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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.



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

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 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.


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!


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.

Uh Oh Home Repairs

August 29th, 2020 at 09:07 pm

My house was built in 1915 and has very solid masonry construction.

A half-bath was added on to the back of the house at some point, probably 50 years ago.

A couple of weeks when Tropical Storm Isaias came through, most of my neighbors had water in their basements, but I was lucky; my basement stayed dry.

What I did have was water coming through the door frame in between the main house and the add-on. I put a pail underneath and checked the next day; once the pail went down, the floor on both sides of the door seemed dry, so I closed the door and didn't think anything of it.

I don't really use that room except as a storage closet for household supplies, so I didn't go in the room again until last Saturday when I needed a battery.

My nose noticed a smell first, and I looked up and saw mold on the ceiling.

My neighbor came by on Monday and painted over the ceiling with mold killer.

My other neighbor is in the process of selling his house and had a friend over who is a roofer who was doing some patching for him and did some patchwork on my roof too but he also told me that I should replace that roof.

So I am now in the process of gathering estimates. The first estimate was done this morning; $800 for the back porch roof only; and $1800 if I get the front porch roof done at the same time (a $200 discount from having the two projects done at different times). (The roofer who seal-coated my main roof last summer said that the front porch roof should be replaced in 3-5 years.) I'm getting two more estimates this week.

The last thing to figure out is addressing whether there is any mold growing in the space under the roof and over the ceiling. I'm just not sure about that. There is a drywall person who lives at the corner who the neighbor who applied the mold killer was going to talk to.

I always feel so completely helpless when there are home repairs but so far this one is reasonably in control, Still a bit nervous about the mold though. Not sure if it could get through from the attached structure into the main structure. And I just never know who to ask.

Back to a Debt Low since buying my house

August 16th, 2020 at 08:45 pm

I bought my house 15 years ago this October. Before that, I had had no long-term debt for well over a decade, only credit cards that were paid off monthly. The initial mortgage was $92,800, and, until this year, I had never gotten my debt total below $90k for more than a couple of months. A career change involving periods of unemployment, and the illnesses/deaths of several pets as well as my mother, meant that the debt would creep up and came to include some non-mortgage debt--a couple of low-interest loans (about 4%) and credit cards, typically with 0% balance transfer offers. This year I decided to get serious about paying down the debt.

I was able to get my debt below 80k for a brief period in February, when I got my 2019 bonus--but then the pandemic hit and I did some purchasing of some food and household stores, and it crept back over. I've been working it back down again, and it finally looks like it's below 80k for good, barring any major pet health, car, or home repair emergencies (knock on wood and prayers!). I'm aiming to get it to 70k by year's end and I think I'll be able to do it. I'm aiming to lop off 10k a year, more if possible (which basically means when I get a bonus at work). The mortgage is down to 47.5k now, close to half its starting balance (should be more than 50% paid off by October 1).

The mortgage payoff is steady, $400 a month (I round up the payment each month to make it that even number). In any case it will be paid off by the end of 2027 (22 years after purchase) and if I get a couple of bonuses between now and then, I should be able to make my goal of paying it off by the end of 2025. But first the non-mortgage debt! I am finally making progress there. Again, we'll see what the year has in store, as the best-laid plans go oft awry. In any case, it is satisfying that never this year has my total debt balance gone over 90k and now it looks to be firmly below 80k. After nearly 15 years of having debt over 90k, this feels like progress.

Net Worth is progressing too; up 6.75% despite the pandemic since the retirement accounts are now net positive for the year.

The house next door to me (other half of my twin) is in the process of being sold and the price was good, which only helps my home value. Another single woman is the purchaser, and I hope that we get along well. I'll be curious to meet her, probably next month. The closing date hasn't been set yet but I know they are aiming for the end of August.

Fiscal year end 2019

February 28th, 2020 at 01:31 am

Our company changed its system of granting bonuses and raises for 2019. Previously we were notified about raises for the next year and received any bonus at the last paycheck of the year.

Going forward and starting with 2019, they're moving the notification to the end of February. So I'll have a decent bonus in my 2/29/2020 paycheck and a raise starting with the 3/15 pay.

Also going forward, bonuses are being granted to everyone based on the company meeting its profit margin goal--either we meet it and everybody gets a full bonus, or there's no bonus. Up until now the bonus has been on a percentage of goal reached basis, so if we reached 80% of our profit margin goal, then we got 80% of the target bonus. So that will makes bonuses harder to come by.

On the other hand, to incentivize us, they gave us a 20% raise across the board (with a note not to expect this every year!). That brings my salary to its highest yet. I figure that I can increase my 401k contribution from 17% of salary where it has been this year (and with the 3% employer match, that's 20%) to a 22% elective deferral (25% with the employer match). As I turn 60 in six months, it's nice to be able to do that increase as I enter the "home stretch" towards retirement (not anytime soon!).

Oh, one more note; I turned 59.5 this week, so if I do have to make any draws from retirement accounts (NOT that I will), they would be coded as "normal distributions" with no 10% early withdrawal penalty. Not that I'm doing that, but nice to know that I can.

The bonus is going to let me pay down debt and get under my original 2019 year-end goal of total debt being at 80k (actually about 78k) just two months late, and despite the large unexpected vet bills I had last year.

Mortgage milestone

February 16th, 2020 at 02:08 am

After my regular mortgage payment (which I always round up so that I pay $400/month and keep my balance to a round number), the balance was $50,100, so when I got my paycheck yesterday, I allocated an extra hundred to the mortgage so that it's now at an even 50k, and should be at 46k by year's end. Total debt is now about 83.5k. They moved our annual bonus and pay raise to start with the last pay in February, so if we do get a bonus, I'll pay the debt down to 80k. 80k was originally my goal for 2019 but a very sick kitty who has cost me over 10k since she was hospitalized last June put my goal achievement a bit behind. In any case, my debt is now lower than it has been in quite some time. And with the stock market run-up, assets are as high as they have ever been as well. Net worth should hit another "round number" goal in March unless there's a set-back.

Roof job. Also, cats.

October 27th, 2019 at 09:08 pm

I live in a house with a flat roof. The realtor suggested when I moved in that I should have the roof silver-coated every few years to protect it plus make it more energy-efficient. I have been faithful about having it done every 3-4 years. The warranty on the roof itself expired about 5 years ago now, but I have read that you can pretty much double the time on the warranty by taking good care of the roof, so I have.

The last time I had the roof coated was in 2015. Costs at that time were up from the amount I paid the first time I had it done, but only by a little bit more than inflation.

This time, the estimate was quite different. Every time I've had it done in the past, I was provided with one option: a fiber + aluminum coating. This time I was given three options, with different warranties depending on the product used.

The baseline fiber + aluminum coating was way more expensive than in 2015, more than doubling in price. The other two options were more expensive in total, but when adjusted on a "cost-per-year" basis, the 10-year option was cheapest. This is a new product called "Acrylabs," which is an energy-star rated "fluid-applied membrane."

It's more expensive than I had planned on, but doing this now is significantly cheaper than replacing the roof. (The last time I had the roof coated, I also had an estimate done for a roof replacement.) I am planning on moving out of this house in about 7 or 8 years, so the next owner can tackle the replacement. I'll also have to replace the side-porch roof, which is sloped and shingled, but the roofer said that he thought that roof had about 3 more years on it.

This is temporarily adding to my debt, but even after the job is done and fully paid for, I'll still have less debt than I did at year-end 2018.

This will be the biggest home maintenance project that I've done in the 14 years I've been in the house. The other big jobs were a couple of plumbing projects, replacing four windows, the gutters, and the water heater. Before I leave this house, I expect also to replace the range, refrigerator, washer and dryer, and front and rear doors, and have the stained yellow countertop in the kitchen replaced at the very least, plus I'll have the house painted and the floors done when I put it on the market, but I'll leave any major cosmetic or functional upgrades to the next owner. The furnace may also have to be replaced--but, as with the roof, I have it maintained annually in hopes that it will outlast its warranty. I like my house, but I really hate the stress of being a homeowner since I feel completely unprepared for it, and I'm not at all motivated to spend my mental energy learning what I really should know.

As a note, everyone's entries from mid-April until October were hacked. I had about half a dozen entries, but I can't recall what they were about, other than one in May documenting a day trip to meet up with "Fern" a/k/a "PatientSaver," and several in June documenting big expenses for my cat Buffy, who was hospitalized for a week and then fed at home via a feeding tube for two weeks, and who still sees the vet about once a month for testing as we try to find a medication regime that keeps her steady.

I finally got Buffy's sister Bridget to the vet on Friday. The last time I took Bridget to the vet's office, it took 3 vet techs to manage her, but with an herbal calming tablet, Feliway, and a vet tech who was fore-warned on what to expect, the visit went off surprisingly well. Bridget's kidney values and her white blood cell count are a bit off. I still have to talk to the vet about this, but hopefully I can keep both kitties going for another year or two. Bridget just turned 15 and Buffy is 14 1/2, so I suspect I'll lose them in the not-too-distant future, but I also pray I can keep them going for a while yet.

Day off

April 11th, 2019 at 10:24 pm

I have been pushing very hard non-stop for the past few weeks (other than taking last weekend off and spending much of it in bed because I felt like I was coming down with a cold; fortunately the extra rest has seemed to forestall that illness, knock on wood!). So today and tomorrow, with both of the major lead advisors that I report to out of town, I decided to take some personal time off.

I was working until 10 pm last night finishing a tax estimate that one advisor had promised to a client, and with that behind me, I was able to take off with a free conscience.

First on the docket was an annual doctor's exam. I hadn't known when I scheduled it a year ago that I would be taking the day off, but that worked out nicely.

Then I went out to breakfast and then over to the local mall to do a little bit of clothes shopping because I have been feeling the need for a bit of a wardrobe update. Picked up 3 pieces priced at over $300 for about $195 that will be good office wear.

Then I went to one of our local banks. I had received a postcard from them promising a bonus $50 for establishing a new checking account with at least $1,000 that stays in the account for at least a week. This particular local bank has an excellent reputation for service and a commitment to stay local, so I've been meaning to establish a relationship with them for a while. Checking is free for life with no monthly maintenance fees and their rates are competitive. At the moment, all of my other banking relationships are with Wells Fargo, whose reputation I have been dissatisfied with (although personally, things have been fine). What I would like to do once my schedule calms down is to transfer my main relationships over to this bank--set up direct deposit for the paycheck, establish a savings account as well, and then move the mortgage and HELOC (balance $0) and safety deposit box over as well. They have a long-running special that does a refinance with closing costs of $525. They promise not to sell your mortgage. My current mortgage is a 20-year (in year 9) at 4% and I could refinance to a 10-year (cuts one year off) at 3.625%. I will probably do that in another month or so. The only pain will be that they don't handle the escrowing of the tax and homeowner's insurance bills, which I'll have to handle myself anyways after to mortgage is paid off. (I'm still feeling good that it will be paid off by December 2025 at the 20-year mark.) I'll probably keep at least one small checking and savings account open at Wells Fargo as well, just because Wells Fargo has a branch just down the block from where I work and they also have lots of branches in Los Angeles, where I am from and where I still visit occasionally.

Those few things were the main accomplishments of the day. I also handled a couple of emails at work and listened to an online professional educational webinar for an hour.

Tomorrow I need to make a dentist appointment because I broke a small piece off a tooth last night--it's not painful but the sharp edges are annoying. Then I need to finish my own taxes--I drafted them back in February in order to figure out my IRA contribution, but now I need to dot all the i's and cross all the t's and submit.

Then I'll work on getting a bit more organized at home--there are too many piles of paper on the dining room table, on the desk, on the coffee table, and on the dog crate, and I need to toss some and file the rest. Being able to see the tabletops will make me feel more relaxed here at home and I'll buy some flowers to put in a vase on the dining room table when it is clear again (which it has not been since Thanksgiving).

I'll also be working on my next CFP class over the weekend and I'd like to take a drive out to a coffee shop I like that sits on the banks of the Delaware. I visited there at least monthly over the summer but haven't been back since September. This is just a weekend to catch my breath and recapture some sense of spaciousness or margin in my life than a weekend where I will really "do" anything. Just getting a chance to spend some more time reading will be a pleasure.

I'm supposed to be attending an orchestra rehearsal in an hour. I should go since I have slacked off during tax season but part of me wants no more commitments today. Whether or not I go, I'll end the day by watching one or two episodes of "Boston Legal." I was delighted to find that it is once again free to wach on Amazon Prime, after having been available only with a charge previously. This was one of my favorite series so I am enjoying re-watching it. I like James Spader and it is nice to see him in his prime. He seems to have aged a lot lately. He's about my age so seeing recent pictures of him makes me feel my own age more acutely. I'd like to think I am aging better than he is! But then, so much of our first impression of faces is about the hair and he has gone semi-bald recently. This is one reason I find it worthwhile to pay to have my hair colored! I grew up believing in substance over form and that image didn't matter so much, but while I still believe strongly in substance, the real world and my education taught me that appearances matter a lot, too!

Old content is still visible in Control Panel--so just a technical glitch

January 20th, 2019 at 02:38 pm

Thanks to Patient Saver for pointing this out to me via email

Year End (late recap)

January 3rd, 2019 at 11:46 pm

12/31/2018 Net Worth: $515,242. Down about 20k from last year due to market losses.

Debt on 12/31/2018: $91,282. Of this, $55,975 was mortgage debt.

As of the new year, of course there's been another mortgage payment, getting the balance to $55,600 (I always throw a little extra at it to get the balance to an even number). I'm going to throw another $600 at it from savings this week to get to $55k. I'm still confident that I can pay this off by the beginning of 2026, when I'll be 65, paying it off in just about 20 years.

I also took some savings to pay down my HELOC balance, and I'll make some more payments over the next couple of days to get the debt to 85k (55k mortgage and 30 non-mortgage), which will be the lowest debt total since I bought my house in 2005. I hate having the non-mortgage debt, but with the HELOC paid off, the highest interest rate on any of it is a bit over 4%, so the interest is not horrendous, and the large majority of it is on 0% credit card balance transfers. Much of this stems from the 7 months I was unemployed during 2014. That's when I racked up the additional debt (as well as accruing some in 2010-2012 when I was changing careers and working very low-wage jobs while my mother was dying on the opposite coast, so I had lots of cross-country travel.)

I'll update my goals for 2019 this weekend.

Brief recap on goal progress for 2018:
1. I completed two more of the CFP courses; 3 more still to go. 2019 will be the year, I pray!
2. Health: ate pretty well except too much eating out at restaurants; did not exercise consistently, meditated consistently for the first 2/3s of the year, then fell off the bandwagon.
3. Home: had one session with an organizer and organized part of my kitchen; other than that, no progress.
4. Debt progress--once I get it to 85k, I'll be just shy of my 10k goal.
5. Social life: maintained plus joined a community orchestra so expanded as well.
6. Vacations: Two overnight trips away from home, and I only have two PTO days from last year to use up this month (before they are lost, although I may lose them to medical issues rather than vacation--thyroid saga is outstanding and I have a surgical consult tomorrow, though I am wavering--will write about this separately and later).

2018 Financial Wins & Falls

December 31st, 2018 at 12:38 am

Wins: 1. Decrease in debt (I’ll calculate the total on Jan 1), but good progress. 2. Good retirement savings contributions (13% withholding + 3% company annual contribution plus a nice annual profit-sharing-plan contribution from the company totaling close to 15k. Also, contributing nearly 8% to HSA & LPFSA for additional tax-deferral. 3. Made some progress on reducing a few recurring expenses—changed trash hauling services, changed individual disability policy, cut a few recurring unused services and contributions. Will do a bit more of this tomorrow and Wed on my time off. 4. Did some reallocating of my portfolio to be a little more conservative over the summer, moving from a 40%/60% allocation closer to 45/55. 5. Maxed out my HSA contribution for 2019 and also added $300 to a limited purpose FSA to cover purchase of new glasses. 6. A big engine repair in my car came in under warranty, saving me a lot of money compared to if the problem had shown itself after the warranty expired and upgrading the “short block” to a newer one, hopefully adding to the car’s longevity.

Falls: 1. The market fell in Q4, wiping out all gains for the year; I’ll recalculate at year end but looks like net worth will be down by about 5%. 2. I still haven’t gotten my tracking of spending on track; I do retrospective analyses and only the roughest of budgeting, and I still spend too much money eating out. 3. Kitty vet expenses were exceptionally pricey this year. Both girls are now teenagers so I hope this is not the "new normal." Both girls were sick last month, which involved a lot of testing (on the other hand, I now have confirmation that everything looks good), plus one cat had 8 teeth extracted.