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Archive for August, 2016

good weekend, and cheap!

August 31st, 2016 at 07:31 pm

After work on Friday I met my friend M in a nearby small town where we walked for almost an hour and then chatted for a bit on a park bench before parting ways. I was on day 12 (I'm now on day 17!) of eating no sugar, so that negated any desire to splurge at one of two local ice cream establishments. It was a free, healthy and satisfying evening activity.

I spent most of Saturday at home cleaning up and relaxing. M's partner and daughter were away for a few days and she loosely suggested doing something. She ended up contacting D & T, old friends of ours who we haven't seen in a very long time, and they were free and invited us over for dinner. We made the hour trek to their neck of the woods and on the way we stopped at a beautiful swimming hole for a dip in the icy river, which felt so good on a hot day!

We continued on to our friends' house and the four of us and their dog went for a long walk on a quiet dirt road. We then hung out on their deck, which affords a gorgeous view, drinking beers and eating chips and tomatillo salsa that M had made with items from her garden and tomatillos from a friend. The salsa was so delicious and I chowed down.

Then we had dinner - grilled sweet corn on the cob, grilled corn tortillas with black beans, rice, cherry tomatoes, cheese, scallions, parsley, salsa, and a big pile of steamed green and yellow string beans. All of the produce except the corn was from T's and M's gardens. We finished the meal with local grapes that I provided and wild blackberries that T had picked in the woods.

It was really fun to see D & T again. Time really flies. They were two of my best friends back in the 90s and early 2000s. But they live an hour away with a mountain in between and, at some point, I just got busy with work and life and depression and didn't have the energy to drive as much as when I was younger. They had a son and our lives went in different directions. But, over the past few years we've managed to connect once in a while, but I haven't hung out at their house in a very long time. Back in the day, I'd go over for dinner on Friday evening and end up staying until Monday morning...I was the guest that wouldn't leave! At the time, I lived in an apartment and it was much more fun to gather at their beautiful house, so I visited them more than they visited me. Anyway, the passage of time and the losses that occur with that reality make me feel sad.

If our Saturday visit hadn't been so spontaneous, I would have shopped and contributed more to the meal, but there are no good food stores on the drive to D & T's place. I brought four beers that I happened to have in my fridge, some local grapes that I bought on Friday, and a can of black beans from my cupboard that didn't get used. I also brought some leftover salsa that I had in the fridge just in case the salsas that M and T made were too spicy. They both love the heat and I'm a wimp! We would have stopped to get the corn, but we weren't going to pass any farm stands, so D picked it up on his way home from an earlier outing.

The food was all so fresh...I love this time of the year and most of my friends are dedicated gardeners and healthy cooks. A different friend D invited me over a few weekends ago for soft tacos made with local beef and some homemade cookies and cream ice cream. Yum!

I spent most of Sunday annoyed at myself for one of my more unsavory financial flaws. I have a tendency to overbuy when I clothes shop because I have a hard time making decisions in the store. I spend a ton of money with the intention of returning some of the items once I get home and try things on. In late July, an old college friend C spontaneously texted and invited me up to his cabin on a river in northern Quebec for a few days. I said yes and then, I'm not sure why, went to TJ M@xx to look at clothes.

I ended up spending about $360 because I was in a rush and couldn't make decisions. I took a few things on my trip and only ended up wearing one item, which I really like. Then the bag sat in my house for 29 days until Sunday, which was the last day to return items for a refund. Ugh. I finally tried things on and decided what to keep. I was annoyed because at 7:00p (I had procrastinated all day) I had to drive to the town where I work on a non-work day to return the unwanted items! I couldn’t wait until Monday and do it while in town for work because I would have missed the 30-day refund period. I returned about $170 worth of clothes. Oh, well, live and don't learn Smile because I'm sure that I will do it again.

While in that section of town, I stopped at a grocery store that I don't frequent because of its inconvenient location and bought cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese for tomato season, and baby wipes. TMI alert, but because of a previous health problem, I need to use "wipes" in the bathroom and the conventional brands irritate my delicate skin Smile. So, I've been using natural brand baby wipes for years and this particular grocery store sells them in bulk. I tear them in half before using to make the quantity stretch.

I spent $16.80 on those three items, making it a low-spend but enjoyable weekend.

dental blues

August 28th, 2016 at 01:10 pm

I had a dental appointment on Thursday and I feel bad because I was a good 15 minutes late. Woops. It's a long drive and I need to plan to leave earlier next time. It was scheduled as a routine cleaning, but the billing office had checked with my insurance company to see if they would cover full x-rays, which hadn't been done in many years. Wow, that procedure is completely different - the hygienist took digital x-rays as I sat in the dental chair in the room where she did my cleaning. Apparently they will be covered and I really hope that's true! I was informed that I have four cavities, three on the bottom on one side and one on the bottom on the other side. The fourth one is under a crown, which will need to be replaced in order to deal with the cavity. Ugh - that's a lot of novocain, drilling and soreness in my future. The silver lining, of course, is that I have dental insurance, for which I feel very grateful. Their estimate of what I'll owe out of pocket is between $800 - 1000. They are waiting to hear back from my insurance company to see what my actual estimated OOP will be.

Technically, the work could be done in two appointments. The first would involve removing the crown, taking care of all four cavities at the same time and fitting a temporary crown. Then the permanent crown would be installed during the second appointment. I would need to have the temporary crown in place for three weeks. I am taking a 10-day walking trip in Portugal starting in October and I don't want to travel with a temp or new crown. So, I've scheduled an appointment in September to tackle three of the cavities, then I will schedule two appointments for after my trip to take care of the fourth cavity and crown. Blech.

According to my dentist, one of the reasons that I develop cavities quickly is that I grind my teeth at night. I have a mouth guard that he made for me years ago, but he has always wanted me to invest in an alternative mouth guard scenario which runs about $2K and is not covered by insurance. I have resisted for years because I didn't want to pay for it and I wasn't sure if it was legit. I need to do some research, but I'm starting to lean towards going for it and I'm regretting not acting sooner. I mentioned it to the receptionist and she said that some patients can be referred out to another dentist who works with a similar method who can bill medical insurance and have this method at least partially covered. I think that my insurance company paid for my original mouth guard under medical, so I'm going to call and ask if I have options. We'll see if I follow through on this.

I did start looking at hiking boots/shoes after my appointment, but I'll save that scenario for a future post. In response to comments on my previous post, I see that "breaking in" new boots is no longer the correct term. In the past when hiking boots were leather, they needed to be broken in to stretch and soften the leather. Now that most are made of soft materials it's more a period of getting used to them and making sure that they are comfortable, which is what I want to do before my trip. The tour is 10 days of walking/hiking for 10 - 18 miles a day, so supportive and comfy footwear is a must!

I didn't spend any money on Thursday besides purchasing three pairs of boots, at least two of which will be returned, so I'm not sure what that total will be yet. I am happy that I quickly packed a lunch to eat after my dentist appointment and before my boot shopping. I was able to eat healthy food and avoid spending money on lunch in town. That decision is also what made me late, so again, I'll need to plan better next time.

A few groceries were my only purchases on Friday. They were expensive items, though, but worth it. The Pennsylvania peaches that my local natural food store has been carrying are amazing - so delicious and juicy, so I've been splurging on those for a few weeks. And a local vineyard grows a very tasty table grape that is only available for a few weeks and sells out quite quickly. I noticed them when I went in to get more peaches, so I grabbed a bunch of bunches. Smile

Groceries 38.99
2.94 lbs peaches (5) @ 2.49/lb 7.32
2 lb local grapes @ 4.99/lb 9.98
bulk whole wheat organic pasta 2.23
32 oz organic olive oil (on sale) 12.99
small bag bulk nutritional yeast (for popcorn, saw recently that a few other bloggers enjoy it this way, too!) 1.36
I met a friend for an hour walk n' chat in a nearby small town on Friday evening and then came home and relaxed with my cat.

Found a dime last weekend and a quarter this week. I always think of CB when I pick up found money! Oh, a few months ago I found a crumpled $10 bill in a washing machine at a laundromat! That was fun. Smile

first financial task finished

August 25th, 2016 at 02:34 pm

I started with the easiest assignment from yesterday's financial consultant meeting. I created my SS account, downloaded my most recent statement and uploaded it to my retirement plan website so that the advisor can review it. I do qualify for SS benefits and Medicare, so that's a plus!

According to the summary, at my current SS earnings rate, if I continue working until...
my full retirement age (67), my payment would be about $1,928 a month OR
age 70, my payment would be about $2,475 a month OR
age 62 (early retirement), my payment would be about $1,248 a month

I do still look at this as a bonus to whatever I save on my own for retirement, because part of my future fantasy is to work part-time as I approach 60, so I don't foresee making my current salary all the way until I'm 67 to 70. In that case, the payment would be much lower - maybe $1000 a month?

Also, this sentence appears on the statement: Your estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time. The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 79 percent of scheduled benefits.

Yesterday was a low-spend day, only $24.77 to fill my gas tank. I paid cash and saved 5 cents a gallon, which was a bonus because I rarely carry cash! I need to remember to use cash for gas rather than my rewards credit card with 1% cash back. The total cost was $25.34, so I saved 57 cents by paying cash. If I had charged it, I would have earned 25 cents cash back. My impulse is to go for the cash back (free money!), but in this case paying in cash is a better deal. I should probably investigate cards with higher cash back bonuses - do these exist?

I'm working at home this morning and then have an afternoon dentist appointment, which is about an hour away. I started seeing this dentist many years ago because he incorporates holistic elements into his practice. I really like going there, but it's so far! I had my last cleaning scheduled for January, but had to cancel due to busyness. I forgot to reschedule for months and by the time I remembered, they were booked until late August. The visit will cost $25 to cover my dental deductible. I hope he doesn't discover any cavities or other problems, but he probably will. My teeth are very susceptible to cavities. Frown

I live in a very rural area, and the dental office is just outside of the "big city', so I hope I have enough energy to try on some hiking boots while I'm up there. I'm taking a walking tour in Portugal this October and need to buy boots ASAP so that I can break them in before the trip. I also need to purchase my plane ticket.


financial advisor meeting

August 24th, 2016 at 08:27 pm

I met today with a financial advisor who was assigned to me from my work's retirement plan company now that my account has reached a certain value. Wow, I am feeling overwhelmed. It was a good meeting, but very thorough. I was asked lots of questions designed to get me thinking about my future goals so that he can figure out what I might realistically have money-wise to support myself and my desires. I find thinking about the future to be very difficult because, of course, it involves aging and/or death, things that I just don't want to face, but know that they are an inevitable part of life. I also found that I was anxious because at this point I'm not clear (even remotely) how I want my future to look and I felt like I should know and only share a concrete plan. So, the meeting was beneficial because it did force me to start entertaining ideas and think about my desires.

One of the questions he asked was what I wasn't doing now that I would do if I had more disposable income. I felt embarrassed that I couldn't really come up with anything! I deal with depression and a lot of my needs and wants have been internally squelched and I'm not readily in touch with them. I would like to travel more and probably spruce up my house a bit. I'll have to think more about that.

Based on this initial conversation, the advisor will start to run my numbers through his models and come up with various scenarios. I have no idea what to expect.

I have been assigned some tasks which include:

Create a will and assign beneficiaries to my retirement accounts! I realized that the reason I'm procrastinating on this is that I don't know who to assign as executor and I'm not really sure who I want my assets to go to. I'm single with no children, so I don't have the obvious choice of leaving it to my immediate family. I will most likely name my three nephews and my niece as heirs. I might also add a few of my friends' children who I am close to (one is almost 30, one is 20 and the other is still a child, all from different families). And maybe some to a charity - I have to think about that. I don't have a huge sum of money, but I definitely have assets that I would like someone I know to use if I can't.

Increase my insurance coverage. I was surprised by this one. His reasoning was that as a single person with fairly low insurance coverage and some non-retirement assets and a house, that I could be sued and lose a lot if I have an auto accident. He also felt that I could get better rates by getting some quotes and that, in the end, I might not pay much more for increased coverage, but would have better protection. He also suggested increasing my homeowners insurance coverage and adding a line for identity theft coverage (I guess this is somewhat new) and an earthquake rider which would cover any foundation problems like cracks caused by earth shifts, not just actual earthquakes. Insurance is a tough one for me because I feel angry to pay for something "just in case", but it doesn't make sense to have inadequate coverage, so I guess I will look into it!

Register on the social security website and start to get an idea of what my future benefit might be. I've never really considered SS as part of my retirement plan because my first 10 or so years out of college consisted of odd jobs while I skied and bicycle toured and worked on an organic farm (before it was all the rage!). I didn't have any school loans, so I decided to do some active adventures while I was young and healthy and debt-free. So, I doubt that I have paid all that much into the system, but I guess I'll find out. Plus, who knows if SS will exist when I reach my mid 60s?

I should mention that the financial planning advisor is a free benefit and that he is salaried, so is not focused on trying to sell financial products. It was very helpful, but now I need to take some action and make some decisions and that's when I usually start to hide my head in the sand and procrastinate.

Phew, that's enough financial thoughts for now - my office is getting really warm and my head is spinning! Maybe I'll go for a walk and get some fresh air.

EDIT: Just realized that the sidebar description says 40-something for my age. I thought that I updated this, but I guess not. I just corrected it - I am now 51, soon to be 52.

Retirement account milestone

August 20th, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Summer is flying by! I haven't checked my retirement account balance in a while and it finally hit the $600K mark! As of Friday, the total is $611,412.18. That includes my work 403B plus a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA. I have a free meeting this Wednesday with an investment advisor from my retirement plan's firm. I need to collect some paperwork and information before then, but I'm procrastinating.

I've been enjoying watching the Olympics. I don't have a television and I don't have a cable subscription to be able to stream the games online. But I did some research and for $8 I bought a month of a VPN. I choose Canada as my country when signing in and this allows me full access to CBC's coverage. It’s been great except that I miss the N B C Olympic anthem. Smile I used my mom's cable subscription info to watch the last Olympics, but I couldn't find the credentials and she was away when they started, so I splurged and spent the $8. Smile It's been worth it.

I haven't been paying any attention to my finances and have been carelessly spending money this summer. Not anything too extravagant, but spending a little here and a little there is probably adding up. I never made the decision to sign up for the new web-based YNAB and I haven't been using my older version for budgeting or tracking spending. I still feel annoyed that it switched over to a yearly subscription and I can't seem to decide whether or not to make the switch. Frown

I'm treating myself to a walking tour in Portugal this fall. It's definitely a splurge, but I have had quite a few friends and acquaintances die over the past few years and have decided that I want to start making sure I live even while I save for the future because you just don't know how long or short the future may be. I'm embarrassed to say, though, that I haven't bought my plane ticket yet and now I'm terrified to look at the prices. Doh. I've been struggling with massive depression this summer and one of the consequences for me is procrastinating on decisions. I hope to figure it out this weekend and I'm going to have to accept whatever price I end up paying. Life will go on.

I'm off to have an exciting Saturday night of cleaning and watching the Olympics. Smile