32B's Blog

…where I write my words

Taxes & Financial Discipline

This is the season for stupid questions.  My ex-husband pays child support bi-monthly.  Per our legally signed divorce agreement, he shall claim one of our two children when he is current on his child support payments for that tax year.  He has never been current on anything.  Late 2009, he voluntarily quit a job to move elsewhere with hopes that the Great Recession was a myth.  This unemployment flowed into 2010 but he ended up with a job.  I started getting child support payments again which was a definite plus to my bottom line but that job was short-lived.  Weeks turned into month before I received another payment.  It was not until August 2010 that the payments became regular again.  I had to contact my attorney to have the withholding agreement forwarded to the correct HR dept so everything could be set-up….again.  Never once during his unemployment did he send any money my way, try to have the kids when they were out of school so I wouldn’t have a childcare bill, or anything that would have helped.  Did that stop him from asking me to claim one of the kids on his 2010 tax returns?  Of course not.  Audacious?  Absolutely.  Surprising?  Absolutely not.  He didn’t really ask though.  He said, “which kid are you claiming on your taxes this year?”  I immediately thought, “I didn’t know it was Stupid Question Day! Yayy, let’s play.  Both!”  I referenced the divorce papers even offering to call my attorney and ask her to FedEx another copy to him but he said he has read the papers and know what the agreement is but he also know I can go over the agreement if I choose to.  You’re correct.  I can but why would I ever decide to do that??  I love Stupid Question Day 🙂 it’s funny.

So, I filed my own taxes again this year.  I think this is my 3rd year filing on my own and I must say I am starting to know forms by name and understand what they mean/do.  My return this year was accepted and will be about $1k more than it was last year.  I have no plans other than to put 90% of it into my Emergency Fund which will finally bring the balance to $10k by March 2011.  Yayyy!  I am inching closer and closer to my goal which is awesome so I can start pursuing financial goal #2: either saving for a house and/or consistently maxing out my Roth IRA contribution.  No desire for a car (although my kids think we desperately need one), new purse/tote, big stupid TV (although everyone keep begging me to upgrade my ancient big booty one), or to buy stupid stuff.  What I probably will do is grocery shop like I’m at the mall.  I follow a set grocery budget every month and I have tried to plan meals out, go to the store with a list, and find sales but for once I just wanna throw some stuff I want and need in the cart with little regard to price.  For now, that is my idea of a splurge.  Homeowner: years in the future since I have no intentions on leaving Chicago any time soon and I have no intentions on buying a house in Chicago.  I am still working on improving my horrible credit score too so the additional time saving up about 20% for a down payment would be helpful on both fronts.  Retirement: I hope to live long enough to see retirement and I plan to have money to sustain my lifestyle at that time.  I do not have any 529 or other college savings for my kids because, imo, planning my own retirement is more important since there are a wealth of options available to pay for college educations.  Retirement?  Social Security isn’t even a safety net and I don’t want to burden my kids in my old age with financial help so the more I save the less they have to worry about mom.  However, if I never live to see my own retirement, at least they will have thousands of dollars at their disposal to use when they need it.  That reminds me, I need to figure out how to add stipulations to things like this in writing.

The AFP officially granted me permission to sit for the CTP exam!  I knew I had to buy the textbook, study, and take the exam but I totally forgot about certain criteria I had to meet to be admitted to take the exam.  I’m on chapter 2 of 17, using my flashcards, taking 3-4 hours to study kid-free on Thursday evenings, and lugging this heavy textbook with me during the week to read on the train to and from work.  Chapter 2 is about regulations and regulatory agencies.  To say this part is boring is an understatement.  I would much rather the test consisted of computations than concepts and terms but I didn’t write the test.  But, given the Great Recession, this is the important stuff.  How, why, and when all these regulations came about from the beginning of the banking/financial system of this great country.

I’m blessed.  I see other situations people are in, hear their stories, and think of how I used to be there and pray I never find myself there again.  Turning anything into a habit takes great discipline.  If I didn’t have at least a goal or desired to achieve something outside of what I was told I should have, then I wouldn’t be here.  This morning, I texted a friend about how great God has been to me.  “Absolutely phenomenal” was the exact phrase I used.  In a consumer world, few understand the concept of saving, investing, and making smart financial decisions.  It’s not that I expect to live forever to enjoy any of the sacrifices I have made to get where I am.  I saw my parents and their parents struggle.  I see friends struggle.  I see family struggle.  I know what it’s like to want for nothing even when my bank account is overdrawn.  I know how it feels to be poor with thousands of dollars at my disposal.  It’s not about money and never will be.  Freedom is all I desire for myself now and for my kids later.  To never feel pressured or a slave to something or someone just to uphold a ridiculous lifestyle or definition of what “rich” truly is.  I’m babbling but I’m happy.  OAN, did I mention I got tickets to the Janet Jackson concert in March?  Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty!!  Hasta luego 🙂

Advertisements

January 28, 2011 Posted by | Life | , , , | Leave a comment

Old…New

The Current events of the world are about 70% negative and 30% good once you search high and low for the good or just make that 30% your personal good and let the negativity just be.  Well, everyone usually asks “what’s been going on with you?” and I usually say “nothing really. same ol’ same ol’ ya know?” I thought to make a list of all the exciting, new, blah, and other stuff that is currently going on with me although it might be a short list and some of the “great” things might be “blah” things to others but whatever.

  1. 1.  The Chicago Half Marathon is this Sunday.  The expo for the event is Saturday at Navy Pier so I will bring my kids, turn in my waiver (i.e. if you die it’s on you cause no one told your butt to run that long anyways), and pick up my race packet complete with t-shirt and maybe my finisher medal (can’t wear either until I earn it at the end of the race).  Race starts at 7am on the south side of Chicago and runs along the beautiful Lake Michigan which means the wind might be strong enough to blow my butt into the water but I will enjoy the views, the people, and the experience esp since my training has taken a detour the last few weeks.  If I break 2 hours it will be a miracle but I plan to stick with a 8:30-9 min/mile pace and try harder next year.  Life happens and you make lemonades – or something like that.
  2. I am enjoying my Executive Leadership class.  We had a guest speaker yesterday who talked about being a manager, leader, working in corporate America, hiring the “right” employees, motivating them to help you both reach company goals, and being accountable to your employees or you will have high turnover and low moral.  The best thing she does is allow her team to help choose new employees because it gives them a responsibility to choose what type of person or background the overall team needs and gets them involved in “us” and not just “me”.
  3. I am moving in a few months.  Where? I have the slightest idea but it will be 6-9 months from now according to the attorneys handling my landlord’s foreclosure.  Now, I am trying to contact someone about whether I should or should not be paying rent.  It’s hard to get a return phone call.  I realized I hate moving, I hate changing my address, I hate not getting my mail, and Chicago rent is kinda expensive for nothing in return.
  4. I am starting on my family tree again.  Why?  Because this guy from my class has the exact same last name as I do and I wonder if we are related off in the distanct tree of black folks. His sister has done quite a bit with their family history so he will send it to me so I can compare it with what I have.  He seems pretty cool to talk to.  He walked me to the train after class, we exchanged numbers, and he said “you gonna keep in contact?” Um, yeah I see you every week fool.  He said our last name is French which is interesting since Irby from my mom’s side is French too. 
  5. I am knitting a beret hat.  I knitted this cute scarf for myself and now I am knitting a matching beret hat using the same yarn.  The scarf was easy.  The beret hat, not so much.  I’m on row #2 and it involves 3 or 4 dbl point needles which look like chop sticks and markers to mark the end or beginning of a row.  Not sure if this will be an epic fail but I am trying it anyways.  I like beret hats.  Probably should have settled on buying one instead but working for something and putting in the hard work makes it that more special to you.  I say that now….
  6. I am a week away from officially going to Atlanta.  My ex-hubby has agreed to watch the kids for those 5 days (3 of which are week days) and we have finalized the hotel room so now we just need to buy our plane tickets.  It’s me and the birthday girl who will be turning 30 next month.  We will meet her friend there from Texas and 2 guy friends who live in ATL.  Never been to ATL but I am ready to get away.  I pray everything goes as planned with the kids. 
  7. My credit score is at a somewhat average range now.  I will not say what it is because it is still rather low but it increased 20 or 30 points so I’m glad.  Of course, when you avg it between all 3 bureaus it is not as impressive but every little bit counts.
  8. I am  5 days from a $6k emergency fund balance.  I am supposed to have 3-6 months of living expenses depending on which book or financial guru advice you listen to but I thought to just set aside $10k and then I’ll be cool.  I have had set backs where I had to use money from the fund (the reason to have it in the first place) and times when I couldn’t put anything into it but I made sure to replace those amounts taken out or give myself some room to mess up.  I just got my first child support check since May 2010 so that helped me buy school clothes for the kids and pay daycare these weeks but nothing else.  Should be a regular stream of money I hope so I can move on to my next financial goal.
  9. No new debts have been added to my credit report.  Other than a medical bill with Rush Medical that one time I went to the ER for chest pains and an irregular heart beat.  I have a flex medical account set up for anything my insurance does not cover but since the ER visit was in 2009 the funds for 2010 do not cover the remaining balance.  I used a good $500 from my flex acct toward the bill but it still left another $500 remaining.  Use my emergency fund money?  I really dnt want to esp since a medical bill isn’t as big a blow to my credit as a credit card bill.  This is why I am switching from a flex med acct next yr to a HSA instead because I can use my money for any medical bill I want to since it’s **drum roll please** my money!
  10. I think I like customers.  When I worked in fast food I hated customers and any service they required because the motto in fast food is “the customer is always right”.  Well, there are some pretty rude, dumb, and demanding people in the world so I have no idea who in their right mind would assume that motto is true.  Yes, they want to believe it so customers will continue to spend money in their businesses but, as a lowly employee, the customer sucked!  Now, since I work in an environment where the customer is definitely not always right and people usually call me beginning with “this is probably a stupid question but….” then I love it.  I always have stupid questions so I feel like there is someone out there like me and I like making their jobs easier.  Does it make me feel needed?  Like an expert?  A genius.  Sure lol but I sincerely like people who are actually smart just not sure how to do A, B, or C.  Call me anytime you need me.  Some people even have my cell phone number. 
  11. I am learning to cut hair!  Every Wednesday I go to the shop and Mr. D lets me cut my kids’ hair as my Barber 101 lesson.  I save $20 since I’m doing all the work and he empowers me to do it myself so it’s a win-win situation for me….not so sure exactly what he gets out of it though.  My oldest gets bald fades so he let me cut around from temple to temple using his $190 clippers (I better not ever drop them or he may kill me), then I cut the top low, and then I fade the line out I created by going temple to temple.  On my youngest I just do a regular haircut of one shade all the way around.  Obviously I don’t know the barbershop terms but that does not matter.  Mr. D lines them up when I’m done, I do the dust down with that talc powder stuff, then I spray something on my hands and rub it around the hairline, then I spray oil sheen on their heads, and I make sure I spray the clippers with this sanitizer stuff every time I switch between the kids & he even lets me wear his smock.  He then drives us home since it’s Wednesday after work at about 8pm which is then about 10pm since I cut extra slow sometimes.
  12. Last but not least, I am thinking about doing the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exams.  I thought I may need something to set myself apart from other applicants but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eventually do so this is still only a thought.  I intensely dislike but highly respect accounting so a CPA is not in my future.  With no real work experience, an exam like the CFA will give me the background knowledge of finance and investments to get where I might be looking to be.  As soon as I figure out where that is then I will decide if it’s to my personal benefit or not.  This consists of 3 exams which have a below 50% pass rate and costs a pretty penny to take.  The exam covers, finance, econ, stat, ethics, investments vehicles, and several other things that fall under one of those categories such as future/present value of money, interest rates, stock calls/puts, standard deviation, and loads of formulas to memorize.  I honestly think the CFA displays a higher knowledge and aptitude than an MBA but the MBA are three letters every employer is looking for at the very least.  And, I keep finding more people who have failed than passed these exams at some point.  Hmmm.

That is all I can think of that may be remotely interesting to someone other than myself.  I feel like it’s time to continue moving forward and I am honestly ready to make moves in 3 to 4 years (if I live that long).  It’s Friday so that means I need to finish up work for the week and get my weekend started.  I miss those weekend when you slept in, never left the house unless you absolutely needed to, and watch TV/movies all day.  Those were great!  I wish I knew French but, since I do not, hasta luego!

September 10, 2010 Posted by | Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Balance

It’s Mother’s Day today but I do not feeling like writing about anything “mother” related.  My son’s birthday events were this weekend so I am indeed tired right now and needing a break from kids in general but they are asleep so I’m on my way to being good.  I ran my usual 6 miles.  I’d bought new running shoes but wonder why my ankles were killing me from the day I first ran in them.  I Googled ankle running injuries but found nothing so I decided to run in my old running shoes just to feel some normalcy.  I put both shoes on and felt different.  Then I took off one old shoe and put on one new shoe and realized the new shoe was much heavier than the old.  Ain’t that ’bout a b*tch!  So that is what I decided was the cause of my ankle pain….heavy shoes which were too much for my ankles to lift I guess.  I ran in my old shoes having added stretching back to my old regimen and my time was 45:29 – almost 7 minutes faster than my 6 mile run a couple of days ago.  I didn’t feel like I had run almost 7 minutes faster but I definitely felt stronger, my muscles didn’t feel tight, no screaming from my legs at all, and I felt good from start to finish.  Shave 5 minutes off that and I will definitely be within reach of a decent half-marathon finish.  I called Hanson Stadium (a track where I ran most of my city track meets during high school), they are open to the public so I have a place to do my speed workouts this summer.  The search is officially back on for new running shoes though.  I never thought the weight of the shoe could actually lead to a possible injury.  Lesson learned.

I’m still reading Midlife Crisis at 30 and finding out I need to pinpoint what makes me happy and how I want to live my life.  I do not care to have more kids because, although I love babies, starting over with sleepless nights and changing putrid diapers is not my thing.  I never knew whether I wanted kids until I delivered.  I watched over them like a hawk but it was more so militant protection than a normal maternal nature complete with soccer games, playdates, and Mozart music.  I knew I wanted to be married but I had no idea how to look for a mate, what I wanted in a mate, who I was, or what I wanted in life to know if he aligned with that.  I thought I knew love but I realized I knew loyalty and compromise more so sustaining it was a no-brainer and I wondered if love was just a way to translate how he too compromised and exhibited loyalty instead of love being an emotion felt.  My career was and is just a job I have to pay the bills.  Now, I like my job and it’s flexibility so I may stay till they boot me out since finding another job with such perks has been needle-in-a-haystack difficult.  I like wfh and seeing my kids to and from school.  I wouldn’t change anything but, at times, I feel like I should want to change it which is a fight I have with myself as a result of comparing myself to others’ career paths which I honestly do not want.  Me so crazy.  My next job or career move is TBD so when I know I will let everyone else know.

For 2010, my financial goal was to eliminate debt which has turned into not creating any more debt which has worked out somewhat.  My emergency fund is still going good although I should make some leeway in the next coming months when the kids leave for the summer freeing up childcare funds.  My goal is to have $10k in savings as my emergency fund which should be about 6-8 month expenses.  It’s May and I am officially half way there.  Next yr, I will put that money into a savings acct with a higher APY which keeps it liquid but work on saving toward a house.  I was toward 3.5% is a good amount to have although there are several programs to help you with your down-payment.  Also, working on my investments is numero uno on my list for next yr too.  I pray I am alive next yr because I still have a dent to make in my estate before I feel comfortable leaving this earth with nothing to give my kids although it’s not up to me.  This week I should be able to secure my life insurance policy….this has dragged on and on and on!  I do not spend as much as I thought, I am very conservative & frugal, and I have great discipline when it comes to money.  I am proud of myself when it was only a yr or two ago that I had no savings, loads of debt, paydays loans, and a disconnect notice for an electric bill that amounted to hundreds of dollars.  I think I have found a good balance.

Mr. D called me crazy this weekend and he is absolutely correct.  I wish I could lie and say I’m not but I am.  Not medically crazy but crazy in some behavioral ways – definitely.  It’s been almost a yr since we started dating so I sat down and thought about how life would be if we got married today.  Had a baby today.  We aren’t near that point (esp since he thinks I am crazy but I wanted place 2012 on the current situation and see how things would look.  I do not like it because I see myself being a single mom with a baby since he will work 20 hours of a 24 hour day, I will get significant face-time only because we will live together, he does not listen to me, and although he respects a woman who makes more than he does she will still be expected to do most of the household chores which is asinine.  I think the bulk of my issues lie with not being heard and having him hear only half of what I am saying and offering solutions when I did not ask him for it.  I offer advice on some of his financial matters and he does not heed my warnings.  I tell him outright to stop doing A immediately and do B now and he says “ok” but does nothing.  I vent about my job and how I do not get SQL 2005 platforms and how it has anything to do with Windows 7 and our software at work but he offers advice on it just to hear his self talk.  I wonder if he respects me as a woman – he says “yes”.  I wonder if he listens to my financial advice – he says “yes”.  I wonder if he sees me as his equal knowing the day will never come when “cook” will be my daily role – he says “yes”.  All that translates into is lies because his actions do not align with the words coming from his mouth which would be detrimental to Denisha Inc. 

My problem has never been what my life is supposed to be.  I tend to enjoy it as it is and make changes when I need to.  My job funds my goals right now since I have no clear direction on how to make the world a better place just yet.  My running is going well and I am excited to keep running and add speedwork to my training.  I bought $3 non-cotton running shorts from Family Dollar so I was über excited and got a pack of tanks for free.  I have a book on hold at the library called The Intelligent Investor which explains value investing and is allegedly a Top 10 Books on Investing.  I do know many men personally whom I respect.  Most I meet have pride issues, think I ask too many questions, think I am nosey because I want to protect my interests, and find my non-traditional ways unlike their mom’s whether they admit it or not.  My dating life will continue to suffer as a result.  Not sure how the story called my life will unfold next but, in the meantime, I will continue what I do best.  Protect the foundation of Denisha Inc keeping it protected and running strong for the interest of its two little future heirs.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Life | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Employment Future

I am not sure if I wrote about this already but my company is owned by a once-married couple who are reaching retirement so they have placed the company up for sale.  I have been working here 3 months shy of 3 years.  During my interview, my manager told me the company was up for sell but that this did not weigh negatively on the stability of the company.  Apparently, an offer was made back then but the owners of my company didn’t like the amount offered so they declined and the sale fell through.  Now, 3 years later, I guess they are serious about selling.  There have been 2 meetings thus far with potential buyers (that I know of) but no news just yet.  We were told during our last company meeting that this sale process would take months so it will not be an immediate change.  However, we all discussed the pros and cons.  According to those older than I with experience as an employee whose company was sold, they had to re-interview for their positions along with external (and maybe internal) applicants.  But, knowing the learning curve that exists as far as mastering the different programs and know-how, we are told that the “meat” of the staff will be safe.  I am definitely not the “meat” since there are folks with more knowledge than I.  A pro would be the prospects of a bigger company absorbing this little family owned one and keeping us on or offering us lateral positions at best within their current establishment which opens up more opportunities as well as tuition reimbursement (for me).  The problem with this is that I have not seen any bigger companies vying to buy this little company (that I know of).  All I have seen thus far are independent venture capitalists interested in a new investment.

I am actually nervous about my future but, at the same time, not nervous.  Nervous because I just got serious about my personal finances so I have yet to save a 6 month nest egg as I should.  I have most of my tax money (about 80%), most of my bonus money from work (about 80%) and I just transferred $500 from my recent paycheck into savings so I have something although not what I should.  I am thinking that if I put aside $500 every month (along with my current savings balance) I will reach my goal 6 months from now BUT that will only happen if I’m carefull about how I spend the remaining balance of my paycheck.  Can’t put $500 into savings every month but have to dip into it because I overspent or forgot about a check I wrote so my checking acct is about to go negative AND my student loan pymts begin (again) this Sept so I wanna have my savings squared away by then.  I’m not nervous because whether I have this job for another 2 months or 2 years, I see it as a chance to do something else.  Pursue other career paths.  Change is good when you’re prepared.  Obviously, this was the idea of many but not everyone has been successful at it….trust me, I have read & heard the stories.  So, that is why I am working overtime to get my savings intact, keep all bills low, and not spend on anything silly because I just don’t know.  My friends have been unemployed for at least a year now, companies are laying off, and people are losing jobs as cities/state try to save their budgets so there is no fail-proof method here.

Mr. D called me to tell me about a conversation involving his District Manager mentioning cancelling his “contract”.  I am not sure (and neither is he) what “contract” means.  It could a) Mr. D’s job entirely which would suck big time but he has excellent sales skills (seems to be the only field hiring) & will sit for his State Board certification exam next week to get licensed in something related to Real Estate or b) Mr. D’s company which is hired by his employer which means the 3-6 guys that work for Mr. D will be laid off and his company left with no business.  Obviously, he’d prefer “b” as opposed to “a” but he is still not sure which one it will be.  In the meantime, I am preparing as much as I can using all tools to educate myself and learning from everyone’s mistakes who are willing to tell their story.  Mr. D is freaking out a little bit because that’s what he does…..he freaks out about anything uncertain (look who’s talking).  We are both working on our finances, we are both at the same level as far as FICO scores although I have student loans which amount to the asking price of a house and he does not since he didn’t go to college.  We know about each others’ finances, our past financial mistakes, we share credit scores, ways we are each working on rebuilding, and all other stuff.  No point waiting for surprises and we all know your annual income does not matter….it’s what you do with that money that counts.  You can become a millionaire making $30K/year while someone making $100K is struggling to make ends meet.

And that is the end of my post.  I have placed my resume out there on job search engines with a semi-private setting just in case.  I am thinking about other career options.  I am considering going back to school (if my employer will cover expenses).  And looking for opportunities outside of Chicago.  It’s always good to have several plans for every letter of the alphabet and have a nice savings to cushion the blow if it does happen.  I am praying for a 2 year (at least) time frame which will give me 5 years on-the-job experience in all the random stuff I’ve been doing here but I am planning for the 2 months scenario as well.  Sidenote: we have a date night this Saturday so I volunteered to cook so we can stay in (and save money).  I am putting together a salad (not sure what kind yet but I had an awesome cranberry salad recently), making homemade spinach & chicken pizza, and have strawberries (or shortcakes) for dessert.  I even bought wine although I can’t find his fav so he’ll drink what I have.  I’m not sure if that’s enough food because I know how I eat so maybe I should tweak it or add something else to it.  I don’t know.  My girls said that sounds nice (lol because it’s a girly menu) and I know cooking a pizza isn’t actually cooking an entire meal but….baby steps lol I’ll get to the meats and potatoes later if he survives **evil laugh**.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Life | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment