Thinking about 2010 and beyond

Some random thoughts:

  • A small voice inside is telling me that I'm going to need to make more money in the future. The salary of an administrative assistant is not going to work for me long term, no matter how much I save. Sadly, the voice of self-doubt and fear of failure is more persuasive.

  • I've drafted a list of 2010 goals. It's a very long list, but more comprehensive and thoughtful than previous years. Hopefully it will keep me from getting caught off-guard too much by things I knew I'd need money for, but never thought enough about to save.

  • 2010 may be the last year I'm able to save in a big way. Mom is talking about selling the house in 2011 to live somewhere with less upkeep and give her more to live on (provided the house sells at a profit at that point). This is great for her and I'm glad she's thinking about this. For me, it means that I might have to readjust my savings goals knowing that 2010, and possibly 2011, will be my last year of being able to save a large amount of money (think upwards of $20k). This brings me back to my first bullet point above.

  • The BF is overcome by a sense of hopelessness about his debt situation. I feel powerless in that there is no way I can help him. What would you do if you were holding $37,000 in private loan debt to Bank of America that was fixed, but will be changed to variable come next year? Oh, and that interest rate at fixed is 15%! Getting another fixed loan is out because only BOA offers personal loans that large or if anyone else is, the interest rate is even worse.

  • I'm finding it difficult to change old, bad eating habits. The good news is that I'm still the same weight I was last month. The bad news: I'm still the same weight I was last month. I think in this I can understand the BF's lament. I've been overweight all my life. When I experience moments like these where I'm not, or think I'm not, making progress, I can hear the negative tapes playing in my head saying things like, "How is this going to be different? You've failed over and over again. It's not going to get any better for you, so just accept your body now. This is as good as it's going to get for you." It's embarrassing to admit such terrible thoughts, but there they are. The only thing that keeps me going is this vision in my head I have of myself weighing 40 pounds less when I go to the doctor's office next year for my physical. In spite of my doubts, the goal of better health is more compelling. So even when I slip off my path, I just pick up where I left off and keep going. And that's it. I can understand why people make the comparison between being fiscally fit and physically fit. However I have to say that getting out of debt and managing my money was far easier than trying to lose this excess body fat that I've had all my life. :)

:::tap, tap::: "Is this thing on?"

Yeah, yeah. I've been gone for a bit, and trust me, I feel bad for neglecting my little blog. I haven't written much because there isn't much going on. As Fabulous Ma would say, "My money is boring." Although that's not entirely true.

I've been trying to get on the whole healthier eating and exercise trail. For the past two months I've been walking (low impact and free!) about 4 to 5 miles a day, six days a week, and trying to eat more thoughtfully (veggie sandwiches, cooking more often, brown instead of white rice, etc.). I've lost 10 pounds so far and my blood work from the doctor shows that my body is liking the direction I'm taking. However as the weather gets colder it's becoming clear that I need to take a new direction with my exercise. So now I'm considering getting a gym membership. I hate the idea of spending the money for something like this, however in the end I believe it will be a worthwhile investment in myself.

Speaking of investments in myself, I've signed up for a year-long pro membership at, a web site that tracks what you eat and how much you exercise. There's a free option, however to doesn't track stuff like fiber, etc., and some other features. I figured for $45 year, it's worth getting full access without the clutter of advertising all over the site (like on I have to say that keeping this food/exercise journal has been eye-opening. If you asked me before all this, I would have said the number one thing to look out for was sugar/carbs. However it's become very clear to me that I take in WAY too much sodium! Holy cow it's in EVERYTHING!

So anyway, my greater challenge is to improve my health without adding significant cost.

File under: "Jesus Effing Christ"

From, A Jobs Crisis

Even more sobering: a report this week from Rutgers University professors James Hughes and Joseph Seneca who noted that, even if the economy suddenly started adding 2,150,000 jobs a year (instead of losing more than 3 million), it would take until 2017 to get the [unemployment] rate all the way back down.


September 2009 Net Worth

Honestly, there's nothing really notable here. Still tickled to be part of the $100,000 club, no credit card debt this month, all medical bills have been paid (using money from my Health Care Fund), the market as been turning around a bit, so made gains there, however thanks to my overspending during the Summer, my savings haven't grown as much as they could have.

A Confession

I've been spending more money than I should, and without really thinking about it. Because of this, I'm almost $600 behind on reaching my $14,000 Used Car Fund. I don't quite feel like a shit stain for this, but I am disappointed with myself, especially because the stuff I spent it on was eating out and entertainment. Being home for 6 weeks recovering from surgery was all the excuse I needed to overindulge in those two categories I rarely would if I were in my normal routine.

So how am I going to get out of it? First, stop the overspending, duh. Second, volunteer for any overtime given at work. There is nowhere in my budget to squeeze an extra $600 so the above options will have to do. Also, I estimate that about $100 will come from interest earned on my savings account between now and the end of the year. If worse comes to worst, I could try to sell something, although I've never done anything like that and to be honest, I find it a little intimidating.

All in all, it's not devastating, but serves as a reminder that I have to continue to be mindful of my spending and keep my eye on the prize.

Reason Number Five Million Why You Need an Emergency Fund

Yesterday, while driving down the highway to work, my boyfriends car was struck by lightning. He heard an explosion, was surrounded by white light, then realized his car lost all power and was coasting on momentum.

On a highway during a thunderstorm, during rush hour.

First things first: He's absolutely fine. Not a scratch on him. His car? Well, that's a bit of a different story. The strike fried the computer in his car so it's unable to start. The dealer/insurance company are looking at it right now. In the meantime, he's had to pay for towing and rental car that are not covered by insurance. Chances are the insurance company will cover repairs but he'll still be on the hook for the $500 deductible. Several months ago, the BF got very serious about his financial security and simultaneously began paying down debt while building up an emergency fund. Thanks to his focus, this completely crazy and random emergency makes for great storytelling (and lamenting that he didn't get any super powers from the ordeal) rather financial disaster.

Surgery Success

Hey there everyone!

Just a quick note to let you know I'm home from the hospital and doing GREAT. My surgery was on July 29 at noon, and I was discharged this morning. The surgery and recovery so far has been remarkable. In addition to fantastic medical staff, luck, and genes, I made sure to have a good attitude and move around a lot. After surgery, it's important to get on your feet and walk to encourage your digestive system to get back to business.

So now I begin my six weeks of recovery at home, along with waiting for the medical bills to come pouring in. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I won't have to pay more than $1,700 ($1,500 out-of-pocket maximum for my insurance + $200 copay for inpatient hospital admittance) but that's not a focus for me right now. I want to continue healing and getting my body and mind back to 100%.

Thanks for the well-wishes, kind thoughts, and prayers because I think they really helped me!

The Common Factor of All Divorces? Marriage.

I kid! Kinda... Anyway, I have three weddings coming up between now and the end of 2010.

  • November 2009 (the day after Thanksgiving, btw) that I just got the invitation for from a former co-worker that would be out of town.

  • April 2010 for a cousin that I hadn't spoken to in years, but is nice and came by the house a few times when my dad was sick. This would be in town, no invitations yet.

  • September 2010 (Labor Day weekend) for an out-of-town cousin that I'm quite fond of. No invitations sent for this one yet either, but that didn't stop them from announcing their engagement in September of 2008. :::groan:::

While I'd like to attend all three weddings, I am only going to attend the two in 2010. The first and most important reason being that this will be the first Thanksgiving without my father and I want to be home with my mother. Actually, nothing else needs to be said after that. This coworker is a wonderful person and I'm truly happy she found a partner worthy of all she has to give. So I'd like to participate in their celebration by sending a gift even though I will not witness to the ceremony.

Decision Made: I'm Having a Hysterectomy

If I laid down right now and put your hand on my abdomen, you would feel a hard, massive lump that extends from the middle of my pelvis, to near the end of my right hip, and up to my navel. At the risk of sounding crude: That shit can't be right, and has to go. I appreciate all the information available about alternatives to hysterectomy, however after a lot of research and thought I've decided to proceed with an abdominal hysterectomy. That's the old-school procedure of going through the abdomen instead of the vagina or laproscopically (where they make a few tiny incisions with a robot, magic happens, then no more uterus). The main reason I'm going abdominally is because I have to. My uterus/fibroids are just too big. Also, because it's concentrated on one side the doctor needs as much room to see what they are doing. Another benefit is that they will be able to clearly see my ovaries and make sure they are healthy. That is a huge concern for me because right now, no one can see them because they are blocked by my lumpy uterus. ::frowny face:::

In between crying jags from fears of dying on the table to being in crazy amounts of pain after the procedure, I've managed to get a few things done to prepare myself financially (is it really possible when it comes the the health care industry?) for this surgery:

  • Applying for short-term disability benefits from my employer. I will need 6 weeks to recover from this procedure. After a waiting period for approval, I will be covered for up to 7 weeks at 100% of my salary.

  • Pre-certified/pre-notified my insurance provider. I called them yesterday to let them know I'm having this done.

  • Verified my coverage. While I was on the phone with them, I learned that my out-of-pocket maximum is $1,500 for any health care (not including copays) I receive this year. Remember that $411 I paid for my CPAP machine? That comes out of my $1,500. If my insurance approves all charges associated with this procedure, I shouldn't have to pay more than $1,289 ($1,089 that's left in my out-of-pocket maximum + $200 copay for inpatient hospital admission). Considering that hospital stays alone for abdominal hysterectomies can reach up to $50,000, I'll be absolutely thrilled to just pay $1,200 bucks which would come out of my Health Care Deductible fund.

But there's still more I have to do, which I really don't want to. I need come up with three documents before I check into the hospital:

  • Power of attorney for health care;

  • Power of attorney for finances; and

  • A living will.

I know these things are important and always meant to "get around to it" however I can't avoid it anymore because of silly, illogical fear that I might be, somehow, tempting the hand of fate. :) Anyway, that will be my duty over the next couple of weeks. To draw up and notarize these documents. I'm thinking of going to my state's website where they offer temples for these forms, altering them for my needs. I don't own property or have dependents, so I don't see the need to spend hundreds with a lawyer just yet. I'm interested to hear from anyone who thinks otherwise.

So that's what I'm up to. Making sure I'm prepared (as much as one can be) emotionally, physically, and financially for this surgery.

June 2009 Net Worth

I'm still a hundred-thousandaire! Like it matters, pfft. Anyway, even after my vacation and paying the copay on my CPAP my total net worth only took a slight dip. My investments lost $72, hardly an amount for concern these days!

So it seems that everything is in order.

Chase Increased My Interest Rate By 7%

I got a note yesterday saying that starting immediately, the interest on my Chase Visa will be going from 6.24% to 13.24%. Wow, this is what an 800+ credit score will get you these days, eh? I don't carry a balance, so this is a total "whateves" for me. However it is a reminder that I don't ever want to carry a balance, on any card, ever again. I'll have to remain diligent to make sure that doesn't happen.

Fun tidbit: When I had huge debt on this card ($13,000 a few years ago) the interest rate was 15% to 17%. I could only imagine how I'd feel if this spike in rates happened back then.

I have a lot of sympathy for people trying to get out of credit card debt right now.

Back from Vacation

Greetings! The BF and I went on a week-long vacation to visit some friends. I have to tell you, it was one of the first times I'd ever been on vacation and was able to completely detach myself from work.

When we got home last night, I was able to get online and pay off the credit card for everything I spent on this trip. Reason #50-11 why saving for you vacation before going is a good idea. Another good idea? Paying all your bills ahead of your vacation. I had one bill that would have been due close to when I returned. Rather than risk a late fee, I just paid the bill early. All I had to do when I got back was pay my credit card in full for what I charged on vacation, and add $1,165 to my Used Car Fund. :)


I got a CPAP machine a couple months ago when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. My insurance covered 80%, so now I'm left with $457 for a machine that is not working all that great for me. :::sigh::: I have a few things that I am going to do:

  • There is a little card inside the CPAP machine that gives info on how I'm using it. I have an appointment with a sleep specialist to get the results. I'm interested to see what that card says before I pay for this machine. I'm going to request an itemized bill from the medical equipment company. According to the claim I saw online from my insurance provider, they charged them for 6 items. I think I have an idea of what those items might be however I want them to list them out for me before I agree to pay for it. It could be they are charging for something I never got.
  • I need to do all of this soon. A note on the invoice from the medical equipment company says that if I pay the bill within 30 days, I will get 10% of the amount ($45.74) along with a one-year extended warranty. I will have to inquire about what the warranty is on. Hopefully they're talking about everything they are charging me for.

This bill was a complete surprise. I wasn't expecting to pay anything at all for this machine, however that's my fault for not truly understanding what my coverage is. After a review it does say that I am covered up to 80% for medical equipment. Sucks, but not having the money to pay would suck even worse so I'm glad that I have a Health Care Deductible Fund that is completely separate from my Unemployment and Emergency Funds to pull the money from. Still though? It kinda sucks monkey nuts.

Going back to looking for the learning here, I should view this as preparation for when I have my hysterectomy. I can only imagine the amount of diligence...and money out of my pocket...that it is going to require. You'll forgive me if I'm less enthused about going through with this surgery.

Unemployment Fund...Fully Funded!

It's official. I know have $20,000 set aside should I find myself unemployed. This amount will cover me for:

  • Almost 2 years at my current expense level, including COBRA coverage.
  • 10 months based on estimated expenses once BF and I start living together, including COBRA coverage.

I'd like to add another $5,000 to this bring me to a whole year of coverage and hedge a bit against inflation. But for now, I'm glad that this is set aside.

Onward to the car fund!

May 2009 Net Worth: I Am Officially a Hundred-Thousandaire

So this is what it feels like to be worth a hair over $100k? Actually, it won't last long. I'll spare you the details and give you the short version.

My gynecologist said that I have to have a hysterectomy due to fibroids. My fibroids are so big that she'll have to go in there the old-fashioned way, abdominally. For someone who's only been in the hospital to visit other people, the idea of this is absolutely frightening. It's one of the most major surgeries a woman could have and not something I thought I'd have to deal with at 36. But there's some good news here.

  • Fibroids are not cancerous.
  • This is not a life-or-death decision that I have to make right away.
  • My employers short-term disability benefit will cover 7 weeks of my pay at 100%, my doctor said my recovery would be around 6 weeks.
  • I have enough money in the bank to cover what insurance doesn't...I hope (insurance will cover 80% of my costs).

I still have a few concerns though...
  • In this economy, 6 weeks is a lot of time to take off, even for a medical reason. I'm also a little concerned because I took off a month vacation last year. Don't want to seem like I'm gone all the time. Ridiculous, sure. However if I'm thinking about it, I'm sure someone else will be.
  • My insurance covers 80% of what? $10k? $20k? $50k? Employers and insurance carriers want people to be consumers of their health care, however it's a little hard to do when they won't give you a price or even a general, ballpark number for a procedure. You just have to go through it, then find out what the costs were after it's done. Who DOES that? Of all the major purchases in life, why is this one allowed to make sense? Who would agree to purchase a house then only find out the price of it after they bought it? Sorry, that's just batshit lunacy to me.
  • Not knowing how much this will ultimately cost me makes me concerned about how much of my savings will I have to use up for this.

On top of the emotional and medical considerations, I have some financial decisions to make.
Should I do the surgery this year while I know I'm still employed?
  • Should I wait until the beginning of next year when I can bump up my insurance coverage to 90%, but take the risk that my employer might decrease their short-term disability benefit, these fibroids further impacting my health, and the chance that I might not have a job next year?

I have a lot to think about. And that precisely the reason why I don't want to think about it at all. So yeah, I'm a hundred-thousandaire. Huzzah.

New 2009 Goal

Looks like I was able to toss some extra change towards my Unemployment Fund goal so I'm just one paycheck away from it being fully-funded!

But my work won't be over. Over to the right you will notice that I've added another goal for the year: a used car. Actually, enough money to buy a used car. If I'm diligent, I'll be able to scrape together $14,000 by the end of the year. I'm hoping it will be enough money to buy a reliable, gas-sipping, used car. The twist to this story is that I probably won't need to buy the car until 2011, when BF and I believe he will be able to move here. And really, that's why I'll need a car. Chances are we'll live in the boonies somewhere (but not far from a train station to at least get me to work!). Technically, we could just use his car, however I don't believe that would be wise. I don't want to be trapped in the burbs dependent on the BF I just started living with as my sole option for transportation. That's just foolish. Anyway, at the end of the year I'll be staring at $14k, at which point I'll put into a CD since I won't need it for a year (maybe 2 6-month CDs?).

So that's the plan for now.

Money Confession

I've overspent. By a lot. Last weekend I spent $700 on clothes, $400 over what I had left in my clothing budget. The good news is that I've got the money to cover it. The bad news is that it will be money from the next check that will be going to a credit card payment instead of towards my Unemployment Fund savings goal, meaning that I won't be able to reach this goal for another couple months instead of just one.

Nertz. :(

I'll be expecting a call from the "World's Best Daughter" folks any day now

  • Fruit pizza that satisfies a sweets craving with a sugar cookie bottom, sweetened cream cheese frosting, and colorful fruit topping to dazzle the eye? CHECK!

  • A card from both daughter AND kitty cat proclaiming undying love for the care and support mom (and meowma) provides? CHECK!

  • Three bottles of mom's fave booze-a-hol, because let's keep it real, mom like a lil' drinky-drink now and then. CH-CH-CHECK!

  • All this love without breaking the bank, YES!

Happy mother's day!

Some interesting tax code nuggets

I know. You barely read this blog and having a post about taxes is NOT helping my case but hold on a sec! Celine over at Feministing was able to interview Annette Nellen, director of the Master's taxation program at San Jose State University, about Obama's new tax code changes. There were a couple very interesting grains of hard-hitting truth she says that are going to make some people very uncomfortable.

Sometimes people, including members of Congress and the press, refer improperly to the "IRS Code" or say that the IRS denies a deduction. This tends to shift blame for things we don't like with the tax system or the law to the IRS when it is Congress that writes the tax statutes.
Can you explain the tax code announcement President Obama made earlier this week? What are the overall goals of the administration? How will these changes affect the everyday person? And do you think they're needed?
These proposals will affect anyone with foreign investments and business activities. If the tax haven proposal can bring in tax dollars that today are not collected because of improper sheltering, that helps everyone. The business tax proposal also affects everyone indirectly because the ability of U.S. companies to effectively compete in the global market is important to the U.S. economy.

Are there any particular tax code changes that will affect and/or benefit particular women in the U.S.? Working-class? Immigrant? Single moms?
President Obama's tax proposals aim to prevent tax increases for 95% of individuals. That is a very broad benefit particularly when we are facing trillion dollar deficits. (Ed. Emphasis added by me. This makes me uncomfortable.)

A tax system tends to be more efficient and simple if it has few deductions, exclusions and credits. With fewer tax breaks, the tax rates can be lower which also provides a benefit of reducing the desire to engage in tax planning to further reduce one's taxes. A system with fewer special rules also increases the perception of fairness and respect for the system because people are not thinking that someone else is getting more tax breaks than they are.(Ed. Remember this as you read on.)

In addition to the federal tax system and proposed changes, people should also be looking at state and local taxes. Almost all states are facing budget shortfalls and have enacted or are considering tax increases. These tax increases tend to be the easy ones of raising rates rather than removing or reducing deductions. Sometimes these types of changes can have a more burdensome impact on low-income individuals. For example, to help address a budget shortfall, California recently increased its sales tax rate by 1 percentage point. In many places in the state, the rate is now 9.25%. This is the highest sales tax rate among the states. California's sales tax system is out-of-date in that it primarily applies to tangible personal property (other than grocery store food). It does not apply to digital downloads, entertainment and most services. Thus, "Laura" who buys laundry detergent and rents a DVD pays sales tax. In contrast, "Hannah" who buys music for an mp3 player, a $300 concert ticket and has her clothes dry cleaned pays no sales tax on these items. Adding to the unfairness is the fact that Laura probably has lower income than Hannah.

What did you think about the "Tea Parties" that took place on and around income tax filing day last month?
While called tea parties, these protests seemed to be voicing concern over government spending (rather than particular taxes per se) and took place on April 15 rather than the historical date of December 16 (1773). I think it is good to see people getting involved in looking at what their elected representatives are doing. I hope people will also get details about the spending, who and what it is benefiting and write to their representatives to express specific concerns or new ideas.

Everyone gets benefits from the government in some form. It might be public schooling, roads, police and fire protection, government subsidies for one's home mortgage or health insurance coverage, energy credits, and more. Many people are benefiting from the stimulus money in that it is helping to create jobs, provide tax credits or stimulus payments to about 95% of individuals, and reducing state tax hikes.

What specific spending do people want to see cut? The answer should include not only direct government spending, but also the spending that exists in the tax law. Special deductions, exclusions and credits, such as for alternative fuel vehicles or a home mortgage, are a form of government spending. (Ed. Emphasis by me.) For example, the government can subsidize a person's home mortgage by writing them a check or by giving them a reduced tax bill - both are spending. What specifically are people willing to cut? I think people must include on that list not only spending that benefits others, but spending that benefits them as well. That is where the task gets challenging.

How many teabaggers, or anyone else, would be willing to say bye-bye to their tax credits for buying a house or having kids to help make the tax codes simpler and more fair for everyone? Yeah. Exactly. Anyway, go over to Feministing to read the full interview!

2009 Charitiable Giving

I have $600 burning a hole in my electronic pocket that I'm itching to give away to deserving organizations. Last year I saved up $300 and gave it all to Rolling Dog Ranch, run by a loving couple who take care of disable animals (mainly dogs, cats, and horses) on a sprawling ranch in Montana. I'll be giving them the same amount this year while splitting the remainder equally with the following organizations.

Planned Parenthood
One time when I was laid off, I couldn't afford COBRA, but I needed to get my annual gynecological exam and birth control. Thank goodness Planned Parenthood was there to not only give me those options, but at a low price I could afford at the time. I believe this is a service that needs to be continued, especially now. The very last thing people out of work and uninsured (or even underinsured) need is missed medical attention and/or an unintended pregnancy.

Public Radio
I feel enriched, enlightened, and just better off after listening to local public radio. For that they deserve some cash. Although I'm going to wait until the Fall pledge drive, so I can get a little freebie of some sort.


One of my many guilty pleasures is reading Post Secret. Today I came across this one:

Even though I'm in good financial shape, I still have moments like this secret. Sometimes I'll notice that I'm spending money rather freely and I will purposefully not check my credit card statements or bank accounts online because I don't want to see how much I spent. I don't want to acknowledge my recklessness and see the damage I had done. That's a little dramatic, but that's what it feels like sometimes. I feel a bit of shame for not being mindful of my spending so I loathe seeing how much I'd spent. But like a responsible adult, I face my reality and deal with the consequences, like if I spent a week eating out, it means that's less money towards my savings goals.

It sucks to fall off the wagon, but the important thing is to get back in before things get out of control.

Thank goodness I'm better at finances than gaming

I should be doing my hair however I'm addicted to getting past level 2 of DebtSki, a cute flash-based game geared towards college students. Goodness knows they need it.

Looking around, you'll find that the people behind DebtSki are the same people behind I.O.U.S.A. If you don't remember that movie, let me sum it up for you:
The former accountant for the country is trying to tell us that we're headed towards a massive financial FAIL that absolutely nothing short of tax increases and reductions in federal spending [i.e., health care, social security, etc.] can begin to alleviate. Even if we stopped all special-interest spending, the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, and bitch-slapped each and every one of Wall Street's so-called "best and brightest," all that combined would be a drop in the bucket.

It looks like the Peter G Peterson Foundation is hoping to use this game as a tap on the shoulder to college students to say, "FYI: On top of all this college and credit card debt, you, your kids, and everyone after you is going to be on the hook for this debt if you don't do something NOW."

Hope it works.

April 2009 Net Worth

My net worth is the highest it's been since I started tracking it in 2007. I'm over $94,000. What's interesting, though, is that it's mainly being driven by cash. The highest my retirement funds have ever gotten was just over $80,000 in May 2008, however my cash position was $9,800. Now, my retirement is at $67,000 and my cash is at $26,000. Feels good to have that cash in the bank. As far as the retirement funds go, well, it is what it is.

"How Healthy Are Your Finances?"

Take the financial health test for yourself at

For once, I'm an A student. I even get to be the melancholy genius that realizes that the high grade really doesn't mean much as I disagree with some of it's measurements, especially it's idea that 3 months for an emergency fund is plenty. Boo, BOO! If the current economic climate has taught me anything, it's that you better have at least 9 months to a year's worth of money to live on. Call me conservative, but that's what I'm seeing. I probably would have gotten an A+ if they didn't ding me for not having life insurance. I have no children, no partner, no property, and no debt. What do I need life insurance for? Pfft!

This is cute to go through, but hella generic.

h/t Single Ma

$14 well spent

Greetings and Salutations from the cradle of paradise that is Cincinnati, Ohio! I'm here visiting the S.O. and so far so good. :)

I bought my plane ticket online with United and booked a seat at the very back of the plane. The flight was full so I didn't have a choice. While I was checking in online yesterday, I was given the option having an aisle seat in the 5th row, which happens to be the "Economy Plus" section that boasts 5" of extra leg room. Let me just say that sitting up front, in an aisle seat, with extra leg room, and an empty seat next to me, was worth the extra $14. Let's hope I'm this lucky on my way home Sunday, as when I booked the ticket, I couldn't even get a seat assignment. Eeep.

Pending Cohabiting

I will catch a flight later this evening to see the S.O. for the weekend. Between canoodling sessions I'm sure there will be some “where is this going…what are our plans” discussion.

I can’t remember, did I tell you this? S.O. figured that he’ll move to my city since I love it so much and my family is here. This is great news for me, however I’m keeping an open mind because that’s a long time and who knows what kinds of things and opportunities might pop up. S.O. moving here is a huge step so I want to make sure we take advantage of the time we have before he gets here (we estimate 12 to 16 months, job/housing market, you know the drill) to prepare emotionally and financially.

My head was swirling with questions however there is really only one that keeps popping up: Rent or buy? Home ownership is very important to the S.O. and he’s more inclined to buy. My first inclination is that we rent together for the first year he is here for the following advantages:

  • By then we would have been in a long-distance relationship for 2 years, but never really LIVED together. This would be an opportunity to see how it goes without the financial commitment of a mortgage if the relationship ends.

  • The money he’d make from the sale of his house would sit in the bank for year earning interest.

  • We can move if we don't like the area/house after a year.

  • No headache of how to go about buying a home as an unmarried couple.

The disadvantages?

  • If things go great, after a year or so we’d have to move again, incurring more cost and moving drama.

  • Losing out on equity by renting. (Not a biggie to me, personally, but the S.O. brought this up).

  • Renting would cost me more than buying. Why? Because the necessities would be split by percentage of income (57/43) if we rent. However if the S.O. buys (because he’s the one that wants to own a home and would be providing the cash for down payment) the split would be 70/30 with the S.O. on the high end. Why? Because his name would be on the papers. He’d get the equity. He’d also get the drama of upgrades, repairs, etc. My 30% would be what I would pay in rent and utilities if I had an apt. on my own. Both splits seem fair to me, but renting would significantly decrease the amount I could save.

So yeah, that’s what’s rolling through my mind these days. Living together is a long way off, however we could use the time we have now to save as much as we can and think about our goals as a couple.

I’m frightened and euphoric as the same time. :)

March 2009 Net Worth

Slowly but surely, my net work is creeping back up.

  • Cash: Down by $3,000 thanks to the new computer (due to arrive soon!)
  • Retirement: Actually up! Who knew? I'm sure it's temporary.
  • Debts: None. I actually overpaid my credit card by $50.

Spendy McSpenderson

That's been me for the past couple of weeks. Lemme explain:

  • I bought 5 pairs of pants online, but none of them fit. And because this company doesn't exchange anything, I have to return these, then buy the same pants in another size. The good news is that they'll give me the same discounted price that I got the first time. The bad news is that I don't get the refund from the first purchase until they get it back. Pain in the ass.

  • I bought a new computer...for $3,600. And I'd do it again. After doing my due diligence, it became clear that $1,200 wasn't going to give me what I wanted. I could get a so-so machine for that price, but end up spending even more replacing it in a couple of years. So I went all gangsta and reached out to Digital Storm in California to custom make a machine for me. When I say custom, I mean it. I got to choose everything from motherboard, to the power supply, and I could have even gotten a custom automotive-quality paint job if I desired. I didn't go that far, but I did get a very high-end computer (along with a 22" LCD flat-panel monitor) that I'll keep for another 5 years. I ordered it almost a week ago, it should be here by the end of the month.

  • I decided to "repurpose" my Housing fund. Since I'm not going to be moving into an apartment this year, I divided the $5,000 amongst my new computer, fully funding the travel and charity funds, and the remainder into the 2009 unemployment fund.


Dear Universe:

Please send me a dozen white-chocolate covered crispy rice hearts from Selma's. I had one last week and I've been day-dreaming about it ever since. Well, in between dreams of Barack Obama making me his "boo." [I know, random right?]

But really, I'm about THISCLOSE to robbing an old lady and taking her change purse to get some of these sweet treats! Grief coupled with my monthly hormone swings can make bad things happen. I'm jus' sayin'.

So save an old lady the drama. Make with the goods and nobody gets hurt.


And in other news...
There is none. Aside from debating on whether or not I should treat myself to these morsels of deliciousness. It would be about $35 once I include shipping that would have to come out of my grocery budget because I don't have a lot of spare cash lying around. I'll hold off on this for a week. If I still want it, then I'll buy it. In the meantime, I'm researching the cost of building my own computer.

I have money. But I'm not spending.

Yes, I'm concerned about my job security and not having enough money for the future, but believe it or not, my biggest problem is laziness. I have two fully-funded goals that specifically require me to spend money: My new clothes and computer funds.

When it comes to clothes, I'm out of my element. I'm more frump than fashionista and would like to change my much as $500 will allow. I have fashionable friends, but they are used to my unlimited spending and have smaller bodies so I'm not sure how much help they can be. I've got $500 and a plus-sized body. Honestly, I'm not really looking forward to this and trying to avoid it. However even I'm getting tired of looking like hell, so I have to snap to it. It's just...I'm not really sure where to start. Meh...

I love computers and technology. The one I use at home I built myself back in 2001. Even after all the upgrades it's time for it to be replaced. However I can't figure out what I want. Build another one myself? Get a pre-fab? Get a laptop? I'm more interested in this than clothes, but I still repeat my "meh."

I think another problem I perceive is that I didn't budget enough money for each of these goals. Is $500 really enough? I'm not trying to replace my entire wardrobe, but will this be enough to get me a decent everyday work wardrobe? Is $1,200 enough for what I really want? Well, that's a hard question to answer if I can't settle on what it is I really want. That said, there's a part of me looking forward to the challenge of seeing what I come up with that ends up fitting my needs and budget. I'm confident I'll work something out. Eventually...whenever I get to it... : /

Facing the inevitable

Friday afternoon my mom called me at work and said to come home. The palliative care doctor was there and said it would be a matter of hours. I hung up and noticed that I had 10 minutes to make the next train which was several blocks away. My only other option would have been to wait for the next train in an hour and a half or take a cab. I decided that the $35 cab ride home to see my about-to-die father counts as an emergency.

Roughly 15 minutes after I got home, my father died. Clearly, I was glad I didn't wait for the next train.

Seems the end of my father's life signaled the beginning of unheard of family fuckery.

  • While meeting with the people I'm buying the casket from, why was my uncle trying to talk with them about being a rep for them in his city? I mean, really. Really? Seriously? Like, right when I'm trying to pick out the casket for my dad, his brother, he's trying to make business deals? After that, I let my mom know that he was THISCLOSE to getting thrown in the grave with my dad. It was truly a "Jesus take the wheel" moment.

  • I was sitting in my room looking for pictures of my father for the programs on my computer when my aunt walks in. She gives me some torn-out pages from a catalogue and says that she wants me to buy these items for her and she'll give me the money. Ok, that's awkward. I ended up bringing it up to my mom. Let's just say she handled the situation right then and there.

  • Mom called one of my half-sisters to let her know dad had passed. We couldn't get a hold of her and wondered why we hadn't heard from her. When dad was first diagnosed, she called a couple times a day, then nothing. Well she called back. We hadn't heard from her because she was in jail for the past 35 days due to traffic violations (massive side-eye from me on that). The day dad died, she had gotten out of jail, lost her apartment, and found out one of her dogs was euthanized. She called us from her girlfriends home, but had to leave that day. Then the follow exchange occurred:

    Sis: "I'd love to be there for dad's funeral, but I have nothing. I have no money. No where to live. I don't know what to do."

    Me: "Gosh, that's just absolutely terrible. I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for you and all you have to deal with right now."

    Sis: "Yeah. I don't know what to do. I have no money, but I really want to go to the funeral, but I can't."

    Me: "Well, don't worry about it. Take the time you have right now to focus on you. You still have your job so you can make it out of this. Do you, and everything else will work out. I have to go because the funeral people are here. Good luck."

    Damn straight I didn't offer her money. Do I really have to explain to you why?
But it didn't stop there, seems like we signed up for the Friends and Family Fuckery package. A long-time friend stopped by the house to give her condolences. The following exchange occurred:

Me: "Can I get you something to drink?"

Friend: "I'd love some tea."

Me: "Sure, I've got some regular or green tea here..."

Friend: "You don't have any ginger or mint tea? You know how we islanders are, we have to have these kinds of teas, so that's what I want."

Me: :::Spinning on my heels, hand on my hip, in a calm, low voice::: "You know, for someone that just walked into my house to comfort me and offer me support because my father died not even a day ago, you have a lot of damn nerve to be so fucking demanding."

Friend: "I'll have any tea you have to offer."

Me: "Great. I love when you visit!"

She probably sensed that she was two steps away from ending up tipped into the grave her damn self.

I'm sure this isn't the end of the nonsense, as the funeral isn't until Saturday, my uncle doesn't leave until mid next week, and we have even more relatives coming to stay with us for the funeral. I don't believe in a god of any sort, however I my pray to one to help keep me from losing it this week. And by "it" I mean my freedom because I'm in jail for familial homicide.

But anyway...

  • Mom and I spent the weekend taking care of funeral details. She asked me to use the $2,000 I saved for her to buy my father's casket. I found a place online that would send a rep to the house to look through a catalog. I chose something that looked nice, but not flashy. The grand total, including delivery, came to $950. The casket should arrive at the funeral home today or tomorrow, which is fine, as the funeral isn't until Saturday. Hopefully everything will go smoothly.

  • A Saturday funeral. You have to pay extra for that to the tune of $1,000+. While I cringed at first, I understand that she wanted to have the service on a day that would accommodate the most schedules. It's her money, I just left it alone.

  • BF is coming to town on Thursday night and staying until next week Wednesday. We decided that for a multitude of reasons (my house with have 6 people and 1 shower, he's bringing his dog to avoid the expense of boarding, and it's just too many damn relatives to push on him at once especially under the circumstances). The hotel is about 30 to 45 minutes away from my house, but will take dogs and would cost around $350 total. I said that I would split the costs with him, but he's not having it. I'll just use the money for meals for us, etc. There will be a lot of food at the house, but I know I'm going to want to get away from that for a while. And I've been craving Indian and Ethiopian food...

  • One of my aunt's pitched a little fit because I'm not wearing a dress to the funeral. Again, mom "handled" that situation. Look, I love my dad. However I don't see anything wrong with wearing grey slacks and a black top. Also, did I mention it's going to be 15 degrees outside with snow on Saturday? Yeah. While my aunt is out there getting frostbite, I'm gonna be in my pants , ginormous Eddie Bauer parka, and snow boats. Dad didn't raise an idiot.

Three goals down, three more to go

I've been taking the approach of saving for my goals one at a time. For the past 5 to 6 weeks, I've been near obsessive about maximizing and sticking to my budget to save as much as I can. So far so good! Today I was able to check off my computer fund as another goal met. Now I have to see how much computer I can get for $1,200 max. Still contemplating getting a laptop with separate monitor. Anyway, I'll research that, but I'm glad this one is done. After funding that, I still had $200 so I put that towards my travel fund, which puts me at 20% of that goal.

Now it's time to focus on the next three goals:
  • Travel
  • Unemployment Fund
  • Charity

Travel is very important, especially right now. Back in December, BF and I decided that monthly visits were necessary to maintain our relationship. However with my father's illness, the very idea of leaving town is unfathomable. That means BF comes here, which is fine, however he'd need help paying for a hotel (if you recall, BF is busy trying to pay off debts and save a little bit). That $200 mentioned earlier should come in handy for that and a meal or two. The plan is to see him next weekend, possibly sooner depending on my dad. I'll also have to save more earlier on because I'd prefer BF come here over the next few months at least, because I wouldn't want to leave my mother alone in the house right away. Wow...a lot to think about here that I'm not sure I'm ready for.

Unemployment Fund
I'm am very eager to meet this goal for obvious reasons. The good news is that I already have a $10k cushion in there. Once I get a little more cash in my travel fund, this will be my end-all, be all for a while.

This goal will be reached, but when? Should I knock it out with my next paycheck, or should I wait until my UF is fully funded (projected completion in August)? In spite of my obsession for my own financial security, I can't forget to give to those that can use the help. Right now, I have it schedule to begin saving for this goal after the UF. The only reason I'm contemplating doing it sooner is to just get it out of the way.

Random Update

I have a bunch of little things I've been meaning to share. On their own, they don't justify a whole post, so here we go.

  • Dad's health is declining rapidly. We've got him juiced on enough morphine fall a moose. Hey, whatever keeps him comfortable. The home care doctor says we're looking at a few days, but mom and I aren't ready to accept that. How can we?

  • That said, I've sent two options for a casket to mom. She asked that I take the $2,000 I saved for her to pay for it. Chances are I'll go with a decent one I saw on the Costco (!) website for $925 which includes standard shipping. Since we don't have anywhere to store the casket until it's needed (I'm sure the funeral home with charge us to hold it) chances are good we'll need to do expedited shipping. I'm hoping I don't spend more than $1,500. Then I'd give the rest to mom. The funeral plot, service, etc. has all been purchased by mom a few weeks ago.

  • Subject change: Work. Word on the curb is that the employer is considering pay cuts by way of shortening people's work schedules instead of doing layoffs. I'm all for keeping a job these days. The pay cut would suck, though. As if we weren't just getting by already. The other thing that would suck is that one would be a part-time employee with part-time benefits. That would be a significant adjustment. Guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

  • Back to my dad: Actually, the house. It's full of people. Right now. It's 9pm. A bunch of people from his church, including the pastor, and some family members are here to pray with him. Not sure dad will receive his last rights tonight though.

Am I the only one who believes they are not obligated to their parents money at ANY point in time, live or dead?

Dave Ramsey has a little saying he likes to repeat: "Live like no one else so you can live like no one else." Make some choices that might be deemed unpopular by the masses so that you will live life on your own terms, unlike those very same people.

I was chatting with a couple coworkers this afternoon and the subject of inheritances came up (they have no idea about my father, btw).

  • Me: "Personally, if I had kids, I wouldn't leave them anything. I would teach them skills and provide them with the tools to create their own wealth. After that, they should be doing fine on their own. Also, I believe the whole idea of leaving money for children, family members, etc. creates a sense of entitlement amongst supposed heirs. And don't get me started on the possible ulterior motives."

:::Both coworkers give me a look like I just told them Jesus works the pole at Platinum Stages on Saturday nights:::

  • Coworker #1: "What about assets? You wouldn't pass along that?"

  • Me: "Nope. Actually, I take that back. Depends on the assets. If they are heirlooms, family pictures, things that can't be replaced and hold memories, those would be passed down. Everything else I'd give to charity."

  • Coworker #2: "That goes against my christian beliefs. You have to leave something."

  • Me: "I don't subscribe to such beliefs."

After that exchange, it took them a long time to even look me in the eye. I had no idea the topic would create such a reaction. Especially since some of the most wealthy among us (Warren Buffet anyone?) believe something similar. I'd rather give loved ones money, help, "provide for them" while I am alive and can see the good it's doing. If I'm an ass for that, so be it. One thing I should clarify: If I had dependents, then yes, I would make arrangements for them to be taken care of. However if we're talking about grown, healthy people, then no.

I appreciate that my perspective on this is a little different. My parents are not rolling in dough. There will be no passing of assets when the time comes. And I couldn't care less. Now, would I turn it down if it where given to me? Probably not. However the point is that it's not my money/assets to make a decision about. They can do with it whatever they hell they want. If my mom said upon her demise to sell everything and give the money to an orphanage in Kenya I'd not only be happy to make sure it happens, I'd be proud of her.

See, it's like this: No amount of money, land, or trinkets could make the death of my father easier. The people I love are not commodities. The things I love about them, like their sense of humor, character, memories shared, have value far greater than anything that could be left behind in a will. The idea that I MUST leave something behind or that someone must leave me something offends me. Then again, I'm the one that doesn't want to give or receive Christmas gifts for pretty much the same reasons. Guess I'm the exception.

Another Free Lunch! Yessssssss!

One of the senior leaders of my company was here to have a chat so they brought in super-tasty sandwiches. Nothing like Chipotle, but hey, it was still tasty and free! Plus I appreciated getting the chance to interact with one of the leaders of the firm, since it doesn't happen often.

More hungry than tired

Because I don't have much energy today:

  • We admitted dad to the hospital last night at the request of his doc because he was dehydrated (has trouble swallowing) and his blood pressure was dangerously low.

  • We mad the decision to send him in an ambulance vs. driving ourselves because people brought to the ER via ambulance are seen by a doctor immediately, instead of having to wait for hours. Such would have been the case last night because the ER was packed.

  • It cost us over $400 to use the ambulance. It's probably not covered by Medicare. Expensive, yes. And while it wasn't a life-or-death immediate emergency, we wanted him to see a doctor and get started on fluids sooner rather than later.

  • We got to the hospital around 9pm. We didn't leave until a little after 1am. Then I got up at 5am to get read for work.

  • Hopefully, he won't be in the hospital more than a few days. Just long enough for them to pump him up with fluids and drugs so he can be comfortable at home.

  • Speaking of comfort. We've decided to move to palliative care. It's not quite hospice in that we're not stopping his chemo. We're still fighting the cancer, however we'll get more support by way of medical equipment (hospital bed, wheelchair) and professional homecare (home visits by a nurse and doctor to administer chemo, do blood work, etc.). Thankfully, all of this is covered by Medicare.

Yay! Free Lunch!

Consultant: "Hey, do you have lunch plans today?"
Me: "No, why? What's up?"
Consultant: "I'll get you lunch if you get me lunch!"

Turns out he was in back-to-back meetings today. He asked if I could get him lunch. He would give me cash to cover something for the both of us. Awww! This consultant is SO awesome and considerate. Anyway, I got him a healthy salad with dressing on the side remember that his cholesterol was kinda high when we, along with thousands of other coworkers, took an HRQ (Health Risk Questionnaire). I got the chicken caesar salad with extra dressing. What? My cholesterol was fine!

My take on the Balanced Money Formula

A few months ago I read on JD's blog about the Balanced Money Formula. In their book, All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi suggest that instead of listing a line item for everything in your budget, you should create three buckets:

  • Needs (50%): Things you can't live without, like your rent/mortgage, food, insurance, etc.
  • Wants (30%): Stuff like cable t.v., dining out, etc.
  • Savings (20%): Whatever is left over from the above. This can be used for debts also.

This method has helped me flesh out a budget for whenever I move out on my own. You'll notice that my percentages are different. Part of it is how I decided what should go where, another part is the reality of living in a HCOL city. So based on an estimated take home pay of $2,300 a month I drafted the following:

Technically, I could afford to pay a much higher rent. However doing so would significantly cut into how much I can save. I estimate $700 should get me a decent studio in the city. Yes, I consider an Internet connection a need!

I put a high priority on savings, so this bucket is much bigger than suggested. Especially since I still have financial goals to accomplish.

I don't want for much. I love dining out, and anything left over can go towards any online gaming/computer geekery.

Using this formula has really helped me wrap my head around a scenario I've yet to encounter. It's helped me feel more confident about moving foward to getting my own place when that time comes.

Dad and Mom Update

Good news
  • He's getting better pain medication, so he's more comfortable and eats more.
  • He's still got his sense of humor, as he jokes around with mom and me.
  • Mom is starting to come around to the idea that she's going to have to start thinking of life after my father. Another relative took her to shop for burial plots and services. While I'm glad for that, I believe she paid more than she needed. But I didn't say anything. At least she's making some moves. She also set about to file for survivor Social Security benefits.
  • We had a party last weekend for all the friends, family, and neighbors who have been absolutely wonderful in helping us out. From taking dad to appointments I couldn't, to shoveling our walkways, to bringing food over. We know some awesome people!
  • My employer has been wonderful and flexible in allowing me to alter my work schedule so I can take dad to his weekly appointments.
Bad news
  • The chemo he was on proved to be ineffective and the cancer has spread. We're trying another type of chemo now. If this doesn't work, chances are we'll have to just go to hospice.
  • Completely unrelated to the cancer, a scan of dad's brain shows that he's had a couple strokes. That explained why he suddenly lost use of of his right side and his failing memory.
  • Mom still has not moved forward in looking into what her financial options are for the house.
  • Coffins are stupid, crazy expensive. I joked with mom that if I die before she does, just tip me into the lake, have a dinner in my honor, and call it a night. Because funeral costs are bat-shit, banana pancakes, crazy out of control. A cremation and memorial service would be a much more cost-effective option. However mom "can't see" cremating my dad. I don't think he really cares one way or the other, it's my mom. I understand it's hard. However in all the emotion, you have to remember your financial reality and what's really important. Anyway, I'm stuck with having to shop for coffins. The emotional part for me is the rage I feel because these damn things are overpriced!

So yeah. That's what's going on there. Just taking everything one day at a time. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. What other choice do we have?

January 2009 Net Worth

While I was on vacation in December, I neglected to update my net worth thingie. Off to the right you'll see my most current net worth. Changes since November 2008:

  • Cash increased by $4,000
  • Retirement savings increased by $2,800

Meh. It seems rather insignificant these days.

Federal Refund Received

I filed my return last week Friday, today my federal tax refund of $155 was deposited to my account. One word:


In other news
I managed to get through almost the entire month of January without buying groceries. How? Partly because mom was nice enough to buy me some frozen meals when they are on sale. :) The other part was me insisting that I eat only what's in the house. I have to buy groceries this weekend though, or else I won't have anything to eat over the next two weeks!

I managed to meet my health care deductible and clothing fund goals. I feel a little more secure now that I know if I have a health issue, I'll be able to handle it intially without dipping into my unemployment fund. As far as clothes shopping, I'm going to see if I can hold off until spring. What I really need are new pants. I'm thinking two pair of dress slacks (black and charcoal grey), one pair of khaki's, and one pair of jeans. I could use some new shirts and blouses, however I only have $500, and the pants are more of a need than anything else.

So with those goals out of the way, time to focus on cash for a new computer. If all things stay the same, I should be able to meet this goal by the end of February. After this, it's focusing on my unemployment fund in earnest. That's going to be a challenge, depending on my dad's health and my mother's housing situation.

But one day at a time. Right now I've accomplished two goals, time to focus on #3.

Automatic Investing

Bird Nest & Mom's Eggs 2005
Originally uploaded by bcompetent

I've finally set it up with Vanguard to have my Roth IRA contributions automatically taken from my savings on a monthly basis. Turns out I have having trouble with it because I wanted the money deducted on the 2nd of every month. Vanguard doesn't like transactions happening in the first and last 5 days of the month. You think they could have let somebody know? This absolutely ZERO documentation about this on their site, so when I was on the phone with them trying to figure out the problem, I mentioned that it might be a good idea to let folks know there is a limitation. Vanguard has a solid reputation for not only low fees, but stellar customer service. Let's hope they put a note up about this so other's don't have to run into this problem.

Anyway, my 2009 contributions are set up now. One less thing to worry about.

2008 Taxes: Done

Yesterday I filed my state and federal taxes online with TurboTax. For better or worse, my financial situation is pretty uncomplicated so it took all of 25 minutes to get everything completed. Last year I got over $600 back from the fed, this year it will be $150 and I owe my state $11Why?

  • Opted for 2 federal W-2 withholdings instead of just 1.
  • Had almost $400 in savings to pay taxes on.

Total cost for my 2008 tax season was $36.95. TurboTax was $25.95 and the $11 for the state tax I owed. Both amounts have been paid. Both the fed and the state have accepted my returns, so now I just wait for my refund. I am pleased with the amount because I really wanted to see how close to zero I could get without owing the fed money. I think I did pretty well! That $150 (which I estimate will arrive by Feb. 6 at the earliest and hopefully Feb. 13 at the latest) will go towards my computer fund.

It's the end of the world as I knew it...

...I feel fine.

Stop the presses!

I think I'm finally realizing that the two major keys to me saving as much money as possible are sticking to my budget and keeping my spending to a minimum.

:::cue epiphany music:::

Vanguard is trying to make me crazy

Originally uploaded by CCBImages

I have a savings account set up especially for my 2009 Roth IRA contributions. Last week I attached that account to my Roth thinking that I'd have Vanguard withdraw from it monthly. Easy peasy right? Wrong. WRONG! I was the Vanguard site tonight trying to set this up to start in February since I already made my January contribution. Why in the deep fried hell does it want to start in December 2008? After spending 30 minutes going round and round with this I gave up. I'll just call them on Monday and figure what what to do.

Automating things is supposed to make your life easy, and I believe it. However no one told me that setting up said automation would be a pain in my beige ass.

2009 Goals

It's taken me a long time to get my 2009 budget and goals together because this year presents several significant challenges.

My fathers illness. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October with the prognosis of year. Everyone hopes for that and more, however the statistics average around 6 months.

My parents financial situation. Two decades of chronic illness can wipe out any financial stability you had (Oh. I didn't tell you? My father has two other chronic illnesses. Cancer is the new kid on the block). Case in point: My parents had to stop life insurance to be able to afford prescription drugs. They owe an extra ordinary amount of money on their home. Once my father dies, mom will have to try to sell the house and move in with her sister because she wouldn't be able to afford to keep it. If they were able to afford their life insurance, this wouldn't be an issue.

A move for me. If my mom can't hold on to the house, that means I will have to find an apartment in a high cost-of-living city, possibly at the height of moving season when it's difficult to find a decent place at a reasonable rent.

My long-distance relationship. The S.O. and I spent the entire month of December together and it went great. It seems that we could could be long-term partners. However due to my father's illness and the economy we're keeping the relationship as-is. We both have jobs (thankfully), he has a house and I have a sick parent. We want to be together in the same place, however we have no choice but to stay put and keep traveling back and forth.

Continued layoffs at my company. My dept. didn't have many layoffs last fall, but others did. 2009 is predicted to be worse than 2008, so while I'd like to hold on to my job, nothing I have to be prepared for the worst.

All of the above are significant challenges in and of themselves, add to it that I have no real sense of timing on if or when most of it will happen and it seems impossible to plan anything. However I've got something together to help keep me sane and give me guidance while allowing for flexibility. I prioritized each goal with the idea that I would funnel all my savings into each one until the goal is reached, then move on to the next one. I've set everything up so that I meet my most important goals within the first three months to take into account the average prognosis for pancreatic cancer and when I'd have to start looking for another place to live.

Travel: $1,000
This is the only goal where I will stash away a small amount every month for the year. That money will be used for cab/train fare to and from the airport. Actual air travel will be covered by my frequent flier miles. I have enough that should cover me for 7 round-trip fares.

Goals that can be completed within the next three months:
Health Care Deductible: $1,700
This is $200 higher than last years because I opted for slightly less coinsurance (80% versus 90%) this year to allow for more cash in my paychecks.

Clothing: $500
My clothes look like crap and makes me look frumpy. I'm setting aside this amount to help improve my appearance. Luckily, $200 of this goal has been met by a generous gift card from work as a holiday gift.

New Computer: $1,200
At the beginning of 2008 I wanted a $7,000 computer, and I could have afforded it easily. However after it became clear that the economy was making a turn for the worse I couldn't justify that amount so I lowered my amount to $2,400. This year I'm slashing that in half. It should be enough to get me a decent machine that should last me for the next 2 or 3 years.

Other Goals
Charity: $600
I saved $300 last year, I'd like to double that. However if I have to, I can bump it back to $300

Unemployment fund: $16,000
I already have $10k of this, so it's a matter of saving an additional $6k. $16,000 would cover all my needs should I move (rent, utilities, etc.) and COBRA payments for 8 months.

Goals already accomplished
I "re-purposed" some money I had in my savings account to accomplish the following:

Mom: $2,000
Money I will keep on hand for her, as I know she will need it when my father passes.

Housing: $5,000
Includes first and last months rent, any applications fees need, rental of a U-Haul truck, as well as some very basic furniture, cleaning supplies, and cash to stock the fridge/pantry.

Emergency Fund: $1,100
Just $100 added to last year's. Mainly to cover minor events, like if my cat needs urgent care.

Welp. There it is. Wish me luck.

Credit Scores as of January 2009

I was dictating to supportively encouraging my S.O. to check his credit reports and FICO scores. Giving all the reasons why he should do so inspired me to do the same. While I have to wait until April to check my scores (when I can do it for free, since I already checked all three in April of 2008) I decided to check my FICO scores. The last time I check my scores was back in August of 2007.

So I googled a handy-dandy discount code before learning my FICO scores. Pardon my french, but oh my fucking gawd. Check it out:

I had forgotten how long ago I looked at my scores, so I was still going off the 2007 numbers. I wasn't expecting this kind of a jump so clearly I'm thrilled. I'm especially glad about this because if I have to move this year, these scores will improve my chances of getting the apartment of my choice.

I'll try not to knock myself over from patting myself on the shoulder, but yay me!

Coming Soon: My 2009 Goals!

My budget/goals is actually finished, however I still feel like I should tweek it somehow. I suppose it feels a unfinished to me because there are so many unknowns and "guesstimates" in it due to my dad's health, plans my mom has for the house, heck...I don't even know what my paychecks are looking like. At any rate, I'll have something for you to look at before the week ends.

Breaking Up Is Harder to Do After Housing Fall

The New York Times had an article on December 29 about how the current economic downturn is having an effect on divorces.

In a normal economy, couples typically build equity in their homes, then divide that equity in a divorce, either after selling the house or with one partner buying out the other’s share. But after the recent boom-and-bust cycle, more couples own houses that neither spouse can afford to maintain, and that they cannot sell for what they owe. For couples already under stress, the family home has become a toxic asset.

Dee Dee Tomasko, a nursing student and mother in suburban Cleveland, expected to leave her marriage with about $200,000 in starter money, primarily from the marital home, which was appraised at about $1 million in 2006. By the time of her divorce last year, however, the house was appraised at $800,000; her share of the equity came to about $105,000.

Though she is relieved to be out of the marriage, if she had known how little money she would get “I might have stuck with it a little more; I don’t know,” Ms. Tomasko said, adding, “Maybe it would’ve made me think a little harder.”

My BF had a similar situation. He was divorced in the Spring of 2008 and he ended up with the house for two reasons: First, his ex wanted to be bought out, and second he has a big dog which he believed would make it tough for him to find a rental. Also he just liked the house and wasn't so inclined to move. However he had to take out a large personal loan to buy her out of the house and settle their debts. I agree that the current housing crisis has created a different tone in divorces. Before couples used to fight over who kept the house, now they are fighting to not be left with it.