Debt Update Soon

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Guys!

Just one more reason I’m thankful for this blog – it forced me to catch an error on my part!

For some reason in our budget (we love & use YNAB) I had entered our planned extra student loan debt payment, but I never actually scheduled or initiated the transfer. So when I sat down to type up our debt update for the month of September – gasp – I realized I’d totally missed a major payment! Thankfully, the regular payment is set up on auto-withdrawal so I wasn’t late or anything (no penalties, etc.), but it means our debt numbers were all off because I hadn’t made our largest debt payment of the month! Yikes!

I immediately initiated the transfer of funds, but I’m waiting to complete the September debt update until when I have concrete number to give you for the actual debt amount (I never know since some of the payment is applied toward interest; so I don’t know what the debt reduction and current debt amount are). As soon as the Navient system is updated with my payment I’ll get a debt update up. The rest of the table is already completed so it’s just a waiting game so I can plug in that one final number.  :)

Has anyone else ever forgotten a pretty sizable debt payment?  That explains why we had extra cash in our checking account. Doh!


FTD Awareness

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Hi, friends! Thanks for all of your comments on this post! I have loved reading your success stories. It has been so helpful to read about so many who have successfully navigated a mid-life career change and come out on the other side better for it. I so appreciate your support!

Today I’m re-posting an old blog (originally published here). Partly because I’ve been dealing with some serious FTD-related issues lately. The short story is that my dad has now turned to self-harm when he becomes frustrated (which is always). It’s created several mini-emergencies, as he’s cut himself with a razor, hit his head with a hammer in Walmart, and frequently punches himself in the stomach/gut area. My siblings and I are panicked trying to get these symptoms under control. He has a psychiatrist appointment today so – fingers crossed – we can tweak some meds and help reduce some of his anxiety and frustration. I just cannot even convey how sh*tty this disease is. And it gets virtually NO attention. There’s no funding for medical research whatsoever and, currently, there are NO medications available to help slow the disease’s progression. It’s just heart-wrenching to watch.

So, while I have this platform with a little bit of readership (thanks for reading!) I just want to do my part to try to raise awareness. You may also be interested in seeing this very short clip from the Today show. An expert in the field answered some questions about FTD, discussing key differences between FTD and Alzheimers. Check it out if it interests you.

Have a great day!

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It’s October. We all know what that means. Breast cancer awareness month, right? Pink everywhere!

Which is fantastic! We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.

But do you know what other “awareness” week is going on right now?

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness.

Fronto-What?

Frontotemporal degeneration. Fronto (as in the frontal lobe), temporal (as in the temporal lobe) degeneration (as in…degenerating).

So, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. This is what my Dad’s got.

It’s a terrible, dehumanizing, crippling disease. It destroys the very essence of the human being.

Right now there is no cure. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, there aren’t even any treatments to slow progression (just meds to help manage side-effects, such as OCD-type qualities or anti-psychotics to help assuage delusions/hallucinations).

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. I’ve read plenty, but we’re still relatively new to the disease as a whole, so I’m not going to spout off a lot of statistics at you. You can read about it for yourself. 

Initially I wasn’t even going to post anything. I’ve never revealed my Dad’s illness. But why suffer in silence? This dementia is the second most diagnosed dementia for people under the age of 60. And there is a serious lack of funding right now for it. Mainly because (I can’t help to think) no one has heard of it! What is it, even!? What does it do?

In short? It wreaks havoc. It causes the person’s thoughts and behaviors to change. It will likely force the diagnosed individual into early retirement (or could precipitate an untimely termination). It robs the person of his or her very essence, changing fundamental personality traits.

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness week spans from October 4-11. As you are inundated with breast cancer awareness messages in social media, maybe take a moment to think about this lesser known disease that is every bit as crippling and debilitating. This disease for which there is no chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For which those diagnosed are rarely seen as heroic; no imagery of warriors “battling” the disease. Instead, most are ostracized. Their odd patterns of behavior cause people to cut social ties, forcing them into an increasingly withdrawn, sad, and lonely world.

Given the closeness to home, you can bet that this is going to become something very near to my heart. As we get out of debt, I’d love to be able to start donating to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration to raise awareness and provide funds for research. With any luck, one day we’ll have medications to help slow the progression of this wretched disease. Seeing the physical and mental anguish it causes is nothing short of heart-breaking. Research is needed. So spread the word.

Hugs to all!

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” (source)


5 Ways to Remove Debt Collection Accounts from Your Credit History

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debt

There are several ways you can remove collection accounts from your credit report. Some removal methods may require negotiating. Others methods may require paying part or even all of the debt you owe. Each method listed below may be right for some situations but not others. Carefully consider the pros and cons of each method before you use it.

Negotiate Settlement with Creditor

It may be possible to negotiate a debt settlement with the creditor that you owe. This often means paying less than the full amount owed. In exchange, your collection account is changed to pay in full.

This method can be very effective when you owe more than $1,000. You will have to do some negotiating to get the best deal possible. The settlement agreement stipulates that the negative listing is removed when you make the agreed payment. You pay a lower amount and improve your credit.

Collection Deletion Payment

If your collection account has a balance of $500 or less than a collection deletion payment may be possible. You may be able to pay in full so that the collection is deleted from your credit reports. This method works well if you owe smaller medical bills, utility bills, or other minor debts.

You offer to pay the debt in full as long as collection account is deleted once payment is received. This will remove the accounts paid from your credit report. Without the account listed your credit score will normally increase.

Dispute with Major Credit Bureaus

Another way to remove a collections account from your credit is to dispute it. You dispute the account with the major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. You must write a letter to each of the credit bureaus showing the disputed debt. In the letter state that you are asking for an investigation into the account. The law requires the credit bureau to investigate the debt.

The credit agency must determine whether the disputed debt is properly documented. This documentation must meet certain credit reporting requirements. Any dispute must be investigated and verified. If this is not done then you can force the credit agency to remove the account from your credit report.

Request Debt Validation

This method is similar to disputing your debt but it is more aggressive. You may need to file a lawsuit if you do not get a response from the credit bureau within the time allowed. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act this is normally 30 days. You must request debt validation in writing, and the letter should be sent by certified mail with return receipt requested.

The response timeline starts as soon as the credit agency receives your debt validation letter. Once the credit bureau receives your validation request they legally must obtain validation of the debt. A copy of the validation must be provided to you. If this is not done then the law demands that the credit agency remove the debt from your credit report.

If the credit bureau is not responsive then you may have to sue to have the debt removed. This can be costly. Documentation is usually difficult or impossible to provide. Many creditors do not have physical proof of the debt owed.

Original Creditor 623 Dispute

If you have tried to dispute a collections account with the credit bureaus without results don’t despair. You can use the original creditor 623 dispute method. You must send a dispute letter to the original creditor who placed the account with the collection agency. This method involves the Fair Credit Reporting Act section 623 (PDF).

Once the original creditor receives the dispute letter they must respond within 30 days. The creditor must verify the debt and prove you owe it. This method is especially effective at removing a collection account from your credit report.

Final Words

As you can see, fixing your credit score requires time and patience. If you want to remove these negative accounts from your credit you need to be persistent! Remember to keep detailed records and mail receipts as proof of your efforts. If you don’t succeed at first keep trying, using a different method if necessary. Eventually, you will be rewarded with a higher credit score.


Mid-Life Career Changes

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I come to you today with a bit of an announcement…..though nothing has actually changed yet, so it’s more of an announcement of things to come (not of things that have already transpired).

I’m sure it’s pretty evident that I’ve been overwhelmed with work lately. I haven’t been able to blog nearly as frequently as I’d like; I’ve sometimes written reactionary/overwhelmed posts (like this one); you all know the vast amount of time that it takes to deal with my Dad’s stuff; finding “balance” has been a reoccurring theme in my blog posts, etc. etc. etc.

It’s something I’ve been talking about with hubs quite a bit over the past several months (I just want to note that this is not another reactionary thing – it’s been on our minds for a long time).

So here’s the deal….I want hubs to quit his job.

Hubs is a flooring contractor. He has a couple of crews of people who work for him but he, himself, also goes out and installs floors all day every day. He’s quite good at it and takes a great deal of pride in his workmanship. But for some reason, we have been unable to grow this business. He’s done it for nearly 7 years here in Tucson (with lots of experience prior to living here, both in Florida and Texas on high-end homes). But every time he starts to expand his operations, we’re hit with HUGE blows. Typically he has someone from an install crew make some mistake and he’s left having to cover the costs to rectify the situation. I think, at most, he was once hit with a $15,000 repair. But he’s had several jobs over the years that have cost him $5,000 here or there. I’ve gotten away from giving our monthly budgets (just due to time constraints as those are one of the most time-intensive posts to write), but when I reported our income monthly I’d sometimes talk about how he had a no-income month or a negative-income month. Yes, these things tend to even out (there are super high income months, too). But, on the whole, things just don’t seem to be progressing. We feel stagnant. And unable to gain traction.

And aside from that, hubs isn’t getting any younger. Let’s face it – his job is manual labor. He’s going to need knee replacements at probably a very young age. His back aches daily and even now (at 34 years old), it takes him a couple minutes just to get up and start moving around some days. He has to stretch to make sure his knees don’t buckle beneath him.

We’ve always known this job wouldn’t last forever. But we’d hoped he would transition away from doing physical install work and toward just managing at some point. Unfortunately, we’ve been trying to do this “transition” thing for nearly 4 years now and every time he gets close, he’s hit with these huge expenses and forced to go back to working, himself. It’s just not a sustainable business strategy long-term.

Looking at the past couple of years’ taxes, we know that I make roughly the same from my part-time job that hubs makes from his full-time job. I say this not to shame him, but just to state a fact

(As a side-note, I want to mention that hubs was the sole income earner in our family for a very long time. I’m blessed beyond belief to have a work-horse as a husband! I’ve seen friends with lazy husbands who drag their feet applying for jobs or just basically refusing to work and in no way can I relate. Even when we first moved to Tucson and hubs had no official employment, he was buying and selling things on Craigslist and trying literally anything to make some extra money for our family. The man is one of the hardest workers I know).

But when I’m literally talking about quitting my part-time job because I can’t keep up with it, yet it only takes me about 15 hours per week and is bringing in the same income as hubs’ 40 hour/week job…..it just doesn’t make sense for me to be the one to let my job go.

When I first broached the subject with hubs, he was vehemently against it. Again – the man is a work-horse. He’s considered it and come to the conclusion that he would not be happy or personally fulfilled to be Mr. Mom. He wants to work. He yearns to work and provide for our family.

But then we started considering some other options. Instead of quitting work and becoming Mr. Mom/Homemaker, what if hubs throws his time into securing a new career. We’ve looked into it and he can take college classes at the university where I’m employed for literally $25/class. Yes – twenty five dollars per class. So, what if he takes a few years “off” of work, during which time he helps out more around the house and with the kids to afford me the time to dedicate to work, and simultaneously goes back to school himself so he can change career trajectories???

Hubs has “some college”, but never finished an actual degree. One field we’ve talked about, specifically, is engineering. It doesn’t require a crazy amount of school (typically the four year degree is all that’s necessary), and you come out on the other end pretty employable (unlike many fields that require different advanced degrees just to be competitive on the job market).

The big drawback to this is age. If we do this, he likely won’t be graduating until he’s 38 or 39 years old. Is that “too old” to make such a major switch in careers???

Like I said, nothing has happened yet. IF we do this (still a big “if”), we’ve talked about doing it as a slow transition. He would ramp down his business across the course of the next few months. He’d likely keep at least one crew working under his business license for the time being (he has one crew that is totally self-sufficient and does great work, so he could continue drawing a small income from the profits on their job). Then he’d look into some college courses for this coming Spring semester (starting in January).

It’s just scary to make such a major life decision. It would obviously affect our debt payoff at least a bit, but the way things are operating currently are just not sustainable. I’m talking about having to quit my (very lucrative) part-time job, which would be a big blow to our income. Losing hubs’ income would also be a big blow, but when looking at it from a perspective of time versus money, it just makes more sense to keep my part-time job and give up his full-time one given that it’s basically the same amount of money either way. To test the waters, he’s already been ramping up his help around the house. He basically does 90% of the laundry at this point, 75% of the general cleaning, and significantly more childcare (he picks up and drops off at preschool much more regularly than he used to last academic year & always takes them somewhere once every weekend so I have a few hours of dedicated work-time on Saturday or Sunday).

It’s just hard. There’s no guarantee on the other side that he’ll 100% for sure be able to go into this completely different career field. And we know that this can not be a long-term plan because, like I said, he would not find it to be a personally fulfilling lifestyle (which is very important, even though I’m sensitive to the fact that many would bend over backward to be in the position to quit their job and not have to worry about the financial implications).

So I’m just kind of laying it out there for you. I’d love to hear if you have stories of mid-life major career changes (into a totally different field all together). Do you know any books on the topic that might be helpful to read as we consider this type of major life transition? Do you have any suggestions of things we might want to research or take into consideration? For the record, yes, it will have an impact on our budget and debt payments. But, as I’ve mentioned, that’s likely to happen anyway (since the alternative is that I quit my part-time job and at some point down the road we would still need to figure out an alternative plan for hubs because he cannot physically stay in his current career forever).

In addition to constructive criticism, advice, and suggestions, I also welcome happy thoughts and prayers for clarity while we try to figure out what the best move is for our family in the coming years.

As always, thanks for your unwavering support! : )

 


Change of Plans

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Sooooo, THIS happened over the weekend.

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If you ask the girls the story of what happened, here’s what you will hear:

Bailey:  Brooke pushed me off the giraffe!!!

Me: The giraffe????  Do you mean she pushed you off the bed???

Brooke: NO! I pushed her off the giraffe!!!!

 

We do have a stuffed giraffe chair animal thing (if you’re curious for reference, it’s similar to this one, but way cheaper. Ours was like $20 from Walmart 2 years ago). But I still have no idea how being pushed off of a chair that is located on the floor – the seat no more than 6 inches above the ground – could cause an injury. No idea. But somehow, my offspring found a way.

The injury actually occurred on Friday night when they were supposed to be in bed, but were actually up rough-housing (hey – go figure – you do something you’re not supposed to and you end up getting hurt! Tough lesson to learn, kiddo!).  I checked Bailey’s arm and she was able to move everything so I just made her go back to bed.

If you recall from the end of this post, we had a jam-packed schedule last weekend! Saturday morning we got up and met our friends at the local splash pad. It was there I noticed Bailey still was not using her arm – like, at all.  The splash pad is adjacent to a little playground and when the kids decided to go play on the playground it became painfully obvious that Bailey still had a problem. She couldn’t climb the ladder to get up to the top of the playscape. If anything, her arm seemed to be doing worse. She was holding it into her body and not using it at all. I called our playdate quits early and headed home to change out of swimsuits and immediately headed over to urgent care. I was pretty sure nothing was broken, but I thought it was possible she had a fracture or bad sprain or something and decided the injury justified medical attention.

We were at the urgent care for 3 hours (ugh!!!) and in the end, the doctor recommended against an x-ray. His rationale was that we don’t want to expose a young child to unnecessary radiation, and since we were pretty sure nothing was broken, the course of action for most of the remaining possibilities (strain, pulled muscle, bruised bone) would be the same:  a sling!

So he hooked Bailey up with a super-cool kids-sized sling and sent us on our way with instructions to keep a close eye on it and that if things hadn’t resolved within a week, that we should come back (or go to our primary care at that point).

Bailey was an excellent patient and has actually really enjoyed her sling. Within just the past couple days she’s already regained quite a bit of mobility. The arm is still sore and she needs some additional help with certain things (e.g., getting dressed has been hard one-handed), but she’s already on the mend.

Unfortunately, the injury basically blew all of the rest of our weekend plans!! Our preschool did their bi-annual Parent’s Night Out on Saturday evening, but at that point Bailey was still having a tough time even feeding herself and going to the bathroom (pulling down pants, getting toilet paper) and I just didn’t feel good about dropping them off with a ton of other kids and taking off for date night. Probably would’ve been okay if it was a babysitter in our own home, but the fact it would be a bunch of kids, etc. I just didn’t feel good about it.

And on Sunday we were supposed to go to another child’s birthday party, but the party was supposed to be at a local indoor trampoline park. That also seemed like a pretty bad idea for a child with an injured arm. We’ve been once before (for another party), and I knew that falling down was inevitable. No big deal most of the time, but I didn’t want to chance her falling on her arm, or falling and trying to instinctively catch herself with her hurt arm, etc. So that was that.

Our big, fun weekend plans turned into 3 hours at Urgent Care and spending the rest of the weekend taking it easy at the house. I like relaxing and taking it easy with the best of them, but it was a bit disappointing given our excitement over all the fun!

Soooooo, so much for our original plans. Isn’t that just life for ya?  I’m just thankful it wasn’t worse. I’m also thankful for health insurance and our flexible spending account with plenty of money in it to cover this expense. They didn’t charge us anything at the time (said they’d bill insurance), but I know we haven’t quite hit our deductible yet so I’m expecting a bill at some point. That being said, this incident might be enough to tip us over into having our deductible fully paid, which would be nice. So we’ll see what the financial implications are. Either way, I know we’ll be fine. I love that peace of mind!


5 States with Affordable Homeowners Insurance

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It’s common to find people relocating from one part of the country to the other these days. Many people do it as they change jobs or as a result of personal or family needs. If you’re planning to relocate, there are various factors you ought to consider first before deciding on your new place of residence.

Top on the list of factors that many people consider when moving is real estate value. What many prospective homeowners don’t stop to think about is the cost of homeowners insurance. The cost of homeowners insurance adds up to the total cost of maintaining your home, so it’s in your best interest to make sure the area you’re moving to doesn’t have any bizarre homeowners association requirements pertaining to homeowners insurance and the like.

There’s always the option of comparing homeowners insurance quotes online to land the best deals in insurance premium rates. The actual cost of your insurance premium will depend on a number of factors including deductibles, the coverage you choose and the cost of the property you wish to insure. The location also plays an important role in the cost of insurance.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners determined the average cost of homeowners insurance across the U.S. to have been $1,086 in 2013. This was a six percent increase from the average rate in 2012. According to Investopedia, the cost of homeowners insurance claims has been rising since 1997. As a result, insurance rates have risen by more than 50 percent in 10 years. If you want to control the cost of your insurance premiums, consider the location you’re relocating to carefully.

The following are five states with the lowest rates for homeowners insurance premiums.

Idaho ($533)

Idaho tops the list as the least expensive state for homeowners insurance with insurance premiums averaging $533 annually. This is slightly over half the national average. The state is popular amongst prospective home buyers and has experienced significant appreciation in home prices over the years. With low burglary rates of 12.7 percent, the state is considered quite safe.

Oregon ($558)

Oregon came in a close second with an average rate of $558. The average burglary rate in the state is also quite low. However, the average price per square foot for houses in the state is higher than that of Idaho, causing insurance companies to charge higher premiums.

Utah ($574)

Utah is one of the most affordable places to purchase a home in the U.S. It is also one of the most affordable states to live in. Low crime rates and high employment rates all contribute to lower insurance premiums offered in this state.

Washington ($639)

It may seem surprising to many people to hear that Washington ranks amongst the cheapest states for homeowners insurance. One would expect the high price per square foot of homes as well as the higher crime rates to increase the insurance premium rates. However, high competition amongst insurance companies also plays a role in the cost of insurance in this state.

Wisconsin ($655)

This state comes in fifth with an average insurance rate of $655. This may be attributed to low burglary rates as well as low-price per square foot for homes in the region.

Take Control of Your Expenses

You can easily control the cost of your homeowner’s insurance premiums by deciding to relocate to an area with a low average rate. However, if you don’t have control over where you relocate to, you may want to consider the following:

  • Increasing security of your home to lower insurance premiums. Invest in burglar and other security systems to keep your home safe.
  • Increase your deductible to lower your premiums. This will, however, result in a greater out-of-pocket expense when you make a claim.
  • Avoid filing claims. The more claims you file, the higher your insurance premiums.

There are various insurance providers in the market. Always compare insurance quotes from different insurance providers to ensure that you get the best deal.


Buying & Selling Houses

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For someone who has had zero experience with real estate in the past, I’m sure getting pretty familiar with the buying and selling of homes now!

We have officially hired a realtor to sell my Dad’s Texas house (I orchestrated the sale of his Utah house over summer; it closed in mid-August). It needs some make-ready stuff so it’s not on the market yet, but should be within 2 weeks’ time. All the necessary work has been outsourced and is scheduled. Fingers crossed, we hope to net nearly $200,000 from the sale of this property.  I met with a financial advisor over Labor Day weekend while I was in Austin, but I wasn’t crazy about the person. He also does insurance and kept pressuring me to do an annuity and seemed a bit shady when I asked about fees, etc. Luckily, it was a free consultation so no money lost, I’m just out the time it took to meet with the guy (which was 2 freaking hours!!! and i literally had to get up and walk out because I had another meeting but the guy was STILL talking).

Any suggestions on ways to find trustworthy financial advisors? I had found this guy through Dave Ramsey’s site (he was listed as an ELP, even though the things he was telling me definitely do NOT align with Ramsey’s views).

Meanwhile, we’re also on the brink of buying our first home! Eeek! I’ve had quite a few suggestions to hold off for the time being (see this post) but I think we’re already too emotionally invested in it at this point. We found a house at the end of August and put in an offer over the Labor Day weekend. It took a couple weeks for negotiations (the “owner” is actually a company that does flips and – it seems – is not as eager as a physical occupant might be to sell the place. We went back-and-forth a few times, but it was at least 2-3 days to hear back after each offer/counter-offer). After negotiations our offer was accepted and now we wait for the inspection. My mom (a real estate broker) has warned me to stay guarded until we get a report back because, of course, it could be a game-changer. The house is 30 years old, so there’s that. If all goes well we could be moving in early October! Woohoo!!!   Oh – Also (!!!) – the monthly payment is actually going to be smaller than we’d originally planned. Even with the taxes included in escrow on a 15-year fixed mortgage it looks like the payment will save us probably $200/month off our current rental rate.  I’m trying to temper myself and not get too excited (since things could still fall through), but it’s tough!!! I’m already envisioning furniture placement, etc.

Aside from real estate stuff, this weekend is going to be jam-packed! We’ve got a playdate at the local (free!) splash pad on Saturday morning (probably our last hurrah of the summer), then “Parents’ Night Out” (a free kids’ care program offered by our preschool so parents can have a date night. They do 2 per year and its such a nice perk – and totally free!!!). Sunday I’ve got a long run planned in the morning (have I mentioned I registered for another half-marathon?  My third total, but second since I’ve been blogging here.) The half-marathon is in December but my training plan started a couple weeks ago and Sundays are my long run days. Then Sunday afternoon we’ve got a kids’ birthday party for the girls to attend. Lots of fun and mostly free events. Now I just can’t wait until it truly feels like fall weather here – it’s still hot as blazes in Tucson! Bring on the cooler temps!!!

Hope your weekends are hoppin’! : )