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Archive for February, 2015

March debt goal and bday plans

February 28th, 2015 at 02:20 am

Well, I guess it's time to set our March debt goal. Still aiming for the minimum since we haven't heard anything on the potential condo offers. Sigh. So the goal is to pay off $1550 in March.

I'm back from the trip, which was uneventful. Got to see an old friend for dinner, and the co-worker I went with was very easygoing. I'm glad to be home. I woke up at 6 am and didn't sleep soundly last night, so I'm very tired.

We have three birthdays coming up next week. My 41st is on Monday, then AS's 36th on Wednesday, then AA's 5th on Thursday. Then Saturday is her actual party. Oh, and one of her daycare pal's bday party is Sunday.

We've got pretty low-key plans for everything. I'll take part of Monday off (have to go in for a client meeting) and that night have one of my favorite meals with some kind of dessert from AS. She and I might have breakfast at a favorite diner that day, too. Then I have Tuesday off.

On AS's bday Wednesday, we'll get sushi and other deli food from a grocery store for dinner.

Thursday we're making a weird assortment of foods of her choosing for AA's dinner. Molletes, veggie taco "meat," veggies, cheese and spaghettios. *shrug*

Friday all three grownups have the day off. Might have breakfast somewhere, maybe shop for our bday presents (we have $100 each budgeted).

Saturday is AA's bday party, which we'll have after swim class and naps. Nothing too organized, just a big noisy playdate but with streamers and cake. Smile I've already bought most of the stuff for it except groceries for snacks, drinks and cake. Sunday is her little friend's 5th bday, but they requested no gifts, so we have nothing to do other than arrange transportation (and there's a chance it'll be on the bus).

Then we get more than a week to refresh before NT's 42nd bday, and another week after that before SL's 3rd bday.

Reached February debt goal (from Chicago!)

February 26th, 2015 at 02:16 pm

I'm in Chicago right now! (Hi Laura, CB, Rachael! Wish I had time for a meetup!) It's for a work thing; I go back home tomorrow. Just trying to wake up so I can shower and get ready for the day, so of course I check my accounts and go to SA. Smile

AS's student loan hit, with $140 going to principal. That takes us to $1581 of debt paid in February, exceeding the $1550 goal.

No news on any fronts, except I heard from my broker that I'll hear more about my refi chances next week.

AS is gearing up for her time off and daring to think it might actually happen. She has really bad luck with vacation time; either she's had to keep working a little bit during the vacation (when she was at her previous job) or the kids tend to get sick and have to stay home from daycare, and she's the default who has to care for them instead of relaxing.

So I'm determined to help make it happen. I've been watching her freelance commitments like a hawk to help her have the strength to turn down work if it's within the two-week period. She's only agreed to two things, I think: a meeting for a board she serves on, and a poetry-reading contest judging.

I'm also determined that if the kids get sick during her time off, I (or NT if he's able, I suppose) will take sick time to stay home with the kids, and send her out to enjoy herself somewhere else. Smile

Some bad news; waiting on the rest

February 23rd, 2015 at 10:29 pm

We finally heard back from the vet; our new kitty has FIV. Frown We're pretty sure we're keeping her, as long as we can get her and the other cat on civil terms (so they're less likely to bite each other and maybe transmit the disease). We seem to be making slow progress, but at least it's progress. I think they'll settle down as they get more and more time together. We already love her, so we'll definitely give it every chance we can!

Our agent checked in after a week's vacation; she hasn't heard from either potential buyer, but she thinks one is still exploring government reimbursement for the adjustments they'd need to make (plus that agent was on vacation at the same time), and the other one wants to work with the listing agent (her) so has probably been waiting for her to get back in town. She's trying to track them both down.

One bit of maybe-good news she shared: the other 2-bed 1-bath units in our association have been taken off the market. On the one hand it shows what a weak market our buildings have right now. On the other hand, if someone wanted to buy our kind of unit in our building, we'd be the only option. Hopefully the good outweighs the bad.

My old agent finally showed our place, for the first time since we terminated our relationship with her 5 months ago. She works our building a lot because she lives in the complex, so either this was deliberate or she's had no clients. Surprise surprise, we got prompt feedback (which we never got when she was our agent) and it was negative; lower marks than anyone has given us before.

I touched base with our broker last week, and he said he was just running the two refi options to see which one would be preferable. Not sure why that's taking so long, but at least it's not off the table.

I don't expect to hear from the tax guy in a while, and the WV option (the bigger of the two potential deals) doesn't expire for 7 weeks. Not sure if the smaller deal has a time frame.

So, holding pattern continues. Frugal doings in the meantime:

* We're almost $70 under budget on groceries this week, even with bulk cooking for a good cause. Which apparently went over huge! (Most of the food we donated got eaten, but NT brought some containers of salad back and I had one for lunch today.)
* I won the Dietbet, so I got my money back plus $7.50. I'm just glad I won my money back!
* Went to a community chili fest on Sunday. For $3 apiece ($15 total), we got chili with toppings, crackers, cookies, soda and coffee. Plus NT won a poster and I won an assortment of spice blends. Not bad!
* Going to a free documentary tonight with NT and our neighbors, and he's bringing snacks from work so that will also be free.
* Another friend invited us to a reading/music thing that's free including snacks and drinks that's happening on my birthday. So my birthday entertainment will also be free!
* Planned the kids' birthday presents & parties and, not counting food (which we'll cover with grocery money), it came to about $130. I was aiming for $100, but we usually spend $200-plus (combined for both birthdays), so we did really well this year. The grownup bday budget is also cut in half ($100 for each of us) so we're letting one another say what we want for our gifts.

My anti-bucket list?

February 21st, 2015 at 02:29 am

I can't think of a better term for it. I was thinking "seive list," but I know the bucket isn't about collecting experiences, it's about things you want to do before you kick the bucket.

Well, every once in a while I see someone cross something off their bucket list, and I think I'll actually be very happy if I manage to avoid that experience until my dying day.

The list is getting quite long, actually! Since I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the things I *would* like to do once we have money and time again, I thought it would be fun to share my anti-bucket list of things I wouldn't do even if I won the lottery tomorrow and had no responsibilities.

This is of course not to insult anyone else who *would* like to do these things; it's just my personal interests.

So, in no particular order, I hope I never have to:
* Get a fur coat.
* Eat caviar.
* Receive a diamond.
* Go skydiving.
* Go downhill skiing.
* Try surfing.
* Visit Dubai.
* Own a boat.
* Own (or even ride) a motorcycle.
* Go big game (or any game) hunting. Or own a gun, though I might be curious to try one out at a shooting range.
* Get a tattoo.
* Have a fancy wedding.
* Play golf (except mini-golf).
* Attend the Super Bowl.
* Own a horse.
* Go to Disneyland.

I'm sure there are others; maybe I'll edit this entry as I think of them! Do you have an anti-bucket list: experiences or things that are supposedly desirable but more than not caring whether or not you have them, you actually hope you never do?

At least AS got some news!

February 21st, 2015 at 01:36 am

Still waiting on everything...refi, condo, cat's health, taxes. A very disappointing week. I at least thought we'd hear about the cat.

But, AS got some really good news. First, the class she's teaching in the fall will pay not $4000, but $6000!

And she got a big job for later in March/April, after her vacation, that will pay $3500!

She told me on the phone that it kind of felt like she made $9500 in one day. LOL.

Still, with those jobs, she's now made or booked over $27,000 this year. Considering she left a job that grossed $37K, it's kind of amazing.

We managed some cheap charity this week: We made batches of burritos and salads for an activist conference NT is volunteering at, and we're putting one of the attendees up in our basement. The only cost was ingredients for the cooking, which we fit into our regular grocery budget.

No news is no news

February 18th, 2015 at 05:15 am

Still no offer on the condo, still no more news on the duplex refi. No updates from the tax guy, and no news on the results of our new cat's second FIV test.

We just keep on keepin' on! Some money out this week; AS bought a small laptop for her work since our home laptop runs really slow, and we sent her mom $500 as an early bday gift toward a new sewing machine. Some money in too; AS booked a few jobs for after her upcoming vacation.

I worked from home today. AS helped me with my work project, and I got somewhat unstuck. Still no big "breakthrough" feeling, but at least AS confirmed that they're asking for the nearly impossible with all the requirements and conditions of this piece. I've just about got it to a point where I can let my boss take a look at it. If it's not what he wants, at least it's far enough along so he'll be able to give me specific feedback.

I got good news that a business trip I need to take next week may only require one night away. I don't like being away from my family! It may end up being two nights, but I was thinking it might be three, so even that would be great.

The cats had some highly supervised time together today. We really don't want any biting since Clue might have FIV, so I kept a water bottle and broke up any attempts at fighting. I only had to use it about twice. They were tense and cautious but neither one overly aggressive, so we think it was a good step. We'd be moving them along faster if we weren't concerned about the FIV. We should find out Thursday whether she has it.

I guess that's it! Still holding at my Dietbet weight. Most people are on track, so I'll probably just get my money back, maybe a few bucks more.

Small bit of progress on retirement goal

February 16th, 2015 at 04:19 pm

The rough goal is $486,000 in retirement assets by 2019

In January we were at $230,639.

Now we're at $234,068.

$3249 of progress; not terrible considering how little we're currently putting into our retirement accounts!

February 2015 net worth update

February 16th, 2015 at 04:18 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 17,105 pounds ($27,368)
#2: 20,501 pounds ($32,801)
#3: 4,452 pounds ($7,123)
NT's 401(k): $35,076
NT's Roth IRA: $7,596
AS's trad. IRA: $15,221
AS's Roth IRA: $20,387
CJ's 401(k): $80,900
CJ's Roth IRA: $7,596
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $140,000
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
---
Total Assets: $1,038,068

Total Debt: $672,770

Current Estimated Net Worth: $365,298

December 2014 estimate: $360,289

Change in net worth: +$5,009

Summary: The market dipped up, so we had a modest gain, even though we haven't upped our retirement contributions yet. Can't wait to see those numbers really start to climb!

I'll update the Individual Net Worth page shortly, breaking it out by person.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update (unless I happen to get some info by chance). UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.60 for every British pound..60 for every British pound.

Incremental news, nothing final

February 14th, 2015 at 11:57 pm

We heard from our agent that the 2nd interested person has gotten preapproval. She emailed the 1st party to let them know that an offer might be coming soon, in case they would be ready to make one soon too.

So nothing yet, but seems encouraging.

Our new kitty did great at her vet checkup on most points -- except she tested positive for FIV. Frown They drew more blood for the more definitive test. It was going to be a free checkup but ended up being about $150 total. We're still trying to get them together on opposite sides of the door, but we're not letting them together until we hear the results. If it is FIV, we're pretty sure we'll still keep both cats, but we'll make the introduction process as slow as possible so they hopefully don't bite each other. The vet said biting and drawing blood was the biggest way to transmit FIV.

Work is going OK, but I'm kind of stuck on a project that I can't see clearly the best way to write. I'm hoping to pick AS's brain this weekend to see if she can help me think through it and have a breakthrough, but we're really busy. I may even work from home Tuesday (I have Monday off but I'm doing a campaign-type activity in the middle of the day) if I feel like I need quiet time to think about it. My boss can kind of rattle me by coming by all the time and throwing me his thoughts just as I'm trying to get something written.

Three people were let go at my job on Friday, so that wasn't great for my confidence either. They were all in finance, though; I don't think there's any plan to get rid of writers.

Tonight we're going out for Thai food and possibly drinks. We're all excited! The cold dreary weather and forced frugality and sense of being in a holding pattern are getting to us all. It'll be nice to get away from that.

Various bits of good news

February 13th, 2015 at 04:24 am

Seems like a number of good things have been happening this week. Let's see if I can remember them all!

First off, I weighed in at 133.4 tonight, which is where I need to be to win Dietbet! But I have to at least stay at that weight until Feb. 19/20, so I have to be careful on Valentine's Day and our potluck the following day. My ultimate goal is 129, so I'd love to keep losing. But I'll feel happy if I can just plateau through those two challenging eating days.

Our cats are still being kept separate, but they're finally showing signs of lessening hostility to each other, and maybe a bit of friendly or neutral curiosity from time to time. We're still taking it slow but encouraged by that.

Both our kids are going through some great developmental stuff right now. Our 2-year-old is getting gradually more responsive and agreeable, less rebellious and spazzy. She's almost 3, so we're braced for more difficult behavior, but so far she seems to be going in the other direction. Our 4-year-old can almost read; some simple words she can sound out. Both girls are just leaps and bounds ahead of where I feel like they need to be educationally and in terms of maturity, so it's a really exciting time to be their mom. (If only the 2-year-old would show more initiative about potty training; that's the only lingering issue.)

NT can finally volunteer for this group he really admires but never had time for while he was in school. We're actually going to cook a bunch of food for attendees to a conference next weekend, and put one out-of-town attendee up in our basement "apartment."

AS met with the college that was interested in having her teach a class on publishing, and it's a go! We don't have an exact amount for pay but think it'll be $4K. She also floated another idea with the woman who interviewed her, and the woman was really excited about that too. So there may be more work with that college after the fall semester of teaching!

We still have nothing definitive from our first interested party on the condo but know they're working on getting things figured out. Meanwhile, someone else is interested and their agent said they're thinking about putting in an offer. We also had 2 showings today and have 3 more scheduled in the next week. So we'll see what comes of that.

My dad sent me $500 out of the blue. Apparently he's got a different deal on the table in WV, this one for a gas company to build a road through his land. If it goes through they'll pay another $20K (my share would be $4K)! I had no idea about this one; my dad didn't say a word about it. Again, no idea if that will go through, but the $500 is a great surprise. I'm setting it aside to help us get out from under the condo.

I checked in with our mortgage broker about the refi option for the duplex and he's going to send me something in the morning. I hope we qualify and that it's a good deal!

Tomorrow I meet with our new tax guy and AS takes the new kitty to the vet. Fingers crossed we keep our good luck rolling with not much owing on taxes and a clean bill of health for Clue.

Weight loss, condo non-news, etc.

February 9th, 2015 at 09:02 pm

I weighed in last night a pound down! And that was after a fairly hearty meal, so I feel good that it's real progress. I have half a pound to go on the Dietbet and about 7 lbs. to reach my ideal weight.

I contacted my mortgage broker last week to see if a refinance would be in the cards considering several negative factors (such as our not selling the condo, taking on some debt and credit scores being lower). He got back to say that there's a kind of FHA "streamline" refinance that might save us some money without needing an appraisal or even much in closing costs. He said he'd also weigh a traditional refi to see which one would be best for us. I'm going to follow up this week if I don't hear more from him about that.

Our cats are still in separate rooms for now. We try to get them close to each other on either side of a door from time to time, and they always hiss and growl and swipe. Especially the new cat, who's nice to everyone else in the house, including our neighbors' dog. I think she's really mistrustful after whatever it is Noodles did that first night when he broke into her room while we were out. We swapped their rooms last night so they could experience each other's smell (and not get too territorial about the rooms we've been keeping them in). If the hissing never gets better after a few more days I suppose we'll just have to start the next phase and hope it gets worked out eventually.

Today is a kind of waiting day at work; I have several meetings this afternoon and during the week that should set work in motion for me, but right now all I can do is read background materials on several projects and try to get my thoughts together on them without knowing much.

So I've been doing that off and on with taking care of personal business. First, I printed off the tax forms that didn't come out clear at home.

Then, I read in my email that the people interested in the condo are still interested but have "lots of moving parts" to manage before they can make an offer. No feedback from the other showings, so at present they're our only actively interested buyer.

Then I signed the kids up for swim class mid-Feb. through mid-April. $84 apiece, but I'd already planned for that so it's OK.

Then the tax guy called and we set up an appointment to meet Friday. I reserved a carshare for that since he's in St. Paul.

Tonight is a little treat; we're going with our downstairs neighbors to redeem our free Chipotle burritos we got for trying the tofu sofritas earlier this month. All five adults will get free food, so we'll only need to purchase one for the kids to split and maybe some beverages. And I plan to only eat half of my free burrito so I have lunch tomorrow as well!

Finished tax organizers!

February 8th, 2015 at 09:46 pm

Gah, it was so hard getting all the docs together. I somehow misplaced our 2013 federal returns, which I'd used to qualify for the new mortgage, and couldn't find a saved electronic copy anywhere either. I found out that the IRS will let you have a "transcript" which has much of the same info, so I hope it's enough for our tax guy to go on.

After a while I wasn't even filling in the questionnaire anymore, just stuffing forms and documents between the pages. I'll apologize when I see him, but it took hours as it was. Our printer stopped working properly halfway through, so I think I'm going to reprint some of the docs when I get to work Monday, for clearer copies.

I don't care. I'm dumping it in his lap and hoping he can make sense of our taxes this year.

We heard from our realtor that the interested buyer was supposed to get quotes back on Friday from two contractors on the work they'd want done to our condo, so we hope to hear news of an offer early this coming week. Fingers and toes crossed! We had showings Friday and Saturday but haven't received any feedback, so we're not sure if there was any interest there.

I'm going strong on calorie counting (though not very well on exercise), but I haven't lost any more weight after my initial 5-lb. loss. So I'm at 135 and hoping I can lose a pound and a half by mid-February to get my money back on Dietbet!

Meet Clue!

February 6th, 2015 at 05:34 pm

Well, our new kitty came home Wednesday evening. She has a little cold and is recovering from getting spayed, plus she needs to be quarantined from our first kitty Noodles until we can take her to the vet and get her checked out. Plus we don't want them fighting. So she's living in one of our bathrooms. A few times a day we lock Noodles in another room and let her roam around the house.

They actually did meet the first night she was here...we humans had gone downstairs to watch TV with our neighbors. When we came back up the bathroom door was open; Noodles had apparently rattled the door hard enough to pop the little latch NT had installed. We don't know what went down but Clue was huddled in her carrier and didn't want to come out.

Since then she's regained her confidence, but whenever they're close to each other (on opposite sides of the door) they hiss. That didn't happen until the incident.

Oh well, just a bump in the road hopefully. We're going to take it really slow with introducing them to each other.

Anyway, here's a picture of our pretty little girl.

Sketching beginnings of a retirement challenge

February 4th, 2015 at 10:01 pm

It seems like exact numbers are a moving target, so you just have to pick something that looks good and start going for it.

Until we sell the condo, all I can do is plan. But it's nice to think about starting to boost retirement savings once things have loosened up. And if we can refi our duplex mortgage, that should loosen things up even further.

Based on the 8x rule and our current salaries (and AS's estimated income), I came up with a potential goal:
$486,000 in retirement assets by 2019.

Since we only have $230K now, we'd need $256K more in 4 years. That's $64K per year or $5300 per month. A long shot for sure, but better to shoot for that and fall short than just try to hit what we think we can.

We currently put 7.5% of my income away (including match), and 6% of NT's if I count his match, for a total of $8325 per year, $694 per month.

Once we sell the condo we'll be putting 10% of AS's away. So my estimate for all of that is $1176 per month, or $14,116 per year.

We'll also start contributing to Roths again. We used to do $450 per month but I'm thinking we should all max out our Roth's, so that's $1375 per month. I think we can manage that. That would take us to contributing $2551 per month, or $30,616 per year.

Then I'm thinking NT and I can bump up our 401(k)s to make it a nice even 10% each that we're putting away. That would add $327 per month or $3925 more per year, and would take us to $2878 per month, or $34,541.

It's not all the way to $5K a month, but it's getting there. And hopefully our investments would start to grow faster as we had more and more in our accounts. Of course, with all of this happening incrementally, we wouldn't actually get anywhere close to the first year goal, but that's OK.

We could probably achieve all of this and still have money left over for debt repayment, fun and renovations. So that seems like a good first set of goals to work on. If we can actually achieve all of these this year, then I can look and see if more aggressive saving is feasible or not.

But first, we play the waiting game some more...

What's your retirement rule of thumb?

February 3rd, 2015 at 10:40 pm

I haven't even been really allowing myself to think about retirement funding in the past year, since I've been so focused on house stuff. Now, with perhaps the end of our major money woes in sight (if a few more things fall into place in the next month or two), I started looking around at where we should be.

I've used calculators that seem to say we're doing OK, so I think this rule of thumb may be for a more lavish lifestyle than I'm imagining, but I was interested in the "8x your annual income" rule of thumb. Fidelity laid it out like this: have 1x your income by 35, 3x by 45, 5x by 55 and 8x by 67.

Since that doesn't help me totally, being 40 right now, I broke it down further:
1x by 35
2x by 40
3x by 45
4x by 50
5x by 55
6x by 59
7x by 63
8x by 67

Ours is a bit confusing because AS is 35, I'm 40 and NT is 41. And we don't think of our retirement as separate assets. So I decided to figure each one separately, add them together, and see how far off our total retirement assets are.

AS might make $60K this year, so for her I put $60K
NT's at $57K now, so I put him at $114K
I'm at $65K, so I put myself down for $130K

That totals $304,000 we should have in retirement funds right now. Currently we have $230,639, which is $73,361 short.

(If we'd stayed at our last year's salaries, our goal would be $251K, or only $20,361 short. So we weren't TOO far off the mark, but now that we have higher salaries the discrepancy is much greater.)

I think it's a neat number to aim for, especially since it's a stretch (and stretching is good when it comes to financial goals because it keeps me motivated), but I wonder how realistic it is for what we might need.

Thoughts?

More debt progress, condo prospects still there?

February 3rd, 2015 at 06:22 pm

The US condo mortgage payment hit, with $494 going to principal. That takes us to $1441 down, $109 to go on the February debt goal.

I noticed there's a new showing this afternoon. It's the same agent whose buyer said he would make an offer if he could make the necessary modifications for his disability. Fingers crossed that he's decided it's doable and is just checking the place out one last time! (Yes, I'm daring to dream, knowing the scenario could be completely different from that.)

Debt progress, kitty news, etc.

February 3rd, 2015 at 02:05 am

All but one of our mortgage payments hit:
US duplex: $634 to principal
UK1: $219
UK2: $46
UK3: $48

All told, that's $947 down, $603 to go on the February debt goal.

We went to see one of the cats whose pics I'd found on FB, and fell in love with her right away. So we adopted her, and got licenses for her and our existing cat Noodles. $70 adoption fee (including shots, microchipping and spaying, so a great deal), plus $25 each for the licenses.

We needed a few supplies, but we got them on Amazon with the last of our Xmas gift credit. Two more litter trays, food and water bowls, sleeping mat and scratching/playing toy, and collars for both cats (now that they have tags). She'll be in our bathroom for a while so we wanted to make sure she was comfortable in there.

We bring her home Wednesday, after she's been spayed. Very excited! I'll share pics as soon as I have them.

No other real news. I went to see a doctor about my shoulder since it still hurts, and I'm relieved that it's not broken or dislocated. Basically I should have been icing it, warming it, taking painkillers and avoiding using that arm, none of which I did after the first day of the injury. So I'm to try that regimen for a few days and see if it gets any better.

February debt goal

February 1st, 2015 at 09:08 pm

The goal is the same as the last few; pay off at least $1550 of debt. Hoping someday soon I can start paying more than the minimum!

We've got another showing Monday. Hopefully one of our two interested parties will make an offer soon, but I'm glad to be having more showings in case both of them fall through.

My seemingly minor shoulder injury from sledding a few weeks ago doesn't seem to be improving. I'm taking it really, really easy today in the hopes that rest will hurry it along, but I'm going to try to get in to see an orthopedic doctor tomorrow if not.

Don't you hate it when you need to see the doctor right at the beginning of the year? I don't like to see my flex spending get immediately hit like that. It makes me think about how stupid it is that they make you try and predict how much money you're going to need for a whole year. Why can't flex spending be like other withholdings, where you can increase or decrease it at any time as needed?