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Archive for May, 2020

Opening a ROTH IRA

May 23rd, 2020 at 03:02 pm

My last post re: retirement savings for MM(16):

When he does his taxes, we will discuss funding a ROTH this year (2019). I don't really see the point and don't think that we will. But we left it to discuss at tax time, and that he has until April 15th to decide. He has a lot of very big expenses to in the near term horizon. If nothing else, he is saving up for a car. (The current car is only for his use until he turns 18, then it goes to his brother). After that, he will be saving up for a home. If not also saving to help pay for college. I couldn't have even fathomed saving for retirement before I graduated college (no parental support past age 17; no help with college). & I don't feel too much different at the moment (about him putting off retirement savings until after college), while his #1 college choice is a very expensive private college. If he ends up going to our alma mater (it costs pennies) then we can re-evaluate. I think this year is most likely, "Keep it in cash, see how things shake out next fall". We will discuss all the pros/cons, and he will be the one to make the decision. So while I am strongly leaning towards not starting to save for retirement yet, will see what he thinks.

It is personally not a priority of ours to help our kids fund their retirement. I have no plans to contribute whatsoever to that, so it's going to have to be his dollars if he does contribute.

In the end, MM(16) decided to go with the ROTH option. He is depositing 100% of his 2019 earnings into a ROTH. He made this decision back in January. I made a convincing argument for the, "have your cake and eat it too" plan. (ROTH money can always be used more short-term, no penalty for taking back the original contributions). I told him he could always abandon the ROTH contribution if he didn't have a summer job by April 15th. He was okay tying up all that cash if he would make more money this summer.

Then... Tax deadlines were extended. I think he was still going to go through with the plan.

Now that the cash is piling up from his summer job (at my office), we sat down last week and picked an investment. He was really limited at Vanguard with the $1k minimum funds. He decided on some balanced fund, maybe 60/40. (This money is mostly earmarked for a house down payment at this point. I'd maybe more heartily recommend 90/10 if this was actually for retirement).

In the end, I couldn't figure out how to open a minor ROTH account at Vanguard and added it to my chore list. Having to actually do this over the phone... UGH!

I had some time the other morning and revisited. Was googling a bit. Surely someone figured out the magic formula to just do online. While googling, Fidelity popped up with their online process to open an account for a minor. (Which is super easy apparently). They have so many $0-minimum mutual funds now, I didn't know. I had told MM (before) pretty much he couldn't park it in cash unless he just wanted to open a ROTH with one of our banks or credit unions and then just roll it over later when he has more than $3k. But... Now he could just park it in cash (at Fidelity) if that is what he wants to do. Which is may be what I do today just to get the ball rolling (he will be at work all day). I was just waiting for him to go over the Fidelity options and make a decision.

I share because it feels like we did about 90% of the work in our teens and 20s. Choosing to work and pay cash for everything. Investing in real estate very young. Etc. But opening a retirement/investment account when you are 16? That is next level. At 16/17, I was worried about paying for my wheels, paying for college, paying for the roof over my head in a very expensive city. It will be interesting to see what our kids can do without all of those financial burdens. Though we are kind of just, "Dude, you are going to need that money for housing." But they have so much support that they can afford to take a little more risk with that money and can view it as more long-term.

MM(16) is still saving up for a car, but that is also very nebulous and he has enough cash for that. Not sure if he will even want or need a car while in college? Saving it up just in case. That should be more clear when he decides how much of his 2020 income to park in his ROTH.

Financial Updates

May 17th, 2020 at 02:32 pm

MM's #1 college choice (a very small private college) is offering significantly reduced price summer classes (online). MM(16) applied for a class I don't think he technically has all the prerequisites for, but I am sure he would be fine. Anyway, he was approved Friday and he is so excited. What an amazing opportunity to test drive the school. I sent a check out in the mail on Friday.

That has been our one splurge. April "extra unemployment money" (above and beyond normal wages) will cover it. I mentioned in my last post we've yet to receive any of several expected windfalls. So between that and just being insanely busy, haven't put much thought into it. This was just an opportunity we felt we could jump on with some extra money coming in. For the most part we are just in "wait and see" and "hoard cash" mode, as to how our jobs shake out.

The dentist/ortho offices opened back up in our area and so the kids went in last week. They both have different schools and so never went together before. In this case, no parents allowed and so MM(16) just took his brother. DL(14) ended up scheduling their next appointment; I guess the ball is in their court.

The only other financial update I have is that I think our refinance is dead. Long story, but there is some required impound based on our zoning (a newer law) and they didn't even tell us until Day 70. In fact, everyone I have talked to is "Duh, I don't know why the system is making me require this impound." I think I remembered subconsciously, is a newer law. I looked it up and *I* know why. But our credit union is small enough there is a very slim chance they will let it go. (They do not have to require because of the size of their assets. Is more of a bigger bank requirement). They have been working 24/7 and are totally slammed and so I honestly think they just forgot about us. I don't get the sense they are fighting hard to get this appealed for us. 😉 If we had a bigger loan or planned to be here longer we'd probably have to let it go. But in this case, it's just not worth the hassle. We are waiting for the Hard No and then we'd like to sleep on it. But I think we are about 99% "Forget it," at this point. Will just add it to the reasons we want to be done with mortgages forever AND one more reason we want to move out of this neighborhood.

It has been interesting. The pendulum has swung way far back towards the days of the No-Doc loans. It's basically been a No-Doc loan. I've heard in the news that banks are way tightening their lending standards, but is anything I have yet to see personally or professionally. It's definitely coming, but it just hasn't hit yet.

Meatloaf Recipe

May 12th, 2020 at 02:32 pm

Meatloaf recipe:

Text is and Link is

It was easy to find online. Phew!

Quarantine Life

May 10th, 2020 at 02:36 pm

My initial feelings on lockdown, posted over a month ago:
I am just so buried at work, life continues on as it has. We are homebodies and try to generally limit unnecessary errands, always eat our meals at home, etc. so it's been a small change for us at this point.

I only leave the house to go to the office. MH only leaves the house to go to the grocery store.

At 8 weeks of lockdown, I'd say not much has changed for us. One-income living has prepared us for "quarantine life". I am still buried at work. MH and the kids have their slow "summer schedule" (no school/work). It's all in some realm of normalcy for us.

{This was true through the end of April. Now MM and MH are both working, more info below}.

I commented in another blog that we aren't experiencing any +/- in our spending. A lot of it is having a bare bones budget to begin with. We are clearly using a lot less cell data (on wifi 100% now) but that might save us $4 this month ($1 per line). My commute has decreased a little bit, so my electric fuel spending might be $20 instead of $25. It's just stuff like that.

I am waiting for several windfalls, none have materialized yet: refi, stimulus, unemployment. Crickets, crickets, crickets.

Except for one surprise "windfall". My boss called me up a few weeks ago and offered MM(16) a job. He received a 50% raise (over last summer) and it sounded like he was about to offer him use of a car, we are so desperate for help at the office. That was a sudden turn of events. The night before we had literally discussed how MM probably wouldn't be working at all this year. (The seasonal summer job he had gotten would have started yesterday, but is on hold indefinitely. We had discussed that even if they do open it wouldn't be worth being exposed to hundreds of people every day. Going to the same office I go to, with a whole whopping 5 other people... Talk about night and day).

I am still digging out of my hole. It's a million times better than it ever was in 2018 or 2019, I am very well aware. But last last weekend I was catching up on taxes (for relatives) and this past weekend I finished up my professional education for the (entire) year. Phew!

By itself, I may literally have crossed everything (non-work) off of my to-do list and can maybe realistically experience a May with "nothing on my plate." {I know a lot of people are home and bored. It's just not anything I can even begin to fathom right now; have not been able to fathom "boredom" for a few years}.

But... MH has been called back to work. From part-time to full-time. He hasn't worked full-time since 2002 (before kids). Ugh! It's very in line with my current years-long jinx. Every time I think I turn a corner, something else crazy is thrown at my feet. So technically last Sunday was my first peaceful/quiet day in as long as I can even remember. But then... I was thrown head first into the domestic side of things. But I think it will be a good thing. It's always good to walk in someone's shoes for a while. It should just be for a month. Whenever I try to help at all, MH refuses. & he's already a control freak in the kitchen so just isn't good with delegating anything "kitchen" to anyone. He admits it will be good to get out of his comfort zone and this will force us to have more teamwork in the kitchen, regarding both dishes and meals. We are mostly delegating to DL(14) who literally has nothing on his plate. The schedule and responsibility would obviously be good for him; he's already told us he feels better than he has in weeks. (We've given the kids full kitchen duty in the past, but it's just never stuck).

Thursday night I did make our favorite spinach manicotti recipe. We couldn't find any manicotti, so turned it into a lasagna instead. MH was nervous about it and hovering over me in the kitchen. I agreed to cook because DL(14) does not like this dinner. We asked him to make rice for leftovers, as his chore for the day. Anyway, I could tell the lasagna had cooked through and was fine, but MH was driving me crazy. Honestly, it was a much simpler way to make it. MH might prefer the manicotti, but I think I am sold on the lasagna. It will be interesting what meal modifications endure this time. I think we are long practiced in "creativity" and "making do", but are just flexing those muscles more than usual.

Week 1 went really well. It was definitely a team effort.

Last Sunday MH did a big grocery run for 2-3 weeks. He is being protective and refuses to let anyone else in the house go to any store whatsoever. So his plan was just to do a big grocery stock-up before he was back at work and super busy. We probably hadn't gone to the grocery store on a weekend in a couple of months. Things have settled down considerably. We were able (for the first time) to find more than a roll of toilet paper.

{I think we honestly have food for a solid 3 weeks, not counting "emergency reserves" like extra meat and rice. It feels we barely put a dent in the groceries this week}.

In the end, we realized that all the green onions we had, had gone bad. So we already need green onions though clearly we could survive without. But MH didn't really have room on his grocery cart to stock up on more cat food, and he got me some stuff for a recipe (that I found recently) but didn't know I needed tomato paste. & I later remembered a couple of other recipe ingredients I had forgotten. So... On a whim Friday I looked if I could do a grocery pick up. MH was talking about doing a run to get these things. Which is confusing to me because he's been so much otherwise, "Once every two weeks at the most, JUST ME." So it's confusing to me when he's kind of, "Oh well, will go to the store just to pick up green onions". So I ran it past him Friday and asked if he needed anything else. I just did a quick pickup; they delivered to my car. (I have more work flexibility, so it fell on me). The personal shoppers are free at our store (and they don't accept tips). For smaller orders it isn't free, but I guess the first 3 times are free. I think this is more of a "MH is working and it's chaos" thing that anything else. MH was a little skeptical about using for such a small pickup, but I pointed out it's always free on a $100+ pick up. Not hard to do $100 for a family of 4. In fact, on the way out the door MH told me "granola bars are on sale, get some of those." & then he ran in a minute later and told me to check the sales ads, there was some good deals. So I ended up spending $60. That was the quick/small grocery run. My conclusion is that this worked out really well. I got lucky, they didn't have to omit or substitute anything in my order. I didn't bother with things that I *knew* were not as well stocked. But still, I figured I'd end up with a different brand or something or other. (I indicated most things I would not accept substitutes ~ all the sales items. But if I had to get a different brand of tomato paste instead of just the generic, or of had to pay a little more for organic onions, whatever).

I think mostly our personalities are, "Meh, it's easier/better to just do things ourselves". We've been doing some Target grocery deliveries to our house (regular shipping), but is nothing I foresee doing once things normalize.

Our menu this week:

Monday: mini meatloaves and roasted potatoes (we have the most amazing recipe, horseradish and chili sauce are the secret ingredients). MH has discovered red potatoes during quarantine so asked us to roast some red potatoes, versus our usual mashed potatoes with this dinner. Just remembering a change that will endure. MM(16) and I cooked dinner.

Tuesday: Burritos (simple/old family recipe) - prepared by DL(14)

Wednesday: South of the Border Wraps (black bean and salsa burritos with green onions and cilantro; simple but divine) - prepared by DL(14)

Thursday: Spinach lasagna - prepared by Moi, with a hovering MH

Friday: Thai chicken (noodles) - prepared by DL(14)

DL(14) has also made a couple of batches of hummus this week.

I share because my kids can cook. 😉

MH is cooking this weekend. Phew! On the menu still (ingredients on hand): Sesame chicken (a new recipe to try), pasta with chickpeas and garlic sauce, Fiesta chicken (crockpot recipe, spicy shredded chicken that we eat with tortillas), salisbury steak, sloppy joes, zuppa toscano, pasta meatball soup, Kashari, Indian butter chicken with jasmine rice, Spicy Stir-Fried tofu & Coconut Rice. This menu is heavy on some of our easier meals. I think MH has another couple of recipes to make next weekend and so we probably won't need another grocery store run for another two weeks. Which feels like a miracle with two teen boys to feed. (MM is still running 8 miles per day; DL has reverted to the home workouts he had been doing for many years before we recently joined the gym. So I am not getting a break with "school sports" retired. Caloric needs continue to be completely absurd. But MM is getting fed some at my job, which helps *a lot*). Will see how I feel about it next weekend...