Wednesday, January 30, 2008

And also, besides that furthermore...

1) I did actually pay both the car insurance and the stupidclass tuition out of my honest-to-god bank account, with no credit cards involved. $1077 of payment above and beyond regular bills. I physically need to bask in that achievement before I return to being filled with rage at the stupidity of the charges themselves.

B) What the hell was B? There was another thing I was going to say. God damn memory problems. It's a good thing I'm planning so well for my retirement, because I am not going to be able to remember shit when I am old.

Oh and furthermore...

After the Retirement-Calculator-Extravaganza featured in the p0ast below (read that one first), I had the brilliant idea to consider early retirement. If I can live off around $30,000 a year and don't have to worry about leaving money to my kids:

If I contribute 6%, I'd have to work until I was 67. (There's a little surplus, so actually 66.6)
If I put in 10%, I'd have to work til 61.6. Getting better.
If I can bump it up to 15%, it's down to 57.6. Not too shabby!
And at that crazy 20%, it cuts it down to 54.7. Not as many years as I figured it would shave off, considering how much of your salary would be going into your retirement account. Then again it's an extra 11 years of not working.

Eleven years.

And when I am old....

This is a really long p0ast, so you better go grab a cup of tea.[2]

Since it's still a few days before payday and I can't do anything productive about my financial resolutions, I was rereading some msn money articles to psych (sp?) myself up and came across this. It's a little interactive thingie where you enter in various values like your current age, savings, age at retirement, life expectancy, blah blah, and it calculates all this info about what your retirement will be like. Curious to see if I would be in the "old people that live in the Bahamas and flash their flabby old-people-bods at tourists" category or the "old people that eat cat food" category, I decided to give it a try. Things that I noticed:

A) Life expectancy? Ha ha. I have no idea. It had 85 as a default value. I like to be optimistic, so I upped it to 90.
B) There was a box you could change for "retirement age," but I left it at 65 for now. Just for kicks.
C) With my employer's 3% matching, I am currently contributing (my) 3% + (their) 3% = 6% of my little salary. At least that does include bonuses, so I just used the salary it showed on the W2 I just recently got, which included some bonuses but less than I will be getting at Big Campus, where I moved to in September. But you know, estimate small.
D) Under "amount currently saved for retirement," I got to put $700. That is very small, but it is much bigger than $0, so I am pretty excited about it!
E) There is a box asking how many dollarz you feel you will need per year to live on when you retire. As if I have any idea about this! But I was reading a different financial article yesterday that was this funny program to calculate how much you would need to invest/find/WIN IN THE LOTTERY (you can tell my personal preference) in order to quit your job (another thing which from time to time sounds like exactly what I need to do), and anyway that article suggested a "reasonable" $30,000 a year. Since I until recently was not making $30,000 a year, I feel that this is indeed a reasonable amount and I went with it.
F) The default value for "current age" was 40. I stopped for awhile to feel good about myself that I am looking at (and playing around with) this website when I am only 28. Sure it would have been even better if I had started when I first started having gainful employment (more or less 6 years ago), but whatever!

So the results, with my current contribution level were:
"Your savings today: $700
Your savings at retirement: $348,984
Age when your savings runs out: 91 (very impressive, since I die at 90!)
What's left for your heirs: $35,200"

Holy shit. I leave money for my heirs. I am going to have to make some adjustments to this. Like upping that "how much you will need to live on after you retire" until my heirs get nothin, and have to earn their own damn way in the world. Let's see what happens.

*plunk, plunk, plunk* (typing noise)

Ok, I can up my annual spending to $30,947 and leave the kids $3. Well, they can buy themselves an ice cream.[1]

And you know, $30,947 a year is not bad. Much, much more than I expected it would be.

But wait, there's more. In all my reading yesterday, I also read an article that had some quick "money tricks" to use when estimating what you need for things like life insurance, what you can spend on a down payment, etc. etc. Anyway, that article suggested re: retirement that you should save "10% for basics, 15% for comfort, and 20% to get away." (It also said the percentage can include your employer's contribution and that it's affected by how old you are when you're making the estimate, i.e., starting 20 years later it's more like 15% for basics and 20% for comfort, etc.). So let's play around with the numbers. (I love this, can you tell?)

Assuming my salary stays current (which it better not), and adjusting my monthly percent contribution:

to 10% (including employer's 3%):
"Your savings today: $700
Your savings at retirement: $577,367
Age when your savings runs out: 147 (holy shit, I'm like the bionic woman!)
What's left for your heirs: $518,235"

What, are you actually kidding me? A half a million dollars?! If I adjust it so I blow all the money myself before age 90, that would give me $43,943 per year. Per retired year. Note that is more than I make now and I would not actually have to be working.

to 15% (including employer's 3%) - let's see what "comfort" looks like:
"Your savings today: $700
Your savings at retirement: $862,846
Age when your savings runs out: Never (that's what it actually says!)
What's left for your heirs: $1,122,029"

Ha ha ha ha. WTF? And spending it all personally: $60,188 per year. Yes, please.

And now, I don't think any rational person can actually save %20 of their income per year for retirement, even if you do include %3 matching. Maybe that's for people with better matching plans. But just because this is getting ridiculous, let's give it a shot and see what 20% (or a "get away" retirement plan) would look like:
"Your savings today: $700
Your savings at retirement: $1,148,325 (ZOMG I AM TEH MILLIONAIREZ!)

Age when your savings runs out: Never
What's left for your heirs: $1,725,822"

I have so much money in this scenario my money actually continues to grow after retirement. Actually, it did in the last scenario too only I didn't notice. How can you not notice that? Anyway, this theoretical 20% situation would give me $76,433 to live on per year and still leave $32 to the kids.

Now all of those calculations assumed that Social Security still exists and I get $11K per year as a benefit from that. I have no idea what my "estimated Social Security benefit" will be - I get that little statement every five years just like you do, but like most members of my generation (I think), I just laugh at it and disregard it completely. With as gloom-and-doom as the grownups always sound about Social Security, I don't count on it much. But even if I take any Social Security benefit out of the picture completely (this really is a snazzy calculator, after all):

10% yields $577,367 at retirement ($106,124 for the kids or $32,856/year for me)
15% yields $862,846 at retirement ($709,917 for the kids or $49,100/year for me)
20% (yeah, right) yields $1,148,325 at retirement (STILL A MILLIONAIREZ!!) ($1,313,711 for the kids or $65,345/year for me)

If I were to only continue contributing my current measly little %6, however, without Social Security I run out of money at 79. So I guess I better up it a bit. A few more plunks showed that 9.2% is enough to last me til 90 with about ten grand left in the bank.

I'm going to call our bookkeeper tomorrow and have her tell me what those different contribution levels would look like in actual paycheck terms. I may decide to increase my retirement percentage sooner, rather than later. I'm likin' the look of my old age. ;)

[1] Yes, I really did enter in like fifty-seven values to calculate the highest possible amount I could spend and leave my heirs as little as possible. I'm serious, kids. Learn how to handle your own money, because I am blowin' mine.
[2] This p0ast was so long, blogger's spellchecker couldn't even handle it. Ha!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Oh, I forgot!

In all my ranting about my dumb instructor and my irritation at myself for not being meaner, I forgot to p0ast this link to an article I was reading earlier. It's another one of those MSN money-related ones, a goal-setting piece by one of the Women in Red. But I found it encouraging as I'm working on my own financial goals, so I thought I'd share it :)

And it's been awhiiiiiile...

...since my last post. Oops, "p0ast." I keep narrating all these things in my head but being too lazy and/or distracted to write them. I had the flu for the first time ever, too, that kept me busy for awhile. Plus, you know, waiting for some awesome financial updates to blog about.

On the not-so-awesome side, finally came to be pay-up time for the car insurance and stupidclass, blah. I did at least keep the money in the savings account for as long as possible before transferring and paying teh billz, so that I could squeeze as much interest as possible out of it. And although it sucked to pay those things, at least now they will be taken care of and I won't have to worry about them for awhile. Plus this is the last class I have to pay for for my dumb procert program, and then afterwards I will be able to take real classes about subjects that matter, and whenever I want. So there, state of Washington. I am also hoping that completing my procert just prior to the reviews/bonuses/salary increases that happen at the end of the summer will be good timing and will get me lots of kudos with The Powers That Be. We shall see.

In other news, I had to have a yell-at-stupid meeting with one of my instructors today. He showed up 30 minutes late to a 2-hour training meeting last Friday, the third of three that he was supposed to go to and the first one that he has actually shown up for. So I was in the right, certainly, for yelling at him, and I wrote him up and made him sign the paper, which will go in his administrative file. The irritating thing is I was much nicer about the "yelling at" than I actually intended to be. I hate that. And all this weekend, too, I was watching this show called Cashmere Mafia about powerful career women and thinking, "Yeah, I am so tough and awesome, I should be bossing people around like they do and threatening to fire this dumbass for doing stupid crap like not showing up or being late to required meetings and not even calling." But then I have the actual meeting and--while I did still write him up and was clear about what I want him to fix and when--he gets defensive about every criticism (he always has) and I end up feeling like I'm saying things in a "yeah, I know this sucks, but gotta have this meeting for official purposes, blah blah blah" way. Like I'm on his side and I really want to help him and sometimes we just have to get through unpleasantries like having this meeting.

Only that's not how I feel at all. I think it's blatantly rude to miss one required meeting without calling, much less two, much less two AND being late to the third! I called him on it--and it's not like he didn't know, either!--and he's like well I was in the car for an hour and 20 minutes, I was trying, I don't make that drive (it's in a different area) very often, so I don't know how long it takes, blah blah, wah wah.
A). I don't give a crap about your damn whining. I made it there on time. Everyone else made it there on time (except one guy who called and also later emailed and apologized to the person who gave the training).
B). Yes, sometimes people get caught in traffic or situations beyond their control. Then those people CALL to say they will be late. Unless they are jerks.
C). I came from the same neighborhood as you, I left an hour before the meeting started, and I got there with 20 minutes to spare. So you did not leave 20 minutes before me and take SEVENTY minutes longer to get there. You are LYING, sir.
D). Just quit your damn whining!
I also told him he can make up a half an hour of unpaid work this week in exchange for his missing that half hour, and I want him to be productive during that time. Of course then I weenie'd out and told him something like "They're just really watching our admin time right now, and we all need to make a serious effort to get as much done as possible during the time blah blah blah." Which is true. But I still feel like I should have been meaner. Because I was mad, damn it, and he was an a-hole. So anyway he got a copy of the write-up, and one went in his file, and one will probably get faxed to the prez. of the company to keep in his main admin file over there. What I like to think of as his "permanent record" ;) The write-up also said on the bottom that I would like to see this problem taken care of within the week and that he needs to be on campus 10 minutes prior to the start of all his sessions. Which he should already know and which I have reminded him, but which he does not always do. And now I have documentation so that I can fire him if he does not do what I want. Of course then I'd have to be able to replace him, which is always a challenge to do at our illustrious school. But it's still a comfort to know.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Finally, an update! ... and a conundrum

So glorious payday finally arrived, and while I had a couple unfortunate financial lapses (like having to replace my cell phone and ordering $44 worth of take-out last Friday for Airbear, LaRue, and myself), I still did pretty well. I managed to pay down $1,884.88 worth of debt. The best part of that came when paying off the remainder of my amex balance. Not only was this at the moment my highest-rate card (and hence my #1 debt-elimination target), but I also got to click that button on the online bill pay that says "pay full balance." You have to really look for it. It's at the bottom, underneath "pay minimum (you know you want to!!)" and "pay other amount." It felt really good to click that button.

So now my "highest rate" cards are locked in at 5.99%, 4.99%, and 2.99% for the life of the balance transfer. That's pretty slick. There's one other card which is at 0% until May, and I plan on paying that off before May because I don't want to pay them any interest at all. They thought they would trick me with their 0% trial offer, and that I'd end up with a huge balance they could start charging me an arm and a leg for, but no! They didn't know who they were dealing with. This girl plays hardball, biatches.

Anyway, here's the conundrum. I put the remainder of my money in my savings account after paying my monthly bills, so that I wouldn't see a big checking account balance and go do something stupid. But what do I do now, resolution-wise? There are a couple possibilities.

1) I could start paying loads on my now-highest rate cards, the ones that are locked in at the low-for-life rates, since those are the ones that are currently charging me interest and the 0% one is not. But this would be a terrible idea, because eventually May would roll around and that card would go up to a higher rate (it's something like 13% or 15%!!). I wouldn't be able to transfer that balance to the low-for-life cards, so I need to make sure that no matter what else happens, I can pay off that 0% card by May.

So 1)'s really not even an option. Maybe it would be, if I knew I was going to magically come into enough money to pay off all the cards by May. Then obviously, get rid of the interest ones first and then that one by May. But I don't think I'll be able to make enough salary to do that. So forget about 1).

2) I could dump all my debt-reduction money toward that 0% card now and get it down so I can start focusing on the other ones. This allows me to still be paying off things with each paycheck and bragging about it in my blog. I enjoy bragging about my own progress. I find it very motivating.

3) I could just accumulate all my debt-reduction money into my savings account for now, since my savings account rate is now higher (positive) than all my credit card rates (negative). Then I pay off the 0% card in full before May. If I get above the %0 card balance in my savings account, I can immediately be paying off the higher rate cards (like option 1, but with always keeping enough for the 0% payoff in the bank). But then in theory I could be making more positive interest than I'd be spending, and make the money "work for me" in the meantime. I hear rumors that this is what people with loads of money do with their money. They use it to make more money. Kind of like ... growing bacteria. Or something.

Now, for any normal person, option 3 would be a (let me really emphasize this) TERRIBLE idea. You know what would happen. They would have these grand plans but blow all the money on a fancy computer (or hookers and blow) and then still have a big balance on the 0% card when May came.

I am not in the slightest bit worried that this would happen to me. I have a plan, and I am extremely tight-fisted. Plus, in order for me to spend any of the earmarked money, I would have to transfer it to my checking account first. Which means I would have to plan to spend it. Which, in turn, means I would talk myself out of buying whatever it was, even if it was something I desperately needed, like a new coat. Just ask my Mom, I went like 2 years without one and she finally sent me a coat in the mail because she was concerned I would freeze to death. (Thanks, Mom!) Anyway, I know the money would be there, and that is not why it's a conundrum.

It's a conundrum because no one on earth actually understands how the hell credit card interest works. This is not an accident: the less sense it makes on your statement, and the less you can predict its behavior, the more of it you can be suckered into paying. This is how you end up with those Internet horror stories about people who pay off a $1000 credit card balance for 10 years. Well, that and people are stupid. But anyway, on my credit card statements there are these fraction-of-a-fractional-percentage daily rates, and columns all over the place, and it's a mess. And then the interest on a savings account works totally differently - it's compounded quarterly, based on your average daily balance for that quarter (I at least think I understand this one).

Now, if my savings account is at a higher rate than my cards, you'd think I would end up on the plus size, right? Spend $x in interest over the 4 months from here to May, and make $x + some amount more in interest on the savings. Then pay off the card(s) with the savings, and have some ("+ some amount more") bonus left over.

Only I figured it out (just using the typical average monthly interest on these cards for the last couple months, since the balance hasn't changed that much and will only continue to go down) and I still make less in interest on the savings account than the interest on the cards. Not a ton less, but less. I think it's something to do with when the compounded interest is added on, or something? I don't know. It is all very strange and confusing. I might call my bank representative tomorrow and ask her to explain it to me.

Feel free to post your vote as to option 2 or 3 in comments :)

P.S. Did you see that $1,884.88 I paid off this month?! I didn't want the important bragging part to get lost in all that explanation above. I could (and still may) pay off more for this month, depending on the whole option situation. For the immediate moment, the money's in savings whilst I contemplate.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Still waiting for payday

Story of my life.

And, in an anecdote which those of you that know me will also recognize as the story of my life (in a better way), I called the car insurance company today and terrorized them for awhile about my rate and why it is not lower. The guy is going to see if he can get me a discount because I have done "graduate work." Of course, as I pointed out to him, I did my graduate work five years ago, but he said it's a new discount. Just as long as he lowers my rate.

And really, it's already less than $100 a month, it's not that bad, per se, I just hate paying it. And now, hopefully, I will pay less of it.

I honestly would quit harassing people if they'd stop making me pay money for things :)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bad News

So I am still waiting for the 15th and its glorious paycheck, and I was all excited about the big payment I'd be able to make toward my credit card debt, per The Capitalism Resolution of November 2007 (TM). However, I made two unfortunate discoveries yesterday.

One of them is that my car insurance payment will be due at the end of January. I hate car insurance. I may call them and tell them I don't use the car to commute anymore and see if they will reduce my rate some. It's just a tad over $500 for the six months so there probably isn't much more they can reduce it, but it's still irritating as hell to pay. I hate insurance. What a fucking scam.

Anyway, I have to pay it and I'll bite the bullet because then I won't have to pay for another six months and ya know that's just life, everyone pays for car insurance.

HOWEVER, the second and worse discovery was that I will have to register (and, more importantly, PAY) for my final procert class by January 31, as well. Of course this is shitty timing, since it will also be five-hundred-something dollars and I have to pay it at the same time as my car insurance. It's also five-hundred-something dollars for TOTAL BULLSHIT, as I have
discussed before. I've paid a hefty lump sum for my dyslexia and autism classes in the last few months, but at least those have been interesting and have taught me something [1].

This "class," on the other hand, will basically be a monthly circle-jerk in which we have people "peer edit" our entries and the other bullshit writing tasks we have to do for our procert portfolio. It will doubtlessly go like every other education class I've ever taken has gone: if I actually get invested in it and want my work to be good, I will bring my written work to class for peer feedback, and will just be told how awesome I am and how I understand the class and the requirements and everything about education SO WELL that I should be teaching the class. Now that sounds really egotistical, but I swear that is not what it is--this has actually happened to me repeatedly.

Not only will the class be a total waste of time, but it happens on THURSDAYS. Granted, there are only seven class meetings, and they are from 4 to 7 pm. For a "regular" teacher, this would be just slightly possible, but not ideal: most teachers are required to stay at school until 4, and it's at this center south of downtown so you know traffic will be a clusterf*** if you don't actually leave for the 4pm class by like 2:30. Not ideal for any of them.

But for me, as you know, school does not end until 7:30 (technically 8:30!), so I could theoretically have six classes I have to pay a sub to teach for me so that I can attend this bullshit! And that affects my admin percentage, which affects my campus cash flow, which directly affects my take-home pay and, accordingly, further hinders my efforts at earning lots of money and paying off my credit card debt. And that is in addition to the five-hundred-something dollars I have to pay to take the frickin' class in the first place! (You can see how much this pisses me off, as it is forcing me to use bold and italics at the same time.)

In other professions, do you have to pay thousands of dollars to do completely useless, stupid bullshit that does not help you do your job (and, for a period of time, even hinders you from doing it)? Or just in underpaid, under-appreciated, continually-government-harassed ones, like teaching?!

So between now and January 31, I will have to pay over $1000 for these two demons and, because of the subbing situation, my 15th paychecks will be somewhat less stellar than they would have been had the State of Washington just STFU and let me do my god damned job in peace. In a positive note that I will surely take great pride in (once I have stopped being completely pissed off), I may be able to pay for both of them straight out of my bank account with no charges having to be made to a credit card. (Or, since the school fees are due on the 31st and my last check doesn't *come* til the 31st, I may have to put it on a card for like 2 days while I wait for payments to go through, but then will be able to immediately pay it off). I think being able to pay for $1000+ of expenses in one month is a Pretty Big Accomplishment, especially for me.

Of course, if I didn't have the damn expenses, that'd be another THOUSAND DOLLARS down on the credit card debt.

I seethe.

[1] Oh, and I got a 4.0 in my autism class! Hooray :) I love being a student!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Whole New Year.... Fulla Billz

So I made my new bill chart for 2008 - exciting news only to the most compulsive of us, really. I was going to give another one of those big updates, but since I've been totaling things mid-month, my progress since 12/16 is not really all that huge, and I want to wait until 1/16 to update it so that a) it shows a consistent amount of time worth of progress and b) so the total looks bigger ;)

But I did go through and write down my current balances on everything (including my few assets) so that when I get to January 1 (or 2, as the case may be) of 200-NINE, I can see what huge strides I made this year! I would compare myself to January 1, 2007, but my online credit card statements don't go back that far and it's too much of a pain in the butt to figure it out :)