Home > Archive: January, 2013

Archive for January, 2013

Truly debt-free now

January 28th, 2013 at 08:05 pm

Snow started falling hours before it was predicted, but I managed to get out early and run a few errands before it really got going anyway.

I went to town hall to pay off the rest of my sewer loan. It came to about $2,900, and I just decided to take it out of checking. Now my checking account balance is down to about $1,400, which is uncomfortably low for me, but the money earns 0% interest so I figured this was better than cashing out part of a taxable mutual fund.

If I hadn't paid it off, I would still be paying that stupid bill until 2018. Six years. So I saved myself about $400 in interest.

Now I truly am debt-free. When I paid off the mortgage, I sort of forget about the sewer loan. Now it's gone.

They told me "Congratulations" and then I spent some time wandering up and down the long hallway looking at the piles and piles of what must be millions of cards sent from well-wishers from all over. For the shooting that took place a month ago. It was very touching. They must've had at least 30 tables set up so people could browse through them. I guess they didn't know what else to do with them when they were just addressed to the town in general.

I just got a new assignment from my #1 client, a corporate blog post on what happened at the International Builders Show in Vegas. I may start that tomorrow.

I made a deposit at the bank and returned some DVDs at the library and got more. (They take the place of regular TV for me these days, and keep me going til i get my Netflix in the mail.) I also got my emissions test out of the way. 13-year-old car, never had a problem with it not passing, luckily.

Today I haven't done much else except edit The Author's second book. I'm on the home stretch now. She still owes me $175; I don't really like to send it all to her finished becus then she'd lose an incentive to pay me, She's always been very good about payments, although we have no set schedule and no deadline for when the editing is to be done. She basically pays me when she has the money. Sometimes it's a long stretch in between payments.

I am eager to finish it so I can start book #3. I think she may recognize that she may never make a lot of money from these books, but I don't think that will quell her drive to keep writing. She has gotten some really good comments about the book on Amazon, so that has provided tremendous incentive to keep going. She is very lucky (I'm a little jealous) that her husband has a good enough job that she doesn't have to work, although she often complains that money's tight.

Tomorrow, after the snow has fallen, will be my running around day. BJs, Shop Rite, Pet Choice, the gas station, WalMart, the IRS field office. I know you can print tax forms out online, but I need the instruction manual too, and that's too much to print. I must be the only person left on the planet who does their own taxes without software or accountant.

The stinkin' sewer assessment

January 22nd, 2013 at 02:51 pm

In the very first year of homeownership, I was blessed to receive word from our friendly tax assessors of a mandatory $9,900 loan I would need to assume to help pay for our town's sewer treatment plant. Now I've been told often that I'm full of s***, but I'm not sure I generate $9,900 worth of s***, personally. But I didn't have much say in the matter.

It was a 20-year loan at 2% interest.

Each year, I'm faced with the unhappy annual tab. With interest, it comes to $605.48. There are no installment payments.

When you work p/t, for peanuts, a bill like this looms large. Now that I paid off the mortgage last summer, this ridiculous bill, plus the quarterly sewer usage fees, represented my fifth highest expense in 2012. (See, if I didn't religiously track all my expenses, all year long, I'd never know that.)

So now I'm toying with the idea of paying the darn thing off early. Doing so has its pros and cons.

Each year I pay $68 in interest. I called the assessor's office this morning and was told that under the current payment schedule, the loan wouldn't be paid off until 2018, 6 years from now. If I pay it all off now,early, the payoff amount would be $2,896. If I pay it off now, I save myself $68 a year x 6 years = $408.

However, if I wound up selling my house sometime within the next 6 years, I would have wasted some of that money since the loan goes with the house and under normal circumstances, whatever outstanding balance on the loan remained would be passed on to the new homeowner.

I think there's a pretty good chance I'll move within the next 6 years. I talk about wanting to downsize/reduce my expenses often. Yet talking about moving and doing so are two different things, and the thought of all the work required (not to mention, money) to get this house ready for market is, quite frankly, overwhelming when you consider it's all on me. And I have no spare change to make needed repairs right now when I know I'll be coming up short on just the usual monthly bills now that my unemployment benefits have gone the way of the dodo bird.

I'm still strongly leaning toward paying off the loan anyway. What do you think? Right now, as I look at my 2012 ranked expenses, it bothers me a great deal that "Sewers (usage/loan)" comes in the #5 spot, behind 1. COBRA, 2. property taxes/mortgage, 3. food and 4. heating oil.

It means I have to set aside $62 a month just to cover the sewer bill. If I pay off the loan, only the usage charge would remain, and that would come to about $11 a month.

I don't know, maybe this is all psychological. Pay it off now to improve my outlook now, as money's tighter than ever before, but face the possibility of losing a thousand dollars or so if I move sometime before 2018.

And while the $12,000 or so I've somehow managed to build up in my checking account and online emergency fund earn 0% and 1% interest, respectively, I think I shouldn't touch that since I'll likely be withdrawing slowly from that just to pay routine bills in coming months.

I would just cash out a portion of my taxable international mutual fund to pay for the sewer loan. This fund had a pretty good run in 2012....Hmmm.

Me thinks I shall join BJs, after all

January 22nd, 2013 at 12:17 am

Another weekly foray into the cavernous warehouse that we call BJs. I have spent way over budget on food there, but I was trying to wring out the maximum benefit before my 60-day "free pass" expires.

As I realize how nearly universal the cost savings are on many dozens of items there, I'm morphing from my former "I ain't gonna blow $40 on a membership fee" to something more like, "Gee, I could really lower my annual food costs if I buy from here consistently."

Of course there will be times when I'll want to fall back on my local Trader Joe's or Shop Rite. Cus, what the heck will I do with a gazillion pounds of sour cream, say, when all I really need is a cup for a quick bread I'm baking?

And there are certain things that BJs doesn't carry, I've discovered. Like farro, Quaker old-fashioned oats, steel cut oats and other stuff like pumpernickel bread.

Still, I'm tickled by the fact that unlike Costco, BJ's accepts coupons! If only I could remember to bring them.

I have painstakingly recorded so far the individual food prices of 23 food items I frequently buy. Of these, there have been only TWO cases where another supermarket had the same price as BJs (ground turkey at $2.49 a lb) or did slightly better, only because the supermarket cereal brand was a generic, compared to the BJs name-brand cereal (Cheerios).

But the prices on everything else have been quite impressive, from a low of 21% savings on Heintz ketchup to a savings of as much as 72% on pistachio nuts (BJs: 2.5 lbs at $4.99 vs. 6.99 a pound at Shop Rite). Paul Newman's salad dressing at BJs is also a great buy (55% savings).

A few other scores: 45% savings for 2 lbs of BJs organic quinoa at $4.99 vs. a pound of quinoa at Shop Rite for $4.56. Also, Amy's organic canned soups go for $1.66 each at BJs vs. $2.99 each at Shop Rite.

What's not to love?

I did see one anomaly, though. Inexplicably, 100 Bigelow organic green tea bags at BJs cost $8.49, while 100 Salada black tea bags at Shop Rite cost just $2.59. That's a 68% price difference in favor of Shop Rite. Is Bigelow an outrageously expensive brand to begin with? Is it just becus it's organic? I don't know, but I am a big tea drinker. Imay return these. I just can't justify buying everything organic. (I limit my organic buys mostly to the top 10 produce items on the Env. Defense Fund list of most heavily sprayed fruits and veggies.)

I may also return the six-pack of Glide dental floss I got for $12.99 at BJs. Cus it's the kinds of item I usually buy generic at Shop Rite. No need to pay extra for a brand name. I'll have to price it next time I'm at Shop Rite.

I was delighted with the frozen organic 3 lb bag of mixed berries at BJs at $9.99, compared to the stingier 12-ounce bag I get at Trader Joe's after shelling out $3.49. Savings: 31%, at BJs.

The icing on the cake is that shopping at BJs is a leisurely, unhurried experience without the crowds we all know and love at Costco. That's because it's a brand-new BJs store, and I suspect that more people will be arriving in coming months after their memberships at Costco expire. (This, after Costco raised their basic membership fee to $55. Hmph.) Most people would probably not find it sensible to have two concurrent warehouse store memberships running.

Seeing as how food represented my third greatest expense in 2012 after 1. the mortgage/property taxes and 2. COBRA, I would love to see my average monthly spend of about $230 come down.

My mother and I frequently exchange finds at BJS and I have shared my price book with a few girlfriends.

Oh...another good buy at BJs is dark chocolate squares, Ghiardelli's or Hershey's. Smile

The one thing I worry about is seeing "price creep" after people join. You know, they lock you in as shoppers once you plunk your membership fee down and then they hike up costs all over the store. What's to stop them? Scary.

The case of the open freezer

January 19th, 2013 at 05:20 pm

When I came home from work Thursday night to a dark house, I noticed a dim light coming from the kitchen. That's odd, I thought. I walked in there and found that the freezer door was wide open! Since i have been over-stuffing the freezer with all kinds of food items from BJs while I have the free 60-day pass (a brand-new BJs just opened in my area), I suspect that what happened is some food item fell off a shelf inside and knocked against the freezer door enough to open it. Perhaps it was only slightly ajar, but I have no doubt that once Luther investigated, he pried the door open even further, because he's a pro with kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

The funny thing was, the fridge was NOT running continuously, and even when I closed the door, it didn't start up again immediately. So perhaps I won't have a high electric bill due to the freezer running constantly.

And then there's the question of, is the food safe to eat? If the door was open when I left, it would have been open for as much as 10 hours before I got home. But I really have no idea.

Some of the small baggies of ground turkey did feel soft when I squeezed them, though still somewhat frozen in the center. Now I have eaten a lot of food that lingered unfrozen or partially thawed from Storm Sandy becus I hate to waste food. And so last night i had pasta with turkey meatballs (from the freezer). I feel fine. So I will continue to eat the food, but do so on days I'm not working, in case something doesn't agree with me.

So, I had some thoughts earlier about re-purposing the 200-odd stories I'd written for a website that folded. (The place that laid me off, sending me a wonderful journey called, Surviving Without a Job.) Getting a few published at other websites, even if for no pay, just to have some fresh hyperlinks around and available to embed in my resume.

I approached this morning, and she liked my story idea, which seems very topical to me. The website's audience is urban women, mostly in the NYC area. I'll have to rejigger a story I'd written on my chosen subject because it was actually done in 2009, so a lot can happen in 4 years, plus I need to gear it to a different audience. Want to make sure it's all still accurate, etc. Now the question is, when will I get around to doing this?

Recycling these old stories will actually take just as much time as writing a new one but they can still serve as a kind of springboard. Still, I definitely can't afford to spend oodles of time on this when I should be focusing on earning income, period.

I still have about 70 pp to go on editing The Author's second book. Beyond that, I can look forward to editing her third book as well, since she asked me what it would cost and I gave her a price. That would make 2013 the third consecutive year I've edited a book for her....

I also have to finish up a condo sales brochure this weekend by interviewing a builder for their bio, and my real estate brokerage contact indicated there'd be another community that needs a brochure too when I finish this one. So... nice to have some money coming in, just as unemployment benefits wrap up.

I'm doing my second load of laundry now, and after that, I'd like to wash the comforter itself. Can't make the bed til FedEx delivers my Amazon shipment, which includes a new mattress cover.

I also hope to bake some banana walnut quick bread with some overripe bananas I've got. (You can freeze the bananas, right? Keep them in the peel?)

I vacuumed both floors already; they really needed it. I am also bleaching a bowl of pinecones I've collected; I did this before, around the holidays. It takes a fair amount of time for them to finally bleach out (better part of a day), but they look very attractive. If you don't like dark brown stuff, they bleach out to a light tan color which I like.

Plan to hit Trader Joe's and BJ's this weekend, though it's Shop Rite where I still have over $100 worth of unused gift cards.

The BJ's membership is actually pretty reasonable, just $40 as compared to Costco, which increased to $55. I am sort of tempted to go for it, but the game plan now is to just stock up like crazy on stuff til my temp free pass lasts, til end of February. I have very limited freezer space, so of course I can't bulk buy a lot of what I like to buy, like the teriyaki frozen chicken breasts, or the 3-packs of soy milk, etc. Or fresh produce. It really comes down to canned or packaged stuff, plus big boxes of cat litter, maybe some TP and facial tissues. I've tried pricing out the toilet paper to compare to prices elsewhere, or maybe at WalMart, but it's so hard to do that because they all contain different sized packages and jumbo rolls vs regular, etc. I swear they do that on purpose.

Oh, this week's big news on the health front is that my left ear is no longer clogged. It had been all plugged up from a cold/virus I got the week before Thanksgiving. So it took about 9 weeks (!!) to resolve. I am still getting lots of clicking in both ears when I swallow, but at least I can fully hear now and no longer live in a muffled world.

A Great Recycling Idea...

January 16th, 2013 at 02:35 pm

I just had a really great idea for recycling something...

Before I was laid off in 2009 from a consumer website, I had written literally hundreds of online articles and blog posts on a wide range of personal finance topics. Although my employers had decided to discontinue the website soon after my layoff, I noticed that the site remained up; there just weren't new contributions/stories being added to it.

This proved extremely handy for me because I inserted multiple links to these stories in my resume, and I often linked to specific stories of mine, depending on the type of business of the company I was interviewing with. Of course, I had kept copies of all my stories saved in Word on my home computer, but it's much more impressive to email a prospective employer a link to a story that resides on a live website, complete with your photo, byline and the like.

So I made great use of the website for three years after leaving the company, but at some point in the last few months the company finally took the site down, no warning. I only found out when the woman at my current p/t job mentioned that a lot of the links in my resume "didn't work."

That was a big bummer.

But this morning I had an idea that I could easily RECYCLE all those stories and post them on other websites, to gain added exposure for very little work. (And I don't recall ever signing anything saying that my writing became their property.)

There are two websites I'm thinking of where I wrote a few articles in the past, when I had too much time on my hands; each has a specific demographic and subject niche, so I would need to tweak my stories, but it would be pretty easy to do. No extensive writing involved, and then I could gain added online exposure as a writer. (It's impressive to have a bunch of published articles up when applying for jobs and they Google search your name, a common practice.)

The two sites I'm thinking of know me and liked my work. Neither paid, though. (That's probably one reason why they liked me, because most competent writers wouldn't waste their time on unpaid work, so they'd be left with novice or sub-par writers.)

I could certainly approach other websites I haven't been involved with before, possibly for pay, although I'd also probably have to conduct some new research to make sure that what I'd written 3 years ago is still accurate.

So I have two ways to go,and I think I'll pursue them both: 1. Submit a few stories suitable for the 2 sites I've written for before, just to increase the number of online, published credits I can point to.
2. Find some other sites that will take the stories; if they pay, that's even better, although my original intent was just added exposure and credits on my resume.

I will need to set aside a block of time to do this, which means...not til Saturday.

Random stuff

January 16th, 2013 at 01:02 am

Capital One already credited my $100 cash back, which is now in the mail, so I decided to go for the next credit card in my queue, another $100 cash back deal from Bank Americard, a company I vowed I would never do business with, but since they won't make a dime off me (aside from the credit card transaction fee they charge the merchant each time I use the card), i figured what the heck.

I met with The Author today at Starbucks and she gave me another hundred dollars. She and her husband will likely be moving to Delaware (or maybe NC) in 2014 because it's too expensive here in CT. I will miss her and our regular coffee shop get-togethers, where she regales me with tales of all the characters in her books. I'm pretty sure I'll be getting book 3 to edit after I'm done with this one; it's the final one in a trilogy.

This is the second one hundred dollar bill she's given me; hate to break those things. I need to deposit them both at the bank...soon.

Shortly after arriving to meet me there, she spilled her coffee all over the table! It was partly the fault of the Starbucks guy, who was unpacking about 20 boxes of supplies that had just been delivered and were sitting on this big long table, where the only available seats were left.

After our morning tea/coffee, I headed for BJs to return some American-grown brown rice (organic, no less). I recently read the Consumer Reports story from last November about the high levels of arsenic found in American grown rice, due to the legacy of decades of pesticide use. The pesticides have been outlawed, but they remain in the soil, and rice, because it is grown in flooded rice paddies, absorbs a much higher amount of arsenic than other vegetables. It's actually safer to buy rice now from Thailand or India. Here's the article, if you're curious:

Sunday I did 24 pages of legal editing for a client and yesterday and today I worked on a real estate brochure. I just need to interview the builder and then write his bio.

I also managed to get 5 or so very heavy logs into my trunk and dumped them at the landfill. I have a pile in my driveway, compliments of Sandy.

I collected $100 cash from a focus group last week, which was nice. Back to work at the p/t job tomorrow.

Spent my recent Amazon gift cards on a mattress protector/cover, a book on the evils of sugar, a cat toy filled with catnip and a special cushioned seat for the cat that sits on top of and is made especially to fit The Ultimate Scratching Post, which I have. I think Luther will really like it. When I'm in the kitchen getting dinner ready, he likes to hang out with me as he always does (he's laying in front of the computer monitor now) but I walk around the kitchen so much i think he's afraid of getting stepped on, so he'll often lay down in the doorway at a safe distance. Having a place to lay on top of the scratching post would be really nice for him. Smile

No, my property taxes likely won't drop much at all

January 13th, 2013 at 04:45 pm

I guess I hadn't really thought this through. You coudln't reasonably expect that just because your home value dropped substantially, that the town/schools would then cut an equal amount from their budgets.

"There have been drastic reductions in property values since then," he said. "Since most homes in the town sales ratio are down around 30 percent, homeowners should expect their revaluation to mirror that trend."

"...The drop in assessments will continue to assure everyone pays an equitable share of property taxes, it does not mean they will see a 30 percent reduction in their tax bill. That is because the cost to run the community from a government standpoint, cannot retract by 30 percent.

"The level of tax revenue will nearly balance out by slight increases in auto and personal property taxation, slight increases on some of the town's larger homes, and a countering increase in the mill rate. A mill represents one dollar of taxation for every $1,000 in taxable property.

"There has to be an adjustment against the grand levy, which is the overall cost to run the town," he said. "The amount needed to function remains constant, even though the assessment of properties decline to correspond with the drop in property values."

Big bummer.

Lower property taxes in the near future?

January 12th, 2013 at 04:13 pm

Finally, what I've been waiting for...our town's four-year property revaluation.

Four years ago, in 2009 I guess it was, our property was valued pretty high since the assessment was based on 70% of the Oct. 1, 2007 market value. But now (finally) we're due for another revalu, and I just got the notice from the assessor's office that my value has dropped considerably.

Bad news, I guess, if I wanted to sell now, but pretty good news if I want to pay lower taxes:

Old assessment: $269,760
New assessment: $175, 770

The new assessment is based on 70% of the Oct. 1 2012 market value.

That's a difference of $93,990, or a 35% reduction. so 35% less of $6600 (my current annual taxes) would be $4,290, if I figured that correctly. Put another way, a savings of $192 monthly/$2,310 annually.

It makes remaining here instead of moving a bit more feasible. And since the revals are only done once every four years, I could sort of count on that for four years. However, the new mil rate will be set in the spring after the budget vote. So I don't know. I think I can safely look at the 35% reduction as a BALLPARK reduction in taxes, but it could be somewhat less if the town budget rises. Which is usually does, by at least 2%.

Right now, my property taxes are not quite tied with my COBRA/health insurance premiums for #1 expense in the Patient Saver household. (Monthly COBRA: $562, monthly property taxes: $548). I'll be curious to see how much my property taxes drop down in my ranked expense list.

I guess in my mind this sort of commits me to staying in this house for another four years, as I want to maximize my profits when I move. I bought the house for $209,900 in 1995.

Not much else new, though I haven't posted recently.

Going for lunch at the neighbors tomorrow; I'll be returning some food containers of hers from when she brought me hot, home-made soups when I was sick (what a neighbor!) and I'll be filling them with my chocolate nut and cranberry clusters.

On Monday I'm getting together with The Author. I think she'll have another payment for me on the book; she's a little behind on the schedule.

Also on Monday I have to return to the computer repair guy for the 3rd time as he's been unable to fix an annoying problem whereby my computer locks or freezes up (with the spinning circle) every 10 minutes or so and I have to wait for a minute or two for it to resolve. He charged me $105 to add more memory and that didn't do anything to fix the problem. I really can't afford repair bills and am hoping he won't charge me again. (He didn't charge the 2nd time.)

This weekend I can start work on a new condo brochure; my client, a real estate brokerage, often gets condos, new subdivisions or other communities that other brokerages have been unable to market/sell successfully.

Hmm. Just realized dropping off the computer and possibly not having it for 2 days may interfere with that freelance job. May have to delay the repair another week.

I just spent about $50 worth of Amazon gift cards I earned from online forums. I bought a book, a mattress cover and two things for the cats: a catnip toy and a cushioned seat that fits over the Ultimate Scratching Post. They didn't really get anything for Christmas, so I think they deserve it.

I only have 2 more weeks left of unemployment benefits. Considering that I thought they would run out last April, I guess I did pretty well stringing it along with my part-time and freelance jobs. But it really will run out for good before month's end. that's the scary party, becus not counting my freelance work, my p/t job only nets me a little over $900 a month, which is about half of the bare minimum I need to cover monthly expenses.

The freelance work is impossible to predict, but looking at last year, I see I earned a low of $0 in May to a high of $2,709 in October. So it's hard to count on that money, or at least, to count on the timing of receiving that money, but the average works out to about $500/month. I think that while I've raised my prices over the years, they're still pretty low, but I can only raise them by degrees, once a year at most.

Anyway, I was able to save enough money in an online money market to cover my next bi-annual property tax bill, but after that, I suspect I'll have to begin withdrawing savings. Assuming I still can't come up with a f/t job or another p/t job to supplement what I'm getting now.

Everything's starting to fit

January 5th, 2013 at 06:15 pm

Well, if you were hoping for some sort of existential, I'm-pulling-my-life-together-again muse, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint.

No, what I was really referring to is the fact that I fit into many of my old (smaller-sized) pants again. And it feels great!

This morning I met the second author whose book on business ethics I edited this past summer. We met at a local coffee shop very close to the Sandy Hook School. First time we met. Nice guy. He gave me an advance copy of the book as a present, and I had him autograph it. He even mentioned me among the five people who helped him write the book, in the acknowledgements section. Very nice! It will be on Amazon shortly.

On the cover is a great old b/w photo of his father standing in front of what looks like a rustic summer cabin. It kind of goes with the book because he intersperses life lessons he learned from his father with his business dealings and career.

I don't have many other plans for today. My friend Michael has been calling (and missing) me for several days now, so I finally got back to him after he'd mentioned possibly getting together today. (Cus I haven't seen him in years since he's been dating so-and-so.) But no, that didn't work out.

Since I have Monday/Tuesday off from work, I would rather save my shopping errands for a weekday when it's so much less crowded in the stores. I want to hit Shop Rite, BJs and Trader Joe's.

Maybe today I'll make some granola. Perhaps a soup. Laundry to fold. Vacuuming, too. Tonight I have a DVD to watch.

Tuesday I have a focus group to do in the morning. $100. The focus groups are few and far between; they don't like to recruit "professional" focus group people who do these frequently. This one is on soy milk, so since I'm a big fan, it should be interesting.

I have been getting feedback of work to come from various clients, but nothing yet,aside from some small-scale editing from the IT Director. Real estate client has a new condo project that will need a sales brochure. Guardian ad litem has some legal editing for me soon, she reports.

I got the first "full" size paycheck from my p/t proofreading job. I was curious how accurate the estimate of my net pay would be by an online net pay calculator I used (Paycheck city). As it turned out, after I made sure to indicate the number of federal exemptions I claim, it was VERY accurate and just off by $1!

Nothing else earth-shattering to report. I did sell $3,000 worth of T. Rowe Price International Equity Index fund, and once it hits my checking account, it will be reinvested in a Vanguard REIT Roth IRA. I hope to repeat the same, for a total of $6K, sometime between now and April at a new high for the fund (or its MSCI EAFE index).

Various resolutions and a rant

January 1st, 2013 at 02:38 pm

Resolution #1:I've decided to fully fund ($6,000) my Roth IRA in 2012. The decision was sort of up in the air as I'm still living hand to mouth (see my 2012 income/expense wrap-up) and have only so much ($67K) set aside in taxable investments.

It may seem like a lot of money to some, at first blush, but I don't know if I'll EVER get another f/t job. (I'm in my early 50s and not getting any younger.) So I may need easy access to that money to live on and see me through until I can start collecting SS. The money was really earmarked for retirement (and for a new car, eventually), even though it's taxable money.

But anyway, I decided I didn't want to pass up the tax deferral benefits (and tax-free withdrawals) of a Roth, especially when I can simply transfer the full amount from my taxable investment to a Roth IRA.

Because of the current makeup of my portfolio, I decided to open a new mutual fund to fund the Roth IRA, a Vanguard REIT index fund. By withdrawing the money from my sole taxable fund, an international stock fund, I'll also be lowering my stock weighting, something I decided I should do as I get a bit closer to retirement age, so that instead of having 65% of my investments in stocks, it'll be just 60%. Less equity exposure = less risk in the event of another huge downturn in the market. Unlike a younger person, I'd have less time to recover from such an event.

But first I have to sell the $6,000 from my T. Rowe Price taxable fund and I thought I'd watch the daily share price and wait for a day when it was up more. (I've got til April to fund the Roth IRA so there is still time.) Then I'll have to wait for the check, or $$ in my checking acct, before I can fund the new Vanguard REIT.

Resolution #2: Maintain the weight loss, i.e., the weight I lost during my extended illness. I think I lost about 7 lbs, and I see from this morning's weigh-in that my weight crept up again by 2 lbs. so I'm determined to stop that trend right away. My formula is NO sugar, except what's found in fruit (and I do enjoy the occasional OJ) and MINIMAL wheat intake (read Wheat Belly if you're wondering why). I'm switching to oat cereals, my own oat-based granola and pumpernickel bread instead of whole wheat. I think my 2 lb gain is probably due to additional sweets I've been eating over the holidays. Someone at work gave me a small tin of chocolate cookies; after eating about half of them and not especially liking them, I MADE myself throw them away. There's also been donuts and more chocolate available for the taking at the office. Good thing I'm only there 3 days a week. (The only non-fruit sweet I'm allowing myself now is one square of 86% dark chocolate a day.)

Resolution #3: I hesitate to even list this, becus it's on my mind constantly and is an obvious no-brainer, but Resolution #3 is to get more work, and really, it needs to be full-time work.

Going off on a tangent, but something that's been on my mind...A friend of mine is constantly complaining about her lack of money and her inability to do the things she wants to do due to lack of money. When I suggest she find a job, she complains about the lack of decent paying jobs.

Umm, no kidding. So I told her to just take any job she can find, if it's local. She's really not qualified to do much of anything. Becus if she waits around for some high paying job, she'll never find it. She's not very employable. I'm not sure what work she'd done before, but for as long as I've known her, she hasn't worked much and can get away with doing that becus her husband has a good job. Although I think from things she's said that he would be happier if she was working, becus money is somewhat tight for them and right now, she contributes next to nothing to the household budget.

She had a p/t job teaching art to the seniors at the senior center, but she recently quit that; she had been upset a few months earlier because she hadn't gotten a raise in 3 years. Now she works just one day a week for a retail store. And then she complains (she must've told me at least 5 times) that this is the first time in 25 years that her husband didn't get a bonus.

It's really hard for me to feel sympathetic. The size of the annual bonus I got at my last f/t job would have been enough to cover all of my living expenses for 3.5 months. Now, I can just drool when I hear the words "annual bonus."

So then I get an email from her saying she needs to take a month to "get her head together," that she's "a mess" and "exhausted" after quitting the senior center and her assorted health issues, and only after she has time to focus on herself and get her head back on will she begin looking for work. Big eye roll here. Good luck with that!