Help with figuring out your 2009 paychecks

For those of us working for an hourly wage, PaycheckCity.com just updated their handy Hourly Paycheck Calculator with 2009 taxes. I've used it in the past to help me get an idea of what my paychecks will look like for the following year and they've always been pretty close.

Looking back on my 2008 goals

Back in January I told myself what goals would be achieved by the end of the year, as a way to "visualize success." The blue bars on the right suggest that I've achieved most of them, but lets go back to that list I made in January and see where I really stand.

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"After much thought and procrastination, below are the things I will be able to say at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009:

$10,000 of my pre-tax salary went into my 401k.
True. This was on automatic deduction from my paycheck, so no worries there.

My 401k portfolio is aligned and balanced towards my long-term goal of aggressive growth and diversity.
True. I rebalanced my 401k back in January.

I've evaluated carefully whether or not to keep my Roth IRA with my bank or move it to another broker like Vanguard or T. Rowe Price. In the end I made the best possible decision that aligned with my long-term goal of growth and keeping my overall retirement portfolio diverse.
True. I decided to move my Roth IRA from my bank to a target date account with Vanguard that I believe complements my 401k holdings to create an overall diverse stock/bond portfolio. Also, the fees are much lower.

I contributed the full amount of $5,000 to my Roth IRA.
True. And it's all been lost, and then some, due to the market. Meh.

I've stayed out of debt.
True!

I reached $10,000 in my unemployment fund, then put it in a CD-ladder.
True to the first part, but not to the last. As the economy declined, I decided it was more logical to have all the money available.

My health care/deductible fund reached $1,500. That's enough to cover my deductible for the year and one hospital copay. Let's hope I don't need it! I choose to save my money this way instead of going with an FSA because if the funds go unused by the end of the plan year, I would have to forfeit them. This way, if I don't use them, I can put them in a high-yield savings account to earn interest and will be the seed money for the following year's deductible. Makes sense in my head, anyway.
True. The good news is that I didn't need the money for health care. The bad news is that I'm sure my mother will need this money sometime this year to help her out due to my dad's recent cancer diagnosis. That said, I'm glad I have it to give.

I set aside $1,000 for travel this year. Just in case. The only thing that may come up would be an extended weekend to visit a friend. If that money doesn't get used this year, it will be seed money for next year's travel fund.
I didn't get a chance to visit that friend, however the money did come in handy for travel to help maintain a long-distance relationship. Who knew?

I saved $7,000 towards the purchase of a new computer and kick-ass monitor.
This goal got scrapped as the economy turned more bleak. I changed it to be a combined 2009 Roth IRA contribution/New computer goal of $8,400 thinking that the 2009 Roth contribution would be $6,000, leaving $2,400 for a new computer. However the contribution is actually $5,000 and the new computer takes on less importance as other realities make themselves known. A few weeks ago I upped the goal to $10,000 however I'm $500 short. I'm only the slightest bit bummed about this because if I controlled my spending more, I would have met this goal. However I realize I'm $1,100 above the $8,400 goal an d$2,500 above my original goal, so I'm alright.

While I have more goals and dreams that I want to fulfill, I'm far better off this year than I was the year before.
Without a shadow of a doubt, I feel fortunate to be able to realize this as a truth and hope that it will continue for 2009 and beyond.

A 2008 Goal Realized

I have met or exceeded almost all of my 2008 goals. The one that I was very happy to meet today was being able to donate $300 to Rolling Dog Ranch, and animal sanctuary in Montana they allows animals with severe disabilities a chance to enjoy their lives.

My goal was to donate $260 however thanks to accruing interest and being able to chip in a bit more, I was able to provide a bit more padding.

Chistmas came early!


Thanks to me being like an annoying kid the day before Christmas, BF gave in to my nagging let me open my gift early. Actually, I started it by giving him his first. I was so excited to give it to him. What was it? The Truck Turner DVD! Early on in our relationship I brought this movie up because it stars Nichelle Nichols as a pimp. Imagine a movie with Issac Hayes playing a cop, Nichelle Nichols playing a pimp, and Yaphet Kotto playing...hell...anything! I always meant to get it get it for him, so I figured now would be as good a time as any.

I'm absolutely delighted with my gift he gave me, which is a Hello Kitty pendant like the one in the picture, as I'm a HK fanatic!

We both seem to be happy with our gifts, so it's a win for the both of us for getting something we both like and not breaking the bank! Woo hoo!

Making progress

Today is payday!

■ I've added $1,000 to my 2009 Roth/Computer fund, making me 90% of my goal.
■ I found out my raise is 2.5%. Below market, even for this year, however I'm just happy to still have a job and thrilled that I even got a raise. There are some people that won't be getting anything.

Just read on Craigslist

In a listing for a studio apt.:

"--- NO SECURITY DEPOSIT --- TO MOVE IN ----- JUST $250.00 plus $475.00 and $35.00 Application FEE..." (emphasis by me)

Are they serious? :::eye roll:::

BF sees the value of savings

BF has a 75 lb. lovable pup named "Q." Q. is having surgery on his hip, much like the one he had on is other hip a year or so ago. The difference this time is that BF has the money in savings to cover it without having to go on a payment plan/take out a loan to do it. Sure it puts a dent in his savings, but that's what the savings is for, to cushion the blow of unexpected events like this and to keep them from wrecking you financially.

Also, since he's cleared out a lot of debt that he had last year, he'll be able to build up his savings again much faster. Woo hoo! Yay BF!

Changes!

I made a couple of changes. Obviously, I've added a new template. Also, I've added a Twitter feed to the right. Wanted to see what all the cool kids were talking about.

Off from work the month of December

You read right. Starting on December 1, I will be on PTO (paid time off) from work. And, AND I'm carrying another 2+ weeks of PTO into 2009. Long story short, my employer has a generous PTO carry-over policy and I'm really good about saving up vacation time.

During this time I'll be:

■ Spending the first week at home taking my dad to his chemo appointment and packing.
■ Packing to head to Ohio to spend the rest of the month with the BF, which includes meeting his family for Christmas.
■ I find out what my merit raise will be on Friday, I'll then start hammering out my 2009 budget. It's going to be a significant challenge due to my father's illness and the severe financial impact it and his death will have on my mother, and possibly me.

Off Topic
Remember that $200 purchase of hair care products I bought? It finally came in the mail yesterday! So what happens when I go to the shower to wash my hair? The shower head breaks off.

Jesus take the wheel...

November 2008 Net Worth and Holiday Spending

Net Worth
■ Long-term: I'm losing money. Both my 401k and Roth IRA are down. Tell you something you don't know, right?
■ Short-term: I'm making money. More like saving it. My cash position continues to grow.


Holiday Giving
Thanks to having a boyfriend this year, my holiday spending has increased from $0 to $33.64:

■ $8.64 for BF
■ $25.00 for BF's parents

Don't say I didn't do my part to help with the economy this holiday.

Performance Review

I had my performance review yesterday. Short version: Everybody Loves Velvet. Seriously. One person actually wrote, "Velvet is a gift!" That same person, as it turns out, was the one who gave me the $500 in gift checks for my help with special projects during the year. The worst anyone could say about me in my "Areas of Improvement" section was that they all noticed I've done an even better job this year than last and to keep it up. I'm serious.

All this praise and love earned me an "average" classification in the grand matrix of boxes the firm puts people into. The official line was that I'm at the highest level for administrative assistants for the firm, so my fantastic performance was expected. The real reason is that if they classified me higher, there would have been a possibility for me to get a higher raise. Actually, assuming if there were planning on giving me one. Word on the curb is that the-powers-that-be are trying really hard to keep raises to a bare minimum, if anyone is getting a raise at all.

So after my review, I asked my manager if my "meets expectations" classification means I won't be getting a raise. Turns out I will be getting a raise, and while it hasn't been finalized, it will be somewhere between 2 and 3%. It's a far cry from the 10% I got last year, but I look at it this way: I still have a job. In this market, I'm lucky to get an increase at all. I have close friends what will be out of a job come Jan. 1. I'll have coworkers that won't be getting an increase at all. I don't have to tell you these are serious times.

So right now I actually feel very grateful. I'm positively thrilled that the people I support, as well as my peers, have confidence and respect for my work. I feel lucky that I have a great, supportive manager. I work in a location where I can take public transportation. My cube is the closest one to the bathroom. There are three Chipotle's within walking distance of my office. Seriously though, with all that's going on in my life, I'm just glad that I still have my job (for now).

2009 Roth IRA Contribution Limits

I just spent 15 minutes on hold with the IRS so you, my dear reader (that's right, you're the only one) wouldn't have to.

The contribution limit for your Roth IRA in 2009 for those younger than 50 is $5,000. Why in increase for inflation? Technically, it has been. According to the very nice Mrs. McQue from the IRS, it's because the 2008 and 2009 contributions were adjusted together, and it's actually buried in the middle of some form from 2006. So yeah, it's considered an inflation raise from 2006. :::shrugs::: My guess is that the contribution for 2010 will be $5,500 or $6,000. Don't quote me on that though...

So why isn't it on the web site? Both Mrs. McQue and I found it to be a good question. The best she could offer is that as soon as some IRS blah-blah form is updated and distributed, it would be updated on the website.

So there you have it kids. Another year at $5,000. This is great news for me right now because that gives me an extra $1,000 to put towards my 2009 goals.

Things just keep popping up

Good news
■ Along with the savings plan I outlined earlier, I figured out that by transferring the interest from some of my savings accounts, I can bring myself within $25 of my $10,000 goal.

Not so good news
■ Just found out my Flickr pro account fee is due by Nov. 29 to the tune of $24.95.
■ My vet my suggest a prescription to help my cat get through a 5+ hour drive in a couple weeks. I have no idea how much that would cost. I've taken her on a 2-hr. drive before and after 5 minutes of meowing, she quieted down and slept for a while. I may have to hope she does the same in a couple weeks.
■ At the end of that drive, she'll be in a beautiful home...with a 75 lb. dog. For that dogs sake, I need to get kitty's claws trimmed, and she could use a wash. I've done this once before, and, well...let's just say it didn't end right for me (blue-eyed devil for real). However the cost for her to get a full groom would be around $60. I'm thinking of just donning some hazmat gear and doing it myself.
■ I overspent at my little happy hour thing by $11. :::said in Britney Spears voice::: Food at restaurants is expensive, y'all. Shoulda stuck to Cheetos.

Reaching a wee bit outside of my comfort zone

I've increased my 2009 Roth/Computer Goal from $8,400 to $10,000. How will I get the extra $2,483 (the difference between what I have now and the $10k)?

■ $500 gift checks.
■ Squeeze $1,000 of savings from my first December paycheck.
■ Beat $900 out of my second December paycheck.

That leaves only $83 to come up with. How will I get it?
■ Threaten my December paychecks with monetary harm if they don't cough up the dough.
■ Volunteer for any and every overtime opportunity over the next week (as I'll be on vacation starting in December).
■ Continue walking around with raggedy eyebrows and contribute the cash to the cause? :::weeps:::

Getting $1,900 from my December pay is going to be tough, but doable. That last $83, I have no idea where it would come from but it's such a small amount to keep me from reaching $10k that I have to find a way to get it!

:::looks at her budget:::
:::looks in the mirror:::
:::looks at her budget:::
:::looks in the mirror:::

Making progress

The financial cosmos has aligned! By some miracle, I actually increased my income while decreasing my expenses! This means I have more flexibility for the next two weeks. Actually, the cosmos didn't align, I was just kinda stupid and forgot a few things.

1. I didn't owe as much on my credit card as I thought.
2. I got out of preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
3. I was able to get a couple overtime hours.

My updated budget for the next two weeks as as follows:
November 21 (payday) through December 4: $1,309 (includes paycheck and cash in checking accounts)
■ $700-----Savings
■ $240.45--Credit card (pay off of balance)
■ $100-----Mom
■ $50.48---Cell phone
■ $100-----Groceries
■ $20------Gas
■ $8.64----Gift for BF
■ $20------After work happy hour

I moved the $25 gift cert. purchase to mid-December, and increase the line item for gas. Even so I still end up with a surplus of almost $70 which will probably be used for dining or or a much needed brow waxing by my favorite esthetician (begins to day dream about facials and manicures, wakes up to reality of dry-azz skin and sad looking nails). Moving on...

$500 Gift checks
I deposited those checks into my brick-and-mortar checking account yesterday, then went online to INGDirect.com to move the funds directly to my 2009 Roth/Computer Fund. The cash should be there by next week Tuesday, however I didn't include it in my blue bar to the left. I want to make sure it actually shows up. :) Once it does it will bring me withing 95% of my goal. Speaking of which, I'm thinking of increasing that goal. I believe I can save more if I'm diligent.

Because I like my information accurate

Vanguard is saying that the 2009 Roth IRA contribution limit is $5,000. I've been unable to verify this amount with official word from the government anywhere so I emailed Vanguard asking where they got this information and if it's accurate. I'll keep you posed on what they say.

Speaking of accurate
Looks like the rumor mill was right. There were more layoffs. One division, which handles more internal stuff, apparently got hit very hard. A friend of mine at work joked that I should be ok for the next five months, seeing how layoffs seem to roll in 5 to 6 month shifts. Great.

I'm off to review my 2009 budget, based on not getting an increase. Of course I'm hoping that's not the case, I need a raise now more than ever. However you know how the saying goes "hope for the best, prepare for the worst." I wonder how some of my fellow bloggers would react if their employers told them they would get neither a raise nor a bonus for 2009.

Good news/bad news

Bad news
My performance review that was supposed to have yesterday was put off until next week Monday because my manager got sick.

Good news
But she did call me into her office to tell me that the manager for those two projects helped with in April and August appreciated my work, and gave me $500 in American Express Gift Cheques!

Bad news
Word on the curb is that very few will be getting a raise. At all. Seriously. I knew something was up when the firm decided to eat the increased cost of health care insurance for 2009 and leave the pricing the same as 2008. It made me wonder if they did that because they knew we'd not be able to afford the cost of increased health care since most wouldn't be getting a raise or an extremely modest one (if 3% is the cap, think 1% or 2%). Morale would be in the toilet at that point.

Good news
I still have a job. For now.

Bad news
Heard there were more layoffs today, with rumors off another big one coming in another week or so.


So what does this all mean for me? What it means for everyone else in corporate america: Suckage. However I can only change my little world, so aside from the usual, here's what I will do.

1. Normally rewards like these are given as AMEX gift cards. However this time I got gift cheques. I'm not sure if that was done on purpose or not, however there are some really good reasons why this is to my benefit.

*-*While I can't use them online, they never expire;
*-*Whatever I don't use I can get cash for the remaining value; and
*-*Most important: I can deposit these directly into my bank account. It's like getting $500 tax free.

Guess what I'll be doing. That's right, and it's going straight into my 2009 Roth IRA/Puter Fund. I'll do it tomorrow over my lunch break.

2. I've been putting this off, but clearly I need to dust off my resume.

3. Start planning my budget for 2009. Open enrollment started today, so I have to figure out how that will impact my paycheck, especially if there's a chance that my salary will not increase.

Conversation with my mother

Mom: "The doctor called. They found nothing wrong with the biopsy they took, so he's free to start chemo next week."

Me: "That's great."

Mom: "I'm so glad Clinton signed that law."

Me: "What law?"

Mom: "The one where you're allowed to take of work to take care of a sick relative. The only thing is that they don't have to offer you the same job when you get back."

Me: "That's not the only thing. It's completely unpaid. In this economy, who do you know that can go 3 month without income? There's another issue that if the company has layoffs, they don't have to offer me a job at all. So I can see why no one would be lining up for FMLA right now."

---End of conversation---

I get the distinct feeling that my mother wants me to take time off from work to take care of my dad. She says she can't do it because she's self-employed and needs the money. To which my inner monologue was like, "Oh, and I don't?" Taking unpaid time away from work is not an option. First, I need my full income for savings because there's a strong chance I would have to move because of my parents financial situation. Second, I do not want to, even in a small way, jeopardize my position. I'm a little floored that she would even bring it up at a time like this.

I suggested a couple of things that could work us:

1. Road to Recovery is a free service provided by the American Cancer Society. Patients are matched with volunteers to help them get to their doctor's appointments. This could help my mother and me since we both have to work.

2. Check with Medicare/Medicaid on what they cover for home help during the days. There is going to come a point where my father will need assistance bathing, eating, etc. I suggested that we look into getting a home health care assistant that's covered by Medicare/Medicaid that can come in during the days to help take care of him. The benefit if is that it allows both my mother and I to continue to work and earn income. Second, my mother works from home, so she can keep an eye on them. In the evenings she and I will be home so we can take over from there. On paper, it sounds like a win-win situation.

My mother seemed to appreciate the ACS information for getting my dad to appointments. However she was less enthusiastic about home helper info. Emotionally, I understand. It's hard to think about him getting to that point. However, in my opinion, now is the time to think about these things and have a plan, before it gets even more emotional and we feel too overwhelmed to make a thoughtful decision. By the way, she still hasn't gotten back to me on what the plan will be for her financial stability after my dad passes.

I know it's hard to think about, but do we have a choice? Putting this off until "later" seems like the absolute worst thing to do, especially since my mother's financial situation is so serious. I'm not sure what to do.

My november budget. Half way through the month.

I now have a better understanding how governments can be late with their budgets. And I'm just one person. It can be a pain in the ass, especially when you realize that something is really screwed up and you don't want to acknowledge it. Spending that $200 on hair stuff messed up my cash flow more than I thought. Below is what I plan to stick to for the remainder of the month.

November 14 through November 20: $92 (what’s in my checking account now)
■ $8 November 14 lunch (actual spend was $3.29)
■ $80 Groceries
■ $4 Gas (left over cash not spent on lunch will go towards gas, so really it would be $8.70)

November 21 (payday) through December 4: $1,096.75
■ $400 Savings
■ $303.45 Credit card (pay off of balance)
■ $100 Mom
■ $50.48 Cell phone
■ $178 Groceries (includes Thanksgiving)
■ $10 Gas
■ $25 Gift card for BFs parents
■ $9 Gift for BF
■ $20 After work happy hour

2009 Roth IRA contribution limits: What are they?

It's almost the end of November and I can't find any official information about what the Roth IRA contribution limit will be for 2009. I've seen some sites saying that it's staying at $5,000 with no official information backing up where they got their info from. I find this suspect because that would mean no adjustment for inflation. After a year like this one, you'd think that would be factored in.

Since the only thing I can find from the government is for 2008, I'm just going to estimate that the contribution limit will be $6,000. If it's less then that, it's good news for my budget today. If it's more than that, well, tough cookies for me, because $6k is the most I can part with.

Meeting the parents

This holiday season will be interesting, to say the very least. While we're working around my father's cancer diagnosis, life is going on. BF will be into to celebrate Thanksgiving with my folks and I. Then the following week he'll drive back to pick me up to head on down to Ohio to stay with him for the rest of the month. During that time I'll meet his family. One weekend BF's parents will visit us at his home, then the following weekend we go to theirs to spend Christmas (my parent's will be spending two weeks in Jamaica, so you can stop looking at me sideways). I'll also be meeting his brother, sister-in-law, and how many bajillion nieces and nephews he has.

While my parents and I have stopped exchanging gifts years ago, I respect that we're the exception. BF and I agreed that I wouldn't have to get a gift for his brother, wife, and their kids. So that just leaves the parents. At first I was going to make them Jamaican rum punch. You know, from the heart, unique, and all that jazz. However it's pretty costly to make. Not only that, I can't just make a bottle for just his parents. MY parents will know and want everybody around the block to have a bottle. Also, it would kill me if I couldn't make enough to share with my close friends as well. It's something really special to me as the recipe has been handed down from my father (although both he and I will admit that I've perfected it!). Bottom line it would make a great gift. However I just don't have the cash flow to make it happen.

So enter plan b: gift cards to Red Robin. You're looking at me sideways again but hear me out! BF's dad L.O.V.E.S. this place, so it would be a hit. My only question is what's a dollar amount to give that doesn't seem cheap but not something that would throw my budget out of wack? I'm trying to decide between $25 or $50.

So anyway, there's another dilemma to be added to that budget I owe you...

$200 eh?

$217 when you include shipping.

That's how much money I dropped on Sunday ordering hair care products. Now hold up, hold up! There's something you have to understand. A black woman's hair is like [strike]minor[/strike] major plastic surgery. We take that hella serious. Since my hair is not chemically straightened (I hesitate to say that it's "natural" because it's colored) it requires some thoughtful attention and upkeep. Over the past year I've tried using less-expensive options, even homemade concoctions. However none of it really worked for my hair. So I decided to just go ahead and get a product that works. Not only that, all the products I got for that $200 will last me clear into the spring. While I have the money to pay for it, making that somewhat impulse buy puts me in a bit of a cash-flow crunch. Bills will be paid easily, just some fun things I wanted to do for the holidays will be cut from the budget.

The sacrifices one makes for their hair.

Speaking of budgets, I still owe you guys one for November...

Wow America

I honestly didn't think it would happen. I really didn't think this country would let a black man become president. But I guess we've had enough. We looked around, reflected on the last eight years, saw our choices, and decided that it's time to take a different approach. I don't believe Obama is a savior. He's not the blood of the lamb (that would be Beyonce, thank you very much). To me, Obama represents an agent of pragmatic change, thoughtful progress. He can give us the tools, but we have to use them. We have to do the work. With that in mind, I'm interested to see who Obama will choose for his cabinet, how they will approach the problems that we're currently facing, and what role we the people will play in it.

Keith has a great post up about his three economic challenges to President-elect Obama that not only share what he thinks Obama should be doing, but also what we should be doing. It's gonna have to be a group effort folks.

Personal Finance Blogging: Political vs. Financial

How do you separate the two? Personally, I don't. I don't live in a vacuum. The laws of my town, state, and country have an impact on my financial life. For instance, I've long argued that an investment in birth control and Plan B should be part of the foundation of a single woman's financial plan. The last thing she needs is to get pregnant when she's not ready, or even worse, when she never wanted to get pregnant in the first place. Yet there are laws in some places that make access to birth control and abortions difficult, especially for the people that need them most. How, as a woman, can I ignore this? Why, as a blogger, should I?

I Voted!

Polls opened at 6:00 a.m. My dad and I were there at 5:30 a.m., which was good thing because by 5:45 a.m. the lines were getting pretty long. From official polling open to the time we left was 30 minutes. It only took that long because there were some problems with the paper ballots. I chose to try again with electronic with success, dad did a second paper ballot and it worked.

If you haven't voted already, please make sure you do! Every vote counts and you deserve to have your voice heard.

October 2008 Net Worth

My net worth took a -6.98% nose dive, however my cash (increase of 17%) and debt (100% decrease...it was only $10 :)) are quite strong. In times like these, I believe these two line items are what really matter. A huge boost ($1,100) to my cash reserves came courtesy of working at a week-long conference earlier in the month. Not only a great work experience, but made my bank account warm and fuzzy. :)

I have to confess, I have been really lax with following my budget. I've been using it more as a "suggestion" than a rule. What I've been noticing is that I'm pulling out my credit card whenever I don't have enough cash (in my checking attached to my debit card) available. I always pay it off, however I believe this is where I can get myself in a lot of trouble. And trouble is the last thing I need right now. So I'm getting back to my budget as a rule, not a suggestion. This week I'll post three things:

1. Income and expected expenses for the entire month.
2. Two smaller budgets specific to the two paychecks that I get. Each check as a different amount due to various deductions, so timing for cash flow is important.

The goal for November is to save between $1,200 to $1,600. The lower number would be the bare minimum, the higher quite a stretch, especially since it's holiday season. But we'll see.

A change in plans

Due to the recent diagnosis of my father, one of the things I thought about was how to prepare my mother and myself financially. I've tried to the approach the subject of what happens to us "afterwards" but she really doesn't want to to talk about it. I completely understand, so I haven't pushed her about. However due to the reality of her very dire situation, it will have to be discussed, and fairly soon. Her own health isn't the greatest, and she faces losing her home. If she loses her home, she loses her income.

Personally, I've had to rethink a few things:

1. My health care fund ($1,500) will go to my mother. I let her know that if she needs it, she can have it. Said to hold on to it for now, so I will. I know she will need it at some point.

2. God forbid, if mom does lose the house, then I have to be prepared to move. She could move in with her sister. I will need to find someplace to rent. I've been checking out Craigslist to see what studio apartments are going for, checking rates for renters insurance, etc. Looking around and talking to friends, I am looking at about $700 to $725 a month for a studio. Hopefully that will include utilities and whatever extra for a pet.

3. With that in mind, I'm considering holding off on a computer purchase until January. I want to have as much cash on hand to stay flexible.

4. I'm going to see if I can draw up a budget to flesh out what kind of expenses I can expect if I were living on my own, then group all that into a new ING savings bucket called "Rent and expenses." It will help me gauge how it would financial feel to "pay out" that kind of money and if I can hack it.

5. I'm going to dial back my 2009 401k contribution. Right now I contribute 20%, scaling back to 15% could put an extra $2,000 in my paycheck. If I find a place for $700, that's almost 3 months of rent.

Bad news, and more bad news

1. My father was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

2. Neither of my parents have life insurance.

3. My parents owe $191k on their home from refinancing on it a couple times. Mainly due to medical bills from another terminal illness my father has.

4. My parents have enough money to cover their funerals. That's it.

5. My folks have been running a small in-home day care business together, so that's income, however it will be reduced once my father is no longer able to help, since mom will have to reduce the amount of children she can take care off.


The good news:

1. My parents have no credit card debt.

2. They have health insurance.

3. Dad collects social security, mom can start doing that next year.



It's bad enough to know that my father, after battling another illness for years, will eventually succumb to one of the most dreadful cancers one could have. Then to add the stress of what's going to happen to the home after that happens. She wants to do a reverse mortgage, would I believe would be the worst thing in the world. It may come down to declaring bankruptcy, however if she does that, where will she live? How would she create an income if she doesn't have a home to run the day care in? The amount of stress is unbearable. The only thing I can think of is to go over her budget with her and see if there's anything she can cut out, and hope that she can get by and the housing market improves sooner rather than later so she can sell. But honestly, I really don't know. I don't know what I don't know. I just feel lost and an intense sense of despair.

Random Thought

One of the justifications used for sky-high executive pay is that it's needed to attract the "best and brightest" talent. In case you haven't noticed, the "best and brightest" league helped lead the downward spiral of our current economic situation. Clearly, there seems to be a disconnect here.

September 2008 Net Worth

As expected, my net worth took a bit of a hit. :) I forgot to do a report for August, so comparing September to July, I've lost about $5,000. The good news is that my cash has increased by a little over $3,800. And right now, for me, I think cash is a little more important.

"Living In Our Vans"

I came across this video while surfing YouTube this evening. It talks about a subset of homeless people that live in their cars or campers. Another reminder that homelessness isn't as far away from you as you might think. It's not just people with addictions or mental illness. The people profiled here lost their home because of a job loss or the current housing market. And how many of us, thanks to the current financial climate, are staring down the same situations?

Living In Our Vans

On Second Throught...

I'll be going out of town in a few weeks for a week-long conference. I was thinking about getting my hair trimmed and colored for the event since it will be a client-facing gig. However when I thought about how much money it would cost:

1. Color: $60
2. Trim: $25
3. Tip: $17
4. Parking: $8

Total: $110

I decided that I would wear my hair slicked back into a low bun for the week. I'll save that money for Thanksgiving when my BF comes to town to meet my parents for the first time, and I'm cooking. Eeeep!

What an emergency fund is for

Last week my employer started rounds of layoffs. I heard the buzz before the official notice early in the week and didn't know if I'd still have a job until Friday. Thankfully, I still have my job, for now. Another thing I'm thankful for is having a good chunk of money set aside specifically for this reason. If

That being said, I was physically sick with worry. Yes, I have a financial cushion, however I dreaded the possibility of having to find another job in this market.

Money Bar Update

I've updated bar for my last financial goal for 2008: The 2009 Roth IRA/New Computer Fund. I'm currently at 26% of my goal. For some reason I'm having difficulty saving for this one. I'm actually about $200 short because I've been spending frivolously elsewhere. Part of me is so very tired of saving money. I understand these goals as important, however it's just getting a little old for me.

But I've already set this goal and it is important to me. I just have to find a way to re-energize somehow. The good news is that I've been asked to assist on a project at work that will give me some much needed overtime, so I'm sure I'll be able to make up that $200. That along with keeping focused on enjoying and using what I already have instead of buying...or more correctly, what I wish I could by buying.

Focus...focus...focus...

Oh! I didn't do a net worth update for August. I completely forgot because I was off visiting the BF. I didn't look at my funds or anything but I'm pretty sure I can sum it up for you with the following:

1. Retirement funds lost money.
2. My cash savings increased.
3. My credit card debt increased because I was spending money that I didn't need to spend.
4. That credit card debt was paid off after cutting into the money I was supposed to save. So instead of saving $800, I only saved $600 for August.

But the bottom line is that all my bills are paid, I was still able to save, and I am still completely and totally debt free. :-D

Dow Down 500 Points

Wow. Just...wow.

Honestly? I can't bring myself to worry about this too much right now. What can I do? Take out all my money from the bank and put it under my mattress? Well, the way things are going right now, that might actually be a safer option. ;)

I hope to sweet, minty jesus that the stocks turn around at some point and increase their value over the long haul. If not, I guess we can all start looking for the four horsemen and call it a day.

In the meantime, I'm seriously considering scaling back even more to live even further below my means. As far as my money in the bank, I'll just leave it there and see what happens. I have less than $100,000 in any of my accounts, so I'm somewhat protected that way.

Other than that, nothing to do but keep on keepin' on.

My 401(k) is down 16% from the beginning of the year

I am so glad I have 30 years to go until retirement.

Just saved myself $25

I canceled the option on my debit card that was giving me 1 mile for every $2 spent to the tune of a $25 annual fee. Why pay a fee for something that:

  • I rarely use; and
  • Gives so little when I do?

My oldest credit card gives me 1 mile per dollar spent and has a low interest rate (8%). The downer is that the annual fee is $60 (ouch!). From what I understand, reward cards like that rarely waive their fee. I don't think I'd have much luck since I don't use that card that much, and when I do, I pay the balance immediately. That $60 per year is all the money they make on me, so I don't see them too willing to waive or lower it. Guess it couldn't hurt to ask though.

Money Gossip: The Velvet Jones Edition

Single Ma has a great post up about a family member asking for a considerable amount of cash in a short amount of time. I would say that my sister issue comes closest, but I'd like to share a bit of family/wedding gossip with you guys. This really hasn't got anything to do with family members wanting money, it's about family members and weddings...which can be just as, if not moreso, prone to out-and-out fuckery. Gather 'round chrrins'...

My cousin "Ted" recently got engaged to his long-time girlfriend "Betty." To celebrate, Betty sent an email to family and friends saying that they were having an engagement party/bbq at a public park. Attached to the email was a list of all the food that they wanted to the guests to bring.

Oh yes. You read me right. Not only was food listed, but plates, napkins, cups, water, ice, ketchup, mustard, etc. ERRYTHANG. Also, Betty wants at least 2 to 3 names per item to make sure there is enough for everyone. I forget to mention: Ted and Betty live on the East Coast. I and a considerable amount of family members live in the Midwest.

Oh. I forget to give you the date of the wedding: September 2010. Oh yes. You read me right. Personally, I find it amusing that someone would throw a party for themselves, then expect the guests to actually bring the party. But the fun doesn't end here. Another email was sent out. And I quote:

"Just want to give everyone an update of the menu and who is bringing what as well as the first round head count. All or most of you have received this email and have NOT responded back in any way, shape or form. If we do not hear you before or by August 23rd we will take that as you are not coming and will NOT be counted in the final count. Also please don't think that you can just show up and it would be ok with us..."

Emphasis by me, but...eeeeyeah... That's the 'ish my family is on. I politely declined attendance. I love my cousin Ted very, very much. However I'm not going to spend money on air fare, hotel, AND have to buy my own damn food, plates, and ice for a party. Although I did briefly entertain the idea of showing up at the park with a bucket of water saying, "It was ice when I left Chicago!"

What would you have done?

Wisebread has a post about family members that are bad with money. After reading the article and comments, I remembered an incident several years ago.

I had three half-sisters. Two older, one younger. I only grew up really knowing the younger one, who we'll call Tina. To make a long story short, Tina and I were close then grew apart over a couple of pretty serious events. After several years of not talking to each other, she reached out to me. Turns out the reason she did that was because she had just started her new career as a "financial advisor" with World Financial Group...which is basically what I and a lot of other people considered a scam. So basically she was looking for clients. In the interest of trying to build our relationship again, I suggested meeting up for coffee, etc., however it always had to be in some far-flung suburb near her "office" after one of her "meetings" which she would conveniently suggest I attend, then we could go out afterwards. I wasn't having it so I declined, saying that when she had some free time we can get together.

Anyway, a month or two of this goes by and we find out that one of the older sisters that leaves in Canada got stomach cancer. I had a little spare cash to take care of airfare and hotel for my mother and me. Next thing I know I get a call from Tina. She wanted to talk about what happened with our older sister and what I was planning to do. I told her that I was able to scrape together some cash to get my mother and me to go see her, then I asked what her plans were. Well, long story short, again...it became clear that her plan was me. She didn't come right out and say it, she would just throw road blocks in front of all my suggestions:

Me: "Ask your mom for a loan."
Tina: "She doesn't have the money."

Me: "Use your credit card."
Tina: "My credit is bad, I don't have a card."

Me: "As your mom to use her credit card to front you the money then pay off the card."
Tina: "She doesn't have enough money on her card to pay for anything."

Me: "Wait until your next paycheck then make the trip."
Tina: "That's a whole week later, anything could happen and I might miss the chance to see here while she's still alive."

Then she asks me, "What do you think I should do? I don't have the money, and I'd rather stay with you and your mom than at a relative's house that I don't know (when I suggested she take the train for cheap and stay at our sister's house with some other relatives). So, I don't know what to do..."

"I don't have any other answers for you than what I've already shared." I knew she wanted me to offer her the money but I didn't do it. Part of me wondered if I was doing the right thing, however I justified it because we'd been out of each others lives for so long, and the only reason we were talking again was because she wanted me to be a client for her new multi-level marketing scheme. I didn't have the money to give away, so I didn't offer it to her, even though I knew that's what she was looking for. Even though I knew that other sister was ill, and chances are Tina wouldn't make it in time to see her if I didn't pay for her to come with me.

My mother and I went to Canada for a week to visit with my sister in the hospital. We checked into our hotel then walked over to the hospital (I chose the hotel specifically because it was close to where she was). She seemed surprised and delighted that we were there. Making jokes, etc. That would be the last time we'd talk to her. The very next day began a steady decline. A few days after that she passed away. It was three weeks between her diagnosis and her death.

Do I feel guilty about my decision to not give Tina the money? No. Not even when my sister asked about where she was, and when I responded, "Tina wanted to be her but she couldn't make it. She says she loves you very much and wants you to get well soon." My sister smiled as she heavily breathed, "Ok" and made a comment about how my handbag matched nicely with my jacket (I was quite sharp that day). I don't feel guilty for all the reasons stated above, and also, if Tina wanted to borrow the money, she should have just asked for it. I felt like she was trying to manipulate me and/or the situation to get me to offer it to her instead of her just being upfront. Also, I wasn't willing to go into debt for her. Given the fact that we just started talking a month prior after years of not talking to each other, and the only reason we were was because she was looking for clients--I didn't feel obligated to give her money.

I haven't heard from Tina since. I don't hate her. She's my sister and there will always be a part of me that loves her that comes from that relationship we had in the past. That said, I absolutely refuse to be manipulated if I can help it. By anyone.

Good deal on airfare!

I go to see the boyfriend this weekend. Usually I wait until the week of travel to buy my ticket. Sounds counterintitive, however United runs last-minute specials every Tuesday. My destination is on there every week for $170 compared to the usual $300. So I bought my ticket for this weekend yesterday.

For kicks, I did a search for Labor Day weekend. A labor day visit wasn't in the cards because I figured the prices would be sky-high for a holiday. Nope! I got a ticket leaving Thursday night and coming home the following Tuesday night for $168! That's less than the last-minute fares I usually get! I gleefully bought the ticket today happy for the savings and the chance at an extra visit to see my schmoopy-pie. :))

After that, I'll do one more visit in October skipping November entirely. Why? Well, assuming we still like each other come December, he is going to drive down here to pick me up, we'll drive back together and I'll stay with him for the entire month. You read me. The. Entire. Month. I have a lot of vacation time to burn off and I'd like to spend it with him. Also, if we're really going to take this relationship further, why not take the opportunity to live with each other for a while? I'm sure whatever veneer is left by then will be long gone and we can decide if we need to move further or not. Anyway, back to money...driving, especially since he has a hybrid, will save me a lot of money, as flying would be around $400 to $500 (!).

As far as next year? Who knows. Let's see if we still like each other after Labor Day. :) I'd say the only thing that has to change is that we see more of each other next year. This year he's in the process of pulling himself together financially, which is very important to the both of us. Ideally I'd like for us to see each other every month, with him contributing to that 50%. That may be with him coming here half the time, or him buying the ticket for me to come see him. Right now, that makes the most sense, as it costs him considerably more to visit me. But we'll have to see what makes sense and what we're comfortable with.

So yeah, this was about more than airfare, wasn't it...

I went with Panera

I decided to redeem my $100 cash back reward in 2 $50 gift cards to Panera. Yay! I should get them via mail in 4 to 6 weeks. Boo!

Redeeming credit card rewards

I have a little over $100 in rewards waiting to be redeemed with my Capital One card. I have three ways to redeem the money:









1. Get a check in the mail.
2. Use the amount towards my balance (I don't carry a balance, so this option is out).
3. Buy a one of the gift cards offered.

If I get the check, clearly I can use it for anything I'd like. Chances are it would go in my savings account. Maybe put it towards my travel or emergency fund. However a $100 gift card to Panera sounds like a delicious idea right now. Perhaps I should wait until after lunch tomorrow to make this decision.

Where I almost knock myself over from patting myself on the back so much

This post started as a comment to one of Boston Gal's post when I realized it didn't have a damn thing to do with what she was talking about.

-------

During the housing boom my friends and some family would tell me I needed to buy a home of my own. "If you don't buy now, you'll be priced out of the market!" I even had a friend tell me that she bought a condo because "that's what responsible people do. Get a home of their own." She told me this over phone and even then I'm sure she could see I was giving her wicked side-eye through the fiberoptics. I live at home with my folks. It's an arrangement that (so far, knock on wood!) works out well for us and we're quite happy (when mom doesn't hog the freezer space). The reason I always gave for not buying a home was, "I can't afford it. I can't afford a home AND furniture AND retirement." I was usually met with babble about ARMs or a blank stare.

So all that to say that from where I'm sitting, I am downright ecstatic that I never decided to buy a house during the boom. I'm glad I stuck to my guns by not caving to peer pressure and being honest with myself about what I can truly afford. The banks and their shady-ass ways have a LOT to do with why we are in the situation we are in now. However people not being honest about what they could truly afford is a significant chunk of the issue as well.

So yeah. Yeah me for knowing the limits of being a broke-ass. :/

On Second Thought...

...nevermind about that CD ladder. I'm going to keep the money in the high(ish)-yield savings account it's in now. The point of the unemployment/emergency fund is to be ready when I need it. My savings account is offering comparable rates to 3-month CDS, so I'm just going to save myself the hassle and leave it where it is.

"Economic Woes Force Many To Postpone Retirement"

NPR has an audio segment up from their show "All Things Considered" about how many boomers are postponing retirement. However what gets my attention is the part about how one person feels that her age is working against her in the job market.

It's one of the reasons why I discount the "I'll-just-work-forever" excuse I've heard for not saving for retirement. For a lot of us, there will come a point where we will be physically unable to work "forever" or that you'll be welcome in the workforce. That's why, in my opinion, it's absolutely critical to save as much as you can as soon as you can.

Ladies and Gentlemen. We Have Progress.

As of today, my 8-month unemployment fund is 100% fully funded. I've been a little lax in researching CDs to put the money in, but I'll get started on that now. I'm thinking a few 3-month CD ladders is the way to go, we'll see.

So the next goal? $8,400 in my 2009 Roth IRA/Computer Fund by the end of December. I see this purpose of this fund changing a bit along the way since I'm not sure how much the 2009 Roth contribution will be, and I'm still researching computers. We'll see what happens. The bottom line is to have $8,400 by the end of the year. It's going to be a bit of a stretch for me that will require some fairly strict budgeting, but I'm up for the challenge.

Networth and Money Confession

Networth
Inspite of all the market ups and downs, my networth managed to increase by 3%. Let's take a look at some of the classes:

* Cash: Up 15%. Mainly from monthly savings. Look for this to go down a bit next month, as I'll need to dip into it for travel.

*Retirement: Up 1%. Hey, at this point, I'll take what I can get.

*Credit Card Debt: Up 29%. It's not as bad as it sounds. Last month it ws $23. This month $101. That's from a night out with drinks. The company was great, but trust me, I'm not happy about that tab.



Money Confessions
I've been eating out a LOT over the past two weeks. Part of is laziness. I hate grocery shopping. The other part is that even when I do, my mom hogs all the freezer space, so it gets frustrating in trying to find a place to put my food when I do buy it. Yet another part? Restaurant food tastes good. I'm just keepin' real folks. Chipotle? Panera? That Indian joint by my house? Fantastic! I've been using the cash I'd use for groceries to buy the food, so it hasn't been that bad, but still far more than I normally would. I'm going to have to get back into the habit of eating at home again if I'm going to save the money I need to achieve my goals. I know this. I'm just kinda tired of watching my money so closely. I've been at it for over a year now. I've achieved a lot, however it gets old sometimes. But back to business next week. Maybe I'll spend a little less on groceries next week so I can still have a meal out once.

Ugh...

From insecurity to despair.

House approves housing rescue legislation

I'm sorry, why am I busting my ass to be responsible again?

Meh.

1. I've been spending a lot of money lately on eating out and gaming. That's gonna have to come to an end really quick. Like, right now. Thanks for my not-going-to-the-grocery-store-and-love-of-gaming behind, I have $7 in my purse and $100 in my checking account to get me through to next week Friday. I know. You're playing tiny violins for me. Clearly not an issue worth worrying about for most, however it's slimmer margin than what I'm used to operating with, and I don't like it.

2. If I'm going meet my goal of saving an extra money until the end of the year, I'm going to have to remember how to live on a budget. I'm a great saver, however not-so-great in the money management dept. But I'm going to have to get great at it, and quick, because with the no overtime rule at work, I'm not going to have much of a fudge factor.

3. Some close family members and friends want to start an investment group. I think it's a great idea and want to be a part of it. They are talking about $1,000 per person. They figure it's a good amount because it's not so much that it would destroy anyone financially in this group, but significant enough of an amount for everyone to care about making it grow. They also mentioned something about making another contribution, for like $200 several months later, but I don't know about that. Next year (the next three or so, actually) are going to be very tight. I'm not inclined to part with another $200. There's going to be a meeting this weekend, I'll have to bring up my concerns. $1,000 is my limit. I'm concerned about the changes going on at my company and how much more things are going to cost me in 2009. I'm already invested in a 401k and a Roth IRA. If I'm required to give more, then I won't join. Trust, I would be than happy to keep that $1,000 in my savings account.

4. Speaking of Roth IRAs, when do we find out what the contribution limit will be for 2009? All I can find is that it will be indexed to inflation in $500 increments. Well hell, the way inflation is right now, that would be a really high number. I budgeted for $6,000, but I'd like to know for sure.

5. I'm just overall worried. I just feel a little insecure. Even though I've made significant progress over this time last year, sometimes I feel like no matter how much I save it will never be enough. Maybe that's why I've been a little free-wheeling with the money lately.

Meh.

Writing on the wall?

Had a unit meeting at work the other day and found out the following:

1. Our unit clocks the highest amount of overtime in the firm. Mainly this is due to us being understaffed for so long. But we've recently hired enough people to have a full team so the higher ups are expecting overtime to go down. Actually, they are demanding it. We are not allowed to work overtime unless it is absolutely necessary.

2. The leader of our practice sent a note to all the managers stating that we are now in a hiring freeze.

3. About a month ago the powers that be sent out a note saying they were looking at "staffing models" and performance.


Rather than speculate on what may or may not be happening, I will continue to focus on the things I can actually control:

1. Continue to be debt-free.

2. Reduce monthly expenses and unnecessary spending.

3. Increase monthly saving amounts.

4. Update resume.


And that's it, really.

So much for housing becoming affordable

Congress approved a deal to bailout homeowners in trouble with their mortgages. Exactly how this is going to happen without major tax hikes, I have no idea. Personally I was hoping this wouldn't happen so that, if anything, allowing home prices to fall would bring them back to affordable levels (meaning what they cost back in 2000 in my market). With this idea, it seems that housing prices would stay flat where they are. That coupled with the issues Indy/Freddie/Fannie are having (which, again, leans towards tax-payers bailing them out as well, and possibly higher mortgage rates) and I feel defeated before I even got started with buying a home of my own.

All this doesn't change my course though. I'm going to move forward with saving diligently for the next three years and educate myself about buying/owning a home. It may come to pass that home ownership isn't for me, and I'm perfectly fine with that. But I want to be in the financial position to make a purchase if I want to. The current financial climate seems to be making that position more difficult to attain.

Speaking of home ownership, I've added another blog to my list: I Hate My Developer. Arguably one of the most honest, well-written blogs about buying/owning a home.

You know what?

I miss my bi-weekly manicure and brow wax. Before I paid attention to my finances, I used to get a french manicure and brow wax at an upscale spa twice a month. I figured those were two things that helped me look pulled together, and they did. However once I realized my debt was out of control I cut back on spa visits to the point of eliminating them. There are one or two occasions where I'll get my brows waxed, but that's it.

I've been thinking about it lately and I miss those treatments. If I could afford it, I'd bring those treatments back into the budget because they made me feel a little better about the way I looked. I could do my nails myself, but they never look as good. I won't even attempt to do my brows myself and I've tried to find places less expensive, but when it comes to that, I found I got what I paid for.

I guess I'll just have to find another way to feel good about my outward appearance, because for the next few years I have some financial goals that are more compelling and important to me.

Mid-year check on 2008 goals

Now that the second half of the year is officially underway, I thought now would be a good time to do a pulse-check on the 2008 goals I laid out for myself back in January. Personally? I think I'm kickin' ass!

-*-$10,000 of my pre-tax salary went into my 401k.
This is well on track!

-*-My 401k portfolio is aligned and balanced towards my long-term goal of aggressive growth and diversity.
Yep! But as I mentioned in a previous post, while my portfolio is balanced and aligned, I've lost a significant amount of money because of it. I'm hoping this will all balance out over time.

-*-I've evaluated carefully whether or not to keep my Roth IRA with my bank or move it to another broker like Vanguard or T. Rowe Price. In the end I made the best possible decision that aligned with my long-term goal of growth and keeping my overall retirement portfolio diverse.
I ended up moving my Roth IRA to Vanguard who's fees are much lower than the bank I was with before.

-*-I contributed the full amount of $5,000 to my Roth IRA.
Done!

-*-I've stayed out of debt.
So far so good!

-*-I reached $10,000 in my unemployment fund, then put it in a CD-ladder.
Assuming all goes as planned, I will reach my $10k goal by August 1! I'm in the process of shopping for the best CD rates.

-*-My health care/deductible fund reached $1,500. That's enough to cover my deductible for the year and one hospital copay. Let's hope I don't need it! I choose to save my money this way instead of going with an FSA because if the funds go unused by the end of the plan year, I would have to forfeit them. This way, if I don't use them, I can put them in a high-yield savings account to earn interest and will be the seed money for the following year's deductible. Makes sense in my head, anyway.
Done! This year, my employer will be offering an HSA, which allows you to rollover any unused funds to the next year. I could effectively use this to save for medical costs for retirement. I'm in the process of researching if this would be of benefit to me.

-*-I set aside $1,000 for travel this year. Just in case. The only thing that may come up would be an extended weekend to visit a friend. If that money doesn't get used this year, it will be seed money for next year's travel fund.
Done! So that weekend with the friend hasn't happened yet, however I can tell you anything you want to know about Southwest Ohio thanks to a new long distance relationship I got into this year. ;) I haven't used the Travel Fund for that yet, but I will moving forward, as well as limiting my travel to keep costs low.

-*-I saved $7,000 towards the purchase of a new computer and kick-ass monitor.
Due to current market conditions and my new-found interest in possibly owning a home in about three years, I decided to retool this goal by increasing the savings by $1,400 and allocating $6,000 as my 2009 Roth IRA contribution and the remaining $2,400 to be used for a new, MUCH less kick ass computer or upgrades for the one I have now. While I'd love to have a new machine and monitor (I REALLY need a new monitor. Jesus Christ must have used the one I have now to research the ten commandments. Seriously.) it's just not as important to me as saving as much cash as possible. In three years I want to be in the position to take advantage of buying a home if I'd like. I know I'll regret it if I don't. Especially if the real estate market ends up tanking as much, and as long, as some people say it will.

So I'm pretty much on course. The big goal right now is finishing up my Unemployment Fund and staying focused and disciplined enough to save as much cash as possible by the end of the year. The current economic climate demands it.

Forget what you heard about saving for retirement

You know how all those online calculators and personal finance books tell you that you'll need to replace only about 70 to 80% of your income for retirement? Hewitt Associates says forget it. You are going to need to replace a lot more of your income. And by a lot, they mean about 126%.

I'll leave you alone for a minute so you can let the marinate for a while.

Still with me? Good. Here's more:

Hewitt Associates is more pessimistic than most. New research that the consulting firm plans to release Tuesday projects that workers will need to replace, on average, 126% of their final pay in retirement. The study, based on 1.8 million employees with 401(k) plans that Hewitt administers, says only 19% of participants are on track to meet their retirement needs. About 67% of workers are expected to have less than 80% of their projected needs.

Sheryl Garrett, founder of the Garrett Planning Network, agrees that typical retirement replacement guidelines "just don't go far enough when you factor in the huge health care responsibility that is shifting from the employer's shoulders to ours at retirement."

Personally, I always calculated that I would need at least 100% of my income in retirement, hence why 20% of my pre-tax income goes into my 401k. I believe I will need at least that for:

1. Health care. Seriously. In 30 years, medical benefits for retirees from your employer will not exist. That means a huge jump in health care costs. I guesstimate that in 30 years, I can expect my health care costs to be close to $500,000. Sounds like a lot, because it is. Also...

2. I'm single with no children or spouse to look after me. That means I'll have to pay someone to do it.

3. I do not own a home. If I don't buy one and have it paid off before I retire, that means I will be renting during retirement.

So while that 126% sounds like a lot, it makes a lot of sense to me and my situation. I think at this point if they want more people invest for retirement, then they need to talk very clearly about fees and the long-term damage it can do to one's portfolio. But that's just me.

June 2008 Net Worth Update

All I have to say is: It's a good thing I'm not retiring anytime soon. Let's take a look at my asset/liability classes.


  • Cash: Increased by 15%. This is from my steady contribution to the Unemployment fund.

  • Retirement: My 401k lost, YTD, 14.3% of it's value, while the 401k and Roth combined only lost almost 7% from May. I have to be honest, I understand the market sucks gigantic donkey balls right now, however I'm wondering if I screwed the pooch by rebalancing my portfolio at the beginning of the year. I think I'm losing more now than I would have if I left everything as-is. However there's really no way to know that, as I believe it's my self-doubt talking. My 401k was never balanced, I just threw my money it and guessed at how much money should go to what fund. At the beginning of the year I did my research and bought/sold stocks that aligned with my risk tolerance...which is a lot. I'm not worried about losing money, I'm just wondering if I rebalanced at the wrong time. Meh, I can't think about it too much because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it right now. I just continue to buy stocks hoping that the market will go back up eventually. That's how we're supposed to play this game, right?

  • Credit Card: I owe $78. This was from entertaining the S.O. over the weekend. That will get paid from this weekends pay check, so no worries.

So overall my net worth has taken a 4+% dip from May. While losing money in the market is never fun, I am very happy that my cash reserve is growing and growing, which I believe over the next six months will be critically important.

Making it rain!

-*- Okay, not really. I just spent $77 on a couple baby shower gifts for a friend. That includes shipping and puts me only $2 over my budget. I also went ahead a paid for my parking ticket. Both charges went on my credit card, which I can pay immediately from my savings. I'm choosing to do this because my next pay day isn't until the day after the bill is due. Also it's when my 0% interest period ends, so I don't want to be late or carry a balance of any kind. I'll just put the money back in my savings once I get paid.


-*- Why paying from my savings at all? Well, since I started getting medieval on my savings for the next six months, that left me with very flexibility in the budget, and that's precisely when all the unexpected stuff started happening. Plus the The S.O. is in town and since he covered all my food costs while I was visiting him, I'd like to return the favor, especially since he's really trying to work on paying down his debt (good for him!). It won't be filet mignon, but I've got him covered while he's here.

-*- Oh, looks like my cousin is going to be here for TWO months, not just one, so I really don't feel bad about not seeing her this weekend. Also, I'm sure she doesn't expect me to spend a lot during that entire time. I wonder what she's going to do here for two months?







Dayum

Got a ticket today for parking on the wrong side of the street: $25

Realized that I underbudgeted my next pay check by: $80

Not paying attention has cost me money at a time when it's really tight. Dayum.

My recession jeans

Yeah the patches are bootleg, but I love the jeans. And I figure since almost everybody is broke these days I can get away with it.

No?

Ok. I don't wear these to work on casual Friday. I have another pair that are patch free. :) These are just for running around on weekends.

I had a new pair of jeans that were supposed to be petite length, however I think they were for petite giraffes. I tried trimming them, but it was lop-sided. Long story short, those jeans are now capri's, and the left over fabric was used to make patches for my other jeans that were perfectly fine but had wholes in the thighs. The denim fabric is much more sturdy than an iron-on patch so it works well.

Financial and emotional stress

I'm feeling a little stressed right now. Nothing major...yet...just looking down the line at some potential "situations."

  • Last week, emails were sent out to several departments are work talking about how the senior leaders were ever so excited to get cracking on some new initiatives to win business. Of course, said initiatives need funding. And of course, said senior leaders will be looking at the current "staffing model" and "performance" to make sure they have "the right people" doing the right things. A lot of people think we're getting warmed up for a RIF (Reduction in Force). That could be true, but what can I do about that? Mind my performance, update my resume, and save money like mad. All of those things are under my control, everything else I'm not all that concerned about. Because of this, and saving for a house, cost of food, etc., I've put myself on a pretty strict budget. The entire month of June I didn't go out (like party, clubs, movies, etc.) and didn't buy any food other than groceries so I could save money for this weekend. I plan to keep this going for the next six months make sure I maximize my savings, especially since my employer has me concerned.
  • A few months ago The S.O. and I made arrangements for him to come visit me. Everything was booked and ready to go when I got a message for a dear friend saying she was going to be in town also. Well I couldn't possibly miss out on the opportunity to see her! So I've made plans to drag S.O. with me to see my girlfriends during the visit. Since he paid for everything when I saw him last, I decided to return part of the favor (what? I'm not rollin' in it!) and cover all his meals while he's here. Thank GAWD he likes Chipotle. :-D We may or may not spend Saturday night with my girlfriends, but we will definitely meet up with them for Sunday brunch. It's going to be a low-spend weekend as we're both trying to save money. Especially him because it's finally sinking in for him that he not only has to pay a mortgage on one salary when there used to be two, but he also has to repay a HELOC he took out on the house to pay out his ex in the divorce. I offered some budgeting help, and to his credit, he took me up on it. Gave me all the financials and we hammered out a budget. It's going to be a very difficult three to four months for him as he pays off smaller debts so he can start saving. I suggested that he cancel the trip to visit me, however he already paid for the hotel and his folks will watch the dog (instead of him paying $100 to have it boarded). I also suggested that I should go visit him since it would be less expensive for me. Still, part of me is concerned about how long this relationship can withstand financial strain inherent on LDRs. It's not a concern that makes me want to drop everything, just something in the back of my head that I think about as I look over my budget.
  • My cousin is coming to town to spend a month or so in the city and bringing her daughter. She mentioned this months and months ago but I never got a date. Well my Dad just asked me to pick her up from the airport on Thursday because he's not feeling well. I hope my aunt tells her to wait outside in the pick-up area, because I have no cash to pay for parking. I'm also hoping she's ok with me not seeing her this weekend because it's already booked, besides, she's going to be here for a month and I didn't know when she was arriving. I can visit with her next weekend. I love hanging out with her, but I hope she doesn't need me to keep her entertained, because the money just isn't there.

I kinda just want to crawl into a hole and come out once I've saved up enough money and these situations have passed. Meh.

Day 6

Day Six: $3,200 Spending Spree

  • Bi-weekly therapeutic massages for my mother for one year.

I am grateful for:

  • Summer rain.
  • Not listening to my friends when they were pressuring me to buy a house about five years ago.
  • Judge Judy
Show me the money:
  • Two side gigs? (I'm starting to run out of money-making ideas)

Saudis fear we won't need them anymore

An interesting article was published on CNN.com last night. It appears that the Saudis will hold a summit to increase oil production in order to bring the cost of crude oil down. Why?

The Saudis are widely believed to be concerned that escalating oil prices - crude hovered around $134 a barrel Thursday, nearly double what it cost a year ago - will cause a permanent drop in demand as consumers get more efficient or, worse, the global economy slows.

Emphasis by me. Oh now they want to help out. Now that consumer nations, especially the U.S. has drastically cut their use of oil in a short time, they're "concerned." In other words, they're afraid that we'll won't be dependent on them for oil as we come up with alternative sources and processes for energy. Hopefully we won't stop coming up with these alternatives as we'll still have the same problems if the crude oil prices come down. We'd still be dependent on a fuel source that is finite, horrible for the environment, and encourages overconsumption.



Getting More Money: Day Five

Day Five: $1,600 Spending Spree

  • Hire a registered nutritionist/dietitian (2 sessions--$200)
  • Pre-pay for a membership at a the only gym near my office that is open at 5am ($1,200)

I am grateful for:

  • My cholesterol level being 156
  • I'm grateful that my family can afford to live in a pleasant, safe neighborhood
  • The peaceful, quiet moments I have when I'm alone
Show me the money:
  • Sell some of the stuff I have laying about the house

Getting More Money: Day Four

Day Four: $800 Spending Spree

  • Get laser hair removal for my chin (8 to 10 treatments--$700)
  • Donate to NPR ($100)

I am grateful for:

  • The awe-inspiring intelligence, warmth, and love of my friends
  • Witnessing a wicked side-eye
  • That I live in a state that makes it illegal for a pharmacist to not fill my prescription for birth control and/or emergency contraception
Show me the money:
  • Create a side job as an independent virtual assistant

Getting More Money: Day Three

Day Three: $400 spending spree
  • Get my hair trimmed and colored ($105 includes tip)
  • Get a facial, brow wax, manicure, and pedicure ($265) includes tip)
  • Lunch at Cheesecake factory afterwards ($30)
I am grateful for:
  • Having a job
  • That my parents have active, fulfilling social lives
  • That I am debt-free
Show me the money:
  • Get a part-time job in the evenings Tuesday through Thursday.

Saving for a home of MY own?

I eluded to this in a prior post, I think I'm ready to seriously consider buying a home. Why now? Well, because I live at home (which is GREAT) but I'm tired of fighting for freezer space with my mom.

(tangent)Please tell me why a house with three people needs TWO stoves, TWO refrigerators, and one full sized freezer? Better question: WHY, in the name of all things right and glorious in the world is every crevice in these fridges and freezers PACKED?? I need answers.

And another thing, why is a loan for a mortgage based on your gross income? That seems rather faulty to because not all of that is spendable. Why aren't loans based on income after taxes, deductions, etc.? I don't understand that.(/tangent)

So anyway, yeah. I'm ready for my own space where I can store my meals in peace. Below are some of my thoughts on savings preparation:

1. I'm using the idea that one shouldn't buy a home that is more than 2.5 times their current salary. For me, I can't go beyond $125,000.

2. I'd like to find a place for less than that, however I am going to base my down payment savings on the above, so my goal is $25,000.

3. I'd also like to have some money for furniture, etc. If I find the right spot in the burbs it must be within a 5 to 10 minute drive to public transportation. In that case, I would need to buy a car to get me there. It would be a safe, used, no-frills car.

4. Based on my current salary and saving habits, it's possible for me to save $38,400 in two years, $40,000 if I stretch. Again, I'm not taking salary raises into account (the cost of health care/inflation renders it moot anyway).

5. I'm going to scrap the "Computer Fund." Instead, once my Unemployment Fund goal has been reached, I will increase my savings by $1,200.

6. So by the end of 2008, I will have a total of $8,400. $6,000 will be used to fund my 2009 Roth IRA*. The remaining $2,400 will be used for a new computer...and that will have to include a monitor.

7. Speaking of Roth IRA, my 2010 contribution will have to come out of #4 somehow. But I'm hoping my raises will be enough to take care of that.

8. If I'm still in a long-distance relationship next year, I'm covered by way of travel...kinda. Provided United Airlines doesn't go out of business or decide to mess around with their loyalty program, I have enough flyer miles right now for 6 or so round-trip tickets. As far as this year, well...I do have a travel fund and I'm planning to try out Megabus.

9. I'm in no rush to buy a home. It's not something I feel I absolutely NEED to have right NOW so I'm will to wait and save. Ideally, I'd like to be in my home between two and three years from now.

10. In all of this, is very important to me to be able to fund my retirement, especially after I get a home.

So that's what has been on my mind lately.




*Starting in 2009, Roth IRA contributions will be indexed by inflation in $500 increments. I have no idea how that would work, so I'm just guesstimating that it will go about another $1,000.

Getting More Money: Day Two

Day Two:

$200 spending spree:

Buy ticket to see the S.O. ($170)

Show our love and appreciation for Chipotle and Graeter's ($30)


I am grateful for:

  • The current warm weather
  • "Family Guy"
  • A good, supportive bra
Show me the money: Sell my Hello Kitty Vibrator (never used!)

So about that $7,200 computer

Dimples left a comment last week saying:
"I know I am late but I just saw your goal of $7200 for a new computer in 2009. What computer you trying to buy? Bill Gates personal laptop???"

Not so much. ;) I budgeted that high for a high-performance gaming machine. Basically, I want to play games online, and to do so, I need a machine that can handle the graphic loads of today's offerings. The apple, so to speak, of my eye these days is HP's Blackbird 002. Shipping alone for the custom beast I have in mind would come close to $200. Before anyone looks at me strange, the machine I have right now is one I built myself back in 2001. It's had some updates, but it's ready to retire, and I'm ready for a new toy!

But...

...BUT...my mind is changing. I've given some serious thought to buying a home in the next two to three years. $7,200 could sure come in handy with that fund. But I really need a new computer. Clearly there needs to be a compromise of some sort. I'm still working the numbers, but chances are pretty good that I won't be getting the super-duper monster machine. It's wicked awesome, however I think I want a home of my own more. So I see myself downgrading the new machine so I can jump-start my down payment fund.





Getting More Money: Day One

MMND has a month-long exercise going where she's being "open" to getting more money, but not working more to get it. After giving her the virtual side-eye, I decided to give it a try for a couple reasons:

1. Who doesn't want more money?

2. And not have to work for it!

3. Seriously, I've been approaching the idea of getting a second job. However I will freely admit that the idea of working two jobs makes me uncomfortable. To be clear, I don't need a second job, I just thought it would help me earn some extra cash to make some goals I've been thinking about for next year. I've looked around for part-time gigs on Craigslist, etc., but I haven't searched in earnest.

4. It will give me something to blog about. :)

From MMND's blog, here's how it works:

"Here's what I'm going to do:

For the next 30 days, I'll open my mind to receive increasingly more money. On day one, I'll decide how I'd like to spend $100. On day two, I'll double that amount to $200. Day three, double again and I'll have $400. And so on, doubling every day for the next 30 days. I'll list how I'd like to spend every penny, with no repeating of items during my month-long spending spree."


I have a concern: I don't know how to visualize getting more money. I don't think I understand how to do this. Seriously. Am I just pretending like I'm going to get more money at some point, or wishing for it? How does one become "open" to receiving money? I admit to just not getting. But I'm willing to give it a try, so without further ado, here's mine:

Day One:

$100 spending spree:

Dinner and debauchery with a friend

I am grateful for:

  • My peaceful, loving home environment
  • My cat who brings me joy and beauty on a daily basis
  • That I take public transportation to work everyday
Show me the money: Volunteer for overtime projects at work as the opportunities present themselves.

Constant Re-evaluation

While I set up my annual budget at the beginning of the year, it is always under constant re-evaluation. Things change so I have to be flexible. Even though I'm debt-free, I'm always looking for ways to "downscale" and/or improve.

Getting Into the Automation Game
I got paid today, so that means going over the budget and double-checking bills that need to be paid, transferring funds to savings, etc. However this time I decided to try automating a few things to see if I like it. I know I'm late to this game, but I figured what the hell.

  1. Automated the transfer of funds to my Charity and Unemployment Funds.
  2. Automated the bill pay of two upcoming bills. Just for the next two weeks though, because I want to see how it works.

I figure doing this might save me some time, and less obsessing over my money.

A Closer Look at My Cell Phone
One of the bills I paid today was my cell bill. I have a few features on there that are unnecessary. I'd always meant to take a look at them and purge but never got around to it, until today. I removed two features from my cell today.

1. Equpiment insurance. I was paying $4.99 per month for the privledge of getting my phone replaced if it had become lost or stolen. Oh, and there were be a $50 deductible should I file a claim. I decided this was completely unncessary for me because of the following:

_*_ My phone is well over two years old. It isn't worth anywhere near $50.

_*_ Because I reached the end of my two-year contract back in August, I am eligible for a new, free phone worth up to $100 (if I sign another two-year contract)

_*_ My provider has a deal with my employer that entitles me to a selection of phones completely free, without signing a contract. They are lower to mid-end phones, but whateves, they are newer than what I have right now, and did I mention that they are free?

2. Ring-back tone. When someone called me, they would hear music instead of ringing. It was cute, and I didn't even sign up for it. I think it was a limited time freebie service when I signed up but never cancelled. I figured it was only 99 cents a month, no biggie. But today I decided that I just wanted to get rid of it. I don't need it. The only reason I would keep it is because I always had it and it was kind of "different." I was thinking that for a second then got over myself. It's just a freaking sound, it's doesn't define me, for crissake. I don't want anything hanging around that I don't need or really want.

So I gave myself an extra $5.98 per month savings today.

Pseudo Milestone
Apropos of nothing, I've finally broken the $10,000 seal in my bank account! It really doesn't mean anything, but it's kinda neat see I have liquid, available money in the 5 digit range. I feel like I'm taking good care of myself. :)

Love don't cost a thing my beige ass

One moment, I was signing up for eHarmony, the next moment I'm four months into a relationship with a guy in Ohio (I'm in Illinois). We've visited with each other four times already (I just got back on Sunday from spending a week with him over the holiday) and talk on the phone/email daily. There's a lot of information online about keeping long distance love alive, but not much for getting to that point. I mean, we're still in that shiny, brand new stage. You know, where we'd rather explode than pass gas in front of each other. We both signed up for eHarmony looking for a long-term relationship and opened ourselves to the possibilities wherever they might be. Right now, Dude is pretty awesome and we really like each other. It's still early, but I see a lot of potential for a long-term commitment. However, it's going to take time, visits, and money to make that happen.

We're already good about using emails and unlimited minutes on our phones to talk, the money comes from traveling to see each other. When he visits, he drives over and stays at a hotel (I don't live alone), and has to board his dog (to the tune of about $100). For a weekend, it's about $400 for a hotel in my area. He drives a hybrid car, so gas costs are not as costly for him, but still... When I flew over to see him in April (I don't own a car) it was a last-minute fare of $171 for the weekend. Since he lives in a fairly remote area, normal fares even with 14- or 30-day advance is between $500 and $600! Fortunately, it appears that there's a last-minute fare to his neck-of-the-woods on a regular basis, so that seems like the better way to go. But still, $171 is still nothing to sneeze at. For my last visit to see him over the holiday, that ticket was $335...on sale. To Ohio. The bloody HELL?!? :::sigh:::

When we do get together, we manage to keep costs manageable. I think I mentioned before that we stick to soups and sandwiches for meals, long walks, watching movies and cooking at home (when I'm at his place). We're both mindful of our pennies, and if things continue to go as well as they have been, we're going to have to figure out a way to make this work for us fiscally. That might mean me getting cozy with Megabus. At the risk of sounding really uppity, I shudder at the thought of being on a bus for 5+ hours. I hate being in a car for more than 2, and the characters that tend to me on a bus...meh. But I can't possibly ignore the ever increasing cost of flying. Again, meh.

May Net Worth

Overall, my net worth has increased by 5.52% to bump me up the $89k range.

A closer look at my asset/debt classes
  • Cash: The almost 35% boost came from two sources. 1.) Now that my Roth IRA is fully funded for 2008, that $1,600 is now going into my Unemployment Fund, and 2.) $300 of my $600 stimulus check also went into the Unemployment Fund.
  • Bonds/Retirement: No change with bonds. The 2+% boost in retirement comes mainly from earnings on my Roth IRA. As with last month, my 401k isn't losing as much money these days. Still holding at a 7% loss YTD.
  • Credit Cards: $32 to get my eyebrows waxed which will be paid off with the next pay check.