Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Long Term Care Planning, Already?

This week, I attended two of three classes provided by a financial planner who specializes in retirement and estate planning. I've learned A LOT!!! And "A LOT" doesn't do justice to the wealth of information I've gained. In this post, I'll share a few of my favorite bits of information from the long term care insurance presentation:
  • Long term care (LTC) insurance is purchased to cover expenses related to care in home, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes.
  • The majority of long term care is paid for from Medicaid,  followed by out of pocket expenses from the customer and/or their family.
  • Medicare and Medigap (health care for people age 65+ (and younger, in some cases, ex. disabled persons)) does NOT cover long-term care expenses.
  • Medicaid (health insurance for the impoverished) does cover LTC expenses. For a single person (1-person household) aged 65+ years (someone who is considered to be "aged"), to be eligible in my state of residence, you cannot have assets valued at more than $2,500 and a monthly income no greater than $350.
  • Policies can be purchased based on the amount of money a person's care would be on a daily basis and for how many years such care would. Additional features -such as inflation protection, age and health at time of purchase, individual and shared plans, restoration of benefits- impact the cost of a policy.
  • The Federal government will enact the CLASS Act (beginning late 2012 or early 2013) to help Americans prepare for the expense of long term care. Here's a summary of the the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act from AARP.
  • Some states have "partnership programs" that incentivize the purchase of long term care policies.
I'm so fired up about this topic! I'm interested in learning more about this product so I can discuss it with my parents as they prepare for full retirement.

Have you heard about long-term care insurance? 
Have you talked about it with your parents/loved ones?
Do you know someone who has purchased a LTC policy? 
What was the experience like?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Sandy X
Hey there! Remember me? Sandy X?

I know, I know.... I haven't been around since August 19th (almost exactly a month ago). So what have I been up to? Weekend trips out of town, a major project at work, and developing my skills and approach to making more money. Sounds exciting, right? This blog hasn't been the only thing I've neglected in the past few weeks. I haven't been exercising regularly, I've slacked on my "daily" readings (local news and my favorite blogs), and staying in touch with family and friends. Fortunately for me, my failure to maintain these routines have not been life threatening. Additionally, I have a chance to "pick the ball back up" and keep moving forward. So, I' back....again =)

Friday, August 19, 2011

About that "New Toy"....

On July 26th, I shared how excited I was to be the proud new owner of a Keurig coffee maker. My reasoning behind the purchase was largely because I was spending quite a bit of my food budget at Panera Bread on coffee and bagels.

Well whaddya know. Just two days ago, my colleague bought a Keurig coffee maker!!!

I'm seriously reflecting on my $120+ investment. I've thought about selling it on CraigsList or Ebay....that way I won't have to keep up with the occasional $13 purchase of fancy K-cups and I can freeload off of use the ones at work.

What do you think? Should I sell my new toy and indulge in the one at work? 
Or Should I keep it?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Stole Your Stuff

If you've ever paid attention to the time of day that I publish my blog posts, you'll notice that it's usually during regular business hours (i.e. when I should be focusing on the work for which I receive compensation).

Well, today is a special exception....because my work laptop was stolen.....once again.....while people were in the office (thank goodness no one was hurt!).

The last time this happened was about 10 months ago (on October 28, 2010, to be exact). Nevertheless, when I get into a better frame of mind and can focus, I'll be sure to share my most recent financial experiences.

I apologize for shortchanging you today.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Post Full of Pictures: Ups and Downs

A quick update before I get started...
In the August net worth update, I wasn't sure if I had had a recent contribution. I didn't. As promised, I double checked, and my most recent contributions were on 08/05 and 07/20. I wrote the August update on 08/02 and the July net worth update was posted on 07/20 ;)

Now on to today's post...(in pictures screenshots)

The past few days have looked like this....

Am I stressed? Nope. Why? Mostly because I don't intend to access the money in my investment accounts for another handful of decades. Additionally, in that time, I plan to allocate my assets (and diversify within asset classes) to reduce my exposure to equities (I'm thinking pet rocks might be a good bet in my older age, but that business sounds vaguely familiar...). It also doesn't hurt that my investments (outside of my 403b) outperformed the S&P 500 and DJIA =)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August Net Worth Update

My assets decreased by $579.62 and my liabilities decreased by $587.71. This is the first time since reporting my net worth updates that my assets decreased! Here's the summary explanation:

403(b): (+33.06) I'm rather sad about the pathetic performance of this account. I haven't double checked, but considering that my last net worth update was so late, I think this simply reflects an increase in my investments. Otherwise, this number includes my matched contribution(s) and simply shows how the market took it's toll on my investments....and that $33.06 is all I have to show for it. I'll get around to checking on the details and will update you.

Emergency Savings: (-394.74) In the last net worth update, I mentioned that I'd take $400 out to cover my car registration expenses. Well. This is the effect of it: $57.14 in my "emergency savings" account. I'm not losing any sleep over it. In the event I have a major unexpected expense, I'll put it on my credit card and will pay the balance with "car payment" money. Sounds familiar, hunh?

Regular Brokerage Account and Roth IRA: (-98.75 and -169.19) I really don't want to talk about this. But, a part of investing means that your equities are at risk of losing its value. That totally happened here.

Savings Account: (+50) I transferred $50 to this account in preparation for a trip to New England. Only a day or two later, plans for such a trip were scrapped (at least for this year). I think I'll re-transfer the money and use it to cover my massive credit card debt. A bit on that later...

Car Loan: (0) Despite having money transferred to my credit union account, I have not gotten around to transferring the funds to my car loan account. I'll receive a direct deposit this week, and thought that I would wait until new car payment funds cleared so I could make a larger payment. I know, it doesn't make much of a difference and I should probably stop being lazy.

Credit Card: (-6.00) Since receiving my new rewards credit card, I've been treating my old one like a bald-headed-stepchild (or however the saying goes). The $6 balance on the card is a recurring service I pay for. Since it's related to work, I should probably get around to submitting a reimbursement for it. I know, laziness is rearing its ugly head again...

Rewards Credit Card (-703.49) So far I've racked up 11,674 points (put another way, I can redeem it for travel worth $116.74). I've also racked up a bunch of debt. In fact, my balance is $1,115.65 (as of 08/04). Airfare, gasoline, food, car parts, and other stuff. I need to reconfigure my expense tracker to better capture how much I'm spending in these various categories. Currently, they're all filed under my "CC Rewards" column.

Student Loan: (+121.73) As I indicated in my last update, my student loan payment decreased (I still don't know why). Anywho, I am $121.73 closer to a zero balance.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spending Fast

No, I'm not spending money quickly; instead, I am not spending money. Like one of these fasts. It wasn't until today that I had a sort of epiphany. (Warning: it's not as major as it seems.) I haven't spent money for the past two days [GASP!]. Three days ago, I paid my phone bill and applied a few bucks towards my credit card balance (that hardly counts as "spending" as it's more of an obligation, rather than something that's discretionary. "Spending" sounds much more fun to me and, although it's the same thing, I set aside "bill paying" in my head. But I digress...)

My mini-revelation surprised me in two ways. First, I realized - aside from looking at my expense tracker- that I spend quite a bit of money on food. I still long for Panera (it hasn't been a week yet and I'm already dreaming about the next time I'll treat myself to their goodies), I haven't eaten any cheesy goodness from a fast food restaurant (ex. Subway's meatball sub, an organic cheeseburger from Elevation Burger), and no random snacks from my local CVS (I've been thinking a lot about sour gummy worms). I tried the meal planning thing; actually, it wasn't much of a plan. I made a crock-pot meal on Saturday and have been eating it for lunch and dinner all week long. I'm so sick of chicken stew! Chicken stew and rice. Chicken stew on a flour tortilla. Chicken stew and toast. Plain ol' chicken stew. I finished what was left of it tonight for dinner. Luckily, I changed things up a bit with a bowl of imitation Fruit Loops and pizza (that was on sale this past weekend) for dinner last night and lunch today.

My second surprise was that I didn't feel bad for not spending money. There was a bit of awkwardness because I haven't been too many places outside of home and work. As weird as it may seem, spending money has almost become an automatic thing (yikes!). I've always been aware of my spending (as evidenced by my near obsession with expense tracking), but I haven't been so conscious about my non-spending. We'll see if it matters.

Update: I tried bottled water for my coffee and it tasted better! Then again, it was a different type of coffee (Caribou's K-cup vs. the Gloria's Hazelnut that I tried at first). Frankly, the brand of hazelnut is unimpressive (which sucks, because it's my favorite flavor of coffee!). Nevertheless, I will continue to experiment in order to find the perfect cup o' joe. And if things don't work out, I'll sell my new toy for half of what I paid for it on Craigslist and head straight to Panera. Okay, okay, I'm joking....but only a little ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My New Toy

In my last post, I talked about using meal planning as a way to adhere to my food budget of $50 per week. I did okay on a trip to the grocery store (I spent $50.60, but $10 of it was for non-grocery items<<paper towel and toilet paper). However, I did not purchase breakfast items. I knew that breakfast is was best at Panera Bread. But when I did the math (at least $3.02/day for at least twenty days each month), I knew that I might be better off (at least a little bit), by putting $60.40/month elsewhere (savings account maybe?). 

So what did I do? I bought one of these...

The machine, additional pods of hazelnut coffee and skim milk set me back $120.22. The cost per cup (excluding the depreciation of the machine) is $0.67 compared to the $1.75 I pay paid at my lovely bakery chain restaurant.

I tried it last night with tea (nothing special there), and this morning with coffee (it doesn't taste like Panera :/). I even made a second cup because I thought the first was a mistake.

The next time I use this machine, I'll use purified water (as recommended). I'll let you know how it turns out.

By the way, why did I purchase an "expensive" single brewer coffee maker? I've had coffee from Keurig (machine and pods) before and it's always delicious. Like, addictive delicious. I figured, why not have the same deliciousness in my home?

I'll do my best to make breakfast at home as pleasurable as breakfast on the go (I'll miss you cinnamon swirl and raisin bagel!). I should remind myself that there was life before carrying out breakfast every morning. But the smell of freshly brewed coffee for a few months has easily overshadowed such memories. At any rate, I'll do my best to "get back to the basics."

P.S. Okay, so maybe I'm being a little dramatic. You would be too, if your coffee wasn't on point!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is Meal Planning My Ticket?

I've been ashamed of my food spending for the past few months. I budget $50/week for food and have easily blown through more than a quarter of that budget with my work day breakfast purchases, alone.

Shout out to Panera Bread. I love your hazelnut coffee (w/skim milk) and cinnamon swirl and raisin bagels, toasted with no cream cheese or butter.

Any who, I've laid out my spending through the end of the year using my new budget template, noting that I'll be using my new rewards credit card (and maintaining the tradition of paying the balance in full), and trying to plan for upcoming expenses, such as a weekend trip to the Big Apple.

In an effort to restore my ability to "respect the budget", I know I have to do a better job of sticking to my $50/week food budget. And I'm wondering if meal planning is the way to go. Frankly, I have not been a model for eating meals that are nourishing or financially responsible. I won't go into any great detail about the $20+ I spent for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory a week or two ago...or about the beer and banana chips I ate for "dinner" last night, but I know I have to spend a reasonable amount (i.e. not $20+/meal) and it should be good for me (ex. add veggies, protein, and maybe better carbs to my beer).

This is where meal planning comes in. I've heard about it here and there, I know that it involves me making a list of stuff I want to eat for the next week, and making sure that my grocery list allows for some flexibility around core items, but frankly, I've never done it. The closest I've come to meal planning is whipping out a grocery store circular and buying only what's on sale. I wouldn't say that peanut butter, cantaloupe and pork chops constitutes a meal, but at least I spent less on such purchases =)

Have you successfully used meal planning to manage your finances and to ensure you eat balanced meals? What has worked best for you? I appreciate your insight!