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First Week Under My Belt

August 26th, 2017 at 07:32 am

I am home from my first week of work. It looks as though I never mentioned that SB will be working at his job until August 31st. Therefore, we are moving up to the timber property on Labor Day weekend. In the meanwhile, I stayed Sun - Thurs in the spare room of friends who live in my new area. I plan to do the same thing this coming week.

At the timber property, there are 5 houses. Two houses are currently occupied: one tenant who SB wants to keep, and one caretaker who is in the process of being evicted. The three remaining houses are not currently livable, except as camping sites. Two could be made livable with some repairs and not-too-outrageously-much money; the third needs major work. We plan to move into the house currently occupied by the caretaker. Until the house is available, we will be temporarily living in a travel trailer. Which, by the way, we still need to buy.

So how was work? So much new. Working for the government is an entirely different ballgame. Everyone I have met is very nice and the atmosphere is very pleasant. Most of what I learned this past week had to do with the overall organization and structure of the County, it's policies, etc. I did learn about my actual job duties too. I do not feel up-to-speed yet at all, and still have a lot to learn.

As far as my own personal finances, I have learned:

- I will be paid every other Friday, 26 times per year.

- The County does not participate in Social Security, so no Fica-SS will be deducted from my pay.

- The County pays most of my contribution to the pension plan, but I am required to contribute 3% of my gross.

- My pension tier is 2% at 62. This means that once I vest (5 years of service), I will be eligible to receive 2% of my annual salary for each year I have worked once I have both retired and reached age 62. For example, if I work from now until age 65 then retire, I will have 14.5 years of service. 14.5 years x 2% x my salary = my annual benefit. This example would mean an annual pension of approximately 15k, assuming no cost of living raises or promotions.

- The County will pay 80% of my health insurance, while I will pay 20%. Also, there is a section 125 cafeteria plan, so I can pay my 20% pre-tax.

- There are 5 different health plans to choose from; 3 are Blue Shield plans and 2 are Kaiser plans. There is one Kaiser plan which is by far the best value of the 5, in my opinion. However, with Kaiser, you must go to Kaiser facilities for all medical services. (In the event either life or limb are in jeopardy, they will cover your out-of-network medical care, but they get to decide if it was justified or not). The nearest Kaiser facility to my new workplace is 40 minutes away. My new home is an additional 40 minutes further away. It is simply too far to go for medical care. There are doctors and a small hospital in the same town as my new workplace. Therefore, I am opting for a Blue Shield plan.

- The Blue Shield plan I have chosen has the highest premium of all 5 plans, but looking at the prescription coverage, the deductible, and the maximum out-of-pocket, I estimate it will be the lowest total cost Blue Shield plan for me.

- The Blue Shield plan I have chosen is compatible with an HCRA plan (health care reimbursement account). This means I will be able to elect an amount to be deducted pre-tax from my pay to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses. The HCRA plan will issue me a debit card, which I can swipe when making co-pays.

- At the end of each calendar year, any amount above $500 in the HCRA is forfeit to the County. Therefore, I will be conservative with the amount I am choosing to contribute.

- I will also have a dental plan and a vision plan.

- Cafeteria plan deductions are taken 24 times each calendar year, even though there are 26 pay periods. The two "extra" paychecks (the third paycheck in a calendar month) have no deduction for cafeteria plans, and thus are a bit larger.

- I will be covered on my new health insurance beginning 9/1/17. Because health insurance premiums are paid in advance, I should have paid for September in August. Since it takes awhile to get me into the system, my first cafeteria plan deduction won't happen until my second paycheck in September. Therefore, that second September paycheck rightfully should have premiums for both September and October deducted. Instead, I will pay double deductions for three paychecks. The second September paycheck will pay for September; the first October paycheck will pay for October; and the second October paycheck will pay for November. (I just used two semi-colons in one sentence!). After that, I will be on track and each paycheck will have half of one month's premium deducted.

- It is unlikely I will be contributing to the 457 plan from my very first paycheck. It takes awhile for me to be in the system and there are forms to submit, an outside party to be contacted, etc.

- The County has 2 vendors for its 457 plan. The vendors are Nationwide and CalPers. Nationwide offers some institutional shares of Vanguard index funds. I was fairly excited about this, until I saw the administrative fees Nationwide charges. Nope. I am opting for CalPers. They offer target retirement funds built from State Street index funds. The total cost is much less with CalPers than with Nationwide. I notice that their target retirement funds are too conservative for my tastes, so I plan to go with the 2050 fund.

- My union dues are 1.25% of gross + $1.

Taking all of the above into account, I calculate that once all is running smoothly (double cafeteria plan deductions are done and 457 plan contributions are happening) my take home pay will be $1,168.30 per paycheck. So that is what I am using to build my post-house-sale budget.

Spendy, Spendy, Spendy

August 9th, 2017 at 04:30 pm

It has been very spendy around here lately. In addition to the new-to-me car, I have recently bought some new clothes, a new laptop, and a new phone.

I am changing cell phone companies, as the area to which I am moving has spotty cell reception. Locals use Verizon and swear it is the only reliable company to use. I do know with Ting, I cannot get any cell phone reception on SB's property, but can get one bar if I drive into town. Ting's coverage map says otherwise.

I went with a prepaid Verizon plan. For $50.00 plus taxes per month, I will get 7mb of high-speed data, plus unlimited talk and text. So more than I have been paying, but not too bad. My phone is only a year old, but I can't use it with Verizon. They had an acceptable substitute for $179.99 plus tax.

The laptop set me back $835. I wanted a decent one with plenty of memory, a touch screen, and Microsoft Office.

Last Saturday night, I attended a jazz concert with a group of friends. The music was so good, and the company was lovely.

This coming weekend, SB and I are heading to Reno to meet some friends and enjoy a little get away.

I haven't learned many new details about my new job. I do know that the pay schedule is bi-weekly, so that will be a change too. So many changes!

I will be making less than I make now. I plan to claim single-0 on my W-4 since after 2017 I will no longer be itemizing deductions. I plan to contribute 15% to the 457 plan right from my very first paycheck.

My first day of work is also the first day of a new pay period, so my first paycheck should be in the regular amount I can expect every payday.

Until my house is sold, I expect I will need to dip into savings every month. Hopefully, there won't be more than a handful of those kind of months.

My budget will be in a state of flux for awhile, but I am already thinking about what it will be once everything settles. I am going to try more sinking funds for various expenses, rather than just one "CurveBall" fund. It is easy for me to spend money which isn't already ear-marked for something specific.

I had lunch today with a client who has become a good friend. I have two more such lunches scheduled for next week. Some parts of this move are much easier than others.

New Job Start Date; Bought an AWD Vehicle

August 3rd, 2017 at 11:03 am

I am starting my new job on Monday, August 21. I will work at my old job until Friday, August 18. I have an awful lot to do and not much time in which to do it.

Last night, I browsed CarMax's website. The lot right here in my town had an 08 Honda CRV with 82k on the odometer and they were asking 13k for it. I went down to see it, and it is clean as a whistle and nicely equipped. They offered me 6.5k for my car. So, I signed the papers and drove home in the CRV.



It's the blue one. (The newer grey one to the left belongs to my co-worker). It is nice enough, will do the job, and the price was right.

I put nothing down but the 6.5k. I chose to purchase an extended warranty to 150k miles. I've never purchased an extended warranty before, but I opted for it this time. I financed the remaining balance due at 3.95%, and plan to pay in full when my house is sold.

Conditional Job Offer! :)

August 1st, 2017 at 06:56 pm

I received a conditional job offer today! (I must pass my background check). As you can probably guess, I am tickled pink!!

I am having laptop issues so am posting this from my phone. My monthly net worth statement will have to wait.

Job Hunting Update

July 29th, 2017 at 10:46 am

This past week, I had two in-person interviews and one phone interview for the same job classification in three different county departmets. I think that all 3 went rather well. So that much is good, but of course other applicant interviews might have went well too.

When I got home Wednesday from my two in-person interviews, I had an email inviting me to schedule a second round interview. So, I scheduled that for this coming Tuesday. I already have an in-person interiew scheduled for this coming Thursday.

Here is a snip from my account on governmentjobs.com:



Which departments are these interviews for? It doesn't say. The e-mails didn't say, either. Notice they all say "second round interviews". That's nice, but also incorrect. One intervew was scheduled before I went to the first round interviews. (This one is the biggest mystery. Is it for a 4th department? Surely a department didn't schedule me for a second round interview before they interviewed me the first time?) That third one on the list is the telephone interview I had Thursday, which was definitely first round. So...the site is glitchy maybe?

So, it's a bit confusing, but I think it's going pretty well. I really hope to get a job offer. It doesn't matter which department, I will take it.

I have Googled to see if I can find info on the county's 457 plan and pension plan. I did find that the county pays the employee's pension plan contribution. That's VERY nice. I also found some minutes from a meeting 10 years ago when the county voted to change some of the 457 plan offerings. Included was a list of investment choices available, and I was very pleased to see a couple of Vanguard index choices on the list. Hopefully they havn't since removed them.

Of course, if I am offered a job I will be given all of this information, but I am antsy to know NOW.

At work, they have decided what they are going to do and so that plan is moving forward nicely. They haven't given me a final date and I haven't given them one. I think I should choose one whether I am offered a county job or not, as I have LOTS to do at home to prepare for this move. At the same time, there is some work I would like to finish before I leave. This is the hardest part. Much harder than saying good-bye to my house.

Test Results Are In; Planners, Planners Everywhere

July 22nd, 2017 at 11:48 am

As I mentioned, I took a written exam on 7/12 for the position of "fiscal technician" in a particular department of my new county.

I received an email on 7/19 with my results. I scored 88%, which was the high score. Yay! That puts me at the top of the list and ensures I will get interviewed.

Since then, I have been contacted via email and telephone by at least 3 different departments. (I didn't actually apply for these other departments, but any department in the county which needs a new "fiscal technician" will hire from the same eligibility list for awhile, until the list expires. At that point, if you want to be on the eligibility list, you have to re-apply and re-test.) I have two in-person interviews and one phone interview scheduled for this coming week. I have one in-person interview scheduled for the following week, and I admit I am not sure which department it is for as the email did not specify.

I am very nervous and just hoping to not blow the interviews. Which is silly, because if I don't get one of these jobs, I will just find some other job. All will not be lost. But, I really want one of these which come with a beautiful pension.

In planner obsession news, I purchased one of these to be an exclusively work planner:



Do I need it? Not at all. But, I love writing in it. It is small so it is easy to pop in my purse.

I can hardly believe that I had been so unaware that such lovely planners existed and I wasn't using one. I have already purchased a budget one for 2018 and I have gifted 3 people now with a planner. MrsM180 is the most excited; I hope she enjoys hers as much as I am enjoying mine.



There are so many things I need to do at home and at work, it is overwhelming. So today I am dealing with it by heading over to my Mom's for the afternoon. Tomorrow will be more productive.

Home From Colorado Springs

July 8th, 2017 at 03:26 pm

I had the most awesome week in Colorado Springs. I got to see my daughter every day. We (all of us) made meals at the VRBO house, and went to play Bingo, and went to the movies, and enjoyed the hot tub and pool at Mr & Mrs M180's apartments, and just in general enjoyed being together.

Also, we went to see the Tuff Shed that Mrs M180 is planning to buy and finish as a house on their own property. (Currently, they are saving for that property). It is surprisingly nice! Well made with a nice layout, not overly large but not too small either.

It is so nice to see my daughter settled and happy in her adult life, actively making choices which will lead her to her goals. Smile

We left Colorado Springs Wednesday morning and drove to Moab, UT. Moab is a beautiful place. We visited Arches Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. We were on the road Thursday morning fairly early and drove 800 miles to Reno, NV. That was a looong drive; the most driving in a single day during the entire trip. We spent Thursday night at Harrah's, then headed home Friday morning.

Friday when I got home, I saw that on Thursday I had received an email regarding the job I have applied for with my new county. I am invited to take a written test this coming Wednesday. The timing is inconvenient to say the least, but I am going to the test. It is inconvenient because I will be covering for my co-worker this coming week while she is on vacation. I'm not even entirely sure exactly what I will need to do to cover her on Wednesday, but I will have to move those things to Monday and Tuesday. If I do not take the written test, I will not have a shot at the job.

Today I am just doing laundry, doing some chores around the house, trying to catch up on e-mail and blogs and such, and generally taking it easy. The trip was so great, but I am wore out.

Mortgage Chips To Date

July 8th, 2017 at 03:09 pm

My mortgage payment has posted. This month I paid an additional $5.35. My new balance is $161,050.00.

Chips to date: $2,185.82

Interest savings this month: $8.40

Interest savings to date: $272.55

Eventually, the interest savings on the chips I have already made will compound to $4,616.56, provided I own this house until July 1, 2042. Which I definitely won't. Stick Out Tongue

Net Worth 6-30-17

July 1st, 2017 at 08:08 am

Cash is up. Smile
Debt is up. Frown
Investments are up. Smile
Home value estimate is up. Smile

In Colorado Springs

June 30th, 2017 at 09:56 am

We are in Colorado Springs!

Mom, nephew, SB and I hit the road Saturday morning. We hit Las Vegas in the early evening and checked into our clean-but-no-frills motel a few miles from The Strip. At $120 per room, it was the most reasonable deal we could find in Vegas on a Saturday night. We had dinner at a Claim Jumper restaurant and took in some sights on The Strip.

Sunday we visited Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Zion National Park, and then stopped for the night in a little place called Carmel Junction just outside of Zion. The motel was much nicer and thus was a bit pricey at $189 per room. (I know it is all relative, but that is more than I usually like to pay). They had a little restaurant which was a bit overpriced but the food was quite good, including their own fresh baked bread. Also, they had a beautiful pool and hot tub area, with beautiful views.

Monday morning we visited the north rim of the Grand Canyon, which is less visited than the south rim, and we did see why. It is beautiful, but definitely less grand. Here's a pic:



Afterwards, we set off for Mesa Verde National Park. Monday evening, we stopped for the night in Towaoc, Colorado at an Ute Indian casino. It is very new and cushy, and we stayed for $89 per room! We had a nice relaxing evening enjoying the amenities. I gambled for maybe 15 minutes. I started with a $20 (all I am willing to spend on gambling), chose a machine, and fed in my $20. I played it for 10 minutes or so, cashing out $19.75. I chose another machine, played it 3 times, and cashed out $76.55. I was done at that point. SB stayed in the casino, but I went back to the room and changed for the pool and hot tub. Later, SB came back to our room $48 richer. So the casino paid for our room for the night. Thanks, casino!

Tuesday morning we got up and drove to Mesa Verde. We visited the park, saw the cliff dwellings, and then hit the road. We made it to Alamosa and decided that was far enough. We got rooms in a Fairfield Inn paying about $150 each. There was not much to see and we were all tired so we grabbed dinner at a Wendy's and called it a night.

Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the hotel then hit the road for another 3 hours and finally arrived in Colorado Springs. And here we are! We will be here for a week, hanging out with Mr and Mrs M180 and taking in the local sights.

We ended up renting a house on VRBO for $1500 for the week. Since we need 2 rooms per night, this works out so much better. We have a whole house to enjoy, complete with laundry room. We visited a supermarket and have fixings for meals here. It is a lovely house very tastefully appointed, and we can see Garden of the Gods from our living room window!

Interestingly, the owners of the house have said they are "just a few minutes away" in their cabin, and we can call if we need anything. I think what they are doing is offering both places for rent on VRBO and moving back and forth to accomodate their renters. Maybe they are using the income for living expenses, or to pay off their mortgage, or to pad their nest egg. How creative! Colorado Springs is home to a University of Colorado campus, an Air Force Academy, an Air Force base, an Army base, and a National Guard base. Plus, it has a great deal of natural beauty. I'll bet there are a lot of people wanting to come and visit for a week or so.

I am so happy to be here for a week with my daughter and other loved ones. Life is so good. Smile

A New To SB Car

June 9th, 2017 at 09:05 am

Last night as I was getting ready to leave work, I saw that SB had texted me. He offered to take me to dinner and warned that he may or may not have ulterior motives. I said I would love to go to dinner, so he met me at my office. He was driving a new to him car.

He bought a 2007 Acura MDX with 122k on the odometer. Not high mileage for a 10 year old car. He got a really good deal on it, and of course paid cash. The MDX is an SUV with 3 rows of seats. The third row can lay down flat, giving you a large cargo area.

So, we will be taking this car on our road trip later this month. I will cancel the mini-van rental we had reserved.

The MDX is also an all wheel drive, which is highly desirable living in a mountain town with twisty, turny roads in every direction. I have considered trading cars myself but I'm not going to do it right now. My to do list is currently long enough without adding "look for a car". I'm going to get settled first and then see.

So we had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant in town we discovered a few months ago. Very reasonable prices and the food is delicious. After dinner, he says "Well, my ulterior motive is I left my truck parked near where I bought this car, so I need help getting the cars home." What a disappointing ulterior motive!

The MDX rides very nice, so I give this purchase a thumbs up.

Here Comes My Next Life Chapter

June 6th, 2017 at 07:21 pm

So I have shared before about the allergy problems I have in my current location. With J now married and on the verge of becoming independent, I have decided the time is right.

I have a lot of stuff to get rid of and some things to get done to prepare my house for sale. SB and I will be moving to his timber property.

I'm not positive of my exact timeline, but it is soon. Definitely this calendar year.

I have given them a heads up at work so they can replace me. That might not have been in my best interest since they may replace me before I am ready. But, it felt right. They have been so good to me, I would not have felt right about leaving them on short notice with no plan in place.

I'm not certain exactly what I will be doing for work. We are moving to a rural area and job opportunities are limited. There is an opening in my line of work for the county (my future county) which would be awesome. I sure wouldn't mind having a pension, even a small one. (Way too late for me to earn enough service credits for a large pension). I have submitted an application, but who knows when or if anything will come of that.

I am fortunate in that my cost of living will be very low, so I can be flexible in the type of job I accept.

My plans will become more solid over the coming weeks and months, but at the moment, I just don't know much.

I wish that I had more cash in the bank. It may be that I am unemployed before I am out from under my mortgage. If I have to, I can take a Heloc draw. I hope it won't come that. I opened a new Wells Fargo American Express card last month in order to take advantage of a sign-up bonus. The card has a promotional rate of 0% for the first 12 months. I intend to begin using it for expenses, making only minimum payments, and saving the cash. When the house sells, I will pay it in full. It may be that I will need that extra cash to make mortgage payments. If I don't, then no harm done.

So, it's exciting and frightening all at the same time. Wish me luck!