Monday, August 25, 2014

$2 MM

According to today's update, our assets have snuck over the $2 million dollar mark.  While a number is just a number and I recognize that the value of our assets are mostly variable (except for the cash), I always get positive vibes when I hop over one level to the next.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Round Numbers

After paying the mortgage this month, our primary mortgage debt is now below $230,000.  Does anyone else get excited about getting below (or above) certain markers?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mr. Sam's 401K

After more than a year, Mr. Sam is finally eligible for his 401k.  And it even comes with a match.  Hooray!

To start, since we are having a year of financial set backs and struggles we have set the contribution amount at a reasonable number.  We will, hopefully increase it as we work it into our budget.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fidelity Faux Paux

So, yesterday I spent some time on our finances, paying bills, updating our savings chart, updating our net worth numbers, etc.

I was on the Fidelity site to determine if some of my recent limit orders had gone through (trying not to let my IRA money sit idle in cash).  I'm a big fan of Fidelity and, in fact, I've been a Fidelity customer for many years.  I generally have nothing but good to say about them.

But, of course you knew a but was coming, I'm puzzled by something that I just noticed.  When I pull up a statement online (and same for paper, because I checked), my name is nowhere on the statement.  The statement is addressed to my husband (alone).  It lists our various accounts, mine are listed first, I assume because they are older accounts but it doesn't reference ownership.  These are not joint accounts, these are accounts that are individually owned by each of us (we do have a joint trading account) and in fact were established prior to marriage.

Am I bothered by this, yes.  And, I'll tell you why.  While I very much agree that the money on this statement is "ours", if you look at the numbers, I own, individually, the bulk of the money in these accounts.  And that is simply because I've been saving for retirement for a longer period of time.  The statement should be addressed to both of us and the accounts ought to be listed by ownership.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July Update - 2014 Savings Goals

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $9,436    27%  (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $9,343    85% (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $5,600    56% (goal is $10,000)
(4) Roof project -              $5,000    100%  (goal is $5,000)
(5) Vehicle replacement -  $5,000     100%  (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $200          7% (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $34,579  50%  (Goal is $69,000)

At present, we are about $3900 behind on our goals.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Truck Update

Big news on the truck front, Mr. Sam is the proud owner of a new truck.  

As I shared recently, we were not finding very good prices on used trucks, they were running $12,000 or so for the type of truck we wanted but were 10 years old.  As such, after doing a lot of research, we opted for new (as Anon noted, the used car market is tough).

Anonymous said...
we had to replace our truck last year too. After looking for used ones in the 3 - 5 year range and finding not much of a price break off new ones, we went new. Its been awhile since we bought new but the cost justified it this time. I was going to pay cash, like you we hate car loans but the rate was so cheap and a $1000 rebate off the price for financing that we financed about 60% of the cost and paid it off over 6 months and came out way ahead with the rebate vs interest expense. I would have paid off the loan with the first payment but feared they would come back at us for the rebate amount. Our weekdays cars we bought in 2007, both luxury cars that are 2002 and 2004 models, bought as a package deal and plan to drive them for many more years.
We bought last year's truck (2013) and opted for a low end model.  We paid cash for about 40% of the purchase price and the rest was paid via a loan.   While I hate having debt of any kind, we will work hard to get it paid off quickly and, in the long run, I think it is a better decision.  We have a new truck that is under warranty, it has four doors which gives us greater flexibility (old truck only had two doors), and Mr. Sam is so happy to be out of his old, beat up truck.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 Savings Goals - June Update

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $8,088    23%  (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $8,838    80% (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $4,400    44% (goal is $10,000)
(4) Roof project -              $5,000    100%  (goal is $5,000)
(5) Vehicle replacement -  $5,000     100%  (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $0            0% (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $31,326  45%  (Goal is $69,000)

We are having the year of unplanned expenses, and as a result our progress chart has been altered.  First, because Mr. Sam needs new/nused truck (and that goal just won't wait anymore) we have cleaned out the house savings account and Mr. Sam's 401k savings account.

Mr. Sam is not currently eligible for his work 401k so we were putting aside cash so when he is eligible (September) he could increase/max out his 401k deductions per paycheck (up to his employer's limit, most employers do not permit a 100% contribution) and we would have cash available to make up for that budgetary shortfall.  But, the truck won't wait so since this money was not invested and available we are putting into the truck fund.  Hopefully, by the time September rolls around we will be able to manage our budget such that he can still increase his contributions to try and put away as much money as he can.

Second, similarly, our house project fund has also been cleaned out for the truck fund.  Our truck fund is $10,000, not the $5,000 listed in our chart.

At present, we are about $3000 behind on our savings goals.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Car Repair Blues

One of the ways we keep our expenses down so that we can save more is keeping our transportation costs low.  I drive a 2006 four door car, which was purchased with cash in 2008.  Mr. Sam drives a truck, a necessity for our rental properties, which was purchased with cash in 2004.  The truck is of the late 1990s vintage.  So, I've had my car for six years and Mr. Sam has had his truck for 10 years now.

This year the average price of new car was $31,252.  Additionally, Americans are keeping those expensive cars for more years (due in part to longer car loans).

Last year, my car needed a fair amount of work.  The work was done, about $2000, and I was hopeful my car would be good for a few years.  No such luck, I've just put another $1200 into my car and I have an outstanding transmission problem that needs to be addressed by a specialist (which means expensive in my mind, but its an unknown at this point).

While we were talking transmission for my car, Mr. Sam's truck has reached its end.  He either needs a new engine or a new vehicle and the mechanic who looked at it said it really wasn't worth putting a new engine into the truck. The truck is also only two doors and we really need another four door vehicle for a variety of reasons.

So, we are on the hunt for a used four door truck (with a shorter bed).  Interestingly, the prices on used (2010-2013) trucks are close to the price for a new one.  I mentioned financing a purchase rather than depleting our savings account (which has already been battered by prior unplanned expenses this year), but Mr. Sam is strongly against having a car payment (I've trained him well).  Which means that we will need to look for something that is older or figure out some other plan.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rainy Day News

News today on Americans lack of savings.  Since our emergency fund has taken a hit this year (more on that later), I can relate to this news.  Our emergency fund is down to less than 3 months of expenses, which causes me great consternation.

Most of the time we are able to plan ahead for expenses, meaning that if we have a house project, like our recent new roof, we save up for it and then we incur the expenses.  We were not able to do that with the roof because we had to replace the roof prior to the rainy season here in Florida.  We had a recent family vacation, planned by family, that we were similarly not able to plan for (and our vacation savings fund was depleted due to a prior planned for vacation).  And now, we've got car issues (more on that later).

But, putting all that backward slide aside, we generally do well with our savings because we have a system in which we put savings first on our list of expenses.  Which means we pay ourselves first and second.  First is our pre-pay savings, meaning the 401k.  And, second is our automatic savings which goes for things like the emergency fund, the travel fund, annual and semi annual expenses like taxes and insurance, etc.  But, our automatic savings is based on planning and when our planning is either wrong or we have unplanned expenses we run into trouble - which is where we are at now.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fleeting Figment

On Saturday I logged into my Fidelity Roth IRA account with the plan to check on and, likely, cancel some open limit orders.  Imagine my surprise (and short lived excitement) when the total value for my Roth IRA had jumped upwards by more than a $100,000.  I quickly realized that my Apple stock was showing the post 7-1 stock split with the pre-split price.

It seemed odd, to me, that Fidelity would combine the two pieces of data, over the weekend.  Better to just leave it as is until Monday and today my short lived wealth has disappeared.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Aspirational Housing

Great article by author Michael Lewis of The Blind Side fame regarding the perils of expensive housing.  Even a very rich man like Michael Lewis couldn't keep up with renting a landmark mansion in his home town.  Mr. Lewis' fun essay also documents the hidden costs of utilities, maintenance and furnishings for a much larger house.  

I'm in a phase right now where many of my friends are selling their first or second home and upgrading into McMansion world.  It is somewhat surreal for my husband and I to visit our friends/peers who have moved from reasonable rancher to gated community McMansion.  Some of them bought during Florida's real estate bubble deflation so they got good deals, but it is still a whole different world.  One of my friends, who moved into McMansion world in the last couple of years mentioned that she felt like she had to buy (or lease) a new car to keep up with her new neighbors.

My friends' homes are beautiful and sometimes its hard not to think envious thoughts about those new chef kitchens and especially the walk in closets.  But, I have no desire to take on that kind of debt.  I did have a refreshing conversation with a college friend recently and she is just a couple of years away from paying off her home in full.  Great motivation for me as not having a home mortgage is a goal that is always in the back of my mind.

Friday, May 30, 2014

2014 Savings Goal - May Update

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $10,139   29%  (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $8,835     80% (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $4,400     44% (goal is $10,000)
(4) Roof project -              $5,000    100%  (goal is $5,000)
(5) Vehicle replacement -  $5             0%  (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $1,100     37% (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $29,479  43%  (Goal is $69,000)

Can you tell things have been cray-cray for us, no posts in quite some time.  But, surprisingly, when I updated our savings chart today we are generally on track for 2014.

The roof project is done, cost more than $5,000 so counting that goal as completed.  We are making progress on our house project fund, but even with the roof done, we have several house projects that we need to attend to this year that likely will exceed our savings.  Now that the roof project is done, I will switch my auto savings to Mr. Sam's car replacement fund.  My car also has been acting up and I'm going to need to invest a couple of thousand into it in the next couple of weeks.  

As for 401k, I'm maxing mine out.  Mr. Sam will not be eligible for his 401k until September, in the mean time we are putting savings away so he can up his contributions come September.  But, we are behind on that goal.  We are making good progress on our 2014 IRA savings.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Drum Roll - New Goal reports that the number of millionaires has hit a new high.  Which got me thinking, because this survey of millionaires excludes their primary homes in the asset count.

So, the new goal is to hit the million dollar net worth mark without counting our primary home.  And, looking at our numbers we are not too far from that mark.  At present, our net worth is at $1,380,755 and our primary home's value is listed at $399,000 (value from our last appraisal in 2012).  Which means that we are about $18,000 away from having a million dollar net worth without including our primary home.

Not too shabby.    

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Interesting Tool

Interesting calculator from MIT that calculates a living wage based on where you live and your life circumstances (number of kids, adults in a household).  Also, provides typical expenses for your area as well.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Royal Screw Up

So, I have a pretty good system set up for our personal finances.  I have a system for paying bills and for our savings that works off of our spending plant.  But, every once in a while things go surprisingly wrong.

At the end of last month, February, I was getting ready to do some work travel and I made the decision to pay our home mortgage March payment in February.  What was I thinking, well it seemed like I had lots of cash laying around our joint checking account, I knew I was traveling and I figured let me just take care of that big bill now instead of later.

Big mistake!  Several auto transfers and other obligations drafted after I made this payment and I, of course, came up short.  And further, of course, I had to try and fix this mistake while traveling.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Two weeks later, I am still undoing the damage that was incurred.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Savings Goals - Feb. Update

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $4,644   13%  (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $4,327    39% (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $1,600    16% (goal is $10,000)
(4) Roof project -              $1,205    24%  (goal is $5,000)
(5) Vehicle replacement -  $5             0%  (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $400        13% (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $12,181  18%  (Goal is $69,000)

I finally got my Excel document from Mr. Sam.  Yay!  We are a bit, $239, ahead on our 2014 goals.  I have been swamped at work, hence the lack of posts.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

401K Held Hostage

Interesting article from the NY Times about 401k accounts caught up in a company bankruptcy for more than 5 years forcing the employees to face tax penalties when they couldn't withdraw, and to continue working into retirement because they could not access their retirement funds.

Mr. Iyer, who has glaucoma and diabetes, retired last fall. He said he continued working far longer than planned because he could not withdraw any of his retirement savings — 41 years’ worth that he had earned at a variety of companies but had rolled over into his Penn Specialty account. He was also upset by the $49,728 in administrative and legal fees extracted from his account while it was in limbo.   Mr. Iyer said. “It is interesting to note that the fees I ended up paying exceed what Penn Specialty Chemicals contributed on my account. I have learned never to trust a 401(k).”

Scary stuff.  Like most people, my professional career has not been with one company.  Rather, I've been with three companies and during that journey, started 401k accounts with each employer.  My last company, let's call it Company B, had some financial strife and is actually no longer in existence.  Shortly after I left Company B, really shortly, I rolled over my Company B 401k to Company C (my current company).  I departed Company B with a group and some of the folks did, later, have some challenges in rolling over their 401k to Company C.  The reason, like Penn Specialty, Company B ended up in bankruptcy and that delayed the ability of some of my co-workers to roll over those monies.

Now, my first 401k remains with Company A.  The reason I leave it there is because I have access to some very highly rated, and low fee, institutional funds.  However, I have thought about rolling it over to Company C.  Now, after reading this article, it almost seems safer to have more than one 401k account.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

$300 Rule & $100 Rule

As I have previously posted, I have a long standing goal to have plantation shutters installed in two bedrooms in our home.  But, since plantation shutters are very expensive I decided that I would update my plan and just get some new, nice shades for these two bedrooms.

I have done quite a bit of research, measured the windows, priced out my options and then I settled on a plan which will run about $800.

But, in our home there is another step I had to take and that was to discuss the project, the expense, the source of the funds (we have this money sitting in our house project account) with Mr. Sam.  We have a rule that anything over $300 has to be discussed and agreed to between us.  Most of the time we reach agreement pretty quickly, but not so this time around.  I've talked to Mr. Sam about this project several times, gave him the pricing, told him about my research, but he thinks it is silly to spend this kind of money on custom shades.   If we can't reach agreement then we don't go forward that is our rule.  We imposed this rule back in 2007, because we were trying to throw every extra dollar at our debt.  But, we have kept the rule because we believe that we should be in agreement that expenditures above $300 are necessary or a mutual want (vacation) or one of us convinces the other.

We did finally agree or he finally gave in, but we did reach agreement.

The other rule we have is the $100 rule.  When we are spending more than a couple of hundred dollars we have to wait a day for each $100 of the purchase.  So in this instance, if we are spending $800 on custom blinds we have to wait 8 days before we actually make the purchase.  This waiting period prevents expensive impulse purchases.

I haven't yet ordered the blinds because of the waiting period rule, but will do so next week.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wrap Your Mind Around These Numbers reports that the richest 85 people in the world now hold the same amount of wealth held by 3.5 billion (yes, B - billion) poorest in the world.  Said another way, half of the world's population, the poorest half, holds the same amount of wealth as the 85 richest individuals.

Mind is boggled.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Florida Unemployment Compensation - Follow Up

During Mr. Sam's unemployment, I posted about how difficult it is to obtain unemployment compensation.  It took several rounds to just get through the application process and we were amazed at how it seemed like the State was making it almost impossible for the unemployed to obtain benefits.  Mr. Sam, with a MBA and a reliable internet connection almost could not obtain benefits.

Well, the unemployment system in Florida was replaced, on October 15, 2013, with a new system.  But the new system has a whole host of problems.  Well now the Department of Labor is heading back to Florida to investigate the new system.  The DOL estimates that Floridians have lost $20 million in benefits due to the faulty new system.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Target Moves

Early I posted about a recent Phishing email I received at work.  As I previously mentioned, I shopped at Target during the time of the data breach (which seems to be growing each day).  I already canceled and ordered a new debit card and I have checked my credit report using the free credit report site.

Today, I signed up for Target's free credit monitoring.

Last week, I put in a limit order for Target stock. If the stock drops enough, I'll take advantage of the discount.

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 Savings Goals - First Update

(1) Max out 401k(s) -        $1,346    (goal is $35,000)
(2) Max out IRA(s) -         $2,825    (goal is $11,000)
(3) Add to e/r fund -          $400    (goal is $10,000)
(4) Roof project -              $5     (goal is $5,000)
(5) Vehicle replacement -  $5     (goal is $5,000)
(6) House projects -          $100    (goal is $3,000)

Total:  $4,681  (Goal is $69,000)

I don't have my new 2014 Excel spreadsheet set up, so I've not calculated all the percentage complete for the various goals.  I did calculate total and I estimate that we are presently ahead on our 2014 goals by about $2,000.  I still need to set up auto transfers for the roof and vehicle accounts.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Here Fishy, Fishy

So I just received a phishing email  here at work.

 Email came addressed to me from  So a series of six numbers, which I'm not including here in case those phishers track the numbers they use to target victims and the is a real web site and I assume it has nothing to do with the phishing.  The email had the subject line "2013 Tax Return Information".  Of course, the first thing I think is that my HR department is sending me my 2013 W2 and that's what those horrible phishers want you to think.  But, the .pdf attachment that was enclosed had both my name and my husband's name in the titling of it which seemed suspect

And, to gain access to the .pdf attachment I had to hand over the last 5 digits of my Social Security number.  Whoo-whoo, siren going off, red-flag going up.  Never give out personal information to someone who send you an email or calls you on the phone.

The first thing I did was send it to my helpdesk, because they track spam, scams and phishers.  That way they will investigate and add the email address to the company blacklist.  The second thing I did was google the email address, but I didn't find anything.  The third thing I did was forward it to the IRS via  The fourth thing I will do, from my home computer, is to order one of my three free credit reports to make sure there has been no suspicious activity.

I don't know if this phishing scam is related to the Target breach, but I did shop there during the respective time (I already canceled the card and have received a new one).

Here are some helpful hints if you receive a suspect phishing email.

2014 Additional Goals - Update

posted earlier of my multi-year goal to update the widow treatments in our home and my plan for 2014 to make progress on this goal.

Well, I've done all my measuring for the bedroom windows, there are six, and I've priced out my options.  I  have selected a roman shade in a natural material (bamboo, grass, etc.) with a dual lift system.  I have not figured out color yet, but I have ordered free swatches of the natural material so I can make an informed selection.  A dual lift system means that the shade can be raised from bottom to top (traditional) or dropped from the top.  This means that we can have the shades partially open from the top which will let light in but maintain privacy since we are in a dense area.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cash Money

We have new tenants in Rental # 3 and they prefer to pay their rent in cash.

The upside of cash is that it is cash.  I know there is not going to be a bouncing check issue and when I deposit the cash it is instantly credited.

As an aside, have you seen the new $100 bill?  It has a 3-d security ribbon and a liberty bell hiding in the ink well.  There is also more color on the front and back.  I had several new $100 bills, which were new to me, a couple of the 1996 $100 bills and one 1990 $100 bill.  After I got over my amazement at the new $100 bill, the old school 1990 $100 bill really looked fake to me.

The downside of cash is that I have to go to the bank to deposit since, sadly, there is no remote way to deposit cash.  The other downside of cash is that it is hard to keep track of.  With checks, I have an image of the check for my records.  So, we have come up with a system.  First, we give the tenants a receipt so they have a record and we have a record in the receipt book.  Then when I deposit the cash, I am keeping an ATM receipt and putting that in my records in place of the check image.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 - Additional Goals

Previously I posted our 2014 savings goal numbers, I have a couple of other goals to list as well.

Back in March 2012 I posted about wanting to install plantation shutters in our front, first floor bedroom.  Well, almost two years later, we've not made any progress on this goal, although we have accomplished other house projects.

So, for 2014 my goal is to replace the cheap plastic blinds (that have been up since we bought the house almost 10 years ago) in the front bedroom.  You will note that I've not renewed the goal to have plantation shutters installed.  While that is still a goal, I recognize that plantation shutters are both an expensive and time consuming project.  I will, eventually, have plantation shutters installed, but for now my plan is to order blinds to replace the crappy plastic ones.

I've settled on a blind company.  But, I have not decided on whether I'm going to order blinds or roman shades, much of that will depend on pricing.  Many of our windows that need replacement window treatments are the same size, either as a single window, group of two or group of three.  Off the top of my head, I have 6 bedroom windows, 2 study windows, 2 laundry windows).  As a result, the blinds that I order  now can, at some point, be moved from the front bedroom (after I get my shutters), to the back bedroom, to the study, etc.  Said another way, even though I still plan to get shutters the blinds/shades that I plan to order now will not be wasted when I want to upgrade to shutters.  Even at $100 a window (a high end budget), $400 in blinds will make me very happy (plus we've saved that money in our house account).

Also on the agenda this year is an office upgrade.  We are going to do an Ikea cabinet and bookshelf built in hackplus new paint and our budget is $1000.

Finally, a debt goal.  At present our debt load is @$538,000.  I would like to get our debt below $500,000 in 2014.  I have no idea if that is a reasonable goal or not.  I've got to do some number crunching since we did not include any additional mortgage prepayment in our 2014 goals.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sam's Plan for Killing Debt in 2014 - Step # 1

It is the new year and many people want to get their financial house in order.  This my guidance on killing debt and gaining control of your finances.

Step # 1 - face the music.

This is actually one of the hardest steps of paying off your debt, you (along with your spouse/partner) need to gather up your statements and figure out how much you owe.  Look at your credit card statement, student loan statement, car loan information, other loans, etc.  Find the statements or go online and determine your balance, interest rate, regular payment, term for each loan (I would exclude the mortgage for now).

Create a documents, whatever format works best for you, with each debt listed, the interest rate, the term, and the monthly payment, along with the due date.  We used an Excel spread sheet when we started our debt killing journey in 2007.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Red Lobster and the Middle Class

Interesting article from about the impending demise of Red Lobster and the continued squeeze of the middle class.

Reading the author's experience about going out to eat at Red Lobster as a kid, I thought back to my own experiences.  While I was raised by professionals, college professors, and we had a vacation home (cabin), we actually had very little free money growing up.  I think that was due to the fact that my parents income was somewhat sporadic in that Dad was paid only 9 months out of the year and Mom's income was based on then number of courses she taught.  We also probably spent more money on housing and recreation than a normal family in that we had a house on the water, the vacation cabin, and my parents prioritized experiences over things.  So, we did lots of camping, sailing, skiing, traveling and that all cost money.  They also were doing the right things with money, putting it away for college funds and their own retirement.  As a result, we didn't have free money for eating out.  Eating out was for super special occasions and mostly when Grandpa was in town for business.  I can remember Grandpa taking my brother and I out for dinner.  As a family, I remember just a few times going out to some kind of all you can eat buffet (I also remember getting sick b/c I ended up eating too much or the foods were too rich).  Mostly though if we ate out it was never at a chain restaurant.  As a result, I don't have the fondness or nostalgia for chain eating.

Today, we eat out quite a bit (an issue I am always working on) but we still hardly ever eat at a national chain.  I much prefer eating at mom and pop places.

Did you have a favorite chain restaurant when you were a kid?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Resolutions

I am a big fan of new years resolutions, goal planning, goal tracking, etc.  I've started to put together my list of resolutions for 2014 and I'm up to 12 so far and none of those resolutions relate to finances.  Eight of my draft resolutions relate to health and fitness.

I learned back in psychology that it takes 4 weeks to develop a new habit.  Indeed, one of the reasons rehab is 28 days is based on the 4 week new habit model.  Today, I read an article over on that it actually takes closer to 66 days to establish a new habit.

So, if today is day 1 of a new behavior, stick with it for a couple of months and it should become an actual habit.

Here is to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.