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Archive for March, 2009

$50,000 or less - Is that all?

March 31st, 2009 at 10:34 am

In my last post I commented on our small retirement savings. After reading the comments I decided to do a bit more research.

I read the following statistics in different places on the web:
* The average 45-54 year old has less than $25,000 saved for retirement.
* 53% of people 45-54 have 50,000 or less saved (29% have less than $10,000 saved)
* Baby boomers between 41 and 54 have retirement savings of $30,000 (this must have been an older article - if the baby boom cuts off in 1965, the youngest of this group would be 43 now)

Wow. If all this is true we are in better shape. . . well, than average.

Does anyone know where to get accurate statistics? One website I read said that that particular organization had surveyed 1000 people. That doesn't seem like a very representative sample.


March 28th, 2009 at 11:20 am

As you can probably guess, retirement is a source of contention in the onion patch.

Mr H's approach is: he'll work until he can't work any more, then he'll live on savings, then the government will support him. (You'll notice that it's "he" and not "we", although I think the "we" is somewhat implied.)

This is not what I would want for my older age, but I'm willing to live with it - up to a point. In order to live on savings, we have to be saving now, and all the time until then. We've saved relatively little - we have the 401k that I contributed to during my corporate years. That is 10 (or is it 9? I may not have been able to contribute the first year, although I don't remember now) years out of a total of 28 years of my working life (starting the count at age 18). DH has no pensions or 401k's from any present or past employers from his 28 years of working life.

Now that the budget is balancing with regularity I'm turning my sights toward saving 15% of our income savings for retirement. Is this enough? Probably not, but we have to start some where.

It seems like an impossible goal, but then we've managed to keep the food budget at a limit that I never would have imagined a year ago, and it hasn't been that hard. And with the few changes I made over several months getting checkbook one to balance hasn't been that difficult either.

After a rather heated discussion last week I think I've finally convinced him that in order to live off savings we have to be saving now, that he must be involved in this, and that a graduated approach (first 1%, then 2% etc up to 15%)* is the most reasonable approach. Starting in April we will be saving 2% of our monthly income towards retirement/old age.

*I have been setting aside 15% of my tutoring money since I started tutoring in January - trying to move us in that direction.

Do we have enough?

March 6th, 2009 at 01:53 pm

Do we have enough in Checkbook One to buy some bird food? Yes, Mr H asked me this last night. Looks like he's getting with the program.

I just finished running the numbers (I'm behind) and we had a $248.72 surplus in Checkbook One for February. Wow, this budget thing is working!

Unfortunately, the temptation now is to spend. I haven't yet figured out what we've spent so far for March, but I have given in to the temptation a bit. It's so easy to get careless. I'm reigning myself in and getting back into "keeping our money" mode.

I have decided that my tutoring money will go towards our annual Memorial Day camping trip. Expenses for this trip include space in the campground (already paid for), ferry fare for two vehicles, extra gas money and extra food costs. You would think that we would just eat normally but no. . . our camping diet includes things like s'more fixings, bacon, snack foods and beer and wine, and those food items add up.

I love camping. I love sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tent (even in pouring down rain), I love getting up and making coffee and looking at the beautiful surroundings, I love sitting by the campfire on damp mornings, I love Mr H's obsession with tarps, I love our friends who we camp with, I love my camping clothes (wool sweaters, long johns and rain poncho in addition to other layers). I'm getting giddy just thinking about this trip.

How'd we do in February?

March 4th, 2009 at 01:33 pm

These words came out of the mouth of Mr. H on the first day of March.

I'm shocked and thrilled. Mr H seems to be engaging a little more in our financial life. I didn't have the information for him - we had commitments throughout the weekend that kept me busy. But even with a last-minute burst of spending we are still had a surplus in Checkbook One for the month of February. Yay us!

I'm reading an interesting book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It's apparently on the best seller list, and discusses why some people are super-successful in what they do. There are lots of interesting observations made, but the one I am finding useful at the moment is the contrast between Chinese rice-growing farmer's proverbs and Russian peasant's proverbs. (It's on page 237.) Here is one listed as the Chinese farmer's: "If a man works hard, the land will not be lazy." Here is one attributed to Russian peasants: "If God does not bring it, the earth will not give it." Do proverbs express what the cultural beliefs are, or do they shape the cultural beliefs, or both? In a way it doesn't matter. Gladwell discusses the cultures that produced both of these proverbs and how the proverbs might have developed.

I'm not a Chinese farmer and Mr H isn't a Russian peasant, but I think the two proverbs above express our very different attitudes towards life. I am working to make things happen and Mr H is waiting for something to happen that he will then react to. In a way we both have a self-fulfilling prophecy - things happen because of my efforts, but to Mr H it looks like things "just happened". It's become clearer to me over the last year that Mr H really doesn't see much of connection between his efforts and his results.* Which is fine, except when we try to work together. . . which in a marriage is pretty much all the time in one way or another.

Mr H handles Checkbook Two and I handle Checkbook One. I've written quite a bit in the last 11 or so months about Checkbook One - with persistence and changes to some parts of our financial life it's finally not being overspent. Part of these changes involve some real effort on my part to not just spend money randomly. Mr H has noted that Checkbook Two is running a bit low. He's concerned. . . but I'm not seeing much effort or involvement on his part to figure out and solve this problem.

I can't change Mr H's very deeply held beliefs. . . that I'm not even sure he recognizes as having. But I am going to continue to point out cause and effect in our lives, to the best of my ability to do so.

*I should qualify this. It looks like he does see this in very short term efforts, things that can be completed in four hours or less.