Friday, August 16, 2013

Life Goes On. But this Blog Doesn't.

I realized the other day that I haven't written a post for this blog in months.

More importantly, while I still read the blogs in my blogroll, I'm actually reading far more 'mommy' blogs these days than finance blogs.

I started this blog six years ago because I was utterly panicked at my lack of retirement plans, either financial plans or emotional ones. I thought exposing my finances, albeit anonymously, would help keep me honest and would garner me support as well as help me face reality.

I have to say it has worked out exactly that way. You have all been wonderful, even or maybe, especially, when critical.

It's been an amazing six years. I got my youngest child educated and out the door. I survived a quadruple by-pass. I saved for my retirement. And I cut my debt, though not nearly to the extent I might have wished.

I'm not giving up on any of my goals. Some are going better than others. My retirement funds went into the black hole of the recession but I kept contributing throughout. They have now fully recovered, and at this point, I have nearly reached my goal of $400,000. According to projections, I am actually on target to have $450,000 at age 69. But that retirement age is a moving target. Given that my grandson will not graduate high school until I'm 71, I'm strongly considering working until then.

My car is now paid off. My house has less than a year to go.

My debt is reduced some but this blog has charted the ups and downs of that. There are days when it seems to me I've made Murphy a permanent house guest. I should have paid off all my debt by now but it's no use whining. My job is to keep whittling away at it.

I'll leave the blog up for awhile, but eventually, it will disappear into the ether.

It's been a grand six years. I thank you and so does my budget.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Playing Catch-Up

I have been neglecting my blog lately. In fact, I've been neglecting everyone's blogs, so now I'm playing catch up on the lives of everyone else I follow.

I'll try to do better. But I'm now seeing why we have children in our pre-age fifty years--cuz parenting at 63 is downright exhausting! Plus I'm remembering what it was that I hated about coordinating childcare, school activities, doctor's appointments, IEP meetings and the like. Is it me, or do all school deliberately schedule in-service days and late starts just to make childcare impossible? There was a time when I grumbled about this constantly, but I haven't had to think about it for the past decade.

Bear with me, and I'll work on limiting the whines.

In the meantime, February went OK financially, especially given that various insurance and tax payments came due. I reduced my overall indebtedness by $989.00.

Also, there's good news on the retirement front. Not only are my 401K and 403B funds at an all time high but my employer is reinstating the 1.5% reduction in retirement contributions that our union agreed to in order to preserve jobs last year. My agency is affected by sequestration, but not to the extent we originally thought.

I promise to be better about posting--have you heard this before from me?

To quote my newest son--"But this time, I really mean it."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mything Information

So who's a gal (or guy?) to believe?

All I want is some expert advice in managing my retirement funds in the way best to insure maximum funds that will last as long as I do? Is that too much to ask?


Forbes Magazine has a set of "10 Terrible Pieces of Retirement Advice" online.

Mark, at Go To Retirement, disagrees with many of them, as do I. In fact, I find a couple of them to be insane--check out Number 9. I understand that some retirees may wind up still owing monies when they retire but to deliberately court debt? Totally bonkers in my humble opinion.

I also disagree with Forbes, but agree with Mark that there is never a good reason to withdraw 401(k) funds prior to retirement. Well, Mark has an exception if bankruptcy is on the horizon. I disagree with him since 401 (k) funds survive a bankruptcy intact.

My real point is where do those of us who are less than financially savvy, particularly when it comes to investing, go for accurate and understandable information?

I suppose I started wondering about Forbes when one of their examples was a guy with five million in his retirement accounts. Hmm--that would be about four and a half million more than Grace will ever have.

But can I trust Mark to give me better advice? Or my broker? Or Money magazine? Or my retired banker sister?

I have no idea, but what I can do in the meantime is keep searching, keep reading and keep asking.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Nearing Retirement With Lots of Debt

The current issue of Money magazine spotlights several families that are nearing retirement. This couple's situation hits home for me.

Larry and Lynn live in the Pacific NW, as do I. They earn double what I make but there's two of them.

They have family obligations, not all of which are mandatory but for which they feel responsible. Tell me about it! I can empathize.

Their retirement savings are comparable with mine given that I have only myself to save for but I'm several years further down the road to retirement than they are.

And both of our families have accumulated too much debt, a lot of it the result of what we feel we owe our families. Whether this is cultural (Larry is from Guam) or social (my children were adopted as older children and came to me with physical and emotional issues), we both have to deal with the financial fall-out.

I note that the article says Larry and Lynn will have their debt be paid off in 5 years, but that doesn't seem to cover their house, which is apparently upside down. I'm glad not to be in that position. The one thing I'm grateful for is the refinance I did in 1999 changing my 30 year mortgage to 15 years and simultaneously lowering the interest rate. Even though the 5.5% interest now looks high, I will own my home in another 15 months, and can then put most of the mortgage payment (currently $1235 a month for the payment, taxes and insurance) toward my consumer debt beginning in June, 2014.

I don't know that I would take the financial advice to cut back on retirement savings. In the article, Lynn has been very consistent with her contributions and at age 54, I wouldn't feel it prudent to lower them. Still, I have thought about it for myself. What stops me is the fear of not reaching my retirement goal of at least $400,00 in retirement funds by the time I leave the workforce. That, plus my social security should give me plenty for my day-to-day expenses as well as a cushion for traveling and other retirement desires.

Also, it would be nice to have a $14,000 windfall coming.

I don't see any of those on my personal horizon!

I hope, in five years, both of our families find ourselves free of our consumer debt.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Assessing the Damage

So much for my New Year's Resolution to blog more often.

And so much for all those resolutions concerning debt in 2012.

I ended the year having reduced my total indebtedness by a not-so-whopping $1530. For those who've been following Grace's adventures in debt, this means I was doing OK until November and December of 2012 when I suddenly added nearly $4000 to the pile.

Ah well, it's a brand new year. January has started off better, with a further reduction of $1346. I don't know that I can sustain that momentum, but that's definitely my goal.

On the Net Worth front, things are definitely looking up. My retirement funds are up a whopping $56,000, only $16,000 of which came from my contributions and those of my employer. To celebrate, I added $10 per month to my regular 401(c) contributions for 2013. I realize that doesn't sound like much, but my income has been static for the past five years. I get the same pay now that I got in 2008 plus a bonus check of $800. Unfortunately, with the return of the full payroll tax, each paycheck is now about $35 less.

More good news is that housing prices are on the rebound in the Pacific NW, so both my residence and my coastal rental have increased in value. Overall, my net worth increased over $100,000 during 2012, and now stands at $659,439. I try to keep that figure in mind when I'm bemoaning my day-to-day finances.

I've never been much for Dave Ramsey's "gazelle intensity," but clearly I'm going to have to pay more attention to my expenses. And I'm going to have to put more money on my debts, particularly in the early months of the year since I can expect a decreased ability to do so later in the year. The past five blogging years have, at least, taught me that. The reasons vary, but the results do not--December is NEVER kind to my financial health.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Starting Over

A new year is always a time of starting over. For myself, never more so than 2013.

Not only am I starting over as a parent (of a boy, yet! The whole point of adoption was to insure that I had only girls). But I feel like I'm starting over financially as well.

I have no one to blame but myself.

At some point near Christmas, I simply threw the budget away and hauled out the credit cards from the ice tray in the back of the refrigerator. Hmm--maybe Dave Ramsey is on to something when he tells us to cut the darn things up!

I paid for a number of things including transportation and hotels so my grandson could be surrounded by his half-siblings at Christmas. I overspent on the clothes and toys, perhaps to make up to him all the things that were going wrong in his life. And then, to reassure my adult daughters that they had not been replaced, I overspent on them, too.

All in all, not a good financial ending to the year.

So I am now surveying the financial damage, and struggling to get back on track.

2013 promises to be an interesting year. Stay tuned.