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Archive for April, 2015: Ceejay74's Personal Finance Blog
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Archive for April, 2015

May debt goal, and freelance income is a rollercoaster

April 30th, 2015 at 10:14 pm

Well, in the absence of any U.S. mortgage payments, and assuming we will not receive the WV money this coming month, I'm setting the debt repayment goal at a paltry $500. Hoping June's will be much more exciting!

I'm looking forward to June in several ways. Not only will we hopefully receive the WV money and paid off all non-mortgage debt, but I also hope to ramp up retirement contributions after a year of putting only about 5% of my paychecks and 6% of NT's paychecks toward it. I think the first thing I'll do is start an SEP with Vanguard for AS.

Speaking of AS, it felt like April was a slow month for getting paid, so I added it up. She received $1403.75 this month. By comparison, in March she raked in $8325.38! Some of it is due to her taking 2 weeks vacation in March, but some of it is just luck of the draw.

I'm so glad we can cover our bills with my and NT's more predictable income. I'd be pretty nervous otherwise!

Luckily May is looking like it'll be more like March. A lot of checks are due soon (or overdue).

Financial notes, bad and good

April 29th, 2015 at 04:10 pm

The management company of our UK rental contacted us, saying they need another £558 ($893) for the renovation.

Obviously, we don't have that.

We'll probably need to borrow more from NT's mum, unless the company can wait until we receive more checks for AS's freelance work. Money we couldn't wait to use to fix up our home. Sigh.

Oh, and the rental inspection finished. Only minor stuff with the actual unit we rent out, but since our basement has a kitchen and bathroom and door with a lock, we need to either dismantle some of that stuff or apply for a permit to have it be a separate unit. Pissing away more money on stuff I don't care about, I guess.

On the upside, I got the third May utilities bill, and our total for the month is going to be $312 -- our lowest total utilities cost since last November.

One more debt payment in April

April 29th, 2015 at 04:59 am

NT's student loan hit, with $43 going to principal. Autopay finally went through; I tried once and it didn't work, but this time it did. What's funny is I'll probably be paying this debt off soon (assuming my dad's WV deal is for the expected amount).

That takes April debt paydown to $12,824.

Guess that's it! I'll set May goals later in the week.

Missing cat :( and other updates

April 29th, 2015 at 01:11 am

Our cat Noodles wasn't around last night when he usually gets a treat and gets shut in the bathroom. We looked around, rattled his bowl, then gave up. It was late and our house is big.

This morning NT woke us up to say Noodles was still missing. He looked all over, but we all had to get to work.

He still wasn't here when we got home. NT has biked around the neighborhood, and I made flyers for him to put up.

We think he got out an open door, which got shut likely while he was still out there. It was on the third floor, but he could have climbed down the roof, I guess.

Frown Hope he turns up. He's not very friendly to anyone but us, and he doesn't like other animals. He needs to be home with us!

In other news, first half property tax still hadn't been paid as of noon today, so I wired the $5400 amount to the title company. On a whim I went to a different bank branch a block from the one with the guy I'd worked with twice. Huge difference! The woman who processed it did it in a third of the time, didn't have to ask any questions, and the money was gone from my account when I got a chance to check. Glad to stumble across a competent person for once!

AS did get two checks yesterday, so we're not down to a few bucks in checking. But we're down to less than $400, which is the least we've had in the account in years and years. Feels weird! NT and I get paid Thursday, so even without AS receiving more checks, I'll be able to pay back over half of the reserve line loan. Once again, SO glad I didn't pay the extra federal and state taxes for AS that I was going to. We'd have been in trouble when my broker sprang this news on us! As is, we'll be able to pay off the reserve line loan by May 15 at the latest, with or without more checks for AS, or the expected refunds.

If NT's flat doesn't receive rental income before June 1, we'll need to wire some money to his UK account. Then THAT should be the last wire transfer we do for a while! Whew! At $30-$50 a pop, it adds up.

We've got a rental property inspection tomorrow. Hoping the downstairs unit passes muster. It's sure nicer than when our friends moved in there!

Tonight I've got a carshare rental to go pick up a bunch of free outdoor furniture. It'll only cost about $8 and we're getting a TON of stuff.

I guess that's it. Wish us luck on finding poor Noodles! It's been a hard month for kitties on SA. Frown

More April debt paid, etc.

April 27th, 2015 at 07:08 pm

AS's student loan hit, with $140 going to principal. That takes our debt paid this month to $12,781.

The condo title company emailed to say they have proof they wired the payoff to my mortgage company, and they will work with them to resolve the issue with the late-payment notice and the appearance of still having a balance with them.

The duplex broker will check one more time tomorrow to see whether first half property taxes have been paid, and will let me know which amount I need to wire ($5400 or $3000). Just to be prepared, I borrowed $3850 from my reserve line so I can wire the higher amount tomorrow if need be.

AS hasn't received a check in a while; a few of them are later than expected. But she's still bringing in work; eventually the checks will roll in! She took $2500 worth of writing assignments from my job and is also working here on site today and tomorrow. And they want her to take a few more writing jobs too, which she has to think about since she's already got a lot on her plate. She decided to drop one client from her list, because they drastically reduced their pay rate AND cut turnaround times. She has enough other higher-paying clients that she doesn't have to settle for this one. It's great to be able to be a little picky!

Nasty shock in the mail

April 25th, 2015 at 06:22 pm

I got a late notice on the mortgage for my condo...you know, the one I don't own anymore? The one where the title company told me not to make the April 1 payment because we were closing April 9 and it would get paid off before a late fee was triggered? Yep, that's the one.

I went online to check the balance. I can't believe I never checked the balance -- I had so many things going on that I just trusted the title company and assumed it was paid off. Nope, there's still a balance.

I emailed the title company asking what was up. I also told them I do not intend to pay a late fee, so they'll either need to pay it for me or work it out with the mortgage company.

I'm going to have to stay on top of them, as well as my credit report to make sure it doesn't suffer as a result.

I wish at least one thing would just work out the way it's supposed to without a bunch of extra work on my part. Isn't that why I pay these companies thousands of dollars?

Stressed and bummed. I feel like my day is ruined, but I will hopefully feel better soon.

Oh, I just got an email from them. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will check into this first this Monday morning and let you know once I have it resolved."

I hope they get it resolved with no late fee and no significant ding to our credit scores!

One more wrinkle, more annoying than anything

April 25th, 2015 at 01:53 am

Ugh.

So in a matter of days, the broker went from saying "this refi will cost you less than nothing" to "you might need to write a check at closing but we'd tear it up once property taxes were paid" to "you need to bring $5400 to closing but it'll be refunded within 2 weeks" to "well, they have 30 days to send the check but usually they do it within 2 weeks."

Long story short, the closing went through tonight (they brought the papers to our home to sign, so that was something), but we'll need to wire some money to the title company by Tuesday. Probably $5400 but could be more like $3000 if first-half property taxes reach the county by Tuesday morning.

Of course, having just gone through an expensive closing and paid off the promissory note, we don't have that much in checking. So it looks like unless AS gets a couple of the big checks by Monday, we are going to have to take a short-term reserve line advance.

It looks like, worst case scenario (we have to pay the $5400, AS doesn't get any checks, and we don't get the refund for 3 weeks) we'd have to borrow $3850. We could pay back $1650 of it a couple days later, when we get paid 4/30. If we still don't have the refund or any of AS's checks, we could pay off the rest after our 5/15 paychecks hit.

So not a big deal, couple bucks of interest at most. Still, ugh.

The closing lady knew nothing about our relationship situation and kept saying it was amazing three friends were able to buy a home together and not want to kill each other. :-/ We didn't bother trying to explain, just signed all the papers and said all the right things to get the closing done fast.

Our new mortgage payment is a little less than $2800, so $400+ less than our old payment. We got $3K added to the principal, which I'm not crazy about, but with how much we're saving per month, it's worth it.

So, not quite out of the woods in terms of crazy financial wranglings, but one step closer. (Even though new steps keep getting added, the finish line seems closer now that the refi is signed.)

No checks have come in for AS for a while, but she keeps booking work. At some point there's going to be a flood of checks coming in!

Nice weekend and other stuff

April 21st, 2015 at 03:26 pm

My sister visited this past weekend. She is the mellowest house guest you could ever ask for, and she loves playing with the kids, so it was really kind of a vacation for us. We ate out or ordered in a lot, but she paid for several of the meals, so it wasn't too expensive.

We had many interesting conversations. She is a complete and utter philanthropist, always thinking of ways she can help people. She literally almost gave the coat off her back to a guy on the street until I talked her out of it. One of her activities while she was her was going to a Kenyan church service and surprising some of the kids she knew from a group home she visits in Kenya, who live in MN now.

Her finances are interesting. She told me her husband does most of the work, and he's a super-saver on one hand, but really disorganized in some ways. She said for a while he routinely paid a $50 late fee on the mortgage because he could never send the payment in on time. And their taxes have been late from procrastinating too.

Their communication about finances is dysfunctional. She pretty much gets to spend her income on whatever, which is mostly ordering out for dinner, helping the homeless and others in need, and helping out her adult children with some of their bills. He handles all the bills and retirement, and occasionally freaks out over some long-delayed tax or bill issue. It sounds like it works for them; I don't think our system would work because if they completely pooled their money, they'd have lots of disagreements about how to spend it. And it sounds like they're doing OK because the husband is really good about stashing money for retirement.

She also told me some things about my family I didn't know. I didn't know my mom was a hoarder long before I came along; once a floor of a rental home caved in because a big heavy cabinet was so crammed and stacked with stuff. I thought maybe she'd gotten worse over the years, but no, she's always been that way.

I also found out that now that my mom is more or less immobile (doesn't like to walk because her knees hurt, so she just stays in the living room all day), my dad has been systematically clearing out all the rooms in the house. Surprisingly, my mom is aware of it and has found a way to cope: she told my sister "I don't go in those rooms anymore, because it's better if I don't know what he's gotten rid of." Which, for a hoarder, is pretty impressive!

It's really interesting to get news from my sister because she's pretty open and honest about things. My family can be weirdly secretive within itself, just about random things, and doesn't always deal openly with problems.

Once I confirmed with my downstairs neighbor who's a real estate lawyer that the association dues refund check was valid, I deposited it and put half toward making up retirement, half toward shared spending money.

Last night NT had a carshare that his company was paying for (has an all-day meeting today), so I suggested he and AS use it to go oven shopping. They found one they liked for $710 (with tax and haul away of the old one). It will be delivered Friday, May 1.

It puts us about $150 in the hole in our shared spending money, but AS is expecting a $500 check any day now, so we decided it was OK to go ahead with it.

This morning, I woke up to a nasty surprise: the monthly autopay check to the duplex seller had been sent. Guess in everything that was happening, I forgot to cancel autopay! I emailed the title co. because I still haven't heard 100% confirmation that he got the payoff. As soon as they confirm that, I'll let him know to ignore the check that's coming. Don't want to confuse matters, or get an earful from him if he hasn't received the promised payoff.

I heard from the broker on the duplex refi; he should have final numbers by tomorrow and wants to close on Friday. That's inconvenient for NT but if we can arrange to meet in downtown Minneapolis, we could do it. I know I'm naive, but I'd hoped a streamline refi could all be handled electronically without an in-person closing!

I really just want to get those exact numbers on the monthly mortgage payment so I can finalize my budget for the next couple of months.

Hmm...

April 19th, 2015 at 08:37 pm

We forgot to bring in the mail yesterday, but my sister picked it up this afternoon. One envelope contained a check, with a rebate of a full month's worth of condo association dues: $696.03!

I wasn't expecting it; I thought that was figured into closing. So I'm not going to cash it right away. I emailed the title company contact that sent me the amount I needed to bring to closing. Hopefully she'll have some insight.

I can't help but get my hopes up that it's a real windfall and not a mistake, but I'll wait to find out before I count it as ours.

Updates

April 18th, 2015 at 04:23 am

Yesterday the title company lady called; their computers were down, but they'd been able to verify my wire had come through. She got the duplex seller's contact info from me to see how she could get the money to him. She called me back a couple hours later saying she'd wired the money to him. She'd get a signed satisfaction from him once her computers came back up.

She still hasn't emailed that to me, so I'll check in Monday. But I'm assuming it's just the seller dragging his feet as usual.

I provided some more forms to the broker and it seems the refinance is in process. So I'm hopeful it will be finalized next week. I canceled the autopay on my current mortgage (after confirming with my broker that I should), so it feels pretty real!

My sister's in town until Monday afternoon, so we'll be spending a bit of money eating out and such. Not too much, especially since AS hasn't received any more freelance checks this week. There's quite a backlog, so it'll be exciting when it all starts rolling in. Smile

I started a simple spreadsheet that I'll refresh once a week with the balance of shared and individual spending money. My hope is that AS and NT will get in the habit of recording their purchases there, making it easier to update my main worksheet. And there will be less of me telling them what we can afford; we'll all give input into how we spend the available funds.

I even set it up to email me when someone updates it, so I know when to check it and add something to my main spreadsheet. I hope it works out!

Slight delays on the duplex matters

April 16th, 2015 at 02:20 am

OK, things aren't quite wrapped up on the duplex refi and payoff. I waited 4 long hours after emailing the title company that I'd wired the payoff funds, then called them. Turns out their computer system was completely down. So they were unable to process my payment. I don't think it's a big deal; one day shouldn't make a difference to the guy who typically didn't cash my monthly checks for a week or more after receiving them.

And, maybe because of this delay, the closing on the duplex refi is probably going to be next Wednesday. I should get more exact numbers about the mortgage balance and monthly payment amount today or tomorrow, though, which is the part I'm really most concerned with.

So we're close, not there yet, but I still feel OK about everything.

On an unrelated note, we unexpectedly got a little over 100 pounds deposited into our UK checking account. Apparently the renters stayed until April 6 and so paid a small amount of rent in April. That's nice in case we don't get a new renter in time to receive rent before the June 1 mortgage payments; it'll mean less money we need to either wire over or borrow from NT's family.

April 2015 net worth update

April 15th, 2015 at 08:19 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): $36,631
NT's Roth IRA: $7,780
AS's trad. IRA: $15,460
AS's Roth IRA: $21,106
CJ's 401(k): $82,872
CJ's Roth IRA: $7,780
NT's flat: 140,000 pounds ($224,000)
CJ/NT/AS house: $440,000
---
Total Assets: $902,921

Total Debt: $525,360

Current Estimated Net Worth: $377,561

February 2015 estimate: $366,009

Change in net worth: +$11,552

Summary: Apparently all our recent property doings -- including selling the condo at a loss -- and shifting around of debt did have a net positive effect! Some of this gain was due to decent performance of our retirement accounts, but a lot of it was from debt reduction.

It was kind of fun to have our assets worth over a million bucks, and now with the condo sale they're below that. But we'll get up there again eventually! At least our debt is getting close to going below the half-million mark. That'll be a relief.

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.

Debt progress! Exceeded April goal and other notes

April 15th, 2015 at 05:06 pm

I made the wire transfer to pay off the promissory note! I haven't got confirmation from the title company or my broker, but the money is out of my bank so I'm counting that debt as PAID.

It's been a couple of confusing weeks, with some debts being paid off and some being added to my balance. I was trying to work out how to figure that into my debt repayment calculations, and I came up with a way.

Before closing on the condo and paying off the seller, I had $670,005 of debt. After eliminating the condo mortgage and duplex promissory note, and adding a student loan, a credit card and a line of credit to my debt, my new debt balance is $525,360.

I got rid of $133,000 of it by selling the condo, so that doesn't count as debt repayment. But the rest of the debt reduction does. So that means through the whole confusing mess, I paid down $11,645 of debt over the past two weeks! That takes my April debt repayment to $12,641. Definitely a new record, and the month isn't even over yet!

In other news, last night I decided to take snafu's advice and just pay the minimum for AS's quarterly tax prepayment, and keep the other $2500 or so in my account for now, adding it to her June tax prepayments. Well, even if I hadn't decided that last night, I would have done so this morning, when I saw I'd forgotten to cancel the auto-contributions to our Roths for April! So that's $450 out that I wasn't expecting. Luckily I had that choice to pay less on AS's estimated tax, so we'll be OK. And I don't have to take out a reserve line loan to bridge the gap until April 30 payday. I was planning to restart Roth contributions in June anyway, so I can float this amount until June with no impact to our regular budget.

The banker who helped me with the wire was the same one who messed up last week on the other wire, but since this one was to go out immediately, I wasn't as worried. I hovered while he handed it to the lady who was going to process it. Smile

The banker's a real sad sack, hinting at financial woes of his own. I think he assumed I was in over my head like him, but from what he was saying, I think he's just an average everyday person, which means he has no real idea or plan with his money. One comment, when he was telling me about these condos on Lake Superior that he admired: "I really wish I had $40,000 so I could buy one. Heck, I wish I had $1,000." Hopefully he was kidding! But he also mentioned having a second mortgage on his place, and not having any money to eat out, so I wonder.

He made that comment after I mentioned I hadn't eaten out much but could start to do so more now that I'd gotten these deals done. It was like, we had a lot of the same problems, but I have a plan to get out of them and he seemed kind of stuck. It was just interesting. You'd think a banker would have a better handle on things, but of course I know better than that.

Anyway, in other bits of financial news, we think the fencing of our backyard is going to run around $2500. Our neighbor is getting estimates and planning it. We'll be splitting the cost with them. AS should have some bigger checks coming through in the next couple of weeks, so shouldn't be a problem.

We've been looking at ovens, but one thing we want to avoid is ovens that get really hot to the touch on the outside, and ones that vent all the hot air right over the cooktop at you so you're pummelled with it while you're cooking. We're having trouble discerning from online descriptions which might be better in those areas. So we might have to go into a store and talk to someone.

AS did some last-minute coverage at my job yesterday and should get about $300 for that. She also accepted some new jobs from other places: a $600 one and a $1600 one. She quietly passed a milestone the other day: she's now booked enough work to surpass what her annual salary at her old job would be. It only took her three and a half months, with a 2-week vacation in the middle! Of course, $6K of that is the teaching gig which she doesn't get paid for until the end of the year. But it's pretty exciting nonetheless.

I guess I'll probably do my net worth calculation today or tomorrow. It should be interesting! I think I'll about break even, since we took a loss on the condo but also paid off some debt. But I won't know until I add it all up.