Saturday, March 28, 2020

This and That and COVID-19 Life

I hope everyone is doing what they are supposed to do and following CDC guidelines and state stay at home orders.  I did break the rules a bit this week.  I had a dentist appointment for a cleaning that I didn't want to reschedule and my dentist was open, so on Wednesday I went and got that done.  While I was there I paid for half of a large bill that has been lingering from 2019. 

The LoML had major medical issues we were dealing with from September of 2018 through the end of 2019 and some of it had to deal with his teeth.  He had a bunch of teeth removed and then had a partial denture appliance made.  All of this involved quite a few appointments and for some reason, even though the dentist submitted everything to insurance, the insurance company has no record of it.  No denial, just no evidence that it was submitted.  So, with this being tough times for everyone, and they were open for my appointment, I decided to pay half of the bill ($1,500) and told them to provide me with all the info and dates etc. of all the services for him last year so I could call insurance and figure this out.  They are going to do the research and get back to me.  Regardless of the outcome, they shouldn't go without.  And if at some point the insurance company pays them it will be a credit on my account so it isn't lost money.

We had another leftover medical bill for $3,500 that was sent in December to the insurance company for surgery that occurred in June.  The insurance company denied that as being submitted too late, so the surgeon billed us in February.  I called the insurance company because pursuant to the in-network contract the surgeon isn't allowed to bill me for their failing to submit to insurance in time.  The insurance company tried calling the billing office while I was on the phone with them, and continued leaving voice mails for two more weeks with nobody calling them back.  Then in March I received a dunning notice for that bill, so I called the insurance company again who tried again to call them to no avail.  They are submitting a complaint to the surgeon's office for violating their contract.

In the meantime I went to get my annual mammogram (prior to stay at home order) which is across the street from the hospital and the surgeon's office, so on my way back to work I popped over there and inquired about why they are billing me.  The office staff told me to ignore the bill and if I get another bill to call them about it.  Really?  I feel like this is a scam and they screwed up and just decided to see if I would pay.  Well, the joke is on them because the insurance company will file the complaint and they will be on notice.  And if I get another bill I'll call the insurance company again and file ANOTHER complaint.

We loved the surgeon and the LoML still has follow-up appointments with him, but I will not be played.

So after my dentist appointment on Wednesday I did go to my office to print something.  I was surprised how many people were on the roads.  I live in a college town and the students were all sent home two weeks ago but there still was a good amount of car activity.  I was only out to do my dentist appointment and then hit my office to print something, which was empty, and then home.  Otherwise, for the past two weeks its been work at home and after work we sit in our backyard and have cocktail hour throwing the frisbee for the dogs, or we go for walks in the neighborhood.  Personally I'm loving this simpler life.  My work days are longer since there is no commute and I hop right on the computer with my morning coffee, and I get a lot more work done with only the dogs or cats interrupting me for pets and snuggles.

Well I hope everyone is just staying calm and staying connected with their loved ones and friends.  It is more important now then ever.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Working From Home For The Foreseeable Future

I am on day two of working from home.  I'm grateful to work for a company that has been preparing for this possibility since January.  We were told to come in on Monday and each team in my department had their meetings to discuss what is going on.  Ours was at 10:30 am.  We then packed up what we thought we would need and went home to work, likely until the end of April if not longer. 

The LoML works from home full time.  His normal day to day duties can be doing phone customer support or he will get dispatched to a customer site.  Last week he spent 2 days on a navel base installing a part.  I sent him with a pack of disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.  The base was in a state that didn't have any reported cases of COVID-19 so risk was low, but better to be safe than sorry.  We aren't sure if he will be required to do on site support going forward during this crisis.  The problem is the work he does supports a critical public safety feature.  We shall see.

My oldest is in her second year of being a 6th grade ELA teacher.  Schools here closed last Friday for two weeks, likely to be extended.  She is union so she will be paid.  My youngest is a year post-college and works as a plant scientist at a large company but they hire their skilled lab workers as contractors, paid hourly.  They closed the labs on Monday and she is now not getting paid.  She has savings to last her a while and we have offered our help. 

These are crazy times we are living in.  We all just need to take things a day at a time.  Keep in digital contact with the people who are regulars in your lives (coworkers, friends, neighbors, family, etc).  Wave and smile at people as you take walks around your neighborhood.  Share your toilet paper.  Spare a square.  Civility and kindness must reign.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Busy Busy Busy Money Money Money and a Teeny Tiny Rant

Work has been incredibly busy and draining.  Each week this month has been more grinding then the last and I'm hoping things get a little easier going into March.  All I can say is. . . . ugh PEOPLE!  Sometimes I think my life would be easier if could interact with less of them.  I am an introvert at heart but enjoy working in an office with other people.  But sometimes it is just too much.  Luckily I have the option to work from home when I want so when I have PEOPLE saturation I take a step back and work in near solitude at home on the couch with both dogs and both cats cuddled up together next to me.

As it is month-end I should give a financial update but I refuse to look at my investment accounts after the roller-coaster ride the market has taken this week.  I wish this country would get its act together.  When will we get back to working toward the common good and making all our lives better?  I refuse to watch the news these days or any of the debates as all of it infuriates and depresses me.  Hoping the political black cloud either lightens up or blows away altogether.  Sick to death of the negativity, the sniping, the "whats-in-it-for-me", the lies, the manipulation.  I didn't vote for any of that. 

Anyway, sorry for that little rant.  On to reporting what I can without updated retirement info.

Retirement Savings Update:
No current numbers to report but I did get a year end status report and according to that I have 8 years to retire and based on current savings and market behavior it says I'll have anywhere between $83,000 and $103,000 a year to live on in retirement.  This includes 401(k), Pension and Social Security.  Not bad, but I don't trust the market and ideally would like to retire sooner so I'll keep plugging along and socking more and more into my accounts.

Mortgage Pay-Down Update:
With my March mortgage payment I just paid an extra 2.6 principal payments:

January Balance:        $96,555.69 - 3.5 principal payments
February Balance:      $94,242.49 - 4.75 principal payments
March Balance:          $92,429.89 - 3.6 principal payments

Could have paid a good chunk more because I receive my annual incentive performance bonus yesterday, but we have other goals for that money.

Raise & Bonus Award:
My raise will begin to appear in my next paycheck but that pay period straddles the transition between old pay and new, so my end of the month paycheck will have the full effect.  I've caculated it, but once I actually see it's impact I'll see if I need to adjust my 401(k) contributions.

I did receive my bonus and I am extremely pleased with it.  But much to the LoML's dismay (he is a spender), all of it is going into our long term savings account and will be divided up into the various funds dedicated to specific savings goals.

Our various funds are: Emergency, Home Maintenance, Home Improvement, Vacation, Car Maintenance/Replacement and finally Insurances/Veterinarian.   Larger chunks of the bonus will go into the Home Maintenance and Home Improvement funds because at some point we will need a new HVAC system which should be fully funded after this deposit, and we are also saving to remodel our kitchen, powder room, add on a screened-in porch and we need new siding, window shutters and a new front door and storm door.

Another large chunk will go into our Car Maintenance/Replacement fund since we will possibly need a newer car in the next 3-5 years.  We drive Hondas and they are awesome cars.  Mine is 13 years old and runs like a top.  LoML's car is 9 years old and gets way more usage as he travels a lot.  Both are well maintained and we will drive them until they die but it never hurts to keep saving for their eventual demise.

Finally the smallest chunk will go into our Vacation fund.  Over the last 10 years my family has been scrimping and living frugally because we were saving and paying for my two daughters to go to college over a 5 year period (they are a year and half apart in age).  So all of our vacations were usually visiting family.  Twice we went in halvsies on a house in the mountains with my sister and her family but other than that we haven't done a real vacation as a family since my girls were little.  So we've decided to do a big family vacation, location undecided at this point, in the next year or so. The DDs both live with their boyfriends now so they'll be coming too.

So that's all I've got for now.  I'll try to post more often and finger's crossed the market stabilizes and I can report actual retirement fund numbers.

Happy March!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Retirement Account & Mortgage Update - Month-End January 2020 (Also raise and bonus info!)

Retirement Savings Update:
So as of the end of this month our retirement accounts have increased to $887,211 which translates to an increase of about $35,000.  The 401K keeps jumping around (up $10K then back down $10K) thanks to the cluster *bleep* that is our political environment and its effect on the market.  I've contributed the max plus max catch-up for the month so can't do more than that.   This total does not include any pension amounts, the cash balance portion of which has not been updated for 2019 yet.

Mortgage Pay-Down Update:
With my February mortgage payment I paid an extra 3.75 principal payments:

January Balance:        $96,555.69 - 3.5 principal payments
February Balance:      $94,242.49 - 4.75 principal payments

Slowly but surely knocking the balance down. 

Raise & Bonus Award:
My company's compensation philosophy is to not emphasize high salaries and to reward good performance by scaling bonuses based on your "Individual Performance Indicator".  That being said, my raise ended up higher that I expected at 2.75%.  I was expecting it to be in the 2.25-2.5% range so I was pleasantly surprised.

Since my company's performance for the year exceeded expectations we were eligible for the max bonus amount and since I was considered a high performer I will receive 104% of my bonus.  I am very happy about this and it will go into savings aimed at home improvements and an eventual new car. 

I feel very blessed that things are working out financially for us so far.  We work hard and plan and research but we know that things pop up out of the blue that can effect us financially (shout out to the LoML's cancer diagnosis at the end of 2018).  Fingers crossed that next month is just as boring as this last one and just as successful in the numbers department.

How did your January go financially? 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Cruise Control, Annual Raise, a Cleanse and a New D.I.E.T.

Cruise Control: So my retirement accounts are on cruise control.  Just getting the year-end numbers on our outside accounts and waiting for my pension to update with its annual contribution and interest to the cash balance portion of the plan. I've already upped my 401(k) and catch-up contributions to max them out by year-end.

Annual Raise: Next week I get my annual performance review.  Shortly thereafter we will be told our raises and our annual incentive bonus.  The raises are barely cost of living.  Last year I think I got 2.7% so I would expect around the same for this year.  The annual incentive bonus is a different story.  My company's philosophy is to pay less and provide bigger bonuses dependent upon company performance and your individual performance.  We are almost 4 years out from a merger and last year was the first year my side of the business operated under the acquiring company's performance appraisal policy.  Last year my net bonus was about $13,000, compared to around $5,000 - $6,000 premerger.  Definitely nothing to sneeze at.  You can always tell when the pay-out happens as suddenly there are new luxury cars in the office parking lot.  Meanwhile I sock it away and continue to drive my 2007 CR-V.  LOL!  Just another example of differing priorities.

A Cleanse: So for the last 10 days I've been doing a cleanse.  My favorite Director at work told me about this diet he and his wife did where he lost 15 lbs and his wife lost 30 lbs in a month.  He said you have to eat every 2-3 hours no matter what and he was full all the time, but the weight just fell off.  Sounded like a dream to me so I asked him to send me the info.  He emailed the link and I researched it and went through the entire website.  It looked pretty legit so I went ahead and signed up for the 10 day cleanse and then ordered the book.  I just finished the book and today is the last day of the cleanse.  Since starting the cleanse last Friday I've lost 7 lbs. Not too shabby.  Tomorrow I start the actual diet which is 28 days long.  This is the book and The D.I.E.T.:
She prefers to call it a D.I.E.T - "Did I Eat Today", because this is the opposite of traditional diets which restricts types and amounts of foods.  This diet is about eating whole, real, healthy foods in a way that is supposed to ignite and increase metabolism so you burn fat.  You do have to give up coffee, alcohol, dairy, wheat, soy, corn & sugar, among other things.  Which I find easy enough to do, particularly since I'm doing Dry January and I like herbal teas.  I'm not sure I believe 100% of what she say the science of it is, but her results speak for themselves, the foods are healthy, many are plant based and she wants you to eat organic and natural which we believe in anyway.  Screw Monsanto and ConAgra!  It is more protein than we like to eat but I can do it for 28 days.  It will just blow my grocery budget for sure.  Luckily the take-out and alcohol budget will go down.  LoML is not doing this with me but he will eat the dinners so this shouldn't be too disruptive.

That's it for now.  Have a relaxing and restful Sunday!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Primarily Plant Based Eating

For the last eight years or so I've done my best to switch my family over to real, whole, organic food.  We've always been good about cooking at home so this wasn't much of a stretch for us.  The LoML does most of the cooking for dinners and he is sometimes resistant to this plan, and sometimes resorts to what he calls "Boxed Dinner" which translates to purchased frozen items (think fish fillets, french fries, etc.)  or boxed rice sides a la Rice-a-Roni.  But for the most part we cook from scratch and eat as much organic, local grass fed, etc. as we can afford.

For Christmas I bought him "The Blue Zone" cookbook and an Instant Pot and told him I want to eat more beans and greens and less meat.  This move, eating more plant based, is both extraordinarily healthful and economical.  Double win. 

I just finished reading this book and highly recommend it.  It makes so much sense and I feel as if my normal food preferences lean towards this type of eating.

Here are some of the plant based meals I ate this week. 
For breakfasts: I have fallen in love with Chia pudding made with oat milk, a little cinnamon and berries on top.  My other go to is steel cut oats cooked in water with dried blueberries and nuts, or apples and nuts.

Lunches were: salads with kale, apple, craisins & nuts, and broccoli & apple salad with some left over soba noodles:

Dinners were things like: soba noodles with roasted broccoli, a bean, sausage & kale stew, veggie frittata and a stuffed cabbage abomination.

I say that the stuffed cabbage is an abomination for a good reason.  The LoML travels periodically and when he comes home he brings home all the leftovers from the restaurants he where he had his meals.  It is usually what I call crap food and after his last business trip I told him I didn't want to eat that crap anymore.  Last time he came home with leftover greasy Chinese food (no veggies in sight), a giant Italian hoagie (longer than my arm), a Popeye's bucket o' chicken with sides, including the famed chicken sandwich, and a bunch of bags of different chips and cheese crackers.

Well this time he came home with fried clams (can you even eat those leftover??) Chinese food, and a corned beef sandwich with about 2 lbs of corned beef on it.

When dinner was served I just assumed this was regular stuffed cabbage, but no.  This was an evil impostor.  Instead of tomato that sauce on top is Sriracha, and inside was tofu, rice, peppers, mushrooms and. . . are you ready for this?    Peanuts!  Like some sort of kung pao tofu and greasy rice filling.   He called it Amasian stuffed cabbage.  😕  I told him if he ever made that again I was divorcing him. LOL!

So I think overall I've done a pretty good job this week minimizing meat and eating healthy.  At the end of next week I'll be starting a 10 day cleanse and then when that is done I'll be doing a 28 day diet, again plant based but more strict as I do really need to lose some weight.  Beans and greens baby!!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

So Far so Good!

I like easing back into a regular schedule.  I had to work Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of last week.  and was super busy as my boss and my director aren't back to work until tomorrow.  I work in sort of a legal capacity but I am not a lawyer or a paralegal (was a paralegal for 19 years) but the work is similar, just a different forum.  We have a case we filed in November and we received discovery requests on the 16th, 27th and 31st from the other parties with a 15 calendar day turnaround.  Not very nice of them as they were aware that my Company's corporate employees are essentially gone the week of Christmas through New Year's at the least.  In any case, I handled it, kept the assigned lawyer in the loop and have scheduled the requisite review meetings for next week.

As far as my goals, we are 5 days in and I'm doing well in all but the walking goal.  Its dark and cold in the a.m. and p.m. and if I can't get away from my desk during the workday its just hard to make this happen.  I have two dogs that could definitely use the change of scenery a walk would bring, but I just haven't been able to motivate myself.

I've changed my 401(k) contribution and catch-up contribution to achieve the maximum contribution by year end.  We'll see how it shakes out.  We have a new benefit year starting in January so my net pay should go down a bit due to higher benefit costs so I'll be a few bucks poorer for the next two and a half months as we don't get our annual raises until mid-March. I can always readjust as I go.

All of my regular savings are on autopilot so baring any surprises they should achieve themselves.

Haven't had any alcohol and am sticking to my mostly whole food and plant based meal plan. I think I'll do a post later in the week highlighting some of what I've eaten.  We just went to our local natural foods grocery and bought all kinds of things to make new plant based/vegan recipes for me for breakfast and lunch and maybe the LoML will use some to make us dinner (hello tempeh? LOL!).

That's all I have for playoff weekend Sunday.  The games so far have been amazing.  I hope your favorite team wins!  Go EAGS!!

This and That and COVID-19 Life

I hope everyone is doing what they are supposed to do and following CDC guidelines and state stay at home orders.  I did break the rules a b...