So, I got my new Dell Inspiron 570 MT computer this past Thursday.
I spent the better part of Thursday, and part of the day on Friday, resolving various issues, and I'm still not completely up and running.
On the plus side, I am internet- and email connected. The difference in speed between my new computer and the old one is like night and day. I love the wireless mouse and keyboard, but I'm still getting used to the keyboard.
But here are some of the problems:
In the package, I purchased 3 years of McAfee software, but when I got the computer, it indicated I only had 30 days. So that necessitated a phone call to Dell, and then a 3-way phone call with McAfee, and about an hour of time to resolve this simple omission.
A bigger problem is that the Word/PP/Excel that's apparently on my machine is not accessible to me until I "unlock" it using a product key code which Dell was supposed to ship to me under separate cover. (I guess this prevents people from loading the software onto more than one computer.) I was supposed to get that from UPS last MONDAY, but despite the UPS website indicating each day that it was "in transit," I never got it. So Dell finally agreed to send out another product code key which I'm now supposed to get Monday or Tuesday.
It's a real pain in the butt becus i can't use my computer now to respond to a job posting I saw over the weekend, if I want to attach my resume and writing samples, or do any work involving Word documents.
The 3rd and final straw was when I couldn't get my printer to work. When I called Dell tech support yet again, they said that my Dell printer was not compatible with Windows 7. It'snot that old,maybe 5 years, and works fine. You would have thought that the Dell salesperson who sold me the computer might have inquired what printer I had, especially since I ordered a print cartridge from him in the same purchase. Since I needed to tell him the model printer so he could determine the cartridge size, you'd think that would have alerted him to the fact I couldn't use it.
So that means yet another outlay of money for the printer and cartridges. I did make arrangements to return the cartridge I purchased which is now useless to me and i have a call in to Dell sales asking for a callback.
I hope to get a credit toward to purchase of a Dell printer for all the inconvenience of having to wait over a week to use the computer waiting for the software key, and now the lack of a printer.
It's all been very annoying.
On top of that, all the photos i copied onto disks apparently didn't take. It looks like I copied empty folders. I know i could have used a flash drive instead of 4 disks, but i had them here and didn't want to spend more money if i didn't have to. Looks like I'll now have to reconnect to the old hard drive and try the process all over again, this time using a flash drive.
BA, I do wish you were here to help me!!
I had no luck trying to get ointment in the cat's ears. I called the vet and asked if they have an oral antibiotic I could try instead. They agreed (why didn't anyone suggest that before?) and Waldo's now into his 3rd day on the pills, which i can much more easily hide in the center of a soft snack and which he'll then swallow whole. I have yet to see any lessening of head scratching and shaking but I pray this does the trick. Is it possible it could be a fungal infection, not a bacterial infection, that wouldn't respond to antibiotics??
My other piece of major news:
Had a conversation with my absentee builder/handyman..you know, the guy who doe great work, like my sun room, but who never finishes a job o time. Anyway, he finally did show up on Thursday, but only to say he hadn't forgotten about me and would definitely be here by Saturday. (He wasn't.) But anyway, we had a talk which got around to Dave Ramsey and paying off the mortgage and all that.
This was the final nudge I needed to finally take definitive action. I cashed in 1 mutual fund and $9,000 from an online money market fund for a total of $22K going into my checking account. When it clears my checking, I'm writing out a check to the bank that holds my mortgage and I will pay off not the whole thing, but a big chunk of it, thereby saving myself a lot in interest.
Yeah, I may be unemployed, but it just doesn't make sense to have money sitting in accounts earning around 1.25% when my mortgage is 6%. (I can't refinance becus I'm unemployed.)
Hopefully I'll be able to pay down that mortgage next week. I'm not sure I'm ready to pay off the whole thing (cashing in more mutual funds would be considered taxable income that would bump me into a higher tax bracket, and right now I'm in the comfy 15% bracket where I'd like to stay this year), altho I could, but doing this much will make me feel better. The balance should then be about $38K.
Even after paying down the mortgage, I'll still have about $94K in taxable money left.
Archive for August, 2010
So, I got my new Dell Inspiron 570 MT computer this past Thursday.
I had a 9:30 a.m. appointment at the vet to bring Waldo in to treat his ear infection.
At 8:30 a.m., a woman I hadn't met before, Kelly, came over to the house as prearranged to catch Waldo for me and put him in the carrier. She's the person I referred to before as "the cat wrangler," and I had been put in touch with her by a volunteer at the shelter where I adopted Waldo.
I had corralled Waldo into a small spare bedroom upstairs with very little furniture in it earlier. He was already freaked about that, but there was no avoiding it.
Kelly went up there, closed the door and I waited nervously downstairs in the kitchen. There was a lot of commotion and bumping around and I heard Waldo's plaintive, distraught meow, as if to say, "WHY are you doing this to me?"
She got him in the carrier and brought him downstairs. I thanked her profusely and offered her some homegrown tomatoes, which she refused. She had taken time off from work to do this for me and I was very grateful becus I HAD NO OTHER OPTIONS.
She said he looked very healthy and did not think he was underweight; she said he was all muscle. (She works with a lot of very sickly, unhealthy wild cats who live outdoors.)
It was too early to leave for the vet appointment, so i figured Waldo would have 30 minutes or so to settle down in the carrier. He was hunkered down and pretty quiet when I looked in there.
I went upstairs and was getting ready to go. I heard some scratching and figured it was Waldo trying in vain to get out. I didn't go to check immediately, but did so perhaps 5 minutes later.
The door to the carrier was off its hinges and Waldo was gone.
I couldn't believe it. I decided to try to get Waldo back in the that spare bedroom. I first called the cat wrangler back and got her machine, so i left a message and said if there's any way you'd be willing to come back and do it again, that would be great.
Waldo was hiding in the basement. I got him out of the basement, but this time, Waldo wouldn't go upstairs to the 2nd floor becus he knew i had all the doors closed except the one to the room he'd been trapped in before, and he didn't want to go up there. I kept chasing him around downstairs in a circle, from living room to dining room to kitchen, hoping that as he rounded the front, he'd go up the stairs, but he wouldn't go up any more.
Finally, i got him up there and closed the door. He was panting and totally scared.
The cat wrangler called me back and said she didn't like to try catching a feral cat more than once in a day cus it was too traumatizing to the cat. She ended up calling the vet's for me and explaining the cat could not be caught and the vet's office agreed to give me the meds for his ear infection so i went down there and picked it up.
I have serious misgivings about whether I'll be able to administer the ointment, but I have to try. It will probably be a few days before Waldo even trusts me again to let me touch hm. I feel terrible for him, but what else could I do?
If I had thought through how difficult it would be to get him to a vet when needed, I probably wouldn't have ever adopted him. I just hoped and assumed at the time that I wouldn't need to get him to the vet for a while and that, in the meantime, I'd be able to get him used to me and unafraid.
He has made great progress. He often sleeps in bed with me, curling up behind my legs, and he loves to be petted and sometimes brushed. But if you move the wrong way, or too quickly, he leaps away.
He's still a very, very timid cat and I can't pick him up. I've been in a real quandary about this ear infection. I used to know a few vets who made house calls, but 1 stopped doing it cus i'm guessing it wasn't profitable enough for the trouble you go to, the other won't come out to my town (too far) and another one would, but wanted to charge me exorbitantly to do so, and being jobless for so long i have to be careful about expenses.
So you can imagine how relieved I was to have the cat wrangler come over to help me, only to feel incredibly at a loss when the cat escaped after she left.
It was an enjoyable, if not exhilarating day. The weather was overcast and on the cool side, and quite blustery outside, so unlike the late August weather that should be here.
The guy came to clean the furnace, to the tune of about $136. Didn't want to pay it, but I skipped the furnace cleaning last year and if there's one thing I always want running in tip top shape, it's the furnace in the middle of winter.
I guess I'll cave and schedule an appointment for a chimney cleaning, for the same reason: I skipped it last year as a money-saving measure.
I continued reading one of my favorite authors, Dr. Weil. I'm reading Spontaneous Healing, and I think this the third one of his books I've read.
Made a run to the landfill and also grocery shopping. I plan to make falafels tomorrow.
Tomorrow will be a stressful day, getting the cat to the vet. I'll be glad when it's over. The Cat Wrangler will be here around 8:30 a.m. to catch the cat and put him the carrier (hopefully).
And the trip to the vet will mean another big bill. (Sigh.)
Hoping to hear sometime this week from the place I interviewed at. They didn't say it would be this week, but I am hoping. At the same time, I don't want the job becus I enjoy my independence. Oh well. It's either one extreme or the other. If they think my salary request is too high, I hope to propose a 4-day week at a proportionately lower salary. I'd take less money for a permanent 3-day weekend any time. I did that once before with another job, and while I said, well, I can try to freelance on that 5th day, i never really did, just enjoyed the extra free time to myself and to be honest, the work week seemed just as long!
Waldo has a probable ear infection. I need to get him to the vet, but I can't catch him. He won't let me pick him up.
I contacted the shelter volunteer who helped me adopt him. I met her at a vet clinic midway between my house and the shelter, where she loaned me an illuminated magnifying scope that vets use to look for ear mites inside the ear. Luther's ears looked very clean, but Waldo won't let me look at his, especially since I have to lean in close right in front of him.
The shelter volunteer was at the vet's with another shelter cat who also had ear problems, and she invited me in to the exam room when the vet looked at the cat. This was nice becus I got a chance to meet the vet, who handles all the animals from the shelter, even while the head of the shelter owes him $90K in vet bills, which he's unlikely to pay since the shelter building is in foreclosure. The vet seems pretty nice, and he's treated Waldo before when he still lived at the shelter, when he had a really bad ear infection, so he's somewhat familiar with the cat.
The shelter volunteer also gave me the number of a woman in my town who's got a reputation as something of a Cat Wrangler. Meaning, she can catch any cat, or at least, that's what they say. I need to call her today to see if she'd be willing to help me. I'm really running out of options, and Waldo is very uncomfortable scratching and shaking his head all the time.
I hope to get him in to the vet's tomorrow if I can get an appointment then and have the Cat Wrangler help me.
So, I'm hopeful I'll find out this week whether I'll get a job offer or not. If a full-time job doesn't work out, freelance will be better than nothing.
If the best case scenario happens, I began thinking of things I'd like to take care of before I started work. Things that might otherwise require time away from work or coming in late to work, which I'd rather not do with a brand new job. I need to have my furnace cleaned (skipped it last year) and the chimney cleaned (skipped it last year). I don't need an oil change, so all set there, I may let my hair get a little longer for a while anyway.
It would be nice to squeeze in a kayak ride as I haven't gone all year, as well as a bike ride.
Someone I know invited me to pick some (organic!) peaches at a nearby farm, so I collected a small bag of small, hard, blotchy and green peaches, not expecting much. I let them sit on the counter for a week, then checked them and discovered they were all suddenly very ripe. I had to throw 2 out, but I tried eating one and it was very sweet.
So, adapting my grandmother's apple crisp recipe, I made a peach and wineberry crisp, using a bag of wineberries I'd picked on my property in July. I had to peel the peaches because they were so blotchy, and since they were so ripe, it was pretty messy. But oh so worth it. The crisp, with walnuts and raisins, is quite yummy.
If you'd like to see what else I've been picking, check out the photo at my gardening http://owlhollownews.blogspot.com
I'm cooking up some tomatoes now, reducing some of the water content. Once it cools, in the freezer it will go in 1-quart freezer bags which is a handy size for when I make soups or stews.
Today, tomorrow and Tuesday will be rainy. Not sure what I feel like doing. I'm sort of wandering around here doing a little of this, a little of that.
I've had Windows XP since around 2003, I guess. It sucks. Nearly every day, I battle with my computer. It crashes, it locks up, I get strange error messages telling me a script is still running. Most of the time, after failing to shut down non-responsive programs, I have to just shut the computer off and re-boot.
And it is SUPER slow.Slow. Slow.
I guess it was the thought that I might possibly get the freelance writing job with this place I'm going to interview at tomorrow that got me thinking about replacing this wretched beast called a computer.
I'm looking at the Dell Inspiron 570 MT. It comes with 3 GB of memory, 2010 Word, Excel and Powerpoint and free shipping. It doesn't include the speakers or monitor, which I already have and will keep from my current computer. The only accessory I splurged on was a wireless keypad and mouse, which would be great on my cluttered desk. The security software I think I would buy separately as Dell only offers McAfee. The cost for all this is $624.
I'm not a gamer and I don't save videos; mainly, I use word for text documents and like to fool around with photos. So this is supposed to be more than ample for my needs.
It's gotten solid reviews, even the Editor's Choice, from PC Magazine.
It's still a lot of money, and I'm not working steadily. Also, I dread the thought of set-up and transferring all my documents/photos from my old computer to the new one.
If you have any feedback on my choice of computer or have experience with it, please let me know!
Isn't she a beauty?
I plan to eat her tonight.
This a.m. I turned in my Census bag and ID badge, so it's official. I'm done! I wished my crew leader (and her husband, who just got laid off) luck in finding a new job. She wished me the same.
I'm meeting a friend for lunch in a little while; it was a rescheduled birthday lunch for me that never came about last week. And I have a coupon good for a free appetizer, which we can split.
I went to the dump yesterday, but now the dump is closed on Mondays, so this was the SECOND time I had to return back home with my smelly trash and unload it back into the cans. The worst!! Went to the dump again today and got rid of it, finally.
After reading the aptly titled book, "Get a Life! You Don't Need a Million to Retire Well," I decided to recalculate how much $$ I'll need in retirement.
In past calculations, I never included or counted on Social Security benefits because of the uncertainty the program would remain intact or would have any money left. Perhaps politicians will tinker with it but I highly doubt it would go away completely just before millions of baby boomers enter the system.
Anyway, in the past, I always aimed for a million dollars, plus an extra $250,00 for out of pocket healthcare expenses. So, $1.2 million.
Now I've redone my calculations including Social Security benefits and I am happily surprised at how much LESS I'll need, even when factoring in 3% inflation.
My target retirement age is 60, just 9 years away.
Here, then, are my detailed calculations, if you care to follow along to the remarkable conclusion.
Social Security Benefit Estimates
(These numbers are based on the annual statements we all get from the SSA. Since my income varies widely from year to year, I decided to include the last 3 years worth of estimated SS benefits so I had a low and high range of expected benefits.)
SS Estimate If I collect benefits at age 62
2010 $1454 x 12 = $17,448
2009 $1430 x 12 = $17160
2008 $1355 x 12 = $16,260
SS Estimate At age 66 + 10 months
2010 $2094 x 12 = $25,128
2009 $2064 x 12 = $24,768
2008 $1949 x 12 = $23,388
To calculate my average annual expenses in retirement, I knew I could start with my existing annual expenses and then subtract certain things that won't be an issue when I retire, such as my mortgage, the bulk of what I spend on gas (for commuting) and a portion of what I spend on clothing (office attire).
I've tracked ALL my expenses for over 15 years, so I already know what I spent, pretty much to the dollar, for any given year.
Average annual expenses from last 5 years: $43,300
Average mortgage payments, last 5 years: $10,400
75% of average commuting gas, last 5 years: $486
(Last year, I had a 45-minute commute while prior to that I had a 3-minute commute.)
50% of average spent on clothing, last 5 years: 365
To calculate average annual expenses in retirement, subtract:
• Mortgage payments
• 75% of average gas expenses, last 5 yrs
• 50% of average spent on clothing last 5 yrs
Projected Average Annual Expenses in Retirement: $32,049
Retirement Scenario 1: Retire at age 60 and start collecting SS at age 62.
From age 60 until age 62 + 10 mths: (3 yrs)
Personal Savings needed: $32,049 x 3 = $96,147
SS benefits: 0
From age 62 + 10 mths. through 93 (30 years)
Personal Savings: $438,030 to $473,670
SS benefits, low-end estimate: $16,260 x 30 = $487,800
SS benefits, hi-end estimate: $17,448 x 30 = $523,440
Total Needed for Retirement at age 60 and Collecting SS at age 62: Between $534,177 and $569,817
Adjusted for inflation (assuming 3%) and 10 more years:
Between $715,797 and $$763,554
(Source p. 259 inflation chart, Get a Life book)
Retirement Scenario 2: Retire at age 60 and start collecting SS at age 66 + 10 mths. (full retirement age)
From age 60 until age 66+10 mths.(7 yrs)
Personal Savings: $224,343
Social Security: 0
From age 66+10 mths through 93 (26 years)
Personal Savings: $179946 - $225,186
SS benefits, low-end estimate: $23,388 x 26 = $608,088
SS benefits, hi-end estimate: $25,128 x 26 = $653,328
Total Needed for Retirement at Age 60 and Collecting SS at 66+ 10 mths:
Between $404,289 and $449,529
Adjusted for (3%) Inflation and 10 more Years:
Between $541,747 and $602,368
If Congress tinkers with SS benefits, it seems likely that any new law would affect benefits for those not yet collecting SS, and that any newly enacted law would take at least a year to take effect; even so, I could watch the news and take steps to start collecting SS at next birthday anniversary if I saw that Congress was discussing limiting benefits. (Of course, that's assuming they don't meddle with SS in the next 9 years, becus if they did then, I'd be stuck.)
Calculations DON'T account for 1) lower expenses due to selling house and moving into condo or 2) income earned from p/t work.
So, the interesting takeaway from all this number-crunching is how much LESS personal savings I'd need for retirement if I wait to collect Social Security until my full retirement age, 66 and 10 months, vs. taking SS benefits as soon as I was eligible to do so, which would be 5 years earlier, at age 62.
For all my money worries, if would seem likely that looking at my current investments of $459,000, I would reach the minimum target of $541,747 even if I made no further contributions.
So while I plan to add to my retirement anyway (once I get a job again), it's a huge comfort knowing that all I really need to do is stay the course, preserving the investments I already have. I won't be touching principal except to withdraw about $18K in a few years to buy a new car (the Ford Fiesta). I pay cash to avoid interest and car payments.
What do you think?
My productivity of yesterday has slid away today as quickly as the humidity returned to my area.
When it's warm and humid, I don't want to do anything! Can't muster up the energy!
So I headed for Wal-Mart this a.m. as I was running low on cat food. My cats go through cat food like crazy, and what a cost difference between my previous cat eating just dry food and my now 2 cats eating canned food only. Between the 2 of them, they eat 5 cans a day, plus Luther begs for his dry food by day's end, too.
Anyway, for someone who's trying her darndest not to spend anything, sometimes I just like to go to Wal-Mart and browse the store. I got a case of TP at .46 a roll (I guess that's good), 3 pairs of panties for $1 each and a summer top for $10, plus about 6 cases of cat food.
I also stopped at Ace to get more paint so I can finish painting the tool shed. Back when the Benjamin Store store was the only place in town, I'd often go there for paint just to avoid the longer drive to Home Depot. Well, what a price difference. Ben. Moore paint was approaching $50 a gallon (ridiculous, right?) while an gallon of Ace costs about $23.
But due to the just returned crappy heat, I won't be painting today, or the next few days, as far as I can tell.
Aside from that bit of shopping, I spent some time reading my newest book from the library, Insects and Gardens.
I was in touch with my contact with one of the focus groups and sounds like she's got one for me, but we kept missing each other on the phone so hope to connect with her on Monday.
I'm also going to sign up for an energy-efficiency home audit, which includes the blower door test that detects unseen drafts. There's another type of utility company-sponsored home energy audit I could get for free, since I'm unemployed, but that one doesn't include the blower door test. It normally costs just $75, but i found a coupon for $25 on the Sierra Club site, so I think it's worth the $50 since they do all the fixing right there on the spot, plus all the CFL bulb replacements and other stuff. I'm a little concerned about how freaked out my one cat will be since they'll be in every room of the house.
Nothing else terribly exciting around here.
Wading into the jungle that is my vegetable garden to find hidden treasures is what makes gardening so rewarding.
I blanched and froze 4 zucchini tonight. I steamed the string beans with my tilapia and roasted sweet potato fries.
That's my first harvested acorn squash. I'll be very excited to eat it tomorrow for dinner. That small, round, dark green thing is an ornamental gourd that I grew just for fun.
It's amazing how productive that little garden is. Unlike past years, I'm making a concerted effort to not only enjoy the produce this summer, but to put some away for the depth of winter. So my freezer is already stuffed with bags of wineberries, blanched zucchini (for soups) and tomatoes, too.
Considering that I routinely buy 2 or 3 gallons of milk at a time and then freeze 2 of them, which saves me extra trips to Costco, and that I do the same with half gallons of Tropicana OJ, which I stock up on when it's on sale for $2 or $2.50, I have VERY little room left in the freezer.
But having lots of food in the house, especially food that I grew myself, makes me feel good. I feel like the ant in that fable about the grasshopper who had fun and fooled around all summer while the industrious ant worked hard to prepare for winter.
Today was an extremely productive day. Here's what I did...
1. Worked over 4 hours painting the tool shed. Here's what it looked like before I started:
I'm doing the same colors but eliminating one of the 2 trim colors; I never liked the pinkish looking color.
I only planned to do one side, but ended up doing 2 and a half sides and finished up the 3/4 of a gallon i had. So I'll have to go get more paint tomorrow.
I see there are 2 small, simple repairs I need to make, but otherwise, the tool shed that my dad built has stood up pretty well over time. I also see green mold I'll have to remove with bleach before I can paint over it. I'll do a second coat on the trim only. It's a lot of work, and much of it must be done from a ladder on a steep slope.
2. I aired out a musty smelling antique wood trunk I have in the sun. I think it helped.
3. I finished mowing the front lawn.
4. I blanched and froze those 4 zucchini in freezer bags.
It's official....I'm over the hill now.
But because my birthday is a week-long celebration, I can ruminate on my old age for seven full days.
We did the family birthday luncheon this past Sunday. On Thursday, my friend is taking me out to lunch at a very nice place in town. And today? I was supposed to walk with my friend and his dog this a.m., but my Census meeting from yesterday got rescheduled to this morning due to a tractor trailer accident that shut down the Interstate yesterday.
So we pushed back the dog walking to Thursday, leaving me with not much to do today. So I called my mother last night and she's coming over with lunch. If it's nice, we may walk, and we may hit the organic Farmer's Market and get an ice cream cone at the farm dairy.
I set a personal best for myself in July doing online surveys. I usually average about $50 a month, but in July I earned $75 from Pinecone and Toluna surveys. That was more than enough to pay for my electric bill, thank you very much!
Unfortunately, I spent about $575 more than I earned in July due to some larger expenses that all hit at the same time. I took advantage of (hopefully) somewhat lower oil prices by filling up my oil tank to the tune of $375. That usually gets me into January.
I also had a plumber come out to repair a leaking fitting on my water tank for nearly $200 (sigh). And then there was my car insurance ($210), borough tax ($165) and car tax ($90). Doesn't it sometimes seem that everyone wants a piece of your pie?
I was able to stay mostly within budget for my food bill at $204 and I spent nothing on clothing, eating out or entertainment.
I'm reading a new book called Get a Life! You Don't Need a Million to Retire Comfortably. So far I'm a little disappointed as I thought it would talk more about why you don't need a million. So far, the author's talking a lot about how to figure out what you'll do when you retire. (I have no problems there.)
Going over to mom's for a special lunch today. (More on that later in the week.)
I have a Census meeting tonight. My Census work should be over very, very soon. Like sometime this week.
I did that focus group this past Thursday. I missed my turn for a highway and stupidly went way out of my way and had to speed to try to get there on time. I was about 5 minutes late and thankfully, they hadn't started, although it was too late for me to participate int the raffle for an extra $25 for those who arrived on time! But I got my $125 and I'll try to keep that crisp $100 bill in my wallet for as long as possible before breaking it!
I now have 4 different focus group/survey places where I can try to get work. Most of these places require you to wait at least 3 or 4 months before focus groups, so knowing now about 4 different places will allow me to do more work without the long wait. Three of the places pay pretty well, while the 4th pays poorly, but it can be better than nothing.
Wrapping up the Census work this week will free up some time to weed my badly neglected gardens. Crab grass is everywhere and the place looks like a mess.
Today is my half-brother's birthday. Although my birthday comes just 2 days after his, he has never once sent me a card or called me to wish me a happy birthday. So I'm not sure I'm going to bother calling him today, and I didn't send him a card. It's never really acknowledged.