Monday, September 29, 2008

Quarterly Net Worth--Yes, I'm Cheating and No, It's NOT Helping!

I'm computing my net worth as of today, rather than waiting until the true end of the month tomorrow.

From what I hear, now that the House of Representatives has turned down the bail-out plan, the stock market was way off today. So I'll cheat, and use Friday's closing rather than today's.

Not that it helps that much.

For the first time since starting this blog, my net worth is down: $12,680 to be exact, or (because somehow it sounds better when I put it this way!) I'm down two percent for the quarter. My current net worth stands at $587,096.

I'd feel worse about it, if much of it wasn't rather "phony" to start with. How can I seriously feel like I lost $14,000 on my home, which means that it is worth $378,500, when I purchased it in 1992 for $95,300?

And how about my first home, which I now rent out in a small coastal town? It just keeps going up in value. Beats me why that should be, given that the town's economy is so tied to timber and fishing, both of which are dying industries. Inexplicably, the house is now worth $7000 more this quarter than last.

Then there's my debts--nothing to be proud of, there. I am down slightly from last month (that's good), but last month I was up from the previous month (that's bad), and I'm still not back to where I started (that's really bad).

Onward to October! How could bats, witches and black cats make things any worse?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Red Light

I opened a letter yesterday from the city in which I reside.

It contained three pictures--two of my vehicle, complete with license plate; one of the driver that was impossible to identify.

Oh, and there was a citation for running a red light, with a price tag of $242!

My problem is threefold: I have no memory of ever running a red light, and certainly not on the day and time in question; I never let anyone else, including my children drive my car; and I do NOT have an extra $242 laying around!

I've gotten speeding tickets before--while I don't like them, I've never felt that they were undeserved. But running a red light? That's just something I can't believe I did or would ever do!

My court date isn't until November. I will appear in court because that almost always results in a lowered fine. I won't plead "not guilty" because my memory notwithstanding, I don't see how it could be anyone else driving my car.

Still I'm ticked off. The difficulty is, my anger doesn't have a target!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Bad News About Retiring During a Recession

The best advice in Liz Pulliam Weston's latest column for MSN, How to Retire in Bad Times can be summed up in one word:


I have a number of friends who are in the midst of plans to retire. I must admit that I don't understand why they are so unwilling to put off those plans for another year or two to wait out the recession. These are not people who are being forced out of their jobs, nor do they have health issues so severe that they must retire. It's more that they have been planning for retirement day, they have their eyes on a particular date, and they are unwilling to let the current economy change their plans.

I understand the motivation. I understand the desire to be done with full time employment. But if working awhile longer would assure me of money to last through the NEXT recession and the one after that, while leaving the job field right now might endanger it--heck, I'd be working past that theoretical retirement date!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are We Sure Our Banks Know What They Are Doing ?

I realize this is extremely small potatos, BUT. . .

I don't get my bank's attitude on the following siutation:

I was using my Bank of America debit card, as I usually do--this time to purchase time on a parking meter. It "declined" my card. I tried again. It "declined" again.

Then I took a closer look at my card, and saw that there was someone else's name on it! (The first name was Venus. Trust me on this one--I ain't no Venus!)

Then I searched my purse, and located MY debit card. Apparently I had been handed back TWO debit cards sometime in the last few days.

I had purchased coffee earlier that morning with Venus' card. I may well have been purchasing things for several days on her card. When I checked my account online against the receipts I had kept, I found about $30 worth of charges that did not appear on my account. I could only assume those were charges that came out of the mysterious Venus account.

So I called Bank of America to report the error. It was my intent to let them know what charges to transfer to my account.

But they were not the least bit interested.

I was told that the card had already been reported lost or stolen, and that Venus--whoever she might be--was not being charged for any withdrawals in the last three days. I was advised to cut up Venus' card, which I did.

OK--good for Venus.

But here I am, ready to actually pay the items I accidentally charged.

Apparently the bank has no way of doing that!

So the end result is that neither Venus nor I are paying for those $30 worth of items.

A good deal for both of us, I guess. But it doesn't make me confident as to how things are run at my bank!

Maybe Bank of America is too busy with their take-over of Merrill Lynch?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Grace Goes Textbook Shopping

For the past 18 months, I've been paying for my 20 year old granddaughter's community college tuition and books. I quickly learned that I would save a lot of money if I took the buying of textbooks out of her cute, young hands and did it myself.

As one example this term:

My granddaughter is enrolled in Accounting 101. The text for this particular class retails for $94.80. Her college bookstore sells it new for $81.00 or used for $60.75. Amazon Textbooks lists it used for prices ranging from $53 to $75 and in various conditions. Half.Com has it listed (also in various conditions) new for $65.00 down to very used for $35.00. I settled on a text in "very good" condition for $45 plus $3.99 in shipping.

Now that I've ordered textbooks over the course of four terms, here's what I've learned:

Don't trust the student to tell you what book is needed. If you're the student, don't trust yourself. Almost all college bookstores are online and list their books by class and teacher. Go there!

The ISBN number is crucial. Just having the title and author does not make it clear what edition is needed. The first time I ordered a math text, I wound up buying the teacher's edition! My granddaughter didn't mind, since it had all the answers in it, but I suspect that's not what the teacher had in mind when he told the kids what book to use.

Stick with booksellers who've had a lot of sales. While this is probably unfair to students who are reselling their used books on and don't have much of a seller history, these same students are not always qualified to evaluate the condition of their books. One English text that purported to be in "good" condition came to my student with extensive highlighting on every single page. It was usable, but the experience has made me leery.

Remember to count in shipping costs when evaluating an online deal. I've seen sellers charge $10 for shipping and handling. Personally, I consider $3.99 fair, and that's the maximum I will pay.

All in all, I saved $174.22 buying three books online. It would have been more but one class had materials assembled by the teacher that was available only at the college bookstore and only at their price.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Grace and the Green-Eyed Monster

For starters, let me say that I love my baby sister.

Which is not to say that I am not jealous of her a lot of the time.

There is a history to this. She's barely a year younger than me. Growing up, I was the chubby and smart kid while she was thin and popular. You better believe I would have given up "smart" for "popular" any day of the week. Add to this the fact that my sister is a genuinely nice, generous, and all-round wonderful person. It is not easy being related to such a paragon, and it doesn't help that she's nice, generous and pretty much an all-round wonderful sister as well.

So she and her husband were in town last week-end for the wedding of a mutual friend. My sister is an upper-echelon banker. (Somewhere along the way, she became "smart" though I never did become thin or popular!) Neither she nor her husband have children. What they do have is an utterly enviable lifestyle. While in town, they treated me to brunch and dinner at two of this city's better restaurants. They gave me leads for my trip to Japan--though I never wrote down many of their recommendations, knowing that the cost would be out of my league.

What I coveted most was their laissez-faire attitude toward money. They wanted to see my city's Chinese Gardens. Without thinking, I offered the Two-for-one Entertainment Book coupon. They just looked confused. In their world, Entertainment Books do not exist, and who uses coupons. They could go where they wanted, eat what they wanted, get in taxis, whatever--all without any concern as to what the cost might be.

Is it whining to say that I want that, too?

Mind you, I just want their money.

I cannot imagine working for 30+ years at a bank, even a prestigious international bank. I cannot imagine NOT having children. I cannot imagine having to wear high heels and designer clothes. I cannot imagine making small talk to people who bore me.

So I don't want my sister's life. Nor her job. Nor, much as I like him, would I want to be married to her husband.

I just want her money!!!

And I want the lifestle having her money would bring me!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Girl Can Dream

Today, Syd reviews her first six months of retirement in her blog Retirement: A Fulltime Job.


Gotta get me somma that!

Double sigh.

Gotta get a boatload of debt paid off first!

But her life in retirement, at least for the first six months, is exactly what this girl's dreams are made of. Although I see she left out Sean Connery, who figures prominently in MY dream retirement!