No this isn't about winning a free vacation (I wish), nor a relative taking us there, and it *is* about saving money, so bear with me for a bit...
Since the beginning of the decade me and the SG-GF have been taking vacations to Florida in November due to using my mother's time share (near Disney). She has a set week to use at that time, and at first I paid for the use, and now it is free as a payment for my re-roofing her house. Our trips to FL had, for a time alternated between Disney visits and Universal Studio visits.
So last year we did a crazy two week FL vacation by using the time share and matching up free time share stays with time share tours. And then we got 7 day Disney tickets, and basically did Death by Disney (as compared to Death by Chocolate - see my entry from last year about that). It was great (two weeks, cost a little over $1,000 for both of us and seven days at WDW, yeah that was a hell of a deal), but I think we both had enough of Disney for a while.
Which leads to today. The SG-GF was about to pre-purchase our tickets this week. As she is a DoD employee she can buy tickets on base and at a discount. For Disney, the discount was almost zero to other ways to buy, but for other attractions, such as Universal Studios, there was a good discount on tickets. And as this year was to be our year to go to Universal, that meant we would be having a less expensive trip to Florida. And really, it has been 4 years since we were at Universal (One year instead of Universal we hit other less major FL attractions, which accounts for the long time), so we were psyched and ready to go there.
Well..... not so fast!!!! Disney has had a very, very nice discount offer for active military for some time, but not for DoD employees. Soooo... wassup??? Disney just extended the discount offer for tickets to DoD employees starting in the middle of September (we hadn't heard about it) but only thru the end of the year. A "one time offer", they say. I sorta think it has to do with Star Wars Land coming to WDW next year and people are waiting to go to Disney for next year, and therefore attendance is dropping somewhat. I have no proof of this, but it makes sense.
Anywho.... with the much lower price, WDW tickets are now very comparable with Universal Studio prices. The time frame for us is perfect. And these are "Plus" tickets, which also allows us to go to their water parks, Disney World of Sports, free miniature golf (SG-GF thinks I am nuts about doing miniature golf, but I say we should try it once so we know what its like there).
We would have bought tickets earlier this summer, but we waited to make sure the SG-GF was feeling up to going to the parks (she had some physical problems this summer - she's much better now). So by waiting to buy the tickets, we will save money by seeing WDW again this year, and hitting Universal next year instead at lower prices. We figure this will be perfect, as with Star Wars Land opening next summer WDW will probably be overrun with tourists next November, so going to Universal then will be the smart choice anyway.
I love it when a plan accidentally falls together. Bwah-hah-hah....
No this isn't about winning a free vacation (I wish), nor a relative taking us there, and it *is* about saving money, so bear with me for a bit...
Hard to make posts when most everything is going well. Maybe not hard, but at least interesting. Anywho... everything is going well if you ignore the job. And relationship wise too. The job... well that's another story. Lots of boring info follows, but I wasn't up to making these separate entries, so they all get packed into one.
And away we go....
I don't have the dollar amounts here, but I did do a half year analysis back at the end of June, and the return on my investments was - UGH. Maybe 2-3%. I forget exactly - probably just trying to forget. (Its gone up some percentages in the past month - so go me). My investments have been growing though as I have been putting money in faithfully. In fact....
... I have only $800 more to contribute before I hit the limit for this year. And that means next paycheck goes up maybe $700 and then the rest of the year goes up $1,300. Hurrah, I survived another year of retirement plan contributions. And I put in the Roth IRA money at the beginning of the year. And I have already paid property taxes for the year. And made all of my major purchases for the year. And I got a 4% raise that will show up in my next paycheck. 4% is not bad in today's economy. So I'm looking at large saving numbers for the remaining 5 months.
Well I got the lawn mower from the SG-GF working and it was / is much better than mine was, so I was able to sell off my 10 year old clunker. I may have had it longer - all I remember is I got it at a yard sale long long ago for $20. I sold it this spring for $10, so I figure I was able to use it for $1/year. Not toooooo shabby! I've been keeping my expenses extra low. Maybe $25/week for food, $20/week for auto gas, electricity for the past year was maybe $500, same for natural gas, and internet now costs about that as well. Phone (cell & MagicJack) is around $125/year. No cable. So utilities are not much.
This has been going very well, though it comes and goes in spurts. For the year I already have well over $1,000 in sales, probably close to $1,200. A few things were for the SG-GF, but still... I like it. As usual I still think I need to pick up the sale pace. Not sure how, lower the prices perhaps? Also had one Craigslist sale for $100 for wooden train stuff I pick up here and there - probably cost me $20 for the lot.
The relationship with the SG-GF is going great. In fact she is retiring at the end of the year and moving in with me after that. OMG, that means we need to condense our lives and get rid of lots of stuff. I think in the end it will be great, but its going to be stressful for a while until we are settled.
No major problems so far this year. Though it does seem like small things crop up that never would when I was younger. Growing old #@$%!@$%!!!. I have kept up the extra workouts at work, so muscle definition is doing great now. Makes me wonder how I could have turned out if I was this dedicated to working out when I was in my 20s. Oh well, better late than never.
Left this for last. Oh man, there have been days and weeks and... where I have really (and I mean REALLY) hated this job. It was never like this, in fact I sorta liked it before, until I got put on the PFH (shorthand for Project From Hell) a year or two ago. No one thing is horrendous about it (ok, I can think of a few), but there are so many ways this was set up awful, it just added up to Gawd Awful. I'm sorta dealing with PTSD now. Even when the day is good, any little thing I get dealing with it just rattles me.
Good news is I did get the 4% raise, and my annual leave starts accumulating an extra 6 days / year starting this fall. I am gonna need it.
So life is doing good. Could be better, but sure could be worse too. How long until a pension kicks in? Four years, eight months. Is this what it feels like waiting to get out of prison? Who do I talk to to get a pardon?
Since I haven't written for a while, there is a lot here, and I have them categorized for ease of reading. Can you say I have worked on a computer for too long? I knew you could.
Been a while since I posted anything here. Life has been going well, no major issues, watching my money go into my 457 plan and being overwhelmed by the drop in value from the markets going down some. Ooops, I just checked, and it is only a few thousand from the high value I saw in mid February, so I guess that's still doing well too.
Making extra money
Been doing well selling on ebay lately. So far this year the total is over $500 and that's not shabby considering I am just trying to get rid of things now. Which brings me to my help.
I was talking with the SG-GF a few months ago about everything I was finding as I dug through closets, and pointed out I had a number of unopened Mary Kay items from my EX sitting here and would she know someone that I could give them to. She quickly set me straight (that is - helped me) - I might be sitting on a gold mine of no longer produced products that still have demand. To me it was junk, what did I know? Well I checked on ebay and sure enough, these items do sell. Not sure if they sell for more then originally sold for, but still.... nice getting these out the door and getting a good chunk of money back. I am down to my last six bottles/tubes (I sold two more today), so I'm not getting rich, but this is working great.
My next area of concentration is going to be my toy trains. I probably have 200% of what I really need, so half of them need to go. Biggest problem is figuring out what to sell, and how much to ask for. Oh well, I will make it work one way or another.
On the credit card front I just got two new credit cards to get the bonus money/points. These are my first ones since the middle of last year. Each one was "use it for $500, get $100 worth of points". Already used one on this year's home insurance (just a smidge over $500), and the other one will be used on either car insurance or a plane ticket for my son, probably both as neither is $500 by itself.
And now with my Real Estate taxes pre-paid for the year, and these items out of the way.... not sure where I will need to spend any serious money until... maybe my vacation to Florida in November????
I had gotten a Sam's club membership on sale last year (in Feb.), and mostly used it for discounted gas. I got their credit card to get a bonus there too. Really wasn't worth that much for me, but still cheaper gas worked out nice. However, I found out about the gotcha last month. Turns out they don't give any cash back (on the credit card) unless you are a member of the club. And since they only give you cash back after your anniversary with the club.... well you need to sign up (or in my case - they just billed it to my credit card with them!!!) for the next year to get your cash back from the prior year. Those sneaky devils. Ok, so I didn't complain, and got my cash back (they make you do it at their store!). But as I researched it, I found the way to make this work for me.
The membership says you can get all your membership cost back any time for the year you are on. Soooooo.... if I don't use their credit card to buy things, I can use their membership for free for a year, and then cancel and get the last year's membership back, and not lose the cash back on their credit card. AH-HA, I see a work around that will do fine for me. I just need to remember to cancel sometime next January. OK, discounted gas for free, yeah I will take that just fine, thank you very much.
In a blast from the past (In particular this entry) I mused on whether participating in "Prosper" or other lending club web site would be a good choice. I never wrote more on it as I never tried it. Don't know if it was fear of the unknown, inertia, or just what, but I passed on it, and then just forgot it. I guess other things were on my mind then (like getting divorced!).
Anywho, this was brought back to me today as I was reading personal finance forums and there was a long thread on Lending Club, Prospr, and the like. From what most people wrote, it turned out that while they did make money with the sites, it was not nearly as much as they hoped, and that over time the payback tended to get worse and worse, and now most people were just cashing out and wouldn't bother with it any more. And their returns in the past years had usually been less than 10%, often only a few percent a year. Now they were saying how they lost out on having that money in the market in the run up of the past years.
I suspect the first couple of years would have done well, but with interest rates so low only the desperate would use these sites any more. And it turns out they do a very bad job (or no job) of getting the outstanding debts.
Turns out most fads are just passing fads and a waste of time and money. I guess the lending club model (at least here in USA) was a passing fad I'm glad I passed on.
OK, as a follow up to last year's End of Year Financial Status, I have put together a 2017 version...
*** 2017 Year End Financial Roundup ***
OK, so where do I start? First these numbers are rounded to get approximate performance. OK, so how about looking at my different savings vehicles and see how they performed? OK, lets start there...
*My 457 plan (401k equivalent): Started the year at $460k now, and is now $563k. I put in $24k, that leaves $79k growth - almost 17% growth after backing out contributions. Overall that is a 22% increase.
* My ROTH IRA: Started the year over $113k, ended the year a little under $139k. I put in $6.5k, leaving growth of $20k. That's almost 17.7% growth and an overall 23% increase.
* My Brokerage: I Started the year at $57500, now $80600. I put in $14,300, leaving growth of $8800 - 15.3% growth, and overall 40% increase.
* HSA Account: New this year, it ended up at $4400
* Loan: New this year, an outstanding loan to the SG-GF. Current balance of about $5000.
So maybe a ~16% growth for the year. And overall a 25.6% increase. (Yes, I didn't work out my DRIP numbers as I don't have numbers for them (they're around $50k), plus I wasn't adding anything to them this year - except for my trash DRIP). I really need to get stock certificates from them so I can transfer them to my brokerage (or sell them - not sure which makes sense).
Sooo.... how about my savings rate? The percentages are similar to last year (See 2016 here), though the savings percentage went from ~50% to near 55%. The other expenses were similar, so my living expenses probably came in at about 10% of my gross salary. Ok, that's just crazy. I don't feel like I am deprived at all. I went on a 2 week Florida / WDW vacation with SG-GF. My car is fine for my needs. I spent 2 weeks with my son visiting relatives back home. Spent long weekends and then some with the SG-GF as well. I am happy living at this rate but I know its not sustainable forever. I will need to upgrade the car in the coming years (hopefully not for a while), do some work on the house ($$$), and who knows what else could come up. Still, not too shabby.
Well the early tax payment has been made (see my prior entry for details). Turns out the county doesn't care how much you pay early, they will just keep applying the amounts from the pre-payment until it runs out. Since the further in the future the less likely it will benefit me, I hedged my bets. I paid enough for this coming year, plus some of 2019's bill. Assuming you can use these payments (and according to everyone that reads the laws there is no reason you can't) for itemizing taxes, I will be saving $1,250 this year on my fed taxes (& maybe a hundred or two for the state). And if for some reason I can't use it for taxes, its not a major loss anyway. The money was just sitting in my savings account not doing much.
Today was a nice day financially in other ways too. I went into Paypal and requested another $150 out of the account. I checked for the year, and I pulled out over $1,500. Now some of that is sales for the SG-GF, but even so I probably netted near $1,000 for my sales. Nice to see I can make some money with this stuff, but I think I need to be more proactive on some of my sales. I may need to lower the price on some things that just aren't selling. I want the stuff outta here - soon.
Also went to the credit union to deposit my latest electric company dividend check - $144. For the year that makes $570 in dividends, and totaling up my last 12 electric bills came to only $385. Now of course I get taxed on the $570 (boooo...), and my natural gas bill for the year is probably in the $300-$400 range, but still... nice to see another year come and go where I get dividends that more than pay for my electricity. Nice.
Now I need to work up my year end numbers for 2017. They're crazy good, almost too good to be true. Hmmmmmm..... And also get ready to put my 2018 money into my Roth IRA. Yikes my checking account balance is shrinking fast.
As you may know, there is a new tax law in the U.S. starting next year. Being a wage whore (errr I mean slave) there isn't usually much I can do to affect my taxes (other than using IRAs etc...). But it looks like this year there is a way to save serious money. But to do it you have to live in the right locale (looks like I do), and have free cash to do this (again I do), and have the right tax situation (again yes!).
It goes like this. If you currently itemize deductions but will fall below the new standard deduction going forward , if you pay next years taxes now you can pay fewer taxes based on your current marginal tax rate (25% for me), and next year you will not lose any tax deduction since you will take a standard deduction. Only problem is you need the cash to do this, and live somewhere that you can prepay (not everywhere allows this).
According to a newspaper article this can be done where I live. I have free cash, and I work very close to the tax office. Sooooooo... Tuesday morning I plan on going there and seeing if I can make it so.
Prepay for less than a year and save about $1000 on taxes?? Where do I sign up???
The other day as I was sitting on the bed watching NFL games I looked and saw I had with me a smart phone I just got back 10 months ago. I also had with me a Fire tablet I read books on or surf the web. And I was watching on my new-ish TV (32 inch smart TV). And I started thinking how crazy having these items is for me. Why? Because The cost of my electronics now is almost zero.
My TV was free (& new) from a friend last Christmas, the DVD player with it he also gave me maybe 3 years ago (still works great), the tablet I got as part of an award I got at work this summer (anything up to $50 on an awards site, and this 7 inch Kindle Fire was among the items I could get), and my smart phone was part of a QVC sale for $80 with a year of service (and I was about to renew for a year for $80, so I was able to get it for $0 more). And now I am sitting downstairs typing this up, and there is another flat screen TV I got for free, and hooked up is a Blue Ray player I got for $5 at a yard sale.
My only other high tech are this lap top I am using and the ink jet printer for it, and both are at least 8 years old. Since its been so long ago, its like they're free now as well.
Not sure where I am going with this, except that I need to get a new laptop as this one has been slowly dying for 3 years. And when I do, no matter how cheap I can get one, its going to be a shock to the system. I haven't had to pay for electronics for so long now, its like I have forgotten this stuff costs real money. Hard to believe I had to buy a 386 processor computer 25 years ago to help me get through my Master's degree in computer science, and it cost over $2,500!!!! And I thought I did well to not spend even more!
My how times have changed. Not always for the better, but when it comes to high tech, yeah, the prices are sure better.
Time for my after Florida vacation expense analysis. Every year is different, especially in the cost. I had one year where the costs were almost zero, depending on how you calculate, whereas others were..... well not expensive, but certainly more than zero.
This year was different. Main reason was it was a two week vacation the first I have had with a significant other in many many years. Certainly the first with the SG-GF in Florida.
So what did we do? We spent one week at my mother's time share (as part of the payment for my work on her roof). The rest... one day at a hotel paid by the GF, three days at a time share paid by the GF with money and a time share "tour". The other three days were by me at a hotel paid for with $50 and a time share presentation. Yep, that's right, we both did time share presentations. Oooh, wasn't that fun.
But what else? Well we each bought 7-day Disney World tickets. Yes, we went to the parks for 7 days. If there is "Death By Disney" I think we did it. It was fun, but I think it is safe to say we will skip Disney next year (go to Universal probably), we got our fill of Disney for now.
And what else? Well that was a bout it. We needed days to travel there and back, days to recover from the parks, went to yard sales for 2 Saturdays (by now we know a ton of the community yard sales in the area). We each burned a half day at a presentation (don't believe them when they say it takes two hours, budget for 3.5 minimum!). And we got to say "No" A LOT. But its cool, I enjoyed it, but the SG-GF not so much (the presentation and sales pitch – that is). She is not used to saying No so much.
So with all of that out of the way, what was the financial hit? Lets see (below is what I paid only – doesn't include what SG-GF paid)....
* Disney Ticket - $400
* Disney Parking - $140
* Gas - $32 ($72 less $40 I would have paid for two weeks of gas going to work anyway)
* Hotel - $83 (Had to pay $50 + tax on "value" of stay – ugh)
* Eating out - $40
* Park lunches - $95 --- Oh, as an aside, food at Disney would be lots more expensive but we would take in some food each day. Not tons, but enough to get us through the day if we would buy a lunch at the park. Also we now know you can get ice water for free at all locations inside, so that cut down the cost of drinking tremendously.
OK, that totals.... ummm.... $790. Now I didn't include some expenses for various reasons. Those include buying groceries at Aldi's (about the same as I would have paid for two weeks of groceries anyway), Disney figurines I bought ($60 – that was really discretionary and I could have done without I think), and a few dollars at Dollar Tree to stock up on items I just ran out of on trip and brought back home with me. And I'm not including all the extras I brought back with me (enough soap, shampoo, dish detergent, and laundry detergent to supply me for a few months at a minimum ).
And then I get paid bi-weekly and I had a nice paycheck waiting for me when I returned. So all in all pretty good. I hear of people paying many thousands for a week down there, so not bad at all.
Probably won't do that again, as moving in and out of 4 places over two weeks was a challenge. But hey, its like we say, it was an experience. Yes, it sure was. A great one.
After two somewhat major bills this late summer (ER visit & car repair) I had been feeling like I was mostly treading water financially. Not super stressed as without a mortgage/rent bill I could afford the expenses. Still, it was really aggravating.
So yesterday I decide to check on my financial balances. I added up everything (IRA, Retirement, Brokerage, DRIPs, Savings, all the rest) and found I passed another benchmark. For today at least the total is up over $800k. At the beginning of the year I was a good chunk under $700k so this is great, much better than I would have expected.
I dunno, I've been working out twice on work days, I have good health (for now anyway), a great GF who sent her last child off to college (YAY), in a month we're taking a two week vacation to FL/Disney, and my finances are looking better than ever. I think this shows I need to step back from time to time and take a look at the big picture, at least "big" as in my life, and see how well I am doing. Now if I can survive 5½ more years at this job I'll be golden. Sigh...
I'm fortunate to work where you get a pension, and as such I have a date where I can stop working and get the pension paying out on day one versus waiting until I turn 65. In my case due to the odd date I started working, I will be able to retire and get the pension on the exact date I have been working 19½ years. I'm getting close to 14 years in the bank now (2 more months), so its no longer a mystical date out there, but one that I can start to see in the distance, yet it is a tease for the moment.
Anyway, come to last week, and I go to a little retirement presentation (probably first one I went to in about 2 years) for a person I worked with for about 7 years before he moved to another division. I've barely seen him in the last 7 years. Anyway, as they are going through his work history and what not, its pointed out he is retiring after 19½ years. Arrrgh! I think about this enough already, I don't need more reminders!!!!
Ok, just had to get that off my chest. I really need to stop thinking about this.....
Just realized today I will add a new retirement account this weekend - how did I lose track of that? Actually I had it since the beginning of the year, it is my Health Savings Account (or HSA). However, I was not allowed to do any investing with it until it reached the $2,000 mark. Well... with my contribution this Friday I will cross that mark. Now that I can do investing, it makes it feel like a real investment account.
Yes, this is supposed to be used for health expenses, but if your expenses are minor you can just pay for them out of pocket and use the HSA as another retirement account, which is my current plan (Note its addition on the left). Yeah, as I am turning 55 this year (ugh) I won't ever get this account to a very high level, but still it helps with my taxes today (saves money on various taxes), and I don't have to worry about spending the money like I did with the Flexible Savings Account I was using previously. Plus, my employer contributes some to it (I got over $700 this year).
Its small, but adding a new account to my list of accounts is cool.
The SG-GF and I like to go to yard sales and estate sales (probably too much, but whatcha going to do?) but when we go together you can see we have a very different way of going about it. She likes to
peruse every item, talk with the sellers, and just enjoy the experience. Me... I go in, view items very quickly, only stopping at things that really catch my eye, and talking as little as possible.
As you might imagine, this can make for a frustrating time for the two of us when we are together. We've had to compromise quite a bit to make this work for us. I often take a book along and when I am done will return to the car and sit and read until she comes back.
That said, there is another difference we have that I think works for us. She is more of a price haggler where I am not. If I don't like the price, I will put it back, thank them, and move on. Usually that means she can at times get a better price than me, but I am not always worried about getting the absolute lowest price, since the prices are usually so good anyway.
That said, my way works too. Sometimes sellers will deal better with people that don't hassle them about every little thing. Case in point was a local estate sale a few weeks ago (NOT run by an estate company)
where I bought a few items and actually chatted some with the seller. (Yeah, I stretched myself there) I then went and got more things,and for a good chunk of it she just let me take the stuff for free. Not everything, but I could tell she appreciated I didn't haggle with her, especially as the prices were very good.
Come to this weekend, and she was there again still emptying the place out. She remembered me, and while I could only find a few things to get, she just told me to take them and not worry about it.
Not sure where I am going with this other than it is interesting that different techniques can work the best at times. Still... its nice to know I can ask the SG-GF to haggle on something and she is always
up for the challenge.
Ok, why am I doing an analysis today you ask? Ummmmm..... because I feel like it. That and I have some time to decompress at home, so why not?
OK, that out of the way... how are things going? Well... checking the numbers it looks good to me. Here goes...
* My 457 plan went over $511k this weekend. Comparing to the end of the year and backing out contributions, I get a 6.7% growth year to date. Not shabby.
* My ROTH IRA is today over $127k. Doing the same analysis, I get a 6.7% growth YTD. (I sense a trend here)
* For my brokerage, its over $67k. Same math for this gives me a 5.6% growth YTD. It would be over the 6.7% of the others, except for a stock that will remain nameless. (Damn you Macys!!!!)
As for the total value, I have an over 11% growth so far this year. Lets see if we can keep this up for the remainder of the year.
PS: Yes, my numbers on the left are a little lower than what I posted here. I am afraid the numbers will go down at some point, and I would feel bad lowering them. So I am letting them trail a few percent behind just to feel secure. Go figure.
Having extra money allows you to ways not only to make money you couldn't previously, but you can help people in ways you weren't able to previously. Previously I was figured I needed some work done on my car and had the SG-GF's son work on it to help with his side business. I guess I would have spent the money anyway, but it did give me some flexibility to go do this.
Come forward to a few weeks ago and the SG-GF is looking to get a vehicle for son #2. She's not poor, but she is cash flow poor, plus she is trying to look even poorer to help get son #2 a better financial aid package for college for next year. So to stay "poor" she was working on trying to get a car loan, and the bank was giving her grief. I knew she was very trustworthy, and I remembered jumping through dumb hoops years ago when I was getting a car that didn't prove anything other than the bank *could* make you do that. Well when I buy a vehicle now I pay cash, no more of this BS. Soooooo.... as I heard her story I finally told her to forget it, she can borrow the money from me instead. I had more than enough in the bank, and it was earning next to zero anyway, so what was the point of me having this money sit around? So now I am officially the "Bank of SG". She'll pay me back with interest rate that the bank was offering, but now we'll keep the money "in house".
As an FYI... I am not holding the title for the vehicle, or anything like that. Our relationship is the collateral, and I think that means more than anyone's word to a bank. Plus... if for some reason she didn't pay it back, and the relationship did go south (ain't happening, but just saying...) I will get off a lot cheaper than I did with my EX, so that's another way to look at how I am arranging this. I'm not testing her, but I sure know she is more honest than my EX, it ain't even close.
In the past I pointed out it seemed like I would never have to pay for soap again. I had built up quite a stockpile from CVS when they were having freebie sales some years ago, and since then I had been finding more ways to get soap for free that my stockpile barely budged. Well that hasn't stopped since I wrote on this last time. Last year that didn't stop as I got soap for free from various places (in free boxes at estate sales / yard sales usually) as well as a large cake of soap used by someone for "soapmaking" along with a book on how to do it - it was the end of the day and she just wanted it gone. Also going through the SG-GF's items we found more bars of soap she wasn't going to use, so that added to the lot. And then whenever we go on trips, we get soap bars wherever we stay. So by the end of the year I think I had more soap than at the beginning of the year.
A new year and it has re-started already. Someone cleared out their desk at work, and left out for anyone travel bars of soap and shampoos. Well now I am stocked up with another month or two of supplies before I have to start on my original stash. Who knows when the next lot will fall into my lap - it seems like it always happens.
Yeah, it probably doesn't save a ton of money, but my stocks of soap, shampoo, deodorant, even dish detergent, have barely budged since I don't know when. But it all counts - waste not want not - and that extra money helps to bulk up my savings for a rainy day (or to use with the SG-GF for various enjoyments in life).
I have a friend at work I try to be extra friendly with (ok, not overbearing or anything, but I can be a bit aloof, so being friendly is above and beyond for me). If he needs help, a ride, whatever, I try to do it for him. Nothing extraordinary, but I do what I can. I will often find something cheap at yard sales for a fun Christmas present for him (usually no more than $3 or so). This year he even commented how he likes mine the best, that anything else he gets is usually boring.
Anyway... come up to last week just before the Super Bowl. I have joked in the past about how old & small my TVs are and I don't care. I would rather save money than get the latest gadgets. So he comes up to me and says would I be interested in a new TV (as long as I don't sell it). Ummmm.... well... sure I guess (Ok, most conversations don't start out this way so I am intrigued). Turns out he bought something before the holidays (not sure what, I wasn't concentrating on that part of the story), and as part of the store's "sale" the buyer would get a free 32" super duper does everything imaginable LCD flat screen TV. Somehow he ended up with two of them ... but... he already has fancier and larger TVs and these would be downgrades for him. (He is always amazed at how much I have saved, and then buys expensive electronics, new cars, and well you get the idea)
So the unopened TV made it home last week and I set it up Sunday. Turned out my old tv was 20", so this was a major upgrade. I spent the day setting up various functions on it, and even one channel that would not come in with the old digital converter box now comes in great with this digital ready TV. Go figure.
So now I have a great TV out of the blue. Not saying I did the things I do for him expecting any payback, but its nice to think I was appreciated (or pitied for my poor existence - take your choice ) and its great to upgrade for $0.
Well 2017 is here and the numbers are doing well.
I won't list the 2016 numbers as they are basically the same I had listed in my prior posting. As it stated, my overall ROI was in the 16% range, so I am very happy with the year. The market wavered all over the place, and basically ended where they were at mid December when I posted. I have added some to the numbers in the "About Me" section, though I do keep them a bit low as I expect there to be a little pull back in the future and I don't want to feel too bad about it when it happens (silly I know, but it is what it is).
One quickie note: I just got the monthly report from the 457 plan provider, and I see the yearly numbers for the two small-cap funds that have probably 40% of my overall 457 funds had returns for the year of 18% and 27%. I think I see now why my 457 numbers were so great for the year!
As for 2017 I already put in my Roth IRA money ($6500). Also got my first paycheck with my 457 money taken out. Now my paycheck is less than half of what it was in December (yikes!). Oh well, with the higher amount I will almost be done with my yearly contributions by the end of July so I should be happy about that.
As for the year coming up, I need to invest my cash in the IRA & brokerage in something, question is which stock.
On a frugal note (I figure I should include one) I got a backup shaver at the Goodwill outlet two weeks ago (by weight it cost maybe $1.50?). Its an expensive Norelco and a twin to what I currently have. It only needed new blade heads, so online I found I could get a new set for $9. But for another $7 I could get a second set, so I am upgrading both shavers to give me a like new shave for $17.50 for two shavers (costs about $70 for a new shaver). So lets hear it for the GW outlet. (PS: Why do I have two shavers? I keep one in my car to use on the drive in each work day, as I have a car adapter for it!)
Hey, lets have a great year everyone!
I was reading different forum posts discussing how their investments / savings / net worth was doing this year. And with some time available at work to put together my numbers.... well... I figured, hey why not put something together now as my other financial items to blog about here are just same old / nothing new. So with that intro I have here my....
[ALERT: Boring Analysis Follows]
*** 2016 Year End Financial Analysis (pre end of year edition) ****
OK, so where do I start? First these numbers are rounded to get approximate performance. Ok, so how about looking at my different savings vehicles and see how they performed? OK, lets start there...
*My 457 plan (401k equivalent): Started the year at $373k now, and is now $460k. I put in $24k, that leaves $63k growth - almost 17% growth after backing out contributions. Overall that is a 23% increase.
* My ROTH IRA: Started the year at $94k, now its over $113k. I put in $6k, leaving growth of $13k. That's almost 14% growth and an overall 20% increase.
* My Brokerage: I Started the year at $38400, now $57500. I put in $12,500, leaving growth of $6600 - 17% growth, and overall 49% increase.
So maybe a ~16% growth year to date? And overall a 25% increase. (Yes, I didn't work out my DRIP numbers as I don't have numbers for them, plus I wasn't adding anything to them this year - except for my trash DRIP). I really need to get stock certificates from them so I can transfer them to my brokerage (or sell them - not sure which makes sense).
Sooo.... how about my savings rate? OK, I am going to give percentage numbers here versus my gross...
Payroll taxes are 25%. Property taxes are 3.5% How much did I contribute to 457/Roth/Pension/Brokerage? Those contributions were close to 50% of my gross. Insurance costs (health/house/car) + child support was another 9% of my gross.
My savings account is right what it was at the beginning of the year, so that means I am living off of what is left over. That would be... 100% - 50% - 25% - 3.5% - 9% = 12.5%
So I am able to live off of 13% of my income (with a nice subsidized health insurance - lets not kid myself otherwise). While I am happy living at this rate, I know its not sustainable. I will need to upgrade the car in the coming years (hopefully not for a while), do some work on the house ($$$), and who knows what else could come up. Still, not too shabby.
Last interesting note... what I live on versus what my savings earned... I could live for a numbers of years on what my investment earnings were this year. If only I knew what my future expenses would be... sigh.
In the effort to get to new milestones, I just noticed I/we hit a new milestone. The SG-GF's retirement account, added to my combination of 457/IRA/Brokerage/DRIPs/Savings has just crossed $1.5 Mil. Ok, its not all my money, but still... dayum. And its just an arbitrary amount. But still, I see so often people saying they will retire at this amount (and I know they're referring to a couple), that wow, its hard to comprehend. Mostly because I am not retired I suppose, but its great to think about anyway. We'll see if the market takes it away in the coming months or not. Once the SG-GF can retire.... its gonna be hard for me to stick it out to my retirement date .
On a fun note, we made our yearly trip to Florida a few weeks ago. A really peaceful trip even with a day at Disney, a day at Seaworld, and a day at Cape Kennedy. I think we were able to pull it off for less than $400 for the two of us - not too shabby!
Ugh, is it 49 weeks until we go next year???
I was thinking about retirement today during some down time (OK, I do that too much I fear), and I was looking at the balance in my 457 retirement plan. I started to think that about how expectations change over time. 10 years ago I would have been ecstatic having my current balance, especially with a pension and other investments and a paid house, and I started to think back at how things looked then. And then it hit me...
About 10 years ago I watched a PBS "Frontline" video they made about our retirement system in the U.S. Basically discussing the 401k retirement system and how it was inadequate (I don't agree, but that that's not my point). In it they talked to various people from a company that never had a pension plan but very aggressively tried to get employees to save, save, save in the 401k plan for their retirement. The main two retirees talked with was one guy that didn't save nearly enough, and another was a fellow that had saved a fairly good amount and while he said he had wished he had saved more he thought he didn't do too bad. The fellow with the large amount lived in a nice house and seemed fairly relaxed about his retirement (and the narrator talked of him as a success story). And today it hit me.... the amount they showed for his 401k balance... it was almost identical to what I have saved in my account now. And that account was for both him and his wife (If I recall correctly). So am I a success story??? Hmmmm....
These days I go online and I see people with a million or more saved, and it makes me think I should do more. Yet I need to remember that I'm doing good and there is really no need to stress on this any more. I'll be in great shape whatever comes down the pipe at this point. (that doesn't mean I am going to go crazy spending however!!!)
Saving money is always good, but helping family is good too. Usually the two don't intersect, but when they do, its almost always a good thing. Even if its not the most optimal solution. At least that's my opinion. To that point....
Two summers ago I was able to re-shingle my mother's house. In doing so I was able to save her tons of money and that helped me save lots of money (via free use of her times share for quite a few years). Great to save money for myself, but it helped her too, so a definite win all around.
That leads to events this past month. I had a coupon for a free oil change at a nearby dealership. Of course it was for them to review my car and come up with all types of work that needed to be done on my car. Which I knew going in, but whatever. Before letting my car go the mechanic comes and points out everything I had left go for some time and how much it would cost to do. And oh yeah, I had to wait for hours to just get an oil change, but now that they are looking at my car, this work could be done quickly. I don't know the going rates, but I declined, figuring any place else would be better (especially after seeing how much they wanted for each piece of work). (Plus I was disgusted having to wait 4 hours for the car to be done as I used their online appointment service before going there!).
The next day thinking on it I remembered hearing about the SG-GF's son and how for the past few months he was running his own "on the go" mechanics service. I thought perhaps this would be good work for him and I might get it done for less. Actually I would have liked to have the work done for free as "family", but he is trying to start a business and deserves all the business he can get. He said he could do the work, and while visiting her for vacation with my son, he was able to do the work, and for maybe $100-$150 less than the dealership. Could I have got it done less somewhere else? I don't know, but really it doesn't matter, as getting a good enough price and helping him was certainly worth more to me than saving an extra $10-$20 elsewhere (if that was even possible).
Just ruminating I guess, but while saving money is good, there are other things to consider in life. Now I'm wondering if he can do other things on the car when I am there next time. Hmmmmmm....
Well I have been away for a while, still working on my savings, being frugal, and my personal relationships (not necessarily in that order).
However for today I am looking back 10 years, only because I have been on here in one form or another for that amount of time.
Looking at my numbers for 2006 in August, 10 years ago
* All my investments added up to about what I still owed on my mortgage. Maybe the equivalent of one year's take home pay.
* I was in the midst of working out a divorce with my wife.
* I was only to year 3 of my current job, and wasn't even vested yet in the pension plan.
* I was turning my life around, but it had a long way to go.
* My saving accounts fluctuated between $100 - $2,000
Now its August 2016, and
* My house has been paid off since 2011
* My investments are now about the equivalent of 10 years of take home pay (though maybe 25 years of expenses).
* I'm happily divorced and happily have a girl friend who is great.
* I'm finishing year 13 at my last job, still going strong, and have a nice vested pension amount at this point.
* My life has long been set to a new compass direction, and an excellent one at that.
* My savings accounts now fluctuate between $20,000 & $25,000.
Getting the ship going the right direction can be a pain, but once there, you can really make headway. Not sure I would have believed it would work out this well 10 years ago, but it has gone well.
There's a title to an old movie "The Gods Are Crazy" (or something like that). In the past few days, it seems that way.
What's been up? Well...
The "birthday fund" at work is supposed to supposed to reimburse expenses when we are tasked to bring in a cake. Well, I did that, and brought in the receipt to the person that has the funds. My bill came out to $20 exactly. Great, I can give her the receipt, and we don't have to worry about making change - I'll just get a $20 bill. Easy, or so I thought. I walk to her desk and she tells me she doesn't think she has the change for this. I point out its $20 exactly, no change is required. She opens up the envelope and all that is there are a few $1's and a $100 bill. Sheesh, really??? I got my money the next day (I brought in $80 and got the $100 bill), so no real problem, but come 'on folks.
Election time is here and we're getting the various big glossy card for various low level politicians. I got one the other day, and the SG-GF looked at it and immediately says "Is that Abe Lincoln running for your local supervisor?" I look and sure enough, the guy looks like he is Abe's twin (but dressed in modern day clothes). And it wasn't a joke photo, all the cards that have arrived for him look similar to that one. He may be a great guy, but really, that's the look you're going for?
And for the airspace items.....
First comes this: At work we get occasional offers for computer sales via Dell (we're supposed to get some type of extra deal buying through our employer). On Monday came our offers for November. Well, for the first sales offer came this: "Buy a computer ($500+), get a drone free". Oooooh, my effing head. Great now anyone can buy a computer and become the total bane of the neighborhood. As if we don't have enough idiots around, now we need to encourage them. All I can say for this one is where can I get my giant drone swatter???
And then this: Yesterday a military blimp escaped and headed into PA. As it got lower its dragging cables started to take out power. Well..... it ended up going right next to my old high school (the school was mentioned in some news stories), not far from my mother, and I heard from her last night that the power was out in the area for over an hour due to the craziness.
Just when you thought the sky was safe, guess again!
Just like stores, where the errors always seem to fall in their favor (shocking!), so too does it work that way with insurance companies (even more shocking!).
To wit... this month the SG-GF forgot to renew her renter insurance policy. Soooo... the company informs the apartment complex, who then complains to her that she needs to get this re-activated. So she goes and finds out she can't get it reactivated, but has to apply anew (usually that means more money for them). Sounds bad, but guess again. Her company finds out that her credit score increased so much since she first set it up (I understand their logic using a credit score to price out renter insurance... nonetheless don't get me started on how stupid I find that to be...) they'll now give her the same policy at a much reduced rate.
Very convenient that they didn't lower her rate when her score went up (without this intervention). I'm sure if credit score went down there would have been a rate increase for her. The real solution is for her (and anyone else) to live in a way you don't need to spend money on such .... lunacy.
I like my money working for me, not the other way around. And I plan on keeping it that way.
And, no, I am not talking about summer into fall (though I won't mind it when it arrives!).
Instead as Lucky Robin pointed out this month, once you get all your debts paid off, finding that push to keep you going forward is harder and harder for some. It is/was for me as well (check my 2/20/2014 entry). Instead I have decided to work on other pressing items. In my case, one of them has been my mother and her finances. A widow now, the only person to work with her on her finances will be me (only child), and now is the time to do it while she still has all her faculties (and is amenable to doing it).
So in that vein, in the past few months I have been working with her on taking care of things she has left go for way too long. Things like updating her will, removing her deceased husband from all her accounts and title to house and cars, getting me access to her accounts (in case I need to pay bills for her), rearranging her IRAs (from a bank to a brokerage), getting her paperwork in one place so I know where it all is, finding out who was going to be her estate's executor (She had me listed as such - Thanks mom for not telling me! ), setting up power of attorney, and the list keeps going....
Its nice to see that while she isn't rich, it looks like she shouldn't ever be in poverty either. She's healthy, and given the age her mother died, it should be 20+ years before I will need to use alot of what I am setting up now. But knowing that things have been taken care of will certainly help going forward.
OK, I've taken care of her finances, dealt with the girlfriend's finances.... what do I need to work on next? Hmmmmmm.....
I was going to call this "the most wonderful time of the year", though that seemed a bit pretentious...
This year, just like I have been doing since 2008 (or did I start in 2009?) I have been front loading my retirement plan contributions at work. This has been done with the assumption that more often than not the funds in my 457 plan will be lower at the beginning of the year and this will allow me to save even more for retirement. I know this worked well for me in 2009-2012, since then its been sorta iffy.
In any case, originally to make this be less painful I would back end my tax payments to try to equalize my take home over the year. Since I have paid off my mortgage, I've decided to cut back on this technique as I don't need as much to get me through month to month.
That all said, the past few years I have contributed at such a large percentage, that sometime in September my contributions usually stop (that is I have maxed out for the year), and my take home increases dramatically for the remainder of the year. This year is no different, my last bi-weekly paycheck in August (21st) will have my last contributions for the year (well.. there will be about $100 remaining, but lets not quibble). So how much will my take home increase? Well lets put it this way, my last 9 paychecks for the year will total slightly more than the total for the first 17 paychecks of this year. That's 100% more take home from here on out! Par-tay.
From the first 17 paychecks I was still able to save a nice amount and put that in my brokerage. Now for the last 4 months? Its time to enjoy a week vacation with the SG-GF and her son, a few long weekends together, and enjoy the remainder of the year. And time to start adding some serious coin to my brokerage account.
Hey, that all said above doesn't mean I stopped being frugal (or will stop going forward). Far from it. Yard sales have still been good to me (though last weekend was abysmal). Lots of finds from hobby related items to keep and sell, household items that are serious upgrades, and lots of other things I can sell online have been coming into my hands this year. My withdrawals from Paypal have been $1,300 year to date, and I have lots more to list this week. $200 of the profits went to my SG-GF as some items were her's, but still its been going good.
I haven't reviewed my expenses, but I know they have been staying low. I made mulberry jam this summer, and am looking to do the same with the pears building up on my tree right now. And then there is the various food stocks I brought back from my visit to my mother. Canned meat she over bought, and other staples, that should feed me for my lunches for at least a few months.
And visiting with her there is a nearby "surplus outlet" where you can sometimes get very discounted food. I returned home with a dozen boxes of multi-grain chocolate cheerios for $0.79 each, a bag of whole grain flour for $0.25, a jar of mayonaise for $0.25, and some other odds and ends. Seriously, how can you beat those prices???
My investments have been so-so this year, but hey, you can't have everything, right? Though there will be more on that in my next posting....
Something I try to keep in my GF's mind... that she shouldn't stress over things that have happened (though learn from them), but try to make things better going forward (that is: "look forward, not back"). (Not that I forget the past, but I don't let it keep me from moving forward.) Anyway, in that vein, I tried to cheer her up a few weeks ago on a down day for her and sent to her the following list of things I am looking forward to:
* In less than two months I will be taking off two weeks to be with my son.
* In two months I will be getting slightly larger paychecks (about 1%, but hey, it counts)
* In three months we are going to an out of town social event we look forward to every year.
* In three months I will have completely funded my 457 retirement plan for 2015. That means larger paychecks going forward through the end of the year for me to invest (or whatever).
* In five months we will be on our way to Florida.
* And after that we have various work holidays through the end of the year.
Nothing earth shattering there, but its keeping my eye on the ball (so to speak) that helps me through the hard days. She felt it was good for her to read them and remember the good times we had and the good times to come for us.
I have slowed down on my sales, though I did bring in about $60 earlier this month. As an approximation for my sales, I checked for how much I transferred to my saving from Paypal for this year. Just over $1,000. That's not too shabby. And in the past 3 weeks I have picked up some very nice hobby items to sell, maybe make another $100-$200 if I am lucky. Now I just need to test them and get my sales going again!
Well I have been doing worse than the market so far this year. (BOOOOO) My 457 plan has risen (after contributions) about $20k, maybe about 6%. My Roth IRA I think is flat for the year after my yearly contribution (maybe up 1-2% depending on the day I check!). I knew there would be years like this. I keep telling myself that's ok. Hopefully I will remember that.
My brokerage is doing well, but only because I have been adding lots this year. Growth has been minimal. But a year ago it was about $12k, now its at $38k. That's a great start. My DRIPs are some days up, some days they look flat for the year. At least the dividends are increasing!
Other savings are holding steady, which I am fine with. I have over a year's worth of expenses in my savings/checking accounts, I see no need to increase them.
I think my expenses have been lower this year than last, if such a thing is possible, so I am very happy there. I'm not checking the numbers, so maybe I am deluding myself. But the checking account is doing better than last year, and the only difference I can think of is the extra from my sales and a single savings bond redemption. And I have already paid for our get away over Labor day, my son's plane ticket, and my home and car insurance. All I have is possible car repairs and house taxes to get me through this year. I even made some mulberry jam this year (though not too much, the tree isn't producing like it used to). And maybe a month ago I went to CVS and using coupons, and sale items I got a bottle of laundry detergent and 5 bottle of dish detergent == $0.29. And I paid for that using my CVS gift card. In fact many purchases of late have been with gift cards. And I just completed another credit card bonus, and am getting another $200 of gift cards -- sweet .
Hopefully nothing will surprise me going forward.
Everything is holding near steady. Its good when you have a groove going forward.
There are times when nothing happens financially and then everything hits at once. Well this is one of those weeks when everything is coming together very nicely.
In this week...
* I got a check for $3.50 from one credit card. I wasn't using the card, but got an offer for $10 to sign up for e-statements. I used $6.50 on the card and I guess they wanted to get the remainder off the books. Sweet, free money.
* This Sunday I went to CVS to get a few things cheap. Well, due to some inadvertent purchases and returns I not only got mouthwash, body soap, and 3 bags of pretzels for free, I walked out with $5 more than I went in with. Pretty cool.
* Today I went and cashed the first of my maturing savings bonds. Hard to believe it has been 30 years since I bought them. A little over $200, so my wallet is now heavier.
* And when I got home from cashing in the savings bond, I see my federal tax return arrived in my checking account. Almost $800, added to the savings bond I will be getting over $1k.
* And then on Friday my last CD is maturing at the credit union. Almost $6,000, there is no way I will renew it with the pathetic rates currently available. Probably it will go into my brokerage, but with the constant warnings of a market correction, this has me worried. Well nothing to do for it, I will survive one way or another.
Not a bad week. And with my pay checks from work arriving last week, and next week, that makes 3 weeks with nice deposits. Its a shame my car insurance will be due later this month. Still, its a great start to May.
I haven't been posting anything since things are pretty much going on autopilot lately (which is GOOD). Given that, you are warned the remainder is fairly boring, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
So lets see...
In addition to my previous free finds (and then sales of free items), two weeks ago I picked up a toy train motor for free. I have already sold it for over $12, so a nice easy profit. Picked up two other toy train sets (yeah, a specialty of mine) for $12, they were both really nice. I should be able to sell them this fall for over $100 combined (they're not the type I like or I would keep them), so I just store for a few months and sell - easy. My other ebay sales have gotten pretty slow - maybe $100 in sales in the past 2 months, but that's ok, I needed the break. But getting more stuff out the door would be nice (and I listed a few things last night).
Yard sales have started, and other than the trains, I have picked up some classic cookware, and though I haven't tried to sell any, I know I could make a decent profit if I tried ($10 purchase of plates would go for ~$60, $6 dish normally goes for $30-ish, $4 casserole that would sell for $25, and a few other items really cheap that are more for restoration than any other reason). I will probably keep all of it, but you never know. Yard sales are fun to go to, as long as the weather is nice.
My finances are doing well so far this year. I've put over $11k into the 457b plan that has gone up $30k to date. My brokerage has gone up $7k (though $5k is from my deposits of cash) Then there is the $1500 I've had to contribute to my pension. Since my savings have held steady, that means I am saving around 55% of my gross earnings, a healthy rate I want to keep if possible. As far as overall amounts, the retirement account went up $30k so far (that makes $19k of growth!) and the Roth grew only $1,500 (oh well)
As for CC Signups - $200 & $50 from a savings signup. Its hard to find any good ones any more. I've had to close some accounts so I can get a chance to sign up again in the next year or two (I hope). If not, that's ok, I still have plenty of credit if I need it.
My health is doing ok, I have kept up with my daily workouts, modifying it some to see if I can get even better results. I did tweak my knee a few months ago, I hope to get over the residual pain soon (it hurts off and on). The SG-GF is doing much better, her health is improving with a new diet and other tweaks, and she is looking healthier. Its great to see her happier about her health.
Spring is here and its only a half year until our yearly (& nearly free) vacation to Florida. Life is good.
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