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Waiting. . . .

January 21st, 2013 at 08:17 pm

My Roth contribution continues to sit in the money market of my mutual fund, and now I am waiting. . . for the share price of various mutual funds to go down a bit before I purchase them. My various mutual funds have been hovering around the 52-week high share price since the 1st of the year. From what I could glean from the Wall Street Journal the markets were "happy" (my paraphrase) that we didn't go off the financial cliff, and then they were "happy" because of what went on with the debt ceiling. Seems kind of kooky to me! I'll watch and wait a bit longer, but would really like to complete this so I can get it off my list for another year.

Mr. H made his Roth contribution also.

Contribution Made

January 4th, 2013 at 08:21 am

As planned, I made my Roth contribution for 2013 on January 2nd. The funds went into a money market to be allocated later. I have been watching the price per share of my mutual funds at the end of the year and now, and they have gone up! Is that because we didnít quite fall off the fiscal cliff? I'll wait a bit and see if they come back down before reallocating out of my money market. They adjusted a bit yesterday.

Mr. H received his annual bonus, and I've encouraged him to put some of it in his Roth. I think he will do that.

Roth IRA Contribution 2013

December 27th, 2012 at 04:17 pm

I checked the IRS website today to find out if the annual IRA contribution has gone up. It has! I also observed that the catch up contributions are for those 50 and over. I thought it was 55 and over. I will turn 50 in 2013. I've had a largish financial gift and will make the full contribution on January 2nd. The information I have indicates that I can make this contribution any time during 2013. Go me!

We've Come A Long Way

September 11th, 2010 at 06:29 am

Our financial life, in a nutshell:

* Mr H's job continues to be stable. I anticipate it will be stable for another five to seven years.

* We haven't had any economic catastrophes. In that way our life is good.

* In March I bought two used curriculum items at the Goodwill outlet for $1 total. I sold them for a total of $8, less 15% (they were sold at used curriculum fair - 15% to the sponsoring organization). Correct my math if it's wrong, but isn't that a 485% profit?

* My brain has been in other places that aren't financial. We have overspent Checkbook Number One for a few months. The big difference between now and a few years ago: Mr H actually knew about it. I have made no progress on any of my goals.

* To counterbalance my lack of progress, Mr H has been consistent in the saving of money for retirement and a replacement vehicle. He has neatly handwritten all amounts in a manual ledger for several months.

* Mr H, on his own, opened up a Roth IRA with the saved money. He has a pretty conservative investment (he's even more risk averse than me) but he is happy with it. It's made more so far than our various savings accounts and CD's. He's tickled by that fact. **

* We meet regularly and have discussions about our finances. Mr H originally said every Sunday night. He's not that consistent, but I take what I can get and I don't remind him. If he "remembers" - great. If he doesn't it irritates me but I try to let it go.

A discussion about finances is really a discussion about future plans, hopes and goals. In that area we have more productive conversations than we have ever had. I wish I could be happier about this, but it feels like the first 16 years of our marriage (we have been married 17 years) were a complete waste of time. But if I set those thoughts aside (hard to do for me) we really have come a long way in the last three years.

** As a side note, I read on The Simple Dollar blog about the blog author's retirement investment strategy. He and his wife vary in their ability to tolerate risk, so they each choose what they want in their porfolio as if the other didn't exist. That seemed like a good strategy for us. It helps that they are reasonably financially sensible people.

It's Mine if I Want It

October 27th, 2009 at 05:56 am

I think.

I had an interview - and I use that term loosely - with the person from the non-profit group who is looking for a secretary. We introduced ourselves and she got right into the details of the job. She had a list of the various responsibilities by month, and for each month she said "Oh, and I also do this" or "I don't do that". She's been doing this particular job for 10 years, and she's so used to it that she's not terribly conscious of the details.

The job has one evening per month during which I'd need to be available to take minutes. The rest of the duties could be done with a more flexible schedule.

Pay is $150 per month. I asked her how many hours she worked per month, and she had no idea. I asked her what kind of a commitment they wanted and she said a year. I asked her if she wanted a copy of my resume and she said no. (Good thing I didn't spend any time updating it! But I might want to do that for the future.) They have no idea who I am, my background, etc. . . and I've only been involved with the social group for a couple of months.

The pay isn't huge. . . but combined with other small opportunities that come my way it would suffice. The family I tutored with is still interested. . . I think things haven't settled down enough for them to have me back.

I will go to the group's meeting in a couple of weeks and make my decision after that.

Retirement Discussion. . . Again

October 21st, 2009 at 06:17 am

We had a second conversation in June regarding retirement savings, and that conversation went no where.

I asked Mr H what he wanted out of retirement. I drew pictures of it with stick figures. I drew what I wanted in retirement. (The pictures didn't really mesh very well, no surprise there.) I tried to convince Mr H that if we want things to be a certain way now, we needed to be working towards it. He might agree in principle, but when it gets down to discussing strategies our conversation becomes . . . difficult. He even said something along the lines that he expects some sort of magic to occur to make this all happen.

I have been having discussions with Mr H regarding increasing savings for at least two years. I have expressed my concerns about the future. He agrees in principle, but when it comes to actually doing anything . . . well, he just can't/won't. At this point in our life together, it's hard to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I'd say that he won't. This is not a new interaction for us.

Having now tried the "sit down and discuss a problem like rational adults and come up with a solution that works for both of us then implement it" approach -- and failed at it -- it's time for a different course of action.

I've decided to try the "Tom Sawyer fence painting approach." If you've ever read the story ** Tom has to whitewash a fence. He convinces the neighborhood boys that painting the fence is the most fun ever, and the neighborhood boys end up doing most of the work. Well. . . maybe it won't be exactly like that. But I do plan to get the ball really rolling on retirement savings and then convince him that it's really not that hard.

In the past when Mr H has said Yes that's great/I agree/I want that too but No, I won't-can't/It's not me/I forgot/I don't know, I have gone on to do whatever it was on my own. I wanted whatever it was that "we" agreed on enough to do the work. Then in Mr H's mind "Things just worked out." (We'll call that the "Things Worked Out" approach. They worked out for him because someone else did the work.) But that strategy backfired a bit. "We" may have gotten what "we" wanted, but it didn't build up Mr H's ability to do hard things. This time I plan to look for more ways to involve him.

The "Tom Sawyer fence painting approach" is not my preference, but I don't see a lot of other options here. We've had two years and more of basically fruitless discussions. Mr H is not going to change. I'm not kidding myself - at this point I do anticipate putting in way more effort on this than Mr H does. But I'm just not willing to wait until we're 70 to see what happens.

** I think I read this in high school. I hope I get the gist of this right.

Job Possibility

October 13th, 2009 at 05:49 am

I've been keeping my antennae up (figurative, not literal) for job possibilities. I think the time has come. I'm not super-excited about getting back into the work force, but I'm not super-excited about the possibility, no matter how remote it seems right now, of poverty in my old age.

At this time I'm not interested in full or even half-time employment. I'm interested in working 10 or fewer hours per week at something with flexibility - ie, it can flex around my schedule. I'm less concerned about how high my pay would be, and more concerned about how energy sucking it would be. I look at this as how to start getting my foot back in the door, to have work-type references, use existing skills, etc.

A possibility arose this weekend. I don't even know how to describe this opportunity. . . it's a secretarial-type position with a local non-profit. . . I guess that's the most concise description. . . and I heard about it during a social group event I attended with Daisy. For this opportunity I whipped out one of my business cards*, handed it to the person making the announcement and told her I was interested. We'll see what happens.

*A few years ago I saw a business card for a stay-at-home mom, and I thought, I've got to get some of those! Over time I'd find myself giving out my phone number, email, etc and hunting down a scrap of paper to write the information on. A business card would make this so much easier! So I made some for myself using MS Publisher and my ink jet printer.

Change is Coming

October 5th, 2009 at 10:35 am

Mr. H let me know a few weeks ago about two changes coming at his work.

These changes are no surprise to me. About a year ago I figured that the business he works for would probably close in 10 years or less. They have lost clients over the years without adding any new clients, and his boss, the business owner, is about 55. If the business closed then it would leave Mr H out of a job at 55 or so. I have urged Mr. H to look for a new job. He reads Craig's List. He doesn't apply for jobs, talk to people or companies that have jobs, or develop new skills.

Mr. H does not deal well with change.

My current plan is to get back into the work force full time in about eight to ten years. I also have thought that I'd probably approach this incrementally - very part time, then part time, then more hours and so on up to full time and beyond. I'm not relishing the the thought of working full time plus at that point in my life, but with Mr. H at my side I think my options are limited. I haven't been successful in getting him on board the "do what it takes to save for old age" train, and he is not going to work any more (or any harder) than he already does. I'm only willing to let this situation go on for so long - *I'll* do what it takes to save for old age. I could write volumes on how frustrating it is to have a partner tell you that they want the same things as you, and then not be willing to take the actions necessary to get those things. We have been down this road many times.

In my snarkier moments I figure that, once this job is gone, I'll be supporting us because Mr H "can't" find a job. (Says the woman who is not working outside the home now, and hasn't looked for a job since 1992. I might be veering into over confidence.) I say this because I know Mr. H, I'm not going to let myself starve, and I have known several women who ended up in this position. Two of these women are part of my extended family.

At any rate, these two very significant changes at Mr. H's work - one definite before the end of the year, one looking more and more likely every day - may accelerate my time table a bit. If Mr. H's job lasted for another 8 or so years, that would work for MY time table - Daisy will be an adult. I'm going to keep tabs on this situation but I may have to start looking at the "very part time" work option now.

More Retirement Discussions

June 26th, 2009 at 10:22 am

Mr H and I had another discussion about saving for retirement. ** As I've said before, Mr H's plan is to spend what's available to us now, work until he can't work any more, then let the government take care of him. I don't like this plan. . . at all. I would rather save money now for retirement so we'll have more options when we're elderly. Mr H seems to like the idea of saving for retirement. . . but he's not invested in it. I've been down this road with him before - it means he pays lip-service to the goal, and things go along well - as long as I'm doing the work. But in the end I realize that I'm by myself. It's a crappy way to pursue mutual goals.

After we'd gone down the "How are we going to rearrange the budget to save for retirement?" road for at least an hour, I could see the above scenario developing. Mr H agreed to saving a percentage of our income but with heel-dragging, moaning, and "woe is me". So I backed up. I don't think the problem right now is "How are we going to save for retirement?" but "Why should I (Mr H) save for retirement? What's in it for me?" While Mr H thinks it sounds like a nice idea, he still doesn't see a need for it.

"Why should we eat rice and beans now so we can eat rice and beans later?" "We need to get some enjoyment (with a new TV, vacation, etc.) out of life." "We could die tomorrow. Why sacrifice now?" We can talk all we want about how to shift the money around, but unless he's invested he won't be willing to work hard and to make the sacrifices it takes to save. He's very comfortable with the way things are.

We agreed to discuss it again this Sunday. Of late Mr H has been very good about keeping his appointments with me for these discussions. But I'm not waiting until Sunday to see what happens. I'm going to prepare in advance. And I'm not going to jump into "How do we do this?" - I'm going to prepare for "What's in it for me?"

Mr H is a very visual person, and probably a visual thinker. A spreadsheet, a list of bullet points, a lecture - he tunes out. The trick is how how to sell him on the importance of saving for retirement using visual methods, and with enough impact to get his buy in. I'm not as visual. . . but I'm motivated to convince him that this is important to him as well. I'll keep you posted.

** I actually thought this was going to be a discussion about generating more income, and had my list ready. We didn't discuss it.

Allocation Done

June 12th, 2009 at 10:04 am

In late April I rolled over my 401k to an IRA. The 401k was with my previous employer, which was sold to another company. I decided that it was time to get out. Actually it was past time but I have been busy with other things.

The IRA is with a reputable company, and I rolled over all of the 401k into a money market fund. I knew that I wouldn't leave it there, but wanted to get the roll over done as quickly as possible.

May has come and gone - it's a tidal wave of activity for people with school-aged children, whose school ends in mid-June. I finally sat down today and moved the money from the money market into various mutual funds. There's nothing terribly exciting about that, except that it's off my task list.

In the process I decided that I ought to study investing a bit more. I know some basics. . . probably not as much as many people here, but more than the average American I'd guess.

In the fall Daisy's coming home for school. She was homeschooled prior to this year. One of the benefits of "away" school for her has been studying with other people. I decided that I'll do a little home school myself next fall. I'll take Latin with her*, I thought I'd review Algebra**, maybe read some history. . . and now I think I'll add investing to my coursework. . .

*Yes, she has studied Latin this year - she likes it and wants to continue. I know nothing, so I guess we'll both learn together. She likes the idea that she knows more than me.

** I am having way too much fun tutoring math.

Don't Tempt Me

April 27th, 2009 at 09:12 pm

I spent about an hour and a half last Friday morning dealing with my 401k. When I left my former employer several years ago I just left my 401k sitting there. About three years ago I decided that I really should roll my 401k over to an IRA and ordered the paper work to do so. I couldn't figure out how to allocate my investments, and I got busy and didn't follow through.

Now my procrastination is catching up with me. My former company was sold to another company, and the 401ks are getting moved to a different 401k plan administrator at the end of May. I have just a few short weeks to act, or face another layer of complication.

It turned out to be a relatively simple process to set up an IRA with an investment company (Mr H and I already have a mutual fund with them). I can put the assets of the 401k into a money market account while I figure out how to allocate them. (Note to self: don't procrastinate on asset allocation.) But there was a little wrinkle in my smooth rollover process. Before my 401k was a 401k it was some other type of savings plan which took post-tax dollars. So I had both post-tax dollars and pre-tax dollars in my account. If I put the post-tax dollars into my IRA I would have to fill out some tax form every year forever (or, I suppose, until those dollars were no longer in my account). I like simple. I do not want to do additional tax forms. I opted to have them send me those dollars as a check. (Note to self: Don't sit on the check.) Because they are post tax dollars there are no tax consequences for me.

While I was on the phone with the 401k person, after I told them to send me a check, they suggested all kinds of things I could do with the money including buying a new car. I ignored the suggestions, but that afternoon as I was accelerating down a long on ramp to get on the freeway I noticed that my car was decelerating. I had just enough time to pull over onto the shoulder of the on-ramp before all the lights came on on my dash and my car died completely.

As I sat in my car on the side of the road for over an hour waiting for the tow truck, I felt tempted by newer cars. But at this point I'm not going to give in. My current plan is to see if I can get my car to last until Daisy's high school graduation, then get a Vespa or something similar. My car is 16 years old, and Daisy has another 9 years before graduation. We'll see how this plays out.

Reflections on a year of blogging

April 18th, 2009 at 08:50 pm

Well, my blogoversary has passed without much fanfare. I don't post much and I guess I'm kind of a lazy blogger. But even the little I've done in the past year has brought some positive changes in my life.

* While Mr H and I are unlikely to ever be on the same page, we have more productive discussions. I initiate most conversations, but every now and again he'll bring up something related to our financial life. It's progress.

* I've learned that to engage Mr H in almost anything involves stages. First he ignores what I'm saying, then I provoke him**, then he reacts, then I gently tell him that he's reacting and suggest that we look at different options to solve the problem. Then he'll come through. Kind of. It's kind of dysfunctional, but it works better than him ignoring the situation and me finally just solving the problem on my own. (That has been the dynamic for most of our marriage.) Not all of our discussions are this way, but bringing up anything new is.

* We have a budget that balances for Checkbook One. It took several months to get there. It didn't balance, really, for about five years.

* We have a grocery/food budget that balances. We have never spent that little on food. We're eating well. I actually don't mind this part. It's fun to get creative with food, and I have done it for many years. I'm just way more conscious now, trying to use leftovers before they spoil and figure out how to have great dinners with lower cost foods.

* We have an emergency fund, that is designated as an emergency fund. I feel a lot less anxious.

* We have a plan for increasing retirement savings.

Everyone here has been so kind and helpful. I have been so grateful for the support. Thank you all so much!

** Believe me, I really don't want to provoke him. However it seems to be the only way I can get him to engage.

$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.

Mr Market

April 25th, 2008 at 06:43 am

I left my corporate job about six years ago to be at home with my daughter. I still have a 401-K with my former employer. I've busy with other things in my life and don't pay too much attention to it. Occasionally I'll look at it a little more closely and reallocate a bit.

My 401-K includes some of my former employer's stock. After talking with other former employees who know current employees I reallocated a portion of that stock to other funds, maybe a year or two ago. From what I heard it didn't sound like things were going all that great.

About a week ago I got the 401-K statement. As I perused the statement I noticed that stocks were down, bonds were up, and my former employer's stock was considerably lower than what it was compared to. Hmm, I thought, either they will go bankrupt in which case my stock probably won't be worth much, or they will get bought out, in which case the stock price is likely to go up. Maybe I should reallocate more of this stock. After I put the statement down I kind of forgot about it.

Fast forward to yesterday. As I read the business section of the local newspaper, I noticed that my former company is being bought by another company, and the stock price of my former company jumped quite a bit.

Just another example of Mr Market being smarter than me, as I read in Broken Arrow's blog the other day. I couldn't predict the future on this, although I think I did come up with the two most likely scenarios. And I kind of surprised myself that I actually know as much as I do.

Mutual Fund Jitters

April 21st, 2008 at 08:53 pm

During our conversation yesterday, DH and I discussed the mutual fund. He's kind of nervous about it, because we keep buying shares but its value doesn't seem to go up. (It's value has gone up in other years.) I haven't been following it that closely, but it is a Vanguard retirement fund. Isn't the market kind of in a slump? I know I opened up my 401-K statement recently - the stock funds were down and the bond funds were up.

Anyone have any suggestions for what to say to calm DH down about this topic? The next "good" time I'm going to discuss increasing the amount we are putting into the mutual fund.

One Step Back, One Step Forward

April 20th, 2008 at 09:10 pm

Well, it's been an interesting day here in the onion patch. Yesterday's discussion/confrontation touched off some, um, bad feelings. We finally got that straightened out enough. The mood was decent and DH and I had some free time so I brought up retirement.

DH's current strategy for retirement is: work until he can't work any more or dies. I think this strategy is a bit short-sighted. His job has no 401-K/pension/savings plan, and he has none of the above from previous jobs. I have a 401-K from my 10-year stint in corporate America.

A few years ago, in an attempt to get DH more involved in our finances, I asked him to figure out how much he thought we would need for retirement. He never got back to me.

Now, one of his coworkers' mothers is in assisted living and has outlived her money. I think she had very little, except the profit from selling her house. The assisted living center told the family that mom needed to move out when her money ran out because they no longer took medicaid (or whatever it is). This was contrary to what they were told when mom moved in. Lawyers are now involved, and DH is having an eye-opening front row seat. I think it's increased his awareness that maybe this could be a problem for us.

During our conversation I tried to get him to do as much of the thinking as he could. When do you think we'll retire? He figures at age 70. How long do you think we'll live after that? Hemming and hawing - he finally picked 85. How much money do you think we'll need? About 4000 per month, he says. Multiplying it all out he came to 720,000. Between my 401-K and our (very small) mutual fund we've got about 100,000 for retirement already. That leaves 620,000 total to this goal . . . 24,800 per year, or 2,066 per month. DH did not take any interest into account. . . but even if the numbers aren't accurate I'm happy to even have gotten him this involved in discussing retirement.