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Archive for April, 2007

Month wrap-up

April 30th, 2007 at 05:41 pm

1. Gold coin purchased.
2. $500 moved to personal chequing/checking account.
3. Received e-mail from TD Ameritrade telling me that savings statements were not okay to use in setting up a Move Money application. This was confusing to me because the Move Money application sent to me said it was fine to do so. I tend to trust documents reviewed by Legal department over Customer Service Representatives responding over e-mail, don't you?
4. E-mailed Samantha Roady, Chief Marketing Officer of GainCapital.com to let her know 'alot' is not a word and to please ensure it doesn't appear in banner ads. I have not yet seen an English language dictionary that has 'alot' as an acceptable variant of 'a lot,' and I am CONFUSED as to how people come to accept it. Are dictionaries the work of the devil? Did some lousy typesetter mess up a primer that was mandatory curriculum reading for 100 million elementary school children decades ago?
5. Still no work done on the windows, nor landscaping.
6. Made $150 payment, not $125 as previously reported, extra to the mortgage. Now my total mortgage interest will be below the magic six-digit figure.
7. Captured to my iPod several applications for Direct Purchase Plans and Direct Reinvestment Plans for companies.
8. Went to the library, recorded from the Value Line (manually so as not to violate copyright laws) the safest and most timely and highest-yielding recession-safe companies. Then I did #7.
9. Received assessment from the County.

Hipster PDA

April 16th, 2007 at 04:35 pm

Introducing the Hipster PDA

I've been obsessively writing these lists on spiral-bound notebooks I scatter in cars and rooms. Now I can just write them once, put them in a binder clip, and carry them around in my purse. When I get distracted: "buy uranium! invest in Canada! get another ETF!" I can look at my cards and remind myself that "hey, this investment just isn't in the cards for me."

Five year plan

Investment
* Foreign Bonds
* International Small-Cap
* Clean Energy
* Precious Metals and Mining
* Gold (ownership)
* Natural Resources
* Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities
* Water

House
* Garden: pruning
* Garden: raised beds
* Garden: planting (vegetables)
* Double-paned, energy-efficient windows
* Fireplace Insert
* Insulation: attic, maybe basement

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Homeland Security

Accounts
* Savings
* His Roth
* My Roth
* I-Bonds
* Gold
* E*Trade
* TD Am.
* Tot Coverdell
* Tot Stock
* Prosper.com

Health
* Bicycling
* Yoga
* Gardening
* Organic food
* Walking

Things That Will Happen Before Social Security Faces a Short... - Center for Economic and Policy Research, Dean Baker, June 2005.

I sense I'm in a "Red Queen Syndrome" running faster and faster to stay in the same place. If people are wealthier, as evidenced by the nicer cars and larger vehicles and electronic gadgets and trips, how can it be that the average equity in mortgages is going down?

I've also decided that it is not good for my sanity to assume that all the Americans know what I am just learning about food politics, natural living, cancer prevention, climate change, stealth inflation, federal unrepayable debt obligations, and have an unfair comparative advantage. And it's not good for my sanity to assume that all the American middle-income families (except mine) are easily managing "the 60% solution," "the 50% budget," or whatever nifty savings meme some personal finance authors and editors tout, and assume that I'm the one doing something wrong. I'm going to pretend I have the unfair comparative advantage and share what I learn online. Then if I am going down the wrong road, I am sure people will jump on me with corrective statistics, and not ideology. How well does ideology feed and prepare one, anyway?

"If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" -- Rabbi Hillel


Links du Jour - Retirement! And a question

April 10th, 2007 at 06:12 pm

Great Safe Withdrawal Rate Debate

Consumption Smoothing

Behavioral Finance Insights -- Actually PassionSaving.com is new to me, and seems to be highly worthwhile.
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I'm still working out ideas in my head about what to save for when there are more goals than money. Still torn between snapping up precious metals funds, TIPS, or just cash.

If you ever had some disposable income, and an arm's length of goals to save for, how many at a time did you choose, and how did you allocate $ for each? For instance, if you had $5000 and eight items, did you rank and prioritize the eight and fund imaginary or real accounts in descending quantities like Goal #1 gets $1000, Goal #2 has $750, Goal #3 500 and so forth; or did you give them equal amounts to begin with, or did you supply the goal with the nearest end date with the largest amount of money?
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Why can't I get the notion out of my head that only renters and people who have over 60% equity in their fixed-rate mortgages, or a paid-off home will be the least scathed with the housing bubble?



Gee, only a 72% YOY increase in Notice of Trustee Sales in our county from 04/1/2006 to 4/10/2006 and 04/1/2007 to 04/10/2007.

Over the past 6 months: 11.7% increase from same term in 2005-2006.
Over the past 3 months: 12.7% increase from 2006.
Over the past 30 days: 35% increase from 2006.
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upon Aleta's request: Homemade Bath Treats

April 9th, 2007 at 03:00 am

From The Book of the Bath
and Simple Pleasures of the Home

Pine Bath Oil
-- skin softener. Pour a little into your bath under running water.

1 cluster pine needles
1 cup baby oil

Put pine needles in a glass container with a lid. Cover completely with baby oil, and cover the container tightly. Store in dry, cool place for 4 weeks. Strain the oil and decant into an attractive glass bottle. You can add fresh pine needles for decoration. Makes 1 cup.
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Facial Sauna
2 drops fennel essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops orange essential oil

Mix oils together and pour intoa bowl of steaming water. Drape a towel over your head and the bowl and sit, allowing the steam to penetrate your pores. Be careful not to put your face too close--this should be a luxurious feeling, not a painful one.
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Soothing Lavender Bath
1/2 ounce dried lavender flowers
1/2 ounce basil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 pt. witch hazel

Make a powder of the herbs in a mortar and pestle. Steep them in the witch-hazel for 2 weeks. Strain and add to warm bath water as desired. May also be used as an after-bath splash.
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Jasmine Bubble Bath
1 Tbsp. mild liquid soap
2 tsp. oil of jasmine
2 tsp. witch hazel

Combine ingredients and add directly to fast-running bath water.

Jasmine bath #2
2 drops oil of Jasmine
1 cup distilled water

Combine ingredients and add to warm bathwater. Float camellias or gardenias on the surface of the water.
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Lavender Facial Steam
1/4 cup lavender
peel of 1 lemon, dried
2 tsp. rosemary

Add the ingredients to the porcelain bowl, pour in boiling water and steam for as long as you wish.

Questions which may be difficult to answer

April 4th, 2007 at 06:35 pm

Personal position: 25% tax bracket. I'm asking these questions because the CPA I wanted to use for my 2006 tax return is a leetle busy.

Convinced my marginal tax rate will rise -- think it's too small anyway, 34% would be better, am hoping for a state income tax. I am very very very unlikely to rise to a higher tax bracket unless the tax code changes significantly -- I'm not privy to the ways of a 60% return on my annual income and at my tax bracket I'm not likely to become privy.

Considering Yanks are living longer, and the attempt to salvage Social Security will be made, and the attempt to pay for the war and to pay down the deficit will also be made, should I be expecting a 50-60% tax rate in my golden years? Is it stupid of me to be contributing to a 401(k) account while I have a 25% tax bracket if chances are very good I will be in a 50% or greater tax bracket when I withdraw my 401(k) funds?

If making significant contributions to tax-deferred retirement accounts place me in a lower tax bracket currently, doesn't that reduce the value of mortgage interest? Should I also then be working to prepay my mortgage? If Social Security isn't going to be around for me when I retire, does that mean I don't have to be worried about a substantial increase of funds and benefits that become subject to federal income taxation?

If homeownership w/mortgage interest payment deductions, and the tax exemption for having a kiddie are reduced when my tax bracket is low in my child-raising years, am I a sucka for contributing as much as I do to a 401(k) plan? Should I just back off enough to get the employer match and grab the energy tax credit instead?

Which is better: living in a currently low-tax country for forty years where I'll have to eventually pay twice as high a marginal rate, or moving to a wealthy, industrialized, resource-rich country ten years from now where I can expect to pay 38%?

How horribly unfair would it be to have a Roth IRA with no annual caps on what one could contribute to it, for a worker who earned under $50,000 a year?

Should I ease off the retirement contributions, currently 10% 401(k) and $4000 Roth IRA, to build the emergency fund and enough resources to adequately start a taxable investment (with margin) account?

Oh yes, the source of my anxieties: "Who Gets Paid to Save?"

It's rough to challenge the popular belief that you'll be okay if only you'd make a 10+% contribution for your retirement, yet we have faithfully done that, and our liquidity is constrained. And don't tell me my liquidity is constrained because of my mortgage, because renting a house where I am is $150/month extra beyond my utilities, principal, tax, interest and insurance, and I'm paying $27 less than what I was prior to refinancing.

Another tough question: how does an Economics Ph.D., no sorry, make that SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO THE FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF CLEVELAND, or perhaps TENURED PROFESSOR AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY make it through twenty-three years of English-language schooling without knowing the difference between the verbs 'lose' and 'loose'? My mother and father never made it through high school and they knew better.

Recovering from the April 1 (b)lowdown

April 2nd, 2007 at 03:16 pm

1. I hadn't yet been out in the sun to pull up weeds. I chose to pull up weeds as a tiny action indicating that yes, I do want to improve my environment and yes, I am deficient in Vitamin D and want that sunlight!

2. I went through a purge -- shredding financial statements we don't need, and found a budget book. I tallied first our income, feeling pretty proud of myself for earning the wage that I do, and then tallied our expenditures:
* a friend's morning wedding in Vancouver, so an overnight stay is in the cards;
* the IRS payment of $860.72 -- bah on me for getting it in two weeks earlier;
* the non-refundable deposit for putting the munchkin in kindergarten: $170/month full-time, and this is a BARGAIN compared to $50,000 of past childcare expenditures;
* my birthday, and I will be one very spoiled princess/goddess with my bitchen waterproof warm imported motorcycle jacket;
* the last hiccup of $750 for my 2006 Roth IRA contribution;
* my kid's social communication playgroup: $40/session, and I haven't kept up payments since the facilitator/therapist moved operations to where there's no billing receptionist;
* thought I might try paying the mortgage every four weeks, so inked in a double payment.

3. I'd been getting to sleep well enough without melatonin and 5-HTP the last few days, but my serotonin reserves got depleted.

This, along with other expenditures like insurance, heat, utilities, food, came to $7800 for the month. This is well above what we bring in. Sure, I put in $450 as a savings category for the vacation, and yes, we have savings, and the tax/mortgage/childcare payments can go through our chequing account without overdraft, but what about the 2007 Roth IRA or the windows or the gardening/landscaping I wanted done for my survival/victory garden? Poof. So no double payment of the mortgage, obviously.

Thanks, Lux Living Frugalis, for the Daniel Quinn recommendations and verbal bouquet. I do have a lot of fallow time at work, so I'll get the Ishmael books after I finish Road to Serfdom.

And thanks for the "there theres" and understanding that I really just want to participate in a spectrum of advice and experiences, and present some bulletins that people may find useful for re-engineering their spending. Like Club Orlov's 'Closing the Collapse Gap' slideshow. Some may think this may never happen; some may be unsettled; others may be thinking 'oh good, I'm not the only one out there thinking this way, maybe I can cut down on the Wellbutrin or Fluoxetine.' The important thing is that we're putting our brains to use taking in and analyzing data and choosing between action and inaction.

And this is mostly for me, but if you find use in it, then it's for you too:
"May today there be peace within.

May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith EXCEPT BANKS -- DO NOT TRUST THEM OVER YOUR SPOUSE. THE BANKS SHOULD NOT BE YOUR OVERLORDS!.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you."

Fascinating opinion about 'The Secret'

April 1st, 2007 at 08:18 pm

I know now this [the gaudy CSS layout] is an April Fool's joke, and so well done you won't read this unless you're so desperate for a non-ugly page to render in your browser.

I feel very compelled to disengage from blogging. I'm overwhelmed by the "to-do" list I make to ensure my financial survival, and maybe it's all going to go to waste anyway. Let the fascists and psychos and greedheads deplete everything. I've tried for ten years to understand and assimilate to my environment, including therapy, and I've failed. Al Gore has his "inconvenient truth" and I have my "uncomfortable reality." He's getting richer from his though, and I'm wasting away. Maybe I'm having a meltdown and need an intervention. Maybe I'm tired of my questions not being answered. Maybe I'm getting more noise than signal right now. I'm feeling very defeated.