Current Events

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This morning I heard some talking head on the radio, apparently a financial analyst or something, tossing out that question rhetorically, I dunno, since some existing home sales report was dismal yesterday and it brought the markets down.

One of those doom-and-gloom blame-the-economy reports, you know the kind. It’s tough to find a newscast these days without one…

But it got me thinking back to when I bought my house — did I buy it as an investment?

Nope.

Did I buy it to save money?

Not really. I mean, sure, my original mortgage payment was less than an upscale one bedroom apartment could be had for. Now that my mortgage payment is less than $500, well, it’s less than a rat-infested two bedroom apartment could be had for.

So, okay, maybe it was a money saving venture but that certainly wasn’t my intent.

Point is, I didn’t buy my house as an investment or to save money.

I bought it to live in.

And that was a good investment.

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PiSo how are you planning to celebrate?

As I said last year, back in university, being among nerdy engineers pretty much 24/7, March 14 was always a date that we had circled on the calendar.

While most university students eagerly anticipated March 17, we engineers did most of our drinking on March 14 and quizzed each other on how many digits we’d memorized.

Right now, 14 years later, I can still ring off 3.1415926535…

Ridiculous.

Anyway, I don’t have anything exciting planned for March 14, 2010 but — let me tell you — it’s already looking a lot more fun than last year…

Wow — I can’t believe it’s been an entire year already…that loooooong day still feels like yesterday.

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Our hungry little indian.

Pilgrim HatIt’s good to know that Duncan’s pre-school isn’t too worried about being politically correct and had all of the kids go all out in honor of good old Squanto.

I didn’t see a single pilgrim hat…

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Home ValueNo one has actually posted such a thing in the comments yet but I’ve received a few borderline obnoxious emails regarding the home value that I list in my monthly net worth reports.

Specifically, the aforementioned and suspected one-and-done readers usually question the validity of the number that I post, call me a a few names, and then accuse me of inflating my numbers.

They justify it to themselves by saying that my home’s value fluctuations (or lack thereof) have never really reflected the widely reported “housing crisis” that I’m personally sick of hearing about.

I’ve posted this part before but here it goes again…

Here’s how I calculate the number that I post each month…

In 2007, the city that I live in did a revaluation of every residence in town in order to, well, in blunt terms, significantly boost their tax revenue.

I know that all cities do this from time to time but this one was rather suspect. Anyway, the city’s assessment of my house was $210200.

That’s my starting point. From there, I head over to Zillow.com on the last day of each month to get their “Zestimate” of my property.

I then take the weighted average of the two numbers — with the more current Zillow estimate weighted 3 times that of the 2007 assessment.

There, that’s how I come to that number each month.

So, back to the lack of fluctuation…

Back in June of 2008, I estimated my home’s value at $212300. The lowest the value has fallen since then was $193175 (May 2009). That’s a drop in value of 9 percent — not a small number but not something that would cause a responsible homeowner to go underwater.

As of last month, though, the value is right back up to $207050. That’s a mere drop of 2.5 percent since the housing market apparently started to tank.

I’m fortunate in that respect – not padding my numbers.

I only mention it because a Reuters story caught my attention today:

Northeastern Cities Perform best in Job Growth

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Several cities across the northeastern United States were among the biggest gainers on the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities 2009 index, the economic think tank said on Wednesday.

Fourteen cities across the Northeast, including some in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, were among the top 20 gainers in terms of job growth and sustainability.

The institute compiles the index annually by ranking 200 of the largest cities in the United States based on measures such as wage and salary growth and short-term job growth.

“In a period of recession, the index highlights (cities) that have adapted to weather the storm,” said Ross DeVol, lead author of the report.

“As we move forward in a recovery that still lacks jobs, (cities) will be further tested in their ability to sustain themselves.”

Hartford, Connecticut, was the largest gainer this year, jumping 101 spots from its 2008 ranking to 48.

Hartford was followed by New Haven, Connecticut, which rose 96 spots to 88.

“These cities didn’t experience extreme housing bubbles and therefore avoided a major correction,” said the report.

“They also tended to have a smaller dependence on durable goods manufacturing and instead have a larger stake in the services sector.”

The biggest decliners were cities in Florida and California, which have suffered most in the housing downturn.

Twelve of the 20 worst declining cities were in Florida, including Pensacola, which fell 124 spots to 157 to lead the laggards.

So, guess where I live?

Yep… the Northeast.

Somewhere right between Hartford and New Haven.

While this article certainly contradicts my recent comments regarding salary growth in the area (and the country as a whole), it certainly substantiates my relatively steady home value…

I think my 2007 assessment and monthly Zillow zestimate calculation is pretty darn accurate.

Money for nothing...and the checks for free...As we stumble into another election season here in the US, the fact that the senior citizens are generally the largest voting block (and dictate who actually wins) is really starting to scare the crap out of me.

Whether it’s my parents, my friend’s parents, or even the interactions I’ve had with the dinosaurs that attend our imaginary government meetings (the meetings aren’t imaginary, the government is — it’s complicated), I can’t help but notice how differently they see things and how, well, out of touch they are with how things work these days — simply because they don’t need to stay in touch with how things work.

The first thing I think they’ve lost touch with is this whole healthcare issue that has been in the news for the past few months. Yeah, yeah, I know they’re all over the whole medicare side of things (for their own reasons) but they can’t understand why the “younger” set is by-and-large upset with the wacky costs associated with health insurance.

In my own situation, I’d consider myself pretty well off. My wife and I both have full time jobs and both offer health insurance. It sounds like a pretty cushy situation but we’re still paying around $15000 per year for insurance — and this isn’t for some special elite plan. I don’t think the average senior realizes that it’s that high of a number — it wasn’t during their working days.

Yep — using an average household income of $50,233 (2007 numbers), healthcare is costing us nearly 30% of our PRE-TAX income. You can’t deny the percentages — the average American household wasn’t blowing 30% of their pre-tax income in the 1970’s and 1980’s unless, of course, they were a really unhealthy family.

The crazy part in my own personal situation is that I haven’t been to a doctor in over a decade. Do the math… Yep, I should have an extra 6-figures in my pocket. It’s highway robbery. It really is.

Now I’m not saying that a government plan is the best option (even though I am Canadian and do, in theory, support such an idea) or even a solution, I just think that there’s a HUGE segment of the voting population that are completely unaware of what the younger folks are paying, not for services, but for just-in-case insurance. It’s not right.

The next thing is the whole concept of a 401k plan. I’ve heard two or three people over the past couple of months someone say along the lines of, “Yeah, well you don’t need pensions because people your age have 401ks…”

I don’t know about you but there are an awful lot of companies out there that don’t even offer 401k plans — I’m pretty sure that most of my friends have nothing of the sort. And even if they do, good luck finding a company that *still* offers a match — sometimes I even have to laugh that employers call it a “benefit”.

Using my own 401k as a real life example : I’ve been contributing to it pretty heavily for a dozen years to receive the largest possible employer match (from when they were *still* offering a match). You know, basically making the most of it that I possibly could.

My total balance right now is right around $79000. Fourteen thousand of that is from my employer — or a little over $1000 per year over my 12 years of contributing.

You can throw phrases like “compound interest” or “tax deferred” in there all you like, there is NO WAY that anyone can claim that $1000 per year over a 25-30 year career (if you’re lucky) is going to be enough to “retire” on.

AsparagusThe fact is — employers aren’t going to take care of their “former” workforce like they used to and calling a 401k plan a “retirement” plan similar to a pension is, well, like comparing apples to asparagus. One tastes like crap.

That’s right Mom, I still don’t like asparagus. I think, at this point, it’s safe to say that I never will.

So, from my employer’s contributions to my 401k, I might end up with a $200 check each month for a few years once I retire… And don’t forget — I’m at that unfortunate age where I won’t be getting any social security checks on top of it all either… Ouch.

And on the subject of fixed incomes and social security checks, what is up with the seniors getting all upset about not getting a “raise” in 2010

Are they as out of touch as Wall Street?

Maybe my job sucks but I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone — I haven’t gotten a raise since 2003. It might even be as far back as 2001 but plain and simple, right now, I’m certainly not expecting a token raise anytime soon, you know, just because…

Really, everyone’s cost-of-living has gone up (I personally haven’t noticed) but those still lucky enough to be part of the workforce aren’t seeing the “adjustments” that the seniors have come to expect. It’s messed up — the seniors need to get in touch with reality on this one.

Again, like the 401k/pension thing, that isn’t how things work anymore — people don’t get token raises just because…

But in the end, it’s really funny to me as I can’t deny that I’ve jumped the bandwagon before and said stuff like, “Yeah, the bratty Gen Y’s out there just expect everything to be handed to them…” but now I’m seeing first hand that AARP members are just as expectant of handouts.

Weird how perspectives change… or fail to change… Seems that every generation can fall into that often mocked me-me-me category indicating that one thing is for certain — we’re not all in this together.

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A snowy gourd I found on flikr.We had our first snowfall of the season here in Connecticut this afternoon — pretty early for us too. I mean, I haven’t even started raking leaves yet?!

Last year it didn’t snow until Decemember 7th

Anyway, there isn’t much in the way of accumulation (it’s still snowing) but it’s as though the people on the road have *never* seen snow before. I hate how that happens.

Really, tonight my three mile commute home from work took…50 minutes!?. How ridiculous is that?

In my prime, I could *run* that distance in under 16 minutes. In fact, I could’ve walked home faster.

Apparently, according to the local news, this isn’t the earliest snow we’ve ever had. Way back when we had a significant snowfall during the first week of October. I’m shocked that I don’t remember it but that’s probably because it was right around the time that I would have been too busy memorizing things like ↑, ↑, ↓, ↓, ←, →, ←, →, B, A, Select, Start…

Someone out there will know *exactly* what I’m talking about…

I hope.

PIAC Post Extension:
I titled the post Chicago-style commute because I’ve never encountered traffic worse than that of greater-Chicago. Three miles in a little under an hour seems about right. It’s no wonder that my dad took the train to work when we used to lived there.

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So this morning we headed out on a daytrip to go and pick our pumpkin for 2009. We do this every year but this was the first time we’ve made the trip as a trio.

First we took a hay ride…
Hay ride to the pumpkin field.

Then we roamed the fields…
The Pumpkin Patch.

And then we found the great pumpkin!
Duncan and the Great Pumpkin.

Weighing in at just over 16 pounds, he was less than $10… Such a deal.

Can You Dig It?

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