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Happy 2016! My yearly NYD entry

January 1st, 2016 at 09:05 am

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 08:52 am

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 05:28 am

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 04:23 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 06:45 am

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.

Procrastination...is making me wait.

January 10th, 2010 at 08:51 am

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 06:58 am

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 28th, 2009 at 05:48 pm

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 08:02 am

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 10:11 am

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 02:47 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 28th, 2009 at 06:51 pm

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 23rd, 2009 at 04:25 pm

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%.
3. HELOC.
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 09:27 am

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!