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Archive for March, 2006

Paycheck missed the direct deposit

April 1st, 2006 at 06:42 am

Friday was equally nuts, but I got about 1/2 of the 31M dollar nightmare project done and booked, 2/3 of it if you count it as money.

The big news was that our paychecks didn't make it into direct deposit today, payday. Not our fault, its the data outsourcer, our pay should be in our accounts by Monday. Its rare - I've been working for this non-profit for over six years and this is the first time I've experienced it here.

We got an email from CEO of the outsourcer, and our VP of HR each telling us that if checks bounce because of this - our payroll people will reimburse us for the fees.

A quick transfer from checking to savings covered what I had out, but it got me thinking. The pay yourself first technique is not such a no brainer - you got to remember that commitment so you can either cancel it or cover it, something that you need a brain for.

I didn't have that much in straight savings that I could transfer in seconds. The interest rate on that savings account is worse than paltry at .025% APR. I had enough in there to cover my obligations, but I dipped under the 300$ minimum, so I'll probably get a little fee now for being under the minimum. So how much do you keep in a very fluid savings account at nearly no interest? My original plan was to keep only the minimum. I'm rethinking that minimum, to bump it up a bit higher.

But all these things are just a tweeking for me...a couple of my co workers are sweating bullets over this.

Vacation all next week. Ah.....!

Put $3 in the tip box.

Thursdays shouldn't be like this!

March 31st, 2006 at 04:52 am

Wall to wall crazy. Me: trying to get at least one of my horror projects (one involving 1.02M, the other involving 31M) done before the end of the week so I can, in good conscience, enjoy my week off. Everyone else: can you fix this 200$ discrepancy? Here's an envelope for you! This isn't working! or the ever-popular favorite...Hi! I had to chase lawyer friend out my office because everyone else put me in a foul, foul mood. Neither the DND (do not disturb) button nor a shut door deterred anyone today. I did manage to get the 1.02M project done. Tomorrow comes the 31M.

On the bus back home, it got me thinking that it would be so ... restful... to be irresponsible and dumb. To ask questions of someone else. To just be in the moment with what was set in front of me. I must really, really, really need next week.

On the financial front(s):
1. TIAA CREF money is heading toward Vanguard.
2. Voted my proxy on two stocks. KO had the more interesting things to vote for/against - disclosing charitable contributions, report of KO's involvement in India's water problem, report of KO involvement in abuses in Columbia. WEC only had the Board of Directors and which of the big-4 accountants would run the audit.
3. Got copies of the probate filings for dad's estate. Nothing for me to do, they were just an FYI.
4. Sent in 40$ for the MMM Drp.
5. 30K into a bank CD, 6 months at 4.35%. I figure it will generate about 3.57$/day

The real fun of owning stocks

March 29th, 2006 at 05:17 am

Well, my mailbox is full of fat envelopes. Must be the season of poring over annual reports and doing my shareholder duty by voting by proxy. To tell you the truth, I find poring over this stuff a lot of fun.

Coca-Cola's (KO) packet arrived yesterday, Wisconsin Energy (WEC) arrived tonight. In each of these packets, there is: one super glossy annual report, one 10K report, one invitation to foreign lands to personally vote (Delaware, anyone?), one ballot, one envelope.

The annual reports I find are the most fun. Reading them is a skill - no company ever intentionally put bad news in an annual report (they want you to keep investing after all), but you can find it if you have an eye for nuance and can combine graphs together that the company didn't really want you to. For example, KO's sales are still flat in most of the developed world - Latin America is what's growing.

Time to sharpen my kn--, I mean pencil, and see what new fun thing I get to vote for or against. I'm one of those shareholders who will read about what I'm voting on and also read for nuance. There's been some damn weird stuff that's been written up for a vote.

More tomorrow.

Advance came

March 28th, 2006 at 06:37 am

30K check is on the table, along with the form to sign and date. Now it really begins.

My thought is to again hold the money for about six months in a place where I can't get at it and they pay me the best rates for the pleasure. It turns out the best 6 month CD rate for a brick and mortar bank is my current bank, even better than ING. HSBC is mighty, mighty tempting, but somehow with this much money, I want a place I can visit!

Somehow that 40$ from this month's tip jar seems a little...thin.

Waterbed

March 27th, 2006 at 01:33 am

The platform on the waterbed slipped on my side. Why my side? I'm the thinner one! It didn't bust, but to fix the platform means that we have to drain the bed bag, rebuild the platform, then refill.

But I found a dime on my side of the liner. Woo hoo!

Seriously, I like the waterbed. It is its own heating and cooling system at night. In Seattle we have the heater on, in Tucson and in North Carolina we turned the heater off. I wonder if a waterbed supports bedbugs? Hopefully not!

The last of the corned beef is going for fire sale prices (Seattle, remember) at 1.19$/lb. Yum!

Sister already got her first disbursment of the estate, so I expect a check sometime this week. The first check in her words was "more than I make in a year." She asked me for advice. Mine was the Roth and to hold it in a short maturity CD to give her time to research and keep her from making an uninformed decision. Her first thoughts are to save it - but I reminded her that inflation and taxes will eat away at interest. We both have enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing.

Measurements - exciting news

March 26th, 2006 at 12:53 am

Got measured today. I lost one pound. Smile I'm still above 200.

However, the really, really exciting news was in the body fat % and the inches and comparing them to the original mid-November control. I lost:

5 inches in the waist
3 inches in the hips
1 inches in each calf
6% of body fat

and converted 12 lbs of fat into 13 lbs of muscle...leaving the 1 lb difference.

The rest: upper arms and thighs, bust/chest I either stablized or increased slightly - but there is a lot less jiggling.

At this rate, I'll lose eventually (muscles eat more calories than fat), or I'll be able to beat people up for $20 challenge money. Smile

Busted

March 25th, 2006 at 05:27 am

My trainer got semi-upset at me yesterday over 5 girl scout cookies. Didn't matter that they were lemon coolers (not peanut butter tagalogs or samosas), that 5 was the suggested serving size, that I had them with a glass of lowfat milk, and that I bought the single box on the very last day of the sale.

You're coming into the gym tomorrow! And since today was yesterday's tomorrow, there I was after work, pedaling away for 30 minutes. I managed to work off about 200 calories, or about 7 girl scout cookies.

Measurements tomorrow, and we are on the home stretch of the fitness challenge, so I think she's nervous. I see a lot of little changes - I have a little notch between the top of my leg and my butt, my gym clothes are now loose, I now know how to do a workout when I get to the gym.

Ah well, tomorrow's another day.

Today was our lead auditor's last day, so I treated her to one of my favorite Vietnamese places in the Pike Market. Lunch for the two of us came to 20$. She did a number of boring projects for me, so 10$ was worth it to me.

And Vietnamese food will look good against the girl scout cookies.

Okay, riddle me this...

March 23rd, 2006 at 05:22 am

Why is it that average, ordinary people around the world as they quietly and successfully save money year after year are considered hick goobers, yet...

Four twenty somethings from San Francisco form a "compact" on January 2006, blog a little bit...

http://sfcompact.blogspot.com/

...are picked up by CBS News as a hot new trend? Sigh. Now it's not enough to be frugal, apparently you have to have a press agent to be "cool" doing so.

Just thought I'd get that off my chest - thanks!

A Fry's tale

March 22nd, 2006 at 04:34 am

Not a lot has been happening lately. I've asked the executors for an advance of 30K and for the paperwork.

Our DVD player gave up the ghost last week - I was reduced to watching either the PBS beg-a-thon (both stations at the same time and with the same program) or American Idol. Actually, American Idol wasn't bad.

Therein lies a tale. We went to Fry's Electronics; I found a basic DVD player with HD upgrade capability for a sweet sale price (67$!). I grabbed a box, one that it didn't look like the corners were mashed up. I went to the checkout, got checked out, paid, walked out, and met one of the guys checking receipts, who got a bit agitated. I had inadvently grabbed a DVD player previously returned, so I should have gotten a 5% discount for that, too, at least according to the receipt checker.

Trudge back to the checkout. No, we take the open box discount first, but the sale price was even lower than that, so the sale price wins.

Back to the receipt checker. No, no, they were supposed to take the 5% open box discount after the sale price.

Back to the checkout. Checkout person brought her supervisor who confirmed the 5% discount should be taken first.

Back to the receipt checker. I told them both that for 3.50$ discount, I got a lot of exercise but the fun was over, I don't have time for this, and I hope you get your facts straight.

At least the DVD player works fine.

St. Patrick wouldn't want you to be late

March 18th, 2006 at 05:14 am

Lots of people out "sick" today.

Had a St. Patrick's Day lunch with a co worker/friend that I rarely see. We both had a hankering for corned beef and cabbage, and we both wanted to watch the drunks. We left for lunch at 11:15 am. First place we went to had no seating, and a table had been reserved for CBS radio. In order words, the green hair/green T-Shirt/drink green beer for breakfast people were already here.

The second place we had heard had a cover charge, so we went to take a peek. Open, but no one was out collecting money, so we walked in, asked a waitress if we could grab a table, and took our seats. There was a third person, another co worker, but she said she would be late. We waited.

Three minutes later the bouncer was at the door, collecting the 10$. Our third person came. She didn't have 10$, we didn't have 10$, the bouncer wouldn't let her in without 10$. Whoops. But we warned her...

Sometimes being frugal means you have to be lucky and be ON TIME.

We ordered hard cider at 6$ (we both could hole up and do something mindless while we were at the tipsy stage), corned beef and cabbage. The food was alright, nothing special, not really worth the 9.50$. But the company was good, and the thrill of drinking a cider at lunch was delicious in its own way.

Tonight, DH made more corned beef and cabbage in the crock pot. It was delicious, far better than the one at lunch. The whole pot probably cost less than 1/2 of my lunch.

Got the optional cash slip for my fourth DRP. Its a slip with the dividends; eventually the company tells you when you get dividends, so eventually you get the slip. Wrote a check for 500$ to kick start the account, and signed up for their online account so I can monitor it.

Vacation between the 3rd and the 9th of April. DH bought an exercise ball. We now have an agreement, I can use his ball and he can use my yoga mat and red band. The chiropractor tells me that my back is getting better - its holding the adjustments for several days - and he figures that I've put on about an inch because my posture has improved.

Put another 8$ into the tip box.

Ides of March

March 16th, 2006 at 05:30 am

Breathed in and out and connected with the one or two oxygen atoms that were in Julius Caesar's last breath. Smile

Another celebratory lunch (dim sum, yum!) for another coworker who is going away. Walking back to the office, I mentioned to my lawyer friend that it feels like the end. He concurred; the executors wouldn't offer an advance if the creditors hadn't come forward and been paid.

I'll take the executors offer and ask for 30K, put it in a short-term CD and spend the next 6 months to plan.

Got paid today. My helper had exciting personal news - he's within a couple of months of paying off his student loans. He asked me for advice, now that he will free up about 200$/month. Should I hike up my 403B - I already get the match? Go for a Roth, I said.

Worked out yesterday by myself. I think it worked okay - I had trouble figuring out a cardio move in the set, and I didn't remind myself to drink water as much as the trainer would, but I got warm and sweaty nonetheless.

Spending log (3/15) - 1.65$ coffee + 14$ dim sum
Saving log (3/15) - 0$

Spending log (3/14) - 1.65$ coffee + 4.50$ lunch
Saving log (3/14) - 9$ tip box

take my money, please

March 14th, 2006 at 04:41 am

Lots happened today.

I got this in my fortune cookie at lunch. "You will hear good news today."

Thirty minutes later I talked with the executors. They described the situation with the 80 acres and it was exactly the same as I wrote a couple of entries ago. The consensus was to: get the property re-assessed (it was first assessed split between house/ five acres and the rest, then the pieces added together), then put the property on the real estate market. The property itself is 80 acres, but only 61 acres is tillable - the rest is creek and wetland. Sister wants what's left of the furnishing, for $2500; I will get $2500 more cash than sister. Nut apparently got $1500, and he went away. No hospital or the state of Wisconsin came forward asking for payment for mom's cancer treatment. So when the second piece of property is sold, and dad's last tax return has been filed, and the money has been distributed, the executors job will be done.

Since 300K is sitting in a money market fund (@4% or 12,000/year!), the executors mentioned if I wanted an advance - "$25,000 or $30,000", just let us know and we'll send you the forms. Now I'm starting to feel it. Finis.

Got the forms from TIAA CREF and I filled them out.

Spending log - 1.65 coffee + 7$ lunch (fortune cookie was priceless)
Saving log - 9$ tip box

Shredder day

March 13th, 2006 at 01:53 am

Shredded my 2004 paystubs to make room in my financial file cabinet (one of those file boxes with a handle). Got a couple of DRP transaction receipts yesterday - those never get shredded, even though the data is online .

Finally found flip flops on sale (5$), to use for the gym shower. In these last several months have never used the gym shower - its why I exercise late in the day. Of course in 4 years of high school I never used the gym shower there, either.

Made stuffed cabbage last night, for the first time in about 10 years. Stuffing is another good way to hide leftovers, and hid them I did.

The second piece of property

March 12th, 2006 at 06:32 am

Word from sister is that she asked the executors to call me because the buyer on the second piece of property (70 acres, house, barn, sheds) is coming in at about 80-100K less than it was assessed. The decision is to either accept the offer or to put it out onto the open real estate market.

The buyer is the corporate farm next door, which dad hated. Sister wants to put it on the RE market, and I agree. I'm not hot for the money nor am I bugged by the lower price. Sister, however, I get the feeling is going to be bugged if another buyer offers an even lower price, and we are paying a realtor's cut for the privilege. I mentioned that possibility to her - as long as she's fine with it, really fine with it, it'll work.

Now I just have to figure out whether she's really fine with it.

Rollover paperwork

March 11th, 2006 at 04:14 am

Mailed off Vanguard's rollover paperwork (form, 4Q statement, screenshot from a couple days ago) to Vanguard this afternoon, and sent it certified mail. That way I get a receipt and a confirmation number. Still no TIAA CREF paperwork; it might take a more few days for that. In the Vanguard packet I wrote a little note regarding my phone call to them and the situation.

I see the chiropractor twice a week now. I talked with the trainer. For the rest of this month I'm scheduled for twice a week, rather than three times a week. On Tuesdays I workout by myself. We'll see how that fits.

Work has been crazy; the phone was driving me nuts. As a result of hitting the Do Not Disturb button on the phone, I missed a call from the executor. On the voicemail he claimed that he will be briefing me on what has been happening, dad's estate wise. I wonder what he's really calling about. Time to get the scoop from sister this weekend.

Spending log - 1.65$ coffee + 9$ lunch
Saving log - 40$ Drp + 3$ tipbox

Who can resist an online calculator?

March 8th, 2006 at 05:35 am

Not me, apparently! DH told me about a mutual fund analyzer at the nasd.com site:

http://tinyurl.com/8sr3n

Even with TIAA CREFs relatively low fees (2-3X the lowest Vanguard fee) and the small amount of money I'm going to move, its still worth it. I don't even dare to put in the fees of the mutual funds in my current 403B from Merrill Lynch. That would really, really disgust me for no good purpose.

I sprained the back of my knee a little on the roman chair, so the trainer had me doing that rise up movement on the air dome, then turn over on my back for the ab crunches. After a little rest, my knee is pretty good, so its back to the new bus route and the mile walk home. Working on the posture now.

The chiropractor is having me come only 2X/week, so that will help my budget tremendously. I talked things over with the trainer and she's willing to work with me. But I know that to keep making progress, I'm going to have to go to the gym at least 3X/ week - perhaps use the routines that the trainer wrote down 1-2X/week and have her come up with something fresh once/ week.

Got a BOGO coupon from a guy handing them out in front of the sub shop. Lunch today and tomorrow!

Spending log - 1.75 coffee + 7.50 lunch
Saving log - 3$ tip box

TIAA CREF call

March 7th, 2006 at 04:32 am

So I called TIAA CREF today, fairly late, so I only got about 10 minutes of peppy hold music, which kept me in an okay mood.

The customer service rep was very nice and informative. Apparently none of my TIAA holdings (International, Social Choice, Real Estate) are part of the rate hike. It involved large institutional holdings, and it financed "customer education". Commercials, probably. (Of course if TIAA could do an end a round rate hike to large holdings what's to say they wouldn't do it to tiny holdings like me?)

Thank you very much for the information, I said to him, and I'll put some more thought into keeping them put, but I'm still interested in rolling them into Vanguard to consolidate my holdings.

I'll send you the paperwork, he said. You can look at it, if you don't fill it out your money will stay put. A few more clicky keystrokes and some more news: I can move my accounts (depending on the type of account and the contract, sometimes you can't until you retire, the customer service rep informed me, and that's never a pleasant surprise), and I will not need a signature guarantee. Straight paperwork.

The plan for me is: a couple more bits of research, decide, if yes - sign and mail the Vanguard forms, sign and mail the TIAA CREF forms, and they talk amongst themselves for about 3-4 weeks.

Saving log - 100$ to ING
Spending log - 60$ to chiropractor

no grandma check

March 4th, 2006 at 05:56 am

Got word from sister, who had gotten word from the cousin who does grandma's finances. No more divesting of assets in March or ever; by law grandma has to have 5 years worth now. 20% of my greedy grubby self is bummed (naughty!); the other 80% is breathing a sigh of relief. I've been trying to figure out what to do with what's left of her money now since November. Won't have to worry about that.

Took the fateful step of rolling over my TIAA CREF money into Vanguard. Its never, ever as easy as the ads make it out to be. You usually have to alert both sides of the transaction what you want to do - Vanguard to set up the IRA that it'll roll into and TIAA Cref to alert them that I want to withdraw it. Worse, it could be that I'll have to call U of Arizona (my original employer). I just know that there's going to be an icky step where I'm going to have get a signature guarantee from my bank. But if a meth-addled identity thief can do it, so can I.

Anyway, I printed out all the Vanguard forms and my TIAA CREF current position, and my TIAA CREF Q4 statement, too. Then I'll call TIAA CREF Monday and set the wheels in motion.

Lunch today was weird. I just wanted to go to a quick quiet place. Unfortunately since this is the first nice, blue-sky, warm Friday of the year, it seemed like everyone and their unemployed uncle was out and about. Every place I wanted to go to and eat had a line and today I was not thrilled about a line. Found a quick sandwich and salad (6$) and saved myself some bucks. It was just plan c.

In gym I learned about the roman chair and doing upside down situps. Lunges yesterday. Geez its hard work to get thin!

Box o' checks

March 3rd, 2006 at 05:29 am

Ordered a box of checks today. Yep, I do a fair amount of online bill paying and use the debit card, but sometimes you just need a check. The last box lasted me almost 4 years. I wonder how long this box will last.

Got some more info about the rise in TIAA CREF fees, and the installation of a 12b-1 fee. Ick.

http://tinyurl.com/pqbqo
(Love the tinyurl.com site)

I plan to move my TIAA CREF money to Vanguard; still I'm loathe to pull the trigger. Sigh. It was my 403B when I was a post doctoral fellow almost fifteen years ago, so to move the money out feels like its my last break with my former academic career. Not many of our money moves are purely rational.

Spending log - 445$ rent + 1.65$ coffee + 9$ lunch
Saving log - 35$ Drp + 5$ tip box

in like a lamb

March 2nd, 2006 at 04:42 am

My retirement account at work (different than my 403B) rose in value about $2000 last week. Pleasant but I want to know why, and why I'm still at 80% vested. I think that its because savings and data get deposited only a couple of times throughout the year.

I don't set any goals for a particular month, but I do have some expectations:

1. Grandma is gifting sister and I in 2006 (she gifted each of us in November 2005 for 2005). Since word up is is that she is selling stock, I have no idea how much the gift is, only that I'll put it in ING and let it cook for a few months.

2. Chiropractic appointments will slow a bit so my co-pays will drop by about 40-60%.

3. I will finish scanning and putting financial and medical documents on my little USB drive.

4. I will finish paying off my credit card and again set what I have been paying on the credit card onto savings, bonds, and drips. I so missed that!

I took a gander at the net worth, and luckily it has been increasing quickly. When the stocks drop, the interest earned from savings and bonds keeps going up, along with the IRS refund, the vesting, and the addition injection of money consoles me a bit. Smile

I'm on track in April to have a net worth of about $79,000, or an exactly $50,000 increase from July 2004. Less than two years! Its a big secret, but the whole trick to this is to convert your debt snowball into a savings snowball.

Haven't heard from sister in two weeks, nothing about dad's estate in over four weeks. Something will happen - the lion is coming.