Home > Archive: January, 2008

Archive for January, 2008

Rain rain go away...

February 1st, 2008 at 04:57 am

Yes, still sick of the rain.

The gym has been horrid. Anyway, it was super extra crowded tonight. I figured it would dwindle down a bit as we get further from Jan. 1. Anyway, for whatever reason I braved the wind and rain and went to the gym and it was PACKED. Probably the worst I've seen. It didn't occur to me until my way out that maybe there was a direct correlation to the weather. Perhaps. I only really plan to use the gym in the extremely cold and extremely hot months. I much prefer to go for a walk myself. But it is rare the weather is just this bad. It has been a COLD rain all week which is really rather ware. So stormy windy and COLD. Did I mention cold? We usually get warmer rains. Maybe it will snow. IT does on occasion (pretty rare but happens).


Anyway, I popped in to check my Net Worth for 1/31. After about a year of this I am starting to notice a pattern. The stocks always seem to jump up the last day of the month. So it wasn't so bad. Down $500 from 12/31.

Cash is up around $250 (mostly interest). Paid $307 off the mortgage. $675 to retirement.

Which means about $1600 in stock losses.

I also have no idea how much BM lost on his 529. I get random statements. So the loss is probably a bit more.

We'll be in a place to contribute more like $1k/month to retirement, come summer. So I say bring it down!!! We just don't have that much to lose at this point. No complaints here... I think these storms will be tougher to weather (emotionally anyway) when we have more at stake. I don't really look forward to that. But for now I look forward to a chance to buy at some lower prices. Big Grin

I understand that my Net Worth goal is not very attainable at this rate. But I guess I am going for a long term average more than anything and I knew it was pretty aggressive. I am happy with the amount we put in to up our net worth this month. The stocks will work themselves out.

Even if we don't refi, we are SO CLOSE to getting our mortgage interest under $1k/month. woohoo. Just a few more months. We past the $300 principal mark not too long ago... It feels a little more substantial and reflects on our net worth. Still no prepayments here though, as long as we have 10 tax-deferred investment options (about how it feels with all the ROTHS, 529s, UGMAs, HSAs, and on and on and on...). Though if we refi we will most certainly jump on the prepayment train. I have no desire to extend our mortgage beyond the current payoff date. No desire to start my 30 years over and drag it out. Though I guess I can't promise anything. Our mortgage literally just gets cheaper with time and the opportunity to plump up all our tax deferred investments probably isn't the worst. I guess we'll just have to see.

Either way would help the net worth. I guess that is what is important. & why it helps to look at the big picture. Likewise, I really enjoy tracking our net worth. It helps me to see the big picture.

Phew!!!!! Dentist Update

January 31st, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Well, um, we tried a new dentist, which I dread dread dread. But it went REALLY well.

Took LM in (he is 2.5) for his sharky mouth. He had a blast. Which for one, says much for their setup. BM has always loved the dentist but he is weird. LOL.

Anyway, LM was much more wary but he immediately fell in love with the plastic dolphin up front. (& fish).

Of course, dh went back with him and they were gone 1.5 hours. I Was trying not to fall asleep. Likewise, BM Was hungry but I Was there to watch him. Figured, we could have gone out to eat like he had asked. Then I worried worried worried what the hell was going on. (Apparently, a lot of paperwork. Whcih is another reason it is so tedious to try new dentists, but I have had horrid experiences since we moved here, myself).

Anyway, we lucked out. I think this place is a winner. I actually walked in expecting he would need work, and heard a "everything is fine, he doesn't need anything." What music to my ears!!!!

The x-rays showed no extra permanent teeth. YAy!!!!!!!!! They were concerned about crowding (oh sounds familiar, I couldn't even tell you all the work I had done from age 5 - 18, but I thought I had a few more years to save up for all the work I envision my kids will need).

But anyway, as far as extra tooth, it's just a baby and they don't want to do anything with it. "It will work itself out." More music to my ears. I am sure we could have found a more aggressive dentist, but I think this works for us. Phew!

OF course our dentist, who I know we have it good with (the longtime forever patient discount). We paid $125/each, dh and I for our last visit. BM a little more since he had flouride.

Anyway, they did charge $250 here but it was for consultation and full x-rays, as well as flouride and cleaning. Well worth it for all the fanciness; it was a great first experience for LM. I did not ask dh what they recommended, but dh said he did not book the next appointment. They only reason we made one was for his tooth. & well, I figure he will go back there in a year. Then maybe every 6 months until he hits 5 or 6. Then he can join us at the big dentist.

Oh yes, and dh sort of asked for a discount. Not really, but he did not know I Wanted to put it on the card for rewards. He asked if they could just send a bill. (BEcause he though that I Wanted to pay later for some reason). They said no, but that they would give him a 10% discount. He seemed to think he wouldn't have gotten it otherwise. IT was the cash discount but he did use the card. Score! So in the end we paid $225. We'll earn 1.25% rewards on that too. So we'll have to remember to ask for the cash discount next time. Or make sure we have the checkbook in case they aren't so nice next time. I think it helps the girls were taking payments and they always go gah gah over a guy with a small kid. LOL. The women just eat it up.

I am just so happy today that that is his only prognosis for now. Phew!!!! HE will get plenty of work on his mouth down the raod, I am sure. I know so many people getting so much preventitive work done on baby teeth and such. I always wondered if it was really worth it. Maybe it really is? But I am glad for now it is not something for us to worry about. Big Grin


Anyway, I don't think the kids have ever seriously asked for much, but today BM Asked for a trampoline, and whined when I said no. I told him he already had a mound of toys for Christmas. The FUNNY thing though was my first response was, "No, those cost a lot of money." So he immediately said, "Then why does Miss L have one???" LOL. At his preschool. The interesting thing is I knew Miss L was carless but apparently she is now homeless too. & BM seemed to grasp that meant she had no money. Wow. Anyway, I was asking what he meant it was hers, and he said she had moved in and it was her trampoline. "She doesn't have a house any more. She used to but now she doesn't." Well isn't that a lot of insight from a 4yo? I will have to ask my friend about that one. (HEr kid goes to the same school but since he is full-time she seems to know much more of the scoop).

All that from a kid asking for a trampoline.

Anyway, we were going to start the allowance/chore thing when he turns 5. So I talked a little about that and said that is the kind of thing he can save up for when he starts earning money.

& so it starts - the learning about money. My parents started really young with me and so we just will do the same. It worked well for us. I couldn't tell you when I started getting an allowance, but it wasn't the traditional allowance thing, so I don't want to hear how bad allowances are. It really worked for me. IT's not like we are going to hand him money for breathing. But for helping out around the house he will also get a chance to learn about how to handle money. That was always the point of allowance in our house, and I learned all about how money worked quite young. We just figured at 5 he would start Kindergarten which will be his "job" and likewise he will start helping more around the house too.

Which reminds me, Little LEague is starting up soon and they take 4yos. I think we may sign him up. IT's pretty inexpensive and he has been asking to do soccer. IT seems soccer is a fall sport and may fit our schedule better as a whole. BAseball is spring (tax season). But might as well let him try both, and go from there. We'll see. We didn't sign up yet or anything. Dh and I so do not do sports, but it has always been important to us to let our kids be who they are. I have the feeling BM will be a sports type. Too bad he got stuck with us for parents. We wouldn't have a clue. LOL. But he is SO excited about the idea -would be T-Ball for him.

& so it begins!

Kncok on wood, but LM has been sleeping so well lately (For months. Oh my, it feels so good and strange to get a full nights' sleep every night. It has been YEARS!!!). As a whole the kids are actually pretty good sleepers. I mean BM has not been a problem since he was 2. A friend was just complaining about her 5yo waking her up and I thought, "oh my!" IT's been years since sleep has been an issue with him. LM did not handle teething well at all but he seems to be done. !!!!! So I no longer identify with the idea of toddlers who don't sleep. My kids SLEEP. & it is heavenly.

Anyway, and with him going to preschool 2 days a week dh has been in such a better mood. This tax season is flying by and I think that might be part of the reason why. With a happy dh and a good night sleep it just seems to be skipping along quite well.

So we all breathed our collective sigh of relief and began to really enjoy. & now all I See is sports practice and homework in my future. Well we are trying to enjoy the peace and calm. I see a very busy future. Just seems like there is always something with kids. OF course I Am just excited to show them everything the world has to offer. I want them to emjoy being kids like I always did, but I want to expose them to the world too. I guess it is a fine line.

The other thing I would like to do about now is start teaching piano to BM. I am sure we will sign him up for lessons eventually. (The unwritten rule is never teach your own kids. & for the long term there is a reason. For the short term I am too broke to do otherwise). But I think I can get going on getting him interested and teaching basics. I taught piano for many years. Time to brush off the cowbebs and rememebr what I used to do for a living. LOL. I Always thought it was nice to have another skill to fall back on, but now trying to remember exactly how and what pace the program went, funny I Don't remember! I am sure it will come back to me...

Reminds me we need a piano tuning too. $$$

Busy busy busy

January 31st, 2008 at 03:52 pm

It's busy busy busy here. Busy at work, and busy on the home front. Just a lot of stuff going on this week.

I'll see tonight at stock close how our net worth did this month. I think we were down $500 or so as of yesterday. On the net worth front. Wasn't bad really. (My goal is $25k-$30k for the year so yes I have a long way to go. Won't be quite so easy on a bad stock year, if this continues). The budget has been VERY good this month. I think I have -$50 in my checking account unofficially BUT I think our credit card bill will be on or under budget and we may be able to pay for the windshield from the budget instead of savings. So that is all good good good. (Officially I am doing my medical saving transfer after the first to avoid a negative in my checking account. But I put everything in Quicken the date I should do it so I can see when I am falling behind. I hate all those negatives, but I think for February we are caught up. Let's just say I don't expect a negative in February. Of course, never do. Wink )

I have a CD coming due and a balance transfer coming due as well. Which is fine with the interest rates not being so hot. I thought I would be able to get another 8 months at 5.7% on the CD. I really remember that being a promotion but I don't have it anywhere in writing. I may just be crazy, and likewise, the balance transfers are no longer so lucrative. But it's still easy money and I can still get 4.5% (for now) at my bank. Anyway, I'll call the bank and ask. If no 5.7% I'll move. I don't know if they will care so much with my $10k. But they could always offer me a deal to stay. They have a good CD deal right now but only if you have direct deposit. Not much I can do since my boss does not offer DD. Bummer for me.

We are waiting on the sidelines to lock in a great refi rate. We'll see. If the lower than low rates comes by... Our broker is very gung ho since we actually have equity and good credit. I guess we are a rarity around here. The CU just wasn't going to let us sit on the sidelines and wait to see if 5% would materialize again. So this may be better - was referred by a friend. Very untrusting of the mortgage bunch, but we can save so much money with a refi!!!! So we are moving forward.

I was worried about the BTs on my credit score but the guy just LAUGHED. He said my credit score was in the 95% percentile at 730 and he didn't care basically. The payments are so little they don't matter either. Phew!!!! (I think he was shocked we were only paying $400/month on all those cards (But helps in this case). HE was like, "I thought those cards were upping their minimums." Like I Said before, squeaks our "debt payments" and mortgage under 33% so the refi is not a biggie. Phew. Since I never expected to refi this year. But the guy was really shocked with our financial situation. He said we were one in a million. Yay! Well considering he is mostly working with people desparate to fix their mortgage messes. It's all relative I guess. I got the sense he was relieved to have someone who qualified so readily for refi, and I feel he will pull for us, likewise. He had much more incentive than our CU.

So I leave you with this.

Fair Tax

Anyway, beyond all that, switching gears. HEre are some thoughts on the Fair tax. IT always struck me as the Fair tax supporters glossed over some of the more complicated aspects of this system, plus it always struck me as very unfair to the middle class. Anyway, this is just a tax expert guy who I knew would have a very intelligent write up on the Fair tax. With all the talk about it I thought I would share. If nothing else it's a pretty practical point of view that you don't see much on the debates.

I honestly don't know if my initial reaction (cringing at the idea) is just because the complicated tax system is my livelihood. I think any change like this would be HUGE. Huge ramifications for everyone because it would so greatly change the way we do things. So I don't know if my viceral reaction is because it's bad or because I fear change. I am sure much of it is the latter. But thinking it through I see a lot of holes that the supporters aren't going to talk about or really even grasp. There are just a lot of kinks to work out, if nothing else. So just another point of view:

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This is probably my favorite paragraph (below). BEcause unintended tax consequences and loopholes always pop up in local legislation when these things are not thought through. For example, California passed a law for a 1% income tax surcharge to tax returns over $1 million. They didn't really define this very well. So basically whether you are married or single, or file separate, the limit is $1 million per TAX RETURN to avoid the surtax. We had few clients who make this money, but all we had to do for the very few was file their taxes "married filing separately" to avoid the surcharge. It's just a perfect example. Completely unintended tax loophole because they just didn't write the law the way it should have been.

Here it is:

"Each of the terms in this description need to be defined. What is a common residence? Who is the spouse? Is a person a spouse if he or she abandons the residence during the year? Who qualifies as a student? How is support calculated? What constitutes incarceration? What happens if someone is not a member of the household for some portion of the year due to illness? How are kidnaped children counted? In other words, all of the complexities that afflict sections 151 and 152 of the current Internal Revenue Code would still be with us. There are special rules for hobby losses that resemble section 183, special rules for gaming activities, an exemption for intermediate sales, provisions affecting purchases by governments, rules for mixed-use property, not-for-profit organizations, and financial intermediation services. Each of these provisions includes all sorts of terms that need to be defined. For example, the need for complex definitions dealing with non-profit organizations will be no less under the Fair Tax than under the current income tax. Bottom line? The Fair Tax is nowhere near as simple as advertised. That it is presumably less complicated than the current income tax is not a noteworthy achievement. Everything is less complicated that the current income tax."

Yeah, I like that last tax line too. LOL.

Man, I am ALL FOR simpler tax system. For sure.

Stealing BA's Topic

January 29th, 2008 at 03:00 pm

I was just playing around with his cost of living calculator.

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This is the move we made, in 2001 anyway. Moving from San Jose to Sacramento to cut our cost of living. I would say we cut it significantly more than the % this shows. We sold our little condo for $300k and bought a very nice house (twice as big) for around $290k. The savings in housing was much more at the time then it is today (not sure what year this calculator pulls from).

It's not very apples to apples. I actually kept the same pay here (a slight increase in benefits) so it made this an AWESOME move. Because we so significantly cut our cost of living. But dh never found a job and we had kids. So things have been tighter in the long run.

We went from $100k to $50k, but it is a pretty comparable living. I'd say we cut our costs 50%, easy. (Housing was only really our ONLY cost back home. Felt like it. If we rented or owned, it was almost an entire income to housing). Hell if we bought a condo here we could have lived the same lifestyle on $35k-$40k perhaps.

Likewise, we couldn't imagine living 1/2 this lifestyle back home, on just one income.

Likewise, I put in today's wage and what it would equate to back home. Could I find a $95k job there? Easily enough. Would I move back there? Um, no. $95k would not cut it in any way shape or form. To keep our current lifestyle I really imagine we would need a good $200k. I mean for one, it would be impossible to find a house on this par for under $1 million. So what if we settled for a tiny 3-bedroom for $700k? I am quite sure $95k income wouldn't quite cut it. That would be another $400k to our mortgage. Even to rent a smaller place would double our cost of housing.

So this calculator doesn't really paint the picture how expensive it truly is. I wouldn't consider moving back home pretty much short of winning the lottery or inheriting property there (more likely). Of course we have become so accustomed to the simpler lifestyle, I don't think we would move back for anything!

The last one I threw in a comparison to Kansas, our current wage to the equivalent in Wichita Kansas. I have a lot of relatives there. I imagine I would probably be making not more than that at my current job if I moved to Kansas. But we could pay cash for a house. So it's all relative. I think we could frankly live somewhere like Kansas with a much lower income. I am not even talking about taking any equity out of our house. We have put so much cash into it as is, we can equate that to an entire house purchase. Throw in the equity, and we would semi-retire.

But we have talked about this at length and often. PArticularly the 2-3 years we had a good $300k - $400k paper equity.

We're happy where we are. We don't want to move. Sometimes there is more to life than money I guess. We are pretty attached to California. (Plus we already cut our cost of living substantially, so we are happy with that).

Likewise I haven't been in the mood to complain about the cost of living of late. I have been focusing more on all the upsides of living here. There is a reason people pay so much to live here. Big Grin

Just reminds me too when we moved here our perspective was the houses might as well be pennies. My coworkers knew we had bought a new house and they were so funny. From their perspective housing was so expensive. I remember I donated $50 to some guy for some charity or something (for hid kid's school). He's like, "I Can't take this from you. Didn't you just buy a house?" I said, "um, well, yeah but it was a lot cheaper than our old one." LOL. We had trimmed our $1800 mortgage to $1500, and here this guy wouldn't take $50 from me.

Since that day the perspectives always boggle my mind. We got in the bottom phase of this development and the model homes were still open 1-2 years after we moved in, as they were still selling the later phases. I remember our friends going down and looking at the models assuming that was what we paid for our house. IT's like, we locked in our price in June 2001, and bought in Dec. 2001. Then people would come by in 2003 and think we paid $450k for our house because that's what the models were going for. They would always make comments that we were too rich for their blood. People are just funny! It's like, you did know not only did we move in over a year ago but we locked in our price 6 months before that. Of course the entire time prices were rising like crazy. I am not sure why people wouldn't factor that. But it is just funny. (Like hell we would pay over $300k for as house, for one. LOL).

Also I was lucky my boss gave me an interview. He said us Bay Area folk we were too unrealistic with our salary expectations. As for me, I was open to a 10% pay cut. He kept my same wage and gave me an awesome profit sharing compensation plan, in the end. I figured I must have been really underpaid back home. I mean I went from an international firm to a small pop and pop in a city 1/2 as expensive. Reduced my cost of living by like 1/2, and got to keep my wage. It was insane. (Leaves me wondering what people were asking for!). I remember he told me that in my interview. He thought we were all crazy and he didn't want me to waste his time. LOL. Glad he gave me a chance.

Funnies of the Day

January 27th, 2008 at 04:21 pm

Oh just the last 2 posts on what of my favorite blogs. Funny/Sad.

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P.S. My salsa recipe is down in my last post!

P.S.S. I was just thinking I am SO SICK of this cold weather and being locked up indoors. BUT I realized winter is just about over for us. Yay!!!!! It will start warming up in a week or 2 and we might get to go enjoy some sun. I am burned out on winter... I just don't do winter well.