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Happy 2016! My yearly NYD entry

January 1st, 2016 at 05:05 pm

Ahhh, New Year's, the time when old men's thoughts return to financial survival! At least mine do!

As usual, I am stressing big time over huge college costs and the resulting student loans for my kids. Throw in that I am nearing retirement age, so as Homer Simpson says, it just gets worse and worse! But time for the tough to get going, I suppose!

As much as you can get involved in a philosophical debate about how long to support your progeny (20s? 30s? OK, 40s and they are out!), to me it sort of comes down to survival. So far I have followed the usual advice to consider your own retirement first, but it kills me to see my daughter head into 5 years of low paying residency and letting those loans compound like a cancer if she has to do income based repayment. So my original plan was to cover the payments for those 5 years, but now that it is nearly time, I am getting a little sticker shock here! But mainly it is the fruitlessness of just paying a ton of interest every month. In retrospect, I certainly wish we had entered an "austerity" budget 4 or more years ago and paid as we went, but the costs were just so high that I guess I froze up and took the easy way out. So the only thing it looks like we can do now are somehow refinance and/or just try to pay them down.

I am bothering the forums asking about this, and I am getting some good input, like the loan forgiveness plan that was apparently put in place around 2007 for people in public service occupations, so I am doing some research, but it appears that most of the residencies my daughter is considering do not meet the requirements for that plan.

OK, sorry for such a bummer post to start the new ear, but I need to work on this and you guys are one of the best support systems around! Thanks for listening, if anyone is still reading, that is. Smile

Oh yeah, to add a touch of positivity, I did FINALLY manage to lose about 10 pounds last year, so that proves that longstanding problems CAN be successfully addressed. Like finance, it is a matter of simple math, but both can still seem to be wicked problems!

A major rebate fail - damage control time

October 7th, 2012 at 03:52 pm

I did something so dumb that I am beside myself. When we got a new heater and furnace, the heating contractor told me that the people that handle those are terrible - that they always say they lost the forms. But the only thing I did in defense was to (hopefully) keep a copy, that I have not yet found.

In retrospect, why the heck didn't I send it certified or registered mail? I called the company around the 120 day mark, which is when they said it would come, and there was still no sign of it.

And don't get me started - they didn't lose it, they obviously flushed it! So lazy people like me are easy prey for their sleazy tactics. This brings out the fight in me - hence the damage control. I know my chances of recovery are zilch if I can't locate the copies. But what are my chances if I do?

Are shortcuts really inherently bad? Why do they have such a bad reputation?

August 29th, 2010 at 12:28 pm

What do you think of when you hear the word "shortcut"? Is it a negative or positive thought?

I think I most often hear it in business situations like this: "he tried to shortcut it, and now it's all messed up". I guess there is some merit in that way of looking at it since business needs to be pretty proceduralized and we can't have people just winging it because they think they know better than the official procedure. But the flip side of that is good procedures evolve from good input, and my thought is that when that doesn't happen people get frustrated and try to "shortcut" it. But if you take "shotcut it" to mean "improve" it, and they go about it the right way by providing useful feedback to the procedure owner, and the owner then adds it and gets it properly reviewed and approved to assure that there are no unintended ill-effects, the net result should without fail be positive.

So all that said, I am a BIG fan of shortcuts. So in an effort to improve them so we can make greater use of them, shouldn't we take a look at their failings? I'll use the common computer example of browser shortcuts since that is easy for all of us to relate to which makes it very illustrative.

Some common failings of browser shortcuts:
1. Too many to quickly read through to find what you want.
2. Out of date or dead links.
3. Forgotten.
4. No longer of interest.
5. Other? Let's hear 'em!

So what tips or tricks do you have for maintaining good browser Bookmarks/Favorites, Whatever?

At work, I have a pretty deeply nested and hierarchical list that serves me well. It is pretty darn big list that has developed over the years, so of course it benefits greatly from a periodic (and it can be infrequent, like once a year or so) cleanup to remove dead links, defragment, repack, etc. I just recently did that and now it works MUCH better for me. The main thing was to re-alphabetize, where the need results from my bad habit of ad-hoc addition of new ones at the bottom of the list instead of taking the few seconds to find the proper category. Just the act of thinking about it how it fits in helps keep me organized.

I have yet to have a similar success at home. But one trick I use everywhere that has also helped at home is to create digital "junk drawers" or "Little Used" folders to hold stuff that I might have looked at once and then didn't have a regular need for. Of course it is good to sift through them once in a while also to make sure something doesn't get forgotten.

So what are you tips and tricks? Something elaborate like Del.ico.ocious (what ever the heck that is)?

Or something more simple? In the extreme case, I recently heard of someone who simply deleted ALL of his shortcuts because what the heck, everything is just a quick Google away anyway, so why not? Although I doubt many of us would go that far, I think that keeping them well organized would go a long way in preventing the urge to nuke your shortcuts like that.

So FINALLY, I have stopped my verbose outpouring and it is your turn to comment, dear readers, if any of you have persevered this far. Smile

My tax refund was FINALLY credited to my acccount!

June 16th, 2010 at 11:23 pm

This is a new record, mid-June. I made an incredibly small omission on my Schedule A when I submitted it in mid-February, and I didn't get a letter about a problem until about April 15. I promptly mailed the small correction, and received my refund 8 weeks later. The (*&%%% government got some pretty good use out of my money for about 2 extra months! And it was pretty substantial due to college tax credits. OK, next year, maybe I better have someone else look it over first!

There is No Doubt on what category to file this one under!

Oh man! I only paid off a net $100/month over the last four months!

January 17th, 2010 at 02:45 pm

This is despite thousands in payments. No, I don't have massive interest rates (although some have skyrocketed and need to be paid off badly, Capital One), but I do have massive Christmas costs that pretty much offset my payments.

I guess I need to get more serious - I think getting some Dave Ramsey books is in order. I have got the family on board more than before, but Christmas has ALWAYS been our Achilles Heel. I would like nothing better than to institute a no charge policy for Christmas. We have at least made most Christmas costs clothing costs which have come down somewhat over the rest of the year. For now I will go run some numbers on Quickenonline, my usual post-Christmas wallowing in grief. making me wait.

January 10th, 2010 at 04:51 pm

I REALLY need to lick my procrastination problem this year. So how about some good suggestions from you people?

It is so true - the payoff from procrastination is immediate and always good. But the payoff for hard work is delayed and not quite as certain. I do get immediate payoff from simple but critical tasks completed, ESPECIALLY when completed early, but still I find myself avoiding them. And as for the hard tasks...don't ask!

I came here because I realized by far my favorite mode of procrastination was the Internet, and at least here I can hopefully use the Internet productively.

OK, off to do some work for a while! Smile

The New Year, Debt, and Insanity...

January 9th, 2010 at 02:58 pm

I always love the fresh start in January, and if you plotted my post frequency here, well.. (maybe I'll actually do that for fun!). You know, - a new year, fresh beginnings, all that crap. Smile

I love doing the small things I can do to try to crawl out of debt - mainly economizing on food and cars and other household expenses. But as I was doing the math on the new year, I realize that that ain't enough! While we do finally now spend less than I make (except of course for college), the margin is pretty darn thin! So small stuff ain't gonna' do it. Frown

I have no real point here, just thinking out loud. And you know the old saw about insanity is doing the same old thing and expecting different results. I think I have managed on some level to convince my girls that money is hard to retain. They both realize they need to cut back on daily expenses and they do very well on that for the most part, but they love their big somewhat expensive trips. I guess you are only young once, and at least they know the trade-off they are making.

I think my malaise has to do with how the US has become a place where it is very costly to live! That has to be leading to our non-competitiveness, when you consider that we pay WAY more than most places to support our government. OK, maybe Europe etc. does pay more, but they get more in return, like HEALTH CARE! I'm mostly looking at China and India who are both chock full of people quite willing to do jobs we used to do for a LOT less, and IMO that has to be mainly due to a smaller government tax burden, cost of insurance, etc. Maybe not, but I think it's a good guess!

So anyway, help me out! How can I stop being insane, live a good life and pay off this darn debt?! What hurts me is I LOVE a frugal life, but trying to live like most Americans is what put us in this hole. That debt is mostly clothes, toys (I HATE AMERICAN GIRL), vacations, years of swim and dance lessons with associated costs, and eating out, AFAIK. We have always been pretty darn frugal on cars, buying good ones and driving them until they drop.

My latest quandary - negative item on credit report

October 29th, 2009 at 12:48 am

How do you deal with these? I am afraid I will do the wrong thing and make it worse, so that is paralyzing me and stopping me from doing anything.

I posted this question in the forum but I am still perplexed. The problem is an old medical bill for a dermatologist that the HMO kept refusing to pay by telling us we didn't have proper authorization. We tried and tried but got nowhere with them, and then somehow I missed it when the idiots turned it over to a collection agency, who then put the negative item on the credit report.

I will keep researching but if anyone here has had experience with this, please let me know.

This is putting my life on hold and I have a tuition bill coming up in January. We had been squeaking by with private loans. Much as I hate that, it is better than tapping my savings that are all in IRAs.

So are colleges exempt from the law of supply and demand?

September 27th, 2009 at 03:02 pm

I guess we'll see, but I suspect that they are exempt - they certainly seem to have been so far. I know that state colleges are bursting at the seams as kids and parents shun the high priced private colleges (and very rightfully so). And I would imagine Community Colleges are booming also.

So how will the high priced private colleges deal with declining enrollments? And I'm not really sure if they have that or not - I guess all I know for sure is that state colleges are very full.

I guess the only real economical choice a student and parent have in the short term is to move down from state to community colleges for at least the first two years. There are just a handful of reasonably priced private colleges that I know of. There should be a thriving bunch of them. But maybe it takes real work (and a healthy endowment) to keep costs down and only a handful of colleges have that. A problem for me is that if my kid prefers the large university, the affordable private choices are about nil. There are a few small colleges that hold costs down, but they are pretty boring places!

As you may be able to tell, this drives me crazy! To have my life savings evaporated in a few short college years exasperates me to no end.

What's your biggest financial lesson? Mine is today is tomorrow.

August 22nd, 2009 at 05:11 pm

I am a born procrastinator, and it has and is costing me dearly. The bad part is it is a progressive disease. Fall a little behind, no big deal, you can set aside some time and work extra hard to catch up. The all nighter syndrome a few of us may remember from our school daze. And it actually feels good to work hard and complete something. But fall behind big time, and you start to lose hope. THEN it starts to get REAL bad. Little things turn big and snowball, another term and concept that we debt-troubled people are all too familiar with.

In contrast, I know a guy, a former Boy Scout, who always does things as soon as he can. And he is a financial rock of Gibralter, I'm sure largely due to that and other good habits. He says he grew up poor, but I think it is also due to the Boy Scout experience, probably along with genes. My nature, in contrast, is a laid back "thinker", an absent minded professor who is interested in concepts rather than details. Needless to say, that ain't good in the anal world of finance. I try to concentrate and focus and I succeed for a while, but it's always a struggle and I then backslide big time.

It is an interesting paradox. The payoff for procrastination is obvious and I am hooked on it. But the payoff for hard work is also obvious, and I also love that. But it takes hard work! And actually, I'm more a fan of easy but satisfying work - you know - doing the laundry, etc. So a lot of financial chores actually do fall in that category - paying the bills, keeping track of a budget, etc. But I tend to put it off too long even though it is relatively easy. After thinking about it a while it is the feeling of being overwhelmed that snowballs on me. So now, since I have LOTS of saved up "staycation" (a vacation that isn't dirt cheap is, in my current financial situation, absolutely unthinkable). So cheer for me as I try to work hard to bail out the sinking financial ship.

By the way, what is your biggest financial lesson?

So is the credit crunch a good thing?

August 3rd, 2009 at 09:47 pm

Is the way CC companies are closing down lines of credit just a return to fiscal sanity? Will it force people with debt problems to bite the bullet and get 'em paid off?

I have mixed feelings, but in the long run it's probably a good thing. They got some of us hooked on crack and now they have withdrawn it suddenly.

So my big question is will colleges respond to supply and demand, and lower their prices as people who used to depend on student loans are denied en masse? My feeling is no, they will behave more like government, where the only way to cover their uncontrolled expenses is to keep jacking up the price. At least until people figure out alternatives to college.

Oh man - what a difference a year makes!

July 29th, 2009 at 01:51 am

I applied for a private student loan for my college daughter, and I was turned down, even with me as a co-signer, they said because of my credit rating! And last year I got one at 1% over prime. So in one year I apparently went from a very good rating to trash? I think the credit crunch is hitting big time!

This really stinks. I had planned to use loans to get both daughters through, and then once I could withdraw from a 401k after age 59.5 to get them paid off. But I was concerned that this might happen. Why have I died and gone to hell?

Ack!! I am now paying almost $20 per day in CC interest! I'm bleeding!

January 24th, 2009 at 12:25 am

On what used to be at 0% and 2%. Soo, my choices at this point are:
1. Withdraw from savings, take a huge tax hit and likely some penalty.
2. Keep desperately trying to refinance somewhere below 12%.
4. Remortgage. I think I have about 6 years left at 5.75%. I have plenty of equity but it makes me sick to even think of doing this.
5. Pay big bucks to get a financial planner who specializes in disaster recovery!
6. Run away to Brazil.

And of course continue to squeeze the budget, but it takes time to squeeze out this kind of dough.

Do you suffer from "dual-income" envy?

January 22nd, 2009 at 05:27 pm

I sure do! It all started when I was in my early 20s looking to buy a house, but the starter housing market in my area was VERY hot in the early to mid-80s as interest rates were dropping from terrible highs. Anyway, I kept getting outbid for houses. I blamed the ability of those in dual-income marriages to bid more for my inability to buy a house.

And now years later, when I hear people talking about "banking my wife's paycheck", it almost makes me physically ill! I realize it is a trade-off, and that my kids probably benefitted greatly from a stay-at-home Mom, but now that they are over 16, money would be of more use.

Anyway, I guess I have to get over it! I just wanted to see if any other single income families are feeling the heat like I am!

Where the sidewalk ends - the end of the 0% game

January 21st, 2009 at 02:20 am

The day I have been dreading for years is finally here - I can't refinance my wug of debt at 0% or 2% anymore. So now it's time to pay the piper, for the CC companies to get even with me for living off them for years now, to the tune of 12% and 14%!! But I can't afford to pay that rate, not without a fight!

So I'm entertaining ideas on what to do next! Every time I look at the taxes and penalty for withdrawing from my old work plan from a job that ended in 1995 that was SUPPOSED to be a savings plan, (a good bit of it is after-tax money), I get extremely shell-shocked. It seems like they force you to take money out of both before tax and after tax at the ratio of assets, which certainly wasn't the deal when I was actively employed at that company.

So my wife is still getting 0% offers even though she has no income, but she doesn't want the debt in her name. But that seems like the only easy way out, although I assume she will have very small credit limits. Discover has a nice deal at 4% until 21014 I think - that should give us time to get it paid off.

Let this be a lesson to those of you out there struggling to stay out of holes like this!

How did I let this happen?

January 17th, 2009 at 04:08 am

I still can't believe that I am struggling under a mountain of CC debt at my age, since I have a good job and I personally am pretty darn frugal. When I think back at what snowflakes make up those big snowballs of debt, it's too much stuff (I LOVE Delbert McClinton's song of that name). A particularly bad memory is American Girl dolls - my wife blew a TON of money on that junk. But I guess the bottom line is it's my fault for not laying down the law. The fact is it is darn hard to live the life we have lived on one salary. Other things in those snowballs are every vacation we ever took after kids, I suppose. Also in there are swim and dance classes for the girls. There's a lot of costly packaged food in there, as well as too much dining out. Definitely WAY too many clothes for the girls, one that REALLY irks me.

So the irony is that in trying not to be the bad guy, we are much worse off than if I had had a backbone and stopped the insanity. I'm not sure what my point here is, other than to think out loud on what is in those snowballs of debt. The immediate problem is I'm not even sure we have stopped digging, so like every governor in the country I am scrambling to cut costs to the bone. Oh well, what's life without a challenge?

So who else is mad at themselves for missing the Google IPO a few years ago?

January 10th, 2009 at 01:38 pm

I saw a graph somewhere about how phenomenally the stock has done since its release. It reminds me of all the old people who used to say that about Xerox. I guess I figured that the market was more sophisticated now, and also I think it was pretty difficult to get in on it. It would have had to been in my retirement savings, which is fine, but only a very small portion is in a 401k or IRA that allows purchase of individual stocks.

Oh well!

And I'm not even sure how it has done in the bear market. On a related note, anyone who went into cash before the market crashed must be pretty darn happy!

Paying for Christmas Past, Present, and Future - a Christmas Carol

January 8th, 2009 at 11:08 pm

It has gotten to the point where I hate to see the holidays coming because it means going deeper into debt every year. So I can't set aside money to pay for Christmas Future because I am still paying for Christmas Past and Present. And I can see it in my FICO score, which has a seasonal pattern, dipping around the holidays, recovering slowly throughout the year, and then repeating the cycle by dropping sharply at year end again.

I think we have done marginally better thus year, but it's still bad. OK, I guess I'm done venting, I just wanted to get in that part about how still paying for Christmas Past is no fun. Smile

How do you stay focused on saving money?

January 4th, 2009 at 04:40 pm

As in most things, I tend to run hot and cold - I'll go whole hog on an effort only to burn out and ignore it for months at a time. One thing I MUST do better this year is to keep up with the mail and related financial commitments. But my situation is so depressing that can be difficult.

I think the answer is to be disciplined and segment each day into chores that must be done, i.e don't ignore things and let them pile up. Pretty simple plan, right? But not too easy to maintain.

I guess it is directly analogous to weight maintenance, another area I am falling down on. So unlike thin and rich, you CAN be too poor and fat!

Overall I have all the tools in my arsenal - I have a hobby that I love and that keeps me sane and is my main form of exercise - cycling. My weakness is that I tend to waste time on the Internet while ignoring household work, so this year I have renewed focus on ensuring that at least some of that time is here, where there is much comraderie and help to be found, so thanks! As far as the neglecting household work, I guess I may have a true Internet addiction. As they say, procrastination pays off NOW, and hard work only pays off over time, so...

Anyway, thanks for listening. I think I may have to reclassify this post as a rant! Smile Which brings up a fascinating question to me - how to classify posts - it seems to be a real art, a lot of it in picking useful minimally overlapping categories in the first place! For now, I put this one in all categories!

Cell phone rant!

January 3rd, 2009 at 01:01 pm

Man, these things are a budget killer! So I wonder what people gave up for this new toy? I know, I'm very late to the party, they have been de rigeur for YEARS now, but it still makes me mad to pay for them for the family. Of course them all getting new phones right at Christmas time didn't help. Arghhh.

But I wonder, what has been given up for these things? Probably savings. Frown

Financial Denial and Hopelessness

May 18th, 2008 at 06:52 pm

I have a feeling that "financial denial" is a major cog in the credit industry's machinery. Back in the day, people didn't have this tool to get them in financial trouble, they just had to suck it up and stop spending, to balance their budget in real time! I know I have always hated to think about money, and that's a mental block I really need to work harder to get past. And my immediate family also has it, big time. They are all too happy to let me suffer through the misery of trying to make ends meet all on my own. I've said it here before, that I always meant to go all Ross Perot on their ***es, to show them just where the problem is and what we have to do. I suppose it all comes down to me being too much of a wimp. But I am quite aware that it's doing my daughters much more harm to allow this to continue to fester than to get them involved in buckling down and dealing with life.

That said, when expenses just rain down, I understandably get depressed. Large dental bills, the ever increasing gas and food bite, and the big kahuna college along with persistent old debt can be a TAD overwhelming.

My current financial state...

April 1st, 2008 at 08:33 pm

Screwed! Well, not totally, yet, but I sure feel like it. I am realizing that I can't use my 401k for the kids' college costs because withdrawals go against my income, so I would qualify for no financial aid at all if I do that. And I can't borrow the whole thing, especially for 7 years in a row. And to make a sad story even sadder, it looks like my FICO score went down recently after I had to refinance some expiring 0% debt to a promotional 1.99%. BoA juggled the credit limits on three CC accounts I had with them. They said it wouldn't adversely affect my FICO score, but something sure did last month - not sure how much lag time is involved, it could also have been financing $10k of college costs on a credit card back in January.

So if anyone can see any bright lights at the end of the tunnel for me that isn't a train, please let me know! Thanks.

Small victories and big setbacks

January 21st, 2008 at 12:02 am

We avoided ordering out two nights this weekend, probably saving about $30 - not too bad, definitely a much-needed step in the right direction. Annualized, that comes out to $1560 after tax dollars!! And speaking of tax, it's good to keep in mind that ordering out is penalized by the government with the 7% sales tax.

So the major setback was that onto the CC went college books and a few hundred of travel expenses for taking my daughter back to college and stocking her up, totalling darn near $1000. Oh my, college is going to be a miserable financial experience!

So do you feel sorry for BoA, Chase, Citigroup, etc.?

January 18th, 2008 at 10:42 am

I find it pretty amazing that they can have so much loss from bad debt. CEOs and other executives get paid all these millions and they still make fundamental blunders like that? And for those of us working to pay off debts, how does it make you feel to see so many people just get to write theirs off? Sure, it comes with a lot of pain, I'm sure, but it still seems like we are heavily subsidizing people who made bad decisions, whether through the stock market crashing or public bailouts and stimulus packages being tossed around frantically in DC right now.

Our automotive black cloud (hit and runs)

January 11th, 2008 at 12:01 am

My wife is dealing with a hit and run in a parking lot now, making a police report, I think. So I wonder if my insurance company will jack up our rates again, even if we don't make a claim??! (See earlier similar rant). It feels like I am in the Twilight Zone since we keep getting hit and our rates keep going up at the same time our cars get more dented. The high school parking lot took a HUGE toll on the car my daughter drives - dings all over the doors.

What is your family's financial heredity?

January 6th, 2008 at 01:44 pm

It's interesting that to a large degree in both my parents and my wife's parents, the man solely supported the family at first in the traditional model. But then the women took over for Act II, supporting the families from roughly age 50 or so.

But even more interesting to me is that both families sort of just barely got by, and yet the impact this had on my wife and I has been very different. It turned me into a natural cheapskate, very at home here. But to her, it meant giving her daughters what she never had. Both very reasonable reactions. But needless to say, it has caused trouble and conflict and led to our current less than ideal financial situation. I should also say that neither of us learned squat about finances from our parents or anyone else really, and we have unfortunately repeated that mistake in our daughters. For some reason I don't think our schools here ever had a class like that for kids, but I'll have to double check that, especially for the one still in high school where there is still time.

So I know what we need to do, to instill financial common sense in all of us, but I need a strategy, mainly a way to broach the subject. We are in this mess because whenever I bring up money, I get stonewalled. So I've often thought we needed a combined marriage/financial counselor, but as you might expect, I'm much too cheap to seek out and pay such a person, if they even exist. But as I'm sure many of you here know, there is a difference between being financially sensible and just plain being cheap. If there really was such a person and I had gone to him years ago, we would almost certainly be better off.

And lest it sound like I am laying too much at the feet of my wife, I am the one who allowed this to happen, it's my life that is affected, so I have to take some blame for not dealing with my problems in a timely and effective manner. Man, life is complex! I just wanted to get married and live comfortably.

Will I ever learn?

January 5th, 2008 at 01:18 pm

Perusing this year's tax form I see that I made a big mistake. Suffice it to say that you need to consider the consequences when you do something, ESPECIALLY something big. Do I know that? Yes. Do I always do that? No! Why not??! I sure hope Ron White isn't right that you can't fix stupid!

OK, I give! What do these acronyms like DD and DS mean?

January 3rd, 2008 at 10:40 pm

DH I got: Designated Hitter, er, I mean Domestic Housemate or Dear Husband.

OOPS! Now that I wrote this out, I'm going to guess Dear Daughter and Dear Son! Dang! I was only thinking Domestic Housemate, but as soon as I googled up Dear Husband for DH, it hit me! OK, I've still got a question though. Is DD(7) an age or number? Playing the odds, I'd say age.

Do you know the car insurance rules?

January 2nd, 2008 at 12:29 am

I am pretty livid with my car insurance company. I now have the privilege of paying $3000 per year for 3 cars and 3 drivers.

The rates went up when my daughter had an at-fault accident. OK, can't argue that. But then she was rear-ended by some one who wound up leaving the scene. We filed a police report after the fact, and it appears that this is why our insurance got raised AGAIN, even though we made no claim since the damage to the rear bumper was cosmetic and was $500, the deductible. They say that ANY activity such as a police report of an accident counts as "activity", and they can raise our rates. So I told them that this will cause me to shop around, even though previously I had wanted to just stay with them since things had always gone well before.