The 4-Hour Workweek

I’m reading an exceptional book right now, Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.

It’s kind of mind blowing to be honest. And it makes me a little sad. Because Jay and I are the people who’ve lived the kind of life he advocates escaping – the life of 9 to 5 with a “big” retirement at the end. Jay especially. And his union job isn’t one that lends itself, in any way, shape or form, to the telecommuting strategy Timothy describes. Besides, we’re almost at retirement age whereas this book is most valuable for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Despite this, there’s still a ton of value in reading it. It’s not too late to implement some of his plans/strategies even if I really like our “small” life. There’s no question that it can be improved and I agree so wholeheartedly with many of his observations and opinions. I feel like a kindred spirit, which is hilarious as our lives couldn’t be more different.

Plus, he’s funny as hell.

I’m getting it for my brother. And probably for the kids for Christmas. They’ve already made it clear they have no intention of following in our footsteps! 😉 It makes me a little nervous, because the lifestyle Ferriss advocates is SO different from ours and I’m not sure how achievable it actually would be.

Finding Our Next Home

the pinesThree years ago I posted that I thought I’d found our next neighborhood. We weren’t ready to move then. And we still aren’t quite ready to move. But, I’ve kept my eye on this area. I have an alert set on (an MLS site available to the public) so that any time a property in this neighborhood comes on the market I know immediately. Trouble is, only two units have come on the market via the MLS and one via FSBO (for sale by owner). I got into all three and none of them came close to meeting the criteria we need for our next house.

I actually have a list of the criteria (of course):

  • 3+ bedrooms
  • 2+ bathrooms (preferably 3)
  • Work room
  • 2+ car garage
  • Office
  • Main floor master
  • Main floor laundry
  • Soaking tub
  • Patio/deck
  • Big enough to host family dinners

So, I was starting to think that maybe I shouldn’t have any expectations about this particular area, especially since there are only 16 units and the majority of them have floor plans similar to the ones I’d already seen. In fact, based on assessor data in the county database, I was pretty sure that only six of the 16 “might” meet our criteria and, of those, only four had preferable locations.

So, rather than give up, I sent letters to the six homeowners about two weeks ago. A week later I got a call from a lovely woman who said she was thinking of taking a year long, round the world tour in the spring of ’18 and would we be interested in renting. I said I wasn’t sure renting would work, but I’d love to see her place, if she didn’t mind showing it to me.

I saw it today and it meets every single one of our criteria. There’s even a small community pool just 50 feet from the back porch – something I’d dearly love, but didn’t list as a “has to have”. The property isn’t perfect. It needs updating. While nice, and reasonably big, it’s much more modest than our current home. And I’m not sure that Jay’s new truck will fit in the garage. (I’m not sure it’ll fit in most garages.) But I’m confident that we could be happy there, especially since I feel we’d do a lot to customize it and make it into something just right for us.

I’m so relieved! Not that we’re going to end up with this property, but that I know there are probably four of them that would fit the bill. So, it hasn’t been wasted energy or hopes. In fact, the woman even mentioned that she might just decide to stay in the South Seas after her tour – in which case she’d want to sell. 🙂

What a gal. She must be at least 80!

Getting Rid of More Stuff

craigslistI’ve posted a number of times this past year about getting rid of stuff. I’ve pared my closet down even more. There aren’t any old or unwanted items in my pantry, fridge or freezer (well, hardly any). My files are much lighter. I’m ruthless about getting rid of stuff. I’m even happy when some things break, because then there’s no reason, excuse or justification to keep it!

I’ve also posted before about selling stuff on Craigslist. Last time I posted we had a Suburban, a twin bed set, furniture that we acquired with a foreclosure, and a computer desk that came with our current house. All sold. This past week I sold a pair of tap shoes ($10), our old cordless phone set ($10), a United lounge pass ($10), my old ergonomic keyboard ($5) and a tapestry ($500). The tapestry we bought on Craigslist for $500 about eight months ago and, right from the start, we weren’t happy with it. I posted it a few months ago, knowing it would take awhile to sell. I just kept renewing it, never dropped the price and, finally, got a call from someone looking for a tapestry. They offered $400, but I didn’t take it. Selling it meant we had to get it down (a hassle) and then we’d have a big empty wall. So, I wasn’t that motivated. Two days later they called back to say they’d pay the asking price. And they were super nice people.

In between those two periods, we sold goose decoys, an old kerosene heater, an old Maxima, a pair of armchairs, a pair of Birkenstocks, a pair of Finn Comfort sandals, a brass chandelier, an old computer monitor, an inflatable boat that came from one of our rentals, and a patio heater.

That’s a LOT of stuff!

HDHP Update

hdhpI posted specifics and predictions about our new High Deductible Health Plan earlier this year and am repeating much of it here, but with YTD results.

Our annual premium has gone from $8,946 to $2,783, a reduction of $6,164. The company seeded our HSA with $1,500 and we are contributing $258.33 pretax per paycheck to fully fund the HSA to the $7,750 maximum. Under this new plan we can also earn up to $50 if we both complete a health survey (done) and $40/month by participating in the fitness reimbursement program – which we’ve been doing religiously.

Our annual max out-of-pocket spending for the family is $7,000, so it’s pretty much a sure thing that we will save money on this new plan. Last year our total cost was just shy of $11,000 – but that number was inflated because we jammed as much as we could (doctor visits and prescriptions) into the last couple of months of the year. This year, the most it should be is around $7,753 (assuming we maximize the benefits mentioned earlier). My goal will be to keep it under $5,000, however I know that even one emergency would change that. So, I won’t keep my hopes too high. Between injuries and asthma getting out of control, we usually have 1-2 ER visits/year

At this point, our total YTD cost stands at $2,770. There’s a very good chance we’ll be well under that $5,000 goal. We might even keep it under $3,500. Fingers crossed. Assuming there are no surprises, I’m planning to schedule our daughter’s wisdom teeth removal in 2017. If we do incur substantial expenses in the next few months, I’ll be scrambling to schedule it before the end of the year – not always possible with short notice, of course.

We have about $3,300 accumulated in our HSA and I’m still planning to fully fund it again next year, and every year that Jay’s working, so that we can use it into retirement.

So far, so good. Fingers crossed. Knock on wood, etc.

Social Security Reports

my social securityThe government used to send you “your Social Security Statement” every year. No more. Now they might send one every three years, if you haven’t established an online profile with them Once you set that up they stop sending reports altogether. My last report is from 2010.

Every year I log on to check to see that my earnings record has been correctly updated and to see what my new benefit estimates are. Trouble is, I can’t compare year to year like I used to with the paper statements. The website shows you current info, not past info.

You can, however, print and/or save your current statement. That way you can maintain a history. I’m missing our 2011-2014 statements because I didn’t think to do this. But, from now on I won’t forget. I’ll be able to see how our earnings affect our benefits from year to year.

Rethinking Social Security Plan

my social securityI’ve posted about Social Security a couple of times before but, after reading a book, have recently begun to change our plans. The book is Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security. I highly recommend it.

In the past I’ve looked at Social Security from a break even perspective. The book shows you why, instead of worrying about missing out on money in case you die before the break even point, you should look at it as insurance in case you do live a long time. Life insurance and home insurance are not based on any break even calculation. We buy it to protect ourselves in the event of a catastrophe. If you can afford to wait, Social Security should be viewed no differently. It is insurance in the event we live a really long time, which can be catastrophic to your ability to make ends meet.

So, I think we’ll be waiting to file for benefits. You get 70% more if you wait until 70 to file vs. filing early at 62. 🙂

No More Lladros

lladrosMy mom really likes Lladros so I, too, accumulated some along the way. I bought a couple in Europe (when I was 20!), inherited one from my Grandma, and got some as wedding presents. I also had some Hummel figurines. Egads!

Thing is, Jay hates Lladros and Hummels.

Over the years I started to like them less and less, as well. They were a reflection of my mother’s taste, not mine. After our last move most of them ended up not getting unpacked. After close to five years, it was clear I really didn’t have any attachment to them. And our kids won’t want them, either. Turns out kids don’t like their parents’ stuff. I keep reading this. And hearing it from my friends. So it must be true.

The turning point for the Hummels came when watching an episode of Better Call Saul. He’s practicing elderlaw and is at an old lady’s apartment waiting for her to take the lift chair down the stairs. She has a curio cabinet full of Hummels. Dozens of them. That was enough for me.

The turning point for the Lladros came when I was checking out a townhouse in a community we might be interested in someday. The homeowner had a curio cabinet full of Lladros and it screamed “old”. The fact that I’m getting old, myself, is clearly making me sensitive to it. 😉

I gave one of the Lladros to a friend of mine and I sold everything else on Craigslist. I probably netted less than $200 for all of them, but I haven’t regretted it – yet.

Citi Double Cash Card

citi double cashI recently applied, and got, a Citi Double Cash Card. I’ll be retiring a couple of my other cards or, if they have no annual fee, keeping them as a backup.

Here’s the breakdown of how I’ll be using them:

  • American Express Blue Preferred ($75 annual fee) – use at all grocery stores for 6% cashback
  • Ink Bold Mastercard ($95 annual fee) – use for Comcast, Verizon, and office supply stores for 5X United points, hotels for 2X United points
  • United Explorer Visa ($95 annual fee) – use for all United travel to get free checked bags and for foreign travel to avoid foreign transaction fees
  • Costco Citibank Visa (no fee) – this card will replace my existing Costco American Express and I’ll use for Costco (2%), gas (4%), US restaurants (3%)
  • Citi Double Cash Card (no fee) – use for everything else for 2% cashback

While it looks complicated, on a day to day basis I’ll pretty much only be using the American Express Blue Preferred, the Citi Double Cash Card and the Costco Citibank Visa. I’ll use a sharpie to write on them, as a reminder of what to use them for.

I’ll be canceling the United Explorer card I got for Jay (in order to get 50,000 miles) once we’ve used it for a trip we’re planning. Our current Costco American Express will expire. And I’ll keep our American Express Blue Everyday and Bank of America Cash Cards as backups since they have no annual fees.

Toothpaste and Travel

IMG_1684I just got back from our annual girls’ week at my friend’s place in Florida. Seven days of beaches, bike riding, and taking it easy! So wonderful…

The night I got home, I unpacked and went to brush my teeth with my expensive* prescription toothpaste (Prevident 5000 Booster Plus). When I opened it tons of it oozed out. Lots. Jay was able to salvage a bunch and scrape it into his container.

I’m terrible at anything resembling physics and didn’t understand why this happened when I got to Denver, but not when I arrived in Florida.

It’s the altitude change. Denver’s at a higher altitude, and the air in the container expanded. I think that’s what he said. 😉 The upshot of it is squeeze out as much excess air as possible from containers before packing them.

* Our dentist recommended this toothpaste to help with some issues we’re having (ie. old people problems), so we’re using it. However, I’m not allowing her to send it home with us anymore. She originally charged us each $20 for it. I asked her to write a prescription for me and I can get it for $11.35 and pay with pretax dollars from our HSA account.

Keeping Track of “Bonuses”

money stretchedI thought it would be interesting to keep track of bonus earnings – money, gift cards, rewards etc. we earn from using savings websites like TOPCASHBACK, for credit card cashback or bonus programs, from participating in company programs (eg. the safety program at Jay’s work, or my company’s B-Fit program), rebates, health insurance reimbursements, etc.

April has been pretty good:

  • $250 for our American Express Blue Preferred bonus
  • $25 cashback from our American Express Blue Everyday card
  • $30 from our American Express Blue Preferred 10% cashback for Verizon
  • $40 from United Healthcare for our monthly fitness reimbursements
  • $73 for two rebates that arrived in the mail
  • $100 Macy’s gift card from Jay’s work for working the storm the other week (in addition to all the overtime)
  • $40 Macy’s gift card (I had purchased tons of stuff online (which I mostly returned) and got $40 in my “wallet” but their website wouldn’t let me use it so they sent me a gift card instead).

That’s a total of $558 and the month isn’t even over yet! Granted, this is more than we will usually see. The $250 bonus is a one time thing, and the Macy’s gift cards are unlikely to occur again. Other month’s totals are $40 for January ($1,540 if you count the HSA seed money from Jay’s company), $835 for February (another good month with a credit card bonus and a $450 recreation reimbursement from our city), and $130 for March.

It is definitely worth the trouble to sign up and submit the necessary paperwork for things!