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Still alive - Still saving.

July 21st, 2018 at 04:15 pm

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....

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Finances
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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.

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Frugality
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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.

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Ebay-ing
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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.

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Relationship
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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.

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Health
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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.

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Job
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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.

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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?

Teamwork helps

March 13th, 2018 at 07:36 pm

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.

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Finances
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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.

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Making extra money
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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.

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More Finances
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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????

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Frugality
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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.

Apparently to not prosper was the right choice

January 6th, 2018 at 03:34 pm

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.

2017 Year End Financial Roundup

January 4th, 2018 at 11:56 am

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.

Tax prepayment is made, now I hold my breath

December 27th, 2017 at 01:41 pm

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.

25% Guaranteed Return? I'll take that thank you.

December 22nd, 2017 at 09:41 am

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 Big Picture

October 1st, 2017 at 06:34 am

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...

New Retirement Account - Ooooh Yeah

June 21st, 2017 at 01:56 pm

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.

YTD Money analysis (Why now? version)

June 10th, 2017 at 04:56 pm

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.

The Bank of SG

March 9th, 2017 at 12:36 pm

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". Smile 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.

2016 Final Numbers & '17 Roth IRA Funded

January 7th, 2017 at 04:11 pm

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!

Year End Analysis (* Early December Edition)

December 11th, 2016 at 07:14 am

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.

New Arbitrary Retirement Milestone(tm) reached

November 23rd, 2016 at 12:06 pm

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 Frown .

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'm a success story (maybe?)

September 27th, 2016 at 08:08 am

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!!!)

10 years later...

August 3rd, 2016 at 01:41 pm

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.

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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.

Changing of the seasons

August 27th, 2015 at 12:36 pm

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! Frown ), 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.....

100% Pay Raise? Not really, though it feels like it.

August 10th, 2015 at 12:49 pm

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.

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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....

Looking forward, not back, and a quickie review YTD

June 14th, 2015 at 03:39 pm

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.

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eBay Sales
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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!

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Investments
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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.

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Expenses
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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 Smile.

Hopefully nothing will surprise me going forward.

Everything is holding near steady. Its good when you have a groove going forward.

A Massively Good Financial Week

May 5th, 2015 at 12:20 pm

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.

One-Third Year Check-in

April 30th, 2015 at 07:49 am

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) Frown

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.

Halfway point for 2014 - how am I doing so far?

July 7th, 2014 at 01:51 pm

Just a financial update here for the half year mark....

After backing out contributions so far this year, my retirement accounts have gone up ~$34,600. If you add in my contributions, they would be up ~$57,500. Add in increases in savings accounts and brokerage, and I will be near ~$62k. Even with this sorta flat year in the market, this is great considering I have taken home only around $14,000. With all this talk about a bubble occurring, it makes me wonder if this increase is just funny money, or the real deal. Hopefully I will be able to keep it long term. We'll just have to wait and see.

Keep on investing...

Is it 3/4 full or 3/4 empty?

May 2nd, 2014 at 02:49 pm

After spending the past week barely in the office (6 hrs in one day and another day teleworking) due to a bad flu (for a while I thought they might have to put me down), today is pay day. Nothing too special there, but it gets you to think. I would like to retire early, and I certainly haven't changed that attitude, but being out sick, moping about the house, and just feeling like you could die at times.... and yet now I am getting better and know I will get paid for these days just like if I had gone in to work. It makes me appreciate having that office just a (little) more then I did a week ago. So that office job, is it a 3/4 full or 3/4 empty situation? Hopefully it can stay on the 3/4 full side.

PS: My apologies for those that don't get paid sick leave at your jobs - I know that sucks big time. BT-DT.

I'm a Half-a-Millionaire!

April 1st, 2014 at 07:25 am

Just like the famous Horace Vandergelder, today after adding up all my investments, retirement plans, savings, bonds, etc.., (and not including house, car, other physical items) I'm now a "Half-a-Millionaire", at least for a day!. (Ok, for those that are wondering of what I speak... look up Hello Dolly!)

My look at my retirement accounts is encouraging. According to what I read, the various indicies went up 0.5% - 2% for the first quarter of this year. After backing out my contributions to date, my 457 plan went up 3.9%, and my Roth IRA went up 4.7%. As before, am I lucky or smart? Hmmmmmmm.

Expenses are doing well, I just got paid for an other ebay sale (phone bought for $0.50, sold for $23, will probably net $20). I have interest in a classic coffee mug I bought for $1 on Saturday, and am looking to sell for $15, so hopefully that will sell too. Now I just need to list more items for sale, lord knows I have enough.

And after a rediculous cold winter, has spring finally arrived? I sure hope so, I am certainly primed to get out to yard sales. And to plant items in the garden. I have lots of plants growing inside just ready and raring to get outside and get lots of sun.

Things are good (until I try to do my taxes this coming weekend!!!)

When the debts are gone, what do you use to keep yourself pushing forward?

February 20th, 2014 at 01:51 pm

The title is probably a question most people wish they had, but as I was looking at my latest paycheck, I realized I don't have the pleasure I once did when it came to seeing each paycheck, taking the numbers and entering them into my custom spreadsheet, and watching myself come closer to, and then passing, each goal.

I don't remember each one, but here are some I worked towards, and kept me motivated to keep coming into work.

* Get to where more of my mortgage payment went to principal instead of to interest
* Build up $20,000 in CDs (that was good only when CD gave you real money)
* Have more in my retirement accounts & savings than all my debts (mortgage / car / whatever)
* Have more in my retirement accounts than my mortgage
* Have more in my savings than my mortgage balance (I sense a trend here)
* Have all my debts paid off
* Have more than $400k in my retirement accounts (That was for late 2015 and I already passed it!)
* Have more in all my savings and liquid accounts (brokerage / DRIPs / etc...) than my yearly take home amount (I realized today I was past that as well)

Now I am at the point of "now what?". Any financial goal I make now really is long term. Dividends come to mind. Watching my dividends grow is soooo slow (It takes $10,000 to add just $400 to a yearly dividend amount - assuming 4% dividend which isn't likely). So using dividends as a short term goal isn't the best.

So I don't know. Not complaining (how can I?), but I don't want to be doing the same thing "just because". Intellectionally I know this is probably the best thing to keep going forward at the job for now (and probably until I can retire with a pension).

But still having something short term to work on knocking out would be a help. Do I want to make it "I want to have more than two years of take home pay"? That seems sort of arbitrary. "Have enough to buy XYZ car"? Well... I'm not a car guy, so that's no incentive. "Have enough for a cross country trip"? While that sounds interesting, that's a nebulous amount, and anyway I doubt neither I nor my girlfriend can take enough time off to make that happen. So for those that have gotten past the owing money point, what short term goals do you use, if any?

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Just some run-on items for the year to date:
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On non-financial areas so far this year:
* I have been able to easily take time off to take care of my girlfriend during medical issues
* My car is running well
* I'm keeping up with my daily exercises.
* I had physical exams so far this year for people over 50 and everything came out great (you can fill in the blanks there!).
* We even spent a couple of days in Florida in January having a good time.

In other financial areas I have:
* Sold on ebay over $150 this year. Half of the sales were hers, mine probably gave me a profit of $50 after expenses.
* Another $20 of Half.com sales, and $50 of sales on Craigslist. So I'm getting items out of here I don't need (though there is plenty more of that).
* Shoot, I even upgraded some of my clothes for cheap already this year (great estate sale three weeks ago).
* And we've been getting great things for extra cheap at Goodwill outlet stores this year. (and already resold some)

A new year, but the same old

January 14th, 2014 at 08:09 am

The first paycheck has come and gone (so to speak), and here I am back in the time of year where much more of my paycheck is going to the retirement accounts than to my wallet, so to speak. 40% of my gross earnings are going to the 457 plan (1/2 Roth, 1/2 pre-tax), 5% to my pension plan, and after taxes / insurance I get to take home only 32% of my pay. Sigh. Oh well... its good for me, right? Its not like I am short of money or anything.

I've already put in the limit for my Roth IRA for 2014 ($6,500), and I put in for three limit orders to spend that money. One has struck so far, we'll see if the market forces these other companies down to my price.

Already got the $100 CC bonus from a card I signed up for last year, now I'm finishing up the Discover spending for that bonus, then its onto the Chase/Amtrak CC and its bonus.

And life goes on (but a good life, right?).

A fast 2013 financial review

January 1st, 2014 at 08:02 am

Time for a quickie review of my finances at the end of 2013. This was another crazy year when it came to investments as the market is going crazy up of late. You have to wonder if it can even hold its own for the coming years. Hmmmm.... I'm not worried, at least not yet (though more than this time last year). Anywho... here are some numbers that I quickly put together this morning...

Retirement (457) / Roth IRA / Brokerage / DRIPS total: ~$445,000 (an increase of $128,000 from the end of 2012)

Other savings (CDs / checking / savings / saving bonds) Total: ~$34,000 (an increase of $15,000)

Gadzooks, that is crazy, the increase ($143k) is much more than my salary, way more than I spend in a year (now without a mortgage try 4-5 years!) And my pension is looking better too. Not much to say other than here's to a good 2014.

Freebee golf

October 29th, 2013 at 07:02 am

Ok, freebees, but no golf (unless we do frisbee or minature golf!). In the week before heading off to golf courses and amusement parks (no, not California, but Florida) for a week of relaxation, I was able to get some more freebees at CVS.

This week I got in a single purchase the following: bottle of laundry detergent, 1 liter mouthwash, bottle dish detergent, and a "Pro-Health" toothpaste - all for $1.39. I needed to use some coupons before they expired, and ended up with as many "extra bucks" as when I started. Free cleaning materials => always good. By now I am stocked for more than a year on all these items, maybe many more years!

Yesterday I got my first check for mystery shopper work in many years. In September I did one for Salvation Army Thrift stores, and for an hour or two of work I got $15 + reimbursement for items I bought and got to keep (some nice dishes and glasses).

Finally, my retirement 457 plan went over $300k this month. Geeze, it seems like not that long ago I was thrilled it went over $100k, while owing only $50k on my mortgage (it was probably 2008). Now I have triple that and a paid off house - I luv it.

Warning and a Teachable Moment

October 8th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I love to talk about how well things are going financially (OK brag) but this is a half rant / half warning for those that read this. (You have been warned)

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When you save money you are of course working towards having the money available for your needs (and wants). Optimally however you will have money that not only gives you everything you reasonably want over your lifetime, but beyond that the money can give your descendants (or whomever you designate) money that can help them pay bills, have a down payment on a house, get a reliable car, or just whatever makes sense. If the money goes to someone else, it can be to appreciate what all they did in life, or help an organization that does things you believe in. The point is, it is common in our society to allow you, in fact I would say it is a given, that as the person owning the money you get to decide what will happen with your money (and other items as well) when you pass away. Yes, if your estate is large enough, the government will stick its hand in for a share, but otherwise you are free to distribute as you see fit.

Unfortunately, there are those that feel that the deceased's wishes can be ignored, and often can get away with it. A few years ago in dealing with my father's estate I came up against this first hand. An object from his items, that was specifically indicated as to go to me, was all of a sudden said that it would stay with his wife because she "needed" it. Yes, she could use it, just as much as I could have used it. It wasn't worth a lot, probably would cost ~$600 to get new which I could afford, but that wasn't the point. Everyone there knew, and said as such, that my father said it was for me. But her answer was that "I'll give it to you when I die." Yeah sure. Perhaps today I would have fought it, but at that point I was disgusted and just wanted to get away from her and that place, as that was the best for my mental health. Lets just say I didn't like the way she treated him for some time, and that was the push I needed to never ever want to go back there.

A week ago similar issues started with my girlfriend. This time the estate of her mother was being split, which went as well as could be expected, given 5 daughters, with the multitude of dislikes between various sisters. Then the final split was to be done, where the instructions given were that the remaining liquid funds should be split equally between all grandchildren (The exact words I think were "All remaining cash is to be distributed in equal shares to all grandchildren", but it may have been slightly different). With all previous disbursements of IRAs and stock investments, the executor was very deliberate and checked with the sisters before finalizing the various distributions. This time however no check was done with the sisters, but a brusque email indicating that the final liquid dollar amount ($X) would be destributed among the grandchildren (#Y) but that however each grandchild would not be receiving $X/Y (call it $Z). Instead she has decreed that since her mother indicated that the grandchildren will get the same money, but since two grandchildren got a life insurance policy benefit of $5,000 (basically a investment that was made 15 years ago with the grandmother paying for it over 12 months), she would only give ($Z-$5,000) to those two grandchildren (my girlfriend's children), and take that money and give it to the other grandchildren. When we pointed out the mistake she made (the life insurance was not part of the estate), she indicated that she "knew" what her mother wanted, and that my girlfriend should shut up otherwise she would stop payment on the check she did send. I won't go into it further, but the explanations have been contradictory, illogical, and when she was backed up by another sister (lets just say the one that really doesn't like my girlfriend) that sister's story was implausable for a number of reasons. My disgust with their behavior was palpable and I wrote to let them know just what they did wrong and how I felt about it - which of course was dismissed out of hand (which I am sure didn't help, but really do you even want people around you that will steal from children in the family?).

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To wit, this, which I could easily rant about more, is a warning and teachable moment.

Teachable in that this whole escapade has been shown to her children how people can behave. It shows that people that can say they care about them, and then turn around and treat them as second class family members (and that's being generous here). And then behave like they are the victim at that.

And this is a warning to everyone that reads this. If you have wishes for your money, you need to be very, very explicit about how it is to be executed. More so, if you have any sizable amount of money (I would guess over $50,000). If you want it done right, pay for a lawyer, or make sure the person in charge has impeccable ethics. An executor is given very wide latitude in their actions, and can easily use the opportunity to enrich themselves, or just to curry favor with those they feel the closest to. Lawyers will follow the instructions, so you know what will be done, no doubting will be needed.

The Never Ending Soap Bar

September 30th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Using small savings adds up over time. I believe I previously commented that I had enough soap to last me until I retired. Well... for over the past year I have done even better as my cleaning supplies have actually increased for no cost at all.

Due to gifts of excess soap stocks from my girlfriend (saved from work related travel stays), as well as free soap I get at yard sales (I even picked up 4 Big Grin bars for free at an estate sale on Saturday) my collection of soap and shampoo has actually increased in the past 15 months. And even my dish detergent supplies have increased, as I have been able to get deals from stores like CVS where I got this past week (using coupons and other deals) the following for $2 (2 bags of snickers, large bottle of dish detergent, bag of honey pretzels - my favorite pretzels, and 2 bottles of skin lotion). And then I went back with more coupons on Sunday night and picked up a bottle of clothes detergent, 2 more bottles of dish detergent (as well as a can of shaving cream and a bottle of mouthwash) for only $0.63. This doesn't save much in a week, but over time it really starts to add up.

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On other financial news...

My trash savings (I recycle and compost most everything) have been plowed into a DRIP for the past 6 years - its now over $3,000 and growing. The latest dividend was over $22 and it grows about $1 / quarter.

My yearly trip to Florida is paid for ... well that is other than the gas to get there, and the tickets for the parks while we are there. It will also be nice to leave and come back to a paycheck awaiting me. Smile

On day to day finances I'm not sure what to say. Everything is on autopilot right now. I made two apple pies this week - given the free apples I have, the rest of the ingredients cost maybe $1. My monthly food comes in around $100 - maybe $125 if I am honest (too many pizzas!).

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Interesting Note....

Looking back 3 years, my salary less taxes and deductions (insurance & pension basically) I estimate at around $225k. Now in those same three years my net worth excluding the house went up near $200k. But if you include the house, where I paid off the last $26k on my house, that would total around $225k, the same as what I obtained to cover living expenses and savings. And this includes a time where I bought my low mileage used car, had vacation trips to Florida each year, travelled lots to be with (and do things with) my girlfriend, and had other experiences (that I am not itemizing here!). So I am very, very pleased, even with a job with no raises, life is working out oh so well. Smile Smile Smile

The yearly slog comes to an end

August 15th, 2013 at 01:39 pm

Yes, the slog of putting money in my work 457 retirement plan is finally coming to an end for this year. My next paycheck is the last with retirement deductions - I will be hitting the $23,000 max I can contribute this year. Woohoo.... 4 months (Sep - Dec) with no retirement deductions, no mortgage and no expenses (almost!). I won't know how to react to all this extra money showing up in my paycheck! (I'll figure out something!)

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Some other financial news & notes (year to date updates mostly):
===================================================

In my retirement accounts I am up $80,000 year to date. I have put in ~ $26,000, so the remaining $54,000 is the current increase in value (of course I think it lost $1,500 today alone!!!)

This year my electric has totalled $240 for 7 months (less than $35/mo). However, my electric co. stock dividends are currently about $105/ qtr, or $35/mo. - Hey they match! Big Grin Of course I pay taxes on the dividends, but still that's great for this point in the year.

My CC rewards have only added up to about $700 this year so far - maybe I can pick it up later?

As for dividends... For the first 6 months, the Roth IRA had $860, the DRIPs returned $350, and the brokerage has had a single quarterly dividend of $73. Take those together out to a full year, and you have about $2600. Not enough to retire on yet, but its about $900 more than last year, so I'm happy about it.

I made maybe $400 profit from online sales so far this year, which is pretty pitiful, but that has slowed as I have other things ongoing in my life taking up my time. Hopefully I can pick up the pace - I currently have a dozen items for sale, 3 with bids ($120 there)

Finally I earned about $40 in Amazon gift cards (gave those to my great GF)

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Some fun holidays and larger paychecks for the remainder of the year. Yeehaw!


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