Greetings and salutations.

It's been a minute. I've been meaning to come back and catch up, but there are a lot of things going on right now and blogging seems about the last thing I want to deal with. But, just in case anyone is wondering, here's the deal.

The merger happened, as well as a round of layoffs. I survived that one and hope to survive the next that supposed to happen early next year. I had a fantastic review so I'm hoping that improves my chances.

Also, I managed to get a raise. Yay!

She was doing really well for a while until the cancer resisted treatment. We are current trying a different chemo but it's really knocking her out. She has her last round of it this month. Hopefully it's working, but it's hard to tell because she feels miserable all the time.

I finally convinced her to do Powers of Attorney and a Will. I was referred to a lawyer who actually came to our home in the evenings to help us sort things out. So all that was finalized this week and I only paid $600 for 2 POAs (health care and property) and the Will. Such a relief to get that out of the way.

Now family members and I are trying to clean up the house and get it ready to sell. The idea being that we move mom in with her sister and unload the house so its not a burden. Living with her sister, all she'll need is her social security.

So that means I should be saving up as much cash as I possibly can, right? Wrong. WRONG. Well, I should be, but I haven't. I spent a lot of money over the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm not in debt, but it was a significant amount of cash for meals out, groceries, etc. The only thing I have to show for it is the extra 5 pounds I gained. But moving forward I'm going to save as much as possible. I'll also have to rethink how the cash I have on hand now needs to be used. Maybe a car will have to wait and the funds used for something else.

That something else could be health care. Long story short I need to have a colonoscopy next month. It could be minor, it could be a big deal. All I know is that I've been in pain lately and have had numerous tests done to rule out other things (like ovarian cancer), and these tests are NOT cheap, even with insurance.

So yeah. There are a lot of questions right now with no answers. Trying to plan for that is a challenge but I'll do the best I can.

One goal down, but does it matter?

I actually reached my $10,000 Move Fund goal a couple weeks ago, however with news of the upcoming merger at work, I'm wondering if these goals are relevant anymore. It's not that I won't need to move at some point, or a car. It's just that it seems a bigger emergency fund might be in order.

But rather than torment myself over something that may or may not happen, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. I'll take stock of my situation at the end of the year and see what adjustments need to be made.

Change is the only constant. :)

Well. Wasn't Expecting That.

Woke up to find out my employer will be merging with another company over the next few months. There will be layoffs but no one knows when or where. I suppose the only thing to do is assume it could be me and act accordingly.

1. Update my resume and begin searching.
2. Follow up on all health appointments. Best to get that done sooner rather than later, no?
3. Look at my budget to see if I can squeeze anymore savings from it.
4. Let friends and family know I'm on the lookout for opportunities.
5. Look around for nonprofit organizations I'm interested in to volunteer at if it turns out I will be out of a job. Volunteering is a great way to keep active and productive while looking for a gig.
6. Of course, continue to do a good job at work. I don't know what criteria they will use when shedding jobs. My performance may have have something to do with it, but it might not. It could be that my job is just redundant, they may think I make too much and don't care how good of a job I do. I just don't know, so I'm not going to be overly concerned about this. Just go in and do the best I can like I do every day.

I'm not going to say anything to my mom. I think that would stress her out, and she's in a pretty sensitive state right now. No need to upset her if I don't have to. So right now, the plan is to hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Random: So how are we supposed to afford all this?

It's a rhetorical question, really, but when I go through apartment listings on Craigslist and match up what's available with what is in my budget, it's depressing. How are we supposed to save for retirement and an emergency fund while paying for rent and utilities, and geez...feed ourselves? Damn.

Sooner rather than later

I've decided that it due to my mother's recent diagnosis, it would behoove me to get crackin' on that 2011-2012 Move Fund (which may happen sooner than that), so I've done the following:

  • Decreased my Travel Fund from $4,000 to $2,000. Since I'm going to be home more, I won't need much for travel. Just enough for maybe one or two visits to see the BF for a weekend and my cousin's wedding in September (provided, of course, that my mother is well enough to spend nights alone or one of her sisters could stay with her overnight).

  • Moved $2,000 from the Travel Fund to my 2011-2012 Move Fund. That, along with cutting my grocery budget in half for the next three months will get me to my 10k goal in July rather than September. I'd love to meet in sooner, but there's only so much I can do.
These changes put me at 31% of my $10k goal. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I really won't have to move until 2011 (even if it's in January or February!) but just in case, best to have that cash handy as soon as possible.

Sometimes just going with your gut is good enough

Back in 2004-2005, everyone was asking me why I wasn't trying to buy a house of my own. My response? "I can't afford a mortgage AND furniture. I can only do one or the other." I wasn't trying to be pithy or cute, that was my honest-to-goodness reason. I knew everyone else with income like mine was buying, but I just didn't feel comfortable with it, and that was good enough reason for me. No further explanation needed. I'll spare you the history lesson of what happened with the housing market and people like me who decided to buy a house anyway.

So here we are in 2010 and the pressure is on, but for a different reason: "So when are you and BF getting married/moving in together?" My response? "When the job/housing market allows us to." No one seems satisfied with that response. The look I usually get seems to say, "Well that really shouldn't stop you." And for some people, it doesn't. And they end up in a lot of debt and/or unemployed because of it. Right now we both have a roof over our heads and jobs. Neither one of us have any interest in putting ourselves in financial harm to satisfy people we neither know nor like. I'm sure it seems strange to people on the outside of our relationship to be long-distance for two, projecting into three or so years. But we're doing what feels right for us with the information we know right now. No further explanation needed.

Resisting the smartphone urge...for now

Man, I wouldn't mind having one of those smartphones. They would (or would have) come in so handy when I was traveling to check flight schedules, etc. They would keep me entertained on the long commutes home. I could have gotten one of those new droid thingies for free (well, with the commitment to a 2-yr. contract) since my phone was eligible for an upgrade since 2007. I'd have access to Facebook and Twitter since they are blocked at work! Wouldn't that compel you too? No?

Really, not me either. Especially when I started to think about the additional $30 per month that would be tacked on for the mandatory data package. Then I thought of all the apps that nickel and dime you to death. Suddenly just buying a new battery from my 5-yr. old phone at Radio Shack didn't seem like such a lame idea. No, I can't log into Facebook and Twitter, but I don't need to drain on my productivity. Now that my mom is sick and I have to take care of her, I won't be doing any traveling anytime soon. Last, but no least: When I move, I won't be able to afford the hefty month charges.

So looks I'll be kickin' old school with this phone for a while.

Three down, three to go

The Travel Fund goal has been met, now it's time to tackle the largest, and possibly the last, financial goal I can accomplish this year.

My mother has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I'm still in a bit of shock. It was just last year that my father died of pancreatic cancer. Isn't there a limit or time spacing thing about dealing with death? No? Well there should be. Anyway, understandably so, mom doesn't want to spend whatever time she has left working, so she wants to sell the house, move in with her sister, and enjoy her life. I totally agree and understand where she's coming from. Of course, I have a few concerns. At the risk of sounding like a morbid ass, they are the following:

  • I'm concerned that whatever she'd make from the sale of the house (which would be minimal considering the current market and the fact she owes a considerable amount on it) would not be enough to cover whatever she'd like to do. It's kind of hard to say because we don't know her prognosis.

  • I'm not all that convinced my mom will sit down and look at her finances and reasonably think about how she plans to fund all the things she wants to do. I'm not convinced it can happen. Some, but certainly not all.

She asked if I'd take over the mortgage. I flatly responded that I can't afford it. She seemed unhappy about that. Truth be told, I'll barely be able to afford rent for a lame studio in the city (I live in a HCOL area. Factor that with having to save a decent amount for retirement, and yeah...bolonga sandwiches for the next 30 years).

I think the most important thing we can do right now is figure her financial/legal situation and options.

  • We need to set up powers of attorney for her health care and financial affairs as well as a will. I've reached out to a lawyer that helped us with my dad.

  • While everything my dad needed was covered under Medicare, I'm concerned that it may be different for mom. It was 4 months from diagnosis to death for my dad. I'm hoping the time for my mother will be much longer. Also, her illness is different from my dad's. I'm wondering if there may be things with her treatment that may not be covered under medicare.

  • I know she doesn't want to work, however it may be beneficial to go down to part-time work instead of full-time. It will be less trying for her physically and still keep some income.

  • We'll need to sit down and discuss her financial life. If she has any debt, types of insurance, other possible sources of income, etc. We'll keep to keep track of everything submitted to Medicare and her supplemental insurance so we know what's covered and what isn't.

Then of course, there's the whole deal of where I'm going to go, where I can afford to live and still get to my mom, how long I'll have to live there, wondering if the BF will ever move here...I'm just kinda in "stop-the-damn-world-cuz-i-need-some-answers"mode.

February 2010 Credit Scores

Because Experian is on that garbage, I could only pull my FICO scores for TransUnion and Equifax. In January 2009 my scores for them were 812 and 817 respectively. I ran my scores a month ago and got the following:

I'm really puzzled as to why my score went down. The most I had on any credit card at the time would have been $150. I don't have any other debt. My bills are paid on time. I check my Experian credit report for free and there was nothing there that would explain a dip in score (assuming my Experian score even went down). I'll have to wait until next month when I'll be able to check the other credit reports for free.

I have more cash this year, a trace amount of debt (at the most $150 at a time that gets paid off at the end of the month), so what gives? I'm hoping this isn't a trend and that my credit reports are ok with no wacky activity. I'm not one to worship credit scores, however I know it's going to come in handy for me in the future when I want to make a big purchase.

Meh. Guess I'll have to wait and see. *shrug*

On Being a Road Warrior and My Stupid Ass Boyfriend

Hold up! Dude! Did you know I was a genius! Check it: Last night I had a late flight to see the BF. I didn't want to pay a bajillion dollars for some lettuce and a bottle of water at the airport so I did the following instead I bought a sandwich, chips, and a cookie from Panera (lurve Panera!) and tucked them along with an empty water bottle in my carry-on. Once I get passed security I filled my bottle at a water fountain. All that deliciousness for $8.50. Yay me! So this will be the drill every time I visit the BF.

Speaking of the BF, he's not stupid. :) We just had a "money talk," saw that I was going to make a blog post and said, "Oh, you gonna blog about your stupid-ass boyfriend?" I wasn't, but since he provided me with the inspiration, why not? Long story short, we had a discussion about money, how he can pay down his debt faster, expectations, how the debt impacts our future, etc. It wasn't a comfortable conversation, but necessary. Every once in a while we have to touch base to find out where the other person is at and make sure we're on the same page. Love is great, it's just not easy. :)

As SingleMa Used to Say, "My Money Is Boring"

Well. Kinda.

My money and I have been a little busy, but I could never really come up with a way to chat about it so I'm just gonna spew words and see what happens. Actually, like I usually do. *shrug*

I lent/gave my best friend $1,000. About a month ago my BFF called telling me about a situation she's in that I wouldn't wish on anyone. She makes light-years more money than me, however as is typical with a lot of women I know, a lot of it ends up taking care of other people instead of herself. She's current on her bills, with very little debt, however all extra that should be going to her savings ends up saving other people in her family. For years I've tried to convince her to stop letting these people rob her of her financial future but...you know... Anyway, she found herself in a sitch and the same people she'd been helping all these years are in absolutely no position to help her when she needs it most. She called me up asking for a grand and I happily sent it to her. She asked to borrow it, and I hope to get it back. However I've made peace that I won't and have checked it off in my head as a gift. I only wish I were in a position where I could comfortably give her more without hesitation.

I'm thinking it might make more sense to buy plane tickets to see the BF rather than using flier miles. I've noticed that the carrier I typically use have been seeing last-minute flights to where I visit the BF for about $110. In my opinion, it makes more sense to spend the cash rather than use the flier miles. I'll take this on a month-by-month basis.

Damn ING Direct. Really?

ING Direct lowered the interest rate on their savings AGAIN, this time to 1.15% APY. Dude. Seriously. Damn. I'm seriously considered moving my money to another bank where I could earn a higher interest rate, however I know this is really going on everywhere. But still, seems ING Direct is quick to decrease their rates before anyone else. This is giving me a lot to consider, especially the idea of starting a CD ladder.

I actually OWE the government money

$189 to be exact. I'm pretty sure it has to do with changing my deductions because I always got money back (about $300), however I changed that a while ago. I'm not sure what could have caused it to be that I actually owe money this year. Especially since I made more money in 2008 than in 2009. Oh well, it's not a lot, so no big deal. I just wasn't expecting it. Still though, I want to look into why this happened.

Anyway, I'll actually file my taxes this weekend along with the payment.

Estimating 2010 Paid Time Off

I have a fairly decent Paid Time Off (PTO) deal. My employer gives me four weeks off every year, including 8 holidays (6 calendar, 2 floating). If I don't use all my time then I'm allowed to transfer up to 15 days to the following year. Early on I recognized this benefit and made a point to carry over at least a week when I first started. Now I carry over the full 3 weeks and have been doing so for the past few years.

Why am I telling you all this? Because in my head, it pays to be as thoughtful about your PTO as your cash. Time, as they say, is money. Those three weeks I carry over not only could come in handy if I need a big chunk of time off, but also as a bit of a financial cushion should I get laid off (which could come in handy, as severance at my company is minimal).

Keeping an eye on my PTO is even more important since I'm in a long-distance relationship. For our situation, since I have more time off than he does, I'll go visit him more often this year. This allows him to bank his PTO and use money saved from travel costs to put towards debt and/or emergency savings. Below is quickie calendar I came up with to help visualize my PTO time, and for us to use to coordinate our visits.

*Please note that the PTO days left in 2010 does not reflect the 3 weeks I have that will get carried over into 2011.

So this is what I've drafted so far, which leaves me 5 days to play around with if I get sick, an emergency,etc. However since I already have 3 weeks that I'll be carrying over, these 5 days must be taken before the end of the year or be forfeited.

I realize that as a single person with no children or other dependents, hoarding PTO time is easier for me to do than others. Even so, I believe that if at all possible, like with having a cushion of emergency cash, we should all have at least a day or two of PTO to be flexible with.

Comments are up!

Don't you all rush in at once!

Comments Drama

Since I'd been living under a rock for the past month of so, I didn't realize that Haloscan has moved to the ECHO platform, which means no commenting ability until I get the comments upgraded. I'm in the process of doing that now, so please pardon the dust.

In the meantime, if you need to reach me, velvetjones3000 at gmail is where you can find me. :)

2010 Goals

Short version of my 2009 goals: Done.

Taking a gander to the status bars on the right you'll see the new goals for 2010. Read on to get a little detail on them in order of importance.

2010 Health Care Deductible Fund—$2,000
Do I even have to tell you how out-of-pocket health care costs have gotten? My employer went from a copy to a deductible model so that means I have to spend $2,500 before the insurance company will chip in 80% of all other costs. I know there are a lot more craptastic plans than this, and still I'm unhappy about it. But whatever. $500 will be taken directly from my paycheck via FSA, the rest will be raise in cash.

2010 Travel Fund—$4,000
While I'll be using flier miles for trips to see the BF this year, there are still costs like taxis and trains to the airport and fees for using your miles (eye roll). Then there's a family member's wedding in the Fall, a possible trip to my ancestral home to see family, and a visit to see my BFF.

2010 Clothes Fund—$1,000
The $500 I allotted last year was woefully insufficient. I'm hoping doubling that amount and being more thoughtful about what pieces I buy will produce better results.

2010-2011 Move Fund—$10,000
This amount should be able to get me in an apartment, get utilities hooked up, and a few bits of furniture.

Car Fund—$25,000
This what I believe it will cost me to get a new, no-frills hybrid, including taxes, title, registration, insurance, license, etc. At least I hope so. I know I'll be able to get to $20k this year. If it turns out I need to buy a car at the end of the year, then that's what I'll have to work with and I'll have to adjust my plans for what type of car I buy. If it turns that I don't have to move until mid-2011 or even later in the year or 2012, then I can get the rest of that total. This is kind of a moving target, but I believe it's important to start saving for a car because I am going to need one sooner or later. Better save now while I have the ability.

2010 Charity—$800
The places getting my money this year are Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary, The Innocence Project, and NPR.

I didn't list my retirement savings as a goal because that's just something I do. I'll be maxing out my Roth IRA...again, however I've drastically reduced my 401k contribution from $10k to $2k. This allows me to have more cash in my pocket but still get the company match.