<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: January, 2010
 

Archive for January, 2010

Financial Update

January 29th, 2010 at 10:36 am

I popped some advil and went back to sleep last night. Wouldn't you know, my ear feels fine now? BUT, I do have a doctor appointment late in the day. Guess they were slammed - lucky to get in at all. Would just figure if it's all cleared up by then. Either that - or should I call advil the miracle cure? I assumed it would help with both the pain and swelling. I suppose they say like 25% of all infections are viral anyway. If all I have to do is sleep sitting up... I have been fine since getting up this morning.

Will see what the doc says. I am wearing a face mask to the doctor's office - that is for sure. & will wash my hands thoroughly on my way out. Sometimes it feels like a vicous cycle. I always seem to pick up something at the hospital, etc.

That being said, I haven't seen my doctor since 2005. I remember because I thought I had a bladder infection right after giving birth. I remember not liking the doctor, and I never switched. I am stuck with him today. He was fine - just an older male, hard to understand. Wanted a female at the least. I will put that on my to do list, and feel lucky to see any doctor, today.

I will laugh if it is a false alarm - since last time was. I generally don't get infections, period. If I feel one coming gone, it's gone by the time I get to the doctor. Was last time, anyway. Feels the same this time.

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

I peeked at the credit card. Ugh! Not sure why it was so high. Then I thought through all the stocking up that dh did these last weeks.

Then again, lots of medical charges too. Pretty much all there was since the weekend. Pharmacy, pharmacy, pharmacy. Doctor appointment, doctor appointment, doctor appointment. Repeat repeat repeat.

I decided that by the time I transferred all the medical portion from "medical savings" I Was about breakeven for the month. I do have 5 more days until my credit card closes, but the cars are gassed up and the house is FILLED with food. & we all feel too crappy to do anything but stay home. I see an easy No-Spend-Week ahead.

I suppose that has been another cost savings - with MIL driving the kids around and such. Being home sick from work too - means no gas being bought.

I do have to run and get some normal bread while I am out. MIL has been torturing the kids with some god awful whole wheat bread. They don't mind wheat bread - just not the really intense wheat stuff. I had heard children don't digest it as well. So, will get them (& me) some normal bread. As I choked down the bread yesterday I decided I had bigger things to worry about. Had to suck it up. But I look forward to filling the house back up with normal food... In the end, this may be my biggest complaint about MIL. We are just kind of middle of the road/moderation types. & the fact is, compared to the average American, we eat EXTREMELY well. MIL is a health nut/health fad type. So it's kind of scary to see our cabinets filling up with her weird crap. I must save the children! LOL. I mean - if I could sum up her philosophy - "if it doesn't taste like sand, it's not good for you." That's how I would qualify it. Plus, not a fan of artificial sweeteners, artificial butter, and stuff like that. I'd rather just have a conservative helping of the real stuff. Yeah, that's where I draw the line. At least we have plenty of BUTTER. LOL. Reminds me, I should buy some mayo while I am out. Ugh, last time she bought me mayo it was awful. We suffered through it rather than toss it. I can't do that again... This time will send her home with her nasty food. Wink

& really, it's one thing if she thinks the adults should eat like this. But the kids have extremely high metabolisms. I mean - they need some fat in their diet!!! & Some sugar??? Though I got to hand it to them - the kids are good sports...

Some Finances, Some Ranting, Some Updates

January 27th, 2010 at 06:39 pm

You may think I disappeared because life is crazy, but really I am just sicker than a dog. The "life is crazy" part is not helping though. I went into work this morning because I had pressing deadlines. I'm not good at asking for help, generally, but have been good these last weeks. Still, some of it needed to be directed by me. I delegated the rest. In the end, it felt good to be up and about. I may go to work tomorrow for 4 hours, even if I feel like hell still. Was good medicine.

I walked BM home from school yesterday thinking the exercise would help. Instead, I think the unusual cold made me worse. Was freezing... (I had noticed, fresh air walks to/fro the car helped my sinuses while at the hospital. I guess not so much with longer walks to school in cooler weather...)

Today I did see some sun, and not so much rain. Was nice!!

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

How is this for money karma? Received $2k for medical bills. Mostly from MIL who thinks we are "hard up" on some insane level. BUT, the fam did pool their resources for a nice gift. It is what I suggested since a couple of other relatives did want to spend $400-ish on a gift that wouldn't have been used. I did tell her we need cash more than anything. (If they refused to buy the more modest gifts I suggested, anyway). Though entertainment for the hospital was a nice gesture, he wouldn't have been up to it - he was mostly a lifeless lump.

So - came home - and found a $2k charge on my card, from the hospital. Money karma in action! I deposited the check today and will send it to the card when it clears. (It was the first time they put a hold on a deposit - was kind of odd - but whatever).

The truth is I expect to pay our $6k out-of-pocket this year. It just may take some years to bill. If the past is any indication...

Ironically, I swear the hospital told us the deposit would be $300, and they asked us if we would need help paying for it, etc. To be fair, dh heard, "$300 per day." Regardless, neither of those figures added up to anywhere near $2k. I love how they just charged the card without telling us what it was going to be. I suppose I should have asked upon release. But why do you ask someone if they can afford $300? & then charge them $2k? !!

Since we already have the medical cash, will probably put $1k to open a regular IRA (need one to roll my profit sharing into) and will probably invest in a bed for LM. Dh wants the TV, of course, but I think that may be on hold due to his medical status.

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

As somewhat expected, it also hasn't been very spendy here. My parents and in-laws fed me most the time dh was in the hospital. I did spend a LOT on gas and all. But, food has been well taken care of here. I will offer MIL cash for the next grocery run (she shopped today) but not sure she will take it. I'd give her a check if I thought she would cash it...

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

Yesterday, I had some time to look up some of dh's issues, and was disappointed to see some of it could be permanent. The double vision is common, but could be an issue forever. I am fretting a bit if he will be able to drive again, for a long time. The nurses/docs, just said it would get better. Though that will most likely improve, a lot of people say they have double vision YEARS later, with fatigue, too much computer time, lots of reading, etc. Will have to discuss his options with the doctor. He is wearing an eye patch for now, but don't think that is a safe way to drive. Anyway, overall, maybe months to a couple of years. Yikes!

Also, was disappointed to see that his mouth/jaw numbness may also last months/years, and will very likely be permanent. !!! Being a bit of a foodie, I can hardly imagine anything worse. Though I am sure he will adjust.

For now, he doesn't know any better, and tells me both are improving a little each day. I will cross my fingers for that. In the interim, he escaped from so many other bad outcomes, but it's still hard to accept that this may be what he is left with. *sigh*

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

The MIL situation is okay. She drove me a little nuts, and is the reason I am sick again (unnecessary stress). But, overall, since she has been home with us, she has chilled out a bit. So, all I can say is, Phew! Until the next drama, anyway.

We're Home!

January 24th, 2010 at 05:13 pm

That's all I have time to say for now. But it feels GOOD to be home!

Enjoying a little peace before the kids and MIL arrive. Any minute...

I already went grocery shopping (for soft food) and made some soup. Getting very domestic!

& the kids have pink eye... I am so sick of hospitals. I have spent about 2 hours sitting in 3 different pharmacies the last couple of days. Of course the hospital where dh was didn't have an open pharmacy (for the kids' prescriptions).

& um, it hasn't stopped raining all week, pretty much. Not sure I have ever seen the rivers so full, etc. Hopefully the rain stops soon... Relieved to see our house above ground (& not under water!), when we got home. Hope it stays that way!

P.S. He is definitely deaf in the one ear. But, no surprise. He is lucky that is really the only sacrifice for the surgery...

Surgery is OVER!

January 21st, 2010 at 10:23 pm

It felt like this day would never arrive, as we have been anxiously waiting.

Surgery went better than expected. Can we call my dh "miracle boy," or what?

Wednesday was a whirlwind of medical appointments and tests. We met briefly with the surgeon, who told us that he may leave up to 50% of the tumor, in a futile attempt to save dh's stereo hearing. He said he had never saved hearing with such a large tumor before (ever), BUT that it is extremely rare that any one with this type tumor has much hearing to begin with. The fact that dh lost his hearing only temporarily twice, is no less than miracle. Usually, once it's gone, it's gone.

Oh yes - let me back up - the weather here is CRAZY. It is also a miracle we made it to the Bay Area in one piece. Egads, what a week it has been. We drove through some terrible rain, saw some amazing rainbows, and somehow managed to miss every lightning storm with all our driving. We also have sat in a lot of homes without electricity. The hotel and the hospital have been a nice change of pace, with electricity and all. Big Grin

So, back to surgery (it's been a LONG day!!!)

It was a whole day affair, though the actual cutting and stitching was about 6 hours. Was at the hospital over 12 hours, though.

We were all stunned when the surgeon walked out and said that 95% of the tumor had been removed. Too early to tell, I suppose, but he said that radiation may not be necessary after all. That, I never expected. He said his hearing seemed okay, but they never know. The truth is it would be a miracle.

Dh was pretty insistent when he woke up, that he see me. The first thing he told me was that he couldn't hear (out of one side). I told him 95% of the tumor was gone, and he seemed relieved. I think we had more second thoughts at the last minute. Truth is, how would he feel with 50% of the tumor still in there, and no hearing? Which in the end was a likely scenario. I am so relieved we don't have to live with that. It was never raised as an option that we would skip radiation. It is amazing.

I do admit, that I hold some hope on the hearing. He's got it back before. What about when all the swelling goes down? Even a little bit means a simple hearing aid as opposed to more expensive hearing procedures/devices. Will see...

Facial paralysis was another biggie. Doctor said the tumor was most entwined with the facial sensory nerve. Which had really been his only symptom (numb face) besides hearing that came and went. In the end, he asked if his face was droopy. It looked a tad droopy, though I don't think I would have noticed otherwise. He has a beard which I think hides it. His eyes and cheeks seems fine, we only really noticed his lips being a little lax. Regardless, the surgeon felt his facial nerve was fine, and temporary facial weakness is expected. Paralysis is pretty rare. Not a lot of worries there. Clearly he wasn't paralyzed...

Dh looked amazing! Everyone warned me about how terrible he would look, etc.

Is that it? But for the bandaging, you'd never guess he had brain surgery. He was obviously doing quite well.

All along they told us he would get a private room, probably. Which surprised me as we were in an old hospital. In the end, they were wrong. I was rather relieved. The nurse said she would be in the room all night, waking him every hour to check his vitals, etc. I was so relieved to come to my hotel and rest. I couldn't stay over since he didn't have a private room. (Bummer - not?) He won't remember anything. Well, so they say. He seemed amazingly alert. Not "too" loopy? Though admittedly, loopy!

Tomorrow night he may get a private room, and that may be nice. When he gets out of ICU. He may go home Saturday or Sunday - is that absurd?

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

Anyway, I suppose we already knew, but there is nothing more important than friends and family. Times like these you just kind of get that kick in the butt. This week has been made bearable by the love of friends and family.

I know MIL was set on this clinic in LA, but I think being so close to our family has been FAR more important. & let's face it, the doctor we decided on kicked butt! I can't tell you how relieved we are today that we didn't fall for the LA hype. I had reservations all along about the logistics of all that. It wasn't a sole reason to not go there, but I have to kind of say, "I was right!" I was so annoyed that MIL was writing off places like Stanford, for LA. I couldn't understand why looking in our own backyard (with AMAZING medical facilities) wouldn't be a priority. All we have heard all week is how our HMO has the best neurosurgery facility in Northern California, and how our surgeon is one of the best in the world. & we have been justifying our choice all along. What sweet revenge today was. Though maybe the best thing is that all our family is here, too. It just is kind of the icing on the cake. I never imagined that today could "fly by," but it kind of did with all the support we had.

Anyway, this is really just the beginning, on some level. But, I think it's a good start. I am wishing dh a very speedy recovery!

Odds & Ends

January 17th, 2010 at 08:20 am

I am SO procrastinating here. Big Grin

If you scroll to my last post, I had some thoughts on home ownership. FYI to anyone interested.

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

Anyway, dh's family is very dramatic. I heard rumor that a very close relative is convinced he will die! (While, a VERY religous relative, and a psychic, had visions he would be just fine!). Anyway, when I heard this, I did tell dh. Just as a heads up. For this particular relative, seemed more than a fear than anything. (They didn't tell me why he had this fear. If there was a "vision" - no one told me about that part). So anyway, dh and I discussed how driving to the surgery would probably be more dangerous.

I only share for the back story... (We all know that we have a ball of crazy to deal with there).

Um, I wasn't tempting fate or anything with that sentiment!

BUT, yesterday, my mom tells me some crazy storm is coming in all week, and to bring my umbrella, etc. SO, I look up the weather, and see that it will be really stormy all next week, the WORST of it being the night we drive down to the Bay Area. Plus, it's no small trek from the family's houses to the hospital, anyway. Will be doing lots of driving in the rain.

But anyway, driving in some torrential rain storm, in the dark, doesn't sound appealing. I will keep an eye on it, but I think I will bust my butt at work tomorrow, in case we decide to cut out early and get some daylight driving in. Hell, we might have to pull BM out of school. Maybe just get all packed up and leave at 3:30. Should get there by dark?

Regardless, will monitor it all. The forecast is never right on, anyway. IDeally the worst will pass before we hit the road. Just one more thing. Like we need one more thing!

(Just read - worst storm in a decade. Great!)

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

Yesterday I was pretty lazy. I filed some statements away, because MIL is nosy. Kind of just put away things I didn't want her to see laying around.

I did make fudge for dh, on a whim. (For me and dh, I should say). HE seemed to like it so much last time - that took a whopping 5 minutes.

Finished a movie I had fallen asleep during...

Took out some trash.

I suppose I wasn't totally useless, but in the end, kind of hit a wall. Didn't help that dh and the kids were JUST starting to pick up when I got home from work. Not very helpful. I had expected them to do more while I was gone. But, what else is new?

Dh did get his oil changed (turned out, was due - we had a good coupon), and picked up some more groceries.

Oh - and we did clear out the freezer. I threw away a lot of frozen fruits for smoothies. They may have been okay, but we needed to clear some room out for frozen dinners and such. The freezer wasn't too bad otherwise - I had a lot of nuts in there - lord knows how old. Threw those away too.

At the least, I want to vacuum the floors and scrub the toilets. I suppose that will be my task for today. I also want to clean the cat litter box. I rarely just empty it out and scrub it down. It is LONG overdue. So, it's not really necessary at all, but as I look critically at the house, it just nags at me a bit. On some level, probably not something that should be put off longer. NEcessary in that sense. If it doesn't get done now...

I am probably going to come up with a chore list. As structured/organized as I am when it comes to finances, I am the complete opposite when it comes to housework. I just don't care that much about most housework? BUT, I don't want to wake up Thursday morning and have no clean underwear. Or forget to change the cat litter in all the fray. Stuff like that. I figured I better make a list. Not that I have to stick to the list, but to break things out by day and have a little "reminder list." Like a reminder to check the laundry status mid-week, and the grocery status, etc., etc. This is just stuff I would never think of otherwise. & the usual - "wait until the weekend to do it all," probably won't fly so well!

The More Things Change, The More they Stay the Same (Housing)

January 17th, 2010 at 07:35 am

Having graduated college in 1999, it's been interesting. I'd consider myself an adult long before that, but only since 1999 have I been investing in real estate and the stock market. Thus, my only experience in those things is during the "lost decade." & what a decade it was!

I guess it's extra interesting since the dot com bust was in my backyard, as was one of the biggest housing bubbles in the country. I have always had a lot of extra insight to all this as I watched it unfold before my very eyes. (I know a lot of people in the world weren't quite aware of all the insane borrowing going on around here, etc. & in the end both collapses had worldwide effects).

Anyway, as our 10-year anniversary of home ownership passes, I was reflecting a bit on it.

The wisest advice I can give people is to not give into the hype. It's kind of funny, but everything I hear about housing TODAY is everything I have been hearing the last decade. Nothing really changes. We have had the luck to be homeowners in a most volatile real estate market decade. In 1999 people were saying the exact same things as they are today. Mainly, "If I don't buy now, I will never be able to!!!!" Irony is that I have heard the same frantic statement every year for the last decade. On the way up and on the way down - it's all the same.

I suppose it's a lot like the stock market. You can't time the market. You just have to buy when it makes sense for you. & make it a fiscal decision, not an emotional one. What's the point of "buying now because it's my last chance," if you can't afford it and end in foreclosure.

Another juicy tidbit I heard up until 2008, I suppose, was that it was stupid to pay down our house. (Told to me by people with multiple homes and ARMs, who eventually lost all their houses to foreclosure. Not surprisingly!). As our house value falls to about the price we paid for it, I am relieved it has another $90k to go before we hit "upside down." & though we put a fair amount down, I understand the sentiment not to put too much into your house early on. I understand inflation and all that. BUT I am talking people who thought have a fixed rate mortgage was stupid. (Not even getting into large down payments, 15-year loans and extra principle payments). I remember people telling me I was stupid, and me wondering what planet THEY were from! (Stupid because I want to pay off my house some day? BEcause I am locking in the lowest mortgage rates of the century?)

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

Anyway, when I think back it is kind of funny since dh and I were so young and naive when we bought our first home. Some smarts and good financial advice helped us through though.

As was the entire last decade, we decided to buy in an extremely volatile market. I would have never bought a home if not for dh. Living near San francisco the prices of homes were absurd in 1999. It was somewhere near the end of college that dh told me he didn't want to get married until we bought a home. I had actually been waiting 4 years, to finish college, to turn my engagement ring into a wedding ring. When he first told me this, I thought he was stalling. I REALLY thought he was insane. Who can own a flipping home here, right out of college? What is he thinking?

In the end, it wasn't a stall tactic. Since my family had come from more reasonably priced areas, we had never really heard of the "start with a condo and move up to house" strategy. So dh told me we should buy a condo. At first, still thought he was crazy. But I did my homework. At the time, the cheapest house we could probably find was about $500k, whereas nice condos were to be had for as little as $150k. & when we did the math, it made sense. I Was renting a room (had roommates) for $400/month. Dh was living at home. Thing was, we couldn't get our own place for less than $1k per month. PRobably would cost more if we wanted anything safe and decent. When you run the numbers, condos were far cheaper. & this is somewhere we grew up and intended to stay forever. No doubt about it.

There was just one problem. Though the asking prices looked okay, all condos were selling in minutes with up to 6-figure over-bids. Condos and town houses were appreciating FASTER than houses, which was a selling point to me (my parents were wary if we wanted to invest in a condo, but the region was unique enough to make sense). So yeah, honestly, I didn't think we would be buying a condo anytime soon. I had heard the horror stories from the trenches.

The next part of my story is why I would never do a real estate transaction without a GOOD realtor. A relative referred a realtor who was worth her weight in gold. She had a lot of insights into some of the better neighborhoods, and some of the inside info that no casual buyer would have. (i.e. she told us not to buy in the complex next to where we ended up, because there were construction defects, etc.). Anyway, and I suppose this is how we stumbled upon our home buying MO. Find a TERRIBLE selling realtor - the rest is in the bag. Not a conscious decision at all, but over the years we have stumbled onto homes worth farm more than ever advertised. Way underpriced, etc., etc. I suppose "no realtor" is better than a bad one. But I would personally never buy or sell, without a good realtor on my side.

So, that's how we did it. We wanted 2 or 3 bedrooms, though were sure we would probably end up with 2. We were only shopping end units. I didn't want to share all our walls with neighbors. So, we come across this 3-bedroom condo, remodeled to the hilt, that had been sitting on the market for 6 months. At which point, I swear to you, we just about turned and ran the other way. It was impossible that anything semi-decent was on the market for 6 months!!! (I still think to this day - what if we didn't give it a try). We walked in, and we fell in love. (In the end? Problem was terrible selling realtor. SO penny wise and pound foolish for the sellers - I can't even tell you how much so. We were relieved to narrow down the problem and know the place was just fine. It was a GEM!)

I suppose some of our friends or family thought it was a bit much to take on 3-bedrooms. Dh and I were always looking for the long term. Though we hoped to ride the equity wave up to a house, we wanted somewhere where we could have kids, etc., if it didn't work out. We weren't sure if we could ever afford a house. Let's face it - this might be our "forever home." & we were happy with that!

Anyway, the condo was at the top of our price range, and they immediately accepted our full price offer. (Bad realtor had said they had lower offers and would accept nothing less. Can you believe our relief that we didn't have to get into a bidding war with 100 people? Full price it is!)

The financial advice I got from my parents at the time was to:

1 - put 20% down
2 - get a fixed rate mortgage
3 - No pre-payment penalties
4 - Don't escrow taxes/insurance

They didn't really give advice on how much to borrow, but I presume if we bought a $500k house, they would have said something. Wink At the time, lenders were still pretty conservative (1999). I mean, our lender was trying to talk us into ARMs, and 0% down, of course. But beyond that, the income guidelines were pretty strict even then.

So, we put 20% down ($52k), and financed the rest ($208k) at about 8%. At the time, we borrowed a fair amount - PITI was probably 36%-ish of income. We didn't really care about that so much. The place was dirt cheap when it came to renting anything similar, and with the homeowner tax breaks, would not cost us much more than renting a studio apartment, anyway. So, we did think hard through the finances and were happy.

Dh and I both got a $10k raise within the year, and with dropping interest rates, refied to a 15-year with a much lower interest rate, soon after.

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

The thing about San Jose, is that the place was *nothing* in the 70s. It was just a little farming comunity, and by the 90s, its housing prices rivaled Manhattan.

Most of the people I know want to buy there because that is where they grew up. BUT, a lot of them seem to think they will make their riches in housing, like all our parents did. Dh and I have always felt it was a little insane. Um, that ship has SAILED? How do prices appreciate from "most expensive in the country" to twice as much, overnight? It's not going to happen. It's like chasing stock market returns. You have to find the good values. The "Manhattans of the future."

Considering dh and I didn't want to work into eternity, to buy a HOUSE (or to afford rent), we pretty quickly decided just to leave the area. Our condo appreciated $100k overnight, but houses went up $200k. IT started to feel pretty futile. Couldn't save fast enough, if you tried. Even with equity to help us along.

At the time, most of our friends with kids were moving to Sacramento. But we had a few single friends who made the move, to. Why pay $500k for a house, when you can get the same thing for $100k, in Sacramento?

We weren't exposed to much real estate crazy in San Jose. I mean - the people who were buying, were buying before they were "priced out forever." I would put dh and I in that category. (Which in the end, was over dramatic).

BUT, the real real estate crazy was in Sacramento. We bought a beautiful home for the same price our condo had been, and with no condo HOA fees, and lower interest rates, it was actually cheaper in the end - for us. Hell, our utilities are lower here - all the energy efficiency.

The people I met locally, never understood. We were labeled as "rich" or "crazy" to have such a nice home. Or we came with buttloads of equity. (Truth is - $0 equity - by the time we sold the condo). To us, it was just a matter of perspective. These prices were a dream!

But as people moved here from more expensive areas (LA, San Francisco), in droves, prices got pretty sky high. Then the locals started getting sucked in and paying $400k-$600k for homes, before they were "priced out forever."

I had been trying to talk my dad to invest in real estate, forever. Sacramento was going to be HOT! In 2004, he actually became open to the idea. I remember one of us came across a graph of the local real estate market, for like decades. The usual market was a series of hills and valleys, but the current cycle was a hill with no end in sight. It took just one look and we both said, "Now is not the time to buy." You know, we could wait for a valley...

So, you fast forward to today. What are my friends saying? The ones "who would never buy a house!" in particular. They are running out and snatching up houses before this "low" disappears forever. You know what the irony is? I have local relatives here, and when we bought this house, in 2001, they thought we were INSANE. Because they just didn't grasp how expensive our home town was. I remember precisely, one relative was in the process of selling his investment real estate. He had a good run, and as far as he was concerned, it was over. I always thought *he* was the foolish one, honestly. Seeing the potential for the market, from my eyes. & so - you fast forward to 2009/2010. What the locals thought was an "insane high" in 2001, is not an "insane low" in 2010? I suppose you realize through all this, how short-term people's minds think, sometime. I think that is what struck dh and I the most through all this. We are VERY long-term thinkers. Which is why I commented quite a few times, we do have friends/relatives who thought we were insane all along, who are now running out to snatch up houses for the same prices today, with little thought. In fact, they brag to us how they waited (& mostly paid more for the same thing). Because their memory ain't too good. It's like they try to rub it in our face that THEY Waited for the low of the low. & we go, "huh?" I thought this was the high of the high? Make up your mind? (I suppose that was before housing doubled overnight and all that).

Anyway, which is the final chapter in all this. Interest rates! Interest rates are the low of the low. No doubt. BUT, if you can not afford said house if the rate went up 1%, um, can you really afford it???? This is what drives me crazy about people these days. I know we are young, but we bought before most of our peers did. As such, we started out with a 8% interest rate. I don't know if people really grasp how that even with a fixed rate loan, they could be forced to refi, in death or divorce, etc., etc. IF you can afford 4.5%, but not 5.5%, I think I would step back and think it through a little more. For us, being able to refi down to 4.875% has been super awesome for our finances. But fact is, we could easily afford our house payment if we had to reset it at 8% for any reason. Even 10%. In the era of low interest rates - the advice I would add to my father's, is, "Don't let affordability be dictated by interest rates." Just consider it a nice bonus. I know we do!!!

I think the low interest rates are a big driver in the "crazy" in the real estate market here. The thing is, that good properties are getting snatched up in bidding wars here, today. In the end, it falls very deja vu. In the bubble, in the bust, always the bidding wars and the "if I don't buy it today, I never will!"

I've actually got home-owning friends with NO CASH who are buying investment real estate with $0 down in this "time of opportunity." (Um, did they know the vacancy rate on houses was sky high? Not sure who they will rent to). I just cringe as I watch it all unfold. On some level I wonder what is to stop another bubble from forming fast and furiously.

Anyway, typing all this out makes me curious about the insights of people who have been home owners for many more decades than I. You know, my parents have told us about the days of 13% interest rates (when they bought their house!), etc. & I appreciate having an intelligent, long-term perspective, when it came to the whole subject. It helped us from doing anything too stupid!

I know this is LONG, but these are all some thoughts I had been wanting to put out there, for a while!

Counting Down the Days

January 16th, 2010 at 01:10 pm

**Dh did some serious grocery shopping this week! He bought stuff for 4 meals (mostly non-perishable items) to cook the week after next. 4 big meals + plenty of leftovers. (Most of next week will be out of town for surgery). BEtween that and frozen meals filling our fridge, we may have enough to eat for months! Big Grin

The grocery bill will be ugly, but will probably offset, next month. (Besides the above - he stocked up on just about EVERYTHING!)

**We have seemed to make some progress on neighbor's nanny, arrangements. I don't know if we will even use her, but boy it is nice to have options!!! We haven't finalized price, but what we have discussed is very workable.

**The rest of the weekend will be so busy getting the house in order.

Work should be crazy, and is certainly busy, but mostly seems under control. Which is a big relief!

The "prepare for the worst" in me needs to remember to bring dh's medical directive and power of attorney, etc., etc.

Though I suppose it is good to keep busy, I am kind of annoyed with myself. I was going to spend the evenings doing some chores. Figured I better get used to it (since my evenings will be BUSY for a while - cooking meals, help with homework, and such). Thing is my gas tank runs out about 5pm. I can sometimes muster energy for the gym - it's very relaxing to me. BUT, has anything gotten done around the house? Um, no??? I know I will be fine in survival mode. I just haven't gotten there yet. More like, "I better enjoy some relaxing evenings while I Can..."

So I am annoyed that I feel so rushed to get so much stuff done this weekend.

It's always WAY less overwhelming when we all chip in. I asked dh and the kids to work on the house today. Will see if they listened. (Last time they didn't! But I think dh knows better, this weekend. Big Grin ). Maybe we can all work together tonight, get 'er done, and just RELAX tomorrow. I can dream!

Ugh!

January 15th, 2010 at 07:33 am

I am in the midst of a financial firestorm.

When it rains, it pours...

Got news that my compensation is taking a HUGE hit for 2010. Maybe, but who knows. YEah...

So, anyway, I don't think it has a lot to do with the economy (though it could). It has more to do with my boss winding down the business. HE is closing our profit sharing, which is not all bad. I can roll my balance to an IRA, take full control, and now my family can inherit 100% if something happens to me (couldn't before). I think I am more upset about the writing on the wall. My boss is cleaning things up as he prepares for retirement. HE would love to take on a partner or sell the business, but no takers. So, makes me fret about that more. I'd LOVE to work here forever like so many of my co-workers have. Alas, too young!

He hasn't really committed to the decrease - says, "will see," as he may open a SEP IRA instead - far less administration. I suppose I have 15 months to fund my IRAs for 2010, which is good, because I will need it. In the back of my mind I wonder why my boss is giving up a $50k per year tax break. IT doesn't make a whole lot of sense... In a SEP, if he contributed 25%, he would have to give us all 25%, I believe. So obviously he is happy to give up the GIANT, LUCRATIVE tax break. Which stresses me out a bit as to why that would be. What's the next announcement? Closing up shop?

I will also have to decide if I should contribute to a regular IRA then. I don't think I can put enough away, otherwise. Without the tax break. Then I wonder if 8% to a ROTH is the same as 10% to a regular IRA, in the end, since there are no taxes on the back end. Lots to think about there.

I have to put is aside for now. Timing is TERRIBLE. I can't think about it too much.

I have to focus on dh getting well, and we will have to sit down and work on the budget once all this medical stuff shakes out.

I think this is also a bit of a kick in the butt. I knew my compensation was awesome before, and I appreciated a mostly low-stress, highly flexible job, with small kids. BUT, I think I will feel out the market a bit this year and see what else is out there. Not really ready to jump ship. But I think I Would feel less stressed about it all if I knew what my options were. & for the long run, I may need a bargaining chip. I will consider it a trial run/covert option to see what kind of salary other firms are willing to pay me.

In other news, I should get a raise Monday, so I am trying to hold off panic. I kind of get the feeling most people don't really care that much about money being put away for retirement. To me, this is a HUGE hit. I have really relied on it, though I knew this day would come. Anyway, I do not expect a salary adjustment (to make up for lack of profit sharing), because my boss was very vague and clearly wasn't sure what he would do.

I discussed it with dh yesterday, and told him, "We will worry about all this when you recover." I've got other things to deal with right now!

Our insurances have gone up about $4k this year, for various reasons, so this is not helping the UGLY.

2009 was really prosperous for us. I am bummed that 2010 is starting out so freaking opposite!

Gearing Up for Some Crazy

January 14th, 2010 at 08:35 am

I've heard and seen some interesting opinions and attitudes over the years - when it comes to a male stay-at-home-parent.

I can conclude from many a conversation that most people think men are incapable of housework, cooking, and child rearing. EVEN if it has been their full-time job for many years. (I have had women snidely tell me that they would NEVER leave their kids in the care of their husband. Um, and this is something to brag about? Good for you - you married a moron? Or that you are that much of a control freak?)

I have gathered that most people I know think that I am happy to fill in the role of "do it all mom," while my husband sits at home and does nothing. I mean, he may pick up the kids from school, and care for them while I am at work. But obviously I do everything else. (& it's a miracle the house hasn't burned down, and the kids haven't starved, in the meantime!)

???

So, anyway. It will be interesting to fill in the role of "do it all mom." Not looking forward to it in the least. But I suppose I will fill the role that everyone expects I already have. Or which most moms I know already fill. Which means - I suppose I will get little sympathy. Wink

But honestly, I am just EXHAUSTED thinking about it. Beyond the chauffering, cooking, cleaning, errands, staying home with sick kid days, etc., etc. it is so much more than that. There is the discipline and the refereeing, and the "eat your dinner if you want dessert" and all that stuff that dh usually takes on. He has always taken that on, because he is way better at all that stuff than I.

For our kids' sake, I hope dh's recovery is speedy. Big Grin

His surgery is in just one week!