Monthly Archives: September 2008

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Yep… the water heater…Yep, I moved in on September 30, 2002.

I remember it being a crazy busy day at work — I actually didn’t even take a long lunch for the closing.

Drove to the lawyer’s office, signed my stuff, got the keys, did a drive-by of the house on the way back to work (the previous owners were still hauling stuff out to the curb), and then returned to work before my lunch hour was up…

If I were to do it all over again… I’d have taken that day off.

Actually, the entire week. I’m pretty certain that it was a Monday.

In these 6 years, I’ve sunk a lot of money into this house. A really rough estimate would be around $60k. The only thing I can think of that is attached to the house and that hasn’t failed me yet is the water heater…

Yeah, one of the least expensive pieces in a house…

But I wouldn’t classify it all as throwing good money in after bad. Okay, sometimes I think of it like that, but in reality, it’s not like that at all.

Dollar-wise, most of it has been in the past two years in the form of the new roof and siding — combined, their price tag topped $40k. Both have been documented here on PIAC.

Mortgage-wise, though, the movement of money has been like molasses in February…

I financed $131,000. My balance today is $109,089.

The difference is $21,911.

That’s like, well, that’s like a cheap 4-door sedan that’s taken me SIX YEARS TO PAY FOR!!!

When I look at it like that, aside from all of the PMI drama, it really makes me want to throw down and just pay the mortgage like it’s, well, like it’s NOT an auto loan.

I realize that at these early stages of a 30-year loan that there’s a lot of interest working against me. My total payments have probably already exceeded 6-figures…yeah, that’s A LOT of interest…

But even now, 72 months in, looking at it closer, for every $1200 payment, only $230 of it actually hits the principal while $600 goes towards interest. The remaining $370 goes into the escrow account and, well, let’s not get into that… Grumble, grumble…

I’m pretty proud of the fact that this year, 2008, I’m on pace to knock $11k off of the balance on my mortgage.

To think, at this time last year, I’d only knocked off maybe $9k total over 5 entire years…

That averages out to $150 per month.

You can’t even get a Kia Rio with that kind of payment?! What was I doing? (Rhetorical question… I know what I was doing — I was amassing a ton of credit card debt and then paying down that same ton of credit card debt.)

So now, I find myself accustomed to over-paying the mortgage.

That’s a good thing.

Right now, I’m knocking between five and six hundred dollars from the principle each month and it’s comfortable. Just my regular payment and a weekly $75 auto-payment.

For a few months there, I was out of control — knocking thousands off in less than a month. Over the top. I went so far as to use a credit card to finance an extra payment… How crazy is that?

I’m not going to go all out again anytime soon — I had a goal, I met it, but I didn’t get the results I was expecting. I’m over that.

But in doing that, I proved to myself that I am capable of sending that kind of money towards the mortgage.

I’m not saying that I’ll pay down $11k between now and September 30, 2009 but I might. I mean, as the interest drops as the loan matures, it will get easier and easier, right?

Yeah, it will. Add to the fact that I’m on the cusp of becoming truly debt free, well, my month to month budget is in for some changes.

Sure, I say I’ll boost my savings, and I’m sure I will, but I’m also pretty certain that I’ll increasingly overpay my one monthly debt payment in a quest to eliminate it too…

I just need to increase it slowly…

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Goofy Painted CoinMaybe I’m the only one who reads the fine print or listens to the hushed fast talking at the end of radio and television commercials, but I’m pretty certain that every single financial advertisement says something like, “Remember that investments are subject to risk, including possible loss of principal,” or “Before investing, consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses.

Even those goofy Franklin Mint commemorative coin commercials mention that the value of their “limited edition” painted coins is NOT guaranteed to increase.

Never any mention of something like, “Don’t worry, if you lose your shirt, the goverment will buy you a new one.”

A woman at work today mentioned that she was worried because of all of these people who do have savings lost them.

I did my best to explain to her that they didn’t lose their savings — they risked their savings — with the hopes that their savings would grow. It just didn’t work out this week — but in the long run, it probably will…

Now, sure, there are obviously some folks out there close to retirement that lost a ton of money. They were risky. As they neared retirement, they should have moved most of their savings towards lower risk investments. They lost their shirts, and honestly, they kinda sorta deserved it.

My own 401k investments shows me that my limited low risk investments haven’t been hammered over the past few months.

And, again, look at the markets today… There’s some value out there, and there is some money out there (though the news would have you think otherwise), and look what’s happening… Things are going up already.

The markets are working.

I’m hoping that everyone takes a chill pill and that Congress passes nothing.

But that’s just me…

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Rosh HashanahPerhaps this is insensitive of me, but regarding the apparent urgency of a bail-out plan (which I personally don’t support anyway), why again is Congress taking a few days off for some Jewish holidays?

This might not be a politically correct rant, but my trusty almanac tells me that Jews currently make up around 2.2 percent of the U.S. population. A quick “google” indicates that 37 members of Congress are Jewish. The math tells me that that’s just shy of 7 percent.

Either way you slice it, it’s a minority. (Yes, Barney Frank is in the minority. Imagine that?)

Now I don’t know about you, but I have to go to work during the two days of Rosh Hashanah.

I’ve always had to.

Until Israel takes control of North America, I’d assume that I’ll always have to work on the first and second day of the seventh month on the Jewish calender.

And I’d be willing to bet that 97.8% of the workers on “Main Street” and “Wall Street” will be going to work on Tuesday and Wednesday with me, so really, who are the members of Congress working for again?

Or is this just because they had to work a little overtime on Saturday and Sunday?

Seriously, talk about out of touch…

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NCAA Hockey in ConnecticutI’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned that my wife and I often go to professional sporting events.

It’s not that we’re the type that gets all dressed up and excited for our team. We hardly even follow sports.

We certainly don’t want sports on television much, if at all.

I mean, we’ll watch the Super Bowl in it’s entirety every year, but I’m not sure we’ve seen another complete game on tv, well, at least since we’ve been married.

We’re also not the type that have our bumpers littered with team logo stickers. In fact, if you looked at us (or our vehicles), you’d hardly guess that we’re the type to attend well over 50 events per year.

Now, why on earth would a non-sports fan attend so many events? Isn’t that an awfully expensive thing to do if you don’t really really enjoy it?

Well, it was part of a job. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it didn’t cost us a thing. In fact, we made a lot of money doing it!

That’s not really true — it was actually a bit of a perk, we made the money doing other things — but we still had to be there.

Yeah, that doesn’t make much sense, but that’s the way it was.

Anyway, with all of our professional sports projects in the past now, we found that our nights and weekends will be free all winter long.

Too free.

So late last week I ordered season tickets for a local university hockey team. Men’s and women’s.

Though it’s two teams instead of one, it’s not nearly as rigorous as the pro schedule we’re accustomed to (and tired of).

On the downside, though, we won’t be making money while we sit in the stands — a negative cash flow, all the way…

But it will give us something to do on weekly basis all the way through March 2009.

And that sure beats the, “Wanna do anything tonight?” routine we’ve found ourselves in all summer long…

Total cost was $527.

Now, that sounds like a lot, but it’s only a quarter of the cost that our usual comp’ed seats would run us. Not that we ever paid a dime for them…

This is a definite change for us.

Here’s to hoping it’s an enjoyable season… and a decent value…

First game is Friday night…

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    Wicked Huge Mushroom

    Well, it rained on my parade this weekend. Literally.

    I really had plans to be at an actual parade today.

    And yesterday, the plan was to hit my final agricultural fair of the season.

    But, as I said, it rained.

    But one neat thing comes from any heavy rain this time of year — wicked huge mushrooms.

    It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the nicest lawn on the block or the worst, this afternoon, you’re going to have a few mushrooms in the lawn.

    If you’re really lucky, you may even have a few pennies

    So, while my photo this week may not be as exciting as I’d originally hoped, I hope you appreciate this photo of the biggest mushroom in my backyard.

    It just felt like something I should share.

    And now, staring at it on my monitor, I’m really tempted to go back outside, take a running start, and kick it…

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    Scion xA Series 2.0I did it.

    I’d claimed that I was going to finish off the car loan on a slow and steady pace but, this morning, I fell back into my old ways: Red Zone Finances.

    It has been driving me crazy for a few weeks now seeing a $1k balance just sitting there waiting to be wiped out.

    As today was a pay day, and there are no remaining bills for the remainder of the month, I had the funds available to take action.

    This was the first car I purchased where I’d actually made a sizeable down payment. It was also the first car purchase that I had a car to trade-in too.

    Even still, back in July of 2005, I financed $15210.32.

    Wow — thinking about that now — Scion xA’s were/are really expensive…

    But it feels good, you know, now that it’s paid for.

    But it’s not just the auto loan that I can put in my rear view mirror…

    The original snowball plan that I started back in November 2007, which had a total balance of $23085, and included the auto loan, can now be put to rest. All of it. Done.

    I’ve had the “schedule” taped to my desk under my keyboard at work so as to keep it fresh in my mind five days a week.

    This morning, I peeled it off and replaced it with a picture of my wife. She costs me *way* less money… And less worry too.

    The original end date on my debt plan was set for October 2008. Two thousand dollars per month was going to go towards debt. I thought that was being a little too optimistic when I started, but I stuck to it.

    Then, after a few months, I didn’t exactly stick to the plan…

    I paid a few of the credit cards out of order…

    I “broke up with” my highest paying client that was essentially funding the whole debt payment plan in the first place.

    I started putting money into savings instead of towards debt…

    I increased my 401k contributions when I couldn’t really afford to…

    I even blew through tons of cash on vacation — and that was just a couple of months ago…

    And who could forget all of the money that I foolishly threw at the mortgage (which was never even part of the snowball plan)? Yeah — that worked out well… Not.

    But even though I strayed way off course, the concept of a year long debt plan got me pointed in the right direction, and look, here we are in September 2008 and I’ve already hit the target. A whole month early.

    Okay, fine. A whole week early if you want to be technical about it… Sheesh…

    Right now, Thursday evening, the only non-mortgage debt I’m carrying is an $824 balance at 0% on a Chase credit card. Yeah, the remaining balance from that ill advised birthday check I wrote to myself to further initiate the elimination of PMI from my mortgage. (more on that here)

    But still… It feels good.

    It’s like I’m coming out of the water or something. My top half is dry and warming up in the sun. That pig up in the top left hand corner of the screen, yeah, his snout is dry. Oink!

    It blows my mind that, on short notice, I can get my grubby hands on over $5000 (checking, savings, and i-bonds) and the only money I owe is $824 total to a credit card company.

    I’m not sure I’ve been on this side of the zero line before. Definitely not in the past 11 years.

    I mean, I’m in the black, not just on paper, but for real.

    That feels awesome.

    I’m not sure I thought this day was even possible when I was carrying $32k in high interest debt on January 1, 2007…

    Looking forward to when that $824 balance is gone too…

    (Declining markets and home values of late aren’t bothering me in the slightest — neither affect my day-to-day, month-to-month, or even year-to-year finances… Sure, my net worth might be dropping like a brick, but my finances are in better shape than they’ve ever been!)

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    United States House of RepresentativesSo I was looking at my Google Analytics reports early this morning and noticed a new network location listed under the “Visitors” tab.

    It’s labeled “Information Systems – U.S. House of Representatives”.

    Interesting.

    Now I’m sure some out there think I’m going to say something about how I’m horrified that some government employee is wasting our tax dollars surfing websites like Pants in a Can on the clock, you know, using government time and equipment for, well, less than official things but I’m not going there…

    Government waste, oddly enough, doesn’t bother me too much.

    Looking into it further, their landing page on the site was my post from July 15 titled, “FTC Bait? My Own Mortgage Crisis…

    That had me thinking, hey, cool, maybe the whole PMI/Countrywide dilemma I find myself in is getting a little attention in Washington! Sweet! This could be a good thing…

    But then I went another step further and looked up the search terms they used to stumble across my site…

    definition of mortgage insurance, ftc

    Ouch.

    I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but you think they’d have access internally to, um, more official sources of reference…

    But I can’t say that I’m not flattered that they clicked through to my site.

    And I also feel the need to say that I’m thrilled that someone in Washington DC is looking this type of thing up.

    Though the media would have you think otherwise of late, mortgage company disputes don’t begin and end with foreclosures…

    I’m not looking for a bailout; I just don’t want to be ripped off (any more)…

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    Kids in the CarJust read this in the paper this morning — front page news, actually, in the local daily.

    I hate stories like this. Sometimes, it makes me wonder how long my own personal rap sheet will be when I have kids.

    Now, because I don’t want to draw any more attention to this poor man, I’ve blanked out most of his name. I don’t know, to protect, well, the innocent, in my opinion…

    Father Charged with Leaving Kids in Car Playing Game Under Blanket

    A Milwaukee man turned himself into police last week after he allegedly left his two young children under a blanket unattended playing a video game in a rental car outside a supermarket last month.

    Scott K—–e, 41, was charged with risk of injury and leaving a child unsupervised in public. He made his initial court appearance Friday.

    A police spokesman said the boys, aged 7 and 5, were unharmed and their father meant no harm when he tossed a blanket over them so they could play a video game while he went inside a grocery store to buy them drinks.

    “He certainly wasn’t trying to smother his kids,” the officer said.

    “It was irresponsible on his part, because the children could have been abducted or have had some kind of medical emergency.” .

    The man was in town visiting when he took the boys with him to the store. They were playing a video game in the back of the man’s rental car and complained of the sun’s glare on the screen.

    K—–e covered them in a blanket so they could play, but while he was in the store, a passer-by saw the children and called police.

    When police arrived, K—–e and his children were gone, though police found him through his license plate.

    A warrant was issued for his arrest but didn’t allow for extradition. Police said K—–e turned himself in at police headquarters last Thursday. He was released on a $2,500 non-surety bond.

    A police spokesman said while K—–e’s actions were unintentional, the charges against him were deserved.

    “You can’t leave your kids alone in a parking lot for a period of time,” according to police.

    He also credited the witness for calling police after noticing the children in the back of the car.

    “Without a doubt they were right to do that. They recognized a serious situation. The kids were being placed in some danger being left alone.”

    Certainly not worthy of having your name splashed across the front of a newspaper.

    Worst. Father. Ever.

    That wasn’t the headline, but it may as well have been…

    Sometimes I wish people would mind their own business.

    I’ve seen first hand old ladies call police in parking lots when they see someone disciplining their child. Taking down plate numbers and things.

    Drives me crazy — especially when you *know* that their childhood was identical to what they’re seeing in the parking lot. Actually, it was probably worse.

    Now I’m not saying parents should beat the crap out of their kids or leave newborns (or pets) in the car for long periods of time, but kids ages 5 and 7? C’mon…

    I walked to school when I was 5. Should my parents have been arrested?

    The police can say whatever they like, but I really hate when they make it out like there are potential kidnappers, crack heads, Muslim extremists, and pedophiles lurking on every corner.

    It’s just not true.

    It’s a gross exaggeration.

    Reading and hearing stuff like that makes me sometimes wonder if I should call the police every time I see a kid ride his or her bike past my house. Sometimes, gasp, they’re not even wearing helmets!!!! OMG!

    And I should probably whip out my cell phone and call 911 each time I see children running through a sprinkler unattended. They could drown.

    Really, it could happen.

    But you know what? I’d never do that. Unless there is a real eminent threat, it’s none of my business.

    I’ll keep an eye on it myself, like when you see a toddler wander off in the shoe department of Target or something, maybe try to steer them back to their parents, but to call the police? Please… that’s over-reacting.

    I can’t tell you how many times my parents left me in the car when they’d run in to the grocery store to pick up a few things.

    It was a win/win situation.

    They could move faster in there without me and I really had no interest in going in either.

    And back then, we didn’t even have video games or DVD players to occupy our time — I locked the doors and looked out the window. Sometimes I surfed on the hump on the floor between the two back seats.

    Remember doing that? I’m sure you do — everyone did it. Even when the car was moving! Wheeee!

    I was a world class car hump surfer by age 4. Hump of choice — a 1978 Chevy Malibu. Maybe it was a ’79? We could be on an unpaved road and, still, I could easily hang ten… It was awesome.

    Nowadays, kids have to be strapped to a car seat until they’re over 55 inches tall. I’m not sure I was even that tall when I went into Junior High…

    Now, besides locking the door and staying put, there was just one other rule for waiting in the car: Don’t touch the emergency brake.

    Now, at the time, I didn’t know it was called the emergency break, but I did know that I wasn’t to touch that thing between the two front seats. I remember my dad telling me that it would cause the car to flip over — I believed him.

    One time, stupidly, while my dad was in a long gone grocery store named Fitzgerald’s buying raspberry ginger ale or something, I pressed the button, and released the break.

    The car did NOT flip over.

    It didn’t. I can attest to that.

    Emergency breaks do not make cars flip over.

    But it did move. In a panic, I pulled it back up and the car stopped.

    Thankfully, the car didn’t roll far enough to hit another car. It just rolled far enough to make it look like my dad had purposefully parked across multiple spots, like you often see, oddly enough, in parking lots these days.

    Ever wonder why it always seems to be a pimped out Mitsubishi parked like that? Like they’re somehow worthy of taking up 4 parking spots? For heaven’s sake, it’s a Mitsubishi…

    Sometimes I get the urge to park really close right next to them.

    Anyway, yeah, sure, that could have been a dangerous situation. I learned from it.

    So when I have kids, I probably won’t tell them that touching the emergency break will cause the car to flip over.

    I’ll still tell them to never touch it — after I first let them release it in the driveway or something to scare the crap out of them.

    Of course, the neighbors across the street will likely witness this and moments later I’ll be hauled off in handcuffs…

    Mind your own business…

    (and it’s odd to me that they can issue a warrant for something like this based on third party information, but they’ll do nothing when you call to report reckless driving that you see from the same car every single morning on your way to work… you know, something that actually is a threat to public safety…)

    Can You Dig It?

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