Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quarterly Net Worth Update

My net worth is down $2704 from last quarter, but is still over half a million, at $554,931.

The housing debacle came late to the Pacific Northwest, but all that meant was that we are recovering later as well. My city residence went up $5000 in value, but my rental on the coast lost $20,000.

What? They didn't see the new roof?

Speaking of which, my indebtedness increased $2654 which is due entirely to the roofing costs, and wait! There's more! $2000 more which I will be paying in October.

But my 401(k) is up $23,000 so I'm not really complaining.

All in all, I'm not unhappy with my net worth at this point.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rest in Peace, Tony

From the first week I started blogging, I had a regular in my comments section. It was Tony from My Road to Freedom.

He was always generous with his encouragement as I marched fitfully forward in my journey toward financial freedom.

He was already there, though not without some fitful progress of his own. He took his losses and was searching Florida and other parts of the country for some land to buy for his RV. I was delighted to share his journey via his blog entries. He signed all of his comments as "Did It My Way," and ended each with "See ya."

In person, we might not have been friends. He smoked. He loved guns. He didn't like land-use planning laws.

But on the internet, these 'indiscretions' paled next to his spirit, and the excitement with which he approached the world and his retirement.

I've been annoyed that he hasn't posted recently.

I shouldn't have been.

I should have known it would take something like death to keep him away from his blog.

Tony Cassise died July 29, 2010.

May the earth rest lightly upon him.

See ya, Tony. Kinda wish I'd seen ya around a whole lot longer.

On the Job--Kinda, Sorta

The Boston Globe profiled several people who have, at long last, managed to find new jobs in this recession. [Yes, I hear the recession is over and has been for awhile. But an awful lot of employers out there don't seem to have gotten the memo!]

What interested me the most was how all of those who were profiled remained active in the workforce, by volunteering if nothing else. It appears to me that one can sit in one's jammies in front of a computer screen and e-mail resumes all day long without many results. It's actually interacting with others that leads to the referrals that lead to employment.

Of course I wondered why the one woman was listed as unemployed when she took a series of minimum wage jobs--umm, hello? She WAS employed during that time--just not at the position she wanted. Her minimum-wage retail work brought in money, and kept her active until an attractive management position opened up to her.

Personally, I think volunteering during periods of unemployment is a terrific idea. I also agree that taking any job for the short term is a good idea.

On the other hand, the article suggests that a positive, sunny and 'can-do' attitude is important as well. Grace would probably bomb out in that catagory. Not that I am easily depressed, but neither am I perky. Cynical? Uh-huh! Sunny? Not exactly!

If there's one thing (Nah! There are a LOT of things!) I hate about this recession, it's what it's doing to the employment prospects of those near retirement but who desperately need to keep working for a few more years.

Friday, September 17, 2010

If It's Not One Thing, . . .

I've been holding my breath, waiting for the financial damage of the new roof for my rental to appear. I know my September numbers are not going to be good.

But, now it won't only be the roof. The construction guy called to say that the roof is done, and came in exactly as estimated. So far so good. Unfortunately, while they were up on the roof, they noticed that the ceramic chimney for the natural gas furnace was in bad shape, and needs to be replaced.

Did I need to know this?

But now that I do know, can I ignore it?

Oh well, I might as well bite the bullet and get the chimney fixed as well.

I am SO not a happy camper right now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Price Point of Happiness

When I get irritated at my so-called lack of material success, I remind myself that I am making more than my parents ever made, even accounting for inflation. In fact, I am solidly middle-class, which is nice considering that my roots are solidly working class.

Now, a new study out of Princeton tells me that I am the point of maximum happiness related to the amount of money I make.

The crucial amount is $75,000 per year. Up to that point, according to the study, more money would make me happier. After that point, having a greater income doesn't significantly impact my general day-to-day happiness.

What the Princeton economists measured was daily satisfaction. For all the whining I do, and for all the debt I have accrued, I find myself in agreement with their findings--I am generally financially happy on a day-to-day basis.

My income easily covers my mortgage, utilities, food and vehicle. If it doesn't so easily cover my credit cards, dining out, gifts to my kids, etc., well, those aren't expenses that are crucial to my well-being.

Do I want more money? You bet. Do I want more stuff? Uh-huh! Do I want the financial freedom that comes with being debt-free? Sure, I do.

But in terms of happiness, I already have it. At least according to the folks at Princeton.

Hmmm--I wonder how much they make per year?

Monday, September 6, 2010

There's a Reason We Celebrate Labor Day

My father's birthday was September 5th. Growing up, I assumed that the Labor Day picnic we attended annually (with all the free hotdogs and ice-cream one could eat!) was meant for him. Actually, it was, since he was a proud member of the International Longshore Workers' Union all of his adult life.

Daddy's been dead for more than 20 years but I think he'd be proud that his daughter grew up to president of her union, a white collar one at that.

This year has been tough for unions, who seem to be viewed either as an impediment to economic progress in a recession, or, at best, an anachronism--maybe necessary in the dim past but certainly not now.

How quickly we forget. And how easily we are co-opted.

My non-profit employer negotiated a three year contract last year, in the thick of the recession. Oddly enough, my employer has prospered during these hard times because we serve a very needy population that much of the stimulus package was geared toward.

Also, surprisingly to both sides of the bargaining teams, healthcare expenses rose barely 4 percent. My organization has always offered excellent health benefits and good vacation benefits as an offset to less than market wages.

So you'd think that healthcare wouldn't be on the table, wouldn't you?

Not so. Because other employers who were experiencing skyrocketing benefit costs were negotiating packages that included employee contributions to healthcare, my employer jumped on that bandwagon.

It took nearly three months of tedious negotiations to get modest wage increases (less than 1% for me though closer to 3% for those at the bottom of the scale) and fend off increased contributions for healthcare.

That's the union at work, folks!

My non-profit prides itself on good labor-management relations, but when push came to shove, they just couldn't help trying to take advantage of their employees, even when the need didn't exist and the money was there.

There have been times in the past when my union accepted frozen wages and even cutbacks in order to keep everyone employed. Now that times are better for this particular employer, the employer is loathe to share.

Enter the union and collective bargaining. The final result was not quite what either side wanted. But it was fair.

I love capitalism. I think strong unions are an important part of capitalism, notwithstanding the rightwing cries of "Socialism." I think the more accurate cry should be "Fair Treatment."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Baby, It's Expensive Out There

One of the bigger stories this past week was the unsurprising news that women are putting off baby-making, perhaps due to the recession. As CBS news reports, the US birth rate has hit an all-time low, in fact the lowest in a century.

While it is acknowledged that other factors like a drop in immigration and a postponing of pregnancy rather than a decision not to have children at all have impacted the current statistics, it is also true that this drop mirrors a similar downturn that happened during the great depression.

I know it's a cliche to say that if everyone waited until they could afford a child to have one, there would be no children. But children are expensive in so many ways--not just the actual expense of rearing them, but the consequential expenses of taking time off, maybe even years out of the job market, and the myriad of baby-related items and opportunities that are hard for new parents to resist.

My granddaughter apparently didn't get the memo, since she made me a great-grandmother two weeks ago. But oddly enough, the recession did factor into her decision--she's in the midst of college, and felt that taking a quarter off to have a baby wasn't a problem since the job market is so bad that any delay in entering into it seems like a good idea.

I have to say that, as a child of the sixties, who was influenced by Paul Erlich's "The Population Bomb," it doesn't bother me to see the birth rate decline. Maybe it should, since, as a senior citizen, I need those upcoming generations to support me in my dotage.

But I suspect the planet will do just fine with fewer folks on it.