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November Money Wrap-up

December 3, 2017

Net Worth / Money:  Our net worth ticked up over 2% this month, with gains in retirement and a small gain in home equity due to our regular payment and a small prepayment. The stock markets continue to be nuts, and we continue to buy into them.

Student Loan: This quietly finished paying itself off with the last payment.  This feels like a non-event since I had been intentionally keeping it since the interest is lower than our mortgage. Still, one less bill to pay and this will produce a reduction in our yearly spending next year.  I’m very grateful for college-me for working so hard to pursue a degree and a career, and I’m happy to pay her back.

Spending:  We continued to purchase things for the bathroom remodel (see below).  I started holiday shopping, and am done with most of it.  We spent a lot on food, mostly because we hosted a person dinner party for some of T’s colleagues.  I do like entertaining, although this crowd was a bit younger and did not get sufficiently excited about the really excellent cheese T picked out.  We were hosted for Thanksgiving and brought a vegetable dish – highly recommend!  The dog had his cheapest month ever (which was still $72) – what a good boy!

I got a few home decor things – 3 new bar stools for our counter, and supplies to make an IKEA hack entry table, similar to this but with 4 legs.  It is already working out well – the entry way still needs some TLC but this is better than the old end table we had plunked in the corner when we moved in.  I am really glad I didn’t try to decorate every room and every space as soon as we moved in.  It takes time to figure out what we want.

For charity, we donated to Brennan Center for Justice.  I also donated to the Doug Jones campaign.

2018 Taxes:  The latest bill looks less bad for us, although the individual tax cuts are temporary.  We’ll wait and see what becomes law. While not-so-terrible for me personally, I’m really appalled by this bill – both the contents and the way it was passed. Income/wealth inequality and privilege has been on my mind lately, and this tax bill exasperates the problem. I was relieved to see the estate tax seems to be back in the mix, and am not sure where the AMT will land, but really really appalled that the individual mandate was repealed. This is such corruption. Between this and net neutrality, I feel like our democracy has been stolen from us.

I’m struggling with how to take meaningful action to push for my views. I started a draft post I may finish one of these days, but if you know how to translate the Occupy movement into meaningful policy change, let us all know.

Based on the passed senate bill, I have a tentative financial plan 2018 plan sketched out, but it depends how much (more) they change between now and a unified house/senate bill becoming law.  Anyway, it seems likely a donor advised fund won’t be necessary, but we’ll see.

House:  (Speaking of inequality and privilege…)   The bathroom remodel plumbing is done and the tiling has started –  very exciting! We’ve moved into “Phase 2” purchases that weren’t really necessary (new toilet, sink, and medicine cabinet).  The disadvantage of (very) slowly remodeling a home instead of all-at-once is that it is easy to justify splurges on finishes, fixtures, and details.  Then again, the vast majority of the cost will remain in labor services (tiling followed by plumbing), which were needed to repair the water damage.

We made more progress on fixing the patio, with ~90% of the flagstone now returned to a horizontal position (instead of leaning against a retaining wall).  This is the longest project ever. Once complete, it will look no better than when we started… except it won’t flood in the rainy season. We’ve already achieved the no-flooding goal, so the rest is just clean up and finishing.

T did a bit of drywall repair and repainting on the ceiling.  The previous owners executed a pretty good kitchen remodel, but they were DIYers and not great with drywall/mudding/taping. We did some deck maintenance, and T went on the roof and added roof caulk at seams that needed it.

I got a quote back for the landscaping I want done  – well over $5k.  I sadly went back to trying to thin out and prune the overgrown hedges myself. I’m probably wasting my time because we’ll likely cut them all out and replace next summer.  They have a program where you can remove unlimited yard waste for a few months for “free” (part of taxes), so we’re waiting for that. We’ll do most of it ourselves, perhaps enlisting a local gardener’s help instead of a professional company.

Work:  We had another review very early in the month, and everything I was responsible for went really well.  I got agreement for me to not travel again until late-January, which has been a really nice break from the once-a-month rhythm I’ve been on.  It’s not SO much travel, but enough to be regularly disruptive to our family routines.  So, that was all good.

Some mostly-good but kind of major changes are happening at the macro level at my workplace. We’re forming a team to help with management/staffing instead of the somewhat wild-west approach that we’ve had forever. Aside from this being a good thing overall, I know and have good relationships with the majority of people who are slated to be on the new team.  It is also something I’d be good at, and would be interested in helping with in the future (the team is meant to be rotating over time).

I’m still unhappy with several things, but this waxes and wanes depending on the week.  I still think this is the best thing to be doing right now, so I’m working to do what I can now to position myself better later.   

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2017 1:12 pm

    https://www.benefitnews.com/news/senate-bill-may-make-retirement-plans-less-attractive-for-some-employers

    Looks like backdoor rolling over trad iras to Roth may stop. I’m still not clear what is happening to 457 plans.

    • December 3, 2017 1:35 pm

      I’ve looked into this. The passed Senate version does not change 457s. That could of course be revived during reconciliation. I think only re-characterization of IRAs is changed. Conversions are left alone which is what allows back door.

      i do not think the Senate Finance Committee even has the bill that passed on their website at the moment (!!) but Bloomberg published it Friday.

      • December 3, 2017 2:05 pm

        Apparently the bloomberg one is not quite the most recent version, according to the whitecoatinvestor forums…

        https://www.whitecoatinvestor.com/forums/topic/senate-tax-bill-version-summary/page/5/

        cnceagles seems to have figured out when the 457 thing got taken out (SA 1855) and has a link to the confirming voice vote

        Thank God the tuition waiver didn’t make it.

        Indivisible is fairly confident that the House will pass the Senate version (because logically, given that they don’t care about Americans but do care about political points and the oligarchs bankrolling them, that’s what they should do), but I think Indivisible is discounting how crazy some of those House Republicans are.

      • December 4, 2017 8:10 am

        I think I may have replied to this but with too many links so it got sent to spam. :/

        Basically I said that it seems like the Bloomberg one might not even be the one they voted on.

  2. December 3, 2017 1:26 pm

    What was the cheese? WHAT WAS THE CHEESE *drool* 🙂

    • December 4, 2017 10:04 am

      Oh, gosh, I can’t tell you off the top of my head but I’ll ask if he remembers and report back! We have a fantastic local cheese store, but we rarely buy it for ourselves. They have sooo many, and let you have samples to help you make a cheese plate, and he picked 3. At least one was a really perfect blue cheese.

  3. December 3, 2017 5:31 pm

    I honestly don’t understand what’s going on with the stock market right now. It’s freaking me out.

    These tax bills have made me SO ANGRY. I swear to God if one more finance dudebro tries to mansplain to me trickle down economics to justify it…

    • December 3, 2017 6:10 pm

      Good thing we are going to pump up the economy with some corporate tax cuts! Just what is needed right now.

      And policy opinions (slash facts) aside, the public’s opinion and needs were totally ignored in the process. Sometimes I feel like the some of the more radical public-hurting ideas were “threats” showing what they could do if they wanted to (which is true – so many horrible ideas could have been pushed through), then we all feel relieved that “oh, this isn’t quite so catastrophic!”. But I think it is even worse than that – they really wanted to pass all the garbage.

      • December 4, 2017 9:09 am

        I can’t even keep up with what they’re proposing. All of them feel like they target our city or demographic. Whatever they end up doing with itemized deductions, we’ll live but I’m sure a lot of people around here rely on them to make their budget work. The biggest (I think still in the bill?) thing I’m worrying about is taxing grad school tuition waivers. A few of our friends are halfway through PhD programs and the universities are the lifeblood of our city.

        • December 4, 2017 9:16 am

          I think this is in the House bill? But I’m not sure at all.

          • December 4, 2017 11:43 am

            Yes, didn’t make it into the senate bill!

          • December 4, 2017 11:55 am

            I think this was Collins again. She specifically called out “catch-up” contributions for church, charity, school, & public employees, and also “protecting ability of employees, including firefighters & police officers, to save for retirement.”

            Seems to be some small chance it could make it back in during reconciliation, but if it was in neither bill and this was one of her conditions, that seem unlikely.

            (This is in the wrong place…. Still talking about 457s here.)

            I’m still concerned about the tuition thing if they don’t simply pass the senate bill.

          • December 4, 2017 12:18 pm

            I noticed both Collins and murkowsi had their names on a lot of the important “not taking us to 1932” amendments. I still think they should have put on the brakes instead of voting yes.

            Also concerned about the tuition and student loans things.

    • December 5, 2017 8:51 am

      I did… this means more voting in both the Senate and the House. Maybe there is still a chance for this whole thing to die, but I doubt it.

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