Socks And Other Issues

Stupid Socks

Socks

I saw a friend reference an article on Facebook recently about spending time with your kids and balancing that with cleaning the house. It’s a bit of a sarcastic read but pretty good. It reminded me of some things I dealt with as a single parent, trying to juggle work, school, raising kids, homework, house cleaning (never did very good here), paying bills, doctors, sports, church and anything else you can think of that you run ragged and become exhausted.

Every day.

All the time.

Take a look at that picture above of all the socks. Can you believe how many different styles, colors, and sizes of socks there are?

Crazy!

Saving Time – Anywhere You Can

Save Time

When you are a single-parent, you look for any way that you can save 5 minutes. Ask my kids. I was always exhausted. I could save a few minutes by doing certain things to maximize my time.

Here are just a few things I did to help simplify things.

  1. I bought the exact same type of socks. I had two colors. Black and Grey. Since they were all the same, I never bothered putting them together in pairs. They all got shoved into a drawer and that was that.
  2. Why bother folding your underwear? Do you really plan on stripping to your undies every time you see someone? No one is going to see if your underwear is wrinkled. Again – throw them in a drawer and call it good.
  3. The wash was started when I went to bed. The washer can run overnight without my help. I would get up a bit earlier in the morning and put the laundry in the dryer while I got a shower, dressed, had breakfast (maybe), made coffee, and got the kids moving for school. If I had time, I would fold or hang clothes before heading to work. If not, then they were tumbled and folded or hung when I got home.
  4. I was the only one that ate leftovers. When I cooked the evening meal (sometimes that was around 9pm), I would make extra so that I could pack a couple of lunches for work during the week. I like a hot meal for lunch.
  5. Quick meals. So, maybe it’s not the best diet but we always had $1 pizza, hotdogs, hamburgers and boxed mac & cheese in the house along with soup. If I was running late getting home or if I was just too out of it to cook, it became “fend for yourself” night. Everyone would pick a quick item and cook their own. Thank goodness for a dishwasher.

When you have no time, you find ways to cut down on time consuming stuff. Even grocery shopping with a list saves time (and money).

Having plenty of available snack foods is important too. As long as that doesn’t become the lunch for the kids. A tale for another post perhaps.

Beauty In Brokenness

Ash Wednesday

My wife Sharon, preached the Ash Wednesday service at the church on February 10th. The service had 400 or so in attendance. This worship is the recognition of the beginning of Lent. The imposition of Ashes are applied to the forehead to remind us to repent of our sins and to show others we are a Christian witness.

Ashes

From dust we have come and to dust we shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.

Usually people give something up in recognition of Lent. Some give up things like chocolate, soda, TV and the like. Others may give up deeper things like self-centeredness or reducing anger. Some will try to improve on things like their prayer time or attendance at worship.

Lent also reminds us of the brokenness in our relationship with God.

Prior to the service, each person entering the sanctuary was asked to take a piece of broken glass with them. Sharon offered a great sermon during this solemn time and at the end of the service, people were asked to bring their broken piece of glass with them as they came forward to receive their ashes. All the broken pieces were placed in baskets and collected when the service was over.

Something Beautiful

Sharon and I committed to taking the broken pieces of glass, representing the brokenness we all have with our relationship with God and making something beautiful, having it ready for Easter Sunday.

We asked for some assistance from Gilbert Winans, a staff member at the church, to build a frame for the broken glass. Sharon and I went to Hobby Lobby looking for supplies. Unfortunately, Hobby Lobby was not the best choice for the size of the project we were doing so we ended up at Lowes. We received some great assistance from one of the employees there on how to proceed with our project.

Plaster of Paris

The frame came in the shape of a cross that measured 2’x3’ with each arm being 8” wide. We used Plaster of Paris as the base to hold the glass, making a mosaic. If you don’t know this, Plaster of Paris dries pretty quickly. We only had about 20 minutes to arrange all the broken pieces of glass into the frame before it was getting too hard to do. As a result, some of the glass was simply placed on top of the plaster.

Epoxy Is Your Friend

Epoxy

Epoxy is amazing. You take two compounds, stir them together for about six minutes and pour it over your art piece. It’s self-leveling and you can use a brush, spatula or trowel to move it around. Since it is self-leveling, once you have your piece covered, you simply put the piece on a level surface and let it “level.”

Any pieces that we could not place into the plaster (there were only a few), were covered with the epoxy and are safely secure in the cross.

The Final Result

Easter Cross

We were able to show the piece during worship on Easter Sunday.

It has a lot of symbolism with this cross. It is comprised of all the brokenness in our lives, no matter what that brokenness is for us.

It shows that the power of Christ makes all things new and beautiful. Our brokenness can be made into something wonderful.

 

Writing Again

A Little History

I wrote a book several years ago. It took me several years to actually publish it too. I guess I was concerned about what other people would think about it so I kept coming up with excuses of why I wasn’t ready to have it published.

In June 2014, my wife asked me if I was going to publish it. You see, I had picked the end of June that year to publish it. Well, June came and went. When my wife confronted me about it, I said I would have it published in July.

She said “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Ill believe it when i see it

That really got to me.

I put it off as long as I could and on July 31, 2014, I submitted the book for publishing through Kindle. This placed the book on Amazon as an ebook.

By the end of the year, I also had a hardcopy of the book available on Amazon and published through CreateSpace.

The book was a resounding success with 10 copies sold.

Ok. So maybe it’s not the next best seller but all the anxiety associated with putting the book out there was gone. It was what it was. There was no turning back now.

What Has Happened Since?

I ordered a lot of copies of my own book. After all, I had to share what I had accomplished with my family. I signed each copy and tried to get a book to everyone in the family. I think I still missed some but I had them.

Of course, one of my daughters, an English teacher, called me a couple of days after receiving her copy and told me there was an error at the bottom of page 33. Ugh!

Well – too late. The book is out there. She asked if I had anyone edit the book first. I said I had four different people edit it for me and they still missed the error. She told me to have her edit the next one.

I ordered business cards to promote the book. I started leaving the cards at places I went out to eat. I was handing cards out to people when they would find out that I had written something.

I was an author after all.

Then something amazing happened.

Someone found out that I had written a book on personal finance and asked me to give a talk to a group of women who had dealt with all manner of domestic abuse and had finally removed themselves from the situation. Their finances were a wreck and in some cases, they had never had to deal with finances.

The talk was a success and there was a bonus.

I was asked to give a class to these women to show them what I had done to get a grip on my finances. I have now given a couple of these classes and there will be another one later this year most likely. The group that I spoke to has decided to use my book as their guide for the women they help. The last order for the book was for 15 copies. Who would have thought.

Speaking of Speaking

Me The Speaker

Ok. Sorry for the bad Photoshop image. I was in a hurry. But I clean up well.

I’ve given several talks related to my experiences over the last several years. I like sharing my experiences and hope that the content of my talks helps someone. I generally speak about personal finances and domestic violence although there are other topics I am happy to talk about.

As an employee for a Fortune 500 company, I spent a good deal of time teaching others how to work on equipment. I even spend 3 years teaching at a Junior College part-time. I suppose, if you need someone to give a talk about the inner workings of Automation Systems using programmable logic controllers, I’m your guy.

I’m probably not your guy if you want someone to give a talk about how to monetize your blog. Haven’t quite figured that part out yet.

Oh.

I can talk about my book too.

Speaking of Next

I’ve decided that I am going to write again. I have several things that I can write about at the minute. I can write another book about personal finances. I can write about domestic violence. I can write about being a single-parent. I can write about raising daughters. I can write about living with disability. I can write about being an unemployed college graduate. I can write about being married to a pastor.

Or I can write about something totally different.

Right now, I am gathering ideas. Once I decide on the topic, I’ll get to work on it right away.

I’ll let you know what that topic will be.

Maybe you can help me decide what to write about. Leave a comment. I’ll respond.

 

 

Vacations

Unplug! Take Off! See Ya Later!

Beach Vacation

Beach Vacation

I don’t like vacations – said no one – ever!

Who doesn’t like a vacation?

Vacations can be whatever you want them to be.

I’ve had vacations that last 36 hours and others that have lasted ten days.

Either way, it is a way to unplug from our hectic lives and receive some renewal and much needed rest.

If we do it right.

Different Strokes

Vacation To Do List

Vacation To Do List

Some people like to go on vacation where everything is planned. Think about those trips you can get that have everything scheduled for you. You go from one place to another and it is a nonstop show to cram in as many things as possible.

Some people don’t plan a single thing on their vacation. They get to their destination and wing it.

My wife and I are “wing it” people. We don’t like the idea of rushing from one thing to another to see how much we can see. Instead, we schedule time off.

The best vacations we have been on have been the one’s were we rent a condo at the ocean, get there and then spend our time walking up and down the beach, figuring out where we want to try and eat, watching the sunset and not being on a schedule.

The Financial Piece

Cash Only Vacation

Cash Only Vacation

My wife and I do not go on vacation unless we can pay for the whole trip with cash. There have been occasions where we have spent more than we planned and taken some money out of savings but for the most part, we go when we have the money for it.

Right now, we are vacation deprived. We haven’t been on one in a while and it sure would be nice to go now but we can’t.

Paying for vacations with a credit card is like paying for Christmas with one. You end up with a huge balance on your credit card that is adding interest and you end up spending a whole lot more for your time away than you may have wanted to in the first place.

How cool would it be to go on vacation, spend time doing the things you enjoy and coming home, realizing that there are no additional bills to pay?

That’s how we roll. What about you?

Retirement Savings

The Reality

Reality Bites

Reality

Let’s face it. There are no more pensions being offered by companies that will maintain an income for employees once they retire. Pensions started going away in the 1980’s. Very few companies offer any kind of retirement package anymore.

Instead, companies are offering a 401k savings plan and maybe, if you are lucky, they will match part of it.

So the bottom line is that if you aren’t saving for your own retirement through a 401k or other investments, then you are setting yourself up to live on social security. The government has slowly been increasing the age when you can begin to receive social security.

If you were born before 1954, then your retirement age for social security is 65 years old. Between 1954-1960, the retirement age is 66. After 1960, the retirement age is 67. If you retire early, then you get a percentage of what full social security would be.

Oh, one more thing. If you were born on the first day of a given month, they calculate your social security based on the previous month. I guess it is better to be born on the 2nd rather than the 1st.

It’s Never Too Late To Start

Saving Retirement

Saving Retirement

So, where are you now with your savings for retirement?

Several years ago, I spoke with a high school friend of mine who is a certified financial planner. He told me that on average, people who are 50 have retirement savings of about $10,000.00.

What?!?

When you think about supplying money for your personal lifestyle, $10,000.00 doesn’t go very far.

What can you buy with $10,000.00?

  • A decent used car
  • 10 months of rent on an apartment for $1000 per month but that does not include utilities
  • A few gaming computers
  • 2-3 years of food for two? Not really sure there

Certainly, you cannot afford to maintain anything close to the standard of living you might be accustomed to living.

No matter what your age is, it is important to start saving right now for retirement. I have a saying.

 

“Retirement is a financial state.” ~Patrick O’Connor

 

You cannot retire and expect to live in your current standard of living until you have enough money put back so that you can live off the interest. At least that would be the ideal.

If your savings does not allow you to live for decades, you don’t have enough saved.

$10,000.00 is better than nothing. $1M is better.

Break it down

The average person can expect to take about 4% of their IRA per year and not affect the principle in the IRA. In other words, if you take out more than 4%, you will slowly deplete what you have in your IRA and each year you will ultimately have to live on less or you could run out of money before you expire from the planet.

Here’s what it looks like.

If you have $1M in an IRA and you remove 4% – that gives you $40,000.00 that you can add to your income in retirement. If you add social security at a pretty high rate, say $22,000.00, you would have $62,000.00. You would have to pay taxes out of that as well but it still gives you a decent amount of money to live on. Hopefully, you won’t have a mortgage or credit card debt to worry about in retirement so that should be pretty good.

What happens if you only have $500,000.00 in your IRA?

Well, 4% of $500k is $20,000.00. Add in that large social security again and your total is $42,000.00 before taxes. Now it’s getting pretty tight.

But what happens if you insist on having the $62,000.00 each year?

That would be taking 8% of the $500,000.00 the first year. That’s fine but you are eating into your principle that way.

Retirement Withdrawal

Retirement Withdrawal

The first year you would be fine but then the balance in your IRA would no longer be $500,000.00. Instead, your balance would be $480,000.00.

Doing the math, another 8% would not be $40,000.00. Instead it would be $38,400.00.

Still doing ok but now your IRA balance is $441,600.00.

As you can see, you will be pretty good for a while but as you remove the principle from your account, you will see the balance decrease at a more rapid rate each year.

Here is what it looks like each year starting at $500,000.00

Year 1 – $500,000.00 – 8% = $460,000.00

Year 2 – $460,000.00 – 8.7% ($40,200) = $419,800

Year 3 – $419,800.00 – 9.6% ($40,300.80)  = $379,499.20

Year 4 – $379,499.20 – 10.6% ($40,226.92) = $339,272.28

Year 5 – $339,272.28 – 11.8% ($40,034.13) = $299,238.15

Year 6 – $299,238.15 – 13.5% ($40,397.15) = $258841.00

Year 7 – $258,841.00 – 15.5% ($40,120.36) = $218,720.64

Year 8 – $218,720.64 – 18.5% ($40,463.32) = $178,257.32

Year 9 – $178,257.32 – 22.5% ($40,107.90) = $138,149.42

Year 10 – $138,149.42 – 29% ($40,063.33) = $98,086.09

Year 11 – $98,086.09 – 41% ($40,215.30) = $57,870.79

Year 12 – $57,870.79 – 69.5% ($40,220.20) = $17,650.59

Year 13 – $17,650.59 – 100% ($17,650.59) = $0.00

As you can see, by the middle of the 13th year, you will be broke and relying on social security for your entire income. Talk about a limited lifestyle.

Having more money in a retirement account means that you can set your standard of living, live worry free about running out of money, and leave something for your children and your grandchildren.

You can review a ton of other sites that talk about how much money you need to retire. I don’t claim to have all the answers and maybe the numbers I am using are way off. I hope that the numbers I am using are extreme and that a more conservative decay in your savings is more the reality.

My wife and I would rather have plenty of savings so that we don’t have to worry about it.

What about you?

The Budget

This is the third post in the series 5 Ways We Work Together. The five major areas my wife and I work together on our finances.

The Little Debt Free Book

The Little Debt Free Book

Way Back When

A long time ago – well – at least a dozen years ago, I needed to recover from financial disaster. At that time, I set out on a journey to rid myself of debt and get a firm foundation for the future. As a result, I ended up writing a book about my experiences.

Today I am fortunate to be able to teach a class based on what I figured out along the way. Wednesday was the last day of the class this time around. One of the ladies attending asked me why I was teaching the class? She said there were other classes offered by churches.

My response was that the classes being offered by the churches has a cost of about $100 attached to it. I make my book available for about $9. Right now, the organization that I teach for – Agape Resource & Assistance Center, Inc. – purchases the books from me at a discount and gives them to the women. I include a free workbook for them so they can keep all their finance stuff together in one place.

I told the woman that the reason I offer the classes is because it’s hard. It’s hard to figure out how to get out from under and maintain your sanity. I said it didn’t make any sense to me that someone should have to spend $100 to figure out how to pay things off. If you are in debt enough, where would the money come from to pay for a $100 course anyway? Would you skip paying a bill to attend a class?

Why The Budget?

Budget

Budget

I was in such dire straits that it was really hard making ends meet for a long time. I needed a tool to help me find the hidden nickels and dimes in my spending so that I could get out from under.

I still live on a budget that includes using cash where possible, designating a certain amount of money for eating out and entertainment, shopping, groceries, and an allowance.

My wife and I use the old style envelope system that your parents and grandparents used years ago. It’s no secret. People used it for years and years – especially before credit became so widely available.

Most of the time we do pretty good with our budget. There is usually a little something left over from each pay period and when there is not, we have a little setback for those occasions and for emergencies.

I remember going years without ever having more than $5 in my pocket or more than about $100 in savings.

If you want to add heaps of stress to your life, live paycheck to paycheck and use your credit cards to supplement your lifestyle. It’s an easy way to an early death and to stay worried 24/7.

What are you doing with your budget?

It’s easy to find ways to cut back a little each week. You just need to focus on finding those hidden wasteful spending traits.

Do you shop at a convenience store? Pretty expensive right?

Do you buy your coffee each day? What about buying your lunch each day at work?

There are so many ways that we waste money. Is it all your fault? No, not really.

You have control over what you spend but every day we get bombarded with advertisements telling us that if we only had this or that, our life would be better. Or we hear ads that say “go ahead – you deserve it.”

I invite you to check out the book I wrote and see if the ideas in there can help you at all. If it doesn’t, then at least you didn’t spend $100 on it. You can always give it to someone else who might get some use out of it.

Have a great day.

 

Purchases

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Smart TV

Purchasing a Smart TV

This is the second in a series of blog posts called 5 Ways We Work Together. A short discussion on how my wife and I work on financial things to keep our relationship healthy.

Purchasing Major Items

Whether it is purchasing a house, a car, a TV or something of major cost, we need to work together by talking over major purchases.

A funny story.

My wife and I decided last Christmas to limit the presents we purchased for each other and instead wanted to buy a new TV for our living area. The funny thing is that in mid-March, we have still not purchased the TV.

We began looking at various TV’s in early December with the expectation of buying it for Christmas. The longer we looked, it seemed there were more questions.

Would it be a 55” or a 50”?

I already knew it would be an LED TV since the cost of running an LED TV is like $14 per year.  So much better than the old Cathode Ray Tube televisions from my youth.

Should it be a Smart TV? After talking about it, and since we don’t have cable but we do have NetFlix, we thought that it would be a good idea to get the smart tv so that we don’t have to hook the computer up to the TV to watch the shows on Netflix.

Should it be standard HD 1080p or should we go for the new UltraHD 2160p 4K television? We weighed the pros of getting the 4K since it would be compatible with the latest and greatest things coming out now.  Then again, there are so few things out right now that are in 4K that we wondered if it would really make any difference for us.

Then we talked about the cost difference between the TV’s. There is still a pretty good difference in price between the two depending on the size of the TV.

Finally, since it was December, we knew that the prices were probably being jacked up for the holidays.

So we made the decision to wait until after New Year’s and see what would happen to the prices.

What Are We Waiting For?

SaleTag

SaleTag

We don’t really have a good answer for waiting this long to get our Christmas present for each other. After all the advertisements that the best prices were in December, we noticed that the prices are starting to drop even more now.

We can now purchase a 55” smart TV 4K for about the price of the 1080p HD 50” TV that was available in December.

I’ve noticed something over the years when it comes to electronics. The first is that a lot of electronic things are about the same quality. For instance, when you buy a phone, you can buy an iPhone, Samsung, LG or any other brand and they pretty much work like they are supposed to. It really comes down to your preference.

Computers are almost throw away unless you are a gamer or need major horsepower for some applications you are running. I remember a friend of mine buying a computer with the very latest video card in it several years ago. He went to the store the same week and bought a game that had just come out. He was shocked that when he installed the game, it told him that his video card was not current enough.

Bottom line. Whatever you buy today, is probably already obsolete with the newest things coming out.

So, what do you do?

Do some research, find something you like, and get it because it isn’t going to matter in a month or so – especially when it comes to electronics.

What Now?

Well, now we need to make a new decision. Do we buy the 1080p HD smart TV and a stand to go with it or a bracket to mount it on the wall or do we buy the 2160p Ultra HD smart TV and save for a few more weeks so that we can buy a new stand or bracket to hold it?

We aren’t really in a huge hurry so I guess we will talk about it a little more and I will let you know what we decided.

Of course, if you have a suggestion for me, I’m all ears.

Together

We make a lot of money major decisions together. By talking about big decisions, we both feel empowered to speak our mind on the issues and we make better decisions. No one gets tunnel vision about things about a specific aspect of something and we both walk away from the decision feeling better about it.

We talk about how things affect the budget, our savings, or what we want to do six months from now that using the money could affect. For instance, if we spend a certain amount of money right now, will we be able to take a vacation this summer?

It makes for a healthy, happy relationship.

Talk to each other. Reason things out. It makes for a happy, healthy marriage.