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One of those weeks

December 9th, 2018 at 08:02 am

This past week will (knock on wood) rank as one of the two most aggravating weeks of the year--the other was back in May and that was all work-related.

This week was a mix..

Personal: I met with the endocrinologist. The thyroid biopsy results indicated no cancer yet but showed cells with abnormalities and a genetic assay indicated a 50% possibility of developing cancer. I need to research more. What I know at this point is that there are four types of thyroid cancer and that my risk is for the one that has the best prognosis. I will be meeting with the primary care physician I finally set up an appointment with and a surgeon and probably will look for another endocrinologist for a second opinion. My endocrinologist said that, if it were him, he'd want it out, but I'm not yet sure. There's a 50% chance they could take out half my thyroid and it would prove not to be cancerous at all. I really need to research more. That is what is frustrating about doctor's appointments--although my doctor says he left a message that I never received. I didn't ask all the questions that I should/could have at the appointment and will need to follow up. Haven't even really BEGUN to process this because of the other stuff this week. If I have surgery, it wouldn't be until January, so there's time.

Cats: Tuesday began with Buffy throwing up. She ate breakfast but threw it up and when I got home in the evening, she was throwing up again. Wednesday she just lay in bed and had no interest in food so on Thursday I brought her into the vet. The good news is that the bloodwork was good, just slightly elevated neutraphils indicating a possible infection. She also had an x-ray and that was ok, so the working hypothesis became a UTI. They couldn't get a urine sample so I brought her back on Friday so they could give her fluids and try again for the urine sample. So far the culture seems ok but they need 3 full days to fully assess. In the meantime, Bridget started with the same set of symptoms starting Thursday night. So now the hypothesis is either a GI virus or food. I think the virus is the more likely. After a few worrisome days, the cats finally seemed to have turned the corner this morning, with their usual appetites finally back (thanks in part to appetite stimulation meds).

The vet I've been using for the cats is located closer to where I lived 13 years ago before I bought my house. I got these cats from the vet, who had promised their previous owner that he would find them a good home when she died. He was their vet since they were kittens, and because I have had a 20-year relationship with the practice, I've kept going back. But the drive takes a minimum of 25 minutes, and when it is trafficky, as it was Friday evening when I picked Buffy up, it can take up to 50 minutes. In the interim, there has been a vet that opened a practice in my neighborhood. It's been about 5 years now and so far her online ratings are good. I learned this week that the original owner of the practice sold it, and while the vet who is there now is fine, they are down from 3 full-time vets to a full-time vet, a part-time vet, and rotating on-call vets while they try to find another full-timer, so I've decided from here on in to take the cats to the vet in my neighborhood. I went in yesterday and set an appointment for early next March for Buffy to have her annual senior wellness exam with the new vet. Anything else that goes on with this episode will be with the old vet, and hopefully there won't be anything else that requires vet help in the next couple of months until I get all the cats records and transfer them over to the new practice.

Then there was the car. The day before Thanksgiving, the windshield washer indicator came on on the dash. I thought that was funny since I had just put more fluid in the previous weekend. When I added more, I saw it flowing down the sidewalk as I poured. I had first an appointment for a diagnosis (since it could have just been a hose that detached or a lose washer), but the reservoir had a hole and needed to be replaced. An inspection revealed that it was time for new front brakes and rotors, new spark plugs, etc, so I left my car for the day to have everything done. Then on Thursday--while I was taking Buffy to the vet--the low pressure light came on on the dash. I have a history of letting air OUT of tires every time I try to add it, so I brought the car to a service station and had them add it (something I had done just 3 weeks earlier--with this car, I get a signal every year with the first cold snap). But unlike the last time, when the indicator light went off after driving the car about a mile, the indicator light didn't go off (which added to the stress of driving the cat to and from the vet). I brought it in to the dealer's "express service" on Saturday and they found a faulty indicator light and replaced it. (THey actually told me that, since the light was blinking on and off, that it was probably a faulty indicator and I didn't need to replace it, but I couldn't live with the extra layer of anxiety that having a blinking yellow light on my dashboard would entail).

The car repairs totaled about $1,400 and the vet visits another $825. My health insurance plan turned over December 1, so I'm back to paying my deductible (I have to check, I think it's $1,500 on my HDHP/HSA plan this year), so the recent and upcoming doctor's visits will come out of pocket until that is satisfied. Thankfully, I've got just about that amount left in my HSA.

Work: It was one of the extra-busy, 6 meeting weeks (normal is 2-4). Fortunately at year-end, we are focused on tax planning, and that is my strength, so it wasn’t as stressful as it could have been. I am the only CPA in our PA office, so I also help out with other planner’s projections, plus I worked with a CPA in our VA office to do a training session for the firm on how to use the software.

Then I had my annual evaluation, which was just a tiny bit anxiety-provoking leading up to it. I wasn’t very worried, but the very first job I had, for 7 years, had super-stressful annual evaluations and consequently even when I think I’m doing well, the process is worrisome. Thankfully it went as well as I expected, not perfect but with an improvement from last year. The evaluation comes from my supervisors but information about any raise, personal bonus, or firm-wide profit-sharing bonus comes from our COO the last week of the year.

So that is some good news, at least.

It looks like next week will be stressful again, since I just checked my email and learned that one of the clients I work with passed away. I’m sad because I liked him, and mentally adding my work to what needs to get done this week--and weekend. I’d had his latest estate documents and tax return sitting on my desk, planning to review them during the quieter last two weeks of the year, but I guess I will go in and start working on that today.

I do have an afternoon yoga class coming up, so at least that will buffer the stress.

Blogoversary: 11 years on SA

June 22nd, 2017 at 02:36 pm

With a hat-tip to CeeJay, I'll do a similar entry, comparing where I was then to where I am now.

June 22, 2006:

Assets: 241,761 (about 48% home value & rest retirement)
Liabilities: (92,669) (mostly mortgage w/ a bit of CC debt)
Net worth 149,092

My life at that point: Working full-time as a college psychology professor, but as a sabbatical replacement (year-to-year contract), living with my basset hound Henry and cats Teddy & Phoebe. Also, in a relationship. I was taking accounting classes evenings and summers in preparation for a career change. Having landed on the yearly-contract track, I couldn't do the research necessary to land another tenure-track job because I was constantly job-hunting.

June 22, 2017:

Assets: 585,603 (about 20% home value & 80% retirement)
Liabilities: (90,248) (70% mortgage, 30% loans & CCs)
Net Worth: 495,396

My Life at this point: Workng in a full-time (hopefully permanent) job as a Financial Planner, having attained my CPA in the interim and currently working on the CFP), living with kitties Buffy & Bridget. Not currently in a relationship.

Dollar value change:

Assets: up 343,842 or 231%. Mostly this is a change in retirement assets. My home 11 years ago was within 1,000 of its value today, but went down during the crisis and now is very close to its value when I bought it 12 years ago.

Liabilities: down 2,421 or -2.6%. However, the mortgage is down to 62,900 and the non-mortgage debt is up a lot due to the exigencies of lower income while changing careers combined with less time working while my mother was dying and final medical expenses for 3 pets. So whereas my debt at the beginning of the journey was pretty much all "good" debt, now I have a significant amount of "bad" debt due largely to circumstances beyound my control.

Net Worth: up 346,304 or 332%. About half of the increase is from an inheritance from my mother and the rest due to retirement savings and portfolio gains.

Income change: I currently make about $4,000 more than I did 11 years ago. This fairly nominal change from beginning to end masks a lot of variability. Average income was a bit under 40K, but it has varied from 12K (110% of the poverty limit that year) to nearly 80K.

All in all, it's been a hell of an 11 years, but in the end, I feel blessed to have survived it and I feel positive about my ability to handle what my personal life throws at me. If this site still exists in a decade, I'll be just about at my Full Retirement Age for Social Security, and I still expect to be working (although hopefully for 25-30 hours per week rather than 40-55), and the work at that point will be solely to satisfy my need for a sense of meaning and purpose and won't be financially necessary. Also hopefully there will be another basset hound at that point :^) along with two kitties--and even another relationship.

How many jobs have you had?

February 21st, 2017 at 06:48 pm

We are having an unseasonably warm week, so I walked to work yesterday and today. On the way home today, I made a mental inventory of the different jobs I've had.

In reverse chronological order, 10 jobs since changing careers from teaching psychology to the financial services arena (tax prep/ CPA/financial planner). That covers Sept 2009 to the present.

Six psychology teaching jobs since getting my PhD, 1989-2009.

Six varied employment positions during my education.

Two Schedule C businesses along the way, the first as an undergrad (statistics consultant) and the second (writer/editor) as a sideline while a professor.

Grand total: 24.

Plus if I had filed as a minor, I might have filed another two Schedule Cs: babysitter and street musician!

Long weekend, bonus, raise!

December 30th, 2016 at 10:04 am

Yesterday was my last official work day of the year, as I took today off. I already have 3 days off accrued after being with the company just two months. I'm using one of them today, and then Monday is a company holiday. So a rare four-day weekend to be cherished and savored! I actually had one over Thanksgiving as well. Unlike my last job, the Friday after Thanksgiving is a company holiday as well. So I've been at the company two months and had 2 four-day weekends. I might have another in January as well. The two unused PTO days from this year have to be used by the end of January or be lost. We have a company holiday on President's Day, so maybe I'll use another then--something which I will decide whether or not to request over the weekend.

I was delighted to find out yesterday that, even though I've been at the company only two months, I received a year-end bonus equal to an extra week's salary, as an indication of the company's satisfaction with my performance and work so far (as well as the fact that the company itself did well and is growing--I am part of the employee expansion).

It's kind of amazing to me--I've never worked anywhere that gave bonuses before (the first two decades of my working life were in academia, which doesn't give bonuses, and the past several years have been mostly shorter-term assignments as I have worked to build my financial experience and expertise on my way to attaining my desired professional licenses).

I was also given a nearly 6% raise effective January 1. I don't expect to see any of that in my take-home pay, but instead will use it as an opportunity to increase my retirement savings. I'm currently at 10% with a 3% company match, and I'd like to raise it to 12%. I'll decide after the first pay of next year, which will have the effects of the new benefits elections calculated in.

As for my long weekend, today I am working on reviewing my first CFP course in preparation for taking the final exam, something which I pledged to myself and my supervisor that I would finish by tomorrow. I also will probably go in to the office for a bit to do some filing and take care of a few details I'd like finished before year end, and I'll do the household chores and try to clear up the clutter that inevitably accrues between times I have people over. I'll also be planning in more detail for next year. I have a potluck that I may to go tonight, but I'm planning to eschew the party invite for tomorrow night and stay home. Monday morning I have a personal training session scheduled at the gym, then Monday night, I'll go to a movie with a friend--hopefully to be celebrating a weekend of accomplishments achieved.

First two weeks on the job

November 12th, 2016 at 05:36 pm

I started my new job on Halloween, so I've now completed two weeks. The first day was basically all meetings--and virtually all by video-conference. The company has two offices, with the main office in Richmond, VA. I work at the satellite office in PA, which is where the company started. In fact, the company president used to live about 3 blocks from me and the first home of the company was 50 yards from his house.

The second day started with another online training meeting. Then I got to sit in on my first client meeting. It looks like I will get to sit in on a lot more client meetings in this job, and for that I am glad.

The third day I spent filling out benefits forms. The company's plan year starts 12/1, and there were changes in the policies offered, so I had to fill out one set of forms for the month of November and a whole other set for December 2016-November 2017.

The fourth day was mostly in person staff meetings at our office.

Finally on the fifth day I began to get some training on the spreadsheets that I will spend most of my time in.

The second week was mostly taken up with our company retreat. Once a year all of the PA folks go down to VA. (There are twice as many people based in VA as in PA, so the PA office gets to travel. Also, once a month, the Company President comes up to PA to meet with clients, so he does his share of driving too.)

The retreat was good, with a lot of emphasis on communication training. I got to sit in on 5 or 6 mock client meetings and see the feedback the communications consultants were giving. It was extremely informative. It wasn't all work--we did a group painting event at one of those "paint bars" that has become fashionable followed by a restaurant dinner the first night, and dinner the second night was at the company president's house. The meetings were really about the compnay culture and improving the communication process, both internally and externally, something that is so important in this business. I like that my employers are investing in this.

It was also great to meet everyone in person who I had talked to previously only via videocam if at all. That will definitely help make it easier to contact them in the future.

It was also a crash course in getting to know my office-mates since we rented a mini-van and most of us drove down together.

So I'm really glad this occurred early in my tenure at the firm--but I did find on coming back on Friday that I'd already forgotten some of the technical stuff about using the computer programs that I had started learning the previous week. That will come with time and practice.

Next week is the company President's week in town, and my calendar for the week is already looking very busy. I'll be going in to the office tomorrow to get a jump start on preparing for the week ahead and to spend some time digesting and summarizing what I learned on the retreat.

I've heard from a couple of people that they felt that they spent a lot of time when they first started where they were not doing very much. Not the case here, by virtue of starting the week before the retreat and right before year-end when all of the RMDs need to be processed and year-end tax planning done.

I'm really glad this company allows for the day after Thanksgiving off, as well as Thanksgiving. I'm going to need a long weekend!

Transitioning out of my Job Transition

October 28th, 2016 at 12:00 pm

The one week between my new job offer and starting work this coming Monday is going very fast. It's almost gone and there is so much that I want to do before then. Most of the house stuff is not, alas, going to get done. Now that there is just a weekend left, my main goal with household stuff is to get the filing done and do all the laundry, a full grocery shop, and to do meal prep before Monday. Also call my service for a furnace cleaning so I can ask them about the radiators. One of the three upstairs radiators is heating but not bleeding, and another is bleeding but not really heating. The latter is in my bedroom so I need to make sure I am warm enough before it gets really cold. Or else I'll end up on a mattress on the floor in some other part of the house.

I'm reading a book called "Work Clean" about applying the culinary philosophy of mise-en-place to one's worklife. It's a good read and I am hoping to find or put in place better workflow systems in place from the get-go at mynew position than I had at my last job. The simple organizational things like filing are not difficult to do but they always seem like they can be procrastinated on--and then they get the better of you. Or at least of me. Got to try to prevent that!

This morning I went for what I hope is the very last time ever to LVP, my local networking group for unemployed professionals. I have been involved with this group off and on for at least five years, through 3 or 4 job searches. The group meets every Friday from 10 to noon at the local CareerLink. This time around, I was laid off on a Wednesday and back at LVP on Friday. I made sure to get involved with one of the committees early on, since those who are more involved in the organization tend to have more job hunting success. One also develops closer friendships in the smaller subgroups than in the large group meeting. So it was a bittersweet visit back to the group to give my "landing" speech and say goodbye. I got some nice feedback on the change in me since I first arrived in "mourning mode" until now and thanks for the two training presentations I gave as well as informal tax advice on our listserv. I made three decent friends and several new acquaintances during this transition, and I've put it on my calendar to follow up with the new friends again in a month to see how they are doing. That summarizes the lessons of this group: 1. new jobs are much more likely to come about as a result of networking than through any other method (online resume sites like Monster and Indeed are a black hole; only about 7% of hires occur off of those sites); 2. Following up is crucial--it was following up on a new connection I made at a networking meeting that directly led to my new job; and 3. Giving back by getting involved and contributing to the group is critical, for the success of the group, for your personal success, and for expanding your local network. Being involved with the small subgroups within the group also helped me maintain a positive attitude, and in the end, success in a career transition is largely dependent upon attitude and mindset.

Also this week as part of transitioning, I joined a new gym. I had been going to one which I liked a lot but which was expensive; that contract expired so I joined another gym that is one-third the price, has more equipment and classes, and best yet, is walking distance from my house. I got a special deal that lowered the normal price by joining a weight loss program that includes four sessions with a personal trainer, a meal plan, and a requirement that you go to the gym at least three times a week. As long as you meet with the trainer four times and attend the gym 3x/week, you can then quit at the four month mark OR you can lock in the discounted price for the balance of a year. And if you paid for the first four months up front, there was an additional discount. I took this and ended up paying as much for four months at the new gym as one month at the old one cost me. I've been to three classes so far and have my first personal training session tonight.

One of my successes during this job transition phase was changing my diet and getting going more with exercise again--I'm now nearly 20 pounds lighter than when I was let go just over three months ago. This time I want to do my best to keep the weight off as I get back to full-time work and I am hoping the new gym helps me do that. Since it's very close to both home and work, excuses not to work out are minimized. I will start out by attending the 5:30 pm classes most evenings, but I'd like to move to attending at 5:30 in the morning. I've been trying to wake up earlier to start doing that, but no dice currently. I wake up at 5, turn on the snooze, and then get up 60-120 minutes later. Maybe once we turn back the clocks it will get a little easier.

New Job!

October 21st, 2016 at 06:44 pm

I was offered--and accepted--a new job today. I'm very happy with the offer. It's a fairly similar type of position to what I was doing (tax and financial planning at a wealth management firm), but in a larger company, one with two levels of staff and other people in the same role. I'll be a junior planner to start but there is the possibility of someday rising to a senior role. It's still a fairly small company--I'll be the 23rd employee in total, and the 9th in this office, which is now a satellite office (but which is where the firm started, before the main office was moved to Richmond, VA). The company has an annual company-wide retreat each November, so I'll be in Richmond for the election. I'll be applying for my absentee ballot tomorrow!

My compensation will be 20% less, but the benefits are better, and there's the opportunity for growth, so I'm happy. I'll be very happy to have my medical and dental fully covered!

The office is actually in the building next door to where I WAS working, so it's still just a mile from my house. Now that I've gotten back to walking so much, I'm going to see if I can manage walking into work more often. I never did manage to do it very often at the last job.

I start on Halloween, so I have one week to get organized around the house and do some de-stressing before getting back to a new routine.

I also have to get back to the other jobs I was applying for soon. I had already accepted a holiday retail sales job at a local department store, but I hadn't even gone for training or filled in the employment paper work, so I already notified the manager there. I had three other jobs in process, one a definite offer that was part-time to start, building to full time after I passed some licensing exams, and the others full-time, one in tax and the other another tiny wealth management firm. The job I accepted has more people and better benefits plus was the closest distance, so the decision was pretty clear. This time on the market definitely felt easier than the last time--I didn't start job hunting at all until September 1, so it was less than 8 weeks in all.

My 20 things

September 18th, 2016 at 06:09 pm

I recall doing this activity once several years ago on this site. I'll do this now, then see if I can find the old list and compare.

1. I've been on SA for a decade.

2. I'm on my third career: psychology professor, tax accountant, and most recently, financial planner.

3. I've lived in ten residences during my life: 8 apartments (6 of which were in old houses that had been divided into units) and two houses, the one that I lived in from age 5 to 21, which my sister now owns, and the one that I've lived in for the past decade that I own (along with the bank).

4. These residences have been in California (Los Angeles for 21 years and Palo Alto for 1), Michigan (Ann Arbor), Vermont, and Pennsylvania.

5. I love basset hounds but for now and the foreseeable future, I am owned by cats (thanks to my beloved Henry, whom I used to tell, "Your middle name is 'Retirement," sad but true).

6. Some of my career dreams from my youth: being a writer; being a flutist with an orchestra; being a recombinant DNA biologist; being an anthropologist, being a journalist.

7. When I was 14, I wrote an investigative paper for journalism class on the problems with nursing homes. My grandfather, a retired attorney, was very active in advocating with politicians for changes favoring seniors. With my current career (as well as personal) interest in navigating the financial issues of retirement, I feel like I am coming full circle.

8. Someday I hope to write a book--another way of bringing life full circle (back to my childhood dreams of being an author).

9. And yet a third way I want to bring life full circle is to become active in musical performance again some day. There's a local division of the "RTO," Really Terrible Orchestra (started in Scotland by author Alexander McCall Smith and with branches over the world) that I hope to make the time to join some day.

10. I've been to 40 of the 50 states, mostly by way of traveling most of the lengths of I-90, I-80, I-70, I-60, I-50, and I-40 (plus a trip to Alaska).

11. On the other hand, the only foreign country I've been to is Canada.

12. I hope to visit the remaining 10 states and do a little foreign travel, probably during my 60s.

13. I once spent 7 weeks in the hospital during which I did not (could not) eat (I was fed directly into my bloodstream via TPN).

14. I have walked two half-marathons.

15. I am phobic about anything to do with tools or equipment--something I got from my mother. I wish I could be more self-sufficient but it isn't in the cards. The fact that I can fill my own gas tank, plug together the components of my computer, and once even reattached a spark plug that had gotten loose is as far as my mechanical skills are likely to go. I contemplate taking a bike or car repair class--but there are so many more interesting things to learn that I don't expect to get around to this for a while.

16. Almost all of my friends are older than me, some considerably so. My best friend is 16 years older than me and my oldest friend is 92.

17. This makes me feel like I need to make an effort to make friends who are younger than me just so I have friends in 20 years!

18. I was brought up as a Reconstructionist Jew, learned about Lutheranism from a boyfriend who I went to church with several times, about Buddhism from an anthropologist friend and my own extensive readings, about Quakerism from my several friends who are Friends, and made my way back to Reconstructisonist Judaism after attending a Buddhist retreat.

19. I have had a meditation practice of one sort or another--not long sessions and sometimes with long gaps between sessions--for over 40 years.

20. I am semi-agnostistic about the existence of God, but like the ideas of Abraham Joshua Heschel, who wrote a book "Why God Needs Man." The idea is that God created people with free will and needs us to act ethically of our own free will in order to bring good into the world.

Bonus #21. I have met one fellow SA blogger, but on another website (now defunct) that I was also very active on for many years, I have met half a dozen people. That one was a discussion forum about walking on a diet website.

I suspect this is quite a bit different than the last time I answered this list! Update: actually, much less so than I thought--the original entry from 2006 is at http://dido.savingadvice.com/2006/11/19/late-list_17556/.

Missed my Blogaversary!

September 18th, 2016 at 04:56 pm

After reading Monkey Mama's post about her blogaversary, I had to check mine. Missed it back in June! Interesting to look back at the early entries.

Like Monkey Mama, I also note a perspective shift: Back in 2006, I was blogging more frequently and with much more of a day-to-day savings focus; nowadays there is more of a longer term goal focus and an eye towards retirement.

On the other hand, it's also the case that "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Back in 2006, some things I blogged about a lot were my pets (especially my much beloved and much missed Henry), my job struggles, and my efforts to reduce my food costs. And I *still* tend to write a lot about my pets, my job struggles, and my food costs!

But the pets are different now: senior kitties Buffy & Bridget, replacing the trio of Basset Hound Henry and kitties Phoebe & Teddy. The job struggles are different too--I'm in a totally different career. In fact, I've changed careers twice, if you count the shifot from tax accountant to financial planner as a shift (and it is, albeit not as big as the shift from psychology professor to accountant). I was at a seminar dinner earlier this week and shared a table with a woman about my age; I told her about my career shift (she had an interesting one too: from restaurant manager to long-haul truck driver!) and she said, "you realize how amazing that is? How few people actually go through and succeed at making a big career shift like that?" which made me feel really good for the first time since losing my job.

And finally, the food struggles are interesting: I still wish I spent less, but when I look at what I was spending a decade ago, it's actually about the same as now, so given that there must have been some inflation, that's a cut. And looking at WHAT I ate, I see a LOT more prepared foods than I eat now--in fact, my old diet looks pretty much like garbage compared to the present. So that's at least a positive development.

And looking at my net worth: my liabilities are actually fairly similar in amount (though back then it was just home mortgage debt; now I have more home equity but also some other loans) but my assets are more than double (and a chunk of that is due to an inheritance). Back then my net worth was under 150K and now half a million is in sight, though it will probably take me another couple of years to get to with this latest transition.