Focus

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With so many disparate goals for this year, some that focus on debt-reduction and others focused more on savings, I felt a bit like we’ve been playing a game of tug-o-war. We want so many different things and, like a child, we want them all NOW!!!

Ugh. Why does adulting have to be so difficult?

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 1.51.03 PM

 

Source – Someone, buy this for me! ; )

When we got hit smack in the face with our looming IRS debt, it forced me to take a step back and re-assess our plans for the year. Some changes I have already implemented (which will go into effect in April) include:

  • Reducing my retirement contributions. My university requires a minimum 7% contribution. I had been investing an additional 3% of my salary (for 10% total), but given our need to get some liquid cash for the IRS (and for debt payments, as well), I called HR and reduced my contributions down to the minimum 7% required.
  • Eliminating extra mortgage payments. Though we closed in November, it still feels like we just barely got here! When I set up our mortgage auto-payments, I set them to include an extra $300 to go directly toward principal. Our required payment was $950, but we’ve been paying $1250. I called the bank and removed our extra principal payment, reducing our auto-draft down to the minimum $950/month that’s required.
  • Practicing patience. I already talked about how my daughter lost her water bottle. Instead of immediately replacing it, I’ve made her start using my water bottle as her own. Unless her old one miraculously turns up (no idea where it is – it’s been lost for 3 weeks now), she won’t be getting a new water bottle until the start of next school year. In the past, I would’ve just immediately purchased a new one. But now I’m examining every purchase and really making an effort to practice patience anytime I’m thinking of buying something that we don’t immediately need.

All of these changes are in an effort to FOCUS on one thing at a time. Dave Ramsey talks about the power of focus (which, I believe, helped motivate the way he designed the Baby Steps so one “goal” is being focused on at a time).

We just have to get out of debt. It’s got to be done. This month marks completion of my third full year of being on this debt-reduction journey. There have been lots of highs and lows and this HUGE tax bill has definitely got me a little down. But, if anything, it’s just made me strengthen my resolve that we need to get out of debt ASAP!!! We had two years of hard-core debt reduction (no frills), one year where we loosened the purse strings a bit, and this year will be a mix. We do have some fun things planned (still doing our first ever Mom-and-Dad getaway sans kids this summer! Eeeeee!!!!!!), but I’m really realizing how much SOONER we can be out of debt if we return to our steadfast FOCUS on the goal at hand. It’s a tough thing going through this journey for SOOOOOOOOOO long. But that’s what the deal is. We started this journey with nearly $150,000 in debt and only making about $50,000/year! Obviously with those numbers it was going to take some time. Things have changed – our income has gone up and our debt has shrunk as we’ve been making huge payments. But it’s time for a renewed focus. I don’t want to be doing this for another three years. That’s too long. I want to try to cut that time in half. If we can be debt-free in a year and a half, I would be overjoyed! I can see the light at the end of a tunnel if we’re only talking about another year and a half!!!

Some of this is just rambling thoughts. I’d like to write up a whole “3 Years Reflections” post with thoughts and reflections on the entire debt-reduction process, to date. But in the meantime, I just wanted to jump on here and say “Hi!!! and let you know about some of the upcoming changes I’ve made in an effort to increase our monthly take-home pay so we have extra cash to throw at debt. It needs to happen. I can’t wait to kick our debt’s butt. Next debt on the chopping block is our medical debt. By this time next month, it will be 100% GONE and then we’ll be on to just the student loans. Can’t wait!!!

Hope you’re having a great month!


Healthcare

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I thought the kids Medicare might carry over for a few months while I got settled in at the new job and decided on new health insurance, but because we moved states it will only cover emergency room visits. I could apply to move it to GA but with my new job and income, I no longer need too. Yippeee!!!

I am keeping it for emergencies while I get everything settled, but now I have to figure out what to do. Here are my options as I see them:

  • Sign up under my corporate sponsored healthcare at about $700 per month with a $40 co pay and $6000 deductible for in-network. It would not take affect until May 1.
  • Evaluate plans under Obamacare’s website if that is still a thing.
  • Sign up for Samaritans Ministries or something similar. From a quick query, this would run me about $320 a month for all 4 of us.

I know health insurance talks can be like beating a dead horse, but I certainly want to hear what the BAD community has to share about these options.

I have already opted to go with the corporately sponsored vision and dental options.  The costs are nominal, coverage decent and with three of us wearing glasses, we will definitely take advantage of it.  (Back in VA, we went to a dental school for our dental coverage, but living in the boondocks now, that is not a convenient option.)

By the way, second day at the new job complete.  It’s going great. I have my own office, my boss took me to lunch today and my co-workers are all really nice. I’m getting up at 5am and spending an hour at the gym before getting in a couple of hours at my contract jobs then I show up to work a little after 8am.  I’m hoping that by doing this I keep my nights and weekends as free as possible to spend time with the kids. Oh, and I’m down TWO pant sizes as I found out when I went to buy new jeans tonight.  Woot, woot!


Today is the Day

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In just a few short hours I report for my first day of my new job. It will also be the time I get a better grip on what this will mean for us financially as I see the health plans, 401K options and so on.  Pray for wisdom as I make those kind of decisions.

I’m grateful for Ashley’s recent post on her Tax Issues, not that she has the issue, but it raised a flag for me as I go to fill out the tax paperwork for this new job, that I need to really evaluate my tax withholdings since I am planning to keep my contract jobs along with this new one.

Prior to starting my new job, I’ve worked out at the gym for an hour, had a full and healthy breakfast (thanks to my Grandmother) and put in a couple of hours of work on my contract jobs.  I spent most of yesterday prepping school for the kids for this next couple of weeks and getting ahead on my contract jobs.  I feel like I’m ready.

The kids have all stepped up in a big way to make this adjustment as easy as possible.  My youngest decided that he will be in charge of packing me a lunch, I think he put one of everything in the house in my bag.  He says that I am going to be gone a long time so he doesn’t want me to be hungry.  My daughter laid out my clothes for the day.  I’m not sure how leggings and a flannel shirt go as far as corporate apparel, but seeings at it is freezing and my wardrobe is limited at best, I’m going with it.  As I fretted about it last night, my very wise 12 year old daughter said to me, “Mom, you already got the job, now you just have to go wow them with your skills.  After that, they won’t care at all what you wear.”  I’m taking that confidence booster and wearing my leggings and flannel to work today.

There are a couple of things I am going to have to buy sooner rather than later like a lunch bag with a way to keep things cold and a few nicer pieces of work clothes, but for now, I am ready to get started.  Wish me luck!

Non-finance related:

Gymnast competed in the Level 6 VA State Championships Gymnastics Meet this past weekend and competed at the Division I level.  He brought home 2nd on high bar, 5th on rings and 6th on vault.  I couldn’t be more proud.  And an even bigger highlight for the kids, was there Dad made an appearance.  He and I planned it as a surprise.  He hadn’t seen the kids in 19 months.  It went well.  Here is Gymnast’s 2nd Place High Bar routine if you are interested.

 


Spring Break (+ Feb. Debt Update)

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Hi All!

Last year, my first year back to full-time work, my Spring Break happened to align with my kids’ Spring Break. I remember at the time colleagues mentioning how lucky that was and to appreciate it. So it was no real surprise when this year rolled around and, looking at our academic calendars, I realized our Spring Breaks did not align. Bugger!

But, I think we’re also making the best out of having separate Spring Breaks! This week is my school’s Spring Break (and hubs’ Spring Break as well). I’ll be back in Texas for a couple days to deal with some dad-related issues. But otherwise, hubs and I are looking forward to doing some serious manual labor out in our backyard. When we bought the house, it had nothing but chest-high weeds all through the back. We mowed them all down, but have done very little since then. Hubs has a friend who owns a landscape company and came over to take a look at our yard and offer some practical suggestions in terms of plants, placement, etc. So for the cost of some plants + weed killer + some hard work and elbow-grease, we’re hoping to get our backyard into a more presentable condition. We’ve allotted $200 to the project. It would be a project the girls could help us with…but will probably be easier without the interference, er, “help.” And I like that the couple days I’ll be gone are on days that they’re already in school. Makes it a bit easier for the hubs and makes me feel less guilt about being away (quick Dad update for those who have been following along and are interested – skip this part if you’re only here for the financial -my Dad, who has frontotemporal dementia, continues to decline. His speech is almost gone at this point and he lives in a constant state of agitation, presumably from the confusion and frustration associated with what’s happening to him. He’s been living in an independent living facility but we’ve been touring several assisted living and dedicated memory-care places. It’s a tough move to make but it’s coming up probably sooner rather than later so we’re trying to research and prepare accordingly. Being that the purpose of my trip is for things related to his care, my sister and I decided he would cover the cost of my airfare – something he would have done in the past if he had the mental capacity. I’ll be staying with my mom so I’ll have free lodging, and will only be paying my meals out of pocket which should be minimal. I’ll be there not quite 3 days.)

Next week is our girls’ Spring Break. In the future, I hope that we can plan family vacations (or even staycations) during Spring Break week, but with our looming tax debt ahead, that’s certainly not in the cards this year. Instead, we’re lucky to be able to hodgepodge together some childcare without having to pay extra to a babysitter. Hubs has class Mon/Wed (but is available other days) and I teach on Tues/Thurs (but am available other days), so between us, we’ll be able to always have one parent home with the kiddos.

I’m still on operation minimal-spending, too. It’s not a complete spending freeze because we still have to purchase essentials like food, fuel, etc. But I have been extra mindful about every dollar being spent. As an example, one of my daughters lost her water bottle for the second time this school year. Last time, I just jumped on Amazon and bought her a new one. This time around, I’m making her take my water bottle as a back-up. I explained that we can’t just get something new every time we lose our old item. It’s been a nice lesson in natural consequences and how its important to keep track of our things. It’s a bit of a punishment because my water bottle isn’t a nice or “cool” as the kid version, but at least it’s an adequate replacement so she’s not going without one. I’m really trying to scrimp and save and see if we can pay our full tax debt ourselves rather than relying on borrowing. I really want it PAID IN FULL by the deadline. I did talk to my sister, however, and if I need to borrow money from my dad it would be an option available to us. I really want to avoid this. It’s such “messy” terrain and I just don’t like the feeling. But I would be able to save the interest + penalties associated with an IRS payment plan. Something to think about, should it come to that (I still don’t have exact figures from our accountant).

In the meantime, I want to share my February 2017 Debt Update. As mentioned in a previous post, the debt payment was less than my originally intended $3,000 payment because I decided to just pay debt minimums toward my student loans so I can try to save up the extra money to put toward our IRS debt. Here you go:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,1055.8034February82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025February
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$84966.5533February
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$71976.5529February
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63726.5525February
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$84976.5534February
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$98056.5519February
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$14000% (through Sept 2017)$800February$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$45940% (through October 2018)$0N/A
Medical Bills$43700% (must be paid by April)$1216February$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$70,444 (Jan balance = 72,560)$2215Starting Debt = $145,472

This month (March), I’m putting less toward the balance transfer card – only $400 instead of the $800 I gave in February. I do NOT want to add “IRS” to the debt spreadsheet, so I’m just stockpiling money in hopes we can pay them their money and not move backward in our debt progression. That will mean lower debt payments for the next couple months (March & April). Even small progress is moving in the right direction.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately?

 

 


How Midlife Affects Your Insurance Needs…Are You Covered?

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You’ve no doubt heard of a midlife crisis: the time in life where you realize that you aren’t going to live forever. As a chance to take stock of the plans you had in your youth and square them up with where you stand now, midlife can be a time of great strife for some people who haven’t achieved their goals.

The good news is that by definition “midlife” means that you are only halfway through. That means you have just as much time left to change your situation as you had getting into it. That also means that there is still plenty of time to turn your financial ship around. If finances are an area where you have not lived up to your plans, dreams, and goals, now is the time to take the bull by the horns.

One critical way to tackle your midlife financial goals is by doing an insurance audit to make sure that you are not only managing your union bank credit card rates and wealth but also that you are protecting your assets along with growing them. Reviewing your insurance plans to ensure that you are fully protected and safe is a good place to start gaining financial control.

The insurance audit should cover all of those things that you use insurance to protect:

Health Insurance

It is not uncommon to develop chronic conditions in your 50s and 60s, which is why it is so important to choose your healthcare plan well. Make sure that you have the proper out-of-pocket caps and deductibles to fit your overall health needs. Having a small deductible is nice, but you also want to ensure that if things go terribly wrong, you have reasonable out-of-pocket costs.

Your risk for serious health conditions increases as your age does, so taking a good look at the structure of your health plan can help you to cut costs and ensure that you are getting the right coverage for any prescription, rehabilitation, or therapy needs.

Midlife means that you have to take a better overall look at your health needs and anticipate what they might be going forward. It may also be a time when you will have to make decisions about the transition between your health insurance and Medicare. Don’t make the assumption that things will be covered. If you need to purchase supplemental insurance, make sure you know exactly what will and will not be covered before the transition occurs.

Life Insurance

When you have young children, a house, and other dependents, it’s a good idea to have a hefty life insurance policy. But it isn’t inexpensive. As you get older, the price of life insurance will continue to increase unless you have a set policy. If you are paying a lot for health insurance and you aren’t supporting anyone but yourself, it really doesn’t make any sense to overpay. Unless you have someone depending on you, reevaluate your life insurance needs.

Disability Insurance

If something should happen to your income, then having disability insurance is a must. The average policy will cover about 60 percent of the income you are earning. Short-term policies will cover your costs for up to two years post-disability. Long-term policies will typically cover you until you turn 65 and you can start to collect Social Security. You can reduce your premium by shortening your benefit period if you are closer to 65.

Auto Insurance

If it has been a while since you compared rates for your car insurance, it is definitely something to investigate. Most insurance carriers consider older individuals lower-risk and will reduce premiums. Also, things like your credit score can reduce your auto insurance payments. It is worth it to call around and talk to several insurance companies to ensure that you are getting all the discounts you can. Go the extra mile to phone the carriers directly to get the discounts you deserve.

Midlife can be a difficult time emotionally for people, but it doesn’t have to be one, financially. Making sure to initiate sound changes to maximize your insurance coverage by minimizing the costs is the best way to protect your assets while still growing them.


New Job and a New Outlook

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I am slowing shedding the feeling of shame I’ve been carrying for the last couple of years since we moved out of our home and into the apartment.  For the first time in a LONG time, things are really looking up!  It has been a really rough time, especially since December when everything changed so suddenly.

As I mentioned in the comments of my last post…I GOT THE JOB!!!

It’s full time, full benefits, work in an office…real life job!  And the way it happened could not be any more providential!  Here’s a little back story.

When we began our Christmas visit with my grandmother, I spent a great deal of time applying for jobs…everywhere, all over the world.  Well, I had been through this before, know the holidays were not a good time to be in the job hunt, but I continued to persist.  The job I got is one of those jobs.

Then while we were in Texas visiting my immediate family over Christmas, I got a text from our ‘landlord’ that the camper we were living in had been damaged and was no longer liveable.  Can you say full panic mode!?!  Up until that point, I had planned on us living in the camper until April when we could 1) wrap up the school year and 2) finish Gymnast competition season at Regionals.  Then was planning to move to GA to my grandmothers or travel for a bit.

With nowhere to live any longer, the timeline moved up for the GA move, but I was able to secure temporary housing in VA for a month while Gymnast finished his regular season meet. And to give us time to pack up and get things into storage and so on.  My grandmother graciously let us move in with her with first week of February.

On our trip to GA with our final load of belongings, I got the call. They were interested in my varied skill set for a brand new position, but I lived in VA. Oh, how funny, I’m was actually driving down to GA with our last load of belongings to complete a move to a town, that is literally one town over from the corporate base of this company.  They headquarters are 12 miles from my grandmothers home, 12 miles!

Our first three weeks in GA were filled with in person interviews, personality test, reference checks and phone follow ups, and our last Friday night there (before we returned to VA for a week) they called at 4:12pm and offered me the job, met my salary requirements and I start NEXT WEEK!!!!!

The timing of the call, the timing of the interview process and the start date…after over a year and a half of searching, I can only say that God had a hand in this.  But there is more, this company gives back to foster/adoptive charities (hello, near and dear to my heart,) the owners actually know some of my extended family (small town but wow,) and one of their goals is to empower women/moms.  Holy cow, can it be any more perfect!

Granted, this will be a BIG adjustment for my little family.  I will be going to an office for the first time in 13 years. My grandmother has insisted we remain with her for at minimum another month while we adjust to the new life and she will help with the kids.  She’s watched us homeschool all these months we’ve visited her over the past couple of years, and is comfortable with keeping the kids on track to finish out the year.  We will have school on Sunday evenings where I will give assignments for the week and then we will meet a couple more times during the week to make sure we are on track.  It’s not going to be easy, but I am confident we can adjust.

I am keeping both my part time jobs for the time being both for security and to help me get back on solid financial ground more quickly.  All jobs are aware of the situation as far as me working them all.

And just a small financial win…okay two wins. Maybe three.

  1. I was able to replace the tires on my car, yes, I waited until it was dire, but I paid in cash!
  2. The kids have all received a small stipend for some summer clothes and are looking forward to getting to shop. (They have had a couple of weeks to make lists and think through needs and wants, etc.)  This is especially crucial for the two youngest since they hit major growth spurts this year, so nothing old fits.
  3. I have almost $500 in an emergency fund, consistently saving 10% of any monies received.

I am so grateful for this community and the constant encouragement. I’ve still got a wait until I get my first paycheck and see how all the deductions and so on work out before planning a budget and starting to look for housing.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers this week as Gymnast will compete at his state meet this week, his last with his current team…it is bittersweet and he is really struggling with the move the most because of it.  And then we will return to GA to start our “new life.”

 

 


Well Crap

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had a major financial set-back. A really long time.

In fact, everything has been going rather smooth over the course of the past year or so. Income is up, outflow is down, we just hit the half-way point in our debt reduction journey. Life is good!

Until…..tax time.

We met with a CPA on Friday. Turns out we didn’t have all our sh-t together so we have to round up the last of our documents and get them over to the office early next week. So we don’t have official numbers, but it’s looking like it’s gonna be bad. Like….possibly in the 5-digits level of “bad.” Yeah. We may owe the IRS to the tune of over $10,000. How the f do we owe so much? I don’t even know where to begin.  I  thought my payments through my full-time job would help offset things more than they did. Clearly.

We have a LOT of deductions to claim. We also have tax credits we can claim. We’re not out of hope.

But it felt like I’d been punched in the gut after our CPA meeting. We don’t have $10,000. Not in cash. To owe that much would officially move us BACKWARD in our debt progression. The first backward movement since we started our debt payoff process nearly 3 years ago. We’ve had months of stagnation, but we’ve never gone BACKWARD. Never ADDED to our debt (mortgage not included). But my plan (to have cash or put it on a credit card to buy us an extra month) isn’t going to work if we’re talking about that much money.

We’re scrambling to think of a plan so we can pay with cash and not have to set up a payment plan (accompanied by penalties and interest) with the IRS.

In the meantime, we’ll be having another meeting (or two) with the CPA to figure out exact numbers and the best course of action. I’ve also suspended all non-essential debt-payments so we can pile up some cash. Unfortunately, given my recent agreement with the medical bill place, I’m committed to minimum sized payments of $1215/month through April. That, in addition to my minimum student loan payments, puts us at a minimum of about $2000/month. We’ve only been budgeting $3,000/month toward debt and having a minimum payment of $2000 only leaves us about $1,000/month of “wiggle room” to try to stockpile cash for our upcoming IRS debt payment. It’s not nearly enough. Particularly if we owe in the tens of thousands of dollars. omg. Just saying it makes me sick to my stomach. I hope to God it doesn’t turn out that bad. But, as the saying goes, hope for the best and plan for the worst. So all non-essential spending is DONE. In the meantime, we will hoard and stockpile money as best as we can. We do have an EF ($5,500) and a couple various savings accounts. Though it’s a bit like stealing from Peter to pay Paul. It’s certainly not ideal. But neither is the thought of acquiring more debt. It gives me a headache to even consider the thought.

Many of you had warned that we should beef up our EF now that we’re homeowners. This wasn’t the intended purpose (most commenters were thinking more in-line with needing to repair/replace an old roof or HVAC, etc.)….but now that we’re in this situation, it’s sure making me think about how great it would be to have a full $10,000 EF. This IRS tax problem would be solved (and then the “problem” of re-stocking the EF is much easier and less stressful).

So that’s my “well crap” update. I will bring you a February debt-update (which, as mentioned, is lower than the originally planned $3,000 due to the need to save all non-essential payments for our upcoming tax bill). In the meantime, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hoping for the best. Preparing for the worst. Ugh!


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