Home > Archive: July, 2024

Archive for July, 2024

Cash needs and income considerations

July 19th, 2024 at 12:36 am

This is to be the last year of enforced frugality since I intend to ensure my health insurance remains moderately priced. To do that, I have to limit my overall income to around $37K for the year (even tho I start Medicare next month), and for the YTD ending in June, I only grossed about $12,000 in taxable income for the 1st 6 months of the year(!) if my numbers are correct. That would be my monthly annuity and some dividends/cap gains from 3 of my mutual funds. Plus I also got some decently sized state and federal tax refunds earlier in the year so that was used for living expenses and kept in my checking account.

I haven't had to do any IRA distributions so far this year, but the 2nd half of the year would likely require a cash infusion.  I hadn't planned on doing any home improvements this year, besides the heat pump hot water heater I did in January, since taking more distributions would boost my reportable income. But then after getting a garage door repair that put some holes in my garage ceiling, I knew I wanted to have that ceiling retaped and spackled. It's been an eyesore for years and needs attention, and those holes will allow entry for mice if I don't cover them.

So to cover this upcoming expense, I transferred most of what remained in an online money market acount so it would have no impact on my reportable income for the year. I think I'm paying $1600 for the garage ceiling redo.

I have been avoiding unnecessary purchases, but my checking account will eventually dwindle, so what I would like to do is direct my $12K IRA 5-year CD, which is maturing in September, to my checking account as a distribution when it's mature.  I had wanted to do this in the prior 5-year CD term when it matured and was still with State Farm Bank, but trying to get the paperwork from Vanguard in a timely manner to do a transfer just didn't happen and I ran out of time, so I was stuck with ANOTHER 5-year term, and then State Farm became US Bank, or at least my CD became theirs.

I figure taking the distribution directly in my checking account will be much easier as I won't have to rely on Vanguard to do anything. So the $12k will be more than enough to cover my living expenses for the remainder of 2024 and still keep my income very low for the year. At least I think so. I just need to get thru August and another 2 weeks in September with about $4500 remaining in my checking account after paying for the garage ceiling and car/home insurance. It could be close.  I also went ahead and stopped auto distributions of those Vanguard dividends/cap gains funds to my checking, becus that could push me a little beyond the income I want to be at, and it's hard to control income when each distribution is a different amount. So if I need more $$ toward year's end, I could do a small IRA distribution.


Monday musings

July 15th, 2024 at 02:44 pm

So I'm eating my morning breakfast cereal today, as I always do, when, after 3 or 4 spoonfuls of deliciousness, I look down at the bowl to see what looked like an earwig resting at the top rim of the bowl, on the inside. Like it had just crawled out after being submerged in soy milk.


I had to dump it. It just grossed me out. Since the blueberries came from a frozen bag and I'm pretty sure it didn't come from the half gallon of soy milk, it must've crawled into to 1 of the 2 glass cereal canisters I keep on the countertop (mason-type jars), OR the bag of raisins OR the glass jar of walnuts. I checked each to be sure there weren't others.

I very recently decided to divest myself of a lot of unframed art my mother had created. To sell it, I would have to frame it, and many of these people were quite large (like 2 x 3 feet), making framing not only very expensive but also very heavy and unwieldy.

So I decided to gift close to a dozen pieces on my Buy Nothing group (where you can just acquire just about anything, from a canoe to a set of dishes to yes, a work of art).

I wasn't sure there would be much interest in my mother's modern/abstract art, but I have been gratified to see how much interest and appreciation there has been. Much of my mother's work sat in storage in a spare bedroom for the past 8 years. I only have so much wall space. I have sold some of her work and donated other pieces, too, but I am gifting the unframed stuff. The room is by no means cleaned out, but I still felt a great sense of lightness having taken some concrete steps to do something with the art. Better they go to people who can enjoy and display them than sit gathering dust in my spare bedroom.

I do feel pangs of regret parting with some of it and it's definitely got me thinking more about my mother. I also wonder if I'm going to regret doing this later.  I think she would understand, but still, I do feel a certain sense of loss and dare I say, guilt, in giving these away.

The other thing I tackled yesterday after thinking about it all year was herbicide treatment  to kill tree of heaven saplings that popped up all over the property after I tried cutting them down several years in a row. This is one of a handful of invasive plants that MUST be treated with herbicide. It's also a host plant to the spotted lantern fly.

I had to mix the herbicide with an oil (for better adhesion), then add food dye so I can keep track of which saplings I've treated. There are probably a few dozen here. (I'm also keeping a written list with the date, since you need to wait 30 days for it to die before cutting it down.) Cutting it down before it's dead will stimulate it to spread even more.  Anyway, I knew I had just one day (yesterday) to get started on this before the heat wave returns for most of the week. I waited til 4 pm but it was still hot as heck, and you have to wear long pants, socks, long sleeves, and mask. Because I had to clear all the vegetation surrounding the tree of heaven, including poison ivy (most all located in the brushy perimeter of the property), I was only able to treat 3 saplings in 2 hours.

The optimal window for doing this treatment is between mid-July and September, when the plant is sending sugars/carbohydrates down to its roots. If you do it another time, it won't be effective.

I'm getting too old to have to do this kind of thing. Which is the reason I've also been thinking in recent weeks (again) that I should sell this place and move to a condo. The challenge now is the really tight real estate market. My greatest preference would be to remain in my hometown here, but it never had a lot of condos, and with this market, even fewer listings.

My second choice would be a particular complex in neighboring town (where my dad lives now) but it only has about 90 units and there aren't usually more than a handful on the market at any one time. I also like the units in the much larger complex (several thousand!) nearby it, but there are 2 problems with that complex: the garages are detached and a bit of a walk to your unit, so not so nice if you're carrying groceries or it's raining, and 2) the common charges are quite high, like $700 to $800/month, due to the extensive landscaped grounds. It's like a small village unto itself. The units at the small complex that I like has attached garages and look very much like single family homes, each unit with its own yard and very private back deck or patio, usually fronting woods.

I've even been looking for updated ranches on small lots in my hometown, but not much of those, either. I won't buy a fixer upper at this stage of my life. My worst fear is that my home would likely sell fairly quickly, but then I'd feel pressured to buy something I wasn't really in love with, or feel pressured to buy when there simply weren't many choices. I don't plan to move again, so it needs to be a great fit.

So thoughts of moving sometime in the next few years are part of what's driving my divestiture of art work. I've been very slowly decluttering household items, and have made a list of maintenance/repairs that I feel should be done before I put anything on the market. I am hoping that I could wait out the tight inventory market and that things will improve in a year or two, but I don't really know.

I've done some cost comparisons of certain expenses like property taxes, lawncare, snow removal, monthly condo charges, etc. Even though my favorite condo in neighboring town includes TV and Internet in what its common charges cover, I still would be paying roughly $4,000 more a year to live in a smaller condo than here in my freestanding home. And that's before factoring in senior tax credits for my hometown. (There are both state and local senior tax credit programs, but even the more generous town program in this neighboring town has an income limit of just $53,400; my current town has a more generous income limit.)  Probably becus I really do live pretty frugally here, still shoveling my own snow, which I know I can't do forever. And I don't pay any monthly fees for TV.

I just have been realizing that, not only is the care and maintenance of this property something I'm not doing a very good job at (and likely never will), but it also takes up an inordinate amount of my time when, increasingly, I'd rather be doing something else, plus it's become a source of anxiety knowing stuff needs to be done but I'm not doing it, often due to tick season or extreme heat making it very difficult. My feelings were different when I bought this place at age 36, when I embraced all the yard work and enjoyed it.  Sigh.


My credit score, Medicare and what have you....

July 10th, 2024 at 01:26 pm

I think this is about as near perfect a credit score as I've ever had: 100% on-time payments, a 33-year credit card payment history and well over $100K in available credit while only utilizing 1%.

Once I paid off my mortgage in 2012, I didn't think a credit score would be that important to me anymore since I didn't see myself needing it to buy another home or car. But, you never know. I plan to purchase a new vehicle next year; it's unlikely Toyota would see a need to offer 0% or 1% financing, but you never know....

Last night around 7 pm I saw a bobcat passing through my back yard. Not the first time, but the first time since September 2022. I do have a litter of 5 baby skunks with a burrow in my yard but disappointinly have not seen them since they made their first appearance a week or so ago when I was weeding. The are the cutest things. When they are this young, they all "walk as one."

Girls night out last weekend at the vineyard was cancelled due to the weather. We're now setting our sights on an International Festival in nearby small city that is mostly centered on live music and ethnic foods.

Dad and I went to lunch at a certain restaurant near him. The bill was $90 before tip. I think that's the last time we go there. It's good, but actually sometimes hit or miss, and there are other restaurants I like better. It's just so darn convenient.

I'm all set with Medicare and my Medigap plan, have my ID cards and am ready to go. But I was very disappointed to learn that Medicare does not cover standard physicals with the usual bloodwork. I like that extra level of reassurance that all is well each year. Medicare covers so-called "wellness visits," which mainly consist of cognition questions (!), a review of recommended vaccinations and going over your medical history.

In fact, no one told me about this, I just "realized" it on my own. So I had to scramble to to cancel a longstanding September physical and was able to squeeze it in this wee, this being the last month I have standard insurance. I'm getting the bloodwork for it done today.

One thing I want to do is find a new dentist. Since that's not covered by my traditional Medicare, I will pay out of pocket regardless, but the dentist in a neighboring town retired a year or more ago, and I'm not sure I want to continue with his successors. She gave me such a hard time about not wanting to do dental x-rays and said I would need to sign a "waiver," which seemed like scare tactics to me. It will be easier to find a dentist right here in town, anyway.

One interesting thing about my Medicare premiums is that they bill you on a quarterly basis. I just paid the first one. They let you pay for free with a credit card, so I figured I might as well get some rewards points for it.


















I didn't think I'd ever need to worry abo