Tomorrow's the last day of the month and so I decided to do my monthly investment report a day early.
This past month I lost $19,849 in my overall portfolio. I guess it could be worse. No doubt the loss was softened by the fact I'm investing 28% of my paycheck every 2 weeks.
I'm not really worried about it; the market will come back up. What's more frustrating is that I still haven't yet broken the $700,000 barrier in total savings. Yeah, I know, what a problem.
But interestingly, in 2009, my portfolio stayed in the $300,000s range for just 7 months until I surpassed $400,000 in savings.
My portfolio lingered in the $400,000s for 2.5 years.
My portfolio lingered even longer in the $500,000s for nearly 3 years. Of course, I was very underemployed and not contributing to savings at all from Q4 of 2009 through mid-2013.
And now, my portfolio has lingered in the $600s for 1.5 years so far. At one point in May of this year, I was ALMOST there with investments totaling $699,727. Now I'm back down to $665,235.
Frustrating. Looking at my "Countdown to Retirement" savings goal in my sidebar, I'm supposed to have saved $723,000 saved by this November. I doubt that's going to happen, and that's going to throw my whole plan out of whack.
On the plus side, I see that I'm on track to save $34,000 in 2015 (see sidebar). Of that, $23,000 is on auto pilot via automatic Roth 401k contributions, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to save the remaining $11,000 through my own after-tax savings. I can see from my August expense report that I've saved $6,285 YTD, meaning I have another $4,714 to save this year, or $1,178 saved each month through year's end. Actually still a fairly steep goal, but if I can continue to reimburse myself for mom's expenses through yarn and art sales, I stand a better chance.
..in other news..
Remember a week ago when i came down with hives and couldn't figure out what it was? Well, when I analyzed what i had to eat, there was really only ONE thing I ate that wasn't part of my regular diet....an heirloom variety tomato grown in my garden.
So last night I decided to eat one of those same tomatoes again...a tomato is a tomato, right? And you wouldn't think you'd react to one variety but not others. But wouldn't you know my back started feeling itchy and i looked and could see a half doze rather large red spots. It wasn't nearly as bad as the first time, and I waited to see if it would get worse. It didn't, so I just went to bed without taking any antihistamines, and I feel fine today. I guess I'll have to throw those precious homegrown tomatoes out for the woodchuck.
Archive for August, 2015
Tomorrow's the last day of the month and so I decided to do my monthly investment report a day early.
I finally figured out what I wanted to do in terms of managing my mother's expenses...in other words, should I pay a portion of them out of my own pocket or reimburse myself? Or strike some happy balance?
My thoughts have been this: I don't want to shorten my mother's expected 3-year stay at the assisted living place by having to dip into her savings to pay the many out-of-pocket expenses we're incurring, yet I don't want any big impact on my own personal finances either.
So I've decided to continue paying all of my mother's out of pocket expenses. These include:
Condo, until it is sold:
HOA fees: $343.62 a month
Taxes: $90 a month (thanks to senior discounts)
Electric: About $40 a month with nothing but the hot water heat and digital stove on? Hard to tell right now becus she's on a budget plan with electric company and I'm still paying over $200/mth for last year's incredibly high heat bills.
Minimal heat in winter: ??
Homeowners insurance: $16.50 a month
Meds & various over the counter supplements: @ $50 a mth
Other costs vary, but the costs above total $540 a month. This seems manageable to me, especially given that I will be reimbursing myself from the sale of my mother's yarns. This month I raised $441 from the sale of yarns and another $152 from the sale of weaving accessories. The yarn and accessories sales were 16 individual sales and a lot of work but I do feel a sense of accomplishment about that.
I still have at least another 100 yarn cones to go. When that's gone, I can continue reimbursing myself from the sale of art. It doesn't mean I can sell every last piece; it can be hard to unload this stuff, but I can make a dent. When the best pieces are gone (and that's excluding the ones I've already chosen for myself), I can start in on the photography equipment and a few diamond rings. the trick is finding the right market and the right buyers for each of these categories.
In short, I believe I can probably reimburse myself for costs indefinitely, especially since once the condo is sold, my ongoing expenses (outside of the assisted living place rent) will drop considerably, which will be a huge relief.
Several of you suggested taking photos of all art before it's sold. I have been doing that anyway because I've been using my photos to email to friends at the office. Plus, my mother has mountains of slides of all her work..something I've been contemplating throwing out...it's just that it takes up so much room and I will probably rarely if ever look at those slides. It's her one archive and I don't really have a suitable place to store the stuff so it won't get damaged. Remember, I don't have central air here and I do swelter with the humidity for much of the summer. For now, I'll hold onto it. I have too much to think about without adding that to the mix.
Thanks to all your encouragement, I AM getting excited about my upcoming trip.
As often goes with Patient Saver, she is already planning what to bring, etc. I think I'll want to save a few bucks by bringing my own breakfast with me for the 2 days, since there's a fridge and microwave in the room, so I may as well make use of them.
I have the address of the place on Bearskin Neck that does takeout lobster.
My preference is to get settled in the room first before I head out to explore, but check-in isn't til 2 p.m., so I plan to leave here around 10 a.m. to be there at just around that time. I figure that afternoon will be a good time to stretch my legs after the long car ride and do some easy hikes near Rockport Harbor.
I'll save the bike riding and more serious hiking for the next day, and can explore the shops both nights, when I decide where to eat for dinner.
I'll bring my coloring books for adults and some snacks to enjoy on my private terrace overlooking the sea. And very little in the way of clothes. With no one to impress, I can get by with one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts and maybe some capris and two tops. Maybe a sweatshirt if it gets cool at night. And probably just my sneakers for hiking and biking.
There are 2 coworkers at my office interested in purchasing my mother's art. One has already picked out a piece that with a discount, will cost her $85. Perhaps a little low, but I'd like to start moving some of this art out of here. If it was sold through a gallery, I'd be paying a commission anyhow, so netting $85 sounds ok.
I keep wondering whether I should share the news of sales like this with my mother. On the one hand, it was always a happy occasion when she could tell me she sold something. I'd like to give her that pleasure, but then she may want the money, and I'm not sure I like her having much more than small change at the place where she's living, because the money could be stolen or misplaced by her. So I don't know. Or maybe she'd want to deposit it at her bank, which could really cause problems, because if she saw her bank balance, it might raise questions. She doesn't know assisted living costs money. She thinks it's paid for, I guess, by Medicare.
I have mixed reactions when people ooh and ahh over her work. I've already picked out my favorites to keep for myself, but there are still many I'm fond of and will find it hard to part with, even though I don't have the space for all of it. Also, having stored 95% of my mother's remaining art for the past 4 months now (she has a fair amount at her place, and there are some pieces I'm using as staging for her condo, which is up for sale), I must be getting used to the pieces at my home and I'm beginning to be very aware that there's a limited amount of her art left, and once it's gone, it's gone forever.
This is how I felt after my grandparents died. My grandfather was a woodworker and spent his retired years selling his stuff at craft shows up and down the East Coast. It always seemed, when he was still alive and creating more, that there was an endless supply, but it quickly dwindled once he was gone. That's how I think it will go with my mother's art.
The pop-up gallery person seems to want to take quite a bit of my mother's art for display at a local spa, beyond the half dozen or so she's already taken. I'm beginning to hesitate about that, though, because I don't know who has access to this spa after hours..cleaning people or staff, for example. What would happen if something went missing? Compare the risks to the typical art gallery, a small space with the proprietor always on hand. I think it much less likely anything would ever get stolen at a gallery; not so sure about the spa.
For the same reason, I may not jump at the offer of a local weaver and someone who's very active in the local arts commission to exhibit my mother's work at the municipal center. It was at this same center where there were rows of tables overflowing with well wishes and condolences following the 12/14 shootings. Origami dove mobiles, cards, letters, stuffed animals. There was an intricate quilt someone made, from the heart, and it was stolen. That's what I fear might happen to art lining the long corridors over there. Everything is accessible to the general public and no one is really minding the store over there. I may just turn down that offer entirely.
The other offer made to me was a much smaller exhibit behind locked glass at the local library. That's one I would do.
One thing I WOULD like to get some exposure for is her dozen or so large tapestries. I have yet to unroll them to even look at them, but i need to see how they could hang on a wall. The longer I store this stuff at my house, the more likely things will become damaged over time, and thus, unsellable. So sooner, rather than later, is the key.
I've made great progress selling yarns but still have LOTS to go. I'm pretty sure I've raised over $1500 just in yarn sales. Who knew they were worth so much? And to think my sister said, oh just give the yarns to whoever buys the looms.
Many of the yarn companies these yarns came from (those that had labels) are out of business now, but i was able to contact Plymouth Yarns, of which my mother has a LOT of. By sending them photos of the yarn cones as well as the lot number and dye number, they were able to ascertain that the yarns I have are 100% wool, which is great for sales. I thought they might be a synthetic blend, which would lower their value.
I have been using one particular Facebook destash fiber group where things sell very, very well. I mean, you still need to offer deep discounts off retail, but just a single wool cone weighing a pound could go for $20 to $30. I have at least a hundred cones left (not all wool). I could see this being an enjoyable pastime this winter. And there are a few people who have already become repeat buyers many times over.
They seem to have yarn fetishes, I swear. However, most of these people have very high standards as to fibers. They are only interested in 100% wool, cotton or silk. Not polyester or acrylic, for example. It has to be very high quality stuff. A lot of them are into growing their own wool (mohair, alpaca, etc) as well as dyeing it and spinning it. It's an incredibly active site. Many things I've posted for sale were sold in less than an hour. My best sale on that site came from about 15 oz of tussah silk. Tussah refers to the fact that the silkworms are wild, not cultivated. I got $80 some odd dollars for it!
My office looks like a post office with tons of shipping supplies and boxes of every size and dimension.
This should be interesting....
If you read my earlier post, the little 2-night getaway I planned for a beach town in Massachusetts with an old friend of mine began unraveling in the past week.
Things just got too contentious with all the special accommodations for his dog, who would travel with us, and my friend can be very stubborn and inflexible, IMO. I felt like I was making so many concessions about how I would spend my time, and this little trip is SO important to me, after all the stress with my mom, and not having any other truly fun time off this year. I didn't want to spend time dog-sitting, sitting in the car longer to accommodate multiple dog pit stops or relying solely on take-out because Ron couldn't go to a restaurant with the dog (I did locate a few outdoor places that did allow dogs but Ron doesn't eat good food anyway, just fast food.)
Anyway, we agreed it might be best not to take this trip together after all, and he suggested I try cancelling his room.
Instead, I decided to try to find someone else who might like to join me there so first first I tried one friend, and then another, both of whom were tied up doing other things, and I'm asking on very short notice, as we'd be leaving in a few days. Then I even asked my 82-year-old father (!) who is always up for an adventure. He was interested but he called me back today and said he was going to have to pass as he's got a bunch of stuff going on, 2 doc appointments during the time we would be away and he's trying to put in a new shower at his new apartment up here and nothing seems to be getting done.
So to my surprise, I am going on vacation alone, the first time ever in my life, if you don't count a few one nighters on business.
I'm feeling a little trepidation. It is a 3-hour ride up there, skirting Boston traffic, but at the same time, I'm also the adventurous sort and I see several advantages to traveling alone. Mainly, that I can do exactly what I want to do and not worry about accommodating someone else. So that would mean lots of long walks, maybe renting a bike and pedaling around to explore with my camera and stopping in at the many shops. I already have a print-out of some great hikes in the area.
The only thing I wouldn't be comfortable doing is having a nice lobster dinner at a restaurant, party of one. I will have to settle for a good lobster roll at a takeout place. Not the end of the world. And since my room will have a microwave and fridge, I plan to bring my own granola and some rice milk and teabags, etc so I don't have to spend extra for breakfast. I can enjoy my breakfast on the private deck overlooking the ocean and then head out on bike or on foot. SWEET. The only other thing I probably wouldn't do is venture out much past dark. The room has cable, and I go to bed early anyway. The hotel is right on a beach, but I doubt I'll spend much time there.
No doubt I will be worrying about my 2 kitties, but my neighbor will be coming in once daily to feed them, so they should be okay. I guess I could always plan on leaving early on Wednesday morning to head home.
I called the hotel and let them know the one room wouldn't be taken, and since they only charged my credit card for one room, one night,she said she wouldn't charge me anything for the last minute cancellation of the 2nd room, for which I am very grateful. (I am sure they would charge me $228 if I tried to cancel my own room as well.... so I HAVE to go, because I've been DYING to get away and I'm not one to waste my own money!)
So my bill will be about $450 for my room for the 2 nights, plus whatever I spend on lunch and dinner, and maybe a bike rental and if something catches my fancy in a shop. My Honda gets about 45 mpg on the highway, and with current low gas prices, that expense will be minimal.
It sounds like FUN, I just hope I don't feel lonely.
I'm very comfortable with alone time but I've just never done it before on vacation.
How about you? Have you ever vacationed before by yourself?
I've been afraid to look at my brokerage balance. It can't be pretty.
These things only seem to happen to Patient Saver.
So you may remember reading here that way back in July my old friend Ron and I were talking about taking a little getaway trip together. We both really felt we needed a break.
Ron is someone I met when I was 28 and he was 40. At the time I fell in love with him and thought he was so funny and so handsome and smart. But over time I felt he also had a pretty serious character flaw...he was very, very controlling.
It worked for a while at the time because when I was younger I was probably looking for a father figure of sorts because my parents split up when I was six. So I put up with his controlling ways and his insistence on always doing things his way, because he knew better.
Ultimately, though, we split up because of it. I often felt smothered. But Ron still has his good points and so we have remained friends these many years. He offers very good career advice, advice on life in general and has helped me in a pinch more than once. And he's still smart and funny.
You take the good with the bad, I guess.
Fast forward to this past July, when we agreed we were going to vacation together up in a beach town north of Boston for 2 nights and 3 days. I knew he felt he had to bring his dog with us on the trip. It's an older dog that is attached to him in an unhealthy way.
Before I booked our 2 rooms on my credit card, I wanted to make sure we had talked everything out about how we envisioned spending our time, our expectations about how things would go, etc. etc. He didn't really bring anything up at the time.
Only after I booked the rooms, at $205 a night (waterfront, in season) did I get an inkling of his expectations. I started to feel concerned about the prospect of having to put up with his dog standing on my lap with its butt in my face as he stared adoringly at Ron as he drove. (Ron's never taught the dog any basic commands and he doesn't even yell at the dog if the dog humps your leg, I mean, come on!) He lets the dog sit in his lap (a driving distraction if ever there was one) but the dog will sometimes get restless and then want to walk on the lap of whoever the passenger is.
Wasn't really looking forward to doing this for 3+ hours, so I told Ron that if he wasn't willing to put the dog in a kennel cage in back, or just in the back seat (he wasn't) that I would sit happily in the back seat so I'd have my own space and the dog could stay up there with him. Ron didn't like that idea and said he needed me up front to help manage the dog. And now all these other little expectations finally started coming out.
You would think after some discussion two people should be able to work things out, but Ron is very inflexible.
We were already planning on staying at this one particular inn because they allow dogs on the first floor. But Ron was also expecting me to dog sit while he went and got his meals because most restaurants won't allow dogs, and the hotel's policy is you can't leave the dog unattended. You must be with it the whole time. So this means we could not have a single meal together in a restaurant. We would have to take turns watching the dog while the other one got takeout! Not likin' it at all! But I reluctantly agreed to do this, although with such a short trip planned, I really didn't want to have our agenda revolve around the dog's needs for the whole trip and this seemed like this was what this was turning into.
I had researched and found several restaurants that allowed dogs when you sat outside but Ron is not one to spend a lot of money on a really nice seafood meal, for instance. He mostly eats burgers and pizza. So in hindsight now, I doubt he'd want to eat at a nice sit down restaurant anyway; he mentioned Subway instead.
Then he announced that he wanted to leave for our trip at 6 a.m., something I didn't relish. He wanted to get an early start because, while the trip should take 3 hours with no stops, he said it would take us 4.5 hours to get there due to the fact we'd need to make several longer stops for the dog. I already considered this particular destination as being at the outer limits of the distance I wanted to drive (3 hrs) for such a short trip, but I had agreed to this hotel after spending hours online searching for the right place that was dog-friendly to boot and not being able to come up with anything. So when I heard him say 4.5 hours, I really was not happy.
I know he gets up very early, and he said he gets tired in the afternoon, although I had already said I wanted to drive part of the way. Ron has a disorder where he can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, and I have been with him many times in the car where he starts nodding off behind the wheel and i have to yell at him to stay awake. Very frightening. He keeps a supply of those energy drinks in his car. He had agreed that if this happened, he would pull over and I would get in behind the wheel.
Then he said we would be splitting the cost of gas, which is fair, although he drives a gas guzzler and i drive a very thrifty Honda. Between that, his sleepiness and the dog issue, i started to feel like I'd rather drive up there myself. Seems extreme, i know, but we had already agreed that for parts of the day we'd be doing our own thing, because he's not very energetic and I am.
Anyway, we got into an argument about the trip last night. He just has too many conditions and I felt I was the one making all the concessions.
So we agreed it might be better if we didn't go together. Except for the fact that the rooms were booked with my credit card and they had a No Refund policy for cancellations made within 2 weeks of arrival.
Ron suggested calling the inn owners and telling them he has prostate cancer (he does) and maybe stretching the truth a little to work on their sympathies so that i could get his room refunded.
Instead, I called 2 friends of mine and invited them to come, but both turned me down due to the very short notice.
So then I called my dad, thinking it could be fun to have a father/daughter road trip up there. He has 2 doc appts during that time down in Jersey, but is going to call me back tomorrow and let me know if he can come after seeing if he can reschedule. I told him not to worry about it if he couldn't make it or if it became too complicated. I don't want him to do it because he's bailing me out of a predicament.
Worst case scenario, if the inn wouldn't refund the one room, I don't think Ron would let me end up paying for it. I told him I was still going on this trip, even if i go alone, come hell or high water, I need to enjoy myself. So it's his decision not to go (mainly because I told him I wanted to drive myself).
I think my dad would enjoy the trip and at his age, he probably doesn't have many more trips like this in his future. He's always been the adventurous sort. He worked for many years as a school teacher, and in the summers he worked as a tour guide on bus trips up to Nova Scotia.
I do recognize that having my elderly father with me would be sort of similar to having Ron with me in that they both don't move too fast or have the energy to keep up with me.
So if we go i will have to somehow find a way to suggest to dad that for part of the time he relax at the beach or someplace where he can park himself while i go off exploring or window shopping or taking photos or whatever.
The whole thing is fairly embarrassing to relate, but it is what it is. I hope you don't think worse of me as a result. Ron and I just aren't compatible in a lot of ways, and I should have had the wisdom not to try to make this work, like fitting a square peg in a round hole. But you always hope, you always want to try. When we were together, he took me to Europe five times on some very exciting backpacking and Euro rail trips all across the Continent, to Paris, London, Monaco, Nice, Budapest, Munich, Zurich, the Swiss Alps, Bavaria, Saltzburg, and we did even make one trip to Ireland as friends, after we'd split up, so I know it is possible. Or at least I thought it was.
In other news, a local weaver woman stopped by the house 2 days in a row to peruse yarns and spent about $80 on each visit, so I was happy about that. I also really liked her, and she suggested we do lunch sometime.
I finally figured out that the musty, bad smell in my dining room was not coming from my mother's yarns, or from my own basement, but from the PLASTIC shelving itself. Very strange, but if i put my nose right up to it, there was that smell I've been smelling since I moved all that stuff in here. My mother had several other shelves just like it, but this is the only one that smells.
I didn't want potential yarn buyers to smell it and think the yarn was no good or that i was a lousy housekeeper, so first i moved the stinky shelving upstairs, and then after selling enough yarn, i was able to move what was left on its shelves to other shelves and tables downstairs and then i moved the shelves themselves to my basement, where it will reside forever.
Another week's flown by.
I kept very busy selling yarn online. It takes SO much time doing it this way. Weighing what you have, finding just the right box for it (too big and you pay extra for nothing) and just calculating the cheapest way to ship is a challenge. I can't say that between flat rate boxes, 1st class mail, "standard" post, etc. the post office rates are easy to understand. I suppose in the past week I've sold to 4 people and netted, after paypal and postage fees, about $117.
Shipping priority mail is the most convenient because you can print out the postage on your computer and then have them come pick up the package at no additional cost, and it comes with free tracking and insurance, but I find it's often cheaper to ship in your own box, standard post. The regional rate boxes are yet another way to go, if you happen to be shipping to someone relatively close to you, you can save money that way.
Tomorrow I decided I would take my mother to an art museum about 40 minutes from here. She seems interested.
This weekend I really need to take yet more photos of my mother's art to add to the pieces the pop-up gallery woman already took about a month ago, to show at a local spa.
Plus, another woman at my office expressed interest in my mother's art (I have some of it hanging in my cubicle) so after inquiring about her tastes/preferences, I want to take pix for her, too, and maybe make a sale.
So my office moved down 2 floors in our building last Friday and this past Monday was our first day in our new digs. After all my worry, it's really not that bad, partly because my boss gave me a good cube at the front end of my row. Well, I say good becus it has a higher cubicle wall (only about 4 feet high) cus it faces the main corridor and is directly across from the glass doors you step through after getting off the elevator. But as it turns out, since my at home work days are Tues/Thurs and i learned that 2 of my coworkers in the same aisle work at home Wed/Friday, the only day we're all there together is Mondays. There is another coworker there but she sits 3 cubes back so noise isn't really an issue with her.
Gosh, I thought I had more to say. Oh, it's sales tax-free week here in CT for the back-to-school crowd, so i want to hit Macy's maybe sometime tomorrow as I have coupons.
In another 10 days I'll be taking real VACATION TIME.
I really enjoyed getting to know my 2nd cousin from Jersey when she came up for a brief visit after visiting my mom in the assisted living place.
Coming from such a small family, with just one sibling of my own who's never chosen to have a close relationship with me, and with both my parents not having any siblings, it feels very exciting to "rediscover" a long lost relative that I never really knew.
She's the granddaughter of one of my grandfather's 3 brothers. Ironically, she has fond memories of both my grandparents, which surprised me so much because I had no real relationship with my grandfather. He was a very distant figure who rarely if ever spoke to me and didn't seem to like children. I guess I know he loved me but he never really showed it other than to give me, my sister and my mother money.
It actually sounded like she might have had a better relationship with my grandfather than I did. Looking back, my grandfather never seemed happy in his marriage to my grandmother, but in those days, you didn't get a divorce. They stuck it out. I remember so many times my grumpy and short-tempered grandfather would come up from the basement, where he'd have been working all day on his woodworking, avoiding my grandmother, but he'd come up for dinner and be pretty cranky at the table. My grandmother would immediately shush him and say, "Not in front of the children." That was really all the conversation that took place between my grandparents.
My grandmother was so very different from my grandfather. For me, she epitomized the purest, truest love. She was always there for me, and I miss her dearly to this day.
Anyway, it sounds like my cousin is interested in us continuing to get to know each other. I think we both have a strong interest in hearing about each others' lives, past and present. There may be a trip down to Jersey involved.
But here's a bit of a dilemma. She picked out several small and 1 medium-sized pieces of my mother's art, which was fine. I'd offered it to her after she told me she loved my mother's work but couldn't afford to buy it.
Now, in her note to me today, she described one large framed piece and said she wanted to buy it, and hoped she could help me out in that way to raise $$ for my mother. The piece would probably normally sell for around $750 or $850. But I don't think I could charge her for it; I'm feeling kind of emotional, warm and fuzzy after our visit and the warm exchange of emails we've had. I personally like the piece myself but aside from that, am also feeling reluctant to give it to her becus of its potential to generate a decent amount of badly needed $$ for mom.
So I don't know.
I got my new Citi Thank You Premier card today. Oh my gosh. You should have seen the fancy schmancy package it came in via Priority Mail. Talk about trying to make an impression.
Funny thing is, it bears a new circular design that I've been quizzed about as a citi online forum member. They wanted to know if I liked the card design but here it is, already produced and in circulation.
Of course, I will have to be careful to cancel this card (I can be rather lax in cancelling cards) before a year has passed so I don't get hit with the annual fee, waived for the first year.
I'm looking forward to earning my $500 in gift Cards by spendng $3,000 in 3 months. I have friend who like to help me do that by letting me pay for their bills and paying me back in cash.
Gas prices are low today. $2.49 a gallon. Heating oil is too, but with the new 150 gallon minimum, I'll have to wait til at least November to fill up, by which time prices will have probably risen as demand rises.