Authors Posts by Brainy Smurf

Brainy Smurf

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I'm three apples high and nearsighted. I like yellow-haired smurfs, robot invasions, sarcasm, and anything where the secret ingredient is love.

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networth201509Yeah, so last month I was pretty confident that I’d turned a corner and was well on my way to building wealth again…and then I ended up down another 8 grand…

Granted, the markets continued to tank so my 401k kind of acted as an anchor of sorts but I also spent a TON this month.

Back in August, I mentioned that my oldest son would be trying out for a travel hockey team. Well… he made the team which is so awesome as he’s “playing up” (basically playing at a level above his age group) but with that come some pretty hefty expenses…you know, to the tune of $3000.

On top of that, my middle son’s hockey season is another $500. Yeah, this isn’t like the $60 town league soccer program…

So that was the main budget buster, though much of it is hidden in this update as I paid down the balances prior to the end of the month — as much as I could, anyway.

We also purchased a new mattress from Casper.com. I’d heard enough good things about them and knew that, since our staircase is so narrow, we needed something that we could get up into the room without causing all kinds of damage to the walls and ceiling.

It came in a box that was manageable in size and enlarged once we cut it open. Pretty cool. Pretty comfy. And, thankfully, a purchase what we’ll make maybe once per decade.

Outside of that, it’s business as usual around here…

Oh, have I mentioned how nice it is not having a car payment again?

Yeah, that’s pretty sweet.

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September 2015 Net WorthWhat a month!

Now, usually, I’d be pretty upset about falling nearly $10k in the span of 31 days but not today.

I haven’t really set financial goals since, hmmmmm, probably 2008 (which has probably been a HUGE mistake) but back in April of this year, I set a goal of paying off my remaining $11k balance on an auto loan by summer’s end.

On August 7th, I did just that.

So, while my credit card balances are a little out of control and the savings balance is below the $150k I think I’ll need to fully finance the garage project, my auto loan is gone.

That opens up a lot of cash to pay down the loans and bloat the savings in a hurry.

And, on the bright side, had it not been for the market woes at the tail end of the month, I’d have actually had an increase this month.

Pretty good feeling considering that I kinda felt I’d stretched myself a little thin…

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Clover LawnOver the years, I’ve probably spent well over $1000 on various types of grass seed, fertilizer, and new sprinklers in a feeble attempt to make my lawn look amazing.

Success has been, well, minimal.

My lawn looks pretty much like it did when I bought the place 14 years ago — some nice grass, lots of brown stuff, the occasional dandelion, that really tall mossy stuff, and bright green crab grass.

A mosaic, really. Nothing ever dies (even when I poison the crap out of it) and nothing ever spreads either. (The picture of my son practicing his shot is an accurate representation of my entire lawn.)

Not suprisingly, the lawn looks a lot like the lawn I had growing up, the one I was paid $5 each week to mow.

No green thumbs in this family, apparently.

At least we’re consistent.

Anyway, while doling out professional advice to a client, who Facebook friended me out of the blue and I then cyber-stalked online, I couldn’t help myself but to ask how she kept her lawn (that I’d seen in the background of nearly all of her Facebook photos) so green all the time.

Flattered and embarrassed, her one word response was…clover.

And that got me thinking…

The few really nice green patches on my lawn that always have the fat furry bumble bees hovering above are clover.

The stuff never turns brown and looks amazing just after I mow the little white flowers off…

Hmmmmm…a lawn full of clover…

Growing up in the land of cul-de-sacs, which doubled as hockey arenas and baseball stadiums, there was this one house just beyond the “outfield” wall, err, curb where we’d get hollered at anytime a home run sailed into their, ahem, grass.

For real, the guy that lived there was tending his lawn daily and, frankly, you could tell.

Perfectly straight mower lines in a criss-cross pattern and bright green all of the time…right up to the first snowfall.

But I also remember sitting on that curb with our hands in the grass searching for four leaf clovers with pretty decent success.

And we used to “catch” those furry bumble bees in our hands there too.

(One time we made the mistake of trying to catch yellow jackets in the same manner behind home plate. BIG mistake.)

Thirty years later, I know know that guy was a total fraud.

He was mowing his lawn every single day so as to not EVER let one of those little white flowers pop out.

His ENTIRE lawn was clover.

So I ordered sixty-something pounds of clover seed and it should arrive sometime this week.

Actually, I just checked the Fedex tracking and it’s apparently hanging out in Augusta, Montana right now…

So, being that I google almost everything, I decided to look Augusta, Montana up.

Population…284.

Um… how is it that a place with just 284 people has a FedEx ground “warehouse” or whatever they call the places where they scan all of their packages…

I mean, this is really the middle of nowhere.

For real, I Google earth’d it. Three bars, a diner, and some place called the “Bunk House”.

Their high school graduated nine last year.

NINE!?

Augusta Class of 2015

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Financing the Mortgage the Old Fashioned WaySo I convinced myself earlier last week that we could totally afford a 5000+ square foot palace with twice as many bathrooms as it does bedrooms.

And, as factual as it is that I can afford such a place, it’ll never happen.

Over the weekend, I came across a real life reinforcement as to why I’d never do such a thing.

A parent of one of my son’s former classmates (in daycare) was told this week that her position would be “eliminated” next month. Sort of a reverse two week notice, of sorts.

We’re not “tight” enough for me to know if she’s the main bread winner in their household but based on the fact that they’re had a tag sale, like, right now *and* put their house on the market already kinda of tells the story on it’s own.

In some ways, I’m envious of the reality that she’s been applying for jobs (yes, already — clearly they move quickly on things) all over the country, totally committed and prepared to leave this area entirely.

I mean, I’m not entirely sure how or why I ended up where I did, geographically, and though it’s certainly near the the top of my list for places I’d like to live, well, it’s not the top spot.

Either way, I’d never want to put my whole family in a situation where we’d have to pick up and turn our lives upside down on essentially zero notice.

So, while I feel like we’re living paycheck-to-paycheck as it is now, should me or my wife suddenly find ourselves without income, you know what?

We’d be okay thanks to our sub $500 monthly mortgage bill.

Guess we won’t be moving to Southern Ontario, Wisconsin, or Ohio anytime soon…

Drat.

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Family RocksSo, while my kids drive me absolutely crazy more frequently than not — and one is still “new” as he’s less than a year old — I really enjoy having kids.

Not really being a sociable person — in a seemingly “forced” social scene sense, anyway — for most of my 20’s, I couldn’t wait until I was in my 30’s and the mere thought of “going out” on a Friday night would be, well, unusual.

I never really did go “out”. And, by my 30’s, it was totally acceptable socially.

Thankfully, I also got married when I was 30 making that whole transition into being a “responsible adult” that much more real.

Took seemingly forever to have kids thanks to that taboo M-word (miscarriage) but eventually we ended up with two healthy kids and one more that’s still a work in progress.

I kid — The deformed third one will be fine.

But now as I approach my 40’s, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to my 30’s.

I want another kid.

Perhaps it’s the validation I feel as a parent, regarding my oldest, but even without that whole thing, I’m pretty confident that my wife and I make pretty good parents.

I know, I know, all parents think that…

But they’re mostly wrong. ;0)

Anyway, I’m 39 and my wife is 42 and we’re, well, we’re done with making our own kids but I certainly don’t feel DONE done, you know?.

Sure, I could trade my wife in for a younger model and start over but that would undoubtedly just mess up the great start I have with the three kids that I already have.

Besides, my wife is a pretty good teammate in all of this parenting stuff (she’s the boss, actually) so that leaves us, really, with only a single option…adoption.

My wife, originally, wasn’t really on board with the thought, you know, with it not really being “hers”.

Makes sense, I totally get it, and probably a more common reaction for women that have already had children of their own.

That never really mattered to me — at least I don’t think it does. I mean, physically, I don’t see very much of myself in my kids but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

Not the Father

Just last night I joked with my wife that we should see if we can get on a Maury Povich episode to, you know, see if I *am* the father.

It’s probably a guy thing where we just don’t have that “magic” connection or something. Who knows…

So, even before we had our third (but after a few more of those demoralizing m-words), I’d already starting poking into the realm of adoption and, while kind of turned off by how difficult it can be, I never really abandoned the idea either.

In my head, where I’m already living in that $750k home, I’d like to adopt a healthy male toddler from Haiti or Jamaica and make them my fourth son.

My reasoning?

Well, most adoptive parents much prefer newborns and infants so that they can, you know, bond from as close to day 1 as possible. I’ve done that already and wouldn’t want to rob a couple unable to have children of their own of that opportunity.

Older children are, technically, easier to adopt for the same reason — people like new things.

I have no issue with a 2 to 4 year old. Possibly old enough to remember some of their origins (which I do think is important) but young enough for our parenting style to take effect and really make them feel like they’ve always been part of our family.

I’m leaning towards a little boy simply because it’s what we know. We’ve got three boys and really good grasp on how to raise a boy. Why rock the boat?

As for the international aspect, well, I’ll confess… it’s just my preference.

Ideally, I’d love to adopt someone from the other side of the planet but the process is really, really, really difficult in so many ways.

Sorry, while adopting a child from Zimbabwe would be so awesome, I can’t imagine having to reside there for months prior to an adoption taking place (which is often a requirement).

It’s too far away, too different of a culture, too different of, well, everything. I have a hard time getting around in Quebec City and, if backed against a wall, I speak enough French to get by and understand nearly all of it…but I’m still totally out of my element.

Going to the other side of the planet where I don’t know a word, well, I guess, I’d just never really be sure if what I was agreeing to do was actually what I was agreeing to do, you know, lost in translation?

Haiti and Jamaica aren’t that far away — though inconvenient, yes, neither is further than a couple of plane flights away and English is abundant.

Further, originally being from Canada, I’ve met a number of both Haitians and Jamaicans up North and they’re all pretty awesome.

I’d assume the Haiti/Canada connection has something to do with the French language and the Jamaica/Canada connection is just because both countries are awesome.

Either way, it’s something that our now “American” family would share in common even if we all look different…or mostly look like Mom.

And, lastly, I’d like them to be healthy.

Kids are a lot of work all on their own. Having four of them is four times the work. Selfishly, a special needs addition would be too much for our family to bear.

All of this said, while we’ve talked about it, we haven’t really pursued anything…and unless we really get on board and actually start pushing the process along, it’s likely to remain as just a thought in my head…

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Lawn ChairYouth sports are funny. On the sidelines, as parents, in our cheap folding chairs, we’re all pretty much equal.

Sure, there’s some judging going on based on the vehicles we drive up in but, for the most part, even a relatively new Nissan runs around $40k.

A hefty price tag for, well, a less than luxurious ride.

It’s once the Facebook connections start to take hold and the inconsequential birthday invitations start coming in that you get a glimpse that some of these folks are, well, “living the life”.

You know, tennis court in the back yard, kitchen that could easily seat 30 people, and multiple staircases…to their 3rd floor library.

In fact, lately, while it’s hardly true, it still feels like we’re the only ones who lack these things…

A classic “not” keeping up with the Jones’ type of deal.

One kid, whose parents I went to high school with, lives in a $6 million dollar home. I can’t even imagine.

Anyway, while driving around aimlessly last week with the kids killing time until swimming lessons started, I stumbled into a neighborhood of homes that, when I’m not dreaming of living in a 5000 square foot Victorian home from the 1800’s full of secret passages, was full of McMansion style houses that I picture myself in when I’m in my 40’s and raising my kids.

Newsflash… that’s just a year away. Ack!

Yeah, I could live here.So I scoped out a couple of them on local real estate sites to get a glimpse of what the interiors look like and, yep, as expected, they’re all really nice. Duh.

Price tags hover around $650k.

No, not 6 million dollar homes but, really, who needs a full blown movie theatre or bowling lanes in their house? Not me.

Again, I can’t imagine.

A $650k mortagage, excluding taxes and insurance (like my current mortgage) would run around $3200 per month.

Yeah, I can’t swing that.

But… if I were to sell my current house for $200k (maybe a stretch, maybe not) and come out with $130k (subtracting out the outstanding mortgages) and apply that as a downpayment, well, the monthly mortgage payment would then drop to under $2500.

Considering I’ve been paying that amount on a CAR PAYMENT — alongside two mortgage payments — with relative ease, well, now things are becoming a little bit clearer…

Financially, we could totally afford to move to a new home that’s double (or even triple) the size of our current one.

In fact, once we’re done paying daycare bills, gasp, even a $3200 per month mortgage payment would be totally do-able.

Am I really convincing myself that I should/could trade up from my first home (that I paid $141k for) all the way up to a $750k+ home?

Yeah, kinda.

I mean, I wouldn’t need to build that 3-car garage anymore cause, well, the new house would already have a 4-car one.

And even though we already have enough room in our house for each kid to have their own room…if we moved, they could each have their own bathroom (and staircase too)!

All kidding aside, though…

It’s the brief moments of weakness like this that I feel I do need to “keep up”.

Thankfully, reality always sets in (along with my own incredibly high-end personal “vision” of myself) pretty quickly, and I’m happy with where I am.

I know I could have a $750k house if I wanted to…

Perhaps it’s not the wisest financial move (not investing in real estate in a upward fashion) but I can’t say I’ve had a sleepless night over money for over a decade now.

It’s pretty comforting knowing that I “could” pay off my mortgage pretty much anytime I’d like.

Moreso than the comfort a $750k house could give me.

Most of the time, anyway!

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Swagger WagonAhhhh…that awkward period when you’re paying off a loan and you either go over by a few cents by paying that final payment before the final due date or come up short by a few cents cause the lender tacked on a few more finance charges right at the end…

Daily interest charges and waiting for payments to clear always gets tricky.

I think it was when I paid off the BMW, my monthly statement provided a “Payoff Amount” and as I was nearing the end, I sent them that exact amount.

Turns out, since I paid it when I received the bill and NOT when the payment was due, I’d overpaid by a few dollars.

No joke, it took over two months for them to refund me my over payment and send the title too.

My assumption is that before they give up the title, the books need to line up…and they didn’t.

Of course, this was all way before bank websites were as e-friendly as they are now.

And, as luck would have it, my auto loan and my checking account are both with Bank of America.

The site claims that I can make same day payments but anytime I do that, it’s far from “instant” and still takes a day or two to show up as having actually happened on both sides.

Usually they take my money out of checking first…and then a day later apply it as a payment to the loan.

Same day. Yeah, right…

Probably some sort of federal banking oversight loophole that allows that kind of crookery.

Anyway, the remaining balance on the loan, as of today, is $2001.03 and that falls within my red zone.

It was payday today so I’m paying it off in full — using the currently listed “pay off amount” of $2001.35 (an extra 33 cents) and “borrowing” from my savings to cover any potential shortfall before I’m paid again.

BoA_Auto_Loan

Anyone want to be that then this all clears, though I paid within the listed “payoff good through” date window, that I’ll still owe them a dime or so?

History repeating… but, ahhhhhh, it feels good to own all of my cars again…

Too bad I’m on the verge of purchasing another one

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Trying Out for the Mite TeamDuncan, my oldest, will be trying out for a travel hockey team this season at the Mite level.

There will be two teams, one A team for the best players and a lower B team as well.

In the case a player doesn’t “make” either team during the tryout process, they’re sent back to a development team where they never play any actual games or wear real uniforms.

That’s the level he “played” in last season and the season prior.

Mite teams are generally made up of 7 and 8 year olds so with Duncan being just 6 years old, it might be a stretch for him to make the cut.

Tryouts consist of skill evaluation in the areas of skating, passing and receiving, stick handling, shooting, play making, and stamina.

And then they’re also evaluated in scrimmages to determine positional play and competitiveness.

I’ve been trying to prepare him for the past few weeks — he’s never had to knowingly “prove” himself before and being so young, it’s one of those things where if he’s in the right frame of mind, he’ll do fine but if he’s not feeling it that day, he’ll look like, well, someone who has no business trying out in the first place.

Not much middle ground, really.

It just so happened that this past week at swimming lessons that his instructor didn’t get into the pool with them and instead stood at the edge with a clipboard in hand.

Amazed, Duncan very clearly knew *exactly* what was happening — he was being tested on his ability.

Henrik, my middle son, well, he had a case of the giggles and likely blew any opportunity to move up a level… (update — both boys moved up a level)

Afterwards, I told him that what he’d just done in the pool was just like a tryout and I think it set him more at ease.

Funny story, though totally unrelated, about “fear” when it comes to the unknown.

When I was 9 years old, I made a trip to the emergency room (that resulted in a two week hospital stay) and every time the doctors or nurses mentioned a getting a “stretcher”, I pictured in my head some sort of medieval torture device that I’d be strapped to and, well, stretched…

If someone would have just said, “Kid, it’s a cot on wheels…”, I’d have been a lot more relaxed.

So, anyway, I think he’s relieved that he now knows what a tryout is and I’m also relieved that he’ll know kind of what to expect when the day comes.

Mite TryoutsI’m not at all worried about his skating. He’s a little slow in my opinion but still a strong skater and able to stop in either direction meaning he doesn’t have a preferred side.

His passing is better than his receiving but I think that’s par for the course at this age. I mean, it’s a pretty rare occurrence to receive at clean pass at this age anyway.

His stick-handling isn’t elite but he can deke around people and still keep the puck under control.

Stick handling is one of those things, though, that once you start to lose control of the puck, things can fall apart in a hurry.

I’m hoping that he finds a good rhythm on whatever sort of drill they’ll use to evaluate this skill.

His shooting is, well, terrible and far and away is biggest weakness.

Due largely in part to the fact that he’s barely ever had to play in a game with a goalie and it was rarely practiced on the development team.

We’ve been working on it at home lately but it’s an uphill battle. Strength is lacking and I’m certainly not going to have my 6-year old pumping iron.

Shooting Practice

His playmaking, from what I’ve seen in the Spring league games he played with (way) older children, is top notch. He knows where to be and how to get open.

Doesn’t so much matter when the kids refuse to pass (a common problem for most sports at this age) but he does have “hockey sense” and I’m thankful for that since it’s something you can’t teach.

Either you get it or you don’t.

Stamina concerns me a little. Often times, during the final few minutes of practice, he slows down. A lot.

All of the kids do but he goes so far as to start slumping his shoulders and looking up at the ceiling. I mean, his play really drops off.

And that plays into his competitiveness as well.

While he is very competitive (with the vocabulary to back it up) and wants to win all of the time, when he doesn’t get his way, or his team falls far behind, or he gets stopped repeatedly, or no one ever passes to him when he’s wide open, he’ll sometimes give up opting to glide around watching mostly.

Aggression takes a dive.

Effort is minimal.

And, frustratingly, that’s also something that can’t be taught.

He knows what to do and where to be…just doesn’t have the fire to actually do it sometimes and that will likely be the difference between making the team and not.

Tryouts start September 2.

Can You Dig It?

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