Among other questionable uses of my time, I created a rudimentary line chart some time ago. It tracks my net worth each January for the past 17 years, from 1996 through 2012.
I bought my house in December 1995 and used a good chunk of my savings as a 45% down payment. So 1996 seemed like a good time to begin the chart since my life savings were the lowest they'd been in a while.
What's interesting to me is how much I can read into this chart about the ebb and flow of my financial life, my career, unemployment and a few windfalls.
Let's take a look....
As you can see at the bottom left of the line, there was a nice, steady, upward trajectory in net worth from about $67,000 in 1996 to $221,000 in 1999. Those were the latter half of the good money days when I worked as a financial copywriter for a firm that sold mutual funds and annuities, but they were also high stress years with a long commute and not much of a social life. I socked away the maximum 15% in my 401k each year, contributed the maximum to my IRA and saved a few thousand more each year in taxable savings.
From 1999 to 2000, you can see an even steeper climb in net assets. It was in 1999 that I lucked out and sold some stock options. My two grandmothers both passed away around that time, around a year or so apart. I inherited from both.
From 2000 through 2003, I didn't seem to make much headway. Maybe because, burned out and tired of the long commute and demanding hours, I left the well-paying job in 1999 for a start-up financial publisher in my hometown, only to see that job, and its income, go kaput when the company folded a year-and-a-half later. A period of unemployment followed while I tried to make a go of freelancing full-time, as well as full-time, but low-paying work and some consulting.
From 2003 through 2007 there's another sharp climb in net asset, from $227,000 in 2003 to $437,000 in 2007. Those were bull market years, plus I was working full-time with no interruptions. (Even if you're unemployed for just a brief period between jobs, changing jobs has its penalty since many employers won't let you begin contributing to a 401(k) for 6 months.)
The big drop in 2009 was of course due to the stock market crash. That was also the year I was laid off. But as you can see, I've recovered net worth nicely in the past few years.
This is the big picture snapshot. There were a lot more fluctuations in the months between each January. My highest net worth, not really reflected in the line chart, was $525,000 in May 2011.
I was down about $25,000 in January 2012 compared to January 2011, but I did withdraw about $14,000 for vinyl siding last summer and I threw at least $15,000 at my mortgage around the same time. Because I'm not working steadily, I've been unable to replenish the funds taken out, which bothers me.
I've also plotted out my net worth on a monthly basis, and that reveals even more nuances than the year by year chart.
Archive for June, 2012
Among other questionable uses of my time, I created a rudimentary line chart some time ago. It tracks my net worth each January for the past 17 years, from 1996 through 2012.
My dilemma about what to do today sort of solved itself when the woman i do legal editing for asked me to edit her new website. I spent a few hours editing, and offered quite a few unsolicited, yet i think valuable ideas for further marketing herself (with my help, of course). This included blog posts, some PR and a vest pocket, leave-behind brochure about her services.
I'd love to get some extra work from her. She asked about my rates for the above, and I really made them much lower than what i charge my main real estate client. The difference is becus my real estate client is a corporation whereas this woman, a social worker aside from the guardian ad litem work she does, works for herself, so it's coming out of her pocket. But she won't be issuing me a 1099 so that will help make for it.
I want her to consider giving me work on an ongoing basis, not just as a periodic, one-time event, so I needed to make my prices reasonable.
Oh yes, the eggs. In between this morning's hail storm and this afternoon's thunderstorm, we had a brief hiatus, and I slipped out to run down to the farm. I scored some eggs from their help yourself system, basically a large cooler on their front porch. There were maybe 4 dozen eggs there and a small box where you put your money. $3 i consider a bargain for locally laid eggs. We'll see how good they are tomorrow at breakfast!
I picked two cups of loosely packed basil leaves from my plants and for dinner whipped up a batch of homemade pesto sauce. Normally I don't cook anything (is that the way you're supposed to do it?) but since I decided I would freeze the leftover portion, I blanched the basil leaves for just 1 minute. It seemed a lot less sharp/pungent than how it usually is, but still very good.
After work i went for a leisurely walk around the block where I saw a rainbow. Where's my pot of gold??
We had an early morning (7:30 am) storm here, even hail. It's probably beaten down the bean seedlings.
The storm has passed but this was an entirely free day for me. I don't know what to do with myself! I had been toying with the idea of going kayaking, but it's wet, damp, and still very dark out there, plus thunder is still rumbling off in the distance.
For the same reason, I don't think i want to do weeding; I'll just get eaten up by mosquitoes.
I don't think I want to start the hypertufa until I'm read to buy the concrete and actually do it on the same day, because in this humid climate, I've found rock hard bags of unused concrete in my basement.
It's so dark and wet outside I'm disinclined to do much outdoors.
So...what to do, what to do.... about the only thing that appeals to me right now is maybe later i'll venture over to Cherry Grove Farm (don't you love that name?) and see if they have any eggs.
I'll likely read my simplicity book some more.
My attitudes about buying things have really changed in the past year. In fact, it's getting harder and harder to spend all these gift cards i've accumulated.
Case in point. i visited Home Goods a few weeks ago to try to spend a $25 gift card. You don't know how long I browsed the store. Twice down every row. Couldn't find anything I had to have. They must've thought I was trying to shop-lift or something. I did finally settle upon an attractive blue glass bottle wrapped in sisal, and a long, rectangular box made in India from a pinkish stone.
But then I reconsidered. I mean, what was I going to DO with these things. I would find a place for them and then they'd sit. Forever.
But darn. I had to use the gift card on something. So this a.m. I decided to head for TJ Maxx, which is owned by the same company as Marshall's and Home Goods. I figured I would get more use out of clothes and I do seem to have a shortage of presentable tops and bottoms.
I pretty much did the same thing at TJ Maxx as I did at Home Goods. Scourred the racks. Hit the dressing room I think 3 times. I finally settled on a pair of black capris, the kind made for working out, but so comfortable. They could be worn to my office. They were just $10, so I still had $15 to play with. I carefully searched through the shoes and didn't see anything remotely intersting. Then I browsed all the home decor aisles.
I was pretty well set on a largish yellow glass ball covered with macramed rope or something. It had a nautical feel to it. It would go perfectly with the goldish slipper chair I don't really care for, and the creamy yellow vase in my family room. I thought I would get a cute set of colored pencils carved out of wood, for my sister at Xmas.
Ahh, but then it hit me again. Why, I asked myself, am i buying more or less useless things? How will this improve my life? What purpose will these serve?
Reminding myself of my under-employment status (not that I could forget) I tried to think in more practical terms. So I spent the remaining $15 on gourmet imported food and toiletry items, the kinds of things I would never spend money on ordinarily, but since I had to spend it on SOMEthing in the store, i figured food would be a good choice. I would benefit in a tangible way. So i got some very interesting pasta sauce ($6 for the jar!) and some special honey (also $6) imported from Germany. Oh, yes, and a bar of soap with healthy ingredients.
It must have taken me 2 hours just to buy that stuff.
Then I did my usual grocery shopping and got tons of fruit, including nectarines and plums and organic grapes, plus some yummy dark chocolate-covered frozen bananas I'd never tried before. Also got a rotisserie chicken, which I chowed down on for lunch.
Dinner was light, just a large salad with greens from my garden (amazing they haven't bolted yet) and cucumber, tomato and croutons.
There are lots of green cherry tomatoes on my plants but nothing's ripe yet, and the one broccoli plant that had formed a small head, well, i didn't pick it soon enough and in the heat it's started to open up and bloom, so too late to eat it. I have a ton of snow peas in the fridge i need to do something with.
I learned to lift up the hay I've mulched with under the broccoli becus i discovered that's where the slugs hang out during the day and it's much esier to grab and fling them far away, across the lawn, now rather than early evening, when the mosquitos are biting.
So i was looking for slugs under the hay and found a cute little toad who had submerged himself in the soil so just the top of him showed when i lifted the hay, Toads eat slugs. I carefully replaced the hay.
Yesterday I went to Home Depot to get a washer for my garden hose, which is leaking. Of course you have to buy a dozen washers at a time, not just one, but they're only a buck or so. A young man approached me and talked me into a free, at home consultation for kitchen cabinet refinishing/refacing. I had always been curious how much that would cost, and i figured the kid probably made a commission based on how many people he signed up.
Well, i rethought that today. The appointment was to be Tuesday, but what was i thinking? I'm in no position to act on that, and it would be a temptation to do something if the price seemed reasonable. So I called him today to cancel it. Like I said, i did it more for the kid than for myself. Young people are finding it hard to land a job as it is. But i have to think of myself too, and kitchen redos aren't in the plan for 2012. Plus, the house is a MESS and I'd have to do some cleaning if i knew they were coming over.
I got psyched up about making some hypertufa troughs and pots. I've read about it before and had a strong interst, but the blogs I'd read didn't seem quite detailed enough to convince me I could do it. Then I came across a blog today and she had both step by step instructions and photos. It seems pretty easy. I went looking around the house for the right sized containers. You have to nest one inside the other with about an inch of space in between.
I'm all set with my containers, I think, but have to return to Home Depot and get some Portland cement, perlite and peat moss. the cement, i fear, is going to weight a ton. That's going to be the biggest pain, just getting the stuff home.
But I am excited to try it and will do it either tomorrow or next weekend.
Well, I'm feeling pretty good that I filled up my heating oil tank this past week. I may have mentioned, the price I paid per gallon ($2.96) is the lowest I've paid since February, 2010, when I paid $2.44 a gallon. The highest I ever paid was $3.52 a gallon, last year. What a killer.
So i should be set for winter's cold at least into December, perhaps early January. Having a full oil tank makes me feel "secure" in the same way that a well-stocked refrigerator does.
Got paid $350 for some freelance work this week. Nice. It,and the $175 I made as a poll worker will help offset the cost of the heating oil.
I did a quick preliminary tally of my June expenses and see that I'm ahead $200, income vs. expenses. Funny how it works...I often feel I make just what I need to make to cover expenses, and not much more. Although I'm not religious, it does remind me often of the bibilical saying about how the birds always finding a way to get the food they need.
I finished up my publishing/editorial work early afternoon and now my time is my own until next Wednesday. Got a request from the Massachusetts woman I've done some legal editing for to edit her website. I LOVE getting unexpected new business from existing clients.
I was going to head out to Trader Joe's this afternoon to beat weekend crowds, but, I don't know, it's still humid and so unpleasant, and now I hear rumblings of thunder. I think I'll just wait til tomorrow afternoon and brave the crowds.
I watched Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live last night (on Hulu, not sure when it aired) and was amused by the guy. the Stones were once my #1 band, when I was in college. He's in amazing shape and can still parade around on stage with so much energy.
Looking forward to doing some repeatedly deferred "shopping" with assorted gift cards, including $25 worth of BP gas and a Sears gift card I want to use on a pair of white capris and perhaps a pair of shorts and/or a summer top. The mall and TJs are both down in the same area. I also have a Home Depot card and i really need to get some watering hose washers.
I ordered my annual dump sticker online and got a $5 discount for doing so online. First time they made that available. I guess the price went up, cus it's usually $80 and with the discount I still paid $85.
I'm afraid the front lawn needs mowing again. Bane of my existence. One wonders how much MORe overweight I'd be if it weren't for all the mowing I do.
It's blueberry-picking time Jersey now. Most of July is. I want to get down there to see my dad, maybe after the 4th of July weekend.
I've been trying to cut Luther's long fur to give him some relief from the heat, but he HATES it when I cut his fur! I don't pull on it at all, but it's the sound of the scissor he dislikes. So I can only cut a little at a time before he hisses at me (!) or runs away. What a baby!!
Today on the 2nd floor of my house wasn't as bad as yesterday, when it actually did get up to 90 upstairs. Today I see it was "just" 85 degrees.
They promise better weather tomorrow. It can't come soon enough.
I read somewhere there's a new A&E show called Barter Kings. Sounds like something I'd really like to see but, boo hoo, it's no available on Hulu.
Tons of birds flocking to the mulberry tree. This morning there was a Baltimore oriole in there (!), along with red-breasted grosbeaks, house finches, cardinals, catbirds, robins, squirrels and even a limber chipmunk.
Yesterday and today were brutally hot, very humid and in the 90s. There comes a point when running fans does little or nothing, as does draping blankets and towels over windows as the sun moves through the sky.
I'm working at home all week, naturally, and my office and computer are on the second floor. I guess I could think about moving the computer downstairs. I must have the Internet connection, so I guess as long as I can plug in the modem into a phone jack, it should work, right? The place to do that would be the dining room table, but of course, no phone jack there. Hmm, that leaves the living room and the family room. The latter gets awfully hot in its own right, being over the garage. The living room is a tad cooler, but I don't have a spare table or anything to put there. I'll have to ponder that some more.
Don't much feel like cookin!
It's 80 degrees downstairs now, which means it's at least 85 upstairs. I did order two small box fans about 12 inches square on Amazon today with the last of my gift cards. I plan to put one in either of the two small windows in my attic, then put a larger box fan at the bottom of the attic stairs, blowing up. I will do this at night to sweet out the hot air which seems to get trapped in the attic.
Of course, by the time I get it, the heat wave will have broken, but it will be good to have the extra fans for the next time.
Between yesterday and today, I "cleared" a roughly 6 x 6 foot square area inside a fenced garden on the north side of the house. There was poison ivy in there, and vinca growing right up against blueberry bushes. I cleared the first one. Then I transplanted some perennials, then cut holes in a large piece of white plastic.
Tomorrow when i go to the landfill, I'l pick up as much mulch as I can carry, and I'll dump that over the plastic. If that doesn't kill the remaining vinca roots, I don't know what will.
It's extremely tiring work, but if I don't clear it out now, it will only spread more.
Clematis in bloom
Yesterday I went on a fruitless search for local eggs. The two homes on a certain local street where I'd seen "Eggs for sale" signs several weeks ago no longer had signs out. Two other locales in town that I knew once sold eggs also aren't doing so now.
I went onto my town's Patch online and found an article talking about all the places in town that sell chicken eggs.
I now know of a farm that sells them and plan to go tomorrow.
Early this a.m. I started work ghostwriting an article for a builder magazine and was able to finish in a couple of hours. I got a brief email back later this afternoon. "Terrific, nice."
So then I billed them, $290.
The last few days have been absolutely LOVELY, weatherwise. Warm, in the 70s, but no humidity. All that's going to change Tuesday night, and Wednesday will be very humid and in the 80s/90s. I'm so bummed to see this great weather go. I imagine my productivity level will drop to 0.
Got some great news from the publisher's. They are setting up new computers and don't want me to come in at all this week. I can work at home all 3 days. Hooray!
Bluebirds already feeding young 'uns, second time around! I love watching them swoop around the yard refining their insect-hunting skills.
I went to CVS the other day to get some Zyrtec for Waldo, who has terrible seasonal allergies. I noticed the cashier checked the expiration date on the package for me, and I thanked her, commenting that no one had ever done that for me before.
She said oh, we have to, and that if anyone ever came back to the store to complain about expired meds, they'd look up to see who checked them out and fire them. I don't know if that's true...seems a little draconian. I've been going to CVS for years and I never noticed anyone else checking the expiration date of things I'd bought.
But I was more interested in what she had to say after that. That the store is so obssessed with getting rid of expired merchandise that they routinely throw out perfectly good stuff that doesn't have an expiration date. She specifically mentioned hairbrushes and those colorful rubber band things girls wear in their hair. They apparently throw it out if it's considered out of date.
Made me want to go dumpster-diving.
I was tempted to say something about the multiple times CVS has been caught carelessly exposing its customers to identity theft by throwing away sensitive patient data with birth dates and Social Security numbers in the dumpster (https://www.oag.state.tx.us/oagnews/release.php?id=1976), where anyone can fish it out, but I didn't.
I used to write a lot about identity theft in my last job, and what struck me was the apparent stupidity or obliviousness of CVS because after being convicted in one state, they did not clean up their act or change their procedures; it happened several times, not just in Texas, that I'm aware of. They should have used a professional shredding company to dispose of the reams of patient data they generate.
I love my long, 4-day weekends and the flexibility they offer.
I met a friend for iced tea this afternoon at a local coffee shop (NOT a starbucks). He was a former competitive water skiier and these days heads up a local non-profit that offers war veterans and disabled people (those who are blind, amputees or anything else) a chance to leave their disability behind for a day and learn how to waterski. My friend conveniently lives on a man-made lake, which really looks like a wide river.
You can imagine how freeing it would feel if you've been using prosthetics or been wheelchair-bound for years and you have a chance to get on the water. I'm not sure exactly how they do it, but for those who can't stand on 2 legs, i think they tow them in something.
Anyway, we were talking about going kayaking together at some point.
We are finally getting some new(ish) Macs at work. They will bring us into the 21st century. For those who know Macs, the ones we've been using all this time are OSX, which are pretty ancient. More importantly, we'll also be able to access FileMaker remotely when we work at home, something we haven't been able to do up til now. What a hassle to have to copy all our work at home onto flash drives, bring that in and then spend an hour transferring Quark files to the master Quark in the office as well as doing all the Filemamker stuff then. I had to lug a different Mac home yesterday and bring the dome I had in last week. Wednesday I'll bring it back in and then I'll get my updated one which should be much faster to use.
I think we'll be able to soon start working from home 2 days a week with 1 day in office, too. Right now, it's 2 days in office, 1 at home. My cats will really appreciate this change.
I started working today on the next directory; I'm splitting the work with my co-worker, who just left for 2 weeks in Alaska. How jealous I am. But anyway, we each are mostly done with our own directories, and then this next one is so big we're splitting the work between us. Still many loose ends with the first one but it's 90% done.
I've been enjoying watching The Bachelorette on Hulu TV. She's got some nice options, though I was glad to see that condescending one go.
I've been eating pea pods and lettuce from the garden. looking for new recipes that contain pea pods. If anyone has 'em, let me know. Getting a little tired of stir fry.
Waldo has been very congested with his allergies. I ordered an herbal remedy which I should get in a few days, and after much online research determined that Zyrtec, an antihistamine that people use, is safe. However, I had to calculate a much lower dosage based on weight. Directions said a child up to 2 years old should take no more than a half teaspoon. but i needed to convert teaspoon measurements to drops, so I actually counted how many drops it took to make a full teaspoon, and the answer is about 100. So that would be 50 drops for a child up to 2 years old, and i found online that the average 2 year old, male or female, weighs 28 pounds. My cat is 10 lbs, so i determined that he needs about 6 drops 3 times a day in his food.
His sense of taste and smell are so good that anything that smells a little out of kilter, he won't eat, so I mixed the drops, which smell fruity since it's made for kids, in with some tuna juice, which Waldo hesitatingly lapped.
Not sure if there's improvment yet, but this is just first day and I'm not sure he got the full dose yet. Don't want to mix the med in with too little food, or he won't eat it, or too MUCH food, becus then he won't eat it all and I won't be able to tel if he got all the meds. So there's a happy medium where it's mixed with enough food to completely camoflauge the taste but not so much that he doesn't finish it all.
The book I edited for The Author hit Amazon this week. I'll be curious to read the reviews as they come in. I see she had one of her friends write one. I think they're very important, becus you can't erase a bad review and I know that, personally, reviews by others influence me a great deal when I'm debating whether or not to buy a book.
She asked me to edit certain parts of the Amazon description page, which I did, but other parts she didn't ask me to look at, and I cringed a little when I read them, because you could see obvious mistakes with puncutation and sentence structure.
If it were me, I would take the time to do it right. She must've said to me a million times she was at the point where she just wanted to get it out there, be done with it and move on to the next book, but it's not a race! And you want it to be an achievement you can be proud of years from now when you look back.
I realize everyone has their own taste, but if you know of abook that you think would universally appeal to, well, me, please let me know the title and author.
I'm in the mood to buy more books on amazon.
I like travel books and those that have at least something to do with the outdoors and nature, but I'm open to pretty much everything.
Well, hooray. I got a $25 BP gas gift card in the mail today!! It was a reward from a BP gas forum I participate in online.
(I was really worried I wouldn't get it becus when i created my profile at the BP site, they had said we'd get rewards in the form of gift cards, so i assumed they meant online gift cards, like the other forum I participate in. So since I prefer to protect my privacy, i had created a fake snail mail address, and just happened to update it with my real address in a fit of remorse about a week before they announced the winners of a little contest, which I won. Phew!)
I know I'll have no problem spending the BP gift card, but today I TRIED to spend gift cards I've earned elsewhere and I did relatively little damage!
OK, so I had a balance of $10 left at Wal-Mart and $5 at Target and $25 at Home Goods. You wouldn't believe how long I wandered those stores, searching for something that was "worth it" and not just another tschotske that would collect dust.
The problem is, I've conditioned myself to spending so little for so long that I'm having a tough time allowing myself to buy something nice. I thought I found 2 items at Home Goods (a small woven tray basket for the bathroom and a stone box made in India) but then I looked at them and said, is this really worth it? And I decided it wasn't and walked out the store!
I did finally manage to buy 2 hand towels at Target that will match the new wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom. They were $8, so I had to actually pay $3 and change. Which rather bothered me.
At Wal-Mart, I finally bought a terra cotta pot made in USA because I want to plant more basil for my pesto sauce. Also bought some groceries.
I treated myself to 2 $1 burgers at McDonalds with a free cherry chiller, but after that, I was too tired to pursue Sears, Home Depot and Lowes, where I have more gift cards. I still also have about $30 worth of Amazon gift cards.
I really do want to get a hands free device for my cell phone so i dont get brain cancer, and hope to get that online at Amazon.
I feel so wiped out. Maybe it was all the fat in the burgers and sugar in the chiller.