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Random Stuff

August 2nd, 2015 at 08:34 am

Sorry about the random nature of this post.

1. Work Situation - Reprieve: I've been asked to work on another project. It's small and short, but it means work through early-September. When I knew it was very much possible that I'd be out of work at the end of July I gathered some information and started mentally coming up with my plan. Although I now have a reprieve, I went ahead and started a fresh notebook titled "Unemployment" and wrote up a 1-page "action plan" on the first page incorporating what I had learned and thought about. The notebook is sitting on the shelving next to my desk at home. When/if I get no more work, I know what my next steps will be.

2. Another TIPS matured: A TIPS that I owned in my Treasury Direct account matured on July 15th. In recent years I've owned fewer and fewer TIPS (the old ones mature and I've not purchased any new ones for several years) but more Savings Bonds. I have been purchasing Treasuries for 18 years and although the types of Treasuries I buy changes, I will probably own some sort of Treasury until the day I die. In fact, I already own a TIPS that won't mature until 2041 and I'll be an old woman then!

3. Short Term Savings: I've pursued every banking bonus that I can & want to, but now that DH's peak business season is over he's starting to go after some. The banking bonuses seem to be getting fewer and farther between, and I've accepted that 1% interest is what I'm going to be getting on my short term savings for the foreseeable future.

4. Relocation to HCOLA: There have been no concrete plans made. It's on the back burner for the time being, but I've done some on-line browsing of properties, reconsidered the "how much of my net worth am I willing to have tied up in my primary residence?" question, and contemplated having to pay a lot more than what I am used to. Moving to a place that is much more expensive seems so counter-intuitive from a financial standpoint, and will require a major mental shift. But moving some place where my husband will feel more at ease and better able to provide assistance to his elderly parents makes the decision much easier.

5. What Things "Go For": On our local FB garage sale page, someone posted some collectibles a few days ago. Someone chimed in that they thought they had priced too low because a similar item was "going for much more money" and then posted a link to an eBay listing. But of course it was an ACTIVE listing, not a sold listing, which means that the collectibles really have NOT gone for that. It just means that the eBay seller is HOPING to get that much. Stuff is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.

6. Happy Spending: It has been 5 weeks since we adopted our new dog. The benefits are so much greater than the costs associated with having her in our lives (vet visit, monthly preventatives, food & treats, toys, bed, grooming). We love having her in our life, and she seems pretty darn happy with her change of circumstances. Life is good, for all of us.

Updates

June 26th, 2015 at 10:31 am

There have been quite a few big finance-related things going on in my life since I last posted. Here's a quick rundown.

1. 401K Catch Up Contributions: I decided to start making catch up contributions to my 401K. I still don't much like the investment options in my 401K, but I'm doing it for the tax savings plain & simple.

2. My Work Situation Up in the Air: My employer lost the contract that makes up the bulk of my work, effective the end of July. My work situation is even more up in the air than usual.

3. New 4-Legged Family Member Addition Pending: We are very close to finalizing the adoption of a dog. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), I'm thrilled. Pets are a financial responsibility, and worth every penny.

4. End of the Road for DH's Big Dream: DH has decided that he is not going to try out for the Champions (aka senior golf) tour. He has dreamed of going pro since he was in college and has never stopped working toward it. He'll continue to be a passionate and very talented amateur golfer. Being the awesome & responsible guy that he is, he has never allowed his pursuit of the dream to jeopardize our financial stability, and was willing to throw in the towel when he realized it wasn't going to happen. This frees up the "Big Dream Fund" money. Did you know it costs a lot of money to go pro? Paying for Q school is just the tip of the iceberg. Pro golfers have ZERO guaranteed income and must cover some pretty hefty expenses (travel, caddy pay, etc). It's one of the reasons we have lived so far below our means and saved so aggressively for decades, so that the money would be there if DH reached the skill level where he could go for it.

5. Another Move May Be In Our Future: We are seriously thinking about another move, this time to a high cost of living area. We're still just in the thinking stage, not yet planning. Our next door neighbors just listed their house for sale, and since it is comparable to ours we will be keeping a close eye on how long it takes to sell and the sales price.

Many other small things going on, but I just wanted to get the big stuff down.

P.S. LOL - I forgot to mention that our house got hammered by a hail storm awhile back and we have to get a new roof, gutters, window, screens, etc. We haven't replaced anything yet because we're waiting until storm season is over and more contractors are freed up. Funny that I forgot to include this in my original post. Of course we have insurance, but we have to pay the deductible. Thank goodness for the EF.

Still Dancing - 2014 Year-End vs. 2013 Year-End

January 2nd, 2015 at 03:09 pm

I completed our 12/31/14 net worth statement today.
During 2014, our net worth increased 7.8%.
Non-financial assets (house & cars) now make up 15.3% of our total net worth.
For another year we lived below the crossover point.
We are still balance sheet affluent.

This may all sound like a broken record from last year ... but we are still dancing.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

Dance....I hope you dance.

Just Slightly Over 463 Weeks

December 28th, 2014 at 03:33 pm

That's how long until our target retirement date!
I don't think retirement will mean that we never work again, but it will mean "work optional." I think I'll continue to work, but whether it is volunteer work or part-time paid work or some combination of both is TBD.

Austin ranked #3 on the most recent "top 25 places to retire" list from Forbes and was one of the bigger cities on the list. We like it here. So relocating after retirement may not be something that we even need to think about. We envision some day moving to a condo, and that would be the logical time to think about whether we want to stay in Austin or relocate. Because it is a single-story, our current home should be fine for at least the first several years of retirement and maybe longer.

More Updates - Mostly Financial

September 9th, 2014 at 09:40 am

1. Will: After calling several law offices, I surprised myself by deciding to stick with the DIY Will I prepared several years ago. Our situation is not at all complex (only one marriage for both of us, no children, estate taxes not a concern) and the cost of having an attorney prepare a will was just so high. I reviewed our current Will and it doesn't even need updating. It is our "Letter of Instructions" that really needs to be updated because account info is out of date.

2. Switching Primary Banks: The switch is finished! It was a multi-step process that took quite a bit of time. The final step was waiting (and waiting and waiting) for one last payment to clear our old bank account so I could close it.

3. Dearth of Bank Account Bonuses or Great CD Rates: It has been almost 6 months since I last opened a new account for a bonus or got a new CD. (We aren't eligible for the Navy Federal CU 5% 1-year CD.) Oh, well, I'll keep trolling the DepositAccounts.com blog, watching and waiting for the next appealing promo. Our cash reserves are averaging a tad over 2.5% in interest so I won't complain.

4. Medical: DH is scheduled for a procedure. Including pre-pay of our share of some of the costs and OTC medication purchases we are just under $400 out-of-pocket so far and there will be a few hundred more when all is said and done. I couldn't care less about the money spent on this. This is why we have saved, so we can take expenses like this in stride. At our age, we just expect increased medical expenditures. I'll take a healthy husband over anything else money could be spent on any day! I did print out some coupons at home that resulted in $1.75 savings when I went out to buy the OTC meds. Wink

5. Eventual Automobile Purchase: Our '99 Camry has over 160K miles. We have known for awhile that if it ever needed major (thousands of dollars) repairs we'd just replace it instead of fixing. I talked to DH and suggested that we go ahead and replace it IF we can find a super bargain on a new car. That way, we wouldn't necessarily be in a "must buy" situation. I crunched some numbers and came up with a maximum amount to spend on the next car (DH agreed). We'll pay cash. Who knows when we will actually buy ... it will depend on either finding an awesome deal or having our Camry go kaput, but either way we are ready. I'm leaving it up to DH to do the bargain shopping, since this will be the vehicle he drives and he enjoys car shopping much more than I do. He thinks there may be some deals in December. We'll see. I can't help but wonder if this will be our final "second car" purchase? When we retire we'll go back to having just one car, and even though retirement isn't imminent, we do keep our cars for a pretty long time.

6. CFP Consult: It has been 4 years since we last consulted a CFP. Where does the time go? I guess I should schedule a "checkup." I don't expect it to result in any changes in our investments or level of savings, but it's still couldn't hurt to get a reality check from a professional.

7. 401K Investment Options: I've stated before that I'm not thrilled with the investment options in my company's 401K. They aren't terrible (as far as I know), but they aren't the best either, and the so-called "Stable Value Fund" is completely opaque so I really don't know how good or bad it is. I'm thinking of composing an Email to the VP in charge of benefits stating my opinion and politely suggesting an alternative. Hah! I sure have gotten opinionated an unafraid of speaking up now that I'm in my 50's. But really, what's the worst that could happen? Have any of you ever done anything like that? How was it received?

Green Onion Re-Growing Success

March 3rd, 2014 at 08:55 am

I took another stab at re-growing green onions in a cup with water after reading the information again and figuring out what I had done wrong the first time. My mistake was treating them too delicately,like herbs (cutting off a green stalk here & there).

Instead, what I needed to do was just whack the entire thing off near the top of the white portion, and then place the root end in a cup with a bit of water. Voila - regrowth starts right away.

Where we live green onions are 68-cents a bunch which I think is really expensive for something that yields just a handful of garnish. Yes, they are tasty and have nutritional value, and there are some dishes (like noodle soup) that they really elevate, but you can get much more nutritional bang for your buck buying other veggies so we very rarely bought them. Now they are back on the menu! As you can see, all the space you need is enough for a glass or two. We decided to go with 2 bunches so we'd always have plenty grown out on hand.



P.S. - I've heard that they lose flavor after a couple re-growths, but still this is a way to stretch a bunch 2-3 times over.

27 Day Food & Beverage Budget - Final

February 13th, 2014 at 03:00 pm

Days 1-26 I spent $105.13 on groceries and $23.82 on eating out. During my brother's visit he treated me once and I treated him once. And ... sigh ... I did stop one evening on my way home & buy a sandwich for dinner (tsk, tsk).

DH is coming home tonight so I did my big "stock back up" grocery shopping trip. I had $46.05 remaining in my budget of $175 but only spent $34.89. I have $11.16 left over. I had planned to buy some seafood but did not. I wasn't happy with what the store had (some of the fish looked fine but was very expensive). I'll buy fish the next time I go to Costco. I still have several cans of sardines in the pantry, so we aren't without seafood.

I did manage to get a $4 wine; that was the last thing to go in the cart. Had to make sure I wasn't over budget before buying that little luxury.

I stopped off and picked up 2 free pastries on my way to the grocery store. The restaurant where brother treated me to breakfast had a survey link on the receipt that I could complete to get a code for the free pastries. Now DH & I will have a Valentine's Day morning breakfast treat.

A couple things I learned during the past 27 days:
- My main grocery store does NOT offer case price discounts (because I was more focused on food prices than usual, I thought to call them and ask).
- Re-sprouting green onions in a glass of water did NOT work very well for me. The little half-developed green shoots that were already there when I bought them did grow, but nothing new came out. I don't know if it is because the green onions had been refrigerated, or because my house is cool since it's winter. I may try again in the summer when it's warmer and if I get some never-refrigerated green onions from the farmer's market. Although this was not a success at least I TRIED something new to stretch my food dollars, spurred on by focusing more on food prices than usual.

Who Needs TV When You Have the Mr.&Mrs. scfr Show?

January 9th, 2014 at 02:33 pm

A CD we owned matured in December. (Farewell 5% APY ... you will be missed, sniffle sniffle.) One of my start-of-the-new-year-financial-to-do's was to decide what to do with those funds. The decision has been made, but there were some pretty comedic moments along the way.

In the scfr household, decisions are joint. DH used to be more of a follower since I was the one who took the lead on getting our financial house in order many many years ago, but over the years he has become more informed and involved and opinionated (at my urging I might add ... I used to worry what would happen if I were to die suddenly).

I can't remember the last time we fought. I can remember quite a few fights our first year of marriage while we were getting used to sharing a house and a life, but that was 20 years ago. But just because we don't fight doesn't mean that we don't have differences of opinion and sometimes rather spirited discussions. The difference between now & then, I think, is that we've figured out how to hear the other out and inject some humor in to our discussions so that they never turn ugly.

The most recent "spirited discussion" was over whether or not to put some of the CD proceeds in to Series EE Savings Bonds. I wanted to; DH did not. The thing is that it doesn't make much sense to get Series EE Savings Bonds unless you think you may hold them for 20 years (because the interest rates are pathetic but they are guaranteed to double in value in 20 years). DH thinks it's folly to put money away for so long when you don't even know if you'll be alive then ... for some irrational reason, he thinks he won't. We had a similar discussion last year, and I ended up presenting WHO life expectancy tables and convinced him. This year, apparently because he is older, he dug in his heels. He made some comment along the lines that "those will be for YOU since I won't even be here" at which point I rolled my eyes and threw one hand up in the air and said in a mock-dramatic voice "You act as if I'm wanting to buy a Rolls Royce. I want to buy SAVINGS BONDS for crying out loud!" That stopped him cold and then we both started giggling. Castle & Beckett have nothing on us when it comes to verbal sparring, let me tell you. OK, we may not make for very interesting viewing, but we still have our sense of humor & marriage intact.

The end result of our discussions? HALF of what I wanted to put in to Series EE Bonds is going there ("my" share ... haha)! Much is going to a PenFed 5-yr CD at 3.04%, and some will be held in our savings account in the hopes that interest rates will go up. Funds transfers have been ordered; EE Bonds have been ordered; PenFed membership has been opened; and PenFed CD will be opened as soon as transfers are completed.



2013 Year-End vs. 2012 Year-End

January 5th, 2014 at 05:42 pm

Net worth increased 7.9%.

Non-financial assets (car & home) now represent 15.4% of net worth (last year it was 17.6%) ... 15% by retirement is definitely within sight (as long as we don't lose our minds and go out and buy a luxury car). I know this number does not matter to many people. To me it matters greatly because it means that we are NOT house/car poor.

Nothing new here, but we once again lived below the crossover point.

And ... drumroll please ... Somewhere since the time I last calculated, we officially became "Balance Sheet Affluent"!!! I guess I'll need to add a new category my blog since "Journey to Balance Sheet Affluent" no longer applies. It has been a long and sometimes slightly scary trip.

P.S. - "I hope you never fear the mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance. Livin' might mean taking chances but they're worth takin'. Lovin' might me a mistake but it's worth makin'." (From 'I Hope You Dance' by Lee Ann Womack ... a song that I listened to over and over again for inspiration & courage when DH decided that he wanted to quit his salaried job and start his own business.)

Quickie

December 4th, 2013 at 09:32 pm

Just a quick check-in ...

The biggest financial doing in my life is that I now seem to have a small side business (in addition to my regular job) ... that is what my little foray in to eBay sales seems to have morphed in to. I now need to come up with a way to "track" inventory for tax purposes. When I had only a handful of things I could put each item on an Excel spreadsheet, but that isn't cutting it any more.

Also, DH & I took advantage of the Black Friday promo and opened one of the Capital One 360 Checking accounts and we both opened Sharebuilder accounts (we were not eligible for the savings account bonus), so we should end up with $383.30 net bonuses ($425 - $41.70 for the commissions on the stock trades we are required to make), plus or minus our gains or losses on the stocks we purchased. I hesitated on the checking account because I have never used a debit card and do NOT like them (too much of a security risk) and we must use one in order to get the bonus, but we decided to go ahead and open the account, deposit only a very small amount, and close the account as soon as we are assured the bonus. I wonder if banks know that requiring use of debit cards sometimes deters customers like me from opening or keeping an account? They probably don't care. I never pay bank fees, so I'm probably not a very valuable customer in their eyes.