going forward.

The stay-at-home orders did lead to a bit of weight gain after about 2 months, so I went back to intermittent fasting as of 5/28 and lost the weight I had gained and then some. I'm hoping to make IF a permanent lifestyle. We'll see how I feel about that in the fall when the weather cools. I first tried IF in 2016 and again in 2017 and in 2018, each time falling off the wagon in the winter. My appetite seems to roar back in the mornings in cold weather. So we'll see what happens this year. I really do want to make it long term and continue to lose weight. I turn 60 next month and have a certain goal weight I want to make it to by then. I've plateaued the past week, which is frustrating since I was making steady progress until then. Anyways, if I can keep this going as a permanent lifestyle change, I would get to my ideal weight next year and then just focus on keeping it there.

Speaking of weight, the pandemic has certainly led to a change in my eating habits. I've long gone out for meals 2-4 times a week, and out to the grocery store weekly. Now the last time I set foot in a restaurant was March 8th and into a grocery store March 19th. I've had a couple of months where I didn't do take-out; now I do it occasionally but not more than once a week. And instead of the grocery store, I'm mostly relying on one of the meal delivery services, Hungryroot, for my shopping. I like this service more than most meal deliveries because they are delivering to you *prepared ingredients* (pre-cooked meats, pre-chopped veggies, prepared sauces) that you then mix and heat for a meal. The "recipes" (if you can call them that) take about 5 minutes, and the cooked meats don't seem to have a lot of chemicals and the sauces often have a chickpea based since the company started out as vegetarian only. Then I supplement this with extra veggies from farmers I know who usually sell to NYC restaurants; they started an online store when the NYC restaurants shut down and so far have maintained it. There's also a home milk delivery service that I use about once a month to get cheese, yogurt, cream, and some additional meats. So I've avoided stepping inside anywhere except home and the office since 3/19. I haven't even driven more than a mile from my house since then!

One thing that's been hurt by the pandemic is my exercise routine. I had joined a gym that I really like with a one-year commitment for over $100 a month. The gym has been very good about providing online classes even after they were allowed to re-open. I, however, just am not at all good at participating in online classes. I need the weight of social expectations in order to complete a full workout The few times I've tried the online workouts, I get 15 or 20 minutes into it and quit--which is what I'd do at the gym, too, except for the eyes of others upon me. Still working this one out. Right now the thing that works best is finding audiobooks and reserving certain books to listen to only when I walk. I'm currently "reading" Mary Trump's book this way. So that helps with keeping generally active but doesn't build strength, endurance, or flexibility.

In other news, some successes: my Net Worth hit 600k this month, 3 years after first hitting 500k; my debt is down 10.8k from year-end; and, after 4.5 years, I finally completed the CFP coursework. I still have the exam to do. I'm probably waiting until next July to take it since otherwise I would have to get into study mode right away for the September exam (which is the July 2020 exam deferred for COVID--first they deferred it and then finally this week they allowed for remote proctoring rather than having to go into a Prometric Center. If they had had the Remote Proctoring option back at the end of June when I made this decision, I might have opted to dive right into studying for the September exam, but now I'd be behind the 8-ball. I'm going to take a practice exam this weekend and decide--if it's just a few pockets of things that I really need to work on (the investment calculations and the rules, costs, and benefits of all the various retirement plans being known areas of weakness), then I might decide to go for the September exam, but if I just need improvement all around, I'll wait until next year.

January review

February 2nd, 2020 at 10:26 pm

1. Health updates: Both kitty Buffy and I had re-checks for our chronic conditions in the past week. After giving me a BIG scare mid-month, requiring a veterinary ER visit, Buffy thank goodness seems stable, and the vet put the next ultrasound off for 3 months--unless, of course, she is symptomatic. Next appointment is May 1. I've spent at least $500 per month on her vet bills every month since June, so the possibility of 3 months without a vet visit is lovely. Right now I'm still focused on the possibility of her getting to her 15th birthday March 30. I know I will in all likelihood lose her this year but the longer I can put that off (while not causing her undue distress) the happier I am (even if my wallet suffers).

And I had the surgical oncologist tell me that I didn't need to come back for another thyroid ultrasound for a year--up until now, I've had screenings every 6 months, but it's been totally stable. Unless, of course, I note a change.

2. Also on the health theme, I joined another "metabolic" type gym. They added an "intro" series of classes which slow the pace and modify the exercises for beginners. I can take the intro classes without having to pay extra for small group "semi-private" training, and if I go at 6 am, the group is small by default. So far it's never been more than 2 other people and me, and a few times it's been just me and the instructor. I'm going 3 times a week. I'm determined to get in better shape before turning 60 in August.

3. I'm finally making progress on my CFP goal, after stalling when Buffy got sick in June and not doing *anything* on it for six months. I finished the "Investments" course in December and January and started the "Capstone" course, which I've done a third of so far. I expect to have that finished in a couple of weeks. Then I have to get my undergrad transcript sent to the CFP board and sign up for a review class and start the "pre-study". When you sign up for a review course, they send you two big thick books of problems which you are supposed to work your way through before the actual "live review." It's 60 lessons/about 10 weeks of pre-study, a four day "live review," and then another 3 weeks of final exam prep before the big day, which will be sometime between July 7 and July 14. The end is still quite a bit away, but is finally in sight! I started this program in 2016--did one class in 2016 (during which I changed jobs), one in 2017 (while learning the new job), two in 2018, 1.5 classes in 2019, and I expect to have the last 1.5 classes done this month).

4. We'll find out about our bonus/annual raise the end of this month--so I'm hoping I can make a significant dent in my debt then. At that point with a bonus, I'll meet last year's goal of getting the total debt down to 80k and can then try to get to 70k a year later. But even if the bonus doesn't work out, I expect to get under 80k later this year and to 75k by year-end. My total liabilities have been over 90k since I bought my house in 2005, so that will be a significant improvement. Knock on wood of course about this year's veterinary and other emergencies!!!

Win, Lose, and Draw

December 31st, 2019 at 01:52 am

Wins
-Kitties are both still here and happy, if not healthy.
-Completed 1.5+ CFP courses—and 1.5 to go.
-Was somewhat more active in 2019 than in 2018—about 10% more steps.
-Increased savings to more than 20% of income between 401k, HSA, and emergency fund.
-Did not increase debt despite unexpected ~10k in veterinary medical expenses and accelerating a 5k roofing project into 2019 rather than 2020.
-Work has generally gone well.
-Managed to tackle some deferred home maintenance projects.
-I managed to maintain a sufficient social life despite working long hours.

(Upcoming) Losses
Kitties now both have been diagnosed with what the vet terms their “life-limiting conditions.”

My vet appointment with Buffy last week was distressing. Whatever it is that blocked her biliary tract back in June is growing again. Without opening her up we don’t know if it is cancer or merely an “inflammatory process.” Surgery would cost 6-7k and Buffy turns 15 in March, which is the average lifespan for an indoor cat. If she were 5 years younger, I would go for the surgery, but I had a hard talk with myself and decided that it isn’t worth spending that much money on a cat whose likelihood of living more than another year is not high in any case. What I *am* doing now is that we added a third medication, one to keep her blood sugar in control, and I am treating her as if she is actively diabetic. She has been a diabetic-in-remission for four years. The prednisolone that helps her biliary tract/inflammation issues causes her diabetes to become active again, so we added a medication (not insulin but glipizide) that helps bring her blood sugar under control, but this means that I have to measure her blood glucose to make sure that I’m also not causing her to become hypoglycemic. We are both getting used to this new routine. My goal is to keep her going as long as possible without the trauma and expense of surgery. At some point, inevitably, though, the “thing” will block her biliary tract again and I will have to have her put down, and it could happen quite suddenly. So I am cherishing every moment with her.

Bridget, my other kitty, was diagnosed in the early stages of kidney failure. It’s early stages yet, so I’m not as worried. I’ve changed her diet and am looking into supplements, and will have her monitored more frequently. The last cat I had with kidney failure I kept going for 2.5 years after diagnosis. Unfortunately, Bridget doesn’t have the mellow temperament that that cat or Buffy have, and I fear that the stress of daily subcutaneous fluids would be more than she could tolerate and put me at risk of getting bitten. So I’m just praying that I don’t lose them both this coming year.

Draws
Thyroid issue holding stable, knock on wood—next ultrasound January 24.

Goals for 2020
1. Finish CFP coursework.
2. Regular exercise routine.
3. Do as much as I can realistically do for the kitties.
4. Continue to save 20% of earnings while reducing debt. Note that my company changed the timing of our annual bonus from 12/31 to 2/28 starting this year. If I were getting a bonus tomorrow, then the debt would be down to what I was hoping for, but that will be delayed. I am still feeling pretty confident that I will be able to meet my goal of being debt-free by at least a couple of years before retirement (which will give me a chance to spend a couple of years building up a bigger cash reserve).

Heading into Q2

March 31st, 2019 at 10:56 pm

Q1 wrapup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gradual goal progress

March 24th, 2019 at 08:59 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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