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Archive for February, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

February 14th, 2016 at 07:59 pm

Happy Valentine's Day! We had a great steak dinner at home and are prepping to leave for vacation. We leave tomorrow morning and I'm almost packed.

Couple of thoughts I read that Kanye West is $53 million in personal debt. Is that even possible? I mean isn't he married to someone extremely wealthy and they make a fortune selling themselves on reality tv? Am I mistaken that I think I read they made $30 million last year alone? How can he be in debt? I mean yes they live lavishly but I thought they pretty much get everything free to "try" and sell for the merchant and they are constantly selling products? I wonder how that all ends? Bankruptcy?

RIP Justice Scalia. I hate to say it but it's a little ridiculous that the Republican party wants to wait a year to fill his position on the supreme court. They need to suck it up and accept the fact that he passed and let the nomination go through unless the person is completely horrible. If Obama is smart he'll nominate someone quickly that is already a judge that had a fast and smooth vetting previously. I wonder if he'd dare put another woman on the court? I know the front runner is the Indian judge but I wouldn't mind another woman.

Does moving hurt kids?

February 12th, 2016 at 09:39 am

Does moving hurt kids? Am I not giving my kids to make friends from kindergarten for life? I don't know. But right now I'd say no. The move for us has been good. Our DK2 won't remember where we lived and I can tell our DK1 has only vague memories of specific things that may not really stick.

Is it worth trying to stay put now that we've moved? That means buying a house in the same district. No. We moved and are renting to know the area. Where we are is good but we're not convinced this is the right area for us. The schools are good but the commuting isn't perfect. We knew that when we rented but areas we looked at didn't have anything available. And who knows what might be available when we start to look to buy.

We're not even sure we'll buy this year or rent another year We aren't even sure we'll stay put in this area, perhaps in 4 months a job offer too good to pass up will come along and we'll move again. That will likely mean renting another year and then buying.

Every step in this process we've explained to the kids what we are doing and why. Our DK1 understands we are renting this is not our house and we may not stay in the area. DK1 understands Dad is not working but trying to get a job. DK1 understands why we moved and is happy. Loves the area, misses snow but then was excited to see it when we visited the grandparents and went snowboarding.

I think that military families who move every 3 years probably have a better grasp of moving. I meet a lot of people who are terrified of uprooting their kids even within the same city. Once kindergarten has started they only want to find a house within the district. They feel it'd be too disruptive. People who just moved to the area feel constrained to buy once they've rented and pressured to buy within a year.

I think kids are more flexible than adults. I think it's us as adults that feel this pressure to "settle" down and give our kids what we perceive as stability. We also feel stressed over making new friends and having to develop new relationships.

Have you found it hard to move? I found it super easy without kids. I moved a lot. With kids it's more work but I haven't worried about uprooting the kids. I feel like we're on this adventure to find the place we belong together. It'll all click and we'll be happy. Have you moved often? Was it difficult?

economic gap is widening

February 11th, 2016 at 08:42 pm

I just read an article about a math revolution going on in the US. Very cool and interesting. But the article bring us and points out a very interesting phenomenon. The gap between kids born to the educated and well off versus the rest of them.

Last year the US won the international math championships. But the kids who were on the team were grown through a "pedagogical ecosystem". Meaning they were developed by extracurricular math programs on the "rich coasts and tech meccas". These kids were born to STEM parents and given the opportunity to learn because their parents feel the education of public schools isn't satisfactory enough. The people doing this are also starting earlier and it was suggested that 48% of kids between 2003-2009 who wanted to go into STEM fields switched because they lacked substantive quantitative background to succeed. So basically parents are paying for their kids to get ahead of the game.

In fact it was noted in the US 8 to 1 is the ratio of rich kids versus poor kids becoming math whizzes. Also the gains in math mastery is coming from those who have money.

But as also suggested in the article STEM fields are the most well paid right now and likely future. So many kids do want to enter the field but aren't able to succeed. The article suggests success is being born to the right parents and zip code.

I wonder when we'll start to acknowledge this and realize the gap is getting wider in the US and the middle class disappearing?

What is feminism?

February 11th, 2016 at 08:16 am

I am annoyed I'll be honest with Gloria Steinam and Madeleine Albright. They are calling out all young women to support Hillary Clinton because of her gender. They suggest that women are going to hell for not supporting another woman. They also suggest that young millenial women are supporting Bernie to get a boyfriend.

I don't get it. I thought feminism is the idea of supporting any woman's choice. The woman's right to choose. Like the idea that women can choose to stay at home instead of working, even though boomer women and older struggled for equality. They believe that young women don't appreciate it.

We do. But maybe the idea is that Hillary isn't the candidate meant to be the first president. Who knows. But why aren't Albright and Steinam criticizing the conservative women for not voting for Carly Fiorina? Because she couldn't win? Or because they are liberal? So only liberal woman have to support a woman for gender but conservatives get a pass?

Yes I'm annoyed women get paid less than men. Yes I think there is gender discrimination. But trying to guilt people into voting by gender seems like a worse idea. Do these older women realize they are treating younger women exactly the same they were treated? Do they realize that women fought for the ability to make their own decision instead of listening to father/husband? And now they want women to "fall" into line again?

So much for feminism if all what it means is to fall into line what is deemed "acceptable" instead of getting to choose what you want.

de-linking healthcare

February 7th, 2016 at 02:07 pm

I watched online segments of the Republican debate. I found it interesting. I am curious do most people support the idea of de-linking health insurance with jobs? Are conservatives and republicans for this idea or do most people want to preserve their employer provided health insurance?

Obamacare is actually a republican health policy idea started by republican conservatives in 90s in response to Hillarycare. Personally I would prefer socialized medicine. I like the premise of pre-existing conditions not influencing insurance. Obamacare is the idea that everyone has insurance. We already have single payer insurance in the US it's called Medicare. And no one appears willing to give it up. So I'm wondering if that's the case why are people against single payer over everyone?

I'm very curious and willing to give de-linking health insurance a try. I think we should do it for a 4 year stint and see what happens. Personally I think that the divide between the rich, middle, and poor will become cavernous and people will realize those who can afford health care will receive superior care to those who cannot afford to pay. I also believe that quality of life will fall a lot. That crime and people in poverty will increase tremendously.

Why? We currently pay $700/month for insurance HDHP plan with a $6500 individual, $13k family deductible health plan. This is basically only to prevent BK situations, but everything else we're footing the bill. Previously we were paying $120/month biweekly or about $130/month for a PPO plan provided by DH's company with $20 co-pays.

Now they claimed the benefit was $20k/year for a family, since we paid 10% or so of the premium. Now will the company give us a $20k/raise? I have my doubts. But if they did it wouldn't cover moving to a HDHP unless of course they covered the deductible or a portion of it too. I suspect highly coveted employees and fields will have their premiums covered and deductibles into HSA, but the lower wage earners will not.

I think health care will entirely benefit those who can afford it. Can you pay cash? Then move to front of the line. After all if we were all on HDHP, wouldn't the question arise how are you paying for seeing the specialist? Can you pay in full?

Do you think we could move to a true capitalistic health system de-linked to employment and we all pay our way? Would it work? It would be a very interesting experiment. And one which I think would either supremely work and prove capitalism or flame out and prove healthcare can't be linked to money. Either way I think the US needs to try this out and determine if the value of a human healthcare can be priced. What an experiment.

working or not working as a parent?

February 6th, 2016 at 09:33 am

My mom still hates the fact that I don't work. She keeps saying that I'll understand the plight of working parents when I go back to work. That caring for children is easy because a working parent comes home and cares for their child. When I point out I do exactly what a working parent does when they come home she said we'll they are tired from working all day. I point out that I'm basically an unpaid childcare provider/nanny. When I say "does that mean daycare providers/nannies/sitters are not working?" She has absolutely no response. She says they are but they are. So I say I'm just not paying someone else I'm paying myself to watch my kids. But that child care providers of children of any age are still working, perhaps not "high" paying jobs but they are working. And without them how would any parent go off to their job if they weren't paying someone else? She has no response except I have to go get a job and learn how hard it is to work then come home to parent. But she can't admit that child care providers aren't working though she says "you are working LAL."

She keeps saying "you don't understand what's it's like to "have" to work". I point out that I have met many SAHM/D who stay at home because they don't make enough to pay for childcare. They can't earn enough. Her response "they don't have good jobs". I point out to her there are many careers that don't pay well that people do because they like them and the world wouldn't run without them.

Probably the top "career" for women I've meet staying at home who went to college and liked their job? Teacher. Seriously teachers are very much underpaid and often by kid 2 can't afford daycare over the teaching salary. They liked teaching. I have to say most teachers must because it seems like a thankless job with parents expecting so much, schools expecting so much and such little pay. So they take a break, have kids, then go back.

But my mom till today, she never paid a penny of daycare, so she has no clue what it would feel like to try to make ends meet and not have entire paycheck. Or to calculate how much she really made after taxes and daycare. Or work overtime without free childcare. Don't get me wrong we weren't rich and certainly couldn't have made it without free childcare.

My grandmother didn't really work outside the home, except for a few years at a newpaper printing press after all her kids went to college. But then grandchildren came and instead of minimal salary she watched grandchildren for free so her kids could all work and keep their salaries. There were 3 of us born in 2 years May 1977 to May 1979. So 3 kids under 2 is a lot of work. She did it all. I don't think my mom fully understands what it must have been like. Looking back I have no idea how she did it to be honest. Don't get me wrong my mom paid back her parents as did her siblings, provided cars, housing, etc. But to have free childcare is something that can't be measured.

My point to my mom however has always been, that people who both work obviously they make enough to pay for minimally childcare, and usually have some extra to make it worthwhile to work. They might be able to pay for the dry cleaning, eating out, newer car, more vacations, etc. They have more money in lieu of one parent not working. Otherwise why are they working? If they can't make enough to cover childcare then they are working and going into debt to pay someone else to watch their child? Usually when I meet someone who is working for less than childcare it's because they need health insurance, but their partner makes enough to cover everything but health insurance.

I don't know if I can ever get my mom to understand this. Every word out of her mouth is "well if you work you could afford a lot more. You could buy a bigger house, new car, etc). My response was nope not going to buy more house than we can afford on 1 income. Not going to buy a car we couldn't buy on one income. She keeps saying you can take more risk. True. But the other truth is that no matter what I make my DH and I made a pledge we didn't want to be dependent on two incomes before we had kids back in 2005. We bought our house back then on his income alone and I don't think it was a bad choice. It made for tougher decisions but at the same time when we did go to one income it was without a change in lifestyle.

Perhaps instead of calling myself a stay at home mom I should title myself "private nanny." I'm not sure what I'd make where we live now, but where we used to live? I'd have made at least $50k/year plus gas and car use to watch 2 kids plus all expenses reimbursed. I'd also only work 40 hours and more would constitute either more vacation or more money since many friends ended up paying more because they had to pay for commuting time hourly on time of working time.

Or in home childcare provider? I wonder if it would legitimize my "job" caring for kids if I started to watch other kids? I think this is a sore spot for me because I'm trying to figure out how to get back into the workforce but at the same time I know what I don't want.

Cutting the Cable

February 6th, 2016 at 09:07 am

We cut the haven't had cable in 3 years. We've always paid a premium for internet because of it. In the sense that we've paid mostly for internet (fios previously and comcast now) sometimes without any extras usually running before $69 and then $79/month. Now it turned into $59.99 but it's internet and local channels.

So I've been thinking a lot about how over the last few years have we saved money? I mean people talk about all the time cutting cable and saving money. But when you pay for all the extras are you really saving money?

I know we are because we aren't paying for extras. But I was just running some numbers on paper and it appears that it really is quite expensive to be a cord cutter. How so?

Well we pay for Amazon prime because both kids have kindles that we use mostly for travel. You can download tv shows or movies and it's free with prime. Plus the free 2 day shipping is a huge bonus. So for $99/year we do it = $8.25/month.

Netflix is another $8.99/month. It's also going to be raised another $1 to $9.99/month. Then Hulu costs $7.99/month commercials to $11.99/month. Then for sling tv it's another $20/month. Also Sling offers kid channels for an extra $5/month. I mean if you are going ala carte and adding all these things or even Netflix and Sling TV you are looking at $34/month! Do Netflix and Amazon Prime and you are looking at $17/month minimally.

I'm not sure do most cord cutters only do Amazon Prime? Or only netflix? We do Amazon Prime but I find myself so annoyed that I have to watch so many TV shows on a computer screen or hook up my laptop to watch stuff like suits or law and order or big bang theory. I have a really old TV so no I don't have a smart tv or ability to put apps on the tv.

But if I were to pay for more streaming like sling, netflix, or hulu then at that point it'd be a no brainer personally to just pay for cable. I'm getting into cable prices. Right now I think it outrageous that we pay so much for internet, but the cable companies have cord cutters between a rock and a hard place. Plus I have to add our internet drops a lot and isn't always reliable. We had to argue with Comcast to install cables before we moved in. Prior tenants used satellite for a and paid a ludicrious $100/month for internet. Uggh.

Anyway I chatted with DH and we agreed as long as we're renting and locked in with comcast (hate them) we'll pay a premium for internet. If we happen to move maybe we'll have more options and different choices.

Do you have cable? Why or why? What do you pay?

Cubic Zirconia or Real Diamond

February 4th, 2016 at 10:34 am

I was reading the thread about a woman wanting to sell her diamond ring but not getting anything. Honestly I can say people can't tell the difference.

My grandparents were pretty poor. My grandmother's original wedding/engagement ring was super plain band. In later years she wore these two diamond rings neither of them real! But who would know? I certainly didn't until my mom said "oh those pieces of glass. My grandmother is 88 this year and lives with my aunt.

She's got a few pieces of jewelry. Nothing expensive or valuable. A few gold bracelets, jade pendants/bracelets, gold ring, and these two cubic zirconia rings. I want the cubic zirconia rings. I know they aren't real. And I know they are less valuable than the other stuff, but I would love to have them.

I can recall them since I was knee high playing with them and seeing her wear them everyday. She promised me them years ago, but with the situation we're in, she lives with an aunt of mine I am pretty sure I'll never see the rings again unless she gives them to me now before her death. I hope that she won't pass for another 10 years, but who knows.

It's hard to explain the sentimentality of the ring. It's not expensive but I love them. I think that people who focus on these expensive diamonds lose focus on the point of the ring or sentiment. The value is inconsequential but the charm.

I have a diamond not the most expensive quality and I never wear it (doesn't fit after kids). But it reminds me how much my DH struggled to buy it and where we came from and built together. I just might resize it so my kiddos can see it. Of course I might also be gifted one day with a huge fake diamond that my own grandkids remember me with. Maybe I'll just clean my grandmother's rings.

Do you have fake jewelry you wear? Or only real? Have you ever been faked out by a diamond you thought was real and it wasn't?

The most expensive diamond I've seen has been a friend who told me her 1 carat diamond was flawless and the jeweler who sold her the ring offered her $40k for it back. OMG. I nearly died.

My craziest mortgage

February 3rd, 2016 at 05:45 pm

Did I ever mention the craziest mortgage I ever had? I had a home equity line of credit as our first mortgage back in 2003. It was literally a free standing check book where we had to pay maybe $100/month just the interest on the balance of our HELOC. We owed at the time I think $130k and by paying it off with snowflakes by the time we sold in 2005 it was down to $120k. We used the flexible payments and low interest, the interest on the HELOC was floating and changed monthly. This allowed us to pay as much as we could on good months, and draw on the home equity on bad months.

Looking back I cannot believe the bank let us do this with no assets and no savings. All they had was the home. Insanity. Of course this in turn allowed us to gain equity and turn it into 20% on our next home. But it was a lot of risk and a lot of discipline to pay down our debt instead of taking advantage of spending the excess.

I say this because I was chatting with a realtor recently when I mentioned bubble and froth, he said that don't worry as long as you have a job you'll get approved with good credit. I said it was a bit overextending if we went any higher and his response, most people have no trouble refinancing and affording payments since rates are so low and the houses are appreciating 15% year over year. Um okay.

I said great thanks. I decided I'm getting more nervous buying a house and putting my neck on the chopping blog.

Eating out way of life

February 2nd, 2016 at 04:46 pm

My bad habit is easily going out to eat. It's a vice I'm sure I share with many others around the world. Something I enjoy and find convenient. But is it a way of life even for people in debt? Is it something that people just do even if they can't afford?

Next week my DH starts his program and we were joking today about lunches, dinners, and eating out. Since we've meet he's pretty much always brown bagged it. I can honestly say probably 95% of the time both of us have always packed a lunch. When we've gone out to eat for lunch it's usually a planned meal with friends or some weird like a smashed glass container in lunch bag or accidental forgotten lunch bag (both things happened to my DH). So I can honestly say for 15 years and as he's made more money he hasn't changed his spending habits. What was necessity at 23 at 35 wasn't at all required.

Also for the most part until we had kids we enjoyed cooking dinner together at night and would turn on the TV and cook leisurely. We sometimes would sit in front of the tv and prep meals and just enjoy wine or beer. It was very pleasurable to eat out at hole in the wall places or nicer restaurants. But then we had kids and our meals became less cool (fancy meals from cookbooks) and more boring and standard and efficient.

So I ask if he's planning on packing a lunch and if so what. He said absolutely he's planning on brown bagging it, but he mentioned that on the group board for the program everyone discussing their favorite delivery programs and restaurants they want to order from. I suggest perhaps he may have to eat out to network dinners or lunches. He said he'll see.

But both of us are curious about the dynamics next week. This is a 13 week intensive program you can't hold down a job and do. Either the other 19 people are on sabbatical from work or not working. It's like that most have partners that are working and supporting them, but I imagine going down to one income and spending $16k on a course, then suddenly eating out lunch and dinner every day would still strain most budgets. Or maybe it was just a way of life.

I can easily imagine it costing us $35/week for lunches and $60/week for lunches. In 13 weeks that will cost us around $1300 which in the grand scheme of no income and $16k tuition a drop in the bucket. But as we are living off savings and it's half a month's rent. I wonder though will most be frugal and try to pack a lunch?

My DH said so I'm assuming $7/lunch how much is it for him to bring a lunch? I said $1 maybe. Am I wrong to throw together a sandwich? Or leftovers?

Have you calculated what lunches or packed dinners cost? I know if we spend say $800/month for groceries and my kids milk cost me $80/month at $175/week for groceries. A meal assuming 21 meals for 3 people (2 adults and 2 kids = 1 adult) = $2.77 a meal not discounting snacks or fruits. So by brown bagging it my DH is saving at least $5/meal if not more.

Do you think people who eating out every meal is a way of live have ever calculated it? Is it worth it?

Feel the bern!

February 1st, 2016 at 08:39 pm

Go bernie go! He's doing better than I thought he would in Iowa. Okay admittedly I'm very liberal and I like Bernie Sanders. I like Elizabeth Warren. I don't like Hillary Clinton and I certainly wouldn't vote for her because she's female. I don't know honestly if I can stomach voting for her even in the general election. Perhaps I'm on the extreme side of the party. Or maybe I'm just disgusted with politics in general.

Something this month got me wondering, especially now that Ted Cruz won Iowa and Donald Trump came in second. OMG. Ted Cruz I thought okay sure the guy knows how to be a politician and run a campaign. He's going to collect a lot of votes and is a solid contender. But until today I really wondered who the HELL would support Trump and what is the reason? Well he's got supporters and they are real. I was wondering if the polls were a bunch of crap (much like the polls saying Bernie had real support!)

Honestly I figured that Donald Trump was riding the wave of being a celebrity. Now I don't think so. Now I am starting to feel the Bern and believe there is a political revolution and revolt on our hands. I think that there are many liberals and conservatives who are disgusted by the system and want something different.

Much like any liberal supporting Bernie those supporting Trump don't want an establishment candidate and feel DC is corrupt. I am sort of getting excited at that prospect. Maybe there is some sort of change coming.

I'll be honest I couldn't vote for any of the Republican leading candidates, I could vote for Kasich if he were nominated. However I would be super excited to see something crazy like Bernie versus Trump or Cruz. I'd love to see the establishment politics tossed on it's backside and neither candidate have big money behind them owing everyone else. If it were one of those two against Bernie I'd like to see which way the US leans and I'd feel the average joe had spoken up so even if Trump or Cruz won I'd be okay.

Who do you support? Do you think they'll win? I am cheering as we speak for Bernie. I'd love him to give Hillary a tough race and WIN.

star wars and mild winter

February 1st, 2016 at 09:18 am

Yesterday we finally saw the new star wars the force awakens. A friend watched the kids and it was awesome to get out alone even if it was a movie. My DH loved how it felt like the original star wars and made the prequels look terrible. It was okay I thought. But neither of us are huge star wars fans, we're star trek fans and we both while looking forward to this summer's star trek movie, think it looks like fast and the furious 8 instead of star trek. We love the tv series and think it works better as a tv series. The new movies are good for being reboots but it lacks the substance of the tv shows and old movies. But star wars? Well it was good for a sequel.

I've come to the realization that where we live is awesome. LOL. I'll have seen my mom and family every two months since June. If we see her or them in April, we're going in 2 weeks in February for a week, then we'll have seen them every other month for a year. This makes the move even more delicious and ever to savor this feeling. Besides the gorgeous weather in "winter" it's 50 and sunny. I haven't even needed a winter coat or gloves or hat.

My DH starts his bootcamp in a week. He's super excited and ready to embark on a new career. I'm ready as well to have time solo and research the area more for us to potentially buy a home and really settle in. I'm ready to think about potential jobs as well. 2016 is turning into a fabulous year.

Now if only I could do a no spend month.