November 20, 2017

2017 Money Move: Vanguard and cleaning up my holdings

Mimicking my favorite tax blogger Kay Bell’s “Moves to make” posts, I’m making some moves before the end of the year to maximize our tax efficiency, minimize our expenses, and ensure we’re saving / investing as much as we can for retirement.

Step One – examining Vanguard accounts!

My Rollover IRA has held my retirement contributions since 2007, and my personal rate of return over that time has been 10.4%, but the fund selections are really outdated.

Over the past decade, as my contributions grew, I’ve shifted from holding Investor Shares to Admiral Shares which have a much lower expense ratio but that was only true for two of my five funds:


November 15, 2017

A Black Friday / Cyber Monday shopping list

I’m not normally a big fan of BF. I’ve not been out in the early hours of the morning since I last humored my woollyheaded friends who really really wanted to go to Best Buy and the mall over ten years back – I went along to keep the boys company and hang out.

These days I only shop online but I hear tell that this year, online sales will outpace sales at physical brick and mortar locations so with some good luck, the sales get better accordingly. I’m sharing my list here

  • iPhone charging cable, preferably 6 ft. My Amazon Basics cord has been abused terribly and is about to snap in two. Can’t decide if this is due to user error or poor materials but I’m willing to take the blame.
  • iPhone for PiC with as much memory as can be crammed into a hand computer. His hand me down phone is dying a slow and painful death. Mostly painful for me, the Home IT person on call.
  • 8 TB external hard drive. I missed that Amazon sale during FinCon where it was running about $130 but I also didn’t have a chance to do some research on which one is compatible with both PCs and Macs since we use both.
  • Fireproof safe.
  • Portable generator. I’ve got my eye on one that’s about $1000, I suspect they won’t be having a sale on them but it’s worth checking just in case. If no sale, we’ll keep on waiting because I’m working on cash flow recovery.
  • Husky Universal SAE and Metric Mechanics Tool Set, 60-Piece set
  • (Only a want) Purely if there’s another $25 sale or the like: a new Kindle. Mine has been dead for over a year now.
  • Edit to add: blank address labels! I print our own address labels to spare my hands and save on costs. Maybe Staples?

:: Are you watching the sales for anything particular? Have you seen any great deals on any of this stuff? 

November 13, 2017

How and why I’m cutting off my father

Reeling from discoveries: redefining my filial responsibilitiesI thought I was rocked back on my heels before.

I had a painful and necessary conversation with a friend last weekend. It was about feelings, which I mostly hate, money, which I love, and family, which I am 100% conflicted about. The conversation itself was tough but what followed was far worse than anything anticipated.

I supported my parents more than half my life because I genuinely believed my parents loved me and I wanted to help them. Turns out, Mom loved me, but Dad? He skated on the strength of her love and sacrifice which was so strong he could mimic both just from the reflected glow.

My theory is that, for Dad, love only mattered so long as my path mirrored his. When I was a dependent child, and when I was an adult covering his expenses, my interests were aligned with his. Mostly. He was never willing to put aside his own pride, and sense of self entitlement, for my sake, though. He may love me but much less than his perceived needs.

In hindsight, it feels like I should have seen the signs earlier. (more…)

October 23, 2017

Historical Net Worth: 10 years of money

Othalafehu’s post on their year on year growth got me thinking about exactly how much our money has changed over time. I took advantage of a really bad pain day to dig out the stats because what else could I do with my bones on fire and my brain on the fritz?

I still spent way too much time on this but data! Pretty graph! (Ok, not so pretty.)


October 18, 2017

My sibling, my nightmare

Looking back at life decisions and my sibling Othalafehu’s old post about a problematic sibling surfaced on my radar recently, reminding me of a memory that struck me a few weeks ago.

I think I was 18 at the time this happened. I had been working at my post-high school job for over a year and had become one of the most reliable staff. The power of youth, by the way, is one of the few reasons I could power through my chronic pain. It’s heady stuff!

The office manager sat me down one day, asking me to weigh in on an application. This being totally out of the norm, I was puzzled. Then I was horrified. She revealed that it was my brother who had applied, and would I have a problem working with my sibling?



September 25, 2017

Selling our home in California: Part 3

We left off at having a ratified contract because that’s all the fun I could handle and holding my breath for 30 days was enough distraction.

But I can never resist a “what will you do with that money” question.

I have a spreadsheet gaming out every sale price scenario and therefore decided where any money will go long before we even listed the place. I’ll fiddle with some of the details still but the broad strokes are right.

Note that in the interest of not tempting fate, I started my possible sale price scenarios at the lowest possible price, well below the current comps, and ran it in $25,000 increments until I went over the current comps.

In order of priority, this is how I’m planning to distribute that money:

5%, broker and sales fees
28%, pay off the remaining balance of our loan
18%, repay personal loans
18%, repay our savings account
25%, pay down our new loan
4%, invest
1%, long term disability insurance
1%, charity

Repaying loans: The very first thing I’m going to do is pay off all the personal loans. I practically have my pen in my hand to write the check right now, I’m itching to get that crossed off the list.

Taxes: I’m not leaving anything for taxes, you’ll note, because we qualify for the federal capital gains exclusion and our end gain (Amount realized from the sale – the cost basis) won’t be over the $500k limit, more’s the pity, and it should be reasonable to expect that we shouldn’t have CA state taxes, too.

Charity: Our planned giving should be higher but until I’ve safely refilled all our coffers and figured out our new cash flow, that will need to wait. Remember to make sure your own oxygen mask is secured before helping anyone else!

The new mortgage: I have always planned to pay down the new loan, and recast it for lower monthly payments, but a new player stepped onto the stage a couple weeks ago. They offered a refinance with no closing costs and a drop of our current interest rate by .25%. It’s just a matter of when I feel like I can take that extra task on – let’s say two months after we’re moved in, I’ll dig into that.

Either way, my first step is dump cash into the loan once we receive the funding. Option 1 after that is refinancing with the other lender which has been kind of ehhh in the past but a lower rate without fees is attractive. Option 2 is to convince Chase to match the lower rate with no closing fees offer.

Whichever route works out, as long as the rate goes down and I drop that cash in the loan, we could reduce our monthly nut by about $1000. Then we’d only have doubled our housing costs, not tripled them. I AM going to miss some of the amenities we’ll be walking away from.

I’m tempted to peel off a little of that cash to treat ourselves to little things but it’s really not necessary. The real reward will be living at the address of Not Utter Chaos!

Plus, and this wasn’t planned, I have a special little box of a couple adorable things I splurged on at SDCC which includes a surprise for JuggerBaby from zir uncle. Unpacking will be a little less awful when we run into those treats.

Read Part 1 and Part 2

:: Do you treat yourself after finishing massive projects or do you just take satisfaction in a job well done? 


September 18, 2017

Living spaces: how much and what do you need?

[Part 9] Once upon a time, and as recently as this spring, I wanted a house with at least five rooms: three bedrooms, an office, and a library. Maybe four bedrooms. Wide spaces, with room to stretch your arms out wide and wiggle your fingers. Then to race the dog down the hallway and see who successfully skids to a stop before slamming into a wall. Dreams of a country girl.

Thus I confess, occasionally I get bitten by the jealousy bug when friends buy a 5-7 bedroom colossus on a 10,000 square foot lot for much less than our down payment.

But the reality of our lifestyle (low-key, low-energy, focused on financial freedom) doesn’t line up with the commitment of such mansion style living. And just as important, the reality of where we’ve chosen to make our lives means that we’d pay dearly and be mortgaged forever and a day if we were so very expansive when we finally found our next home.

On the lower end, the average price per square foot ranges from $500-700 hereabouts. On the higher end, I’ve seen $900-1000 per square foot.

At these prices, we would be giving up our dream of being financially free for a house.

Now, if ever there was a hermit who could flog down that cost per hour-lived-in, I’m your daisy. It took me two and a half years of working solo before I even considered it might be a good idea to see people occasionally. Maybe. (No.)

Thankfully, sense and a bit of luck prevailed – we didn’t paying our maximum bid on the purchase, but we surely paid enough that I’m simmering some ideas on bringing down the principal, stat!

Even at that cost, we didn’t get the sprawling ranch home with a moat, and carriage house (and murder holes) I fancied.

We’ve maybe 1400 square feet. It makes up 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a wee sma office. I have and would give up a lot for the balance of comfort and safety (physical or financial) of my family but if either of us ever have any choice in the matter, two bathrooms is a must. No coveted laundry room, unfortunately, nor my wished-for piano or library.

In short, it is enough room to live in, grow a little, host a friend or three temporarily, and grow old together without fighting over whose turn it is to clean the sixth bathroom.

We have a lovely bit of yard where I can have micro container garden adventures, and Seamus can sun his bones. We splurged on the Fancy Stove for my cookery and a bench for my bath because it’s every day now that I’m too tired to shower. PiC got to pick all the design and color elements so that this is a home he’d be proud of, though it was never designed with showings in mind. That’s why, though I’m proud of the work we did, I won’t be sharing pictures. We were making our home, not a showcase.

I have mild pangs of regret thinking we should have held out for something a touch bigger, a few more amenities, a few less compromises. But PiC is confident this is what we need and I trust his judgment too. Besides, what a wreck I’d be if I had to build my dream library during this very small window of time we had to work on the house!

Anyway this is all luxury, in the end. I grew up poor in Southern California so space to myself still feels like an amazing thing. A whole house for just my family is like the icing on the icing on the cake.

  • Age 1, our family of four shared a 2 bedroom house with four other families.
  • Age 3-12, our family of four shared a 600 square foot, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment on and off with single family members. We had one room, they had the other.
  • Age 13-17, our family of four lived in a 1300 square foot house with three dogs.
  • Age 17-now, our family of four, then three, then two, were in a 1500 square foot house with three, then two, then one dog(s).

Now we’re a family of three humans and large dog going from 1000 square feet to 1400 square feet, with enough room to comfortably lodge our rather frequent visitors.

PiC’s probably right, this is the right place for us. We were told to only list three Must Haves and we ended up getting 15 of our 20.

We can make this work!

:: What’s your living space minimum/ maximum? What are your dealbreaker amenities? 

Before: Background, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

Next on our Home Buying Adventure: Part 10, Part 11

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