I got a weird feeling about my finances after updating my "Countdown to Retirement" goals at very bottom of my sidebar here, which I've copied here:
Annual Savings Goals:
End of year 1, Nov 2015: $723,469
Actual Savings: $686,593
End of year 2, Nov 2016: $805,974
End of year 3, Nov. 2017: $893,842
End of year 4, Nov. 2018: $987,421
End of year 5, Nov. 2019: $1,087,083
You'll notice that at the end of year 1, Nov. 2015, I failed to meet my 1st year savings goal of $723,469. These were goals I came up with in November 2014 after crunching numbers with several different online retirement calculators, to determine how much money I needed to finance the kind of retirement I want. But I missed the mark, by quite a lot.
Two months later, after calculating my January income and expense numbers, and with mom's help...and this is where I feel the weird part.... I have almost EXACTLY met my 1st year savings goal.
My savings as of January 31 is $723,451. The difference between that and my original 1st year savings goal is just $18.
Thanks, mom. I will use this money wisely to honor your memory.
On a related note...
I am so glad that when I planned my mother's funeral I decided to say in the obituary I wrote that in lieu of flowers, people could make a donation in my mother's memory to either the Alzheimer's Association or any animal welfare organization. Flowers' beauty is fleeting, and I knew I would derive more comfort from the people who came during calling hours than any flowers.
I am so glad I did this because I did not realize how enormously comforting it was to get a card in the mail from various animal groups (or AA) informing me that so-and-so made a donation in mom's name. Not a ton of people did this, but maybe 5 or so did, and each time I learned of it, it really made me feel good because I KNOW my mother would also feel quite touched by it. And appreciative.
Another poignant thought...it seems so many people who were a part of my mother's life have become a part of mine now. If at all I knew these people while mom was alive, I knew of them at a kind of peripheral level, someone I may have met once or twice but didn't know very well. Now that my mom's gone, I find that some of my my mother's neighbors or friends have become my friends. It is so comforting, I can't tell you how much.
My mother's neighbors of 15 years, a married couple in their 60s, have invited me, my dad and my sister to dinner out this spring.
I spent at least an hour with an art gallery owner who had exhibited my mother's work for many years. She listened so much to my troubles, trials and tribulations when my mother was in the nursing home. Yesterday, I tried to pay back some of her kindness while we talked about lost loved ones and how we took care of them. She told me a little about her favorite grandmother, something I can definitely relate to because my mother's mother was also someone I held very dear. The gallery owner is about my age. I will always hold her in high regard because I was with my mother the last time the two of them saw each other. It must have been in the first half of 2015, and I remember so well how the gallery owner, who I discovered had a subtle yet very playful sense of humor, made my mother laugh.
My friend Ron has suggested we take my dad out some day this spring too, in much the same way he suggested years ago that we do different things with my grandmother. Ron is very family-oriented; I do believe he taught me a lot about the value of family. I came from a very fragmented family with divorce and plenty of moves in my past, so I don't think I understood how to cultivate family ties. He did. Anyway, I have two destinations I think my dad might enjoy: 1 is rare breed conservancy that breeds endangered duck species (yes, ducks) and the other is horseofct.org, a group that rescues, rehabilitates and adopts out neglected or abused horses. I'd like to check them out at one of their open houses days and will probably donate to them once I get my employer to recognize them as a legitimate nonprofit (which they are). They just weren't on my employer's database for some reason, probably because they're small and one location.
Archive for January, 2016
I got a weird feeling about my finances after updating my "Countdown to Retirement" goals at very bottom of my sidebar here, which I've copied here:
My net worth now surpasses $1 million. This is a first for me. That includes the value of my home, so certainly I can't retire today but it still is very nice.
What pushed me over the one million mark is that I've already received about half my inheritance from my mother. This was the money she'd invested in mutual funds, which bypasses probate. It was amazing how quickly that money was deposited in my account. I mailed in T. Rowe's forms (it took 3 phone calls to make sure I was filling them out correctly), along with the original death certificate, and 5 days later I saw the money in my account. It was lightening fast and I'm sure in sharp contrast to what the probated process will be like.
I know how very carefully my mother managed that money, and out of respect for that, and remembering how incredibly frugal my mother lived, I do hope to do the same. No doubt some of it was what was left of money she'd inherited from her parents decades earlier. At the same time, I don't want to simply hoard my money, being so afraid of spending it that I don't really get to enjoy it. I think my mother, who grew up in the Depression, was a little guilty of that. She hoarded everything.
Still, if and when I do spend the money, I want to spend it on meaningful, not frivolous things. In my mind, when I do sell my house, a meaningful thing would be taking a portion of my inheritance to purchase a nicer condo that I would have otherwise been able to afford. I don't plan to move again, so this will be my "retirement" home and I've long held onto the idea that this home should be a bit more luxurious than my first home, because I've earned it.
I like my house very much, but it is circa 86 years old with not-quite-level floors, beat-up walls and woodwork and stuff like that. Mice in the basement in winters is an annual reality. I would really like a fully updated kitchen but have done nothing to mine except wallpapering in the 20 years I've lived here.
Frivolous spending would be spending on things like clothes, jewelry, and random do-dads for the house although major home improvements are another thing I would willingly spend on. Like getting my driveway redone this spring, hopefully. Travel would also be well worth it, IMO.
I remember encouraging mom to replace the ratty carpeting in her condo, which she so wanted to do because of her allergies, and getting a new ceramic floor in the kitchen to replace the beat-up linoleum. I know she wanted to do both but probably ran out of steam. It would be such a huge, multi-step project just to move furniture and stuff out of the rooms. I wish I had made the time to help her figure out how to approach it. It's a little bittersweet remembering the whole thing because I did end up replacing all the carpeting in there, but she didn't get to enjoy it -- I had moved her out and into an assisted living place by that time, and the new carpeting was needed to sell the place.
Also reflected in the numbers is the fact my home value has been going sideways for a while. I can't say the value has recovered since the market peak I 2007-2008. In June 2013 it was valued at $289,000 by Zillow and today, 1.5 years later, it's valued at $286,000.
I keep plowing large sums of money into my Roth 401k accounts at work. Eventually, I hope all that bears some fruit.
Shown here is a small blue vase, which represents my 16th thing to be grateful for. You may wonder, what the heck is so special about that little ceramic vase?
I've always liked its shape, design and color. A lot. It's handmade, and the maker signed the bottom. But maybe part of the reason I like it is because I grew up with this vase. It was among my mother's possessions, and among the relatively few "trinkets" I held onto. Somehow, it was not dropped or broken all these many years. It could easily be 50 years old, which is really not that old when you think about the pyramids of Egypt, but when measured by a human's lifetime, it's practically an antique.
Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us live in an affluent society. If you see some small trinket that catches your fancy online or in a store window, you can buy it pretty easily, right?
I suppose that's a good thing, but there's something to be said for history and longevity. The world is changing all the time. I find comfort in surrounding myself with familiar possessions that hold special meaning for me because they've been a part of my family for so many years.
And so this little vase, which is worth so much than the sum of its parts, is what I'm thankful for on this 16th day of gratitude.
I am sure that anyone reading this post could think of special items they hold onto, not because they serve a certain purpose, necessarily, or because they hold great monetary value, but for reasons having to do with your family and where you came from. An anthropologist might even call this a talisman.
What are yours? 100 bonus points if you post a photo!
I think back to the many yarns and fibers I sold these past 6 months.
When the weather was still warm, I would photograph them outside to take advantage of the natural light and what I think was a handsome backdrop: my stone staircase.
Naturally I wanted to make the yarns I was selling as attractive as possible. It got to the point where I felt like I was marketing "yarn porn."
Take a look at these gorgeous shots and see if you don't agree. You don't have to be a weaver to appreciate them.
These glittery yarns, which I made a point to sell right before Christmas, were some of my best sellers. If I'd known how popular they would be, I would have priced them higher. Of course, that's what I said about a lot of things.
In addition to some very alluring photos, I also gave the colors some appealing names. This was butter yellow cotton. I would typically sell the cones for about $5 for small ones, $10 for medium-sized ones and $15 for large ones like this, which could weigh a pound or more. Depending on the fiber, they could retail for more than twice that amount.
I exhaustively researched prices for every yarn I sold. The goal was to determine the right price per ounce. Obviously I wanted to get as much as I could for them, but if they lingered on my shelving for weeks, well, I also need to get on with my life, too. I continuously adjusted my prices as needed to keep moving the merchandise!
I started out by checking retail yarn prices, then pricing mine at half that. But I found over time it was better to compare yarn prices on Etsy and then either meet those prices or slightly undercut them, because Etsy is where, I suspect, many buyers go to check prices before making an offer.
This was lipstick red cotton.
The afternoon sun created some interesting shadows with this Robin Hood green.
I called these the "fuzzy navels," because they are actually hairy. Most people don't know what to make of it. I still have a dozen of these things and I think I sold one. They are polyester, and most serious weavers are yarn snobs. They look down on synthetics. Who knew, right?
Here's another polyester that has gone unsold, despite my best efforts. I really kind of like the multi-color effect; it reminds me of the string they use to tie up your box of cake at the local bakery.
My gosh, I sold a lot of yarn cones. These are all gone, thankfully.
This roving (used by spinners) was also very hot, due to the unusual coloring. The people on these sites are very serious about their purchases, though, and they expect you to know the provenance of each yarn you sell, what breed lama/alpaca/goat, etc, its age, name and favorite snack. I'm exaggerating, of course, but only just a little.
I must say, this was a great shot in the late afternoon sun. This was "soft as a baby's bottom" roving, and it was easy to sell.
Some neutral wools...
This was the very first fiber I tried to sell, and I vastly underestimated how popular they would be. I went crazy trying to keep up with all the people saying they wanted this color or that color. I had about 50 of these cute little wool tubes from Frederick Fawcett of Boston, which has since gone out of business. I sold them for $5 a piece, a bargain, by all accounts.
This Tussah silk brought gasps of admiration, believe me. It is made by a certain type of caterpillar and I got a very good price for it.
This is not a natural fiber but I think it's a great color nonetheless. It finally sold, for a pittance.
I sure have learned a lot about fibers, not to mention, shipping via USPS and Paypal. Since most of what I sold did not have labels indicating quantity, I learned how to calculate "WPI," or "wraps per inch," which you can do easily with a pencil. Armed with that knowledge, I could then cite the yarn weight, wehether it was "fingerling," "worsted," "bulky" or "lace."
Most of these wool cones came from Plymouth Mills, one of the few mills that appears to still be in business. I know because I contacted them to try to determine if this fiber was in fact 100% wool. Thank God, for now I could make the claim it was wool and not have to worry about unhappy buyers. It really was important as far as trying to set a price on them. After I sent them an email, they confirmed they were indeed wool. I sold them 1, 2, 3 or more at a time, a very tedious process, until finally a few months back I met a woman online who wanted to buy all the wool cones I had remaining, about $400 worth. It was a lot of work to pack up 4 big boxes for her, but it helped me get through some of these yarn sales that much faster.
When I started, I had about 4 of these shelves filled with yarns, not to mention 2 folding tables and my dining room table. At this point I've sold probably 75% of my mother's stash so I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. What I have left is the synthetic stuff, the acrylics, nylons and polyesters or the ones that have no labels. It's tough to sell something if you don't know what it is. There's a burn test you can do but it you have a blend, like a polyester/cotton mix, say, the results can be inconclusive so I don't rely on the burn test too much.
I've been selling yarns since I guess late May. Never really mentioned it here that much because you guys aren't fiber people, but this has taken up SO much of my spare time. I thought I'd share all these photos with you as it's been quite the journey. It kind of became a hobby for me and now I don't want to get rid of quite all my yarn photos. It will remind me of these upside down, emotional days.
I've also met a lot of very very nice middle-aged women who live locally and came to the house to buy. It's been a very interesting experience. I had no idea, starting out, these yarns were so valuable.
This is a basket of Thai jute, just one of a zillion fibers I sold on Facebook or to local weavers.
Heating oil prices now down to $1.39 a gallon. I could have pulled the trigger and ordered a fill-up of my tank, but I think it will continue to fall, so might as well wait. When I consider that I paid an average $3.22 a gallon in the 2010-2011 heating season....but the worst was in 2008, when I paid $4.24 a gallon to stay warm.
I called a few contractors today looking for estimates on two spring projects I'd like to tackle: 1) the repaving of my driveway and 2) installation of a hand rail for my newly redone front stairway (outside).
The driveway is in pretty rough shape. I dislike the look of an all-asphalt driveway, especially as I have a pretty big area at the top which opens up. So the one guy I could reach on the phone was the one who rebuilt my stone staircase outside and did a very nice job with the paver landing at the top, right in front of my front door.
He doesn't do asphalt drives, but he does do paver drives. If the price was right, I might consider hiring him to the top half of the driveway in pavers and hire another company to do asphalt on the hill.
Pavers at the top of the drive, surrounded by my stone walls, would really make it look like a courtyard.
The hand rail will be a small job and in fact I hope I don't have trouble getting someone to even bid o it since it's not much money involved. I'd like to see them bolt the hand railing into one side of the stone wall rather than have vertical posts bolted to the bluestone stairs themselves. These would get in the way of potted plants I like to keep on the stairs. Heck, maybe I can get my handyman to do this. I just don't want mishaps drilling a hole into the stone and possibly weakening/dislodging/damaging it.
Going to see 13 hours this weekend with my dad.
I decided to donate $100 to Bat Conservation International today. I used to be a member in years past. What's great is that now I register with my employer to have them match my donation. There's another group, a local horse rescue group that rehabs neglected or abused horses and puts them up for adoption, that was not on my employer's database of nonprofits but I submitted an app to register that group so my donation to them could also be matched.
This guy looks so darn huggable, doesn't he?
I've gotten what I believe is the last statement from Medicare, which indicates I may have to pay over $4,000 in numerous bills to the local hospital doctors, etc. The number of items listed is dizzying. I will wait for the actual bill(s) to arrive themselves. They mostly seem within reason and were covered by Medicare, with various co-pays needing payment by me, except for one big bill for $800-odd dollars, that was no covered by Medicare because, I assume, it was a duplicate. So hopefully that's not going to be an issue to dispute.
I heard back, finally, from Masonicare about whether or not they are going to reimburse me for the comforter that disappeared after it was laundered. They will. They will issue a check for $38 and change. Small victories. The letter of grievances will still be written about much more important matters. I need to do it while memories are still fresh, but I know I am procrastinating about it because to write it means I have to relive it again.
I'm so enjoying the final season of Downton Abby. It's like a feast for the eyes to look upon the inside of that castle and the clothing everyone wears. Just love it.
I am way behind on my Days of Gratitude but it is hard when you mostly stay cooped up indoors.
I don't think I mentioned, but on Sunday, the day after the big snowstorm, after I shoveled out my driveway and ran some errands, I decided to swing by the cemetery to see if they installed the stone or not. I parked outside the gate and walked up the hill, which hadn't been cleared. I trudged through the snow and already the tears began to fall. I kept looking up toward where I thought the stone would be, and there it was. He did a very good job of it. But I couldn't tell if they'd been able to dig the footing or not, due to the snow, and later I learned they had not been able to cus the ground was too frozen. If they have to wait til spring to do it, I may not want to wait because I am anxious, as executor, to pay off all final bills as expediently as possible. Though if I pay him now, as I sort of plan to, it could give him a reason to possibly put off doing the footing, I don't know.
Waking back down the hill, there was such a great view of some boys playing ice hockey on the frozen pond. So Norman Rockwellian. Wish I'd had my camera with me.
I woke up this morning at 6:52 a.m., about the time I naturally awaken, but as so happens with me, my brain had crystalized someting very important even before I was fully conscious.
It was well before my mother died that I began privately maintaining a laundry list of grievances with the nursing home. I wanted to write a long and detailed letter, addressed to the chairman of the board of directors, and possibly cc a few people at the state agencies that oversee nursing homes.
At so many levels, in ways small and large, Masonicare could have done so much better for my mom, and I believe if they had, my mother still might be here today.
First and foremost, the quality of their rehab. One hour of physical therapy a day following hip fracture surgery is simply not enough for an elderly person to recover! Can't stress this enough. I brought this up all along the way, at the so-called Family Meetings I had with an array of healthcare providers at Masonicare, to the nurses and aides on staff, etc.
I didn't realize I have a choice. My cousins mentioned that some places are better than others, and that some may provide 2 hours of rehab a day. Too late to look into that now, but if I had known then what I know now, I never would have settled for 1 hour of therapy daily, even if the nursing home was located much further from my home and work.
The crappy state of their diet plan is #2 on my list. I've gone into it before, but it is founded on the standard American diet filled with sugar, sugar and more sugar, processed food, salt, etc. The ONLY fresh fruit I EVER saw there was watermelon. The dietician was noticeably defensive when I tried to tactfully raise this subject, and even when I was able to make some simple modifications to my mom's diet, they WERE NOT implemented because the stupid food servers consistently ignored the written orders due to laziness on their part.
Loss of personal items is a minor point but one I will still make. In fact, it was Masonicare's refusal to reimburse me a measly $40 for the disappearance of my mother's comforter (after I donated a $1400 scoot chair paid for out of pocket..a whole other fiasco) that I decided to press forward with my letter. They said they couldn't reimburse, after searching for it unsuccessfully, because I had not labeled it, like I did the clothes. They have a blanket statement in all the paperwork you receive saying they're not responsible for personal possessions but I'm sorry, there needs to be accountability somewhere. You can't just make a blanket statement and consider it a given.
And yes, I will certainly bring up the scoot chair. I thought it was the answer to my prayers and the only thing that seemed to prevent my mother from getting up by herself and falling again. She was falling repeatedly, starting when she was still at assisted living and continuing after the surgery in rehab, even with a nurse right in the same room. They seemed powerless to prevent it. This special chair, which sits low to the ground and which was usually on back order at the Canadian company where it is made, was highly recommended by a social worker at Masonicare, Wallingford, ok'd by the director of admissions at Masonicare Newtown, only to be taken away at the direction of the head of rehab who said the angle my mother was sitting in the chair was not good for her post- hip surgery. Fine, but why was I permitted and cleared to buy this chair in the first place then if he had the ability to naysay it?
This may provide me with some closure on these topics. Maybe they will throw it away and avoid dealing with it and give me some token response. But maybe they will take it to heart and do something about it. I owe it to my mother to try this.
The tiger inside me is growling.
I am grateful for my education.
I have so many fond memories of Wheaton's lovely old campus with its ivy-covered brick buildings, how my mind was opened up by reading and learning, and the little pond with all its geese. I took one anthropology course with just one other student! They didn't cancel the course! We met at the professor's house on the edge of campus. So wonderful.
Another course on German literature had just 3 of us students. It was so great to get such undivided attention and to have your thoughts and feelings heard.