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mid-June update

June 14th, 2024 at 12:07 pm

It's been an eventful month, but more of an inflection point than a sea change.

Probably the biggest thing that happened, but one that doesn't affect me personally, is that my cousin's wife, who has been part of our family for over 30 years, had a heart transplant.  When we got together last month, she told me she was on the transplant list and had been for a while, but we were all surprised that the right match came for her just two weeks later!  She was in the hospital for about 10 days, was up walking within 24 hours of the surgery, and is doing well, with a much healthier heart than before!  (She is a cancer survivor, and drugs from that previous medicl event damaged her heart.)  So that is a great blessing.

Personally, there are some changes happening at work.  My job has been remarkably stable for the past 6 years, and this is the first time since 2018 that there will be some changes.  Now change can be good or change can be bad, and I pray that this is all to the good, but it does make me more eager to reach "financial independence," (FI) the point at which I have the ability to support myself from my savings rather than my income, and when I work because I WANT to rather than because I HAVE to.  We are at the point where the changes have been announced but not yet implemented--that really comes starting in mid-August.

And of course, it's a basic principle of psychology that we get more motivated and strive harder the closer we are to achieving a goal.

The speed with which I reach my goal depends on the market, of course, but I am making progress.  We aren't quite to the halfway point of the year yet, but to date, I have reduced my total debt by about 12k and my assets have increased by about 75k.  (I put 2k a month into retirement savings, and I get one big annual "profit-sharing" contribution early each year from my employer, so about 1/3 of the increase is from funds added and 2/3 is from capital appreciation.)

All things taken together, I figure I am 2-4 years from FI.

I also have a home repair issue that I have been dealing with.  I live in a 1915 house with a half-bath that was added on much later.  When we have bad storms, it has been literally raining inside my house in the doorway in between the original home and the addition.  I have four buckets that fill that doorway.  I'm pretty sure that the problem has finally been correctly diagnosed and I have signed a contract for a repair, but the earliest the work will commence is the 20th, so I'm a bit nervous about the storm forecast for tonight, and I hope that is the only one before the repair.

The drywall in the ceiling of the half-bath has also been damaged and will need to be replaced (and probably mold remediation done), and my neighbor and I have agreed to replace our shared front steps next year--all of this will be quite pricey.

For the moment, I am holding off on acquiring new cats, as much as I want new companions.  I am able to make greater progress on the debt reduction without having that commitment.  Pets and books are my biggest spending indulgences--and the cost for pets far outweighs whatever I spend on books.  

Other than that, I have been struggling for a couple of months with fatigue.  The first quarter of the year is so busy and the worst of it is that the scheduling is out of my control, as I am a "sub-advisor," not a lead.  I pushed pretty hard through Q1 and hit a wall sometime in April, at which point I've been spending more time going to bed early than working out.  I did manage to run a 5k last Saturday, though (with a short walking interval after every mile), so I haven't totally lost my conditioning.

In any case, I went ahead and scheduled my PTO time for the rest of the year.  Every Friday off starting next Friday, through the end of August.  Then another two days (for a 4-day weekend) in early October and a final two days at the end of the year before the pressure starts all over again.  (And there's also a 4-day weekend for Thanksgiving and a 3-day for Labor Day, so at least one long weekend every remaining month.) I am hoping that by having 11 3-day weekends in a row, I will regain some energy and also be able to make some progress on decluttering.

Also, my best friend turned 80 this week.  Three of us from our congregation took her out to lunch yesterday, and we agreed to meet for lunch the second Thursday of every month.  One thing that has happened during the past several years is that all of my close friends locally have retired, and I have been left out of much of the socializing, which has moved to mid-day.  But they agreed to meet every month near my work (which fortuitously is on our local "restaurant row"), so it will be nice to add that regular socializing back to my schedule.

Trip to Los Angeles

May 12th, 2024 at 11:50 pm

I went to Los Angeles last weekend--really a 5-day weekend from Wednesday to Sunday.  I visited my sister, who lives in the house I grew up in, for the first time in 5 years, and also saw my one remaining aunt and one of my two first cousins on my mother's side and his family, as well as one high school friend.

I was fortunate enough to have company on the flights out and back.  The trip actually came about because my supervisor at work has family in L.A. too, and she had arranged the trip for those days.  She encouraged me to fly out with her and her husband because she knows I have a hard time taking vacations.  So I had someone to talk to and watch my bags at the airport.

We took a 6 am bus ride from the airport to EWR (Newark) and then a non-stop flight to Los Angeles, which arrived around 1 pm.  I took an Uber to my sister's house.  Last Wednesday was my sister's birthday.  We went out to Fisherman's Village at Marina del Rey (a favorite family hang-out) and out to dinner.

On Thursday, we hung around the house in the morning, looking at old photograph albums and letters.  Late in the afternoon, we went to a bank where we had 5 jointly-owned safety deposit boxes and consolidated what was in them down to 3 boxes.  Then we took a drive out to UCLA, my alma mater, where helicopters were buzzing over the Royce Hall quad from the student demonstrators who were occupying.  I did get to see the old psychology building, now renamed because the naming rights from the previous benefactors had expired.  We then visited our parents' gravesite, which is nearby (in the same cemetary where Marilyn Monroe and many other celebrities are interred), and stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home.  I miss Trader Joe's--the closest one to where I live is nearly an hour away.  

On Friday, I spent the early afternoon with a high school friend.  We drove up to Malibu and had lunch, and then stopped at the Santa Monica Pier to take a ride on the Ferris wheel on the way back--I had never done that before.  My friend dropped me at the Skirball Cultural Center, where my sister works, and my sister and I toured the Maurice Sendack "Where the Wild Things Are" exhibit.

Saturday was our family get-together.  My aunt and cousin live in Orange County, and they suggested a delicatessan that was partway between.  I was saddened to learn as we were planning this trip that my aunt has dementia.  I had sort of guessed, as the last few times we had chatted, she referred to herself as "Grandma Joyce," but it was sad to have it confirmed.  She still recognizes us, though, and participates in events, but she is much less verbal than she once was and lets her husband make decisions, such as what she will have for lunch, for her.

On Sunday, my sister and I went to the old Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax.  Our grandparents had lived near here and visited the market daily, so we went there a lot as children.  Even though there is a lot of development outside the original Farmer's Market, the old part looks very much the same.

I took the redeye home and arrived back mid-day Monday.  It was a short trip, but went off better than the last visit.  But all told, I'm sure that I spent more time in a car in 5 days in L.A. than I will for the entire rest of the month in Bethlehem!

New Identity Protection Service

April 14th, 2024 at 02:58 pm

I just changed my identity protection service.  I've been using Identity Force for a few years, for an annual fee of $189.50 per year.  Prior to that, I used LifeLock, but changed a few years ago because Identity Force had better service for a lower fee.

I did a search of the reviews again, and Aura is currently the top-rated such service, AND they have a "Tax Day" sale that ends tomorrow (the % off depends on the plan you choose), so I changed services again.  I'll have about a month overlap between the two.

I like these services because of the "White Glove" service they offer.  You can get Identity protection on your homeowner's insurance which is typically relatively cheap (again depends on the value of your property but usually under $100), but that offers limited coverage and no white glove help if you have an issue.  If you get one of the premium services like those I've named, you can get protection that is $1 million or more (depending on your net worth and how much you are willing to pay) plus greater service.

Identity theft causes such a hassle and even tragedy that it's become increasingly important in this day and age.  I've now been in the financial services industry for 15 years (counting both my tax and wealth management positions), and the past few years have seen an exponential tick upwards.  

Hump Day

February 27th, 2024 at 06:40 pm

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

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

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

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

Attention Savings Advice webmaster

February 16th, 2024 at 01:56 pm

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

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

2023 Wrap-Up and 2024 Goals

December 31st, 2023 at 01:32 am

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

2023 Goals & Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labor Day weekend

September 4th, 2023 at 09:41 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appliance shopping

July 30th, 2023 at 08:02 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 11th, 2023 at 08:50 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birthday week review

August 28th, 2022 at 08:00 pm

My birthday was this past week.  As a single person, my birthday and Thanksgiving are the two ostensibly celebratory days of the year that I usually dread most--the days where you "expect" to be with others who care about you (but if you are single, you might not be).  But this year was actually a relatively good birthday.

When I opened the door that morning, my mail from the previous day was in the mailbox and included a watercolor painting of my cat Buffy done by a friend of mine.  I didn't even know she painted.  It's lovely, and I will frame it.

I worked that day, and in fact had 3 client meetings (which is about as many client meetings as I will ever have in a day), so the day was busy.  But the birthday actually began the Friday before with the arrival of a mystery gift at my door which arrived without a card.  I was able to trace the sender by posting a picture of the gift on Facebook--it was my friend who had come to visit me at the beginning of August.

Then when I arrived at work, there was a birthday card on my desk, and all of my coworkers greeted me with birthday wishes.  One of my colleagues even sang to me!

After work, my boss took the clients to dinner and invited me.  I was again serenaded.

Then the next evening, four of my personal friends took me to dinner at my favorite little Korean restaurant (where I am friends with the owner as well).  I received an additional card and a couple of gifts, and the restaurant owner gave me an extra dinner to take home for the following night as a gift (I saved it and just ate it for Sunday lunch).

And of course, "Facebook" birthdays are fun since you hear from all kinds of people you never hear from the rest of the year.  All in all, it was a pretty good day.

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

Last week was super-busy as work, and Mon-Wed are this coming week, but I'm taking next Thursday and Friday off, and we have Labor Day off, so I'm looking ahead to a 5-day weekend.  I took some time off in May but ended up spending a good chunk of it reading a textbook that I had long wanted to read.  I'm very glad I finally got a chance to read that book, but reading and taking notes on a finance textbook is not exactly "R&R."  Then the other long weekend that I took was right before my annual visitor came, and I spent two solid days working on decluttering and cleaning my house in preparation for her visit.  Again, productive but not restful.

So this coming weekend, I am determined to use the time for more relaxing pursuits.  I've scheduled a kayaking lesson (which includes the boat rental) through the nearby LL Bean outlet, which runs classes at a lake 20 miles south.  I'll probably schedule one or two social things, but mostly I want to leave time for reading, walking, and taking a nap or two.

 

Staycation

May 14th, 2022 at 11:09 pm

I took the first week of May off of work to recover from tax season.  Even though I no longer actually do tax preparation, as the CPA in our office, I do get extra work both at the end of the year and at the beginning of the year until tax day.

Because my kitty is 17 years old with medical conditions, I don't want to leave her if I don't have to (I will have to leave her for 2 days in June--just one overnight--for a required work trip), so I don't even think about going anywheres these days.  I didn't even do any day trips--I've gotten out of the habit of driving and at the moment, anything longer than a 5 mile trip makes me a bit nervous).  

I had plenty to do, though, mostly catching up with household stuff.  I brought my car in for its 60,000 mile service, had my bicycle refurbished, did some decluttering, and caught up with a few friends I hadn't seen since the holidays.  I also read a lot.

I went to services the last weekend for their first in-person potluck in two years, and, wouldn't you know, someone who was there tested postive for COVID the next day, so my first few days back at work were spent working remotely.  I am fortunate that I did not come down with it.

Now things will be a little calmer at work until they rev up again in September.  I'm going to try to make more of an effort to work fewer evenings and weekends during this relatively "slow" time of year.

Taxes filed

February 27th, 2022 at 12:10 am

Filed my tax returns today; getting a bit of a refund.  Also the paycheck with the bonus arrived in my account today (I didn't expect it until Monday but was very glad to have it early).  I paid down some debt and am actually almost to my goal for the end of the year already (meaning that I will adjust that goal downwards).  

I also am keeping aside a couple of thousand of the bonus & refund for the home/car repair and veterinary expenses that are bound to arise during the year, plus another few hundred to either repair my bicycle or buy a new one.  Will be taking the old bicycle to the shop in the next week or so to get an estimate of cost to refurbish it.  It's 30+ years old but they don't make frames like they used to--this one is sturdier, so it IS a bit heavier, but it's not *that* much heavier than a similar bike manufactured today.

Looking forward to a time when I will have time to ride it--even though I don't do tax prep any more, my work load early in the year is always disproportionately busy.  

Bonus and Raise!

February 24th, 2022 at 02:13 am

Our company gives out bonuses--if any--last year there was not--at the end of February.  Bonuses are the same throughout the company and are based on our firm meeting its target profit margin for the year.  We did, so this year, we all got a 15% bonus--one of the largest in the time I've been with the company.

This time of year is also when merit increases in pay are announced.  I got a 7.5% increase--not my highest, but still one of the top increases percentage wise.  This will take effect with my March 15th paycheck.

We had the option to change our 401(k) elective deferral for our 2/28 paycheck (which includes the bonus).  i usually contribute 22% of my pay to my 401(k), but for 2/28, I will contribute nothing so that I have have the maximum amount available after tax to pay down some debt.  After the debt is paid off, I should be close to my target for the year--whch of course means setting a new target for 12/31.  I've really been focused on paying off debt for the past 2 years and it is coming down nicely, although it's still a ways from being paid off.  But I think in about another year of dedicated debt paydown, I will get rid of most of the non-mortgage debt, and the mortgage is coming down nicely as well.  It would be paid off in less than 8 years if I paid no more than the minimum required payment, but I usually pay some extra, so it should be paid off sometime between 2025 and 2027, which means it should be paid off before I retire, which is the goal.

I won't use all of the bonus to pay down debt, though--I'll be leaving about a third as a sinking fund for upcoming expenses like home and car repairs and veterinary bills.  And I might use about $700 or so to buy a new bicycle or otherwise do something that I can use to improve my health.

 

 

Trying not to count my chickens

December 26th, 2021 at 05:22 pm

My company often gives us a bonus if we meet our revenue goal for the year.  They announced at the monthly company meeting earlier this month that we had met it, so I am very optimistic that we will be getting a bonus. 

This used to occur at year-end, but a couple of years ago, they changed it to giving it out at the end of February so that the books could be formally closed for the year before they figured the percent that they would use (the bonus is typically some percentage of your base salary).  In past years that we've gotten a bonus, the percentage has been 10% or 20%, but that was before they increased everyone's base salary by 20% at the beginning of 2020, so I'm not sure what percent bonus to expect.  There was no bonus in 2020 and, with higher base salaries, the percentages for bonuses are likely to be lower. 

If we get 10%, I'll be able to wipe out one of my debts completely.  Then in January of 2023 (bonus or no bonus) I will be able to wipe out a second debt (0% balance transfer credit card), and that will bring my debts down to my mortgage, a HELOC, and one other loan (plus monthly credit card debt that is paid off) by early 2023.

I don't think I'm going to have all of my debt paid off by the end of 2025 as I had once hoped, but if we get a couple of additional bonuses between now and then, it's still possible. 

By January, my debts should be less than 10% of my net worth, and my assets about 11.5 times my net worth, which is a big improvement from 5 years ago, when my debts were over 20% of my net worth and my assets were 5.6 times my net worth. 

My retirement assets are at about 8x my annual income, which is still too low to retire (ideally you have your retirement assets at least 10x your annual income, or better yet at 12x your income or more), but, as less of my income will need to be devoted to debt reduction by 2023 (assuming no more really major debts--I'm already assuming there will be some fairly large veterinary bills and capital expenditures), I should get to "retirement-range" assets (10x income) by my mid-60s (I'm 61) assuming that we don't have a protracted slump in the markets.  (I'll be looking at my allocations during this next week that I have off and considering how much more conservative I want to get--I remain at about a 60/40 allocation overall).  I'm currently saving 22% of my income to my 401(k), and getting another 3% contribution from my company.  Any additional savings will be put into conservative investments in a taxable account because I need to increase my liquid reserves.  I was also really happy to see that my retirement savings from my current job (which I have been at for 5 years and 2 months) are at about 106k even before the 12/31 contributions.

Done with work for the year!

December 21st, 2021 at 11:53 pm

I had accumulated time off that I needed to take, and it worked out to be able to take it at year end, so I am officially OFF until January 3rd!

It's kind of scary, actually.  When I work, I don't really have to think about what to do with my time.  The to-do list is longer than can be accomplished but the priorities are clear.  There are invariably lower-priority things that *Don't* get done, so now I have to figure out which of *those* I want to accomplish.

The big goal for year end is always doing a year-end review and planning for the year ahead.  I've already started doing some of that.

In 2021, I did manage to complete a long-term "big" goal of attaining my CFP certification, so that gets moved off of the list.  I've decided that my 2022 "word of the year" is "Foundation," with a focus on physical foundations, specifically health and home decluttering.

I actually started the health project right after completing the CFP, and (working with a health coach) I've become much more consistent about exercising.  When I look at my Fitbit graphs you ca see that, from January thru July (when I took the CFP exam, I was averaging somewhere between 5 and 18 "active zone" minutes per day.  My activity level ramped up during August and I've averaged over 30 minutes a day from September on.  I even have managed to jog a non-stop mile a couple of times so far--something that I hadn't done in over a decade.

I'm happy about my exercise progress and want to continue that, and build up more of a strength component, but during the new year I also want to see if I can make some progress on my weight (or, as my coach encourages me to call it, "body composition," a less loaded term).  I just finished reading a book, "Burn," by Hermann Pontzer, that makes a really strong case against the "Calories in/Calories out" model.  Our bodies are so good at adapting to our exercise activity that increasing it doesn't really make any difference in your weight, unless it's in the very short term.  Losing weight needs to be really all about food, and particularly about eating "real" (that is, minimally processed food (though cooking the food is fine--this is not about a raw diet.)  I'll also be going back to my 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule as often as I can, since I can often stick with that, and will try to add in daily "fasted movement" before breakfast and a post-prandial walk after dinner as often as I can.  I'll actually be working with two health coaches during Q1 of 2022--one, who ran a free 7-day challenge this past month, who is really good at focusing on the day-to-day granular entries and who is more of an expert in nutrition and exercise physiology, and the other, the one who I've been working with since August, who is more of a "mindset" coach and is all about the big picture.  So the first big goal for Q1 of 2022 is to keep up the exercise consistency and tweak my nutrition plan with the goal of taking off 3" off my waist (which would be about 20 pounds).  That would be lower than anything that I have weighed since 2000.

I also have a goal during 2022 to start decluttering my house.  I want to make a *start* at this during my break, but I'm giving myself the whole year to make some progress.  The big goal during break is to 1. clear off my dining room table and file/toss the recent mail (bad habit of mine; bills always get paid on time but organizing things only gets done sporadically); 2. get the old bed out of the bedroom since I have been happily sleeping on my shikifuton on the floor for over a month now; and 3. if I can, clear out some of the unworn clothes from my closet, clear out the bathroom cabinet, and clear out the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator.

Because I'm staying close to home so I can be with my Buffy cat, I have no plans to travel, but I hope to fit in a few meals with friends I haven't seen (provided the pandemic doesn't get too crazy).  Otherwise I mostly just hope to unwind and rest up for the busy year ahead--I have to hit the ground running on January 3 and it will be very busy during Q1.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Replaced my bed

November 13th, 2021 at 08:46 pm

The bed that I have been sleeping on for the past 21 years was purchased for me (by a friend using my credit card) when I was in the hospital having had major abdominal surgery, a 10.5" incision.  (They now do the same surgery laproscopically).  For the 18 years prior to that, I had slept on a futon on the floor.  For the past year and a half or so, I have been debating replacing the bed as it doesn't feel as supportive as it had previously.  I had been thinking to wait until January to move the expense into the new year as this year has been a costly one already in terms of home expenses, but after a couple of successive poor night's sleep and coming up on my busy time of year, I decided not to wait.

I also decided to go back to sleeping on a futon on the floor for better support and because I just prefer it--especially since I always have one or more "fur-kids" and they often sleep with me.  Actually when I had my last Basset Hound Henry, once he became ill, I slept on a foam pad in my living room for about a year and a half because he couldn't get upstairs where the bed was and we both felt better when I was near him.

So I bought a Japanese-style futon, although this one is 4" thick rather than the traditional Japanese 3" thick and it is the size of a twin bed rather than the smaller traditional Japanese dimensions.  I've slept on it 3 nights so far and so far so good in terms of how I'm sleeping.  Since this was delivered by Fed-Ex and left in a box at my door, I still need to get rid of the old bed.  A friend is going to come over next weekend and help me deconstruct the old bed so I can put it out in the trash.  I've never done this before but she has.  I remember when they moved the bed INTO my house, they needed to take out the window because a full-size boxspring would not make it up the narrow stairs (with turns at two small landings) of my hundred-year old house.  I'm glad that the window won't have to be removed from the frame again in order to get the old bed out!

Getting rid of the old bed will be step one of decluttering.  In other news, because my firm very kindly counted the week that I took off to study before the CFP exam as work time rather than as vacation time, I found that I had 8 days of vacation time accrued (with another 3 days still to accrue by the end of the year (as of 11/1), so I'm taking off next Friday and then from December 22 to December 31.  With weekends, that will give me a 12-day stretch away from the office.  Since Miss Buffy was hospitalized back in 2019, I've not gone away from home overnight and I've taken my vacation time as a series of long weekends.  The problem with that is that I never get any larger projects done around the house.  A long weekend is time enough to catch up on rest and to do something fun and catch up on the household chores, but there never is time for any larger household projects, so they just accrue.  I really want to make some progress decluttering over the next year and this will be time enough to pick at least one of the larger projects and just do it.  I'm going to start with the kitchen over Thanksgiving weekend and maybe I can get that decluttered then and use the time at the end of the year to turn an upstairs bedroom from "the storage room" to a home library/study/gym (which is what it was when I first moved in, before I decided to change careers).

Benchmarking Retirement Savings and planning next year's home purchases

October 30th, 2021 at 04:59 pm

I found a particularly useful article on where you should be in terms of your retirement savings (assuming you are still in the accumulation years) at https://www.troweprice.com/personal-investing/resources/insights/are-my-retirement-savings-on-track.html.

I like this article because they don't just give you a multiple of your income by age, but they also split it out by marital status.  Further, if you are behind, they also give you a percentage of your income to save that is needed to catch up.

For example, my retirement savings are currently at 8x my income.  At my age (61) and income, it should be about 8.5 to 9x my income.  I'm behind because I lost several years of savings due to making a major career change and having some very low income years from 2009 to 2014 when I didn't add to my retirement accounts.  The chart says that in order to catch up, I should be saving at least 13% of my income.  I currently contribute 22% (and my employer contributes another 3%), so that is reassuring about catching up to where I should be.

My debt continues to decrease but more slowly than I'd like as this year involved replacing a number of things in the house that are breaking down now that I've been here (today is my 16 year anniversary of home ownership).  This year it's been the hot water heater, washing machine, and some major plumbing (plus veterinary expenses associated with my cat Bridget's illness and passing).  Next year I'll probably replace the dryer, refrigerator, and my bed, and possibly the range.  (I've been living without a working range for 2 years now and getting along fine with an Instant Pot, Air Fryer, and coffee maker but the house should have one.)  I know appliances go on sale in January so I may shop the sales then.  I'm particularly worried about the refrigerator going on me and I hope that I replace it before it just goes, especially given the current supply chain problems and delivery delays.

Finally! Cell phone # ported over

October 19th, 2021 at 10:59 pm

I called the Porting Department of Consumer Cellular directly, since the last Customer Service Rep gave me their number after about 4 previous calls.  Once I reached the representative, he was able to conference me in to his call with Tracfone.  They sent me a code to verify my current phone and then they released my number and they at long last were able to port my phone number over.  I just tested it from my work phone and the new iPhone rings when you call my number.  At long last, success!

Now I have to copy all of my old contacts over manually.  My dumb phone is so old there is no easy way to transfer--I spent about 45 minutes a while ago copying all of the phone numbers I had in there and I need to make sure that they are in my contacts.  I think my gmail contacts are already in there but a lot of the phone numbers I call most often--like my work colleagues--are not in the gmail but just in the old phone.

Very relieved this is done!

STILL trying to transfer my cell phone!

October 19th, 2021 at 12:00 am

Checking in here, I see that I have been trying to transfer my cell phone number to a new smart phone for OVER 6 weeks now!  I started by ordering an iPhone SE from Tracfone, my original provider, on 9/4.  By 9/23, after having received an iphone with the SIM card not installed and not being able to get any help from Tracfone (I found their online instructions incomprehensible), I returned the iPhone to Tracfone and ordered the same phone from Consumer Cellular for $50 more than Tracfone charged--but oh well, at least you can talk to people at Consumer Cellular.

But since 9/23 I have been trying to get my phone number ported over from Tracfone to Consumer Cellular and it STILL isn't done.  And while Consumer Cellular answered right away before I had signed up with them, I now find myself waiting on hold for 25-45 minutes every time I call.  I don't always have time to do that, so it can be a week between calls if I am too busy or tired.

Consumer Cellular claims that this is Tracfone making things difficult.  I finally DID get Tracfone to get someone to give me a call and he said that the number would be ported over, but that was about 3 phone calls ago

At least Consumer Cellular gave me a number direct to their "porting department" rather than making me go through the general customer service for my next call, which I hope to make tomorrow.  Too tired/busy to tackle it today.

Can I just put it out there?:  I HATE CELL PHONES!!!  They are a device of the Devil himself as far as I am concerned!  G-D- electronic leashes.  UGH!  the only thing I like about them is having a phone in hand when I am driving, and I will like having a GPS once the iPhone is hooked up.  My old cell phone is a dumb phone so I haven't had that.

First world problem though.  Frustrating nonetheless.  Since this so far (knock on wood!!) is my biggest problem of the year (other than poor kitty Bridget passing away in April), I am overall quite blessed.

 

Smartphone again

September 24th, 2021 at 01:57 am

Well, Tracfone has proven to be a miserable experience with getting the new smartphone set up.  They sent a phone without a SIM card installed and I could not understand the instructions for inserting it....they had a web page with pictures but my brain does not process that kind of information well and there was no way to actually speak to a person to ask a couple of questions.....so I gave up and called Consumer Cellular and ordered an iPhone from them instead.  They will ship it with the SIM card installed and best of all, you can TALK to a real person (based in the US) when you have a question.  I am having to spend a lot of time online with Tracfone anyways to transfer the service over, but I will be glad to be done with them.  A decade ago when I started with them, you talked to a person when you had questions, but no longer.  The only way to actually talk to a human being is to book a service call.  I do have one of those set up for 11:30 am tomorrow.

The Consumer Cellular phone should arrive by Monday at the latest and then it will take a couple of days to ensure that my phone number is ported over and then I will be able to cancel with Tracfone for good.  I'll lose at least a hundred dollars all told in pre-paid service that I won't be using plus the same phone purchased from Consumer Cellular costs $50 more, but it's worth it to me to call up and speak to a human being.

Smartphone ordered

September 4th, 2021 at 02:33 pm

I purchased an iPhone SE, 64 GB.  I paid $4.95 for shipping  (rather than the free 2-day option) so hopefully it arrives tomorrow and I can get it activated and play around with it over the long weekend.  I decided to stay with Tracfone for now with the prepaid plan since that gives me flexibility.  I started off with a $25 for 30 day plan, which includes 2GB of data, but I can move to a $15/month ($14.25 with autorefill) plan if i am not using much data.

I also realized that having the smartphone will allow me to use my fitness app, OpenFit, for outdoor walks as well.  I've been using OpenFit since mid-July and their interactive "Easy Step" walking program has been a real motivator, keeping me much more consistent with my daily step count (except when work gets overly busy, as it did last week).  I've been walking indoors in the A/C so far, but now that the weather is beginning to cool, I look forward to resuming outdoor walks along with their program.  So there's another benefit besides GPS that I will get from having cell phone service rather than sticking only to WiFi access.

I also stayed with Tracfone because they will give me credit for my existing service, which is good until February of 2023, and the unused data can roll over month to month.  That savings alone would save me compared to the 5% AARP discount I would get if I switched to Consumer Cellular. Also my primary network will be Verizon, so that's good.  They also have contracts with ATT & T-Mobile so I should be covered whereever.

Coming into the 21st century at long last!

Question: smartphone plans?

September 3rd, 2021 at 02:08 am

I've been using a basically "dumb" cell phone on a prepaid plan with Tracfone for over a decade.  In the past few years, I've coupled the dumb-phone with an iPod Touch, which has allowed me to access various apps as long as I am connected to WiFi.

I have been thinking of a while now of upgrading to a "real" cell phone and a monthly service plan, rather than the prepaid phone that I have now.  I got a kick in the pants about doing this today when Tracfone messaged me that my phone is no longer supported on their networks and that I can expect to start seeing my calls dropped or unable to go through progressively more often.

I need the phone for my job (especially once we are out and about more; we still have 2/3s of our client meetings over Zoom), but I've never researched cell phone plans.  Since I'm used to the iPod Touch, I'm planning to go with an iPhone, but I'd be curious to hear about what cell service plans people have and like and especially *why* you like --or dislike-- your plan.

It's just me, so I won't get any benefit from any family plan.

Any thoughts you care to share are appreciated!

Birthday Week

August 29th, 2021 at 01:53 am

My birthday was this past week.  It was a pleasant enough day.  Everyone at my office knew and wished me a happy birthday when I arrived at work.  I have a couple of friends who have promised to take me out for a meal, but since my birthday fell mid-week, I didn't have any plans for the day itself.  Rather than being upset at being alone on my birthday, I decided to treat myself to a dinner at a nice restaurant in town that I've always wanted to try, but one that is more upscale than I would pick for a meal that a friend was treating me to.  The dinner was very nice; I was seated at a window overlooking our local extremely quaint historic district.  (The restaurant was the 1741 Terrace, so that gives you an idea of how old our local history is!)  I used the opportunity to do some reflection over my life to date.  Since I just completed the CFP(r) and have spent a good chunk of the last 20 years focused on changing careers, it was a good opportunity to reflect over what I will want out of the *next* 20 years.

And I still have two meals with friends to look forward to during the next month.  (Hopefully by then, the current wave of COVID cases will have peaked and be on the downswing again....I did read that if our pattern in the US follows what happened in the UK, Labor Day should be the peak of the current outbreak).

Visitor; goals

July 24th, 2021 at 04:10 pm

I have a friend who has traveled to visit me virtually every year since I moved back to Pennsylvania from Vermont in 1999 (with two exceptions: last year due to COVID and 10 years ago, the year my mother died).  We met because we taught at the same small (now-defunct) college in Vermont, she as an English professor with a special interest in the medevial period and me as a Psychology professor, and both of us owners of Basset Hounds.  A local college sponsors an annual Shakespeare Festival with a mix of equity actors and students, and each year we have gone to a production at the festival as well as had time to catch up with each other and what has been going on in our lives.

So this week was my friend's annual visit, from Thursday afternoon to Saturday morning.  Her visit prompted me to actually do greater cleaning and decluttering of several areas of my house than I have done since her last visit in 2019.  I can actually see my dining room table top for the first time since March of 2020!  Once we entered the COVID shut-down  in mid-March 2020, my dining room table became my work station as well as my CFP exam study area, with extra piles for mail that needed to be dealt with.

The decluttering was only superficial--there are ten banker's boxes in the living room with papers cleared from the dining room and other assorted surfaces.  Some of it will be kept, much of it will be recycled; at least it is now coralled to be dealt with gradually.  

Thursday after she arrived, we spent an hour on the porch chatting over glasses of iced tea.  The performance at the Shakespeare festival ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") was outdoors. It started at 6:30 and ended just as dusk was starting.  One of the chores I had not had time for before my friend's arrival was grocery shopping, so we ate out beforehand at a Greek restaurant that we have previously eaten at.  That restaurant had had a fire in June of 2017 and had been closed since then, finally reopening last December.   We had missed being able to eat there in 2018 and 2019, so it was nice to get back to our usual pre-theatre restaurant.

Friday morning I was able to run out to the grocery store before my friend woke up.  I had pulled together a list of local activities we could do and my friend chose to go to the arts trail in the next town over.  We walked the trail, stopped for an ice cream at the small upscale mall/condo area where we had parked, then drove over to the local indoor Farmer's Market and browsed around there.  We got home around 1:45 pm, had some sandwiches for lunch, then headed back out to explore the shops on Main Street in my town.  By the time we got home, the Achilles tendon I injured a couple of months ago was throbbing, so we took an hour for me to ice my tendon while my friend worked some puzzles on her iPhone.  Then I pulled out the sous-vide machine I bought myself last month and my trusty Instant Pot and made dinner (zucchini-fennel soup, salmon, potatoes, green beans and mushrooms, with chocolate truffles from a store at the Farmer's Market for dessert, as well as Sauvignon Blanc with dinner).

This morning, we went out to breakfast at a local cafe before my friend got on the road to drive back to upstate New York.

It was great to catch up and have some real time to spend with someone.

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In general, I still am very much "unwinding" and refocusing my perspective after having been laser-focused on the CFP exam since last October.  Today, I may go back to an old favorite coffee shop along the Delaware River, which I have not visited since pre-pandemic.  They have tables outdoors along the canal towpath, which provide a nice place to sit and write.  That is, I'll go there if I can summon the nerve.  I have driven so little since March of 2020 that this undertaking is a real endeavor.  (Actually, when I took the CFP exam, I had to take it in King of Prussia, outside of Philly, and I was actually more nervous about doing the  55-mile drive down and back than I was about the exam.)  Other than my trip to take the CFP exam, I haven't been more than 12 miles from home since sometime in 2019.

Now that my "goal #1" for 2021 (on my sidebar) has mostly been achieved (though I am still working on timeliness of meeting preparations), I am turning my major focus for the rest of the 3rd quarter to Goal #2 and building/rebuilding (new) habits to better support my health.  I also want to continue with the home decluttering--now that the surfaces are cleared and the excess coralled, I want to sort through and winnow down what is in those boxes.  I have a nearly-empty file cabinet sitting in my living room that I inherited from work when we went paperless and I have a general file system structure that I developed with the help of an organizational consultant a few years ago.  Now I just need #1 systems and routines for better dealing with incoming material as it comes in (and systems and routines for maintaining my health) and #2, a chance to deal with the backlog.

"Refining systems and routines" is really my focus for the rest of Q3.

Under the wire

May 16th, 2021 at 07:27 pm

Finally submitted my tax return.  I had a recovery rebate credit based on my 2020 income being less than my 2019 income.  I've heard that having this credit might slow refunds down; hopefully my refund will come in a reasonable amount of time.  The amount of my refund will cover both my new washing machine and my new air conditioner.  Hopefully I will receive the refund before the credit card bill is due.

The new washer and A/C arrived Friday.  The new washer is more powerful than the old one, and revealed a plumbing problem that needs to be dealt with before I can actually use the new machine.  The plumber comes Tuesday morning.  What with COVID, I didn't call the plumber all year last year and a number of non-emergency issues arose--my list of things for the plumber to check totals 5, just one of which is the washing machine issue.  I don't know that I can afford to get everything done that needs to be done, but I will deal with the most pressing stuff and possibly defer the things that can get let go, in particular fixing the outdoor spigot connection inside the basement.  I don't really use my backyard at all; I just have a gardener mow the grass and I pull out the biggest weeds in the beds.  But *next* year I'd like to do a little gardening, so if need be I can put that one repair, at least, on hold until 2022.

53 days until my exam!

It's looking to be a spendy year

May 10th, 2021 at 09:32 pm

I moved into my house in 2005.  The house itself is 106 years old, but the last owner had done a good job of keeping things up to date.  Now that I've been there 15 & a half years, "durable goods" are starting to reach the end of their lifespans.

Prior to last year, the only real upgrades I had done were to replace the gutters.  There have also been periodic large plumbing jobs along the way (two so far, and I'm worried that I may have another issue this year.)

I've also kept up with the roof.  It's a flat roof that needs periodic coating.  I have done that more often than suggested.  The last time I did it, there was a new product out that had a 10-year warranty, so I chose that option.  I'll still have to get someone to get on the roof and check it every year or so, though.

Then last fall I had a roof leak where the back porch joined the main house.  This led to replacing the two porch roofs.

Now this year, so far, I have had to replace the hot water heater, a window A/C, and (today) the washing machine.  Plus I need four new tires on my car by the summer, and I'm worried that there may be another plumbing issue. 

So far the dryer is fine.  The range died about two years ago but so far I haven't replaced it.  (I do all my cooking in the Instant Pot and Air Fryer, and I boil water in a coffee maker  and reheat in the microwave, so I get by.) I'm hoping that the refrigerator will last another couple of years but with my luck it will die this year.  I am hoping that I can have it last until I am ready to do a kitchen refresh (new appliances, countertop, floor, backsplash, and resurface but not replace the cabinets), but that won't be for a copule of years, so I'll probably have to replace it before then.  Hopefully not this year tho!

Also, knock on wood that the furnace lasts another few years.  That's another thing that was replaced by the last owner.  I see that furnaces can last 15 to 30 years; I do have my maintained every year, so I hope to eek another decade out of it--it's close to 20 years old right now.

The piper is finally having me pay his due.

January/February Check-In

February 21st, 2021 at 07:01 pm

Wow, we're getting towards the end of February already.  Tempus fugit!

The year to date has been busy, as the first and fourth quarters typically are at my firm.  I've basically been working at home again since Thanksgiving (I was at home mid-March to mid-June 2020, then back in the office from mid-June until Thanksgiving).  The COVID rates in my area are finally getting back to what they were back in October, so I am gradually beginning to go back into the office again, depending on who else is there.  While I'm technically eligible for a vaccine now because of a health condition, I haven't yet found an available appointment slot.  One of our clients pressed redial 137 consecutive times in order to get an appointment!  Not being retired, I don't have that kind of time or patience, so I'm hoping availability opens up more by the end of March.

Other than work, I've been working on my CFP review--a self-study review that I am trying to finish in the next two weeks, having started it back in October (and I am pretty much on target for being able to do that), then signing up for the exam itself and a second review program that my firm will pay for (I paid for the first).  The exam will be in July and I am targeting July 6th or 7th for taking the exam.  I have also found a group of accountability partners off a CFP Board candidates board and we are meeting every Saturday morning to check in with each other, set goals for the coming week and report progress on the past week, and, eventually, go over tough review questions together.  So far there are five of us in the group and we are all planning to use the same review provider, which means we will have the same study materials.

Other than that, I've spent a lot of time digging out from snowstorms the past month and I haven't spent very much time outdoors.  I've had a couple of emergency expenses--my water heater went in January, and my car battery died Friday night when I stopped at a restaurant to pick up some take-out.  Fortunately the restaurant was only 8 blocks from home, so I left my car and walked.  Then yesterday, it took a good chunk out of my day to walk back to the restaurant, call road service and wait for them to respond, then drive my car around to let the alternator continue to charge the battery, then take the car for a battery test and replacement.  But, the restaurant owner saw me pop the hood on my car and let me wait inside where it was warm, so it was really just a minor hassle on a Saturday when I have the time.

And thank goodness and knock on wood that so far there haven't been any veterinary emergencies yet this year.  Both kitties are still holding stable, thank goodness.  Buffy turns 16 on March 30th and Bridget will be 16.5 on March 26th, so they are getting up there.  I pray I can keep them going for some time longer, since they certainly keep ME going.

Quick Net Worth Recap

December 31st, 2020 at 11:37 pm

Assets up 14%

Debts down 6%

Net Worth Up 17% -- and just under 100k in one year, which is amazing to me.  At age 60, I'm at long last seeing the real benefits of compounding.

What a crazy year in the markets -- and in life!

Right now I have one more chapter of my self-study CFP review studying that I want to complete before 9 pm, which will put me having completed 4 out of 6 of the review booklets, leaving the Investments book for January and the Taxation book for February.  Then I'll sign up through my company for a second CFP review program in March, in order to take the exam in July.  I want to feel very confident as I go into the exam that I'll pass.  Then after the exam is done--I'll think more about what ELSE I want to do in life.  But having the CFP studying has been a good way to make productive use of time during COVID.

I'll probably come back tomorrow to blog about other goals.  Meanwhile--Happy New Year (and GOOD RIDDANCE, 2020!)

Milestone & Holidays

December 18th, 2020 at 05:51 pm

I'm taking the day off today (and the whole last week of the year off, too), so I decided to do some catch-up on my records.

My retirement savings hit a new hundred-thousand mark, only 7 months after hitting the last hundred-thousand dollar benchmark.  At this rate, I'll have a million by the time I am 65.5, but I'm not counting on that.  I'm expecting we'll have another recession to dig out of that will slow things down, but I'm optimistic in the long term for Wall Street if not Main Street.  There are literally trillions of cash dollars that have been sitting on the side since the pandemic and with low interest rates, they are coming back more into the stock market as bond rates are not as attractive.  Main Street will take longer to recover, but the new administration gives me hope that they will help this part of the recovery.  This is one of Janet Yellin's focus areas so I'm glad she will be in charge of Treasury.  Less income inequality helps all!

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Today was supposed to be our holiday party at work, but with the COVID surge, we've canceled the regular holiday lunch.  Usually we have two holiday celebrations:  one in early December, when the company President is in town (he visits our office about 10x/year for about 3 days each time); that is always a dinner event at a relatively posh restaurant.  Then we have the in-house lunch for the local staff.  For the first 3 years I was with the company, that was accomplished by catering from a local grocery store (which I always found disappointing as a meal, but the point was the celebration, not the food); then last year, we started catering from local restaurants.  We had this year's catering scheduled too, until the recent surge.  This is the day when we do our two gift-exchanges:  we all draw one person's name from a hat and buy a gift of no more than $25 for that person, plus we do a "white elephant" exchange of gag gifts costing no more than $5.  I'll send my giftee her present as an Amazon gift card via email today, and if anything's been left for me, it will be on my desk the next time I go in.  So this part of the celebration is emotionally unsatisfying but physically safe, which I'd druther.

I seem to have missed out on Chanukkah altogether--really no point in lighting a menorah all by oneself--and all the less so when your dining room table has been transmogrified into your desk.  My congregation had a Zoom get-together for the final night last night, but I forgot and missed it.  As far as Christmas, since I'm Jewish, it's never a big day anyways.  My congregation will have a dinner get-together and Shabbat service on Friday evening.  As a single person, the holidays have always been more of a pain to get through than a celebration anyways, although I really do enjoy looking at my city during the holidays--we ARE the Christmas City, and downtown is always a very cheery place during the holiday.

I have been catching up with some friends over the holiday season via phone, and that is very nice.  Other than that, I've picked up my knitting again for the first time in a decade, and *my* big ritual this time of year is always doing an annual review and some goal planning for the new year.  That--and some decluttering, and some CFP review--are what I will work on during my week off at year end.

More than halfway thru Q4

November 21st, 2020 at 08:54 pm

Last time I stopped by, it was the beginning of my buisiest time of year.  Almost through!  Once I get to December 4, things calm down a lot and I will actually have an unbelievable TEN DAYS OFF, from Christmas through the January 2, since the holidays are on Fridays this year.  

I literally cannot remember the last time I had ten days off--other than being unemployed, which is not at all the same thing.

I have so many goal-related things I want to do, but I also need to schedule something FUN, inasmuch as that is possible in this pandemic day and age.  I really have forgotten what fun is and I'm afraid I will fritter the time away on things that occupy my time and attention without providing greater dividends.

At least I'll have the four-day weekend over Thanksgiving to ponder this!

Other updates:  since I last checked in, I've had most of the home stuff done--the two porch roofs replaced, the arbor vitae trimmed, the furnace cleaned and checked for the winter, both cats to the vet.  The furnace check indicated that the expansion tank needs to be replaced, a job which will require draining all the water from the upper stories and which will cost an additional $700 or so.  Buffy is still holding her own but the imaging showed some progress of her disease so her meds have been increased and she'll be going back to the vet again on December 1.

I have been working in our office since mid-June, since we have a large workspace and few people--I sit in a room that is about 30 x 40 feet and usually there are two other people at other corners of the room.  But to be extra-cautious, the two weeks after Thanksgiving I will stay at home.

In preparation for more work at home time, I've upgraded all my technology--replacing my Chromebook (went from 2GB Ram to 8), router, iPod (which I use instead of a phone for our log-in apps) and upgrading my connection speed.

For Thanksgiving, the past several years, I have gone to a friend's house.  This year, Elizabeth is still cooking, but we have all ordered what we want via email and will pick it up from her house the day before, then we'll come together for an hour or so on Zoom.  Plus I'll need to spend some time connecting on video with my sister, who lives across the country.  Hopefully the weather will be nice enough to go out and take some walks.

Other than that, my free time is still spent studying for the CFP exam (at a low level, just trying to keep the material fresh until I really start studying in March in preparation for a July exam), reading Amish romances (and mysteries, at the moment), taking the occasional walk, and cleaning or cooking.

The pandemic finally broke me of my eating out habit; I don't even do take-out very often.  With all the home/tech purchases/vet costs debt is temporarily up 4k but net worth is still up about 31k from the end of Q3 due to the strong performance on the markets.   My goal is to be debt free in five more years and as long as I am able to keep working, it is do-able.


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