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 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% 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.