The ongoing saga of AS's layoff--who knew it would be such a drama?
First off, she got rejected for the private health care she applied for, because she's "high-risk" due to her high blood pressure. Um, OK, if a 29-year-old with high blood pressure that is well-managed with medication is high-risk, I can't imagine what at least a quarter of the U.S. population is considered..."imminent corpses"? So she's working on applying for a Minnesota insurance for high-risk applicants. We're hoping she does not have to resort to COBRA, which will eat up about half of her unemployment pay (before copays and deductibles).
Then, today her last paycheck was about $400 less than I expected. She checked and found out that her week of severance pay wouldn't come till next pay period. No problem. Then she did some further digging and found out that, because she hadn't signed some line on her final layoff forms, and gone to get another set of forms, she had basically waived her right to severance pay! Huh? And no one noticed this slight clerical error and gave her a chance to rectify it, and now it's too late because it needed to be done on the last day of employment.
Needless to say I'm livid, and I'm trying to make her push for her severance pay. After all, this office has not stood on ceremony (e.g., basic legal employer procedure) for most other things in this layoff process--why be picky about the process now? Besides, who the fuck ever heard of a company letting you go without severance, and not helping you through the process and ensuring you would get severance? It's insane that no one noticed--it's a big college, but her department was tiny.
Ugh, ugh, ugh. If we can't get this resolved, chances are I will miss my first savings goal of the New Year. Not the end of the world, but extremely aggravating and disheartening. Poor AS. This process has been a bigger clusterfuck than any of us could have predicted. Let's hope at least the unemployment pay comes in without a hitch--so far two of the three big financial pieces of this puzzle (severance pay and health care) are still in red-tape hell.
Archive for December, 2008
The ongoing saga of AS's layoff--who knew it would be such a drama?
OK, here's my first attempt to do a month of multiple goals, per my New Year's resolution. The goals have to be in each of six categories:
1. DEBT. Pay off at least $1,500
Balance as of 12/30: $409,865
Goal balance: $408,365
2. SAVINGS. Save at least $1,550: $1,200 for the baby/emergency fund, $350 for the birthdays fund.
EF balance: $33.18; Goal balance: 1233.18
BD balance: $0; Goal balance: $350.00
3. HEALTH/FITNESS. Work out at least 10 times.
4. GREEN. Catch up on washing/reusing produce bags, ziplocs and plastic bags (I have a big stack of produce bags that need washing out; I've fallen down a bit during the holidays).
5. CRAFTS/CREATIVITY. Mend our rag rug. Get AS to show me how.
6. PHILANTHROPY. Collect unused eyeglasses and donate to Lions Club or some other charity. I have two pairs I've been meaning to donate somewhere, and I want to see if I can gather some more from work and friends and make one big donation.
Wow, my sidebar is going to get a lot longer with all this!
I looked back at my past months' results and calculated that we paid off $35,122 in total debt this year. From looking at my CC debt in the sidebar, you would think $32,995 of it was credit card/personal debt. However, $4,274 was transferred from the CC category to the education category as I used excess student loan money to pay down my personal loan, thus increasing education debt and reducing CC/personal.
In reality, I paid off $28,721 in CC debt and $6,401 in mortgage and/or education debt.
I won't be paying off that much in 2009, I don't think; if I pay minimums only, we'll pay off about $18,000. But there will still be a couple of exciting milestones: Our CC debt will at least get below $30K, and our total debt should get down below $400,000 within seven months. If I figure worst-case scenario, those are the only two biggies that will happen in '09. However, that's not to say things won't turn around at some point during the year.
OK, I'm just babbling sleepily now. Time to watch a bit of TV and then get into bed!
I just put a cashier's check for $1000 in the mail to my dad. I know I should wait till it's in his hands, but I really want to reach my December goal, so I'm considering that a payment made!
My December goal was to pay $2536 by Wednesday, and I've paid $2671. Even better, I've now paid my dad exactly half what he loaned me for the condo--$6000 out of $12000. I'll try not to take another 5 years paying off the second half!
That's my last payment of the month and the year, so I'll be posting my January goals soon. My New Year's resolution was to have goals in other categories besides just debt repayment, so it might take me a couple days to figure out what I want to accomplish and put it all into words. I've been so happy and distracted by the holidays that I haven't really thought seriously about it yet.
$99 to principal on one of AS's student loans. That's $1671 down, $865 to go on the December goal.
Having a nice relaxing day at home, balancing the books and drinking coffee. A payment went to the UK credit card: US$80 to principal. $1572 down, $964 to go on the December goal.
I was going to go mail my payment to my dad today, but I don't have anything else to do until later, so I'm just going to mail it Monday. That way it'll still count for December and I'll reach my goal.
My parents sent boxes of gifts and were way generous as usual, so I guess the recession isn't hurting them too bad. I realized that they probably sent the three of us enough in Xmas gifts, gift cards and money to about cancel out the check I'm sending to them. Oh well. I didn't get them Xmas gifts, just sent a card, but NT decided that with part of his bonus we should get flowers or something else nice for each of our families, so I ordered a really nifty birdseed wreath to be delivered on New Year's Eve. They have several birdbaths and bird feeders, so hopefully they'll like it. My dad's diabetic and not really into flowers, so it was the one thing that grabbed me on the FTD site.
Hope everyone's week has been great so far! We went to our friends' place for Christmas Eve, and a few other people came over as well. We fixed Japanese and traditional holiday treats and drank sake, and our friend read aloud a David Sedaris essay about Xmas in Norway.
Xmas day was really mellow, just lots of opening presents and then playing around with said presents. We'd picked up a vegan roast from Whole foods and made some mashed potatoes, stuffing and vegan green-bean casserole to go with it.
I have today off, and AS doesn't have a job anymore, so we're both home. Ironically, NT, the lone person used to getting Boxing Day off, has to work, but with any luck he'll get out early. This afternoon/evening we're going out for drinks with some friends, so I don't know if we'll cook the dinner we planned or end up getting some carryout food somewhere. We've got plenty of spending money right now, so it's an option.
Oh, and we booked our Vegas trip (flight and hotel) for March! Woo hoo! With those parts out of the way, we can plan the rest of the trip at our leisure over the next few months.
NT's UK pensions: 7,250 pounds ($14,500)
10,725 pounds ($21,450)
NT's 401(k): $2,898
AS's 403(b): $3,010
AS's CD: $500
CJ's 401(k): $20,212
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $170,000
Total Assets: $492,570
Total Debt: $411,044
Current Estimated Net Worth: $81,526
November 2008 estimate: $78,119
Change in net worth: +$3,407
Summary: We paid off at least $1,500 in debt; AS and I showed small gains in our retirement accounts; AS has a new CD in her name; and NT's bonus included 401(k) contribution (with matching!), so his account's value went up nearly $1,000.
I will update my "Individual Net Worth" page shortly so you can see how it breaks out.
Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are conservative, and retirement totals don't include amounts currently unvested. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $2 for every British pound, which was the exchange rate when I started keeping track. I maintain that ratio for the purpose of tracking progress, even though the exchange rate is now closer to $1.50 per British pound.
NT got some more money recently (he's my golden goose!), from England this time. US$40 from his aunt and uncle, and an FYI from his mom that his gran had deposited 750 pounds in his UK bank account. We are doing great over there--we have enough in the checking account to cover 4 months of UK bills. This extra money will take care of the 999-year land lease we have to buy next year, as well as those months when management fees get taken out of his rental income. That means we won't have to send a penny over for the forseeable future. (Remember when I had to send thousands over, at $50 a pop?)
We are telling gran her gift is going into the baby fund, because essentially it is--now we know that every extra cent we make here in the U.S. can go toward baby. I always had it in the back of my mind that I was going to have to deal with that lease, but now I know I won't!
OK, I've put this off long enough. I've decided that I can't see far enough into the future to see what I'll be capable of in the upcoming year, but I know what areas of my life need goals. My monthly debt repayment goals have really helped me focus on something that needs ongoing commitment, so I'm going to try that with other self-improvement projects that also need constant focus to keep going strong.
So for each of the following areas, I'm going to post a goal at the beginning of each month and a result at the end. It might be something small or large depending on the circumstances of that particular month.
1. Continue to pay off at least the required minimum amount of debt.
2. Start saving money in a baby/emergency/eventual-debt-repay fund.
3. Pay attention to health and fitness.
4. Become more green and reduce my footprint.
5. Be more craftsy or creative: Learn new skills or start and complete new projects using existing talents.
6. Be more philanthropic; try to do things for the good of others.
Christmas came early this year for us! Well, a few days early anyway.
First, AS applied for unemployment, and they gave her an estimate for her weekly payment. It's about $75 more per week than I thought! Then I realized that I was calculating based on her net income, which usually has retirement, health insurance and bus pass taken out. So we're looking at nearly $300 per month more than expected. That's really great! I'm hoping I also overestimated the dent my new, more expensive healthcare will put in my own paycheck, but I won't find that out till Jan. 15. That's OK, $300 is quite enough to play with! $120 will go toward AS's third student loan, but that doesn't start till March. Looks like the baby fund will be getting a little infusion of cash, and I think I'll set aside some for AS's retirement too, so she's not missing out on contributing just because she's unemployed.
Also, NT's bonus came in. Now, my company gave us a $100 gift card, and I was happy to get it considering the state of the economy. We knew NT's company did quite a bit better and that he'd be getting about $4,000, or maybe $2700 after taxes. Well, it turns out they decided to give him $6000, so we cleared $3957 after taxes!
I'm garnishing $2300 of that to make sure our Vegas trip is fully funded, but I'm not going to fight NT for the remaining $1657. He's been looking so forward to this bonus, and he's worked damn hard this year: 40+ hours at work plus 4 nights of classes + homework. And he still does some of the chores, despite my best efforts to stop him. Anyway, I have a feeling some of that money's gonna benefit me one way or another, knowing his generosity. So I'm quite happy for it all to be mad money. With AS's unemployment being so much, my budget has plenty for me to use for more-practical purposes.
AS and I are racing to get her health insurance settled before Jan. 1, because her work insurance only lasts through the end of December. If we don't get there, we'll either try and get COBRA set up for a month, or I'll strap pillows on all her limbs and make her sit perfectly still until we get her covered again.
So I started this journey in July 2007 with $457,714 [EDIT $459,388; my initial tally back in '07 must have been a little off, because I've been scrupulous about tracking debt paid and debt remaining, and those add up to this amount] in current and anticipated debt. And I've paid off $48,344 since then. I've been keeping an eye on the total amount so I could celebrate passing the $50,000 mark, but I just realized another milestone that I actually passed in November and didn't even notice: we've paid off more than 10% of our entire debt!
Could I really have missed that? I looked through my November entries and don't see mention of it, so I guess it escaped my notice.
Someone (creditcardfree, maybe?) posted recently about how it's important to note these little steps. And since our debt repayment is going to go way slower for an indefinite time period, I'll celebrate anything that helps me keep my enthusiasm up.
Personal loan payment hit, with $523 going to principal. That's $1,492 down, $1,044 to go on my December goal. I will mail my dad's check out after Christmas (per his request, to avoid mail rush) and then I have a student loan payment for AS and a credit card payment for NT near the end of the month, so I should surpass easily. Yay! Since I've decided to continue my challenges right to the end of the month, even if I hit my goal before then, I won't post my final results till New Year's Eve.
Still considering what I want to do for my New Year's resolutions. Since monthly debt payoff challenges have worked so well to keep me focused in that area, I'm thinking about creating monthly fitness and environmental challenges as well. I might make that my resolution, rather than specific measurements, since it's really an unpredictable year I'm facing (exciting, but not good for making specific resolutions ). But, I've still got a little time to think it over.
AS just asked me an interesting question. She wondered how optimistic (or despairing) frugal people are about the future (economic and quality-of-life-wise and existence-of-country-wise) of the U.S.
I told her personally I was 95% confident that the U.S. would continue in some form or another, that our self-interest as a country would save us, but that I wasn't confident our home or retirement investments would end up being worth anything, and that we might not be retiring, like, ever. But I don't think we'll be foraging for food in the city park, or be wiped out by mass starvation and hunger.
Without straying into partisan tirades on either side, what do you think are the best- and worst-case outcomes of our current financial distress?
OK, it's 2 a.m. here and I should be asleep. It's rare I stay up past midnight, but AS and I were completing some craft projects as gifts for NT's family. She made bath "tea bags," taco seasoning blend, lemon and orange flavored sugar, some sugar and salt bath scrubs, and monogrammed hankies for NT's dad. I made candied ginger, some ginger-scented sugar with the remainder in the pan, and the labels and instructions for all the containers. Now I'm trying to relax so I can get sleepy. I'm going to be dead tomorrow! I hope it's an easy day at work.
Anyway, I checked AS's student loan account, and the payment finally hit. $55 went to principal, so that's $969 down, $1567 to go in my December goal. I've realized I can't pay my dad $1000 until the 15th, and that's about when a couple other payments hit, so I probably won't see any movement on my goal till then.