You are viewing: Main Page

small investments $ work hard!

July 1st, 2024 at 08:11 pm

I just want to emphasize how investing small amounts of money can work over the long term.  How compounding really makes the biggest difference. I don't think I ever really believed it but as I watch what has happened for my two kids I just am in shock.

First we have been contributing to their Coverdell/ESA accounts since birth at $2k/year.  DK1 is 14 (2010) and has $67499.79 total from $28k in contributions.  Yep you read that right in 14 years she's got more than double.  DK2 is 11 turning 12 soon (2012) and has $52412.22.  That is $24k also doubled.  We will use this in 4 and 6 years along with contributing another $8k and 12k.  If that were all we had saved for college, I think it could easily cover the entire cost of college.

But so many people I do taxes for and know have been "saving" for college talk about how little they have.  I don't quite understand it because $2000/year is $166/month.  That's less than a car payment, less than people's cable bills, less than cell phone plans.  And I just dumped it into VOO or the SP index fund.  No special investments and no special timing just when they were born and january every year I didn't even Dollar Cost Average monthly.  I just dumped it in and forgot about it.  $166/month many people spend that on getting their haircut and colored.  Or they spend it on clothes or a meal out once a month.  Or even lunches everyday (school lunches are $4/day x 20 x 2 = $160/month for 2 kids).

Now DK1 had apple stock given I believe in 2010 or 2011. I can't exactly remember when DH's uncle gave us 2 shares of apple.  It was valued around $250 at that time so he gave DK1 $500.  The value of the stock we've never sold or done anything?  $13,348.  Ridiciulous but reinvest the dividends and hang on through the splits.  She's got 60 shares.  DK2 as well.  

I finally get it. Since DH and I did not grow up with wealth we weren't privy to seeing how generations pass on wealth.  But now we are finally seeing how people grow their wealth, preserve their homes, and pass on just tiny bits of money can make a huge difference.  How a house down payment at 22 started when the kid was born. 

I mean imagine gifting a grandchild $2k/year for 18 years let alone the gift tax $18k/year for 18 years and then when they are 18 @ a 5% return you will have given the kid $531,707.  Half a million dollars from $18k/year at 5% return.  That's lower than investing in VTI and never touching.  Imagine if you gifted them to 22 and they then turned around and used it for college, a car, and a house by age 22 and they got a job?  And they started investing in their own retirement without having to save for the house and car or pay back student loans?

I'm not saying you should but the small amounts properly invested can make a huge difference.  I mean my kids will be getting a huge head start to DH's uncle and $500 gift.  When he passed in 2017 we split the amound DH got from being the executor like $25k into their accounts and they each got $13k invested.  It's not worth about $60k each from his apple stock and VOO.  I can't believe what we are going to be able to give the kids.  It's shocking.

It's not fancy or even timed.  Just bogelhead prinicipals of index fund (just one VOO actually) and reinvesting the dividends.  

Washington DC trip and budget

June 14th, 2024 at 06:28 pm

I never posted an update in awhile but we've been busy so I guess I'll post in the next few days.  Well we went to Washington DC over memorial day weekend.  We had been planning Zion and Bryce Canyon but unfortunately the narrows wasn't open due to flooding so we pushed that trip back to next memorial day.  Fingers crossed it works out.

So we flew into Regan Airport on wednesday night  May 22nd using points (30k points each one way).  We took an uber to the Residence Inn that we booked with points just south of the mall.  We planned on staying until May 28th Tuesday and flying out of Dulles at $370/per person one way.  Total airfare was $1480 for four people and 120k miles.  We used 200k points for 5 nights at the residence inn, which included free breakfast.  We used the marriot buy 4 nights get 5th night free with points.  Then monday night Memorial day 5/27 we switched hotels using a lyft to a Fairfield inn next to Dulles airport.  Dulles is about 45 minutes outside the city and we didn't want get up extra early to ride so moving hotels was easier and cheaper.  It was $90 for the night at the fairfield inn and also included breakfast.  We parked at the airport so our parking was $161 for the 6 days.  We boarded our dog for $459 (this is obviously YMMV).  So overall our trip wasn't terribly expensive.
After arriving late wednesday we got up by 9 am thursday and snuck in breakfast at the hotel.  We started by taking the old town trolley tour $233.80 from the Air and Space musuem.  We rode it to union station where we were supposed to switch but decided since we started so late 11 am for the bus tour, we decided to uber Bureau of Engraving and Printing and did a 45 minute tour from 1-2 pm.  It was really cool and the gift shop was the best we saw so far.  Then we made it at 215 to our 2 pm ticketed entry to the washington Monument.  then we walked to the bus stop and hopped on the trolley to finish our tour.  We stayed on the troop another 2 hours from 315-5 pm before we hit dinner at Jaleo which was a very expensive meal of $209 for the four of us.  Pretty good spanish tapas place by Jose Andreas.  We had been considering going to Bazaar which he has in Las Vegas.  Then a quick uber to the hotel by 7 pm and off to bed.
Friday we got up again around 9 pm and ate at the hotel and split up.  We walked to the botanical gardens by 10 am.  Tim and Malia went to the botanical gardens and Reina and I headed to the Library of Congress.  The library was cool but we didnt' have a tour booked.  We met up at the Capitol aroudn 12 pm for lunch at the super renovated and nice cafeteria before our 2 pm tour.  We finished early so we hopped into the 1 pm tour.  It was very different from 30 years ago.  Since we finished our tour by 3 pm we walked to the Nartional Art Gallery and walked through mostly the west gallery and saw the blue rooster, jackson pollack, da vinci, Picasso.  We headed back after the gallery to the hotel and rested and went to dinner at hell's kitchen at the wharf. 
Saturday we got up a bit later and then headed to the Monuments.  We ubered to the thomas jefferson monument then walked to the lincoln Monument.  We then scootered to the natural history musuem maybe around 1 pm.  Scooters cost way more than an uber for 4.  But the kids wanted to try biking/scootering on the reflecting pooll.  We then walked up to walgreens and past the old post office, which closed at 430 and we were there at 435 pm and then had dinner at 5 pm at Nando's Peri Peri Chicken.  That places has the best chicken.  Then ubered home by 645 pm.  And again off to bed early again
Sunday we got a late start and skipped breaskfast at the hotel since it was closer to lunch.  So we headed out to the old post office waldorf astoria and did that free tour.  It's a national park museum.  We hit that around 1030 by uber and then walked to the white house visitor center.  We spent around 1 hour from 12-1 pm at the visitor center and my youngest was still reading the things each president did. I wish we could have done a white house tour but last minute planning made it impossible.  Then we decided to cooter so we did to Luke's lobster's for lunch.  Not cheap but great lobster and crab rolls. 
At 1 pm we walked to the archives and did that from 130-2 pm.  Unfortunately only I liked it, everyone else found it boring.  we then ubered to the union station to see what our tour bus had talked about.  Nothing much to see but DH stopped at uniqlo and had to pick up shorts.  Then we ubered back to the wharf and had ice cream at a japanese taiyaki placed called fat fish.  We scooted back to our hotel and then went walking out to get korean chickenfor dinner. 

On our last full day in DC we split up and DH and the kids went back to the natural history museum in the morning and I saw the american history musuem.  We had lunch back at the wharf.  Then finished up with our ticket time to the Air and Space musuem.  We checked out of the hotel at 11 and left our luggage there. So we decided being tired we headed to dulles around 4 pm, check into the fairfield, and then out to dinner in a lyft. 

What did we spend?  Well on ubers and lyfts about $176 including the trip to dulles.  Then on food and the trolley tour $1148.  So all in?  
Airlines $1498
Hotel $90.10
Dog $459
Parking $161.88
Trolley Tour $233.80
Food $914.45 (we saved a lot eating mostly 2x a day and only paying for dinner since breakfast was included in the hotels)
ubers $176

Total trip for family of four $3533.23.  But this is artifically low since I used miles for flights one way and the hotel in DC. but it also did include dog boarding which not everyone has.  And our trip was cross country so I think our tickets would have been more than others so it's possible to do that part cheaper.  Also I easily could have made my family walk so our ubers could have been $50 for transit passes but I figured our time was worth something.  
Library of Congress
Capital Dessert
MLK statue
the mall
view from washington monument
Overall a realy cool trip. I think the kids probably should have been a bit older 14 and 11 to realy appreciate DC but maybe they'll go back like i did. I first went at 14 in 8th grade with my school. I then went to back a few times when we lived on the east coast but we didn't do musuems really.  We did the zoo, the spy musuem, and the nasa museum.
And that's the wrap up.  Next up we bought another new car.

Bought a car

May 21st, 2024 at 06:37 am

So I bought a car last week.  DH's car was totalled at the beginning of the month and we haven't replaced it.  Well we sort of did but not really.  We are planning on replacing his 2016 Subaru Legacy which we got paid out $16k with a 2021 Tesla Model Y for about $33k.  Haven't found the right one year but that's what the plan is.

That being said I was driving a friend two weeks ago and said I was looking for a car and she said "i'm looking to sell mine."  Well I said great can I buy it?  She said yes.  So I picked it up and had it taken to a mechanic and bodyshop and decided okay.

It was a 2011 Subaru Impreza with 31.5k miles.  One old lady driver who garaged it and maintened it but hadn't driven it in a year.  She had broken the passenger mirror but for $1k fixable she said.  Can do!  Was excited.  Then I pulled it out and turns out her family had driven it and damaged it severely.  How bad?

Well it needed a new battery, new tires, and alignment about $1k.  The mechanic then did an oil change and flush of fluids for $1k.  I paid for this and said I would take it off the cost of the car.  Then the damage to the bodywork.  It needed a new fender, fender liner, bumper front and back and polishing of all four doors because it looks like it had been run between two cars or something.  All in around $5k in work according to the body shop with taxes included.

She was so upset that it would need so much work to be driveable.  You could hear the fender scraping on bare metal without the liner and the bumpers were screwed in with screws to attach it.  But I said I'd still buy it because I wanted a non-gas guzzler to drive instead of my minivan.  And in 18 months my DK1 will be 16 and needing to drive.  

So I bought the car for $2k and paid for the registration and excise tax around $500 and we made the deal. I took it to the repair shop this weekend and negotiated to have a rental covered and paid in full cash instead of credit card for a discount.  I paid $3500 in cash.  So I'm into the car for $2500 + $3500 + $2000 = $8000 for a low mileage subaru.

Brought it home today and my DH flipped out.  The car he said looked like a trash dump heap two weeks ago was painted and polished and looked like his DREAM car from his 20s he said.  The cute red hatchback was perfect. It really did remind me of his old ford focus and I told him it was the perfect first kid car.  Since she was a hoarder I still need to have it detailed it's so dirty.  I had about 6 garbage bags of crap I cleaned out and it'll be detailed next Friday.

I picked up my friend and showed off the car.  She smiled and said she was so glad someone was going to keep it instead of sending it to the salvage.  I told her the car would be well loved and provided for at least another 10 years! 

Plan is drive it 18 months, hand it to DK1 for 2 years till 2028 when she graduated.  DK2 has it 2028 to 2030 till she graduates.  Then in 2030 DK1 might need a car for college 2030-2032, then DK2 from 2032-2034.  If the car can make it that long then we are set.

So all in around $8k for a 2011 Subaru Impreza with 31.5k miles.  Not a bad deal at all.  And I get something to run around in for 18 months and if we make more money I might just buy myself another car.  Or DH might get a new tesla at that point and I'll take the 2021 model Y.

New trip plans

May 20th, 2024 at 06:30 am

So I ended up cancelling last thursday our trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon because the Narrows was closed and unsure if they were opening.  I didn't want to do a trip that honestly the highlight was the narrows.  The national parks website says it's partially opened today but I would really want to do everything and hope it was calmer than just below the opening number.  So instead I rebooked the trip for next memorial day and crossing my fingers it's better next year.

Instead I rebooked us to Washington DC.  This was a trip I had on my calendar for next summer, but it was a bit daunting since I had been thinking of doing it over 10 days or a week and two weekends.  I was thinking of doing it with Philly and NYC.  But honestly a trip of that magnitude seemed overwhelming long and too much.  So when this opportunity arose, I thought let's just do DC.  Yes it's more expensive to do three trips back to the east coast, but at the same time, I think doing DC, NYC, Philly and still planning a Boston/New England trip seemed like a lot.  Instead we'll just do a week in DC, then maybe a week in NY/Philly and then Boston another time.  

Zion and Bryce is still on my bucket list and making the reservation now for next Memorial makes it still seem possible.

Well I managed to snag mileage tickets going into Reagan Airport and arriving at 9 pm on wednesday for 30k miles one way for each of us.  The tickets are runnign around $700 per person one way otherwise.  I then had a 40% bonus on Chase Ultimate Rewards points for transferring to Marriot and instead we are staying in DC for 200k for 5 nights until Monday 5/27.  Then we move for the night to IAD Marriott Hotel for $90 including taxes and fees so we can leave 5/28 at 9 am out of IAD Dulles.  Both flights are non-stop to and from DC.

Between our free "hotel" and free one way airfare, and I paid $370 per person to flight on 5/28 home for a total of $1480 plus $90 hotel, we are looking at $1570 so far.  All the museums are free and we may do a bus or trolley tour.  This trip will be mostly eating out.  Will it be cheap?  Pretty reasaonable.  

I'm guessing we can get away with $200/day in Lunch and Dinner out for a family of four as long as we don't go to a nice sitdown place.  How does it compare to Bryce and Zion?  Well it's substantially more to go to Bryce and Zion because I was paying $250/night to stay in the lodges in the park so $1000 for 4 nights.  Then a night in Caesars and a night in Manadalay Bay coming and going out of las vegas.  Then $300 for a rental car.  Our flights were around $400 round trip per person.  So I would say that we just happened to have points for the hotel and if we didn't I think we would have found a hotel chepaer than $250/night.  

So yes we are struggling with no capital tour and no timed entry to african american museum, and I have to hope i get the washington monument.  But at the same time it'll be pretty nifty.  I was told the kids ages 11 and 14 are a great age to go. I went at age 13 (8th grade like my DK1) to Washington DC from Hawaii.  Can you imagine? It was incredible to go so far from home on a school trip without my parents?  

It was the start of my love of traveling.  Till today I still love traveling. Although now as I get older I notice I need a bit more comfort and better seats. I'm looking at trying to upgrade my seats to premium economy.

Inflation or not?

May 4th, 2024 at 03:53 pm

I'm nerdy and if you are reading this you are nerdy too about money.  You wouldn't be on this site if you didn't care or like to excel and plan your spending.

Anyway for years DH and I have a running excel spreadsheet of our car mileage.  We have price, miles driven, etc.  DH said it was so we could observe if a MPG thing happened then we'd know something was wrong with our cars. So I've been doing it since 2010 when we bought our subaru outback.  The car 14 years old is still being driven by my mom.  So any I decided I'll price my tracked PPG for the past 14 years.  Mind you it's a bit odd since it started on the east coast and has now landed on the west coast.  But it's been consistently a Costco fill up since we've always weirdly lived by costco.  Now we live about 1.5 miles ( I can walk there) and it's pretty much our closest grocery store.  Costco is always the cheapest gas and if you are on a roadtrip you can usually find them right off the highway.

6/12/2010 $2.74/gallon

6/12/2011 $3.84/gallon

6/14/2012 $3.60/gallon

6/15/2013 $3.52/gallon

6/19/2014 $3.66/gallon

6/11/2015 $2.54/gallon - last fill up on the east coast we left on epic road trip 7/3/2015 (recall photos???)

6/22/2016 $2.48/gallon - west coast and subaru legacy instead of outback

6/18/2017 $2.50/gallon

6/6/2018 $3.26/gallon

6/19/2023 $3.46/gallon

6/17/2020 $2.44/gallon

6/12/2021 $3.90/gallon

6/14/2022 $5.20/gallon

6/14/2023 $4.57/gallon

Now are heading into our annual check but last fill up?  4/24/2024 was $4.57/gallon.  

Do but we drive an annual average of around 9000 miles a year we have 80k miles in 9.5 years and our average miles per gallon?  24.519 mpg and average cost has been $0.14 cents per mile.  So about $1260 in gas per year average. Of course with prices much higher we are spending more.

This leads me into our pursuit of trying to figure out our next car, kwim?  You know our insurance debacle and garage door totalling our car.  Monday I'm finally dropping it off for "repairs" but I am pretty sure I'll be getting  call about it being totalled.  It has to be 80% of the value to be considered a total loss and that is like $12,800 our repairs are $12,300. So a sneeze and we're over the number.

Anyway just though you budget nerds would love this.

Thoughts on insurance

April 23rd, 2024 at 04:40 am

I realized being so busy I haven't really written about stuff but I might as well put down some thoughts here.  I've posted a lot since December 2006.  18 years older and 2 kids later.  Financially?  Probably better than I ever dreamed.   In some ways I'm still very liberal and others i find myself becoming more conservative.

But there are still things that pop up at us.  So where we live in WA state they started this long term care insurance tax for working people.  0.58% unless you got your own coverage and it's a load of crock.  Basically the racket is a money grab because you have to live in WA when you retire to get the $37k in LT coverage reimbursement. You had to have worked for 10 years minimum.  So if you leave or stop working early that's it.  I think if you made people buy coverage and waive the tax it would be more fair.

That being said when it went into effect in 2022, we had to buy our policies in 2021.  So we bought a cheap normal LT care policy for $37k as a tax avoidance.  Well the premium was $200/year for DH.  It's now $500/year for what?  Getting older.  It sucks and covers nothing so I decided to look into getting a whole life policy with LT care rider as an alternative. In case the state starts checking.

What did I learn?  I learned my DH is uninsurable.  He had the physical, his medical records and at 46 years old they were like "no".  So we couldn't buy the stupid expensive coverage.  We do have term life insurance from when the kids were young.  But like our $37k LT Care plan back then he didn't need a medical exam for a 31 year old guy.  Nope we bought $4m in term for $1500/year and they were lik rubber stamp yes.

Turns out I had no idea this would happen.  But it did.  For anyone waiting or thinking they don't need it, I would highly suggest getting it while you are young and before they really look at your health.  He's in excellent top physical shape.  Had his accident 1 year ago, but been cleared from the concussion and other physical problems.  He's thin, low blood pressure, cholestoral perfect, but because of a pre-existing condition he's uninsurable now.

That's the breaks.  For any young people PSA buy the insurance you want or need before 35 I would say.

Car Update

April 19th, 2024 at 04:43 pm

So the building accepted full responsibility for the damage to our 2016 Subaru Legacy.  That means our insurance is not requiring us to pay our deductible and will be going to settle with them.  That's the good news and it took until mid April for the building to decide to accept responsibility.

The problem?  We are likely having the car considered salavaged either way.  I called to set up our appointment and the repair shop said it would take 2 months.  I flipped out because our insurance covers 30 days and $50 a day rental reimbursement.  But the very nice man said "you won't need it. the car will likely be salvaged within a week."  He went on to explain it's an estimate and when they take apart the car they may find more things wrong and that will change the estimate and just by looking at the hours of labor, 100 hours, to repair he could pretty much guess after 20 years in the business that the car would be salvaged.  I said I'd call him back after talking with my insurance company.  

I called my insurance company who said everything he said was correct.  That even though we are "repairing" the car depending on what happens when they start to work on it the company can choose to total the car.  They can choose to not fix it and instead call it a total loss.

In WA if repairs are more than 80% of the salvage value then it's a total loss.  So right now we are at $12,388 and the 80% is $12,800? Or something like that.  So basically they open it up and find one thing wrong and it's a total loss.  The repair shop guy said guaranteed that he'll find something, no way to know what's wrong until they open up a roof.  So he said he could already tell me the car is dead, besides if the frame is bent (which they can't tell by looking or photos) then it's structurally compromised and too hard to fix.  So he said look for a new car.

Now we're back where we were in February.  Figuring out what sort of car we want and can afford.  UGH.  And we're still in the predicament of wanting a car to hand down to DK1 in 2 years, January 2026.  We would like an EV but unsure if it makes sense because trying to upgrade the panel is $15k and I'm not sure we can do it otherwise.  So what to do?

the dichotemy of spending

April 17th, 2024 at 03:06 am

Even after nearly a decade of doing taxes i am shocked and surprised by how people spend money.  I get spending money. I understand that no matter what you make you want more. I am not surprised that many people are in debt and they live a lifestyle above their means.  To me that means typically using a CC to supplement a lifestyle that is unaffordable.  But this year more people than ever were unable to pay their IRS tax bill.

All of the families/couples earned above $100k.  2 earned above $150k closer to $200k and the other 2 families earned about $120-130k.  Yes we live in an expensive area and it's hard to live.  But honestly there are famillies living on less.  It's that all these families have made a choice to not pay their tax bill because they deliberately are unwithholding and then shocked when it comes back to bite them.

Couple 1 added another $8k to their already owed back taxes bringing them to almost $30k on a payment plan. I did tell them after $50k the IRS would probably deny the payment plan and potentially start garnishing their wages.  They didn't seem at all concerned. I wanted to shake them and say you realize that the IRS doesn't go away with bankruptcy?  I did suggest putting it on a CC but they didn't have enough space to charge their debt and still live.  What they drive?  A lexus.  This is a point where a beater would probably be better to give them extra money to pay the irs.  I mean technically they are not spending their money but the governments.

Couple 2 same thing.  They couldn't afford to pay their $5k tax bill. They were shocked.  But half of the couple a guy earning $70k paid $3k in federal income taxes.  They were stunned when i pointed out that's maybe why they owed $5k.  They figured the money they took home every month was theirs.  They were used to having $2-3k/week coming in because their biweekly paychecks were on opposite weeks. They have been bringing home $10k month and had no savings to pay for their tax bill.  They drove a bmw.  Of course both cars could have been old and cheap but I'm guessing a $5k beater is cheaper to pay off the IRS.

IRS debt doesn't go away with bankruptcy and it's hard to wait 10 years for it to be forgiven. In fact bankruptcy can extend the 10 year forgiveness for IRS debt.

The other two couples, one woman she didn't pay her irs bill from 2019 and the fees and interest had snowballed like a credit card making it next to impossible for her to pay off.  I do feel bad for her but at the same time she too isnt' withholding enough when she owes every year.

The final couple well everything did them in.  While they owed the irs $20k, I had to suggest talking to a bankruptcy lawyer.  They owed $100k on credit cards, $50k in medical bills from a recent ankle surgery where they didn't have health insurance.  Even making $120-150k I'm not sure they can get out from under all that debt.  

I don't understand how people see their money coming in and set it aside or have it withheld.  I mean i get one time things that happen an inheritance, gift, bonus.  But knowingly not paying enough taxes so you have more money to spend every month is crazy.  The money isn't yours it's the government and the IRS is not a fun thing to deal with.

PSA Social Security Mistake

March 27th, 2024 at 06:04 am

Public service announcement.  It turns out you can make mistakes for social security.  My mom found out the hard way.  For the past 10 years my mom has said "oh it doesn't matter that I collected social security at age 62.  I have enough and I'll get your dad's when he passes."  So my dad passed this month (see prior note) and my mom immediately told SS so she could get his social security.

Turns out she can't.  Or rather turns out it's not worth it.  She got really bad advice 10 years ago in 2014.  They told her taking her own social security 10 years ago was more than talking 50% of my dad's social security.  He waited until full retirement age to take it in 1995.  The problem?  While he got the maximum amount in 1995, it still was substantialy less than in 2024.  Why?  Inflation.  The person starting at full retirement age in 2024 would be able to collect at FRA $3822, if you wait until age 70 it is $4873.  

So my mom took her's at 62 with a penalty at 82.5% of hers.  That was still more than 50% of my dad's in 2014.  But the winning formula would have been to taken my dad's social security and let hers ride to age 70.  Then it would have built up a lot.  She also would have started in 2021 and it would have been really high.

So reading online, people say that the people at social security are not financial planners.  They just look at the benefits at that moment. They were correct that iwas more for her to take hers.  But she was part of the donut hole of people who could collect off their spouse and suspend theirs. 

So don't listen to the people in Social Security.  Do the cost benefit analysis yourself.

dad's passing

March 7th, 2024 at 05:51 am

Again warning please don't read if you don't want to hear about death.

So my dad passed away this morning between the hours of 4 am - 6 am.  My mom finally went to bed at around 4 am.  She was exhausted after sitting with him pretty much all times.  She really wanted to be there holding his hand for his last breathe.  But she just couldn't stay up 24/7. 

But also my dad had transitioned to the hospice definition of "imminent" on Friday morning.  My mom called me on Thursday that my dad had stopped eating and drinking anything and she was worried. So after just getting back I jumped on the plane Friday morning.  He was asleep when I arrived, but she said he smiled when she told him Friday morning.  I believe he reacted when I touched him Friday afternoon and said I was back.  

He survived the weekend until early this Wednesday morning.  I'm not sure how or why but I think my mom wasn't ready to let him go and he was waiting for her to leave his side. I don't think my mom slept much since Thursday.  And I think my dad was waiting for her to not be with him before he passed.  

My dad's end of life was very long and draining process. It was hard watching him deteriorate this past year and not really able to judge how he was doing.  I would say that by Christmas he was very unable to comprehend seeing us except for brief moments.  But since February he was declining quickly it appeared by becoming most immobile and non-verbal.  I knew saying good by at Christmas that was the last time I would really talk to my dad and say I love you.  

But I came back because my mom couldn't be alone.  So I came back and I'm glad to be here with her.  It'll be hard but we'll see what happens.  They managed to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary and while she's taking it hard, I know she'll be okay eventually.  Gotta enjoy life before it runs out. 

"No amount of money bought another second of time."  No matter what we all wish.  Sometimes we get so focused on money and getting to the endgame we forget to enjoy the journey along the way.  And the journey is the best part.

the transition stage

February 27th, 2024 at 09:51 pm

I apologize in advance for writing about death.  Please skip if you do not want to hear. 

So yesterday the hospice nurse came and put my dad on transition.  That means she said he has another 10-14 days.  She wasn't quite sure he was there since he's doing quite "well".  He's definitely starting the decline, but death is something hard to predict.  Also things can take a turn for the worse quickly and he could go into "imminent" death.  I decided I'm going home today for a few days to wrap up stuff and then come back.  I am debating buying my ticket Sunday night or Monday.  Fortunately my aunt decided to come sit with my mom or the weekend Friday to Sunday so she won't be alone. I also told my mom that if my dad stops eating completely, which is it eating if it's mush?  Then I'll turn around and come back because it will be imminent.  The hospice nurse is coming now three days a week, she only allowed them once a week.

It's also hard because my mom can't decide what she wants to do.  She wants to do nothing I think.  But then that's her speaking in the now.  The now being while he's alive and she says she wants nothing.  But after is that how she will really feel?  Also maybe because it's a small town there is one mortuary in town.  And they often take 3-4 weeks to get the body ready or cremated.  It's just the nature of the town.  So I know my mom says she wants nothing but then when pushed she's like "oh I guess a few family and friends."  Then when I tell her the truth that I won't be bringing the kids back during the school year for a weekend, she gets upset.  But the reality is that if she does want to do something before the summer then it'll be too difficult for them to come for 2-3 days.  I'll come like I do now for a couple of days, but otherwise we will do our normal summer trip.  We will not be coming for Christmas or February break since we already booked a trip at that time.  I will likely sneak a trip back to see my grandmother after the summer but it'll be short and just me.  

Something I've learned that during these times the amount of money spent is finite.  The end game happens and it doesn't matter afterwards because the person is gone.  The help you get is amazing.  I am thankful to all the wonderful friends who have supported me and helped with carpooling.  The clients and friends who accomodated their schedule to allow for flexible work.  And of course my DH.  Trying his best to manage everything and holding donwn the fort.  I hope he doesn't die trying.

thoughts on death

February 24th, 2024 at 08:22 am

I am writing this as I came home for the weekend to see my parents.  I have a feeling this could be it for my dad.  I've certainly felt this way since we left on NYD.  I picked this weekend because it was the first we had free and I usually have been timing my visits about 8 weeks apart.  

I flew in today and the current plan is to fly out Tuesday on the red eye home.  But my gut is telling me my dad was waiting for me to come say good and tell him okay I'm here to support my mom you can go.  Last night my mom says he told her he's going to die soon, in his minute of lucidity.  He has dementia and is rarely awake. I've been here the afternoon and he's only opened his mouth to eat, I fed him, but he didn't open his eyes and he didn't say my name.

I didn't want to tell my friends or husband why I thought I was coming because it sounds really stupid to be able to predict death.  I read the hospice book gone from my sight and I can definitely see changes.  But it's strange how my dad has been able to hang on.  It seems unreal to be honest.  To be surviving this barely eating, barely awake but still here, mostly in a comatose state.  But seeing him makes me wonder does he last another 2 months like this?  I can't understand how but it doesn't appear like he's fading very fast.

I'll see if I change my tickets.  

Car Update

February 22nd, 2024 at 06:00 pm

So I posted in the forums about our current problem with our car situation.  That our car was considered a total loss but it's driveable.  We punted the decision in December about buying a new car and then a week ago we got the news we now had to make another decision.

If we salvage the car we get $15,400.  We buy the car from the insurance company it is $11,300 back so around $4k to purchase our car.  The issue is the inspection and problems we could face with the state with a salvaged titled car.  We aren't sure what we want to do.  

Mostly because our plan had been to buy a new car in 2 years when DK1 starts driving.  At that time we were definitely looking at an EV.  We really didn't want to pay to upgrade our house to charge an EV at home.  We also didn't want to  spend the money and get ride of a really good car a 2016 Subaru Legacy that we both felt would be perfect for our kids to drive as a first car.  My DK1 will have a license 🤯in January 2026.  She'll be taking classes permit at 15 in January 2025.  So as far as cars goes we did not want to carry 3 cars unnecessarily but it wasn't necessarily smart to get rid of it.

But as I wrote the commercial building where DH worked caused the damage.  The commercial grade garage door opener came down on a timer.  And the camers were "conveniently" not working and the sensor too likely.  So they were unable to get footage of the accident.  

So interestingly today we were told if they pay and we don't make a claim on our insurance we might just get the car repaired and instead of salvaging the car.  And we could keep the car indefinitely. I mean theoretically it would be great to have the car through 2 high school kid drivers to 2030.  Then DK1 would be a junior in college and potentially need a car and it can go to her for the last two years.  And then DK2 could take it for Junior/Senior year at college and if it could last another 10 years to 2034 well that would be ideal.

Yes it's not electric.  It will cost to maintain.  But i mean if it lasted 18 years that would be a huge savings for kids who do not need a new car.

So let's see what happens. 

2023 Credit Card Rewards wrap up

January 16th, 2024 at 05:56 pm

I make a lot of free money from credit card rewards for a little bit of work.  I have a lot of credit cards and we don't carry a balance and I do NOT recommend this for anyone who carries balances.  It's a nice bonus of tax free money if you are responsible enough.   This is dense post, but if you have questions ask.

Let's start with Costco rewards.  We have a executive membership which costs $120 a year.  We make 2% in rewards which this year appear to be $225.57 which means we spent $11,278.50 at costco this year.  Makes sense since we buy most groceries and all of our gas there since it's 1.5 miles from our house and pretty much the closest grocery store.   We also earned on our costco citi credit cards $282.73 and $136.08 in cash back for a total savings of $644.38 with a net of $524.38.  

Next up is simple cash back rewards.  We earned $288.82 with discover.  Typically I can redeem this for restaurant giftcards at a minimum 10% off so 1.1 redemption rate so $317.70 is the value of this cash back, but for simplicity I just used $288.82.  Discover I keep for the 5% rotating categories cash back and it's $0 annual fee.  We also have the Wells Fargo active 2% cash back card.  We earned $478.67 in 2% cash back and I typically apply it to the charges.  It is also a $0 annual fee credit card.  Finally we have the Chase Amazon CC also for $0 annual fee and 5% back at amazon.  We earned $211.40 for spending $4220 at amazon this year.  YIKES.  I had no idea my DH spent that much let alone me.  That does not include my mom's spending at amazon so I guess we netted $61.40 for our amazon prime annual fee.

Now we're getting to complicated rewards.  But we'll start with the easy Alaska Airlines CC.  We have two CC, one for each of us.  The annual fee is $95 and we mostly use it for the companion fare coupon.  The companion fare costs $150 in taxes and fees for a free ticket to travel together.  This year i used it on Hawaii at Christmas so the tickets were $1017 roundtrip.  So we ended up saving $867 x 2  (each credit card) minus the $95 annual fee x 2.  So we basically netted $772 in rewards per credit card.  That and of course free luggage when booking (never use this), and 3x miles for alaska airlines purchases.  While this card is barely use the companion fares for us is worth just having.  We've had it for about 10 years and I think it pays for itself annually.  This is the type of credit card reward where even if you don't really use the card if the benefit is greater than the annual fee it's worth it.  This year they have an interesting deal where you spend $10k on the card and get 4k in EQM bonus up to a maximum of 20k miles so I'm trying to earn that for DH and myself, i'm not sure I'll be able to make it.  I also used the miles to book our trip next summer.

We also got a chase marriott card.  It's annual fee is $95 and we got three free nights  up to 35k points for opening the credit card. Again I think the $95 fee worth 1 night in a hotel.  You also get silver elite and 15 nights a year as well as earning some points when you charge on the card.  Typically we use it when we happen to book marriott and I've found that we can find one brand of marriott usually where we want to stay.  We also earned 19,186 points for 2023 because they give 3x points on grocery stores and 16x points on marriott stays.  Typical redemption says it's worth 1 cent a point or $191.86 for cash value.

For the Chase rewards I have the Ink $95, Sapphire Preferred $95, and Freedom $0.  I earned 48,475, 11,769, and 94,313 points for 2023 respectively for the credit cards = 154,557 points.  That is worth $1545.57 if we use 1 cent per point which is the cash equivalent redemption.  However I used it for flights this summer to singapore so I got closer to 2 cents per mile.  With the sapphire preferred I get a $50 hotel credit once a year to help offset the annual fee.  My daily driver card is the chase freedom earning 1.5% back on everything because I can redeem it for 1.25 on travele on the Ultimate Rewards portal and typically get 2% or 2 cents per mile transferred.  So the redemption rate is closer to 3% or more.

Finally the big expensive cards are our American Express.  I had the gold this year to try out.  The annual fee is $250.  I get $200 in uber credit which I used and $60 in dining credit (I stupidly missed 6 months) which i spend by buying a $10 shake shack gift card monthly for free.  So $260 in free cash but the real earnings this year was the $75.99 in Amex Offers on the card which I redeemed for charging stuff like internet, or cell phone and getting statement credit.  So I earned $335.99 cash back on the card last year. I also negotiated a $125 credit towards the annual fee this year.

DH got the Amex Platinum Charles Schwab for an annual fee of $695.  But CS gave us a $200 credit for accounts with them.  He also got $200 hotel, $200 airline, $189 clear, $60 Amex Offers statement credit, $240 digitial credit (NYT, WSJ, Sirius), and $171.24 for Walmart+ (we use for paramount subscription) for a total cash back of $1260.24.  We also earned 123,607 point = $767 in statement credit according to Amex.  The net credit card reward is $765 for the year.  Not including the $100 statement credit for fine hotels bonus or free breakfast for 2 at the hotels.  So that's usually worth another $60, so we had a bonus $160.  I actually used it this weekend for my overnight and saved $160 bonus on top of the $200 hotel credit for 2024.

So wrap up is we spent $1490 in credit card fees, costco/amazon membership for 2023.  We earned back $5002.96 in cash rewards and 297,980 in points equivalent to $2979 in cash back.  So we netted $3512 in tax free money by just our spending on our credit cards alone.  

It also did not include the value of the points I used to purchase tickets.  Pretty good for just using credit cards and getting tax free bonus.

My recent stupid tax

January 12th, 2024 at 04:39 pm

I don't know if others every have doh! moments but I do occasionally.  I've had a lot of them lately.  The most recent one was that I bought 4 tickets awhile ago to the Lion King.  Thought the kids and DH would want to go.  They didn't want to it turns out and I am stuck with 4 tickets.  Things have come up and tickets you buy months in advance well when you have other activities don't seem so desirable like a week before.  It happens!

Anyway I start to panic. I am freaking out going wow I'm out $300.  And also I want to see the lion king, but that's just a bonus.  So I text a bunch of friends and everyone says no.  So I post it on Stubhub and ticpick.  Then it gets bought immediately on stubhub. I log in after 5 hours and realize all four tickets have sold.  Yay right?

Boo - nooo. During that time I had a friend respond they'll take two and i say yes.  They venmo me and I transfer the tickets.  But I forget to take down the ad at stubhub and ticpick.  Then I have another friend say yes she'll go WITH me.  So I'm like YAY! I get to go win win.

But I had forgotten to take down my ad which wouldn't have mattered since the tickets sold immediately anyway.  But still. I had panicked and listed the tickets even though I should have waited and let everyone I ask respond.  So then I had to pay fees to stubhub and ticpicks for listing the tickets but not selling them. Boo!!! 🤦‍♀️

I could have explained to my friends the situation, but I was embarrassed and didn't want to. So I decided it was my own personal stupid tax and I would suck it up and just live with it.  How much did it cost me? 

Well $40 for ticpicks to replace the tickets and $166.50 for stubhub.  So I guess like $206.50.  Now my goal is to raise money outside of normal means to pay for my stupidity.  

Life is like that sometimes.

Singapore & Thailand financial wrap up

January 11th, 2024 at 11:46 pm

So we went to Singapore and Thailand and had a lovely time.  I had fun posting only some of the photos.  The photos were better than I posted. But I guess I have to do a financial wrap up.

We flew to Singapore on Singapore Airlines connecting through LAX.  I used miles for me and both kids.  I bought a one way ticket for DH.  Miles on Alaska airlines for me and both kids were 47,500 each one way plus $54 cash.  Then I bought DH's ticket for $786.50.  So our miles were worth 1.66 cents/mile.   I also upgraded our seats for $150 or $50 for each of us for front of the cabin premium seats.  These seats allowed us to not have anyone sitting next to us so we had 3 seats for me and DK2, DH and DK1 also had 3 seats for the two of them.  So we were able to spread out and sleep better.  Worth every penny.

Then I used miles on United to return through SFO.  That flight was 58,100 miles and the cost of the tickets fees were $206 for 3 of us.  DH's ticket was $863 one way so the miles we got were 1.49 cents/mile.  Which wasn't as good but we also don't normally fly united, and we've been trying to burn the miles.  Then I got offered a deal for upgrading to premium economy for $450 per person or $1800 total.  It ended up going for thousands more in premium economy.  Premium economy on united dreamliner is like domestic first class seats.  It really helped with sleeping and the jet lag.  

Then our flights from singapore to thailand round trip was $544.74 including seat selection.  So in total we spent $4405 on 4 tickets round trip to Singapore with a detour into Thailand with premium economy and economy plus seats and of course miles.  It did wipe out a lot of my alaska miles and thankfully our united miles which we've been trying to use for years.  

Then when we got to Singapore we stayed at the JW marriott hotel for 5 nights because we booked with points.  Marriott has a deal where you book 4 nights with points you get the 5th night free.  Average cost there is $500/night if not more and the location is spectacular and the hotel as well.  We paid $328.49 in fees plus 199,000 marriott points so averaged around 40k points a night.  At 1 cent per mile it's $400/night and I think it cost much more than that.

Then we went to Krabi and stayed at Centara Resorts with a private pool.  For 3 nights we paid $735 including airport transfers.  Then for our last night in Singapore when we returned we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands.  I'm cringing to write this but we paid $844.59 for 1 night although it included breakfast at a super fancy buffet.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  I don't know if we'd do it again. I've never paid that much for a hotel for one night or airbnb.  But it's not just any hotel. I could have used points to cover the trip if I wanted, but i just decided to pay for it.  

What else did we spend?  Well gocity cards in singapore for $1166 for the four of us.  Did we get our money's worth?  Well adult tickets for everything we did would have cost around $714 adults and $398 for kids so yes we did.  Now universal I would have skipped but for the pass because we literally rode like 3 rides.  But it was fun and we had a fantastic time eating there and we always like eating the local food of amusement parks where we go. I did mention the best buffet i've ever had was disneyland hong kong right?  I mean asian fusion buffet with inexpensive labor means premium food and disney quality and hong kong is just world class dining to begin with just like singapore.  Also shows in these parts are often much nicer than you would think because they start working at a much more inexpensive cost and put on a bigger production.

We spent $380 on other entertainment like feeding rhinos, extra tickets to things not covered, tour in thailand (was $100 for the 4 of us!!!), etc.  We spent $859 on food, eating is cheap in asia especially Thailand.   And $545 on ubers in singapore/thailand other travel expenses.  

All in our trip for about 12 days cost us $9265. This is not a realistic budget though because many people would not have the miles to pay for tickets for 3 out of a family of 4.  Also most people would not be upgrading to better seats necessarily.  And many would not pay $844 for a hotel for 1 night.  So I think it could be done similarly if you didn't have miles and made some changes to the itinerary.

But overall right on target for what I was hoping to spend if not less than what I budgeted for disney.  That being said on our macchu picchu trip, I need to start a spreadsheet.  I have spreadsheets for all my trips to figure out the total cost.

Thailand - relaxation

January 8th, 2024 at 05:30 pm

So we were thinking of jumping to Bali from Singapore but we didn't have much time.  So instead we went to Thailand.  We decided we had done city with Singapore.  We also wanted to waste at most 2 hours on the flight and we didn't want to hit up a city.  So we flew into Krabi.  Most people go to Phuket or Ko Samui or Bangkok or Chang Mai.  We headed to Krabi, but we didn't stay there.  Instead we went further off the beaten path and went to Ao Nang.  Think small beach resort area without a ton of tourists comparatively. 

Initially I wanted to go even more secluded and stay at an alcove that you had to take a boat too.  But decided it was too difficult with the kids.  Good thing I didn't because getting off the long tail boat (we visited for the day) we saw people carrying their luggage on their heads through the water since the dock wasn't big enough.  But where we stay?  It was in "town".  And we got to walk around, swim, and rest.  Way better decision.  Ao Nang has according to google 7800 people.  I loved it.  

Our hotel room had a private pool (but it was too cold).  Some rooms opened to the pool. We had breakfast included everyday as well.

Our first night and walking at the beach right outside the hotel.  Ours was on the beach about 50 steps away from a different pool at the hotel.

The next day we booked a tour and went kayaking in the mangroves and feeding elephants.

Long Tail Boat ride

Beach just gorgeous

Then we flew back to Singapore to catch our flight home the next day.  This time we flew direct into SFO on United in premium economy.  Well worth the $425 upgrade.  But I also decided to splurge and we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands hotel.  It's pretty much the iconic cruise ship hotel in Singapore, featured in Crazy, Rich Asians at the end.  It has the infinity pool that's only guest accessible.  What did we do?  Stay the whole day in the pool from 3 pm check in after our flight till the evening. We even had food delivered.

View from the deck of the gardens by the bay.

View during the day

View at night

Then our lovely adventure had to end.  Did we have jet lag?  Surprisingly no.  We were great.  Mostly because our timing was excellent.  It was worth spending more to get the right times.  We used up pretty much all of our miles to fly united back at night and arrive at night.  It was a 18+ direct flight from LAX to Singapore and return was also 18+ hours direct Singapore to SFO.  This allowed us to nap on the flight there and coming back.  4

Going we arrived at 6 am and then stayed up so we got right on schedule (and it's easier going west).  Coming back while difficult arriving at 12 am midnight at home and going straight to bed and waking up at 10 am and forcing ourselves to stay up to 8 pm then back to bed and up at 7 am meant we were tired but not jet lagged like some people.

So going to Macchu Picchu this summer I did the same thing and booked flights I thought would minimize our jet lag going and coming.  I'm hopeful that it works.

I guess all that's left is to work on what it all costs in the next post.

Singapore Day 5

January 8th, 2024 at 04:57 pm

Since someone asked I decided to finish up photos and posting of the trip.  Our last full day in singapore we spent doing a Michelin Hawker Food tour included in our singapore Go City card for $80.  It was delicious and fun and we even got historical facts on the walking part as we ate and walked through a couple of hawker centers.  My favorite part of traveling is walking and hanging out and eating like a local.  When we were in singapore i used grab (like uber) to go places and rode the transit and ate at the hawker stalls or hole in the wall restaurants.  Some of the finest dining is in singapore, but we just couldn't get ourselves organized and honestly that interested over just exploring the city.  Here are some of the places we stopped at.

We interestingly ate there unknowingly while wandering on our own in the area the first day.  

We love curry puffs.

My DH ate here on the first day and it was great.  I wouldn't say everywhere took cards so cash was still needed.

Then we chilled in the pool and hotel room the rest of the day until that evening when we went to the Night Safari.  This was also included on our go city card I think if i had bought the package of the zoos and night safari it was like $100 SGD+.  It was pretty fun.  The nicest part about the go city card was going to places and not feeling guilty if it was only a few minutes or longer. 

Since you have to make a reservation for the night safari, I made a reservation to feed the rhinos.  One of the highlights of the trip.  The night safari is just a ride on this tram through a different zoo to see the animal at night, especially the nocturnal ones.

The next day we left for thailand.


2023 Wrap up - good year

January 3rd, 2024 at 05:35 am

So 2023 was an excellent year for us financially.  Our retirement accounts are down 3% from peak 1/3/2022.  Mostly I lost a bunch in my Roth IRA but we are nearly at the same amount.  Our retirement accounts went up 31.6%.

Our taxable went up 92.8%.  Our NW went up 49.9%.  We had a good year in the market.  We saved a lot. 

I mentioned in forum spending $15k deciding.  What ended up happening was DH got an unexpected bonus at work on December 15th and we saved the bulk of it.  It contributed to our savings.  But even without it, I'm looking at 12/1 net worth since I track monthly where we were at.

Retirement up 23.6%

Taxable up 9.1%

Debt down 2.2%

NW up 23.2%

December was a good month stock wise our retirement went up around 8%.  Then added in our unexpected savings and that jumped our net worth 25% for the month.

Also due to stock gains our 12/1/23 NW surpassed 1/1/2022 by 8%  So even without the bonus we are back to peak.  

Tickets to hawaii pricing for the year

December 31st, 2023 at 03:36 am

I usually never travel this much to hawaii.  So I was curious how the year stacked up.  I know from chatting with friends who always ask me LAL what's a good price and when should we go? I tell them end of April and late October is typically cheap and easy. Also January after MLK weekend is another cheap time to come to Hawaii.  January might even be better with hotel pricing and winter for many folks.

But what have you spent LAL and did you get a good deal?  I am about to do an end of year shakedown which normally I would cringe about spending so much but life is short.  And my DH said when I mentioned it, this is a short term spending because when will I be coming to hawaii so often?  Never again.  

Traveling on 12/19 and returning 1/1 we paid $2034 for 4 tickets.  We used two alaska airlines companion fares which on each purchased roundtrip ticket.  That means the $95 annual credit card fee for a $121 companion ticket (this is the fees) was used as a BOGO on $896 ticket for DH and me.  Pretty good ROI on $95 was $896.  Average cost of Xmas ticket?  $508 per person which for hawaii at christmas is a steal.  Miles run around 50k one way if you can land it.  Hawaii is very expensive always to visit at the holidays and I don't recommend it.

October 12 $179 one way

October 17 $179 one way

August 9 $115 one way per person (1 paid for 3 of us) = $345

August 15 $102 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $306

June 23rd $323 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $970, our flight was cancelled that day by Delta and I had to rebook in a emergency, I had bought tickets on delta for 17,500 miles one way per person Frown

July 6th $265 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $795

May 3rd $269

May 7th $228

Feb 20th $347, i flew to hawaii via boston and hawaiian airlines direct with miles I believe 35k miles.

Total for year for me was $2515 for me out of pocket 6 round trip tickets = $419 average round trip ticket to hawaii.  Total spent? $5652 for a total of 6 LAL + 3 DK1 + 3 DK2 + 1 DH = 13 rountrip tickets for an average of $434 per roundtrip.  

So if I were a family looking to budget I would say $450 to be conservative from the West Coast as long as it's not Xmas holidays. 

I had my suspicion but if we backed out the Xmas tickets which I think blew everything out of the water, the spending on our airline tickets to hawaii wasn't bad.

Next up?  Maybe our total travel spending for the year.  All in I am going to guess we're close to the $20-25k/year I budget and use in our numbers.  

Small amounts to ESA and apple stock

December 24th, 2023 at 06:11 am

The year is ending and I just thought I'd post about college savings and how small savings adds up.  Maybe to inspire someone, maybe because it's the simplest accounts we have.  My DK1 turns 14 in January.  I think we started her Education Savings Account or Coverdell in May 2010.  But Coverdell IRA or ESA are capped at $2000 a year contribution limits.  But you can invest in anything.  What have we invested in?  VOO.   Yep that's it. BORING.  Nothing special.  DK2 was born in July 2012 and I think I did her as well maybe a few months later.  So I've been tracking it for awhile. I have to go back to see how it was but 10 years ago...Realize we've never contributed more than $2k/year.

1/1/2014   DK1 $11,239   DK2 $6369

1/1/2015           $12,251           $6831

1/1/2016           $14695            $9105

1/1/2017           $16,588            $10,277

1/1/2018           $22,205           $14,612

1/1/2019           $24,801            $17,605

1/1/2020           $36,702           $27,169

1/1/2021           $39,668          $29,251

1/1/2022            $51,869          $38,691

1/1/2023          $43,940            $33,366

12/1/2023       $54,540             $41,945

total contri      $26,000            $22,000

So small amounts invested once a year for many, many years leaves to a doubling in 12 years.  It's supposed to double every 7 years but i'll take it.

As for apple stock?  DK1 sometime in 2010, again I think summer 2010, we were visiting in SF and DH's uncle.  He decided after meeting DK1 he would gift her 2 shares of apple stock and asked us to never sell it.  At the time it was $300 a share so he gave her around $600.  We didn't reinvest the dividends though we should have. I think we let the cash ride.  What's the $600 gift worth now from July 2010?  $11,891.  She has 60 shares from all the splits, but since I started reinvesting dividends actually 61.425 shares. DH's uncle didn't give DK2 but I did matching shares for her in a taxable account.  Those two shares of apple are the only reason why we had taxable accounts for the kids since we didn't plan on having enough money past the $2k/year ESA.  

Well now the kids have around $45k each in a taxable account and they have nice and hefty college funds with the ESA being a big chunk of it.  Turns out small investing can make a big difference in someone's life. We weren't born into any sort of money or inheritance.  But wow, just a tiny amount can make a huge difference. 

Imagine if either of our parents had gifted us even $500 or $1000 per year per kid for college or anything else.  I'm hoping to do that for our kids. Maybe be in the situation where we could gift the maximum per year to them.  Investing in their taxable accounts might make a bigger difference by the time they are 30.

double dip credit card bonus

December 11th, 2023 at 08:03 pm

Oops.  This quarter Discover is giving 5% back in cash rewards for shopping at Amazon or Target.  I used it to buy $900 in gift cards over the December 2nd - 3rd weekend at Target.  Target was running at 10% off special once a year.  That was $45 in rewards.  I also bought $400 in Airbnb gift cards from Target that gave a $40 gift card back as well.  This also earned 5% for $20 more in rewards.

Then if you use the discover cash back rewards to buy resturant or other shopping gift cards you can add another 10-20% on top of the cash back value.  So $40 or $45 for a $50 gift card to Dave and Busters, Panera, etc.  I typically do this to stretch the cash back rewards.

I only use the discover card typically with the rotating 5% quarterly bonus rewards.  Typically it pays back nicely but it maxes out at $75 a quarter or $1500 in spending every 3 months.  If you don't have this check it out.

credit card annual fees

December 6th, 2023 at 06:54 am

Decided to add up my credit card fees annually.  I know it's a lot because we have a lot of cards.  How much?  $1420 for the year.  Yowsa. How'd it breakdown?

Alaska DH $95.00
Alaska LAL $95.00
Sapphire Preferred $95.00
Chase Ink $95.00
CS Amex Platinum $695.00
Amex Gold $250.00
Marriott Chase $95.00
Total $1,420.00

The alaska cards we get a companion fare and I used both already this year for $1000 tickets to hawaii.  So $95 for $1000 coupon.  Win.  Plus a free checked luggage when traveling.

Sapphire preferred gives a $50 hotel credit plus 1.5 points for travel booked through their website.  So $45 for the bonus 50% travel credit?  Keep.

Chase Ink - $95 is maybe a lot for an occasional use card. I mostly keep it to charge all my business expenses on it and keep it straight.  But it also gives better earnings in travel and business expenses.

Charles Schwab Amex Platinum with the $695 price tag.  This is for DH alone but we get $200 credit from Charles Schwab for having accounts with them. Annually these are the savings I use

$200 Hotel Credit 

$200 Airline Credit

$189 Clear

$100 saks

$240 digital credit - NYT, WSJ, Sirius, 

$180 walmart+ - use for free paramount plus

$200 Uber ($15/month plus $35 in december)

So $1509 in credits for the year means it's a keep.  I did drop the extra card which was an extra $175.  Still debating on that one.  I have $60 in pending american express offers statement credit so we'll see if it works.

Amex Gold I got when I downgraded my Amex Platinum and switched it to DH getting the amex platinum.  $250 is really steep and I'm not sure it's worth it.  

$120 year ($10 a month) Dining Credit

$200 Uber ($15/month plus $35 in december)

Even with the $320, I only kept it because when I tried to cancel they gave me $125 bonus to stay, so it became $125 annual fee. I also made $71 in Amex Offers with the gold card which helped offset the costs.

Finally the marriot chase card for $95.  This one I'm also not sure but disneysteve swears by it.  And $95 for 1 night in a hotel seemed like a no brainer to try it out.  Just got it and we'll see how it goes.

I've settled into a routine of credit cards.

I've been rolling in the bonuses this year with Amazon CC and Costco CC.  Those plus the points i've gotten on chase since my daily CC is Chase Freedom card where you get 1.5% back on everything and 3% on eating out.

What credit cards do you like?

Day 4 Singapore

September 18th, 2023 at 06:43 pm

Day 4 

Our fourth day in Singapore was super busy.  We were heading to Sentosa Island for Universal Studios Singapore.  But we started out by heading to the Mount Faber Cable Car ride to Sentosa Island. It's a neat view of the city and the man made island.  Cost $28 SGD and included on the Go City Card. 

We then did the Sky Helix  at the sentose cable car station cost $18 SGD and included on the Go City Card.  We also did the 4d ride cost $30 SGD included and the Luge  but not included with the go city card so we paid $88 total for 4 of us.  The luge is basically think a downhill non snow sled ride.  The kids had a great time.

Then we cable car to Resort World Universal Studios.  The cost? $80 SGD but included in the Go City.  We got there around 1 pm but had lunch first outside at their malaysian food court.  Again pricey since it's universal (cheap compared to North America) but expensive for the area.

What was Universal like?  It was pretty crowded but overall fun.  A super small park easily doable in 1 day.  We rode like 3 rides and enjoyed the singapore foods with a twist.  Just like Mcdonald's. 

We left around 5 pm riding the monorail back to Singapore island.  We had to use all forms of transit - cable car, monorail, bus, and uber that day!  Anyway we had dinner again this time at the Suntec Food Court and Monster Curry.  Running total for the day $138 + $357 SGD = $495 SGD.  

Would we have done so much without the card?  Probably not.  Mostly because we wouldn't have gone to Universal.  $80 for a pretty small park.  But included?  For sure.

Singapore Day 2 and 3

September 13th, 2023 at 09:33 pm

Day 2

We spent the day at the Singapore zoo and River Wonders.  Cost was $118 4 park hopper because there are 4 parks total Zoo, River Wonders, Birds of Paradise, and Night Safari (which we did another day).  Running total $216 SGD (since I bought it for $414 SGD) in activity entrance fees so far.  We took the train to the zoo which cost us around $16 public transit, but the uber home for $22, which was 60 minutes versus 30 minutes.  We spent $70 USD on lunch in the park.  Typical.  

That evening since we got back by around 4 pm we decided swim a bit and then go out for chili crab on the Boat Quay.  It was delicious but our most expensive meal all trip $162 USD.  

Day 3

We started off the day with a big bus tour at 9:30 am across the street from our hotel at Suntec Mall.  It is the double decker buses that run around most major cities with tons of cool facts and fun way to see a lot fast.  Also less walking for those with kids.  Cost $53 SGD. 


Then we took it to stop number 2 because we missed the floral fantasy at the Gardens at the Bay also included and saw more flowers (my DH and DK2 love gardening).  That was an extra $20 SGD also included in the Go City Card.  Then we hopped on a train and went to chinatown hawker stall and ate lunch probably $15 total for 4 of us. 

We had an early day and went back to the hotel and swam again.  But DH and I went across the street to the famous Raffles hotel and got 2 free singapore sling drinks $40 SGD on the Go city card.  They gave us 2 each for 2 adult and 2 kid passes.  The kids chilled in our bedroom.   Now I would never have paid for the singapore sling but it was super cool and fun and A LOT of people were waiting in line to drink it and eat peanuts.

We had dinner at a place on Clark Quay for Japanese Yakitori for $79.  And we did it early since we had called it an early afternoon.  Then since we were done with dinner by 7 pm, we hopped on a river boat tour included on the Go City card from the Clark Quay.  Cost $28. Running Total $357 so far.


Singapore Day 1

September 11th, 2023 at 11:57 pm

Day 1

So we arrived in Singapore at 5 am and were fortunate the hotel let us use their shower facility at the pool to shower, change, and refresh.  Our location at the JW Marriott South Beach was excellent and it was a nice hotel.  You don't have to tip in Asia but honestly in places where they are used to guests they are expecting tip, just not as much as you would in North America.  Our hotel we stayed for free using Marriott points for 4 nights get 5th night for free.  You know our airline ticket story from another post.

After we showered we took a uber to chinatown, had an awesome breakfast (noodles and dumpling $10 for the 4 of us), then headed over to Gardens by the Bay.  This is a financial blog so we'll do some breakdowns along the way.  I paid $414 for an adult 5 day unlimited Go City Singapore card, the kids were $100 less or so.  The cloud and flower dome were included and the cost?  $53.   Those were the supertree grove and kids pretending to hold the tree.

We stayed until about 1 pm ate a light snack at McDonald's.  One of my favorite places to eat no matter what country we're in.  We love seeing the how McDonald's adapts to local culture.  We had a nasi lemak (fried chicken) burger and a chicken nugget happy meal for the kids.  Then we were off to our 2 pm Duck Tour reservation.  Duck tours are WWII boats adapated for tours that go in the city and water.  Cost $45 and you need a reservation.  The merlion photo was taken from the duck boat.

After that we headed back to the hotel to check in and rest until an early dinner across the street at the Suntec City mall.  We had dinner for the cost of $48 which included tax and tip for a family of 4.  Yes that was one of the more expensive meals we had out.  Anywhere we paid with a CC was more than the cash stalls we happened upon.

Traveling as a family of four

September 6th, 2023 at 06:13 am

We had a lovely trip to Singapore and Thailand at the end of August. I'll post some photos and notes in the next few days.  But I have to write a bit about my experience reading blogs about travel and traveling with kids.

I read a lot of posts about "saving" money while traveilng.  Mostly about transportation cost, using miles, hotels, etc.  Of course there are a bunch of bloggers writing about traveling with kids first class because of miles and getting free airline hotel comps or cruise comps.  They aren't exactly average joes looking for a deal.  Their job is blogging and ads and evaluating where they are going.  So it's not really easy to discern how expensive traveling with kids is or how easy or hard it really.  And of course there are a ton of bloggers who are single or couples doing it super cheap not constrained by school schedules and use to paying for a family of four.

So I just wanted to put it out there reality wise for all those blogs I read about food, transportation, etc.

1.  When you travel as a family of 4 or 5, sometimes it's cheaper to use a cab.  No public transit is not cheaper.  I can prove it with my uber rides versus paying $2 a person for a one way subway and having to walk.  We did use the subway/bus/walk because of the experience and fun.  But the truth is that with 4 people it's often more economical to use a grab.  I made a conscious decision not to buy a $5 transit pass card because I suspected that using ubers would be more efficient and I was right.

Also after a long day it's often times easier to go straight back and not waste an extra 30-60 minutes navigating a subway/walking/waiting with kids and maximize rest times.

2. Hotels often in Europe and Asia are built for 2. It's way more expensive and harder to find rooms accomodating families.  You can easily get 2 rooms but then you are sharing with one adult one kid.  The rooms are smaller and meant for couples.

3. Food stalls are awesome as a single or couple. It's somewhat painful to go eat at food courts with a family where you have to get your kids food, navigate a seat, get your food, and navigate trying to accomodate everything.

4. Kids need down time. Even older kids aren't as resilient as adults.  A lot of flexibility and change need to happen.

5. Carrying around a lot more and spending more. I already had a backpack on the entire time filled with sunscreen, 1 water bottle, napkins, tissues, hand sanitizer.  And I still spent more than those couples/singles with their one bottle. I bought from vending machines and 7-11 drinks because it's awful to carry around 4 drinks.  I learned that years ago.  1 bottle of water to refill in case of emergency and you buy everything else you need along the way.  Water/drinks are cheap compared to the effort of carrying it.

6. Food - i missed the michelin star food hawker stalls in singapore because trying to find it and wait in line impossible. I had fantastic food and we had a fabulous time, but as a family? You have to let go and go with the flow rather than making perfection happen.

7. Sometimes you just do the experience in front of you instead of what you planned.  There were all these itineraries of "travel" warriors for seeing everything.  Couldn't be done with my two kids ages 11 and 13.  They just couldn't hack those days.  Our itinerary was jammed packed for a family, but it still didn't come close to what bloggers write.

8.  I paid extra to sit up front in economy going and we lucked out to have no one sitting next to DH and DK1 grabbed and empty row.  Coming back I forked over $450 per person for economy plus on our mileage tickets and it was worth every penny.  

9.  Find a hotel with an amazing pool.  We had three crazy pools and it was incredible.  We needed downtime to just relax.

10.  When you land you pay a premium to eat either in the hotel as a family or nearby but often you are too exhausted to care where or what you eat.  Our most expensive meals were when we couldn't move.

I just had to post a few thoughts on traveling with kids.  I guess I found myself a bit cynical after reading a lot of blogs about itineraries and ideas.  But none really hit on traveling with kids.  

FWIW, it's awesome and fun to travel with our kids.  We always have a blast and our experiences if you've read my blog the photos have been good.  But for anyone who thinks it's what other bloggers write? Or try to experience or do it on the cheap?

It's not.  Even reading about people going to disney?  There are way to do it cheaper but cheap? Or to do it the way some single or couples do it?  with a family?  Impossible.  So cut yourself a break and enjoy the ride.

Further Flight Deals

July 31st, 2023 at 08:12 pm

So how good of a deal did I get?  Well last week I managed to book me and the two kids round trip tickets to hawaii for $655 total for 3 people.  That works out to $218 per person round trip.

Alaska airlines was having a 2 day sale for BOGO to and from Kona.  So the price of our one way ticket was $103 per person.  That is $309 for all three of us returning from Kona.  Then going the same thing happened except it was $347 for 3 of us or $115 per person.   I had already reduced our fare a couple weeks ago to $200 one way pers person so our total trip already was $1200 for the three of us.  Now I got it almost 50% off.

I sent it to my friends but some people can't get out of their own way.  Instead they kept their booked tickets and paid $600 per person to go to hawaii.  I get it.   Once you book your tickets the idea of sitting there and snagging a deal is hard to wrap your head around.

This is the reason why booking the main cabin tickets for $40 per person with seat selection is worth it. If you buy saver fares you have to pay $150 to make a change. Instead you can cancel your ticket and use the credit to buy the new cheaper tickets. Or if you are hesitant if you talk with the airlines or through chat you are able to get them to give you airline credit for the overage.  I currently have around $679 in alaska wallet credit to be used in the future.   

So sometimes it's worth checking airfare much like checking the pricing of a hotel room or car rental.

the mortgage interest rate effect

July 26th, 2023 at 03:31 am

Got back from a nice weekend visiting the BIL.  Spent way to much money but that's the way of it.  Guess we're eating in for a few weeks to work off the overspending of eating out every meal.  But the kids were glad to see him and his girlfriend and his cats.  Which after they went to a "cat cafe" we realized both my kids have cat allergies and now the chances of having a cat ever is negative zero.  DH has severe cat allergies and the kids kept begging asking him to take shots.  No way.  But now it's like laughable. I'm the only person not allergic and i am not interested in another pet.

That being said my BIL bought 2 years ago his condo in the midst of Covid.  2 bd/2ba he bought for $780k.  It's a nice place and I'm glad he bought something finally.  He has no kids and isn't married and bought it solo.  And I'm not sure if he's marrying the girlfriend (although she doesn't know this and a story for another day about not watching your money).  But last month he had a special HOA assessement of $10k for the roof repairs and $11k for a new HVAC unit.  So he was talking about how he's irritated with a condo and thinks SFH are better.  

Anyway he's always checked in with us for advice.  DH's parents aren't here and well they wouldn't be useful anyway not knowing how it works in the US taxes, buying, selling.  So we were just chit chatting and I pointed out that his interest rate is like 3.5%.  And he's paying like $4500 for his condo a month.  Sounds ridiculous but he was renting for $3500 for a 1 bd apartment so it's a wash.  He's got a bigger place for $1k more but that's close to what he's paying in principal.  So he's basically renting his place for $3500/month with interest, property taxes, HOA.  

But now the idea of moving to a SFH is tempting.  But at what cost?  The rate he could get would be 6.75% and it would be more expensive.  How much?  Well let's use $1.2M so a $900k mortgage for $5837 mortgage payment versus $2802 a month currently.  Is the SFH worth doubling his payments?  The answer to him was very obviously no.

So his GF was talking about having kids, needing a bigger place, moving, waiting until they can find something.  But not realizing that the reality is that it's a lot more expensive right now to move up.  That the low interest rate is a double edged sword that buying right now is not necessarily in favor of buying.  Right now renting a SFH might be the smarter move.

Right now many owners are golden handcuffed to their houses, not wanting to lose their interest rate.  I know I am.  I definitely would love to move and have considerered it a lot.  But we couldn't afford a $900k mortgage right now at current rates.  So we couldn't afford our current home.  That $5837 doesn't include property taxes and insurance.  

So we as well as my BIL are golden handcuffed to our house.  We couldn't rent anywhere as cheap as we are paying either.  When we moved in our rent was borderline with our mortgage.  But now renting is ~62.5% more expensive than when we moved in.  The house across the street is a rental and the owner moved like 3 houses down and we know them well. When we moved in it was renting for $4000 in 2017.  It's now renting for $6500 a month in 2023.  So our mortgage is less than both currently.  

So moving is out of the question.  We couldn't even rent a bigger place.  In times of high inflation this is probably a normal scenario.  Once you lock in your fixed costs with buying the longer you stay put the better deal it becomes.  A lot of people say renting is better and it can be. 

But where renters fail?  Do they actually save the difference between the rent and mortgage and invest it?  And what happens when rent surpasses mortgage payment over time?  Or do renters assume they will always be below market rent?

Have you noticed the mortgage rate affecting people's decisions? I find it interesting how much it impacts the decision of renting and buying.

caring for the caregiver

July 20th, 2023 at 06:59 am

My uncle was told today that the cancer spread to his chest, back, and lymph nodes.  Not surprising since when we were last there a couple weeks ago he had trouble getting up and moving.  When I saw him I thought to myself he's not going to last much longer.  Well the Dr said chemotherapy might help but unsure.  

My mom really wants to go in and just talk to him in person.  He called her and told her he was afraid.  Afraid of dying yet in pain.  My mom I know is very sad and afraid of being alone.  My dad is slipping away in a different manner.  His bad days outweigh his good.  He is getting more confused. 

My uncle is 74 and fully cognizant.  He understand what is happening.  When my uncle passes I'm sure my aunt whom he's been married to for 53 years will pass soon after.  She also is not well.  And my mom will be alone with my dad.  While my aunt and uncle haven't been physically helping my mom, they have been emotionally there for her these past months just listening and letting her vent or have something to do (cooking and dropping meals for them as she cooks solo).  Unfortunately they both are unable to cook anymore.  They've always been there for her from teaching her about her first checking/savings account.  To offering money so she could get divorced and not work a second job because I needed her.  To hand me down in clothing and baby goods (probably why I was a tomboy!)  

I know that she wants a few moments to sit and chat reminisce and just be.  Unfortunately my dad is not able to do that.  So she can drive by and drop food and go to the door for a minute while my dad sits in the car.  

I thought when I booked my tickets last month that going back a month later wouldn't be worth it.  I wasn't sure but I felt like I hadn't had enough time with my mom.   And now I know I was right.  She has tried a new caregiver, the last one got sick right before I came.  She managed to hire someone today and tried them out.  It didn't go well.  

But I am pushing for her not to stop.  To keep trying to have the person come and maybe my dad will accept and be used too.  The truth is she needs help now.  This is a short term thing.  Caring for the caregiver is sometimes just as important as the patient.  My mom thinks I'm coming to help with my dad.  Truth is that my dad is slowly slipping away unable to recognize even me.  He doesn't recognize the kids or their names.  But she needs us more than he does.

Hugs to all caregivers out there.  Realize that you are appreciated and that there are others hoping to help you.  Take it.

<< Newer EntriesOlder Entries >>