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Archive for March, 2014

Job Shadow, Spring Fest, and Fair Pigs

March 28th, 2014 at 07:01 pm

DD1 wants to be a veterinarian, and has been taking a vet assistant's class once per week for the past 4 or 5 weeks. The class is geared for adults, but we know the instructor, and she said that DD1 would do fine.

Part of the class is to job shadow the instructor at the vet clinic where she works. DD1's job shadow was yesterday. It sounds as if she got quite an experience. I think she said that she viewed a total of three surgeries, including at least on spaying, and - get this - an amputation.

A man had dropped his refrigerator on his dog's leg, and the leg had to be removed. DD1 watched all of it. The staff did provide a chair if DD1 began feeling faint. And, she did use it once. But, the staff said that they were surprised that she didn't run out. She's 11.

She was very satisfied and excited with the experience. She still wants to be a vet.

Our boys attend a special need elementary school. The school held its "Spring Fest" last night. It's basically a variety show where each class puts on a song or skit, depending on age. Both boys are in the same pre-school class. For the most part, they followed along with the moves as directed. Special needs or not, 4 and 5 year old kids follow along with moves to varying degrees.

DS1 will be in kindergarten at that school next year, so I was particularly interested in watching that class's performance. It was interesting to see what type of "level" he may be in a year.

DD1 will be getting her pigs for fair tomorrow. She'll be spending $25 per pig more than last year, or $175 per pig. I know that sounds like a lot, and it is a lot. But, she should do well at the fair with high quality pigs.

We'll buy three pigs. DD1 will show the two that match best (similar weight/body structure). We'll either have the other one slaughtered for our freezer, or sell on the open market. That depends on how much of last year's pork we have left over. We'll probably put it in the freezer, and share some with family.

OR DD2 will be old enough to show a pig at the fair, but she has no interest. She did have interest a couple months ago, but she has lost interest. Neither DW nor I want to pressure her at all.

Tagging day is in May. On tagging day, youth can bring up to three pigs to the fair grounds to get tagged. They can take two of them to the fair. "Tagging" is a way to prevent cheating. If by May, DD2 has changed her mind, DD1 will pick the two pigs that match best for herself, and DD2 can have the third.

I bet that's more than you wanted to know about fair pigs!

Temptation

March 27th, 2014 at 03:59 pm

Long story short, DW is borrowing her parent's 2013 Chrysler Town & Country minivan for a couple of days. She will be hauling several pre-teens to Lansing tomorrow, and their van is roomier (and nicer) than ours is.

I drove our girls to an event in it last evening, and I'm telling you - this thing is loaded - leather heated seats, digital everything, touch screen radio, DVD - front and back, back-up camera, automatic opening side and rear doors, it rides like a dream, etc. All are luxuries you can get used to. All are temptations.

Before you ask, yes, they paid for it in cash. And they will drive it until it nearly dies.

Sometimes I wish I didn't even know those luxuries existed.

I'm guessing we'll have our van for about another year and a half. Then, we'll be in the market. And, we'll remain true to all of the guidelines I've learned here on SA - finance for no more than three years, with monthly payments not to exceed 10% of take home pay. Actually, I will shoot for monthly payments of more around 6-8% of monthly take home pay. But, yes the purchase will most certainly be financed for three years.

If anything, experiencing these more high-end features will strengthen my resolve to save more for a down payment, so we can actually afford some of them.

Retirement Projection

March 24th, 2014 at 07:34 pm

Anyone who has been following my blog for most of the past three years knows that I spend a lot of time putting together financial projections of all sorts. That includes my retirement, even though it's 20 plus years away.

I've got a retirement tab on my master spreadsheet. It includes an accumulation phase, where I estimate how savings will grow, and a depletion phase where I estimate how well that fund will stand up under various scenarios.

I've struggled for some time deciding what kind of number to plug in for Social Security payments, and to a lesser extent when to plug in a beginning age for collecting SS.

Until recently, I've used a 15K number (annual), and begin drawing at age 72. I thought of those numbers as low-ball estimates.

I know that there is a prevailing attitude among many in the SA community (particularly people younger than about 45) that they are making retirement plans assuming that there will be no SS 25 or 30 years from now, and that they will consider any SS payments to be gravy in their retirement.

While they may be right - there may be no SS 25 or 30 years from now - I'm betting that there will be SS in some form, reduced from where it is now. I just don't know what I can expect for a reasonable guess as to what that amount will be. I don't think anyone younger than 50 does either. The law is clearly subject to (and expected to) change.

So, I set to come up with a more reasonable, and still conservative number to plug in to my spreadsheet. I did some very quick "research" on the internet, and found a site that quoted that SS trust fund reserves would be exhausted by 2033 (oddly enough, a few years prior to my own retirement), and after that tax income would be sufficient to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2087.

I also went to the Social Security web site, and found my current projected monthly payments at ages 62, 67, and 70.

I took the number projected at age 67, multiplied it by 0.75, and plugged it into my spread sheet, starting at age 70.

It turns out that I wasn't that far off with my previous estimate. My new number is $2,000 greater per year, and I'm starting the payment two years earlier in my projection now.

Certainly every single number in that projection is subject to a great deal of change. What I really want is a target retirement fund figure to shoot for. That number will change. However, I think my estimate now is a bit more refined than it was a few days ago.

I'll continue to go in and adjust things from time to time. Hopefully in another 15 years, I can have a very solid plan for retiring 5-10 years after that.

If anyone is interested, this is the page that I quoted above: http://www.thenewamerican.com/economy/commentary/item/16497-the-future-of-social-security

My FICO Score

March 18th, 2014 at 01:36 pm

I've had a Discover card for about two years. I applied for the card to transfer other CC debt to an introductory 0.0% APR.

It's used for various purchases throughout the month, and I now pay it off twice per month, at the beginning and in the middle of the month.

Apparently a few months ago, Discover began reporting card holder FICO scores on monthly statements. I learned about that from the SA Forums. So, I pulled up my January statement, and could not find my FICO score. I sent a message to Discover to inquire why. Apparently the FICO scores are listed on a higher level card than the card I have, but since I asked, they began listing my FICO score last month.

My score last month was 718. My March statement was posted yesterday, and my new score is 721.

I'm neither proud nor ashamed of those scores. From what I can tell, 40% of people have a higher score, 40% have a lower score, and 20% have a similar score. In October 2010, my score was 580.

What I'll be very interested in seeing is how quickly it moves to the 750+ range (assuming I keep doing everything right). At three points a month maybe 10-12 months from now I'll be in that range.

I've added a FICO sheet to the spreadsheet where I track my net worth, budget, amortization tables, and retirement account.

The Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge

March 17th, 2014 at 05:05 pm

I'm guessing that most of you have heard about this Warren Buffet/Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge.

When the contest was first promoted a month or so ago, I figured I would probably enter. Why not? It's free. The top 20 most accurate brackets win 100K. And there's an extremely small chance that I could win the billion.

I probably follow NCAA basketball at an above average level. I'm a big big Michigan State fan. I follow the Big Ten closely, and I follow the many of the other NCAA teams somewhat regularly.

So I visited the official Billion Dollar Challenge site a few minutes ago. They wanted an awful lot of personal information, which I can kind of understand. But, what it really looked like was an excuse to invite Quicken Loans into my life to try to sell me stuff, I would guess ad nauseam.

So, I opted out of the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, and filled out my bracket at another site.

For the record, my Final Four consists of Arizona, Florida, Michigan State and Louisville. Arizona and Florida in the title game, and Arizona to win.

We'll see how I do. For fun only!

March 1 Net Worth

March 11th, 2014 at 02:41 pm

Assets

Checking - 1,712
EF - 3,500
Pick up - 8,800
Van - 850
Lawn Mower - 1,700
Home (7/12 appraisal) - 77,000
Retirement Fund - 147,733

Total Assets - 241,295

Liabilities

Amazon CC - 0
Pick up - 6,619
Mortgage - 49,621

Total Liabilities - 56,240

Net Worth - 185,055

Change from last month = $6,688

More than 70% of that change is due to the increase in my retirement fund.

The Amazon card is paid off - so I am once again free of CC debt.

Our 2014 Home Improvement Project

March 10th, 2014 at 02:46 pm

I've blogged several times about our house. It's my family's original farmstead. DW and I began renovating the house in 2008, and moved in August 2009. We completely renovated the house interior before moving in. We knew that there were several projects on the outside that needed attention, too.

In 2011, we had a new roof installed. In 2012, we had the front porch renovated. In 2013, the back porch was built.

We've decided that the our 2014 home improvement project will be a new septic system. The septic system that was installed (probably) 80 years ago simply does not support 6 people, and the laundry of six people, and the dish washer in the house of six people, and the showers and baths and toilet flushes of six people.

We've had the tank pumped twice since we began house renovations - once just before we moved in, and again this past September. I've not been around either time it was pumped, but the hauler described it as about the size of a coffin.

I began investigating a new septic system last fall. I'm certain I blogged about it then. What I found out is that the size of the tank is dictated by the number of bedrooms in the house, and the size of the drain field is dictated by the rate that the soil around the drain field percolates water. Our soil is loamy - not sandy and not heavy clay - so I'm expecting a medium sized drain field.

I'm estimating the cost at around $6,000.

Two sets of family members had troubles with their septic systems this very cold winter. Septic systems can freeze up when they're not used every day. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law spent February in Mexico. They came back to a septic system frozen in two places - from the inside going out, and the outside coming in. Their drainage pipe goes under their driveway, which was cleared of insulating snow, and caused major problems, and a big mess.

My parents spent January and February in Florida. They came back to a frozen pipe, inside going out. My dad said that it was "only" frozen about 1-2 feet. So their mess wasn't nearly as big, or difficult to fix - but it was still enough.

So, we may choose some extra insulation when we have the new septic system installed. I'm not sure what that will add to the cost. But, there may be another very cold winter 20-30 years from now when the extra cost will have been worth it.

It's a bit disheartening that we'll be spending 6K, and not add to the beautification or storage capacity or comfort of our house (we'd also like a garage, and/or geothermal heat for example). But, indeed, a new septic system is a project that needs to be done, and it will be better to do it when it's still a choice, and not an emergency.