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Major health update on DW and Ebay update

May 21st, 2022 at 12:50 am

I haven't blogged for a few weeks with good reason. My wife ended up in the hospital on 4/23 and was there for 19 days. To keep it short, she developed a serious infection in and around her spine and related fluid in her left lung. She had major surgery on her back to clean it out and rebuild and stabilize her spine. She had a total of 3 procedures, 1 minor, 1 intermediate, and finally 1 more extensive to fix the lung issue. Spent 4 days in ICU post-op. Got 3 transfusions. Came home last week with a PICC line and IV antibiotics for a few more weeks.

As you can imagine, it was a major ordeal for all of us. On top of that whole mess, my mom got admitted during that same period for mild heart failure. Same hospital fortunately, so I was constantly going back and forth between their rooms. DW came home on Wednesday. Mom came home on Thursday. So I've been busy coordinating their home care needs since.

Anyway, both are now recovering and doing okay. Both have a visiting nurse and physical therapy at home. In a couple more weeks, DW will likly start outpatient PT for her back rehab.

Incidentally, as of now, the billing for DW's hospitalization stands at around $730,000. Insurance has already taken care of most of that but there is still some stuff that hasn't settled. It's only been a week, though, so I'm hopeful that the remainder will work its way through the system and get paid as well. We may end up owing something but we're hoping it won't be a major amount.

I put my ebay sales on vacation mode for a week when DW was first admitted. Once it became clear that she would be there quite a while, I restarted sales but only listed an item here and there so I was making and shipping sales but wasn't doing much to keep it going until after she got home. There just weren't enough hours in the day.

For the 2nd quarter so far, I have done $1,042.36 in sales and $679.42 in profit. That brings my YTD numbers to $2,657.35 in sales and $1,795.94 in profit. Considering my goal back in January was to average $200/month profit, I certainly can't complain as I'm actually averaging $359/month even with pausing for a few weeks with my wife's illness.

I haven't gotten an official end date for my part time contract at work so I'm still assuming it will be August 6. That means I've got 31 shifts left to work before I change to per diem. With the latest COVID surge hitting full force, I can't wait to cut back to 4-hour shifts. My site saw 69 patients yesterday which is a lot for us. I'm hoping this wave dies down quickly but right now there's no sign of that happening so we're all working our butts off again thanks to elimination of mask mandates and so many people just not caring anymore.

February updates

February 20th, 2022 at 12:42 am

Things are cruising along reasonably well. I've adjusted well to working part time. At first it didn't seem much different. It took me a few weeks to adjust my schedule and stop feeling like I had to cram things into the 3 days I was off since I now have a whole 4th day free. Plus 2 days a week I don't go in until 1pm so I've got those mornings free now too.

Still, I'm constantly running the numbers to see when it is reasonable for me to drop to per diem and just work when I want to. I'm thinking that if I can pick up at least enough shifts to earn what we will be spending on health insurance, that would be perfect.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in my blog (I know I've talked about it on the forums) but my wife developed back trouble at the end of October so we've been dealing with that. She's had 3 epidural injections and is having facet joint injections on Friday. She's better than she was but still nowhere near normal. Because of that, I don't really want to switch insurance plans now, which we'd need to do if I stopped working part time. We could do COBRA but that's super expensive so not really a good option. Hopefully, things will turn around over the next few months and she'll be better so switching coverage won't be a big concern anymore.

I've been much more active on ebay, which was my intent when I started working less. I currently have 72 items listed (plus 10-20 on Marketplace). Just this morning, for the first time in a long time, I bought some stuff to resell from an estate sale. While we still have plenty of stuff in the house for me to sell, I also know that if I want ebay to become a meaningful source of retirement income, I'm going to need to buy stock. I spent $14 today on 6 items that should bring in $100 or more. We shall see.

We have a cruise booked for August so we're hoping both that COVID is under control and that DW is physically able to do it.

I'm taking our tax stuff to the CPA on Tuesday. This year is complicated as it's our normal personal return, a final return for my cousin, and an estate return. I have no idea what that will all look like, if we'll owe, if we'll get money back, or what. So I kind of feel like I'm in limbo at the moment as far as making any big financial decisions until that's all done and I know where we stand.

Plenty of other things happening, but that's enough for now.

Investment income

January 3rd, 2022 at 01:59 am

I just had to add up our taxable investment income - interest, dividends, capital gains - for our accountant to see if we need to make an estimated tax payment.

It came to $46,000.

There was also about another $6,000 in dividends from two inherited stocks that are still in my late cousin's name and were paid to the estate, not to me directly.

In 2022, I have to start taking RMDs from the inherited IRA. That will be about $20,000 this year.

Finally, there's just over $550,000 still sitting in the estate bank account currently earning nothing. I will gain control of those funds soon and be able to invest them. Even at a modest 3% return, that would be another $16,000/yr. Obviously more if I can do better than 3%, which I think I can.

All together, that comes to $80,000 or so in income that we can reasonably expect this year. That's before touching a penny of our retirement accounts (except that inherited IRA) and in addition to my income from work.

If it truly plays out that way, I think I'd be well-positioned to retire by the end of the year, which has been my plan. It's just nice to have some actual numbers to back it up.

2021 spending

December 27th, 2021 at 01:45 am

I haven't crunched the numbers in detail but big picture, here's how our spending stacked up for the past 3 years.

2019: $81,200

2020: $70,600

2021: $88,400

There was also a large one-time expense in 2021 not included there. We paid the lawyer handling my late cousin's estate $14,500. Technically that was paid from the estate (even though I was the sole beneficiary of the estate so ultimately it was my money either way) but I certainly don't need to count that when doing future spending projections.

We had one other large expense this year spending $10,200 for a home repair. If not for that, our 2021 spending would have come in a few thousand under 2019. We're not quite back to pre-pandemic spending yet.

We have trimmed a couple of costs over the past year or so. We cut cable in November 2020. Just this past month, I dropped DW's life insurance and one of my disability insurance policies. Our daughter aged off our health insurance in October but we're now paying out of pocket for her therapy as her new plan doesn't cover it.

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with where our numbers are at this point. I dropped to part time at the end of November so my income dropped by 1/3. That should still have me earning more than we're spending with a little to spare. That was pretty much my goal - earn enough to pay the bills and still save a bit and not have to touch the nest egg yet.

Had CFP follow up meeting today

November 19th, 2021 at 09:32 pm

Today was our follow up visit with our CFP. We saw him initially on 10/29 at which time we presented all of our information and discussed our plans and goals.

Today he reviewed the results of his analyses. He modeled several scenarios ranging from me retiring at 60 to retiring January 1, 2022. In all but one scenario, our projected success rate was 100%. In the one outlier, our success rate was "only" 99% so I think we could squeak by.

All of his projections assumed that I would have zero income after retirement, which isn't my plan. I anticipate dropping to per diem status and still working a few days per month for at least a few more years. At worst, if I work one weekend a month and nothing more, I'd earn at least $30,000/year. I also plan to do more online sales on ebay and Marketplace and have some money coming in that way, too. So his projections would look even better if you plug in that "post-retirement" income.

His projections also use a 4% rate of return from our portfolio. I certainly hope the long term return will be better than that. Even if it is 5%, that tips the scales even more in our favor.

Bottom line is that he thinks we're well positioned to succeed regardless of what I end up doing or when I end up retiring. I was pretty confident that that would be his conclusion, but it was nice to actually hear it stated.

I will be part time as of next Sunday, 11/28. I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes. I expect I'll find the work-life balance more to my liking and can stick with that for a while. Otherwise, we're set for me to cut back more if and when I decide it's time.

 

401k maxed for the year

November 17th, 2021 at 02:18 am

I just downloaded this week's paycheck. I contributed the final $740.78 needed to max my 401k at 26K for 2021. This is the third year I've done so. It's also possibly the last since as of 11/28 I will drop to part time. I don't think I'll be able to contribute that much going forward for however much longer I work (and the max rises for 2022).

Still, I'm happy to have been able to put in what I did. That account now stands at about $215,000 and I won't be touching it for at least a few more years so it can continue to grow. And even if I can't put in the max, I do want to keep contributing as much as I can for as long as I can.

This working thing is really getting old

November 9th, 2021 at 12:51 am

I'm tired of working. I suppose more accurately I'm tired of never having enough time to do everything else I want and need to get done because I spend so much time working. House stuff, financial stuff, family stuff, medical stuff, car stuff, exercise, the list goes on and on. Even fluff like staying current on a Netflix show I'm watching or being able to take advantage of a special offer at a favorite restaurant. There just aren't enough hours in the day. So many people say they'd be bored if they retired. I say bring it on. I'm ready. My to-do list is a mile long.

Three weeks from yesterday I'll officially be part time at work, dropping from 36 hrs/wk to 24, from 4 days to 3 days. I'm hoping that having that extra day, those extra 12 hours each week will provide better balance and give me more time to do all the stuff that gets ignored or delayed now. If not, it will be time to very seriously plan cutting back to just per diem work and getting our finances in order to make sure that will work.

First meeting with CFP done

October 30th, 2021 at 05:15 pm

We had a meeting yesterday with a CFP. He happens to be my wife's cousin and is someone we know and trust. He's the farthest thing from a sleazy salesperson type as you can get. Very upfront and honest about everything. We told him before we scheduled the meeting that we were not interested in money management services and did not want to be sold anything. We were strictly looking for planning services.

Prior to the meeting, he sent a list of information he wanted us to bring: income statement, SS statements, tax returns, spending log, and portfolio review. All easy enough for me to put together.

We started by talking about our situation and goals and what we'd like retirement to look like. He asked if we had any specific questions or concerns we wanted him to address. I then walked him through our portfolio spreadsheet because it's not really designed for a stranger to necessarily read and clearly understand so I wanted to make sure he knew what everything was and how to follow it. We talked a fair amount about our spending and how we envision that changing (or not) in retirement.

He explained the review he will do and what the results will look like, what sorts of things he models in, etc. We scheduled a follow up visit for 11/19 to go over what he comes up with.

Without giving us any specific answers, which he can't do just off the top of his head understandably, he was impressed with our situation, portfolio, knowledge, and mindset. Just based on the initial review, he thought we were in good shape overall to retire in the near future but will go into far more detail once he runs all the numbers, analyzes our portfolio, etc.

One thing he particularly liked was how we have good diversity of account types. Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401k, taxable accounts, etc. He said it's always challenging when someone comes to him who has a lot of money but it's all in one place, like their 401k. The diversity creates much more flexibility when it comes to withdrawal planning and managing tax efficiency.

So overall he thinks we're on the right track and have managed things well. I'll post again after we have the follow up in a few weeks.

Part time starts 11/28

October 28th, 2021 at 08:20 pm

I gave notice on 8/3 to end my current full time contract and switch to part time. My contract requires 120 days notice which took me to 12/1. The pay period starts 11/28 so the change will be effective then.

I'll be dropping from 36 hours/week to 24. I currently work two 12-hr days, one 8-hr, and one 4-hr. The new schedule will either be three 8-hr days or one 12, one 8, and one 4. We got our new schedule yesterday that runs through 12/25. It was nice to see my newly reduced hours in black and white.

Due to over-extending my PTO this year when my cousin died, I still owe them about 45 hours that I need to make up. I've been picking up 4 hours here and there and have already worked off 35 hours (I owed 80 originally). Even after I switch to PT, I'll still need to pick up some extra shifts until I make up that deficit, but it will be a lot easier at that point since I'll have more time free.

Once I've taken care of the PTO deficit, I'll probably still pick up extra shifts fairly regularly. Working a 4-hour shift is pretty easy and pays nicely. So maybe I'll aim to actually work 28 hours most weeks, still better than 36.

We're meeting with a CFP tomorrow for some hard core retirement planning. I think I have a good grasp on where things stand but I wanted to get a pro's input, particularly on a withdrawal plan once I do retire fully. We have so many accounts and I don't want to do anything that screws us up at tax time when doing something a little different could have saved us thousands of dollars. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he has to say. More to come on that once we've reviewed everything with him.

I may have quit my job today

September 26th, 2021 at 12:13 am

Things at work have been super out of control due to COVID. Patient volumes have been hitting records almost daily and the stress level has been through the roof. We're all exhausted and burned out. And all of this is in the setting of us being short staffed for both providers and techs.

Along with in-person care, we also offer telehealth and that system has gotten even more out of control. The expectations placed upon us to cover that (at the same time we're working in physical locations) wasn't so bad when they first started and only saw a few patients a day, but they're now up to seeing in the 20s or 30s daily without any dedicated staff. Today was really the last straw for me.

I've already sent an email to my lead saying that what happened today was unacceptable and I'm no longer willing to work under those conditions. If they won't move me to a non-telehealth site I will be resigning. I hope it doesn't come to that but at this point, I'm prepared to walk if nothing is going to change.

I'll keep you posted. I may be a full-time ebay seller sooner than anticipated.

401k milestone

August 29th, 2021 at 12:35 am

As of this week, my 401k balance topped the $200,000 mark for the first time.

I started this account when I started working here per diem in April 2016. I went part time in February 2017 and full time in November 2017. I contributed the maximum allowed in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

So 200K accumulated in under 5-1/2 years. Not bad at all.

Florida house sold, portfolio update, odds and ends

August 19th, 2021 at 01:13 am

The Florida house did close on 8/10 as scheduled. All went pretty smoothly. I had to run around a bit to get the paperwork notarized and sent back but that was minor.

Final result was me walking away with $477,203.26. It went into the estate account for now. I'll get it once the probate period ends in early October. There's now over $547,000 in that account.

That means that our overall portfolio now stands at over $3.1 million. That's well above where I thought we'd be with the inheritance. I had estimated we'd be around $2.7 or 2.8 million but the inheritance ended up being more than I thought plus the ongoing stock market returns have pushed up the value of what we already had as well as the value of the money I inherited that was invested in equities.

That estate account, however, has pushed our cash allocation to about 23% right now and our stocks down to 51% with the remaining 27% in bonds.

I'm working on fixing that. I can't do anything about the 540K in the estate account yet but I'm reallocating the money that is in our control, namely the inherited traditional IRA. I started moving 10K/week from bonds to stocks but realized that would take forever, so today I moved 50K and will do that every week for the next couple of months. That will get us to about 57% stock. Then the estate account will get distributed to me and I'll be able to invest that to get the asset allocation where I ultimately want it.

No word yet on when my part time status will begin. We're actually short staffed at work right now so it's very possible they will hold me to my contract, meaning I'll remain full time until December 1. I'm hoping they can find a way to get me part time before that but I'm not complaining as I completely understand I'm bound by the contract.

We go to Florida 3 weeks from today for a big fundraising event and convention. We're not thrilled about traveling in the midst of the COVID surge but we've decided we're just going to do it and take precautions as much as possible.

Updates: estate, job, etc.

August 7th, 2021 at 11:34 pm

It's been over a month since my last entry. Time for an update.

I did return to Florida where I spent about 2 more weeks finishing up. Donated a bunch more stuff. Got the house ready to sell. Met with the realtor. A guy who lives in the neighborhood and knew my cousin had a sister in NY interested in the house. I had her and a couple of others excluded from the realtor contract. She flew down to see the house while we were there (my wife joined me partway through) and made a cash offer for just over our asking price. We're on track to close on Tuesday as far as I know.

We rented a truck and packed up a bunch of stuff that we wanted to bring home and drove back 7/14-7/15. I returned to work on 7/17.

Work has been nuts thanks to COVID and the fact that they closed one of our 8 sites at the end of May. At my primary site, we've had several days where we've seen over 70 patients which is a lot. 50s to 60ish had been the norm. We all can't wait for COVID to settle down but this particular location is also in an area with high anti-vax sentiment and "free-dumb" folks. Even a number of the staff members are anti-vax which just drives me nuts. How can you be on the front line of the pandemic seeing COVID patients every single day and still not see the value in the vaccine? Thankfully, our job has made the vaccine mandatory. We must be fully vaccinated by September 15. A bunch of people have quit as a result, though I'm not sure where they're planning to go since most other health systems are doing the same thing, but at least I won't be stuck with them anymore.

Big news on the job front is that I officially gave notice to drop to part time. I don't have an effective date yet. My contract requires 120 days notice so it could be as late as December 1. They handle that on a case by case basis so it could be before that. I know they have per diem providers waiting for hours to open up so if they can fill my spot easily, they might let me out of the contract early.

I'll go from 36 hours to 24. I'll still have medical benefits but at a slightly higher rate (about $70/month). And I'll still have the option of picking up extra hours whenever I'd like based on availability. I'll definitely do that for a while because I owe them about 80 hours. My leave of absence used up all of my PTO but we have a couple of trips planned in the fall that I'm still taking so I have to make up that time. Also, if I pick up 4 hours a week, I'd make some extra money and still be doing 8 hours less than I had been. One nice thing, hopefully, is that I won't be working 12-hour days anymore. I requested three 8-hour shifts for my 24 hour week.

Hopefully, the house closes as scheduled on Tuesday. That will be the last big piece of the estate. Then I just have to wait for the probate process to end in early October before the funds can be distributed to me.

I've been staying active listing stuff on ebay since a lot of what came home from Florida is items I wanted to sell. I've got about a dozen listings going and have already sold several. Little by little, I'll work through it all. Once I go part time, I plan to devote more time to the sales.

I think that's about it for now.

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.

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.

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 Early-Retirement.org 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

NJ slowly reopening

June 2nd, 2020 at 08:50 pm

They announced yesterday that restaurants can resume outdoor dining on 6/15 and that salons and barbers can reopen on 6/22. I couldn't care less about salons as I cut my own hair and have for years, but the two main things I've missed during quarantine have been the gym and eating out. Gyms are still closed but restaurants will start coming back in 2 weeks.

We are not typically ones to dine outside. My wife has bad allergies and it's rare for the weather to be cooperative. Either it's too hot and humid or too cool or windy or raining. I'm trying to think of the local places we like that have nice outdoor seating areas, especially ones that are covered. That way the sun and/or rain isn't an issue. There is one Italian place nearby that has a great patio space. With social distancing requirements I'm not sure how many people they'll be able to accommodate at a time but if DW is willing, maybe we'll do dinner there one night once things are up and running. They have short rib that is to die for.

Work seems to be gradually picking up, though some days not so much. We saw 22 patients on Thursday and I think they saw 23 on Friday, but then I saw 4 yesterday. However, 2 of our sites that had been closed reopened yesterday so that may have been part of it. I was only in 9-1 today but we had seen 8 when I left so that was decent.

Another COVID cancellation

May 22nd, 2020 at 03:19 pm

I was planning to attend a medical conference in St. Louis in early July. I booked the hotel months ago. I realized that I haven't heard anything about the status of the convention itself so I went to their website last night and sure enough it has been cancelled.

I checked my saved email and it turns out that while I had made the hotel reservation, I had never actually registered for the convention which is why I didn't get a cancellation notice. Makes sense.

I went on and cancelled the hotel stay this morning. Fortunately, I had the good sense to not book airfare in advance so I don't have the hassle of having to cancel that.

Looks like I'll have a little staycation in July. No reason to cancel my PTO. I have more PTO than I will likely use this year anyway. I might as well use it. Hopefully by July we'll at least be able to do something fun with some of that time, even just a day trip or two. Who knows at this point?

News from Quarantine

April 25th, 2020 at 12:08 am

Well, there's not really much in the way of news but it's been 2 weeks since I posted so figured I'd check in.

Our daughter wasn't eligible for unemployment because her last job was with a non-profit and they don't pay into the system. The look back period ended 9/30/19 and she had only been at her current job about 2 months at that point and needed to have 20 weeks of work history.

There may be a silver lining, though. She got a call from her manager the other day and it sounds like they got money from the payroll protection program as she said they may be able to pay her for 8 weeks worth of income. She's waiting for confirmation and details.

I'm working same as always. Urgent care is still very slow. The hospital census has been gradually increasing but not to a point where they are overwhelmed and calling in more help. I'm hoping that remains the case and they won't need us. I really don't want to go work there.

DW is managing okay. She and her mah jong friends got set up with an online game platform so a couple of times a week they get together virtually and play. They use a 2nd device to Facetime so that they can all see and talk to each other. They'll probably keep using that system even after quarantine ends at least sometimes because it means nobody has to drive around. It will be great if we have bad weather or someone isn't feeling well but can still play without getting others sick.

We've become regular Zoom users, as I'm sure lots of you have. We've had meets with our bourbon club, our Disney friends, family members, and more. What a great resource to stay connected with everyone. I've used it a few times for work also for updates and meetings.

At work, we've been very grateful for some of the community support, mainly in the form of free food. We've gotten lunch from Five Guys and Mission BBQ, free smoothies from Smoothie King, and free donuts from Krispy Kreme among other things.

Financially speaking, the quarantine has really cut down our spending. Less gas, less dining out, less unplanned shopping, no outside entertainment - it's all added up to over $3,000 of reduced spending compared to the first 4 months of 2019.

I hope everyone is hanging in there. Stay safe.

Checking in

April 9th, 2020 at 02:45 pm

It's been 2 weeks since I posted. Things are going reasonably well. Work remains slow but also very stressful. I'm having dreams about work pretty much every night. Several of my coworkers have said the same. Constantly working with the threat of catching COVID from our patients is really taking its toll mentally on all of us.

As part of the Emergency Operations Plan, they have all of us urgent care providers getting oriented in the hospital so that when the surge hits, they can send us there as additional help if needed. I haven't done any inpatient care for just over 20 years so I'm not sure how much help I can be. I did a little orientation yesterday so I at least have a general concept of where things are and what the workflow looks like. But if I actually have to start working there, I'll need a great deal of help and support.

Passover was essentially cancelled thanks to COVID. We always host the seder at our house which obviously didn't happen. My cousins in NYC did a Zoom seder but none of us really felt like participating.

I'm trying my best to exercise regularly which is hard with the gym closed. I have gotten out to walk/jog several times and I've been doing some floor exercises at home with what limited equipment we have. I figure it's all good and better than nothing but I look forward to being able to go to the gym again whenever that happens.

Financially, things are pretty normal since I'm still working full time. Our daughter has been out of work since 3/13 and filed for unemployment. She got the debit card a couple of days ago but hasn't actually gotten her first payment yet. We're hoping that her place is able to reopen and doesn't go out of business. She'll be devastated if it does.

Not much else happening since the world is pretty much all closed. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy at home and being super careful when you must go out.

Just an update

March 26th, 2020 at 12:11 am

I realized I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. Heck, I haven't even been reading anybody else's blog. Obviously, it's been a crazy time, and being a healthcare worker, I'm not on lockdown like so many others including my wife and daughter. I've still got to go to work every day and that's been a whole new level of crazy with the rules and guidelines and policies and procedures changing pretty much daily.

On the plus side, patient volume at urgent care has plummeted. My theory is that with schools closed and so many people working from home, there just isn't that much routine illness going around. Also, with all sports and activities suspended, gyms closed, etc., we're not seeing all of the sports injuries we typically get. So we've been quite slow.

On the other hand, we're on the front lines of the COVID-19 stuff. We are seeing plenty of patients with respiratory symptoms so every person who walks through the door is a potential case and we need to act accordingly. That is quite stressful for all of us.

In addition, because of the decreased volumes overall, we're starting to worry about our jobs. They have already stopped urgent care services at 2 or our 8 sites and reassigned providers to the remaining 6. But we wonder how long that is sustainable when we're seeing about 1/3 of our normal volume. Colleagues across the country are reporting their urgent care clinics are cutting back operating hours or closing sites entirely. Some providers have even been laid off. So obviously that's a huge concern for me.

The "good" thing is that I work for a large hospital system, not an independent urgent care company. If the situation reaches a point where they really feel they don't need some of us in urgent care, they may reassign us to other clinical duties, especially if the hospitals start getting overwhelmed with COVID patients and/or a lot of providers are out because they are infected or at least quarantined due to exposure. So at least right at this moment, I think my job is safe, but I know that could change at any moment.

My daughter's job shut down a week ago Saturday and they were officially laid off a few days later, making her eligible to file for unemployment. She was upset about that and is hoping that her job opens again whenever appropriate. Her manager told her they definitely want her back but there is always that chance that they might trim staff or simply fold if they can't financially stay afloat.

My wife is managing pretty well with the whole situation. She doesn't work outside the home so her routine isn't quite as disrupted as ours, though it's still affected. Other than us taking a couple of family walks, I don't think she's left the house for well over a week. She normally does a weekly volunteer gig packing home meals for the elderly, plays Mah Jong every week, and does another monthly volunteer thing for a blind support group. All of that is gone for now. I know she's also really worried about me, afraid that I'll catch the virus at work.

And of course, we can't ignore the financial impact this whole mess is having. Last time I checked, our portfolio was down about $230,000. I'm sure it recovered a bit yesterday and today but that's still a huge loss on paper. I did do some buying over the last couple of weeks so I'm hoping that will help when the recovery ultimately happens. I got some stuff at pretty rock bottom prices (I hope) so that will goose the returns some when things start going back up.

I guess that's long enough of a post for now. I hope everyone else is holding up okay through all of this. Stay safe. Stay healthy. And STAY HOME!

Extra help at work; Free dinner out

January 19th, 2020 at 02:12 pm

They finally gave us extra help at work. We now have 2 providers for 4 hours per day on Monday, Friday, and weekends. It definitely helped yesterday as we saw 22 patients from 9-1 which I couldn't possibly have kept up with by myself. Now I just have to hope the volumes support adding a 2nd person on the remaining 3 days of the week since I work Tuesday and Thursday by myself.

We went out to dinner last night to a place we like. The restaurant sent out an email yesterday morning with a $10 off deal one day only. I'm guessing they thought business might be light due to bad weather, or maybe that was just a coincidence and they were going to send that offer anyway.

In addition to the $10 off, I had a $20 gift card that we got as a bonus for buying a $75 gift card last month. Finally, I hadn't yet used the $100 gift card my staff gave me as a holiday present. I think we ended up using about half of that card.

The storm didn't do much here. We got a dusting of snow and some sleet but it wasn't bad and the temp was back in the upper 30s this morning so nothing froze over night.

Worked an extra shift today

January 10th, 2020 at 11:43 pm

Last year, I pretty regularly picked up an extra shift, maybe once or twice a month. But I haven't done that for at least a few months. We hired a lot of new people so there haven't been nearly as many open shifts, and I was just kind of burnt out and didn't feel like working any more than I needed to.

Recently, I've been paying attention to the openings again. Two or three times in the past few weeks, we've gotten a text or e-mail saying they needed help last minute but every time I've either already been working or had personal plans. Yesterday we got a message that they needed help at one site from 1-5pm today. I was free, double checked with my wife, and took that shift.

I hadn't been to that site for ages, probably close to 2 years, so it was nice to go there and see everyone. It wasn't terribly busy which was also nice. And the other doc on with me is pretty new. We've met at meetings but I never really had any time to talk and get to know her.

And, of course, we get paid $140/hour for weekday per diem shifts so I made an extra $560 for giving up my afternoon. Not a bad deal all around.

Ten Years of Finances

January 3rd, 2020 at 02:59 pm

CCF suggested this idea and I thought it would be fun. Post a comparison of where you were 10 years ago and where you are now, and talk about what happened in the interim. So here goes.

12/31/09: Total financial assets (not including home)
$395,673.73

12/31/19: Total financial assets (not including home)
$1,329,432.03

12/31/09 Mortgage balance: $92,285.99
12/31/19 Mortgage balance: $0.00

So our net worth went up by $1,026,044.29.

Major financial events of the last 10 years, and I'm probably forgetting some

Bought my car in 2012, paid off in 2013
Bought my wife's van in 2013, paid off in 2016

Daughter attended college 2014-2018, all loans by her and us have been repaid

Paid off mortgage in 2019; now totally debt-free

Began a job transition in April 2016 that was completed in November 2017 and now earn more than double what I made at the old job

I think those are the real biggies. Obviously, lots of smaller things, car repairs, home repairs, travel, medical expenses, and all of the other normal stuff. It's pretty powerful to look back like that.