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Update on settling my cousin's affairs

June 6th, 2021 at 02:05 am

I realized I haven't made a post since I arrived in Florida. I did leave a week ago Tuesday and arrived Wednesday evening. I had a nice drive down and even got to detour in North Carolina to visit my cousins who just moved there a couple weeks earlier from Connecticut. I got to see their new house and have dinner with them.

Since arriving, I've been working every day to clean out the house. I've taken out 7 or 8 bags of trash, about 6 bins of paper for recycling, and packed 10 cartons of documents to be shredded. I've also sold his tool chest, tool boxes, and most of the tools, a mini bike, and just tonight sold his floor jack on Marketplace. Oh and I've taken half a dozen boxes of stuff to the thrift shop along with 6 garbage bags of clothing plus several suits and some assorted loose items.

I think I'm pretty much done with the debulking. I've been through every drawer, cabinet, closet, and file. Although it's been time consuming, that was the relatively easy part as it didn't involve too much in the way of personal or sentimental stuff.

Now I'm getting to the harder part with the more personal items. A lot of that will end up being transported home with me. There are a bunch of things that need to either be sold or donated. I'm sure I'll do a mix of both. I'll need to decide what to do with furniture - sell or donate. I'll probably at least try to sell some of it and if I don't get any bites fairly quickly, I'll give it away. There is a large local thrift shop that will pick it up.

I'm not sure how long I'm staying. I finally got the death certificate on Friday and have an appointment with the lawyer on Monday to start the probate process. I'm not sure all that's involved with that or whether or not I need to physically be here to do anything.

There are 2 cars, one antique and one regular, that need to be sold. I've been doing some word of mouth advertising for the antique but if nothing comes of it in the next couple of days, I need to actually start listing that at a few sites. The regular car will be no problem as I'll probably go to Carmax, Carvana, and the dealership and take the highest offer. I don't want to get rid of the car until we're pretty much done as we may need it to get around if I drive home and fly back.

I guess that pretty much sums it up for now.

Beginning to deal with cousin's estate

May 23rd, 2021 at 07:03 pm

Now that the funeral is behind us, it's time to start dealing with everything needed to settle his estate. I'm expecting to leave for Florida Tuesday morning and get there Wednesday night (I'm driving).

Until I have death certificates, I can't address any of the financial stuff, so I'll start cleaning out the house, getting rid of trash, shredding unneeded papers, donating clothing and other items, etc. Once I have the certificates, I can start closing credit cards and bank accounts and getting assets transferred into my name. I will schedule a meeting with his attorney and give his financial advisor a call. I've already spoken to both of them. The advisor manages his retirement accounts and I'm the beneficiary so that stuff should be simple. No probate needed. Other stuff has to go through probate.

I got the first tiny piece of the inheritance - he had $85 cash in his wallet. Woo hoo.

Also in his wallet are two gift cards that they get as part of their HOA dues in his community. They are good at the clubhouse cafe (which has been closed for COVID) and at one local restaurant. I checked the balances and between the two of them, there's over $190 credit. I guess I know where I'll be eating regularly when I get down there.

I have a lot of work ahead of me and I'm sure some of it will be emotionally difficult, especially dealing with some of the more personal items, but I'll work my way through day by day. I'll be there by myself so I won't really have any distractions. I figure in the mornings, I'll start in the garage and crawlspace before the temperature heats up for the day. Once it's too warm, I'll focus on the inside stuff - clothing, kitchen, home office files, etc. The thrift shop where everything will be donated is just a few minutes away so I'm sure I'll be making multiple trips there. They will pick up but I'll save that for big items like furniture. I'm certainly capable of hauling bags of clothing and small household items over there myself, plus it will give me a reason to get out.

I suspect I'll be blogging more going forward so I'll update as I have new info.

My cousin died today

May 18th, 2021 at 02:10 am

My cousin in Florida who has been dealing with cancer passed away today. My wife and I had gone down to see him about 3 weeks ago. A few days after we got home, she went back and has been there since helping to take care of him. The past 2-3 days he had 24 hr care from hospice along with the home care aide we had hired. I'm sure it was still exhausting for my wife. She'll be flying home tomorrow evening so that will be good.

His funeral will be here in NJ so probably Wednesday morning we'll go over to the funeral home to make all of the arrangements. My mom will probably want to come along for that too.

Obviously I'm deeply saddened by his death as he has always been like a brother to me. That said, I'm also typically the practical one so I'm already working on taking care of business. I called and spoke to his lawyer today to find out what I need to do as I start dealing with the estate. I also chatted with our CPA who will handle that end of things.

The difficult but ultimately silver lining here is that I'll be inheriting somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 million when everything is settled. That will eventually lead to my retirement in the not too distant future. My cousin was a huge proponent of early retirement having retired at 55 himself. I can't think of anything that would please him more than knowing that the money he left me will allow me to do the same, though I'll likely be 58 by the time I get out. I really can't even fully process that end of things quite yet even though I've been running the numbers for months. Much more to come on that but first comes the mourning process and what I'm sure will be several months of working to settle everything, clean out the house, sell the cars, sell the house, transfer all of the accounts, etc. Maybe by the end of 2021 I'll have a pretty good idea of where things stand.

I'm not a market timer, but ....

May 11th, 2021 at 09:23 pm

I am by no means a market timer. I believe in investing regularly over time and, for the most part, holding things long term.

That said, over the past 3-ish years, I have gradually reduced the equity allocation of our portfolio and it now stands at about 66% (it was 80% 3 years ago). It's part of the adjustments I've been making as we prep for retirement. My plan had been to wait for the impending inheritance I'll be getting and use that money to adjust it down further to 60%. However, I don't know when that money will come and I've gotten increasingly nervous about the state of the market, so I've decided to start tweaking things a bit now.

The first thing I did was to turn off reinvestment of dividends and capital gains for a few of our stock mutual funds. That won't make a huge change and it won't move the needle quickly, but it will gradually lessen the stock exposure.

The other more immediate thing I did was to put in a sell order last night for one growth fund in my Roth. The aggressive growth stuff has shot up the most and will likely drop the most when things go sour. I'd much rather sell high and buy low than the other way around.  That fund held about 2.5% of our total so it takes us to about  63.5% equities.

I don't want to make any drastic moves so I may stop there until I get the inheritance, and then tweak it the rest of the way to the 60% mark. Of course, if today's market performance continues, the market itself might get us down the rest of the way.

General updates - home, family, work

May 5th, 2021 at 06:49 pm

Home: We haven't needed to do the plumbing repair I mentioned previously. Actually the pipe doesn't seem to be leaking anymore. I know sometimes when you first repair a pipe it takes a couple of days for everything to settle and there can still be a slight drip until it does. So far, so good.

However, we were waiting for a siding contractor to come out and repair a minor issue on the side of our garage. Well, that took a bit too long. Friday night there was a bad windstorm and it ripped about 1/3 of the siding off the wall. We were out of town but I was able to get a friend to come over, clean up the mess, and drive in a few nails to stabilize the remaining siding. Now we're waiting for the siding guy to come out and replace the whole wall.

The reason we were away last week is that we were in Florida visiting/helping my cousin who is dying. He is not doing well and will probably pass relatively soon. We got home care started to go along with hospice which I had set up when I was there in February. We came home on Sunday but we're already talking about having my wife go back down and stay there until the end whenever that may be. Once he dies, I'm going to take a leave of absence for a couple of months to clean out and sell the house and settle his affairs.

Work is going okay. The site where I work is closing at the end of the month and I will be moving to a new location. I'm not thrilled about that but it does have some advantages. The biggest one is that I'll be at a 2 provider site instead of working alone. That will be a nice change. And a lot of days, I'll end up seeing fewer patients. The new site is busier but not more than twice as busy as my current site. So for example, I might see 26 patients in a day while they see 42, meaning each provider sees about 21. And it's just nice to not be alone and actually be able to take a 10 minute break for lunch or dinner instead of having to squeeze something in between patients. I'll start at the new site on May 31.

Not too much else happening. A number of things are kind of in a holding pattern pending my cousin passing. Both personal plans and financial stuff (I'll be getting an inheritance when he dies).

So that's about it for now.

Small home repair, which will lead to much bigger one

April 21st, 2021 at 02:03 am

I was just reading another blog post about homes being money pits. I completely agree.

On Saturday, I was cleaning the drain in our bathroom sink, something I've done dozens of times. This time, when I was done and stepped away, I saw a stream of water coming from the drain pipe. A closer look revealed a small hole in the pipe. I grabbed a bucket and sopped up the water with a towel and put a call into our handyman. He said he could come on Monday.

He did come and fixed it, but his fix is less than perfect. There is now a very tiny bit of water leaking at the end of the pipe that he installed. There also seems to be a tiny bit coming from the cold water shutoff valve. The pipes are all quite old so I'm not surprised.

Bottom line is we're really going to need to have a plumber come out and replace everything going to and from that sink. Of course, when they built houses years ago they often didn't install shutoff valves or even access panels. Replacing the plumbing will mean cutting through the closet wall to access the pipes leading to the bathroom, turning off the water to the whole house, installing shutoff valves, then doing the actual plumbing work in the bathroom. I have no idea what that will all cost but I'm sure it won't be cheap. Yay.

I think I have "the number"

April 17th, 2021 at 12:57 am

In recent months, I've been doing a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of retirement planning. I've been reading and studying and educating myself on every aspect of retirement I can think of including withdrawal rates, taxes, Social Security, ACA coverage, Medicare (well not so much on that yet actually), and more. I've asked a bunch of questions on the SA forums. I joined and became quite active at and have learned a ton of useful information there. I highly recommend the site if you are in the same boat as me.

I've made all kinds of charts and run through countless calculations and projections, played with FireCalc a bunch, and posted a "Can I Retire?" thread at ER with all of our details and I got a bunch of helpful responses.

Based on a number of things I've learned, I've made numerous changes to our portfolio to better position our holdings (more stocks in Roths, more bonds in taxable accounts, for example). I've done a number of things to consolidate our holdings and try to simplify some stuff (rolled over DW's old 401k and 403b, moved an outside MF into our Vanguard account, donated some appreciated stock to our synagogue, eliminated some duplication in our portfolio and got the total number of funds we own down from 16 or more to 11, which is still a lot but it's much better.

Anyway, the bottom line and the point of the title of this post is that no matter how I work the numbers and do the projections, I keep arriving at the same result: the amount we need to have saved for me to retire keeps coming out to be right around $2,500,000. I've become more and more confident in that number.

So what does that mean? Right now, today, we are a bit over $1,700,000. However, I will unfortunately be receiving an inheritance most likely within a year. The estate is currently valued right around $1,200,000 with minimal debt (less than 50K). There will be some expenses involved in settling everything, funeral costs, selling the house, travel, taking a leave from work, etc. I'm guessing that 200K should cover all of that which should leave me with roughly $900,000 as my inheritance. That would put us at $2,600,000 based on our current portfolio. If the market remains at least reasonably stable, even if it doesn't keep climbing like it's been doing, we'd likely have another 100-200K over the next year anyway and be at $1.9 million before the inheritance meaning we could potentially be at $2.8 million or even more when everything is done.

Assuming nothing crops up to make me question the $2.5 million figure, I should be at the point where retirement will work, even if the inheritance turns out to be 100K or so less than estimated.

That's both exciting and scary to be honest.

My plan right now is to beef up our cash holdings to create a nice big cushion to have in place when I do retire. My expense projection has us paying full price for ACA coverage but there's a reasonably good chance we can manage our taxable income to qualify for the subsidy which would make our numbers even better. I'm planning to meet with our CPA after tax season to really drill into a bunch of retirement tax issues including that one.

So yeah, that's how I've been spending way too much of my free time.

Mid-March check in

March 13th, 2021 at 03:53 pm

We're almost halfway through the month so I thought I'd post a quick update.

Our federal tax refund arrived on Wednesday. $518, so not a huge amount but I'll take it. Our state refund is bigger - $3,000 - but that always takes longer.

We aren't eligible for stimulus money but our daughter is, so that's nice for her. She is also due federal and state refunds. She filed last week so should have that money soon.

I sold the JETS shares I bought after last March's crash. I made an 81% profit which was nice. I'm still holding the AAL I bought but will probably sell it this week. It's at its 52-week high and I want to trim our stock allocation anyway.

DW gets her 2nd vaccine on Tuesday. Once we're both fully vaccinated, we may consider returning to indoor dining. One nice thing is that we will no longer need to wear masks to visit my mom since she had both of her shots already.

My cousin with cancer is doing okay. Things seem stable at the moment. He is on hospice service now which is good since he lives alone and we're 1,200 miles away. We're glad to know someone is checking in on him regularly. He also just started getting Meals on Wheels. He's had a couple of them so far and says they're very good. He really isn't a cook so having those on hand for an easy, balanced, nutritious dinner is great.

I've got PTO coming up starting 3/20. We were supposed to be in Florida that week but the event got cancelled due to COVID. No big plans, though DW and I were talking about tearing up the carpet in our bedroom so we'll probably do that. I'm hoping the floor isn't in too bad of a shape when we do.

The siding on the wall of our garage is coming loose. I contacted a couple of contracters to come out and take a look. Both are backed up for weeks so hopefully it doesn't get worse before one of them is able to get to us.

Otherwise, we're plugging along. I was spending a lot of time playing with retirement calculators and figuring out where we stand. I've pretty much determined that once my cousin is gone and his estate is settled, I should be good to drop down to part time. Right now, I'm figuring on remaining full time through the end of 2022 and maybe transitioning at that point. We shall see how it all plays out. How the market performs is a factor, too.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Taxes done - big refund

March 1st, 2021 at 09:59 pm

We got our taxes back. As expected, a few changes resulted in a substantially lower tax bill for us. Instead of owing nearly $1,000 like last year we're getting back over $500 on our Federal return. We're also getting back over $3,000 on our state return.

I generally try to get closer to even than that but the investment stuff always throws things off since I can't really control that. Our investment income was down about $12,000 last year so less tax to pay. Also, I sold a losing stock in December so we had a loss to take against what was already reduced investment income. Then they added the new $300 charitable donation deduction that you can take even if  you don't itemize, so that helped us too.

I'm certainly not complaining. We'll pay the accountant and the rest goes into savings.


Pop up shop completed

February 7th, 2021 at 01:08 am

We did that pop up craft/vendor sale today for my wife's sewing business. It wasn't fantastic but wasn't a total loss either. She made a few sales and got one custom order for a bag. Several people took her card and showed interest in some of her custom items so you never know if that might generate a purchase in the future.

We signed up to do it again on March 20. Hopefully the weather will be better then and there will be more customer traffic. These pop up events are relatively new and still building their reputation. Another month or so and hopefully more people know about it and come out regularly to check it out.

Dealing with the impending death of a loved one

February 4th, 2021 at 01:59 am

My cousin, who has been like a brother to me, was diagnosed with cancer about 3 years ago. From the start, we knew it was inoperable/incurable. He has done a few rounds of chemo and a course of radiation and he has actually done extremely well... until just recently. His last scan showed that the last chemo just didn't work and the cancer progressed. He still felt fine, though, which was great. However, over the past few weeks, he has started to decline and have obvious symptoms to indicate that the cancer is taking over.

We don't know how much longer he has but I suspect it won't be terribly long. One tough thing is that we're in NJ and he's in FL. That would be hard enough anyway and it's just worsened by the pandemic. It's not so easy to just fly down there to see him for a few days because we really should quarantine for 2 weeks after we get there. I'm already fully vaccinated but that still doesn't mean I couldn't transmit COVID to him. We're still deciding what to do and when. If his condition declines and he needs help, we'll just do what we need to because COVID really won't matter at that point. He's dying anyway.

There is a big financial piece to this story, too. I am the executor and sole beneficiary of his estate. Whenever he does die, I'm going to have to go down there for a while to settle his affairs, sell his cars, clean out and sell his house, etc.

I already notified my lead physician about this and she was super understanding and said not to worry at all about my shifts or coverage issues. She would handle all of that, even if I need to leave with no notice. Today she sent me the link to the leave of absence info for when I need to do that. I have no idea how long it will take to settle everything but I would think at least a month if everything moves quickly.

I reached out to our CPA as well just to give him a heads up that I'd be needing him to handle the estate tax filings. I'm trying to get as many ducks in a row as I can before I actually need them.

The emotional part sucks. The fact that he's going to die before my 90-year-old mother, who considers him like a son to her, really sucks. And she really wishes she could go down there but by her own admission she's really not up to it. We'll probably have to take her down for a few days at least just so she can see him one more time, which is going to be incredibly difficult for everyone. The whole thing just sucks.

Hug your loved ones. But also have a plan. Make sure your family/executor/heirs know what you have and where it is and how to access it. Make sure they know your wishes. My cousin and I sat down about 2 years ago and reviewed his entire situation, every account, the house, his cars, valuables, etc. so at least after he's gone, I won't be trying to piece it all together. I've even already been in touch with his financial adviser just so we could introduce ourselves and share contact info for when I need it.

Not really much else to say at this point.

DW signed up to sell at a pop up shop next week

January 27th, 2021 at 07:41 pm

My wife has been sewing for a number of years and has sold stuff here and there, mostly through friends and some word of mouth. Over the past few months, she's been putting more effort into the business. She started selling bags on consignment at an area yarn shop and has sold quite a few of them. She realizes, though, that she needs to expand her market.

There is a local business that runs an indoor (and in season outdoor) pop up shop every Saturday. For $20/day, you get a 9x9 space to sell your wares. It's not a flea market. It's mostly crafters: knit, crochet, soap, woodwork, flowers, jewelry, etc. So the people who come there to shop are the type who are looking for handmade items and understand that those sorts of things cost more than mass produced stuff at Walmart or Target.

The place does some marketing but also depends on each merchant doing their own advertising so we'll be blasting Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to try and drum up business.

We'll see how it goes. If it seems like a good market for her, they do the pop ups every Saturday so she can do it regularly if it's worth her time.

Working on our taxes

January 24th, 2021 at 06:12 pm

I spent some time this weekend starting to organize everything for our taxes. I made an appointment to drop things off to our CPA on February 24, so I've got time, but I don't want to wait until the last minute.

We haven't gotten all of the paperwork yet but there was enough I could do with what we already have.

The good news so far is that our taxable capital gains were lower in 2020 by about $3,400 so that will lower our tax bill. Also they are allowing $300 of charitable donations to be deducted for 2020 even if you don't itemize, so we'll get to take advantage of that. And that doubles to $600 for 2021 for those filing a joint return.

Otherwise, things should be pretty much the same as last year. With the lower CG and the charity deduction, we'll hopefully owe less and/or even get a small refund. We owed a little over $900 last year.

Vanguard account milestone

January 2nd, 2021 at 01:35 am

I forgot one thing in my previous post.

As of market close on 12/31/20, our Vanguard account topped $700,000 for the first time.

We actually have more than that there as that only includes my rollover IRA, my Roth IRA, and our joint brokerage account. My wife also has a rollover IRA and a Roth IRA which hold another $123,000. But the figure that I see when I log into my account doesn't include those.

As always, it's really just another number and doesn't particularly mean anything, but we all like to see those milestone numbers.

2020 Year End Portfolio and Spending

January 1st, 2021 at 03:11 pm

2020 was another fantastic year financially speaking.

Portfolio Value

12/31/19: $1,329,432.03

12/31/20: $1,624,972.12

Increase of $295,540.09 or 22.23%


This doesn't capture everything as it doesn't include things paid by cash and check, but it's an accurate comparison of identical spending year to year.

2019: $6,657/month

2020: $5,966/month

Clearly, the pandemic saved us a considerable amount of money, primarily from lack of travel and dining out.

If I subtract out spending for which we got reimbursed, the actual number drops to $5,325/month. I don't have the corresponding figure for 2019 so I can't compare that. However, just playing with that number - $5,325/month - and using the rule of thumb that you need 25 times annual expenses to retire, that would work out to $1,597,500. We're a bit over that so that's exciting. I realize our spending will creep back up once the pandemic ends, whenever that is, but theoretically if we could maintain the lifestyle we've had in 2020, we are right around where we would need to be to retire. Our actual target is more like $2.2 million but that's not so far off realistically.


Happy New Year to all. Have a great 2021.

Sold one losing stock

December 24th, 2020 at 04:12 pm

I figured with the end of the year looming, it was time to unload one loser in our portfolio: ARLP.

I bought it in 2019 for an average of $14.76/share.

I sold it for $4.46.

Yes, I should have dumped it sooner but it was a very small position so I kind of ignored it. It had dropped as low as $2.30 a few months ago and at least crept back up a bit. But selling it now will let us take that loss to offset some of our 2020 gains so that's useful.

Rolling over wife's 401(k)

December 22nd, 2020 at 08:18 pm

We took care of the 403(b) so it was time to do the 401(k). I downloaded the transfer form and filled it all out. I had a couple of questions that I was pretty sure I knew the answers to but wanted to be 100% sure so we called them this morning. Then she signed the form, I made copies of everything, and I have it ready to mail, but I'm going to wait until after Christmas since the post office is such a mess right now.

I'm hoping that by the end of January, both the 403(b) and 401(k) accounts will be history with the assets of both moving into her Vanguard rollover IRA. That will definitely simplify record keeping and simplify drawing from that money when the time comes.

Got my COVID vaccine today!

December 19th, 2020 at 01:11 am

I was fortunate to get the first dose (of two) of my COVID vaccine today. Dose two is in 3 weeks so January 8.

I see COVID patients every day at work so this will certainly make me more comfortable about the potential exposure I face every day. Certainly, I will still take all precautions and wear my PPE at work and my mask outside of work, but at least I know I'm far less likely to get ill if I do get exposed to the virus.

Rolled over wife's 403(b)

December 16th, 2020 at 08:04 pm

I've procrastinated on making a couple of financial moves for way too long but I'm finally making some progress.

DW and I called her 403(b) company yesterday to find out what we needed to do to rollover her account. She already has an existing rollover IRA from a prior job so the 403(b) funds can go into there.

We downloaded the form needed and filled it out. Today we got her old employer to sign it, as required, and I'll mail it tomorrow (assuming we're not snowed in).

Next up is rolling over her 401k. I downloaded the form for that but I have a question about something so we need to give them a call to clarify that.

I'll be glad to have two fewer accounts to deal with and keep track of. It will make retirement a bit easier when it comes time to start taking distributions from the accounts.

Anything that can go wrong....

December 8th, 2020 at 08:21 pm

We're having one of those days here.

My wife started getting more serious about her sewing business a couple of months ago. She updated her website. We had a friend design a new logo. I then designed and we had printed business cards. I also printed hang tags to put on her items. She reconnected with a shop owner who is selling her items on consignment, and she has already sold a bunch of things. That's all good.

Today, my task was to update the hang tags with a different email address. In the process of doing so, I suddenly realized that on everything we had done so far, a word was misspelled. Ugh. Business cards. Hang tags. Some product labels. All wrong. Several people had reviewed those designs multiple times and somehow none of us had noticed the mistake until I caught it today.

So now my job is to fix it all. Our friend is going to fix the logo. Then I'll use that to fix the hang tags and we'll have to order new business cards. Fortunately, I printed the hang tags myself in small batches and we got the business cards online for about $20. So not a big financial loss but a huge pain in the butt.

Oh, and one more thing. My wife went to cut some fabric on her Cricut and apparently chose the wrong setting which resulted in the machine cutting through the cutting mat.

I hope you're all having a better day.

11-month spending update

December 3rd, 2020 at 01:04 am

2020 is nearly over - finally. As I've posted before, our spending has been down quite a bit thanks to Covid. The two biggest areas of savings continue to be travel and dining out. Travel has been zero. Dining out still happens though almost entirely take out especially now that the weather is getting too cold for outdoor dining. Yeah, I know they have heaters but when it's in the 30s and windy that only helps so much. I don't suspect we'll be braving that much if at all.

Year to date as of November 30, our average monthly spending has been $5,965. For 2019, our average was $6,657 so down about $700 before making any adjustments to that number.

When I subtract spending for which we got reimbursed, the average drops to $5,541. (The 2019 number is not adjusted for reimbursed expenses.)

Although we do miss traveling a great deal and miss dining out as well, my wife and I both agree that we've been perfectly happy with quarantine life for the most part. I know that reduced level of spending won't continue, of course. The pandemic will end in the coming months and we'll resume traveling. We have trips planned for late March (which may or may not happen) and October (which probably will happen). And if the world is relatively safe again, I'm sure there will be other trips in 2021.

Our saving YTD stands at $94,857. My goal for the year is $100,000. I have two more paychecks from which at least $2,376 will go to savings. That will leave us just $2,767 from the goal which we should be able to manage, especially since December is a 3 paycheck month. Most or all of that final paycheck will go to savings.

I think I do have at least one per diem shift scheduled this month and may pick up another if I feel like it. A lot of my coworkers are looking to give away shifts to use up their PTO. I haven't decided if I'd take any more but if I do, that extra income all goes to savings as well.

Overall, a very successful year financially speaking despite the craziness in the world. And as of today, our portfolio is up over $245,000 for the year. As long as the market behaves this month, we should end on a strong note.

September YTD Spending Update

October 4th, 2020 at 03:10 pm

September saw a spike in spending but some of that was work-related and I will get reimbursed so I need to adjust for that.

It looks like we're right around $5,475 for our monthly average when I tease out that other stuff.

Of course, I also bought a car in September but I'm not counting that in our monthly spending average since it's a one-time pre-planned event, not part of our everyday budget.

Even with the increase, we're still running almost $1,200/month lower than 2019 so I'm okay with that. And I do think September was a bit of an anomaly. That number will probably drop again in October.

Bought a car

September 14th, 2020 at 02:01 pm

I've been looking for a car for a little while but didn't start looking seriously until last month. I had decided that I wanted to avoid car salespeople and do it online as much as possible so I focused on Carmax and Carvana.

I found one I liked on Carmax 2 weeks ago. It was in NC so I paid $99 to have it shipped to NJ. It arrived on Wednesday and we went over to see it on Friday and I bought it.

It's a 2018 Toyota Camry XSE. Only has 13,500 miles and is in beautiful shape.

The whole buying process with Carmax was fantastic. No pressure at all. No attempt to upsell me on anything. Clean and easy, the way it should be. I would definitely do it again the next time we need a car.

I may have found a "new" car

August 29th, 2020 at 11:35 pm

I've been car shopping and found one today that I will probably buy if all is well when I see it in person.

I decided this time around I was going with either Carmax or Carvana. I wanted to do as much of it as possible online and have a fixed price and not have to deal with a sleazy commission-based salesperson. I'm paying cash so no need to deal with the finance department either. I had saved a search for what I wanted on both sites and have checked back daily for new inventory. One came up yesterday that was very nice but also more expensive than I wanted. Then today, a couple of new ones popped up and I jumped on one of them.

It's currently in North Carolina so I'm having it shipped to NJ ($99 fee). They'll let me know when it arrives and is ready for me to come check it out. No obligation to buy, and if I do buy, they have a 7-day return policy.

Anyway, it's a 2018 Toyota Camry XSE with just under 13,000 miles. Red exterior, black interior.

Now I just wait for it to get here and then go check it out.

A little portfolio rebalancing

August 23rd, 2020 at 04:58 pm

I realized a while back that our cash allocation had grown rather large - larger than I really want it to be.

I finally sat down and did something about it today. I had a bunch of cash in both my traditional IRA and my Roth, so two places with no tax implications to moving money around.

I put in a buy order for something in the traditional IRA. Then I put in an order to move money into the settlement account in my Roth. I know I could do the buy orders I want right away but I always get nervous by the "there are insufficient funds in your settlement account for this transaction" warning that pops up. So I'll wait a day or two until the money is actually there and then place the buy orders.

The end result will be our cash allocation dropping and our stock allocation rising by about 2.7% which will put us back right about where I want our asset allocation to be.

YTD spending update. Wow!

August 19th, 2020 at 06:07 pm

I was going to wait until the end of the month to look at this but I happened to check today. We're almost 2/3 of the way through 2020. It's remarkable how much of an impact COVID has had on our spending.

In 2019, our average monthly spending came to $6,657 or $79,884 for the entire year.

So far in 2020, our average monthly spending is only about $5,190. Extrapolated out for 12 months that will be just $62,280, almost $18,000 less than last year.

I haven't sat down and really dug into the numbers but just on the surface, the biggest chunk of the savings has got to be from the lack of travel. Number two would be the lack of dining out.

We have started dining out again since NJ opened for outdoor dining at the end of June but we're still doing way less than previously. It's been too darn hot to eat out most of the time. As the weather starts to get a little more moderate, we'll probably go out more so our spending will pick up a bit, but we'll still be way off last year's numbers. And travel isn't resuming anytime soon, certainly not in 2020.

I know the sharp drop is temporary but it's still nice to have that extra cash to stuff into savings.

Hurricane aftermath

August 5th, 2020 at 11:49 pm

Hurricane Isaias came through our area yesterday morning. Heavy rain and high winds. Other than a little water in the basement, we thought we had made out okay. And then around 12:30pm, after the rain had stopped and the sky was actually clearing, the power went out. It's now 7:40pm the next day, so 31 hours later, and the power is still out.

We were able to spend last night at home. Fortunately, it wasn't terribly hot so even without AC, it only got up to about 75 in the house.

Still no power this morning but DD and I both had to work so off we went. DW stayed home except for running out to get some breakfast since there wasn't really anything she could have at home.

When I got home, I picked up some lunch, and we were debating what to do. It was hot today so the temp in the house was up to about 85. We knew we wouldn't be able to stay in the house if the power didn't come back.

Once DD came home, we decided pretty soon after to book a hotel room and head out. There was no sign that the power would be back anytime soon and it was pretty oppressive in the house. DD is also in the middle of a big project that she needs internet access for.

So we're all settled in at the hotel. Lights, AC, Wifi, all the amenities we need. We ordered takeout for dinner. The hotel is right down the street from my office so I'll be at work in 5 minutes in the morning. And it's about the same distance from DD's work as from home so she's fine, too. I booked for 2 nights but can always extend it if necessary. Hopefully by Friday the power will be restored.

Wrapping up July

July 29th, 2020 at 08:26 pm

Another month has passed, just about.

July was fairly calm all around. I was off for most of the first week because I was supposed to be in St. Louis for a conference that didn't happen.

We celebrated our 28th anniversary on the 12th with dinner at a local Italian place we like. They had 2-person tables set up along the sidewalk out front which was nice. Well spaced and the sidewalk is covered. Plus it faces east so by dinner time, it has been in the shade for a while so not terribly hot.

Work has been picking up slightly but still low compared to normal. Not too many COVID suspects but still a handful every week.

Financially, all is well. I just paid 3rd quarter property taxes. I get paid tomorrow and my take home jumped $500 because I maxed out the SS tax for the year. I wasn't expecting that so it was a nice little surprise.

Nothing else too exciting to report. I hope everyone is doing well, staying cool, and staying safe.

Minor portfolio milestone

July 15th, 2020 at 12:28 am

I'm on a conference call and decided to take a look at our portfolio. As of market close today, we hit $1.4 million for the first time. Barely, but we hit it. And it could drop back below that mark tomorrow given the volatility of the market these days, but I'll take it for the moment.

Update on storm damage

July 8th, 2020 at 12:17 am

So I posted that last night, an electric circuit tripped and wouldn't reset. I scheduled the electrician to come out this afternoon.

I checked the circuit this morning before I went to work and it still wouldn't reset. When I got home around 2pm, and the electrician was on his way, I tried one more time and sure enough it reset and everything worked.

When the tech came, I told him the story and my theory that during the storm, some moisture had somehow gotten into something, most likely one of the outside light fixtures. Once it dried up, everything worked again. He agreed with me and explained that there was really no way for him to trace where the problem had come from.

The "overkill" solution would be to take apart every connection on that circuit, check the wires, and rewrap and seal everything, but he did not recommend doing that. If this happens again, I should call them and at that point they would start tracing everything but if it was just a fluke from a severe storm, it might never give us any trouble again.

I'm okay with that. He charged nothing for coming out since he never got past our front step and a 5-minute conversation. So crisis averted, at least for now.

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