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Archive for July, 2007

Update

July 31st, 2007 at 07:18 am

Oh there is so much to update.

I had a meeting with my coworkers yesterday and encouraged them all to check their scores and even consider freezing their credit. CPAs have good credit scores and don't use their credit much (at least the people in my office) so I wanted to let them know they could freeze it. I have to say if it had happened to someone else I would not have been so game to pay $30 every time I may want to unfreeze my credit in the future ($10/bureau). BUT having been here, it is probably a small price to pay. IT also probably warrants a lot of letter writing to congress. Why consumers have to pay to protect their identity. It is just a little ridiculous if you ask me...

I called AICPA and they said "no one has reported any ID theft." Yeah right! Not one CPA in all of the US has had their identity stolen in the last 18 months? Whatever. I filled them in and they put a note in my file. If this is a CPA problem though I imagine I will find out eventually just keeping up to date with friends and co-workers. For their sake I hope not. AICPA seemed very unconcerned as far as they were concerned because it had been about 18 months since the security breach, and a year since they informed us. I guess once a year is past you just are s'posed to forget that your data is lost out there somewhere???? I don't follow the logic.

I was kind of surprised how open my boss was to me doing a quick meeting (it is deadline today and VERY busy) but he just was SO concerned. Since I have been a CPA we use pin #s to sign returns and I actually suggested everyone in the office get a pin # when I joined this firm in 2001. Anyway, he mentioned yesterday that his social security # was all over tarnation from the millions of tax returns that he had signed over the last 30 years or so. I mean all you need is one idiot client to toss their tax return in the trash, and there you go. HEck, a photocopy place called my office one day when I was the only one there and so I was answering phones and they said they had a client's tax return. They had forgotten it. I called the client immediately and we all talked about at work how they were lucky an honest employee found it. But to think our own info used to be at risk when clients did stupid things - *shudders*

& I think it was interesting to point out that I am pretty guarded with my info but it still got out somehow. I just wanted to make sure everyone was checking their reports and that they should do the fraud alert (it is very easy to do) in the case it does stem from AICPA.

Anyway, my coworker had some interesting insight. Her last boss's identity was stolen and she had 2 interesting tidbits. One - the detectives said usually identity thieves sit on data for a year before they start using it (wait for the smoke to clear in case the theft is caught, etc.). Which is very interesting and why I am more annoyed at AICPA's indifference. IT was interesting to hear that is the actual pattern of ID theft - waiting a year - which makes the AICPA look more like where this could stem from.

Also, in this case they found out right away but the ID thieves tried to change the mailing address 2 weeks after applying for the credit. Because of this they were able to CATCH them. I have been at a loss as to why they would use my home address and wonder if that is something they plan to do. Rather interesting...

Then again I got home last night and guess was in the mail - a new credit card from Lowes. The only good I can see from this is the ID thieves hopefully wanted to run up a bunch of credit and then run. & not cause me any further headache. Well I can hope. Why else would they just have the card sent to me. I would have found out so fast regardless. I hope this means they are done...

I signed up for the monitoring but it takes 7-10 days to start up or something. Then again I probably won't get all the paperwork from all the cards until then anyway. We'll see... All I can do is wait at this point.

Oh we were also talking about in our meeting how the key was they seemed to have my birth date too. I am not sure how easy it or hard it is to find that info once you have the rest of my personal info (probably easy) BUT we did discuss that we should never give our SS# OR our birth date to anyone who really doesn't need it. What I wonder is if I use a birthdate with the same month and year but a different date, does it really matter for most things? I don't know. Just another interesting point as I had input my birthdate on SavingAdvice when I signed up and later changed it to a phony date once the topic came up here that that is TMI. I had never really thought about it before, but I will guard my true birth date like my SS# from now on - for the most part.

& yes my coworker offered to do free notaries for me. My bank would have been $10/document. Not terrible, but not great either. I'll take free. Big Grin The funny thing is she is rather elderly and I have been thinking of becoming a notary anyway to make some side money. My boss would probably pay for the classes and stuff if I offered to help her/take over for her. But yesterday she starts telling me notary horror stories. LOL. All these clients coming in for free notaries (as it is offered as a free service by my boss) and coming in needing 50 at a time, etc. I came home and told dh nevermind. I said who will I get free notary service from if I am "it"??? I'll let someone else take over that whole thing - hehe. Of course hopefully I never need another notary again. Yeesh.

Well in 2 weeks I will probably filling out a lot of paperwork. I am also waiting for my final police report to do my credit freeze. I did hear you should demand to go to the police in person for a report. as for here, they really wanted me to do it online and it is convenient. I could hardly argue. The police shortage out here is insane - like they truly have time for this. You hear it takes 30 minutes to respond to a 911 call and they ignore calls about potential kidnappings. I am just not interested in wasting their time with something that can be done online. What are they really going to do anyway??? Does it matter if I go in person? Is is really going to be hard to dispute that I didn't open a card at Lowes and max it out in Indiana on Monday? I was at work all day!

I also wonder if this mess would be worse or harder to clear up if they had changed my address before I found out. Oy vey.

Well, we'll see..

Oh finally, I had one more clue. My credit report has an "l" in my street name instead of an "i." Apparently the thieves used "l"s. I know a few of my bills come to the address with an incorrect "l" but not very many. I am not sure if it means much though. The problem is "i" gets mistaken for "l" so much. I think it will be interesting to see the original applications and see if we can determine if they used l or i. If it is obvious what they intended to use. It could be a clue. Or it could just mean nothing. When we bought the house they told us the wrong street name because someone misinterpreted the i. ??? I found it interesting though since I read off my address to all the companies but Express read it off to me with the "l" so it got the wheels turning in my head. I will check for one what AICPA has for my address. Hmmmm...



Express credit Card - Give them PROPS!!!!!

July 30th, 2007 at 06:52 am

I just got off the phone with Express. The reason Express called me was not because they were so on the ball BUT because the ID thieves were really dumb and used my phone #.

Anyway, I just called them and chatted with them and get this. The amount charged up on this card was $0!!!!! They were stupid enough yes to issue the card. BUT you can't really fault them for that. However, the first charges were suspicious and so they DENIED them. They then called me.

Which means there was a $0 balance. OMG you don't know how relieved I am.

They are still sending me paperwork and stuff to investigate, but at least it's not a mark for my score to worry about. I Thanked them very much and told them they did what all the other cards should have done. Lowes was clueless. Macys & Sears said they had tried to call me, but they just let them max out the cards anyway. IT's like what, they were going to start denying charges AFTER the cards were maxed? they didn't notice anything weird until the cards were maxed?

Express checked my credit report twice yesterday that I know of, saw that suspicious activity, and DENIED the charges. just as any of them should have.

I will be sending them a nice letter. I hate the credit industry as a whole, but I feel grateful to them for being on the ball in this case.

-----------------------------------

Expenses I have incurred/will incur:

I will have to pay for a million ceritified mails which is not huge at least.

Looking at all the ID Theft Affidavits I have to file, I need to get them all notarized. I Cringed when I Saw that but my bank may offer free notary service. If not my co-worker will probably help me out for free or discount. I'll ask. She is a notary. who am I kidding - she will do it for free.

I signed up for a free 30-day credit monitoring because it is the only way I can figure to check my report vigilantly at all. IT wil cost me $12.95/month after the first month unless I cancel. I'll probably keep it a month or 2 for peace of mind. (YEah thanks 3 credit bureaus for the ONE free report. Not! I haven't even figured out how to look at Transunion yet and shudder to think there may be more on there. I think I will just pay the $10 to look today for peace of mind).

ETA: I just tried to pull my Transunion report at they won't let me look online since there is fraud alert on my account (nice to see it is working). It is frustrating though that Equifax & Experian let me see my free credit report right away, online, easy peasy. If I can find the time I will call them today and get my free report today. This is ridiculous. I just dread to see if there is more...

Or maybe I should just be happy they are taking more precaution. But mostly it is a PITA. YEah I will find out eventually, but I would like to know NOW what the credit report is showing so I can nip more in the bud I have to.

Irony

July 30th, 2007 at 06:10 am

Well isn't that special? I was thinking I needed a more interesting idea for a blog, and dh did mention hey I could get a lot of articles out of this. The funny thing is I thought the same thing. Not something I really intended to become an expert on or wanted to experience firsthand.

Anyway, I just had to say that isn't it ironic that my info was stolen and now it feels like I have to give all of my personal info to a zillion organizations. Plus more of my personal info that wasn't even stolen. So far Equifax, Experian, Transunion. FTC, police, 4 department stores I never even shop at, etc., etc., etc. It's a little unnerving. Suddenly you want to protect that info that much more, but everyone needs it to investigate.

Today I am going to call the AICPA which I mentioned. I shot an e-mail to my boss about the situation and my concern that it may stem from the AICPA's security breach. I am going to hold a meeting tomorrow and suggest all the CPAs in the office get their credits frozen. Or at least put fraud alerts in the meantime, just in case. I think most of the crowd is up to it. Like me they don't really use debt and all have spouses to fall back on for credit as well. just good to let them know what their options are anyway. I think also it is a good time to have a talk about how we secure our client's data. I know that we had talked about locking up every item with a SS# due to some new laws or something, but we never did. I think insurance companies are required to, and maybe we're not, but the malpractice insurance company recommended it or something. We talked about the logistics of locking up everything we work on every day (difficult and annoying) and we also discussed blacking out any bank account or credit card #s in our files. I think as we move towards electronic scanning and other precautions that have been put in place that there are no longer any accessible SS#s just for the taking when you walk in. But in the past all the files were just in open file cabinets out in the open. I know in the insurance industry they have to follow strict guidelines - in locked file cabinets or locked rooms, or something along those lines. Then again maybe it is kind of ridiculous to think someone could break into your business but could not figure out how to break into a locked room or file cabinet. Then again I guess, why make it so easy. Lots of people come through the office every day...

Well I am wide awake at 6am. I worked out for a good hour yesterday and overdid it a bit. I am whipped. But I have to say I slept good. I went to bed super late and feel SO Refreshed. I think the workout helped. Taking the day off to recover. I'll probably go to aerobics tomorrow and see how I Feel from there. Anyway, I figured I could call Sears and express today before work since they have east coast hours. Phew. Helps. I still have a deadline looming over me for tomorrow and I only worked 4 hours yesterday. I spent so much time on this crap and worrying about it and such; very hard to concentrate though I have to calculate a bonus for this client before 7/31 and I have to disseminate all his info first, in the middle of fighting crime... After tomorrow I should have more breathing room at least.

I filed reports with the police and the FTC yesterday - which will help me freeze my credit for free.

I also read I should call SSA (after reading I shouldn't) and I should contact all of my banks and credit cards, etc. Are they kidding me? Seriously? I am not sure if there is a point and that could take a million years since I just opened like 3 different mutual funds, 3 new banks, and 3 new credit cards in the last few months. The ID Thieves don't seem to have a clue about that info, BUT I guess they are that much closer to fooling a non-vigilant customer service rep with the info that they do have. I think I will call my bank today - maybe my 2 banks which both have a decent amount of cash - and just call and let them know and see if I am required to fill them in and if there is any added layer of security I can add. I do check my balances on everything every day. I just don't want my credit cards coming back and saying I am responsible if something happens, for not alerting them. Beyond that I am not sure what me calling them would help any. None of my existing accounts have been tampered with (knock on wood). Oh well, the day is young. I will call my bank and chat with them at least...

ETA: Thank you STUPID THIEVES!!! Just talked to Express and they used my real phone #. Is the only way I found out so fast. Though the statements rolling in, in a month, would have been a clue. But I am just grateful I found out so fast. At least I had really stupid thieves in this case...

Universal Default

July 29th, 2007 at 04:03 pm

Oh, I just had a horrible thought in the ID theft saga. I just remembered that if something bad from this hits my credit report, that I could face "universal default" issues with my Balance Transfer. Sure I have a good reason and could probably argue with them and clear it up, etc. But I don't like hassle. So I am considering just paying it off this month. I think I will wait a month and see how things progress, but definitely pay it off before any of the charges come due, if they are not cleared up ASAP. Off the top of my head I don't know how universal default works. But I don't expect anything negative to hit my credit report right away, so I think I have some time to ponder?

Just a thought I had. & makes it clear why this can be so devastating to so many people. Just another angle I hadn't thought of.

It sucks, but I rather play it safe. The good thing is that the bigger amount is in dh's name so that one should be okay. The bad is that I had this offer for like 15 months and I paid a $75 fee. Figures. It was probably going to bring in as much dh's, just over a longer period of time...

We'll see... Once my credit is frozen and if all the charges are removed from my credit report, maybe I will stick with it. But something to think about...

I am sure more un-thought-of consequences will pop up. *sigh*

I was just thinking with all the creditors calling me at work next week - yeah that will be fun. I will tell my boss because I know I received 2 notices from 2 professional associations. One is so old I threw away and the other one I don't remember where I saw it - seems it was rather recent. I will never throw away a "possible ID theft" letter again. I feel like a dolt. Something you keep forever I guess. So I will see if he remembers getting these (must have gotten the same notices) so I can call and see if I am the only one this far - if we can maybe trace this down somewhere. & also let my boss know why I am going to spend a good chunk of the week talking to creditors on the phone and stuff. I am sure there will be some raised eyebrows...

*sigh*

Oh and I found this - it was the AICPA:

http://idtheftsecrets.blogspot.com/2006/06/330000-aicpa-memb...

Of course so did the state CPA education foundation - same kind of thing. Except I am pretty certain they never had my SS#. Actually I think in that case credit cards were stolen but they also did not have mine since the boss pays.

Of course I thought the IRS had also had some issues losing SS#s. So you get back to it could have come from anywhere. But if there is a rash of CPAs who become ID theft victims, then we will know I guess. Now I have to add AICPA on my list of calls to make...

Now ask me why I gave the AICPA my SS#? I don't remember. I am usually pretty guarded with it. BUT I don't know. I will think twice next time.

Other places that come to mind though:

Current employer
Former employers
College (they used to put SS#s on our IDs too)
IRS
State Taxing Authorities
All Banks & Investment Brokerages

I am not sure how they ever track down where your ID gets stolen from?

Overtime & Gym

July 29th, 2007 at 07:45 am

I have been more committed to getting in some overtime (took me a while to give in after dreams of a lazy summer, but the pay is motivating I must admit).

So I earned around $260 last couple of weeks and will probably work 5 hours today (& earn around $130). Puts me up to almost $400 (this is all after-tax). Boss will pay it in a bonus, lord knows when. If nothing else will get it 12/31 and hopefully can put it to IRA. Though I must admit I may find other uses for it. We'll see...

Grandma also gives us $1k every Christmas. Ever since we had the kids anyway. Last year I put it to short-term savings as I was just starting to get that under control. I was looking forward to just putting it to our IRAs this year. Just gravy savings - retirement. Unfortunately, I think I may end up using that for the IRS - for my last ROTH conversion. It's awesome to have it to fall back on and all, but I really want to get to the point where all these kinds of windfalls go straight to our IRAs or investments. I am not sure if I will get there this year, but if I make a goal to earn $1k from OT maybe I can use that for the IRS and put grandma's check in the bank. We'll see. Next year I want to put BOTH to dh's IRA which could mean we would only have to come up with $200/month more to max out his IRA. It's an interesting idea. $200/month sounds much easier to stomach than $400. I guess it is still a distinct possibility that we will max out both IRAs next year. But I think it would have to be a good year with little unexpected. What are the odds of that???

Then again I don't want to have to work OT all year either... We'll see. The nice thing is I get paid well. Big Grin

I cleaned up my office Friday and it helps me to see straight. I think I realized part of the reason I have been so stressed out is that I have so many piles of undone tasks. IT is VERY frustrating. In the past I did not have so much responsibility so I guess it is still being in this adjustment phase. I made a deal with myself to try to spend 1 hour a day doing the crap that has no deadline and sits piling up in the corner. IT stressed me out so much just to have so much hanging over my head. It doesn't help that someone just quit and all the menial tasks I have been giving her fall back on my lap. So I will try. 1 hour a day to menial/non-deadline/non-chargeable items. To know that I will get to take home $26 for each of those hours I think will help. I'll feel better, make some progress, and make some money.

I foresee working 2 more Saturdays/weekends as well. After this weekend. I am not sure if it is entirely necessary but I have PLENTY to do and I can't relax until I feel more caught up. So we'll see. I am hoping I get to a point where I don't feel like I am drowning, and that I can take a couple of days off.

In other news we went to the gym yesterday and LM flipped out. Unfortunately the downfall was when I heard a child screaming over the whir of the machines and thought it was him. Dh went to check. It turns out it wasn't him, but when he saw dh he flipped out and demanded to go home. We tried to leave him a while longer but that was it. IT was kind of nice the way the daycare was that it was open so you could hear what was going on, easy to peak in if you went to get some water or use the bathroom. & if you just worked out towards the door you can keep an eye and make sure no one walks out with your kid. It was a good setup. I am not sure how good the security was in there, but the place is small enough you will know if your kid is unhappy or see if they tried to run out the door. So overall I was pleased with it. BM is still with grandma and so though unfortunately we trauamatized LM, hopefully he will not mind going back with BM. I figure next time I might have to sit in there with them for a while until he acclimates and just sneak out or something. He gets trauamatized easily so maybe it was a bad move to attempt it without BM. I don't know. I assume once he gets more familiar with the place and realizes it isn't so bad, and we are right there, that he will calm down and be able to go alone. But we'll see. Dh was griping that he thinks he will only go during the days to get out of the house with the kids, and this may ruin it. But frankly he will be kidless one day a week and BM only goes one other day a week. He could technically go 4 days a week if he can get LM to calm down with BM's presence. We'll see how it works out...

I will probably go work out today. I am pleased - think it is rather convenient. Could be a 10 minute drive with lights but I can pretty much just pop in and out and get a 30-minute workout every morning. I still haven't decided what schedule to take there.

It was funny - I have not been in a gym in about 6-7 years. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Fancy. It's just amazing how all the equipment has come. They also have TVs on much of the equipment and stuff which makes it a little more interesting. I got my MP3 player - I would really like to get some books or podcasts on it though. I think my music selection will get boring after a while. We'll see.

ID Theft

July 28th, 2007 at 05:07 pm

Well, one of my worst fears happened today. ID Theft...

It sucks.

But I feel lucky. Thank you to the very astute fraud department of Express...

The weird news is I get my FICO score from WAMU and I happened to get an update yesterday. My score was down 20 points BUT I had just opened a bunch of accounts and maxed 1 card in a balance transfer. I didn't find it particularly odd, but I did kind of think maybe I should check my credit report. Must have been a gut feel.

Today we went to the gym and when we got back there was a message from Express credit card about my Express account. Frankly I thought it sounded suspiscous and wasn't even going to return the call. But I did some online investigating and didn't see much. I Called and they asked for my SS#. I Said no way in hell and argued with them a bit and hung up. They wouldn't tell me why they called, but I figured at this point I would pull my credit report.

A Lowes card for $3k had been opened and maxed out Monday. I called them right away and got it straightened out. They were very nice/fast. Was on the phone merely minutes - but the fraud department will call me next week to resolve/finalize things.

I then called 1 credit card bureau like the new recommendation says. The FTC says that they will then in turn notify the other 2. Placed a fraud alert with all the bureaus. Dh and I vented and fumed all day. I called my mom. She was going on about those online transactions. The interesting thing is this was obvious someone stole my records. They had my SS# & address, but that is it. I have received 2 notifications from 2 different professional associations in the last year that had records stolen so I am guessing those would be the most likely suspects. But really who knows. The fact is someone only need to break in my office to steal tons of SS#s and personal info. It's all right there for the grabbing. We were brainstorming how easy it was to get everyone's SS#s at our first job. lord knows where they stole my identity from!!!!!! It really could have been taken just about from anywhere. It is the records in business that are so easy for the taken, more than online stuff...

Anyway, later I thought twice and decided to call back the other 2 bureaus. I also tried to call Express back once I verified their phone # but fraud department was closed until Monday. They are obviously on it and I bow down to them. I have no idea how they found my true phone # but I am so grateful. I think they will save me a lot of grief.

When I called the other 2 Bureaus, Experian said go online and I could check my credit report. I figured I would look and see if anything had changed from the few hours I called Lowes. Unlikely, but who knows. It popped up that Macys, Sears and Express had done a credit pull yesterday (did not show up on equifax). So I spent the afternoon calling them. macy's was kind of eh. But Sears was very nice and said they closed the accounts, will notify the bureaus, and will call me next week. They gave me a pin # to use when talking with them. All the fraud departments are mostly closed for the weekend. All of these cards were opened and pretty much maxed yesterday.

Express pulled my credit report twice today - I am sure they froze the account so will just deal with them Monday. They would have to be morons not to with all the credit activity on my usual dormant account. OMG I am so relieved they called.

I will file complaints with the FTC and the police on monday. I'll see if anything else pops up, and once I get a police report or something I can freeze my credit for free. I have been looking at the pros/cons of this and mostly ASAP I will do that. Lord knows who has my SS#. I have no need to apply for any loans, insurance or job in the near future. The horrible downside is you have to pay a fee to remove the freeze anytime you need a credit pull (new job, mortgage, whatever). But I think in the long run it will give me some decent peace of mind. I also have dh to fall back on - I can use his credit to get by if anything comes up and we don't want to pay the fee to unfreeze my credit.

I checked his credit too and looks fine.

The upside I guess is none of my account info was stolen and nothing was stolen off me. The downside is lord knows how much more credit they got and even moreso where this all originated.

For the most part you have wonder what the hell though these places are thinking letting someone open a card on the other side of the country with my California address, and maxing out the card right away. ???? IT is just so frustrating that companies can overlook so obvious fraud in the name of profits. Obviously they get paid well to eat the fraud charges and allow instant credit.

So lord knows if this is the entire war, or just the first battle. All I know is I will spend a good chunk of next week filing reports and making phone calls. On the other hand I think when you hear of stories of fraud in past times the police and the law enforcement, the companies and the victims, just didn't really know what to do. There are a lot of resources out there and by catching it right away I didn't get any hassle (yet). I guess I Can hope all the cards carry through and notify the bureaus and erase it and move on. Time will tell I guess...

Well, I'll keep you updated...

Interest for July

July 28th, 2007 at 08:18 am

$20 challenge:

$8,080.32 - Balance 7/12

$ 108.00 - Interest

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$8,188.32 - Balance 7/31
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$108 in interest this month. Very sweet.

Looking back earlier in the year it was $50/month and has slowly inched its way up over the year, helping my challenge greatly.

With $15k in balance transfers now in place, I expect closer to $120 next month. & in the $100 range for the rest of the year. Woohooo...

This is one of the smartest things I have done since coming here and working on my finances - finding a 5.3% - 5.7% interest rates for my cash. It's an easy way to make more money. When I had double the cash in the bank all we ever made was $40/month at most (1.5%???). So things are looking up. Just an area we were horrible with our finances before and are improving.

Are all the BTs worth it? It's not a ton of money, but at this point EVERY little bit helps. So I'll say yes, definitely worth it!!!

Friday Stuff

July 27th, 2007 at 07:50 pm

I got a bill in the mail for my disability. I just upped it to $4k/month benefit, which is AWESOME!!!! I think $4k would pretty much cover all of our bills but not preschool and some of the extras. Oh well. The coverage is really cheap (& good) through my professional association but they limit it to x percent of pay. I forget the percent, but I just bumped it up from $3500 to $4k and I feel much better about it. I need to check how long that pays out. If for life, we are well covered. If not, it wouldn't exactly cover retirement. But I think if I was disabled we could cut back our lifestyle all the same. Of course it is good to check the terms of the policy and exactly what it entails. I knew at one time but I don't remember now.

The bill was $15 for the increase (for the year). Not bad. Big Grin I'll keep upping it as I can... It costs me maybe $200/year. Well worth it.

I have a professional dues bill to pay. It's for like $160 but my boss will reimburse right away. I'll throw it on the card for the cash back and just pay it with the next bill (prepay) so I don't get tempted to spend it. Or forget why I have another $160 in my checking - which happens sometimes. LOL.

THe hard part is they always ask for x dollars for political action committees and y dollars for scholarships and on and on and on. In past years I have mostly ignored them as I have spent a lot of time not working. But I have to decide how much to contribute. I think all of the things are important. Believe it or not much of the political action stuff is SIMPLIFYING the tax code. Well needed... Which reminds me I have been reading how all the presidential candidates say they want to change the tax code and it makes me cringe. I have had enough - LOL. Gah. It makes it frustrating to plan anything around taxes - you realize how futile the endeavor really is. Tax planning... Oxymoron.

I have to pay the diaper service and the phone bills - throw them on the card. I think then I'll be done for the month. Overall was a good month.

Oh yes and the gym opened today. We are going to go tomorrow and check out the daycare with LM. We'll see how that goes. HE is still small enough I am not sure how I feel. Particularly since his brother won't be with him. Grandma kidnapped him for most of the week... We'll get him back Sunday. The kids together I'll worry less. Hopefully they like it and we can drop them off often!

The stock market is ugly, but I am rather unmoved. I noticed the thread about the 1987 stock market. I can't say I know much about it as a whole (how bad it was how it affected the economy, etc.) since I was only 10. BUT 2001 was pretty ugly around here. I remember it well. IT was a good lesson. But then again the world didn't end. I was thinking today though that the dot com crash and all that was particularly bad in this area with the whole high tech thing and living in Silicon Valley at the time. I hardly know anyone who wasn't out of work at that time. (Except me - which gives me confidence that my job is rather recession proof). & we lost a LOT of money in stocks, and it was just ugly all around. Dh's employer was high tech and at least they did lots of unpaid time off rather than outright lay him off. But since we moved to Sacramento he was the first one eventually cut by a lay off from there.

Anyway, with the whole subprime/foreclosure thing it of course affects this area more than most areas of the country. So once again it will probably hit harder here. Which is interesting. I guess it makes sense though where so much of the wealth congregates, on the flip side so does so much volatility. It's interesting so many people seemed to have not learned anything around here since 2001... I can't exactly say I haven't seen the writing on the wall with this whole mortgage thing for a LONG while myself.

Anyway, this time, we have played our cards different (lots of diversification), and we have recovered enough from last time to know life goes on. But on the other side we really don't have that much in stocks. Not a large percentage of our assets as a whole. We were actually going to start contributing heavily next year and the more the market goes down, the better for us to jump in. Big Grin I imagine though with youth and time on my side, and LITTLE in stocks, it is a lot easier to stomach. I am thinking ahead to the future. I think in the middle, when we start to build some decent investments, but are nowhere near retiring or millionaires, I imagine I will have a harder time riding out some of these waves. IT will be interesting to see I guess. It seems on the bottom end of the spectrum we don't have much to lose and on the high end, well the same thing. Not as much to lose... For now my insanely conservative side helps - I will always have more in cash than we probably should. But it helps us ride this wave too...



Living in the Most Expensive City in the U.S. is, well, EXPENSIVE!!!!

July 27th, 2007 at 03:00 pm

Yeesh.

Was just seeing some discussion on another forum about some guy moving to the most expensive city in th US (which he appeared to be well aware of this fact - talking about San Francisco) and was asking for advice on rent ranges. But it was funny because he demanded all sorts of fancy stuff that I would never dream of affording in San Francisco. He asked if a 4 bedroom for $1500 was reasonable (he had seen an ad). ?????? Where in hell is he looking? Of course someone obviously from the area mentioned that a studio apartment would run a good $1k (not luxury by any means either) and 1-2 bedrooms would probably be in the $2k range. Um yeah, in San Jose our condo would have rented for $3k/month but luxury - hardly. I thought SF was more expensive (though not by much). HArdwood floors, granite countertops, and washer/dryer??? Is he for real? I have never seen apartments like these since most people my age were renting hell holes in the $1k range. & our condo though a decent size had nothing in the realm of that. So I would guess what he is looking for will cost him a good $3k-$5k/month. He didn't say how many bedrooms he needed but it was clear that the thought of a studio hadn't crossed his mind.

But hey, he heard the wages were good. WHo cares that the rent is $50k a year if you can get a 10% raise? Big Grin

He then came back later whining he only had to pay $800 or something for a luxury apartment where he lives now. ???? He said so himself he heard it was expensive. SO why is he surprised that it is REALLY expensive?

I suggested he come look at some apartments and jobs before he decides to move cross country for these "bigger wages."

I don't know, it just annoys me. We have $400k equity in our house and I could probably get a $20k-$30k annual raise easy to move back to the Bay Area, now that I have more experience under my belt. I still have to say I have no idea how we could afford a house even 1/2 the size of ours down there, even with all that to boot. I honestly feel bad about these people getting sucked in. But then you wonder, have they done ANY research?

Oh he was also saying he demanded A/C which went over my head. Someone else pointed that one out. There is no, nor there needs to be no AC in SF. Gah. Is he going to show up in shorts and tanks? because he might just freeze his ass off.

Oh, I am sorry to rant on and ream the guy. I guess mostly I Don't understand how people can make such a rash decision to move across the country with such little info. & with little regard that maybe the most expensive city is more expensive than you imagined. I don't get what is so shocking about the rents. Has he heard of NY? DC? There are plenty of cities that rival SF, unforunately.

I probably mentioned before but we had all sorts of accountants moving in from other states to SF and surrounding area for a $35k wage because it was so grand compared to back home ($30k back home???). They never lasted very long. They always said, "We heard it was expensive but we had no idea." After a while you wonder why the HR is even bothering with them. A giant revolving door. Wasn't the kind of industry that brings significant more wages, not at that level anyway - fresh out of college and all... ANother $20k-$30k/year at this level hardly does much once you pay uncle sam and property taxes - forget about the mortgage...

So anyway, being bitter that I can not figure out how to live in the city I grew up, without great financial risk anyway, I get extra annoyed when people get all excited about the prospect of the wages. It pretty much makes me sick. If you are in the tech industry, you just might make it. But you ain't going to start out in a luxury apartment - for sure. You're gonna live somewhere pretty supbpar and it is still going to be insanely expensive.

Still sound appealing?

IT was funny when we moved here because we always got a lot of questions why we moved. I had a friend who asks me over and over like she doesn't remember. She has been to my parents' home. One day she was asking me again why we moved here. In her head it is expensive HERE so she just doesn't get it. I finally said one day, "um, my parent's house is a million dollar home." You can tell she didn't believe me. "Your parent's house????" That old, little thing??? When she realized I was serious I think her eyes were about going to pop out of her head. I also had a coworker tell me if his wife got a job offer at Stanford they would so move to Palo Alto. He didn't understand why we would ever leave. I asked him how he was going to aford the $1 million starter home? He looked at me blankly. Not to mention he had something like 10 kids. Yeah - a whopping 20% raise is worth paying an extra $800k for a home 1/2 the size???? Did you figure property taxes would be $10k/year or so? People just don't GET IT! Like they figure anyone who doesn't see the joy in the Bay Area is a raving lunatic. We couldn't know what we are talking about. It couldn't be that expensive! Guess you gotta see to believe it or something...




Update on dh rant...

July 27th, 2007 at 02:21 pm

Since I can't comment on my last blog I had to say this in reply to BA who said: "All my friends from all walks of life have had this belief that jobs equated to self worth." The thing about my husband is he feels that way too. So when he gets dejected from that first job he looked at he retreats in the corner and sulks. That is the part I will NEVER understand. My family is so opposite of that. We brush ourselves off and try try again. Anything is possible.

I just had to say he does take care of me and does so much for me non-financially so I don't want to be too 1-sided. But when I am frustrated of course that is the only side I see or need to rant about. But yeah he told me if I wanted to quit or cut my hours he would support me. But Fern guessed right, I am too cautious to do anything like that until he gets a job, and I know I will have a LONG wait.

I was pondering this today though because like I said it is important for me not to raise my sons the same way. Mommy always took care of him so though he has a good work ethic, and once he lands a job he could be a great asset. We actually met working together and I Really admired him because he became management right away. He is no lazy slob. But he just has no skills whatsoever in how to get a job. & you are right he hasn't had to learn. Mommy took care of him until I did. He never had to take care of himself. I cringe because MIL is very take-charge, and frankly if I am honest with myself, MUCH like me. (We really butt heads as such since we're so alike). Then again my parents always expected me to take care of myself, and I plan to raise my boys the same. I don't want to be caring for them like they are still babies, when they are 20... So there is hope for them. Somehow I turned out more like my dad than my mom...

The thing is it is what I signed up for and what I wanted. It bugged me he was persuing a career he hated because his "mommy wanted him to" so all I have been telling him for the last decade is quit working. LOL. Now he quits working and I am bugging him the other way I guess. He probably feels like he can't win.

I was pondering this too today because my parents are much the same, genders reversed. My mom just could not take care of herself. But my dad has always taken good care of her. But she provides so much to him by keeping up the house and such so he doesn't have to worry about the mundane things so much. It goes much the same with my spouse. I could go on and on all day for all the things he does for me. I mean I don't remember the last time I had to go grocery shopping or cook a meal. & I do LOVE that. He does all the laundry and takes such wonderful care of the kids. So I have to defend him a little bit lest I paint him to be a lazy slob or anything. I am the one more likely to come home from work beaten down and tired and go lay on the couch all evening, go to bed early, and ask him to get the kids in the middle of the night. & he won't complain about it, most of the time. I could hardly imagine anything worse than being home all day with the kids. I would just go batty and he does that for me. Even though it hurts his pride somewhat that he can not support his family (well he believes he can't).

Well mostly I swear he ain't so bad and truly I enjoy taking care of him 99% of the time. I think things will change a lot in the next year. I think if we are still going round and round on this when the kids are in school, then we'll have issues. But he is really limited on what he can do right now with my work schedule. Hopefully he finds it easier to step up to the plate more when he has more free time during the week. He may be able to do some temp work or substitute teaching. Stuff he can't do without the money, and even less so the inclination, to put LM in daycare, today. I can hang in another year and see. I am not going to give up hope or anything. If he never works another day in his life, then I may have some issues though. For now it is rather complicated. Of course the only thing worse than him never working again is settling for some crap job he hates. So we may just go round and round on this forever. He still really hasn't gotten the courage to put himself out there and do what he truly wants to do. & that may just frustrate me forever. I am not sure what more I can do. Have tried pushing him, supporting him, leaving him alone to do his own thing because the last thing he needs is another "mom." Nothing seems to make much difference. HE was working on that movie and I was happy for him, but things seem to have fizzled, that whole waiting for stuff to fall in his lap thing because maybe this one isn't working out.

BLAH & money stuff

July 26th, 2007 at 07:49 am

Looks like I will make about $80 interest for July. Received a $40 credit today from MM and my CD will be up $40 in a few days. Plus a few pennies here and there from my other accounts. My big BT was only in the account for a few days. So next month will be the most lucrative BT month - expecting more like $120 interest. woohoo!!!

Well my expense reducing streak is done for the moment. Insurance down, water down. But the last sewer bill had a 8% rate increase. We used to pay $60 every other month, and now it is $65.

The $200 sign-up charge for the gym hit our credit card (as well as the HP book refund. Oh after many calls our book finally arrived yesterday - much drama. We had both finished reading it before it arrived - borrowing 2 diferent books - but was good and will keep for our library). Anyway, gym... Hmmmmm. We have been so good at saving first and living on a tighter budget I am for once at a loss where to come up with $200. I have been really lazy on the ebay/craigslist selling so I have a few weeks to cough up the money. Will hit it from that angle. Sell sell sell. we have $200 to sell easy. Regardless where it comes from I feel it was a very important investment and I knew we could cough up the cash. Don't worry, I am not going to make a habit of buying things outside the budget. Wink Eagerly waiting for christmas to cough up the $200 for unlimited childcare for "life" which will make the gym THAT much more appealing. We'll try it out first, hope the kids do okay with it.

Other than that I just feel BLAH lately. I am sick of working full-time. I want to speed up my part-time time table by about a decade. LOL. I just have to hang tight. Slow and steady wins the race. I think mostly I was so looking forward to an easy summer. Since it has been anything but, I am in a funk. Dh isn't helping. I allowed him to buy his stupid TV if he would cough up the money because it was a really stupid thing to do really. But as usual he applies for one job, doesn't get it, and the world might as well end. I think I am just peeved with him lately, or taking it out on him. Both probably. I am still sick of bringing in so much side money on top of my FT job and his inability to bring in a dime. I am kind of at a loss with him because he always worked many jobs through college and save save saved. Looking back he was always working where his friends got him jobs. He used to make fun of me "wasting all that time" in professional sororities in clubs. Whatever, all I have to do is pick up a phone to get a job with all the contacts I have made. I had 5 job offers the day I graduated college. Yeah, what a waste of time *rolls eyes*. All his friends still work for minimum wage. The only silver lining is the whole TV subject came up again last night. I had mentioned before that Dave Ramsey always mentions delivering pizzas as a great part-time job for paying debts, etc. Told him to go get a job for a couple of months and then be done. If it isn't so bad he could keep it to fund his ROTH going forward. Anyway, some days he says he will do anything (even fast food) to help but his actions speak louder than words. Don't see him putting a lot of effort in a job search. But when we were talking last night he mentioned his cousin who is out of the work (much the same - a lot of brains but unable to find a job for whatever reason - no college degree to boot in his case - lord I hope my sons don't end up like these guys please...). But anyway, he is doing pizza delivery in Sacramento 2 nights a week and dh said he found with his GPS he could make more money because he could deliver more in shorter time. I could see the wheels turning like maybe he realizes it isn't the craziest idea after all (well duh). But then again I get the feeling if he gets a job like that he will want to buy a GPS first. Which mostly defeats the purpose. LOL. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Yeesh!!!!

Seriously, I am not sure I know 2 people smarter than him and his cousin really but they are just about dead end jobs for the most part while all the women in the family (most in their 20s) make close to six figures. It is a little bizarre. My frustration with dh is he applies for 1 job and gives up. Lord help him some day when he NEEDS a job. Waiting for jobs to fall into your lap just doesn't cut it, and he never seemed to have got the memo.

Anyway, if he could help me a bit I Think I could go to part-time now, or within the year, but I just don't have much faith in any help. So that is putting me in a funk too. Lord knows he is not happy being home full-time and it would help both of us if he could find some work. But whatever. We had a talk about it today. I don't expect much to come of it. He knows how I feels. IT's up to him.

I was starting to see a silver lining at work and maybe feel caught up, but someone quit yesterday. It's dismal here... Back to square one. IF people would just stop quitting AND there were qualified candidates it wouldn't be so dismal. It's a catch 22. Pay is good but stress is high. Maybe in a few years we'll get more CPAs/accountants. YEesh. In 2000 we were offered bonuses of 1/3 our annual salary to find qualified candidates. These days I get paid twice as much and I bet that bonus is much more - who knew it would get so bad. I thought it was bad then! Now they are saying 75% of CPAs in the country will be of retirement age in the next decade. Just a little crazy.

Sure I picked the right career, if I wanted to work ALL the time. I value work/life balance too much but struggle with everything my family demands of me for now. I think with things as the way they are though I will probably get a few more raises and will be able to take a much lesser job or cut back my hours significanly for good pay, in just a few years. I think that is the other reason dh and I have been butting heads. He wants much more materialism out of life than I do. Not a ton, but I would be happy to cut back my hours today and downsize our house. He would think I Was insane to suggest it. *sigh* Then again I keep telling myself what if I coul have all this and a part-time job at 35. It may be possible. How many people can say that?

In the meantime the overtime pay is sweet. I like my job enough I don't mind coming in on a saturday. Miss the kids, but don't mind the work. Hanging in there and saving that overtime for now!

But just a glimpse into all the thoughts running through my head of late.

What I find interesting is there is a huge woman demographic when it comes to CPAs. As they pay more, more women are just happy to work less and spend more time with their kids. Every woman (but I) in this office works part-time while all the men are FT management. I am somewhere in the middle since my spouse doesn't work I guess. But it is not a pure gender gap/discrimination thing. The woman are happy to work part-time. They want to. They demand it. Some days I wonder how much Full-time CPAs will be paid to encourage them to work full-time. Or maybe they'll have to pay less to draw in more full-time workers. A strange dynamic where mostly I don't find I will be hitting any pay ceiling in the near future. The pay is still not enough to draw people in so I will probably get another few 10% raises and expect six figures without any management duties. When I graduated college in 1999 you wouldn't make more than $40k at a job like this. It's a little insane. I keep seeing bookeeper jobs listed in Craigslist for $65k. Strangely appealing to me (very low stress!!!!). $65k ain't no chump change!!!! I am blessed to have so many options. Then again some days you figure this can't last forever (we will draw in more talent at these wages) and I should make as much as I can while I am young and jobs are so easy to come by... IT's a strange/mostly good dynamic for now. But I don't want to be forced working into long hours forever either, feeling there is little choice because it is impossible to find or retain employees. An interesting catch 22. I am trying to focus on the good for now. If it wasn't so crazy I Wouldn't be paid so well, so I do have to keep that in mind. IT may speed me to earlier semi-retirement which I am aiming for at 40...

On other days though when I don't see my kids for most of the week it is hard to not get peeved with the whole current work/life balance situation. Just have to look at the big picture I guess...

Cool Retirement Article & Efund

July 23rd, 2007 at 11:38 am

I knew once our efund goal was reached I would be tempted to add more. But as I mentioned one of our not-so-good financial moves was hoarding too much cash in the past and not ivesting well. I am trying to fix that going forward. I mean what it comes down to is not having to work so hard if the money is working for us, right?

Anyway, I just had an epitome. One reason we have been so cash poor of late is we put a lot of cash into a newer car. After having been very happy driving an old car that merely cost me $1k (& not the first car that I paid so little for that did me good) I have mostly come to the conclusion that new cars are not all they are cracked up to me. Then again this one may last 20 years and at least it has collission coverage so I worry less about it getting totaled, as a whole.

Anyway, glancing at our net worth it just occured to me that we have an easy $20k assets in our cars that I know we could liquidate. IF we had to sell both and go buy a $1k car to get us by if I lost my job or something, so be it. It really would not be a biggie or a stretch for us.

So this just popped into my mind. My car alone is worth a good 3 month expenses easy. & though my dh would argue that 2 cars is a necessity, I am not sure I would agree in dire financial circumstances (or a true emergency). Even today obviously we could survive with one car. Since our cars are paid off there is little care about if we could sell them for more than we owe. So I just kind of had a ding ding ding in my head that though we did put a lot of cash into a car, does not mean it is gone forever or we could never tap it. I also feel a lot better about settling for the 3 months expenses in the e-fund, knowing another 3 months would be pretty easy to tap if push came to shove. Just another angle I hadn't thought of.

As the car depreciates we will have far more in the car replacement fund that we could likewise divert. THat one I had already thought of. I figured if we had a good decade we both might buy some pretty nice cars next time around. If not, an old clunker will do. There are much worse things...

-------------------------------------

Anyway, in other news, check out this article on the new automatic 401k plan enrollments.

"This 401(k) plan hums along on autopilot"
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-perfin22jul22,1,779646...

Don't worry, your employer can not enroll you without asking for your permission first pretty much. It is very easy to opt out if you so choose. But I mentioned these in an article for pfadvice and people did not take to it kindly, saying no one is jumping on this. From my perspective with small employers, everyone is jumping on this. This can actually help employers increase participation in 401k plans and reduce some of the limitations that employers face when they do not get enough participation in their 401k plans. I admit I am not much into big business these days, so maybe they aren't excited about this. But lord knows the small business are taking advantage.

This article had a really interesting comparison though on showing how an average person who waits until 45 to contribute to their 401k and invests more in bonds because more risk-adverse, where as the average 25-year-old who is automatically enrolled in a 401k that invests in a Target Retirement Fund will have SO MUCH MORE at retirement. Though they don't have to think about it or do anything - their employer just does it all for them.

It is definitely a good thing for young workers!

Net Worth Update

July 23rd, 2007 at 07:58 am

Well, there is no doubt we will make our net worth goals this year. Well I shouldn't say that. Unless something terrible happens, we will meet our goal. I read that you should grow your net worth by 1/2 of your annual expenses, every year, by the time you are 40. It then goes aggressively up from there, as your assets grow more on their own accord. I figure I am 30 and that is a doable/worthy goal. Puts me 10 years ahead.

So this year I started with a round goal of $25k increase in net worth. Our more basic living expenses run around $4k/month or $50k/year in round figures. So 1/2 of that is $25k/year. I found this a very aggressive goal but I was going to shoot for it.

As of today our net worth is up $20k, and with my profit sharing it will be up a good $25k easy this year. We've pretty much made it. I just noticed, so I am stoked. Not a lot of it is even in investments so there is not a lot that can set us back too far right now.

Our actual expenses probably run closer to $5k/month which would put us at a goal of $30k/year.

I think I will revise my goal to increase our net worth by $30k next year.

$4k Mortgage payments
$5k IRA
$5k Savings
$8k Profit Sharing
$5k Investment Returns
$3k Kids College

That puts us right at $30k. I think it is both a worthy and a doable goal. In case of a bad stock year though I think aiming for a range of $25k-$30k year is probably the way the go. As we could easily live on $25k-$30k in the course of 6 months. Then it goes for the net worth increase.

This is why having 2 incomes and not relying on them moves you ahead so fast... IF dh had a job we could save his entire wage. But since we don't rely on that income, looking at it in terms of our actual living expenses I think makes a lot more sense. If he made $10k/year after tax (not a huge stretch) that means we could technically increase our net worth by $40k with little extra effort. I am just motivated to do as good as we possibly can on my income alone, and then his income down the road will just be gravy. IT was gravy before, but it helped us get into a house and have more time with the kids. Now looking at the gravy of early retirement is pretty sweet. Better yet, just working less while we are young.

Not there yet, but I feel we are well on the way... I mean at this rate our net worth will be in the range of $700k at 40. That's with no raises and no second income. But most of the increase will be in cash and investments. IT is nice that we are no longer putting so much to our home; to watch our more liquid investments grow.

Actually, I think even more exciting, our non-house assets will probably hit $100k this year. Woohoo. In addition our cash paid into our house will hit $90k. It will mean we will have saved up about $190k in our young lives, for the most part. The sad thing is we have invested so badly in the past, our retirement assets are barely more than we have contributed (not a lot of appreciation, if any). That is going to change going forward. I can't even imagine where we would be today if we had invested better. Sometime you just have to live and learn though.

Harry Potter Update - Free Book!

July 22nd, 2007 at 07:02 am

Well, we have quite the Harry Potter saga over here. But in the end our book is free (minus shipping I guess - a few bucks?).

Dh stayed home all day yesterday to accept delivery of his book.

In the meantime his mom passed through Friday on the way to their cabin near Tahoe because her sister had some thing to go to. She is a nun who lives in So Cal for now so they drive her around to these things (conferences?). & the kids LOVE her so they had fun. She handed dh a $20 bill and asked him to go run to Target in the morning and pick up the HP book since she wouldn't be near any stores. However, she called him around 8 and said nevermind because the wal-mart closest to them opened at 7am and they decided they couldn't wait. But she wanted to babysit LM for a few days and will be babysitting my 3yo niece as well, until Wednesday. They stopped by yesterday morning so we could have LM back for the day though and dropped off her book - said to enjoy - she just wants it back Wednesday when we trade off kids. She doesn't imagine she'll have much time to read with the 2 little ones in the meantime...

Thank goodness for this!!!!!

In the meantime no book had arrived and so dh got a head start with her book.

Around 4pm his impatience probably paid off as he called UPS and they told him "we just couriered the books from amazon to USPS - we are not going to deliver them."

What the foo???? Our mail had already arrived so obviously we were not getting our copy yesterday.

We had bought the last 3-4 books through amazon this way and they always arrive first thing in the morning on the day of release, through UPS. I mean, that is the whole point of the pre-order - so it gets delivered to your doorstep on Day 1! & we have been VERY pleased with Amazon in the past.

Dh was livid and he scours his old e-mails for confirmation when he reserved this book MONTHS ago. In fact the original email read it would be shipped UPS and that if it did not arrive on the day of release that we would be entitled to a full refund.

HE had already sent an angry e-mail about the whole UPS debacle before he found the delivery date guarantee.

Amazon pretty much wrote back right away that they were refunding the $18 (We still pay $5 shipping). But they pretty much sent a from letter stating, "Are you sure that your neighbor didn't take your book off your doorstep?" LOL. THey did not acknowledge in the least that they actually did not use UPS - for our shipment anyway. What the foo is that about anyway? Since when do you pay for UPS delivery and get US mail????

They also asked if we were sure the book was not misplaced or stolen that we could request another copy. Don't really see the point unless it never shows. IT will be interesting to see if, and how, it arrives Monday. IF it arrives US mail I am not sure why we have to pay $5 for shipping. Bah.

But we get a "free" book out of the deal and it matters little since MIL's book is here. I have read 200 pages so far... I skimmed the end so I have an idea what happens. But it's kind of no fun because I can't discuss it with anyone. I am a fast reader so though I am time crunched I think I will finish it by next weekend. Since LM is off with granmda I intend to work quite a few hours today and will probably find a few hours of reading too - though dh and I are fighting over the book today. I hope he finishes it tomorrow since he will be kidless for the day... So I can just take it to work and read a few chapters through lunch.

I think my tune has changed since yesterday. I was kind of "eh" on the whole thing, but then of course I had to pick it up and now I can't put it down.

It's a little bittersweet because the last 2 books came out around the week both my children were born. It's weird to be reading Harry Potter without an infant in one arm - LOL. Of course along the same lines, I don't remember much in the details at all - past books. You know the whole no sleep with infants thing probably explains a lot. Maybe I'll remember this one a little more. LOL.

Harry Potter Madness

July 21st, 2007 at 06:48 am

Patience is a virtue, but unfortunately not a virtue my husband has. Lord I hope my kids don't get that from him!!!

Today life revolves around Harry Potter because we couldn't possible wait a day, a week, a month, or a year for the book.

Did I tell you that my husband sat in line for weeks/days to watch several Star Wars movies. Don't ask. He HAS to be the first one to see the new movie, to read the new book, to buy the new PS3. Etc., etc. You don't know what a miracle it was he held off on the PS3 until April this year, but good lord, we got some extra cash and he ran out the next day. HE almost missed the $100 price reduction because he had no patience - LOL.

Anyway, he pre-ordered it ages ago but I just saw the $22 hit my credit card yesterday. I was trying to plan a fun family day but dh is going to sleep by the front door until it arrives. I guess you have to be here to accept delivery.

So I guess I am part of the madness.

I think for past books I have been a little more eager. But this one, well it's the last one. I am not even sure I really want to read it right now - then it means the END! *sob* But then again, I kind of just want to whip it out this weekend so no one else spoils it for me. we were joking we really can't turn on the radio, internet or TV, or talk to anyone for that matter, until the book is done. so spoilers!!!

Grandma whisked off the kids for the week. Well LM For 1/2 the week and then BM for the rest of the week. So we may actually get some time to read.

Overall I think we can get used to this. MIL is a school teacher and retiring after next year. Sometimes we have boundary issues with her and I have been kind of dreading it. BUT this is probably where living farther out has paid off in a sense. All the gas and driving is worth personal boundaries - all I have to say... Anyway, next year she is not teaching a class so she has an immeasurable free time. No spending all summer preparing for next year. So she keeps taking the kids because she is bored. When they are older I can see maybe taking more issue, wanting more notice, not wanting the kids gone all the time, etc. But for now, OMG. LM had a horrible few nights and all of a sudden we get 4 or 5 nights to get a good night sleep? Woohoo!!!

Anyway, we're getting spoiled but she'll be working a bit next year. Then again her sisters and her mother do not work and she will only be working part-time so I wouldn't be surprised if she took the kids more, and the kids will get more time with cousins. All good. By next summer maybe she will take both kids together more often. Big Grin But I guess she is watching my niece all week and so the boys will have a blast getting to much time with her.

I will not have to pay to take LM to preschool next week after all so she saved me $25. will make it up in gas this week easy - will have to drive 6 hours to pick up kids this week. But most certainly worth the break!!!!

Plus I was packing up a bag for LM last night and it just took a few minutes. I love they are getting to an age where you don't have to pack everything but the kitchen sink to leave the house - hehe.

Well I spoiled BM and took him to McDonalds this last week. I had invited his friend to meet up in the evening as a birthday thing, but then Sunday he really wanted to go on his birthday - forget the friend. Hadn't heard anything so whatever. But then his friend was game Wednesday so we just went again. That day they spent more time on the video games than the playland - figures. we both commented how they were like their dads. Video games video games video games. Boys & video games...

But we got a free book. My friend had received a duplicate of a book so gave it to us - was cute.

Today is Wacky Water Day. There is a cute little place called Fairytale Town and they have little waterways through the park they usually don't use. But once a year they fill them with water and bring out a bunch of sprinklers. We went last year on like a 110 degree day and with the COLD water and the shade it was quite pleasant. BM and I went and just had a BLAST. This year they are doing it 3 times (guess it has been pretty successful). We were sick for the June one and I Was really bummed so I am SO excited today. Plus this time I get to take LM (he is coming home for the day before the fam shanghais him for a few more days). I wish dh could go too - hopefully his book arrives early. I know if he just goes once he will be hooked.

Oh & this time we are meeting up with some friends too - woohoo.

We have membership to the park, and believe me we use it, so today is "free." We often go every weekend in the more mild months. Kids just love the place.

I had actually intended to work today and hadn't reconciled the 2 in my head. Instead I will go to aerobics and then take the kids to get wet. Tomorrow will be a good day to work since LM will be gone anyway. I can get a good night sleep, wake up early, get a ton of work done by noon. Will just work from home. Is a plan.

Hmmm, what else has been going on? Yesterday I went to Target to get some Draino. I tried some home remedies but it was just too late. I think we will be a little more vigilant on keeping hair out of the shower and try more things when the clog first starts instead of waiting until it is horrid. I Cringe at pouring that stuff down the drain. Dh and I were just saying we probably really never cleaned out the hair though and that is an issue. Live and learn. I also read to pour boiling water down the drain every week to reduce build up. An interesting idea...

Anyway, I took my $50 gift card (Credit card reward) and picked up a few things like razors, shampoo, thank you cards, etc. I perused the purses but didn't see anything I liked. But I spotted a black tote bag with white snakeskin handles that had my name all over it. I glanced at it and thought. "That is so cool!!!!!" LOL. Much cooler than the bag I had picked up on sale a while back to lug diapers and stuff around. This one looked a little more beachy and will be perfect for water day today. I did not think of buying it, was really just admiring it, but it was on clearance for $8 - it was sitting on the clearance rack - OMG. (Originally priced $30?). I have to say I would not have spent $30, but $8 for such a cool bag? You bet! Hardly a dip in my allowance. I am not even sure I need to include it because it was free!!! I spent $$49.xx so I have something like 70 cents left on my gift card. Dh asked why I didn't buy a pack of gum or something and max it? LOL. I just wanted to buy what I needed. so I have 70 cents left - I'll use it - not to worry! Not gonna waste it on something I don't want or need.

In other news, we are all signed up for the gym but it is not opening until August. We'll see when it opens - I guess they have pushed back the date a few times already. I have aerobics until then. I had just paid $30 for another 12 classes or so.



Kids! & TV ain't so bad...

July 20th, 2007 at 12:31 pm

Kids - Oh who cares how expensive they are, they are so FUN - LOL.

Wink

I just had to say that this morning LM looked at me and said, "You use your eyes?????" He was VERY excited about this because I didn't have on my glasses. I assured him yes my eyes work fine. I tried to explain how I need my glasses to see far, but that went over his head. He was just fascinated that my eyes work after all.

He had a blast at preschool and all the kids were impressed with his social skills. Dh & I are a little underwhelmed I guess because all I know is boy genius BM. Ms. Preschool said she was very impressed and he talks on the level of a 3.5 year old. I was stunned. I said, if he talks like a 3.5 year old then BM was talking like a 5 year old at this age. It's probably good for the wake up call because LM does get overshadowed. I know he is bright but I really lose sight as I rarely see him with kids his own age.

It was at this exact same age (age 2) that BM became a big brother. I am not sure I would have remembered exactly where he was at any stage of development except everyone's favorite story in the fam is when he told them that "Mommy had to go to the hospital to get the baby out of her belly." Having only had 1 child I didn't exactly realize this was an extraordinary sentence for a kid who hadn't even turned 2 yet (was a week before his 2nd birthday). THat's just how my kids talk. I always looked at wonder at the kids at Toddler Time who used 2-words sentences. I don't think my kids ever did!

Inetrestingly, I have taken issue with the anti-TV bashing of late but hadn't got around to posting much about it. I am sure cutting TV out of yoru life is fine and worthy. I am not a huge TV person and don't think you are are missing a ton without it. But my husband is a big TV person and we do a lot of family time with the TV. Ms. Preschool keeps asking me questions about why my kids are so good verbally and frankly I couldn't tell you why. Dh and I are intorverts and we don't get out a lot. I think some of it has to do with the TV. As with anything you can put your kids in front of the TV in another room and ignore then and let them watch violence and absolutely harm them. But there are also smart ways to watch TV. The kids love educational TV and I think it may play a role as some more studies are showing TV is not all bad for pre-schoolers (if done right!).

Of course for us TV is a small piece - we are big on teaching the kids about the world and reading lots of books too.

We also talke to our kids like adults which may be even more the key. I remember when I Took LM to Gymboree I was absolutely astounded all the baby talk. I think he was about 1 at the time. I would cringe to go in there, could hardly take all the high voices and baby talk. That is probably a clue that we just talk to our kids like adults and expect them to talk like adults too - LOL. IT's not like I never play with my kids or never did the goo goo gah gah thing, but good lord, I felt they were insulting my baby's intelligence - LOL.

Beyond that I think most of it has to do with dh being so involved with the kids. Men approach kids very differently. Interestingly I have a few friends with SAHDs as well and all of their kids are just exceptionally bright. It has a lot to do with it. I notice I lean more towards nurturing and dh leans more towards making just everything a learning experience and so that probably explains a lot.

As far as BM, yeah I kind of brace myself for the challenges ahead of raising a bright boy. I feel we have an edge as dh and I both were bright kids and know clearly what our parents did right and wrong, so I hope we have an edge to help him. We were both challenged very differently - dh not enough - me I feel too much - so we want to try to strike a balance. But sometimes I am just at a loss. Yesterday he told me that "Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, but people breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide." I think my eyes just about popped out of my head. OMG. I had to actually stop and think if he got it right. Wait a minute. The interesting thing is that the reason he apparently remembers this (probably from TV) is that he is utterly fascinated by the dynamic of the plants and people - how we work together to survive.

Anyways, he has been 4 all of a week. I think I had the realization, when he said that, that I have no clue what to do with him. I had the first glimpse that my own child is probably going to outsmart me by the time he is 10, if not sooner. IT's such a delicate balance keeping a kid like that challenged and yet not wanting to suck all the fun out of life either. Just challenging times ahead for us as parents. I guess we are both open to the challenge though. IT's a little scary, but I think we may be good for the kids. Neither dh or I want to have one of those kids who graduates college at 10 or something. Dh has some relatives who are VERY bright, one who did graduate college very early, and they both really struggle emotionally and socially. So for us it is important to make life as normal as possible for them. But sometimes you realize it isn't as easy as it sounds. When he spits out stuff like that sometimes I am amazed he can even relate to kids his own age at all.

Exercise on the Cheap

July 19th, 2007 at 07:08 am

I feel like the queen of cheap exercise but it looks like we may be getting a gym membership. I have missed having one (used the college gym for 5 years, had 24 hour fitness membership through my job for a few years while also living in a complex with a gym). So now I have been gym-less for 5 years.

In the meantime I have improvised. Time is short with the kids, but walking is something I do on and off. But it is really hampered by hot weather and random crimes in the neighborhood that leave me not really much in the mood to go on a walk alone or even with the kids. We walk at work often, but not when it is rainy or to hot which rules out a big chunk of the year.

I have a few workout videos that I have accumulated with time and also Lifetime airs Denise Austin workouts every weekday morning - I have my favorite workouts saved on the TIVO. Most of my videos and these tv shows are short, but to the point. They work wonders and I love the little time it takes. Then again I haven't done one of those workouts all year - LOL.

I am really enjoying my aerobics class. It is a little out of the way but it is only $2.50 for the hour, only when I show up. Aerobics for about 1/2 hour and then stretching/yoga, work the arms, legs, and abs. I love the class because it is so cheap, I can show up whenever, very good workout, and we don't use any weights or tools, so it is giving me ideas how to workout on my own. So far I paid $30 for 2 months. I hope to go a little more than just 1/2 the time going forward. & Tuesday I had a breakthrough - my stomach muscles are just stepping it up a notch - I am starting to feel "strong." So that is cool.

I just was flipping through the community college catalog and they are adding a bunch of classes to our neighborhood - right down the street at the middle school - I could walk. An aerobics class for 4 months - 2 nights a week - cost $20. I really wanted to look into that. What the registration fees are, etc. Is that really it????? (Incidentally I just was reading an article that CA community colleges were struggling because they charge so little - I guess $20/unit has been it for a LONG while. So maybe yes it is that cheap!).

I was stoked to have an option so close to home and I could keep up the other aerobics class on saturdays at $10/month or so. I had my eye on cardio kickboxing - something I have been wanting to try for a while but unwilling to shell out $50+/month.

But just one more thing. Dh was productive yesterday with his time - woohoo. We keep getting these ads for $16/month at this new gym if we lock it in now before they open. At first glance it sounds a little good to be true/gimicky so I didn't give it much thought. But I know dh wants to get working out. We had talked about joining a gym this year but decided we need to get our IRAs caught back up first, etc. We can go for more walks. So anyway, he went rock climbing a couple of times, which is expensive for my blood, and he was looking at memberships - they have a little gym. I wasn't really going for it but as with anything I said he could go get a one night a week job at the movies or pizza place to pay for it. He has options if he wants it that bad. There is just only so much my income can support and gyms and stuff like that are just a luxury (that we can't afford) as far as I am concerned.

Anyway, but he still wants to join a gym so he went to check out this place. He called me and said it was like $99 to sign up and pay for the first month. Thereafter is $16/month for life and you can cancel any time. It doesn't sound horrid but I grilled him on the details (free child care he tells me - yeah right!). So he called back to ask them all my questions too. Plus I said hell at that price I want to join too so he inquired on the family rates, etc.

We have been talking about spending $100-$200 on some nice used gym equipment. I think it would be a wonderful investment but the logistics are really tripping us up right now. I want to get something really sturdy and nice and we certainly have the room (not a cheap portable fold-up). But downstairs in front of the TV just won't cut it with the kids at this age. Upstairs in front of the TV won't cut it because the times I work out is when dh is sleeping for the most part. So it's kind of on the back burner for now. But putting that money to sign up for membership and then paying no more than $30/month for both of us to go to the gym is awesome (I can drop aerobics, or significantly cut back, which is $30/month at most).

So dh got back to me with more info. The childcare isn't free (you think?) but you can buy free childcare for life for $198. In the meantime it's $3/hour for both kids. The hours aren't much but they always have childcare between 8 & 1 and the kids nap in the afternoon so it really works out pretty good. Kind of sucks no evening babysitting if dh is ever out of town or anything, but for the most part it is not an issue. If we join we'll try out the situation and see if we even use the childcare that much. They do have childcare until 6 also (3-6?) and so I could work my work schedule around it - meet dh there or something a little after 5 and he can take the kids home at 6, etc.). If we do enjoy it I think we can buy the unlimited thing with Christmas money or something. The free/prepaid childcare for life is worth it if we use it - indeed. But we can swing $3/hour in the meantime. & if the childcare sucks, we don't need it. We can stagger our workouts.

The price for 2nd person is only $13/month. So our upfront fees would be $200 which is fine. Then $29/month for the 2 of us thereafter. We can divert our exercise equipment money to this. I am a gym person - I'll go every day. I will be glad not to drive all over tarnation for cheap aerobics. Wink

So dh pretty much had me sold. No showers, no pool (both fine with me) and you know just not a lot of frills, but we are not big on frills. It is so close to home I wouldn't use the showers anyway - we already have access to a pool down the street - we would never use a pool anyway, Etc.

I was still feeling a little wary on the whole thing (still sounds a little too good to be true) so I looked up some reviews on the place and it actually has a very good reputation - lots of locations nationwide. The place is called Fitness19 - they seem to be a spin off of 24HourFitness - taking the complaints from there and catering to people who just want things simple and cheap. Oh and they are not open 24/7 but they open 5am on weekdays - I think we can work it in... I am not a late owl so the fact they close at 8 or 9 bothers me little.

Of course the gotcha is that they want you to pay $40/session at least twice a week for personal trainers. I think dh's brain went out the window when he tells me he is thinking about it. It's only $20/session if you lock it in now - prepay or something. I said, "for how many sessions - twice a week?" Oh yes, I guessed right. So we had to have a talk about the budget. He quickly realized personal training is not in our budget. He can find the money if it is that important to him...

Anyway, he is cracking me up though because he keeps saying he needs the personal training to get on track (before I pointed out how insanely expensive that really is) and then I said - well - just sign me up - and he is all wary. I am just frustrated with him. I said, look, I will go every single day of the week. Commitment is not my issue. I have weight to lose and having a class or gym to go to will make it 100 times easier for me. I am one of those people who can eat whatever the hell I want and go workout every day and be a size 0(well used to be before kids). & now that the kids are a little older and I have some breathing room I would love to get to they gym again. I understand him not wanting to shell out all this money if we're not going to go but I don't know why he doesn't just sign me up then. HE can join later after I check it out if he is wary about it. He's the one with the commitment issue. Well maybe we could motivate each other but with the no evening childcare I am not sure how much we can really go work out together. It is something we'll have to figure out.

He was saying - "Didn't you stop going to 24-hour fitness because you never went?" I am like um, not I stopped going because there was none in our area when we moved AND we had a gym with our condo dues - remember? LOL. & it was just never in the budget when we moved up here. I miss the gym something awful, particularly now that I Really have some weight to lose.

Overall we have a week to lock in the low rate "for life" and I am game. We'll see how it works out.

Oh yeah the other catch is we can only use this location. So basically as long as we never move, we're set. I have no interest in paying out the nose just so I can use other locations. So sounds good to me!

Actually I am excited! I could go run over and hit the stair climbers every morning before work or something - I am usually up at 5 or 6 anyway. What the heck. Or an after-work workout won't be so time consuming as my aerobics class which I Was pretty unsure I could keep up with in tax season. So I am actually really excited!

I'll probably still look into the community college aerobics in the meantime. The price tag is good at face value. I'll save a lot on gas - and time - over my current aerobics gig. IT could be a good supplement to the gym.

Hey I may actually lose some of this baby weight! I got 25 pounds - 12 pounds each kid pretty much. Actually it's 10 pounds kid #1 and 15 pounds kid #2 (was 20 pounds - he was brutal on me - my hormones are just whacked - I gained the weight with him after I had him which is the weird/annoying part). I think a lot of that is age. I no longer have the metabolism of a 20-year-old - that is for sure. A lot of it is hormones. Lord knows if they'll ever settle down.

But if I could lose 10 pounds AND tone up it may be all I need. I am not sure if losing all 25 pounds is a realistic/worthy goal. I used to be a waif. That's the plus. I don't have a huge long way to go. We both just want to be in better shape for the most part.







Credit Card Arbitrage & Insurance & Gilroy Gardens

July 18th, 2007 at 10:42 am

I was just wondering the other day if I will ever get to a point where I don't need insurance. I just saw another post on the topic =- insurance.

It just makes me sick how much we shell out in insurance.

Annual:

$8,000 Health (increasing 10-30%/year)
$1,500 2 Autos
$1,500 Home
$500 Life
$200 Disability
------
$11,700/year

What am I forgetting?

Of course the house insurance doesn't really bug me. $1500/year or so (trying to remember off the top of my head because it increased last year) to protect a $600k asset in a flood zone doesn't seem so bad.

Life insurance coverage of $1 mil doesn't seem so bad. Disability insurance to cover our current level of living expenses(inclusing insane health ins.) is not a bad deal at $200/year. These are lower since we locked rates in our 20s for these.

The auto insurance bugs me because we have perfect driving records (knock on wood) but I guess that one comes back to medical to. I mean most of the expensive part of the coverage is medical. We don't even have collission on both cars.

So I guess mostly my pet peeve is with medical insurance. Just insane.

So at the end of the day a good 16% of my income goes straight to insurance. This is just mind blowing to me. Before we had kids we made six figures and we paid about $3k/year for all of our insurance. We didn't have life or disability at the time, but everything else. from 3% of income to 16% of income in just a few years. Of course it had been hitting more like 25% of our income for a while there. Yikes. This is the part that has blindsided me about having more assets - the cost to protect said assets.

We have been slowly adding more insurance through the years as we could afford it (well likewise decreasing our medical coverage to a more affordable level). I feel we are in a good spot on one hand, then again I just see it as a never-ending battle as far as health costs. I keep wondering if it will get easier.

I will probably keep all of our insurance because I am not much of a risk taker. But I am sure it is something you think about once you have some really decent assets. Then again then you start thinking umbrella assets and even more ways to protect your growing assets.

For us the next step will probably be long-term care insurance - I just feel it is too early for now. We figure we'd evaluate that in our 40s.

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In other news I got my balance transfer check - woohoo. It should hit my money market tomorrow.

I am estimating (& have locked in the interest rate on most of it) that this will yield us $60/month for 13 months and $40/month for 8 months thereafter. I will have $15k for 13 months and $10k for 8 months, with 3 staggered balance transfers. & paying down 2% per month. So these are some very round figures. I paid one $75 fee so considering that I expect to net around $1k. It's kind of an interesting experiment but would pay off far greater to have some higher limit cards. Then again $1k is nothing to sneeze at!

Since my cash is doing good I guess mostly I am diverting this interest into my new T Rowe ROTH IRA. All I needed was $50/month to get started, and once I hit $1k I don't need to add to it monthly. So it is an interesting way to look at it - the arbitrage is buying me some ROTH IRA. I was going to do it anyway in 2008 (more like $400/month), but started a few months early with the credit card money. Definitely a nice head start...

Anyway, I generally don't like to set up automatic payments for my bills, but I have just set up automatic payments for my new ROTH and for the kids' money. I will also have to set up automatic payments for the balance transfers - haven't done it yet. I must say I am playing it safe and just paying those early in the cycle - not closer to the due date. So I could take greater advantage, but eh. It might limit my returns a bit as I will probably pay back a month early too just to be way on the safe side and not mess with it.

Anyway, whereas I don't like the idea of vendors being able to take money from my account monthly (in case I have a dispute or they make an error) I do not mind so much for investments I guess. I'll make that exception.

I intend to get a lot more automated on my savings in 2008. Would love to get to a point where I don't even think about it. Beyond setting up/changing automatic savings with every raise...

----------------------------------------

LM went to preschool today. Dh gets a free 1/2 day today. Lord knows what he is up to - hopefully either relaxing or something productive. Preferably something productive. He is just starting kind of on a drop-in basis. One 1/2 day a week is about my limit of affordability for now. Until January. I will allocate some of my raise to that, then. IT will only be for 9 months then before BM goes off to Kinder, LM takes his spot, and no more paying out the nose for preschool.

I remembered I have to run by Target for a few things so called dh and asked him to bring me the Target gift card at work (aha - won't cost me a dime - thank you credit card rewards). He said why doesn't he leave it at preschool for me when he picks up LM? Woderful idea - saved a few cents in gas. Wink

--------------------------------------

In other news I have been having this wild urge all of a sudden to take BM to this really cool little place called Bonfante Gardens. I have been trying to talk dh into all us going and he isn't going for it. I forgot about it for a while, but got it in my craw the other day. I decided I could just take a day off work and make it a special mother/son trip. Excited about it! Maybe in August...

I was just looking up prices yesterday and was shocked in all they had added in recent years. I just had to throw it out as if you are ever in Northern California - you just have to check this place out if you have small kids. It is so delightful. I think the place is 100 times better than I remember - more rides and some newer water features.

http://www.gilroygardens.org/

The place is a little near and dear to my heart as they were one of my clients back home (audit clients). We were there when a lot of the building was going on and the owner (who made it a non-profit) just seemed like a REALLY nice, decent guy. HE had owned some grocery chain and put a lot of money into this which is just his dream. He loves plants and gardening, etc. The gardens are just spectacular. For a while it was really up in the air if it was going to take off, but it really looks like they have done a lot of work and the place is thriving. Every once in a while someone up here finds our about it and just raves to the moms groups, etc. So as word gets out, the place has hope. But I have not been since I worked at my last job (6 years or so) and I know the kids will just love it.

Anyway, I have allocated my writing money for fun/family stuff and my June profits will pay for our admission. Plus for $2 extra I can make BM's a season pass in case grandma wants to take him sometime or something. Definitely worth it.

Yes, for us parking and admission would be covered and we could pack a lunch and picnic to keep costs down. It's about an hour from my parents' home so we'll have to go visit them on a Sunday, sleep over, and take full advantage of a full day in the park. The only downside is the weather is darn hot in the summer so I may postpone to September when they are only open weekends. Though call since I hate crowds - but we'll see how the weather is.

Which reminds me it is raining here today. Extrmeely bizarre - it generally doesn't rain here in the summer. But I LOVE the change in weather (& break on the a/c).













T Rowe/Vanguard & PT Moms

July 17th, 2007 at 11:34 am

Just a question/insight.

I just set up an Automatic Asset Builder account with T Rowe Price - ROTH IRA. I've been intending to open account with them for a while.

With Vanguard I had Automatic Investments for dh's IRA for a short while and I recall not being able to use those for prior year contributions. I kind of found that a shame since we are trying to put as much as possible to prior years so that we can take the most advantage that we can from IRA contributions. If dh gets a $400/month job we will be beyond maxing out all our tax-deferred accounts and will have to resort to taxable accounts. So it's kind of a conundrum being so close, yet so far. Not really near maxing out both IRAs as of right now, but the simplest of second jobs or additional income could leave us scrambling for some tax streategy, with two maxed IRAs and more left to invest. All we can do is just put as much as we can to prior years in anticipation (e.g. January through April contributions can be for the prior year).

Anyway, just setting up my T Rowe account and it asks if I want to make my January - April contributions for the prior year. Um YES!!!!!

I think that is an EXCELLENT feature.

Now is it just me or does Vanguard not have that? I wish they did too.

Going forward I am planning to make monthly contributions to Vanguard and to T Rowe.

I guess this means I should maybe contribute heavily to T Rowe during the January - April months... Big Grin I may be able to squeeze an entire 2007 ROTH contribution in 2008 without messing up my dollar cost averaging strategy. That is sweet. Sure I could save up the cash and make a lump deposit in Vanguard, but wanting to start making monthly contributions, I really wasn't pleased with the option overall. So this is cool - I can have my cake and eat it too...

The downside is this will be a little harder to keep track of. Will have to keep all my years straight. Right now I have a "Retirement Contribution" or "IRA Contribution" line item in Quickbooks. I think I will have to make one for each year (and separate ones for dh and I as well) to reduce confusion and keep an eye on the limits. Definitely good; definitely confusing.

ETA: Since I can't comment from here. Yes but Vanguard does not let you use automatic investments in January - April to fund prior year IRA contributions - is my point. Last I saw. Just wondering if I am wrong or someone found a way around it. This question is specific to automatic investments in january - april.

T Rowe lets you and that is very cool.

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Oh - also just saw a very interesting article:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20070716-1429-pa...

Story of my life. Definitely my goal to be PT. FT mom or FT employee - blech - I like the balance of both...


What % Net Worth in House?

July 17th, 2007 at 07:27 am

http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2007/07/what-percent-of.html...

Just an interesting discussion. Something I hadn't really thought of and found it hard to quantify in terms of living in a High COL area. I find we have little control in this equation ourselves. Is it bad we bought a home that appreciated a ton? I don't think it was through no fault of our own. So our house appreciates more than we can save, what's so bad about that?

I think it is much more important to focus on buying what you can truly afford, and keeping housing costs down in general, which was always our goal. Why did we buy a condo immediately out of school? Because it was cheaper than renting. Why did we move 2 hours away? To limit our housing costs.

At the same time we thought long and hard about what and where we would buy. If we had to sink $300k to get into a house it was going to be a house that was set up for some long-term appreciation. A house that could hold its value well. So we have a house that has done just that (& then some). But we're bad off because 80% of our net worth is in our house??? Should we just have bought a house that couldn't hold its value?

Of course, I think the point is twofold. When you buy in a high COL area the affordability of a home AND limiting your housing costs are just the MOST important factors by far. But maybe this exercise is important to remember not to rely on the value of your home as a factor of your net worth. I certainly see that point. It's not like I look at my house and say, "wow - I don't need to save fore retirement." & that is probably a good point. I am more likely to pay little attention to it as far as our overall financial goals.

Affordable housing locked in for life? check! Moving on...

While I have many friends who are in the 20-40% range who can't afford their mortgage...

I do notice that having so much of our net worth tied up in our house has changed one thing about our strategy. While so many people here look very favorably upon prepaying their mortgage as a matter of comfort, I feel the opposite. Sinking more cash into an asset that is already so overvalued, it just makes me feel queasy. What is the point of making ourselves more house rich? Having all of our eggs in the house basket? Of course this comes also from the comfort of knowing we could simply move (even in the area if we downsized) to pay off our mortgage. That our next door neighbor pays another $500/month over our mortgage to rent a house half as big. So it is this equity richness that has changed our feeling greatly about carrying a mortgage. I feel more comfort carrying a mortgage than not around here.

But it is impossible to keep the net worth of our house in line with the rest of our net worth. Heck, our parents both have houses that they bought in the 70s that are long paid off and worth 10-15 times what they paid, today. I would venture to guess that in both cases their net worth is more than 50% home, but means little. They have saved plenty for retirement and don't intend to sell their houses for retirement monies. I think that is more important than ratios. I agree that you want a paid off home in retirement and that you don't want to rely on it for cash/retirement. Agreed agreed. But having 80-90% of our net worth tied up in our home in our 20s reflects little of how we plan to retire. We actually plan to pay off our home in our 40s and look at our house as a backup/emergency plan. IT feels nice to know you can move anywhere in the country and pay cash for a house. Doesn't mean we're counting on it overall. Just another leg to stand on if something horrible were to happen to us financially. Another emergency fund, another plan.

Maybe in some areas where housing appreciation is steady/muted you can keep better control of your net worth and your house as a percentage of said net worth.

As for me I make no apologies for the fact that my house is 80% of my net worth today. I think it would be great if it stays that way - LOL. 20%, 90%, means little difference to me. As long as my retirement is sufficient and my ducks in a row, its the best I can do rather than make sense of much else in such an insane housing market. Looking back to our parents as an example this "bubble" is 40 years in the making... From what we can tell not much has changed in 30 years. IT was insanely expensive then, and still is. As such, none of the regular rules of thumb seem to apply in the land of insanity...

We might receive some hefty inheritances, we may move somewhere cheaper and retire young (all due to the housing market). Lord knows. But if the market crashes I don't see it affecting our lifestyle or our overall strategy. Its just a perk in the meantime I guess. You can't look at it as much else I guess. We are just lucky it isn't our handicap or achilles heel as it is for most young people around here. Trying to figure out how to afford rent or mortgage. I am glad not to worry about that - we worried about it plenty in our 20s.

Easy Come, Easy Go...

July 17th, 2007 at 06:44 am

Though I guess it could go a lot easier...

I was listening to Dave Ramsey yesterday (just interesting) and someone called with my income and said his mortgage was $1700. I choked. Dave Ramsey said his mortgage wasn't the problem. I choked again. LOL. But he knows what he is talking about (sort of). He also had $700/month in car payments as well as credit card debt. I thought dear lord, if I added $400 to my mortgage, and almost $1k/month to debt I would be BEYOND broke. It is eye opening to listening to these stories. I feel like we have it tight enough as is. I feel we live quite well, but lately it just feels tighter than it should be. I feel conflicted on the mortgage comments as the caller was clearly scared his mortgage was too much and scared Dave would tell him to sell the house. I think that comment speaks volumes. He *knows* they bought too much house. Heck, now that I think about it he said their combined income was in the $70k range. They need 2 incomes to support their mortgage - which is just dangerous. So I think Dave missed a big one. But then again he was right too - he had bigger issues...

I was cleaning some files and saw my list of bank accounts/important info and saw we have 4 bank accounts, 6 retirement accounts (between the 2 of us) and now 2 UGMA accounts. Most opened in the last year. It's a little overwhelming. I don't foresee opening any new accounts in the near future though. We've just been in the process of re-organizing. Gosh, we may have 7 credit cards as well. Though 3 are solely for the purpose of balance transfers & 1 is an old one dh has yet to close. We only use 2 cards and dh has a backup card. I closed my backup when we got a second rewards cards for bigger rewards. But he isn't big on closing cards like I, so he has more...

It adds up fast! Of course before getting organized we had maybe 4 retirement/investment accounts and we had 5 bank accounts (at 2 institutions) that we have since closed. So lots of shuffling. I just see a list of financial institutions growing fast. But for the long-term I Feel much more comfortable spreading our money around (not all in one basket).

I am anxious to move ahead on some retirement things and just have to remember to hold my horses. I think we are doing well on cash and I could probably do all I want in a sense, but I have to remember we have $10k tied up in a CD and the rest isn't really our money (lots of balance transfer money). We need a cushion over the $10k in case the BTs make me skiddish and I decide to pay them back right away. Anything can happen...

Plus I found we were considering $100/month for LM for preschool and $50/month to the kids' college. I am getting antsy to open my T Rowe account which would be $50/month. But I also need to save up a good $2k for the IRS. If everything goes perfect between now and December we can swing it, but isn't that the big "IF"? Part of me feels like, eh, we got a good $10k, do we really need more in an efund? Twice as much as we had a year ago! I am just not sure if it makes that big of a difference, truly. Shifting more to retirement than I originally intended...

The other things in my mind are that I want to divert $1k into an IRA I opened but gave up on the transfer because both financial institutions were difficult. The account sits open with no cash and as long as that is okay (so far no complaint) is fine with me but now that the dust has settled I wouldn't mind diverting the $1k minimum to open the mutual fund. This one is pushing it for now, but a cash advance on next year's contributions to get this account settled is not the worst. Just more "retirement over cash" thinking. I would probably be wise to just hold off as long as I can - until they send me a notice or something. Even if they close the account I can just start over later. Then again maybe I should just suck it up, pay the stupid medallion fee AGAIN and transfer. I am just so annoyed the other financial institution called me 3 times to straighten out the problem and this one just sent me a note that I had to start over - medallion fee and all. Bah. But $10 is probably a lot better than $1k...

I also would like to divert $1k to start a taxable account, but I am not sure. I don't think we will add a ton to it right now, but I would like to divert a little of our cash savings into an investment account so we don't get too cash heavy. Overall I think this can wait another year though.

Mostly I find all of a sudden I find that we are doing much better than I thought and all these competing wants rear their ugly heads. I just have to prioritize.

I think the $50/month is small beans for T Rowe, and also that I can come up with the money if I put some effort to ebaying and stuff like that. So that one I am going to go through with. May be a bit hasty, but not a big dollar amount.

I don't have much choice with the IRS.

I guess once July is over I can attempt my IRA transfer again. Bah. Of course now that I think about that one I can't because I just converted the original account to a ROTH. Figures. I forgot about that whole thing. Guess I have to close the other account anyway. No more regular IRAs here... Sometimes it helps to just think aloud and realize stuff like this. I can hardly keep it all straight. We are officially all switched to ROTHs though (well - in the process) so will make things easier going forward. I just need to close that account before I forget it is not a ROTH anyway... Hadn't even thought about that.

99 cent grocery canvas bags

July 16th, 2007 at 01:16 pm

Dh is cute.

He ran to the store for eggs last minute last night and came home all excited the store had those canvas bags for sale for 99 cents.

Of course he didn't pick any up because he'll get them tomorrow. ???

Okay then.

When he mentioned I just kind of thought I have no idea why we never used canvas bags before. Even earlier in the day I dropped by the store to get 2 cans of frosting and went to the self checkout and just popped them in a bag without thinking. I didn't need it. I usually say no thanks with a couple of small items, but my brain went out the window on self-checkout.

So yes, overall I think we do a lot to try to reduce our economic footprint, but we still need lots of work! This is a good step. Hopefully he buys a lot of bags while they are cheap.

Dh and I are also big on showers. He likes them long and I like them hot. Kind of our luxuries. I have been thinking though that in the heat the water is way too hot so I turned down the water heater last night. I was surprised it was already set to "warm." Obviously the HOT side of warm - LOL. I know I always roll my eyes when they say turn those way down when you have small kids. Like the infant is going to jump in the shower by itself and get scalded. I keep the water rather hot because I like it hot but we are extremely cautios with the kids. But it is probably more of an issue as they get older and into more trouble on their own. Anyway, I turned it down a tad and probably could turn it down much more for the remainder of summer. We are not even big on hot water for clothes washing so really don't need it too much. Today the shower was plenty hot so I will probably keep lowering it until I find the sweet spot.

But I also thought maybe with the new water metering we could work to shorten our showers. I wouldn't be surprised if we both took 15-20 minute showers. We don't necessarily shower every day. But I am sure I could take a 5-minute shower every other day. I don't have a beauty routine or anything.

Something to try anyway. I am not sure if dh will go for it - hehe - but we'll see. For us I think it is really our ownly quiet/relaxing time alone so we enjoy our showers immensely, but I can go meditate in the closet for the other 15 minutes if I have to. LOL. I think it will be harder in the winter because I just love to warm up in the shower on a cold morning. Then again it's so cold you don't want to stay in too long. I guess it can go either way. Well, I'll try. I might need to invest in a timer. I don't need to keep the water so hot in the winter if I am going to keep it short, and probably better with the kids too.

2007 Goals - WOW

July 15th, 2007 at 08:28 am

You know what they always say about writing down your goals and how much easier it is to make them happen... I wrote some pretty aggressive goals and am shocked I have even exceeded some of them...

Goals that I wrote in 2006 for 2007:

2007 goals:

**Save $10k in cash.
I wrote this before I knew what my raise is so between my raise and a significant cash gift I was able to. But still. It is only July and I have surpassed this (months ago). I have one more important thing to take care of (ROTH conversions) but project I will have $12k in cash easy by 12/31. Since 2007 started I have made that my "permanent" efund goal.

**Actively manage investments. 10%+ returns, but depends on market.
Well that's been easy this year.

**Resist the urge to prepay mortgage. This is just silly until ROTHs are fully funded and savings is where I want it.
I paid of $60 so I failed for a couple of months - LOL - but I am back on track. I still struggle with this one though it makes much more financial sense in our situation to invest than prepay mortgage. As long as we haven't fully funded our ROTHs anyway.

**Resist the urge to prepay personal loan. Silly silly silly. I extended my goal for payoff to December 2007.
Oh, I failed this one but that's okay. I only failed it once I hit my cash goal and so I won't consider it a "failure" in the least. I didn't think I would have so much cash so early in the year. Glad that was paid off long ago - Big Grin

**Set up allowance system for dh and I. will open new high-yield savings for this.
We did. We both have a negative balance but that is okay. We have cut our expenditures significantly going back to allowances. Heck we wouldn't think twice spending $100 here or there before and now we are stuck with $50/month, but it hasn't been particularly hard. I don't expect either of us to exceed our $600 allotment for the year as a whole. We both tend to take little advances (or big ones) but take the budget as a whole quite seriously.

**I also set a monetary goal to have $150k in our retirement by age 35.
Well, still working on it. I guess making my cash goals makes us that much closer though...

---------------------------------------

However, it is amazing to me how much my goals have evolved in the last 6 months...

2008 Goals:

The year is young but with our efund up to par and the car paid off we can focus on much more important things next year:

1 - $400/month to IRAs (one full IRA)

2 - $100/month to car/house fund
(plus $100+/month interest from efund & credit card balance transfers)

3 - $2500/year in overtime to car/house fund

4 - $50/month to kids college fund

6 - Scrounging up another $5k any how for a fully funded spousal IRA too. Overtime, ebay selling, focus groups, save cash gifts, dh working a bit, wherever we can scrounge up money...

I am not sure we will meet his IRA goal in 2008, but I guess I should just make it a goal and go for it!!!!!!!

If we did make all these goals we would be making 25% of my gross pay to retirement contributions and saving considerable cash for house/car stuff so we could move back to more luxuries and extras going forward which is pretty sweet. A raise in our allowance would be really sweet.

The other sweet thing is the more we put in our car/house fund (same bank account as the efund) the more interest we earn and the less we have to contribute. I am not sure I have ever been in that kind of spot before. It is nice to only have to throw in $100/month and my tax season bonus and know we can pay cash for 2 new cars in just a few years. Or have the cash for any work around the house. Alternatively we can choose to buy very modest cars and have the excess to splurge if we so desire. Going forward we will divert some of that money to investments. I am aiming rather high to get a good cushion in there and hopefully have to save less down the road as it earns more on its own accord. I am aiming for it to grow $5k/year which is probably far more than we need for our cars and for house maintenance. But gives us a little cushion for more unexpected expenses...

Then again life happens so who knows... Wink

It will be very interesting to see where I set my goals once 2008 rolls around. A lot has changed in 6 months and the year is still young!!!

Mostly I notice my goals went from a kind of frantic catching back up from a fall TO more organized and more thought-out goals. Trying to prioritize some things and meet many goals. From "saving money" to "saving x per year for this and y for that." It is some organization that we never had as before we just saved everything for a house. We saved everything the ability to be home with our kids. Now we have a more more mature, long-term budget. We have a few short-term goals and many more long-term goals. I don't think we could see very far past the next few years before. Which was fine, it worked out okay, but I am glad to look at a more broader picture going forward.

Birthday Day

July 15th, 2007 at 08:01 am

Silly me. I already mentioned but I asked BM wherever he wanted to go out today we would splurge. Well, #1 is McDs which surprised me a tad. Well sure we can go play on the playland and spend a couple of bucks on a Happy Meal if he likes. But I said, well how about dinner? You can go wherever you want or we can cook your favorite meal at home? What do you want?

"Chicken & Stars."

LOL. I think it is just like something in a can dh gives them as a treat once in a while. Like sphaghetti-os or alphabet soup. I guess it's like chicken soup with pasta stars.

It's funny dh and I were so excited by an excuse to eat out we thought the kids would really enjoy, but all they want is a can of soup. As evidenced by the boringness of home cooking and the rareness of eating out, that is all they really want. Hehe.

Anyway, BM did get a transformer toy from LM, and a computer game as well as a remote controlled helicopter (we saw it at a friends' home - kids LOVED it - and dh spotted it on sale somewhere a while back). The kids also got Stomp Rockets...

http://www.amazon.com/D%2BL-Company-Junior-Stomp-Rocket/dp/B...

I haven't seen them in action but some kids at the park had them and were letting the kids play with them and they just could not stop talking about these rockets. Dh happened to see these on sale for $5 at Ross or Marshalls (one of those) so he grabbed them.

So for today I am taking the kids out to play in the morning, popping by the store to get frosting for cupcakes, and then dh or I will take BM to McDs for lunch. Probably me because I would love some friend and/or a sundae. Yum yum! Nap time, and then tonight when it cools down we will have to go try out the stomp rockets. Oh after our Chicken & Stars dinner.

Doesn't keep much to make the kids happy...

In other news I just had a revelation. Since my efund is doing so well I will divert $700 to the IRS for ROTH conversions. I have 2 IRAs and I have been waiting for the market to bottom out a bit (and also to save the cash - even moreso) but I am getting to the point where I have the cash to cover it. So it just occured to me my one IRA is in a very slow fund right now. The managers converted a ton to bonds and cash and it really hasn't been going up wildly as the rest of my funds. I decided I might as well convert that one now. I can fund both without dropping my efund below $10k.

So I will get rolling on that one today or tomorrow. I figure I have until 9/15 to send in the tax.

The other one, I am just not sure. Of course if I think about it, if that fund dropped 10% it would only be a $100 difference in tax. I almost should do that one first because I need to add some money to it so I can move my $100 cash to a mutual fund. Hmmmmm.

I guess it's just time to bite the bullet and do both. I should have $1700 for the taxes and a good $11k back in the e-fund by then. IT shouldn't hurt my goal to get back to $12k by 12/31 and it really needs to be done. Our tax situation will be pretty equal to last year. Last year we converted $20k to ROTHS. This year we'll convert $15k but I got a $5k raise, so it will even out. Of course I probably get even more overtime and maybe a bigger year-end bonus - but overall not more than $1k or $2k. I think it will be a pretty equal tax year. Which means I will report around $90k in income at a 15% tax rate. Woohoo. I was doing some calcs in my head trying to see if we were near the 25% tax rate and we're getting there with the ROTH conversion, but not quite. But this is why I feel it is so urgent to get this done now. These low tax rates will not last forever and one part-time job on the part of dh would make us pay a good 10% more on the conversion - easy... Well that and I already mentioned I am not eligible to contribute to a regular IRA either... So I have to change all mine to ROTHs.

Oh well, it kind of sucks to be so close to my goal but to have this to pay off first. Bummer. But still... Getting there... Still feeling good about 12/31 meeting all my goals. & also, should get some overtime bonus to soften the blow.

PHEW!!!

July 14th, 2007 at 03:13 pm

Nothing like a good 6 hours at work with NO distractions. It has been heaven. I got caught up on so much little stuff.

That is the good.

The bad is that I allocated some work out but no one did what I asked. Between that and so many clients on vacation it leaves me on 7/15 with not ONE of my client's payroll stuff done for the quarter. O.M.G. I was just talking to dh and he was like - "when is the deadline? The 15th?" LOL. No - it's the 31st but I try to get all the easy ones out of the way so I am not too crunched with the procrastinators. Bah. The whole idea that nothing has been done is freaking me out. Oh well, a repeat of April. I am sure we had nothing done by April 15th as we were preoccupied by the big deadline, and we survived.

I think it is my biggest pitfall in a more managerial position though. I start to get antsy that things are not done and I just do them myself. It seems to work out since my manager does the same - LOL. Well he knows I will never get to it - which was nice last quarter with the craziness, but this quarter I think I could have handled it.

Maybe not...

Yeah, I am still waiting for things to slow down.

I have been pretty crabby at work these last months and so I am trying to think positive today.

I got 7 hours overtime this week and can probably push it to 9 hours if I work a little tomorrow. I have sonme mindless stuff I can do while the kids play or watch t.v. in the morning.

So I am going to start a running total of the overtime I am earning. I thought about it and instead of getting bitter about all these hours, I am trying to look at a bright side. So I made almost $200 today - overtime. Nothing to sneeze at.

If I work on average 5 hours overtime a week above and beyond the normal (which is usually no OT except tax season) I can swing that second IRA contribution. The idea is rather motivating. I really value work/life balance but as long as it isn't there might as well embrace the income. My boss is trying to redistribute the work - we are all just so behind. But I am optimistic it won't be like this forever. Believe me if he has to pay me that much overime - LOL. But we'll see.

I am going to create a page to track my overtime going forward. As a motivator. I said this before but I didn't stick with it. But I am not sure I have much choice now... So crazy here...

In other news, tomorrow is Big Monkey's birthday. I had wanted to take him to McDs to meet up with a couple of his friends some night after work and then let him choose somewhere to eat out tomorrow. All he wants is McDs - he asked if I could just take home (we didn't want to go with LM because he is too little for the PlayLand). I guess that would be a hell of a lot cheaper? I think I will take both kids to the zoo or something in the a.m. - if it isn't too hot anyway - haven't even looked at the weather - and for lunch him and I can do a nice indoor playland at McDs. Works. Won't cost me more than gas and a treat or a kids meal.

He is probably getting an oodle of toys - I am scared to look. Off the top of my head dh got him a remote-controlled helicopter and some rocket thing. I forget what else. We'll see. I might have to make more cupcakes too - can take the leftovers to preschool and/or work. He gets a big party at preschool Monday too - so spoiled...

IT is weird to have a 4-year-old. Seems like yesterday he was a newborn! I don't think he is considered a toddler any more. He's just a boy I guess. *sniff*

Which reminds me LM's favorite new toy is a flashlight. He loves them, but somewhere he got a little one and I was showing him how to put it over his fingers and toes to make them glow. We made quite a game of it - fingers, toes, ears, nose. Cute. Now that's cheap entertainment. Wink Today I was asking him how many hands and feet he had, etc. He has gotten the concept of "2" for a while and is one of his favorite words. As he gleefully points out when he sees 2 of anything. So next I asked him how many ears he had and he said "5." Same for eyes - 5 eyes. I guess since he can't see his eyes or his ears he just had to take a guess??? LOL. Silly little monkey.

Scored a deal!

July 13th, 2007 at 02:55 pm

Well, I just peeked online and dh's balance transfer was approved. They are already showing it as reducing his available credit. Of course they will send a check in the mail. Lord knows when it will arrive. Maybe it will say more tomorrow or I have an e-mail sitting at home. There will be sonme turn around time and maybe not much interest to earn until August.

Anyway, today started bad as I could not find a particular red shirt and the only thing I could find to wear with my nice long skirt (read: skirt that I can wear knee-his with so no uncomfortable pantyhose) was a black sweater. Hmmm, it is usually cold in the office and why I mostly have a winter wardrob anyway - a/c overkill. But I was going out to 2 clients today and lord knows their a/c situation. I finally thought whatever, I'll survive and went on my merry way. About 5 minutes later or 1/2 way to work I realized I forgot to put on deoderant today. Yikes!!!!!! LOL.

So when I got to work it was cold as an iceberg inside so since I wasn't sweating I figured I'd run to Walgreens on the way out to a client at 10. But she called 3 times and kept pushing back the time. Finally settled on 1:30 or something. So I popped into Walgreens on the way around 1:15 and stumbled upon a 2 for 1 deal on deoderant. It was labeled $4.54 or something but there was 2 stuck together in shrinkwrap labeled "2 for 1!" Score!

So I went to check out and had to wait FOREVER behind this lady but it was worth the wait. It rung up at $2. I am not sure if he rung it up wrong (took 1/2 off the total?) or if it was just on sale anyway. Lord knows, but I paid $2 for like a year supply of deoderant. Or a 75% discount!

I am rather pleased with myself. I don't shop much - dh does most of it - but it was fate today I was steered towards quite a deal. Woohoo.

I will leave one at work. Which is good for next time I forget - hehe.

P.S. I just noticed my e-fund is $500 away from my $12k goal. O.M.G. Is that right? I must be forgetting something... Oh I just transferred some money over and if I consider the $130 or so I have in another MM account I am up to $11,500. At the end of the month it will be $11,600 with interest. If not for my ROTH conversions I could shift gears and fund 1/2 an IRA this year. But I guess it's about the same in the end. Paying taxes now so I get tax-free growth. The only reason I am really so big on converting is so I can add to my existing IRAs. It's up in the air if I will be allowed to make deductible IRA contributions this year and I don't want to deal with an over-contributions. & I can add to dh's and be just dandy but it is up in the air if we will still be in such a low tax bracket next year - so might as well take advantage now. Our efund has been down int he $5k range for almost a year so I think we can survive with $10k for a few more months... But um, yeah, I guess in a month I will have my full efund. That just rocks. Way earlier than I expected - thanks to a nice gift from my parents a few months back. Woohoo. Now I have to shave off a couple of thou to get this ROTH thing rolling so I can make some contributions... I probably really won't get my completely untouchable efund until Dec. 31... I have no further plans for it though once I get these IRAs squared away. Wink Then I can start diverting $400/month to our IRAs - woohoo.

A New Way to Waste Time...

July 13th, 2007 at 09:28 am



Hey, this is me! LOL.

The simpsonsmovie website had an avatar thing. I tried this in the Southpark format before but could not find a way to save and use. I figured this would have the same issue (it is) until I remembered the good old "Print scrn" button which I use to show my spreadhseets. Wala.

Investment Update

July 13th, 2007 at 07:20 am

I relish in updating my investments at a peak. So what the heck, it's time for a update. Sure its paper profits but I am in for the long haul so whatever. I'll get back to this level one of these days. Honestly I have been waiting for the market to take a dip so I can convert my ROTHS. Oh yeah, I decide to keep some money in cash because it can't possibly keep up at this rate (last September?) and I am waiting for the market to drop a little so I can convert my ROTHS. Plus I wasn't feeling very pleased about resuming contributions at the "peak." Though all this reminds me any attempt to time the market in any way shape or form is futile. A good reminder I guess. I am convinced in the meantime that the day after I convert my ROTHs will be the great stock market crash of 2007. (No I am not really convinced but it would just be my luck. There will be a dip - Murphy's Law - I'll give you a heads up when I set it in motion - LOL).



Anyway, I should have hidden 1999 for this. I put in a $2k contribution sometime in college or high school or something but I don't know when so I just threw it in 1999. I did not have that big of a return that year.

2000 I put a token amount in my 401k and then was able to contribute the full year in 2001. Also added to the IRAs in 2000. Some co-worker helped me pick a stock/bond portfolio which did rather well - it rode the wave rather well considering the times - I invested it all at the peak really. My $2k IRA was somewhere making no interest (cash CD) and dh's money was all with a broker losing 20-25% per year over 3 years. I lost 20% one year and that is about it. My 401k made 30% in 2003. No clue what I was doing but I bounced back. My bonds really limited my losses overall. Dh's broker was always overly aggressive if you ask me - plus all the fees really inflated the losses.

Since 2004 my 401k has averaged 10% per year. I wasn't paying any attention/no clue.

Dh's brokered IRA made 15% in 2003 (never recovered) and averaged 8% after that.

Last fall I started reading up on investments and taking charge, dropped the broker, picked more low cost investments. I kept my cash but went from 1-2% to 5.5%. OF course this coincided with a huge market run. So it is all in the timing I guess but everything we own is performing MUCH better than historically.

Since the basis of my 401k was a cheap index fun, it hasn't taken much to convince me of the error of my ways otherwise, and the benefits of index funds.

I am also convinced something that helped my 401k at the time was income averaging as it was the only time that I had continually contributed to our retirement on a monthly basis. Most of the rest of the time we would use our IRAs as a tax savings tool with lump sums around April 15th. I plan to start regular contributions with our IRAs on 1/1/08. So I look forward to it. It really seems to smooth out the many bumps of the stock market when you contribute regularly. I feel much more confident in out current asset allocation to help us ride the next wave. & I am avoiding any attempts at market timing. As I learn and find that regular contributions and setting a investment rebalancing policy are both key in trying to avoid emotional decisions and attempts to time the market.

Don't worry, that's only 1/2 our retirement. I have had a 10% contribution from my boss every year for the last 4 years anyway. This is just the investments under our control. We already have 1 year of expenses in all our retirement and will probably hit 1 year of income next year. It's all relative as our income has been 20k, 60k, 80k, 99k, 55k, 45k, 55k, 40k, 70k, 75k. Lord knows where we should be at. LOL. I think 1 years' income in retirement is not bad since we have suddenly hit the higher end of the spectrum again after being out of it a few years. I have read that 3 years' salary by age 40 is good. I know I can have $225k in retirement by age 40 easy. I am just not sure if we are both working and/or I continually get big raises, if I can have $450k or something. But nor would we really need to. I see little need to up our lifestyle at all going forward. We are happy where things are at and little goals going forward to upgrade our lifestyle. & the year we made $99k we lived WELL below our means. So it's all relative... For now 3 years' (today's) salary sounds like a decent goal. It's actually about exactly where I project us to be with our planned contributions going forward. The kicker is I would expect us to be making much more by age 40. I guess which is what makes the 3 year by age 40 rule rather difficult to achieve. Well, we'll see... In the meantime knowing we have lived well below our means and intend to do so again, I find it easier to talk in terms of annual expenses, which are rather fixed, instead of annual income which is quite volatile around here. Hell, dh could get a job tomorrow and we could be in the $130k range. Just who knows. It would be no indication of how we would need to save for living in retirement. Just as if I got a job tomorrow with full benefits I could cut our living expenses considerably. I guess that is why these are guidelines. Real life is TOO complicated...

As for the kids they both made a 1.5% return on their investments yesterday - yeesh. Cool for them... (The ones I just opened).

Dh called me yesterday to tell me LM had a clean bill of health after all. As usual he was griping about the $50 copay. He said he got 2 $20 stickers and a $10 ear cleaning. LOL. I said the doctor probably gets paid $200/hour or something so not to discount her time. & anyway we are saving $250/month on insurance or so with the increased copay so I am not exactly sweating it. It smarts, but so far it has beaten the alternative by a mile. I am glad LM is okay, though back to square one what his deal is. Terrible 2s... Actually he has been far less grumpy this week. Though sleeping has been hell. Though it could be worse so little to complain about.





An Ear Infection?

July 12th, 2007 at 09:15 am

My kids aren't big on ear infections but I think BM had 2 last year during swim season at preschool. I remember he was sick and Ms. Preschool is generally good at helping diagnosing. She asked me if he was susceptible to ear infections and I said no because at 3 he had never had one! So we quickly wrote it off until a couple of days later I saw some discharge in his ear. Couldn't be! But it was. I guess she was quite shocked as well. From her experience either you have a lot or noe many... We chalked it up to all the time in the water I guess. All those preschool germies too I guess... Anyway he had a terrible bout with another one soon after where one day he just started grabbing his ear and screaming in pain. He takes pain rather well and of course didn't complain until it was unbearable. So it was not fun...

But anyway, LM has just been sleeping horrid the last few days and horribly cranky. We figure teething/growing/whatever. But last night he started saying his ear hurts. Gosh, I didn't even think of anything like that! Thank goodness he told us. We are stil uncertain but dh is taking him in today to be sure. Will be $50. But gosh if that is what it is would explain a lot. The kids spent a lot of time in the pool last week and LM fell in and got dunked twice. If he has an ear infection I am starting to see a cause and effect... Today he seemed fine and said it didn't hurt and dh was ready to take his word. He asked me, "what are the symptoms?" I said I wouldn't mess with it - symptons are fever and ear pain and discharge from the ear, etc. BUT I know so many kids who had an ear infection with no outward symptoms, and the parents felt horrid when they figured it out. Just not something to mess with - so I convinced him to take him in.

I need to go in to the doc next month for female stuff and with the kids birthdays they are both due for wellness visits. Now that I think about it their wellness visits may just be free or reduced... Hmmm. I guess we'll find out. LM probably needs shots too. I hate that. Frown Easily $200 in copays for the next month. Blah. Thankfully it has been pretty quiet on the health front the last couple of months. The year hadn't started out as well. Regardless it will be a record year for medical expenses on premiums alone. So every $50 visit just kind of sucks. But the silver lining is now I remember the welness visits did not cost as much - so phew.

More challenge money - Over $8k!

July 12th, 2007 at 08:51 am

$20 challenge:

$7,875.32 - Balance 6/30

$ 55.00 - June writing money
$ 100.00 - Price match on PS3
$ 50.00 - Gift card - last credit card reward for a while...


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$8,080.32 - Balance 7/12
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I just remembered I had some stuff to update and while I was at it I also remembered dh's score with the price match. Which brings me up past $8k...

I mentioned earlier I would probably need so much overtime to get to $10k... I don't remember how much. But I am definitely working overtime this month. Trying to pull in 10 hours/week OT which would be around $700 take home for the month if I could pull it off. I am not sure I have really been working any overtime lately but July is a deadline month and I have little choice. I worked an hour on the laptop last night over dinner on some more mindless stuff and have more for tonight. A client meeting tomorrow night and I may only have to work a few hours Saturday to make it to 10 hours for this week. We'll see...

I also haven't written much if anything this month because I feel SO swamped though I have 10 articles floating in my head. Plenty of ideas but still a bit of writers' block. I think mostly stressed and trying to find a decent chunk of time to write a proper article. I am hoping once we get past July things will settle down. At least August is a rather quiet month - hopefully plenty of time for catch up. I should probably buckle down and do the overtime then too. Maybe I could take some time off in September. October is busy and November is slow and I am taking around 8 days off as is. December is CRAZED. I probably should just buck up, work hard, and take a week vacation in September or something. I had wanted to spread out my vacation time and work a reduced schedule in the summer. But summer is half way over and I have to work overtime instead. I can work hard knowing I will have a week off in September and a week of in November. Sweet! Well, we'll see...

I'll probably also received $30 next week or so for mileage reimbursement. I have been traveling a bit... Will help...

I still have a pile for ebay and Craigslist - just haven't had much time.


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