Thursday, March 31, 2011

Monthly and Quarterly Updates

My quarterly net worth is down by $15,565. This is due entirely to falling housing values. My primary residence lost $19,000 in value over the last quarter, and my coastal rental lost $14,000. Since I'm not selling either of these homes in the near future, this doesn't worry me too much. (It helps that I purchased them 18 year ago and 36 years ago for MUCH LESS than they are now worth, notwithstanding the recession.)

On the brighter side, my 401(k) is up $16,000, of which only $3200 is from my contributions.

My total net worth is now $550,286.

On the monthly side of things, I managed to reduce my total indebtedness by only $392.70. I'm going to have to move a lot faster to meet my minimal goal of reducing debt by $6000 in 2011.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Age 62--Beginning of a New Era?

I have just turned 62.

Officially, I could, should I desire to, retire on my Social Security.

Funny how the very thought is comforting.

My job seems relatively safe. But should it suddenly and arbitrarily cease, I would have a guaranteed income. Never mind that the income would cover my mortgage and utilities but NOT my credit cards--at least I can count on it from this moment forward.

It feels like a weight has been lifted. I have no intention of retiring now but I like knowing that I can if I have to.

In a non-financial sense, now is also when I begin planning in earnest for my second adulthood. That's not my term; it belongs to Mary Catherine Bateson who writes about adults in retirement in "Composing a Further Life." Back in 1989, she wrote the best-seller "Composing a Life" about the stages of life women go through and how it was impacted by feminist thought in the '70s. Now she extends her discussion into the years after retirement (it's not an accident that she wrote this book at age 68 after retiring from years in academia) and includes men in the discussion. I thought the inclusion of both sexes was important because 'second adulthood' is a new phenomenen and neither men nor women have any template for the lives they are now creating and living.

For people between ages 55 and 80, most relatively healthy and used to being intellectually and physically active (well, for this couch potato, maybe less about the latter!), this is a whole new life phase, one for which there is no roadmap.

Many people that Bateson interviewed reverted to some long-forgotten interest that now moved into the forefront of their lives, and this time, that interest was unemcumbered by the need to make a living at it. One man started and nurtured a journal on race relations, deliberately keeping it away from university affiliation so that his writers could comment on academia without fear of repercussions or closure of the journal. Another who repaired boats his entire working life turned a gift for teaching others into a jewelry-crafting option in the desert.

For me, the most interesting part of the book was an examination of each persons life story, looking for the patterns--what decisions did people actively make for themselves; what decisions were made for them; where did they take charge and where did they allow life to happen, and, most importantly, how satisfied were they with course their life took.

I think it's time to take a look at my life narrative.

Knowing where I've been and both the whys and hows of getting there is a first step.

The big next step is figuring out where I want to go from here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Mental State of My Finances

Fortunately, I am an optimistic person--at least in most aspects of my personality.

But financially?

Financially, I'm definitely bi-polar. And these days, I'm on the down side of manic-depression.

I don't know if it's the weather (RAIN!). Or the bills (HIGH!). Or the sense that I am just marching in place and getting nowhere (ALL THE TIME!)

I am getting tired of thinking about every little purchase: It's a first-run movie; maybe I should wait until it's on Netflix. Can I go out to lunch with my colleagues; this would be the second time this week. Yes that pair of shoes is a steal but do I really need another pair of shoes.

At the non-profit when I work, we are constantly on the look-out for "compassion fatigue." Now I'm wondering about "frugal fatigue."

And yet, what is the alternative?

Run my credit cards up to the max?

And then what?

I'd be 'fatigued' for good at that point! With far less options and way more debt.

So, I guess I'll stick around for the mania portion of my bipolar finances.

But expect some whining along the way.

It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to! (With apologies to Leslie Gore.)