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.