An Unexpected Snow Storm

It very rarely snows here in November. If we’re lucky, it will snow by Christmas. Nonetheless, we suffered through our first nor’easter of the season two days ago. We got an unexpected 8 to 9 inches! Is this an indication of more bad weather to come this season? Only time will tell. Unfortunately (and quite disappointing) ALL our weather people couldn’t predict what was coming our way, so practically no one was prepared. We thought it was going to be a slight dusting. Wrong. It was a heavy down fall!

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my backyard this morning!

In addition to the snow, temperatures took a dive also. We were shivering in 25F degrees. I couldn’t get warm no matter what I did. This wasn’t a good experience for either of us. The first thing I did was get on my computer and book two weeks in Key West Florida for December. DH, however, was a real bummer about this and told me he didn’t want to go. He wants to stick to our original travel arrangements and not incur any more vacation expenses. (He’s right about this) So, I did the next best thing. I turned up the thermostat in the house and made myself as warm as possible.

Going to be a long, brutal winter, for sure! All my new, comfy, toasty clothes from L.L. Bean are surely coming in handy now! Good deal!

DH has to be super careful not to strain himself, especially when he starts shoveling snow, because of his heart condition! We do have a contractor who plows out our driveway but DH can lightly clear off the stairs and shovel a smallish path to the cars in the interim. Naturally, of course, DH was supposed to order some parts to repair our own snow blower. As usual, DH thinks he has all the time in the world and never did it. So, we weren’t prepared! He actually ordered the parts during the snowstorm. Go figure! The parts won’t be here till next week. Hopefully we’ll be better able to handle a snow storm next time around.

DH and I are back to our Friday night pizza wars. We started making pizza again. I make the dough. DH does everything else. A side mixed green salad, a smallish glass of red table wine, and we have a very nice (low cost) Friday night dinner!

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Our first home-made pizza of the season!
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Living A Life I Can Afford

One of the top mistakes most retirees make in retirement is not adjusting their new lifestyle to their new income level. Most times, the new income level will be less than what they earned during their working years. Should these retirees continue to spend as they did before they retired, it won’t take them long to run out of money.

Retirement mistake #1: Succumbing to the post-retirement spending spike

This comes as a big surprise to many retirees – they spend more, not less, in the first few years after retirement. “We call it deferred spending, or the ‘Whee, I’m free’ factor,” says retiree Ellen Gerson of Florida. “We see all these folks retire and start doing all the things they were dying to do, from traveling to golfing to fixing up their houses. A year or two later, they look over their budgets and they’ve gone way over.

Overspending in retirement by not facing your income reality can lead a retiree to run out of money in their later retirement years. Keeping too many cars, moving at the wrong time, underestimating medical expenses, putting savings in the wrong places, keeping services you no longer need, downsizing too soon or even retiring too soon; by not having a retirement plan can all lead to your underestimating your future costs of living. (click here for more info)

True Confessions Here: I used to be a spendthrift. In my younger years, I used to get into a lot of spending troubles. I was always overdrawn at the bank, racked up tons of uncollected fees, bounced checks, tapped out every single charge card I had, spent every single penny I ever got. What changed me? Who said I was cured? I still have a spending problem but at least now I can control it. Again, what changed me? I don’t know exactly at what point I decided to change my life and become fiscally conservative, I just know that I did.

My transformation wasn’t an easy one. It took me several years of kicking and screaming to finally live a life I could afford. I remember when I finally got off credit and switched to a cash-only basis, there was a blouse I wanted to buy. I didn’t have the money to buy it, so I couldn’t buy it. I was astounded that I couldn’t get that blouse. I never did get that blouse either. Because I realized the stupidity of that blouse. I didn’t need it.

I made the switch from wanting to needing. I only purchase what I need.

I live a life now based on what I can afford. I live in a paid-for house of only 1120 sq ft because that’s what I can afford. I own low-key appliances because that’s what I can afford. I drive a paid-for 2013 vehicle because it’s safe and affordable. I only own enough clothes to get me by. Nothing more. Nothing less. I wouldn’t call my lifestyle ‘minimalism’.  I most certainly, however, wouldn’t call it abundant either. I have enough.

his closet
This is DH’s closet. He has what he needs.
daily clothes
I keep my clothes in baskets in my TV armoire. 2 pairs of jeans, 6 long sleeve tee shirts, a sweater, a fleece pullover, PJ’s and underwear, a bag of new white socks.

Thankfully, I have mastered the fine art of budgeting. I am mindful of the finances that come into my life. I am even more mindful of what expenses go out of my life on a daily basis. I haven’t overdrawn any of my accounts in over 18 years! No more late fees. No interest charges or finance fees. No more overbalances or over extensions. I pay my bills before they are due. If my phone rings now, it’s either a friend or family calling to say hello. Never a collection agent. I’m no longer afraid to pick up my daily mail. I’ve gone from a 500 FICO score to an 800 FICO score. Brokerage agents are my new friends. When I talk about money now, it’s about how much money I have. Not what I owe.

If I wanted to buy a blouse now, I could buy 20 of them, for cash!

It’s very satisfying and rewarding to know hubby and I are living a retirement life we can afford. It’s comforting to know that when we vacation we won’t come back home to a stack of bills. If we need to cut back on something, we discuss it and mutually agree on a decision. We never feel deprived because we live a life of comfort. A/C in the summer. Adequate heat in the winter. Plenty of food on the table. An RV for local travel adventures. A paid-for home, paid-for cars, a comfy bed to sleep on each night, running hot water, clothes on our back, high-quality medical care……..all affordable.

We made a plan and follow it. Take off the rose-colored glasses and plan realistically for contingencies. The more specific you can be in anticipating what your future life might look like – and cost – the better you can plan. And be.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

Side Note: I’m not going back for that $40-$50 haircut. It was a one-time thing. I’m back at Super Cuts @$16 (with tip). It was nice while it lasted but I’m over it.

 

Financial Advice From A 105-Year-Old Retiree

Anyone who can remain solvent for forty years of retirement is AOK in my book. When they speak and dole out advice, I’m listening.

Meet Patricia Lyons Harrington, the feisty spirit that helped forge her own career and manage her own money at a time when most of her peers married and stayed home to raise children. Today, the former music teacher lives with her nephew and his wife in a separate apartment in their home in Essex, Mass., where former students still come to visit her.

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Photograph by Leah Fasten for MONEY

In a Money Mag article, written by Elizabeth O’Brien (click here) Harrington doles out the best advice yet for fellow retirees.

  1. Start saving your money early. Harrington started out early, at age 13, by saving quarters. Today, the equivalent of that would be socking away $5 bills.
  2. Secure guaranteed income. Harrington has multiple sources of income: her teachers pension, her deceased husband’s Social Security and a deferred annuity.
  3. Nurture your passion. Harrington’s passion is music. She volunteered giving tours of Boston Symphony Hall until she was 85.

Harrington was only married for six years before her husband died. She didn’t marry till she was 67 years old, so she has no children. Harrington moved in with her nephew, George Lyons, his wife, Ann, and their three young daughters after her husband passed away. Harrington used $100,000 from her savings to contribute to the down payment on the house Lyons purchased for everyone to share. Lyons worked with a lawyer to protect his aunt’s investment in the house he bought.

The extended family remains happily together for 30 years. And counting.

Is It Too Early To Feel The Christmas Spectacular?

 

I’m looking forward to this holiday season. For some reason, I’m in the groove! My family and I are off to a good Christmas start. Yesterday we saw The Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring The Rockettes (click here). As a native New Yorker, I’m probably a bit biased BUT I think some of the best holiday shows and events can be seen right here in NYC. My family and I have been enjoying the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall for three generations so far. And from what I can tell, looks like this tradition will go down to the fourth generation very soon.

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walking to the end of the ticket holders line. it moved quickly

Back in 1978, Radio City and The Rockettes were facing demolition and extinction. The historic building, an Art Deco masterpiece, built in 1933 was going bankrupt (as was most of New York City). One woman, Rosemary Novellino-Mearns, dance captain of the legendary Radio City Music Hall Ballet Company, set out to save the cultural landmark. She motivated a small group of dedicated colleagues, friends, media and political allies to join forces and challenge the Rockefeller establishment. Within four months, against all odds, Novellino-Mearns raised enough capital to save New York City’s ‘Showplace Of The Nation’. We native New Yorkers (as is the rest of the world) will forever be grateful for her determination.

Just another New York City story.

Say whatever you like, but there is nothing, NOTHING, as near perfect as a NYC Broadway show. Especially a musical. You can’t duplicate this professionalism anywhere. Though many have tried.

Tickets for the five of us came to $304.75 (this included taxes and fees and a ‘free’ Santa hat & 3D glasses). Parking the car was $54. At the venue, popcorn was $25 and water was $5.50. Hint: pack your own snack and water. Money, however, was no object. We enjoyed every single second of the experience. There are 3 shows every weekend day and two shows every day during the week. Each show has it’s own cast and when you see how many people (including sheep and camels, yes!) are on the stage, Radio City can charge whatever they’d like. Its worth every single penny. The show is as they say: spectacular!

Here are some photos I took with my little trusty iPhone. Photography isn’t allowed BUT for some reason, you can snap away with a smartphone. This year we sat in the second mezzanine. You don’t want to sit in the orchestra seats because the show is much better viewed from above. The last time we sat in the third mezzanine but that was too far up. Next time we see the show we’ll sit in the first mezzanine and we’ll be sitting just right.

Enjoy the slide show:

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It’s OK To Say “No” This Holiday Season.

Thanksgiving and Christmas time, as well as all the other holidays we enjoy during this time period, can be a bit overwhelming. We are going to be bombarded with things to do, places to go and oodles of invites. If we’re fortunate. Eventually we will be burdened down with ‘decision fatigue’ or simply just burn out.

Don’t let that happen to you. You don’t have to accept every invite, you don’t have to bake cookies for every event, you don’t have to invite every Tom, Dick and Henrietta to your home for cocktails. It’s OK to say ‘no’. You can say ‘no’ as often as you like. I used to think that if I said ‘no’ I might not get another invite ever again. If that’s true, then so be it. People will take advantage of you every holiday season. They seem to know who has the weakest link, surest sore spot and they aim directly towards it.

Last year, DH and I were invited to a house party. At first DH and I were excited to go because it was a new friend and she and her husband were very popular. The hostess told us she was having a professional cook come over and demonstrate paella. To offset the cost, the hostess asked each party attendee to contribute $20 each. I did a quick calculation in my head and figured the hostess was collecting $440 from her 22 guests. I made the idiotic mistake asking the hostess if there was anything I could bring? “Yes“, she emphatically said. “Can you make flan for twenty people?” So, not only were we paying for the chef, the hostess was expecting me to cater it also. No thanks. I politely told her I was allergic to shrimp and declined the invitation. This was not the kind of friend I wanted nor would I welcome any future invites to any of her parties. BTW, she never asked us to one of them ever again.

I read a blog post the other day that confirms my inner fears. We can do More With Less and we can avoid holiday overwhelm by saying no to almost everything. Here’s a quote:

If you honor every request with a yes, you will compromise your health, family, peace of mind, and the joy of living your life. If you don’t say no, there will be nothing left of you to say yes to. You will find more time, freedom and energy when you start saying no. At first saying no might feel like you are missing out and hurting people’s feelings but after a while, you begin to see that by protecting your time and energy, you are able to better engage in and experience your yeses.

lasagnaA few weeks ago, our best friends invited us to a party they were having at their home next Saturday. Again, I foolishly asked ‘Can I bring anything?’ I was told yes and to prepare enough for 20 people. OK. Fair enough. DH and I calculated we could make a lasagna large enough for twenty people. Last week, the same friend texted me some more information about her party. It was actually a gathering of her church club. They were doing a gift exchange and were asking everyone to bring one gift, wrapped in holiday paper, must be new and valued between $15 and $20. That meant in addition to the very expensive lasagna ($30) I was bringing, DH and I now had to go out and buy $40 worth of presents for their gift exchange. Side Note: I don’t like gift exchanges because I always wind up with junk or at least something I don’t need.

Yesterday, this best friend texted me and told me her oven door broke and could my husband cook their turkey for them. They’ll drop it off on Friday. Really? They didn’t ask to use my oven. They asked if my husband could cook a 25 pound turkey for them. The party is 10 days away. Surely they can get their oven door fixed in time for their own party? What about the other 20 people who were coming to the party? They live closer to them. I texted back and told them they were free to use my oven but Nick wasn’t cooking their turkey. Do you realize how much work that entails? The hours required to cook a 25 pound turkey? Plus the responsibility?

They told me they will get back with me.

As I said, it’s OK to say no to people this holiday season. If these ‘best’ friends never invite us to another get-together, there will be no loss on our side. People seem to take advantage of good souls, such as DH and myself. It felt good to say ‘no’!

Say yes to love, yes to delight and no to almost everything else. The holidays will still be as magical and meaningful if you scale back, say no and do a little less. You may even discover that because you decided to do things differently this year, the holidays are better than before.

 

It’s All Been A Matter Of Price

I think I’ve made it clear that I’ve never been an earner at any point in my working life. I’ve also never been much of an investor either. The human brain, however, has a way of compensating larger in one department as a way of making up for the shortfall in the other department. For example, I can’t earn much money but if I buy something expensive for less (much less) than what it is worth, isn’t that a form of earning more money?

In 1985, I was able to buy a home that was worth $250,000 at the time for only $135,000. Today, that same home is worth $1.25 million dollars. So, by simply adjusting the purchase price, I was able to enjoy a profit better than the person who would have bought the home at the asking price of $250,000. What was my advantage? Listening around, digging deeper into the homeowner’s background and finding out that he was holding three mortgages on the property: #1 was the main mortgage, #2 was an equity line of credit #3 was a refinance to buy/build another home that also had a mortgage on it, making it #4. I calculated as best as I could what was his bottom line (total debt). I came up with $135,000 and that is exactly the amount I offered. “Don’t come back to me and say, 140, 150, 175………my offer is $135K. And it will be cash and we will close quick” was the statement I included with my offer. (the house had been on the market for a few months with two failed offers).

In under two minutes, the real estate agent came back and told me the seller had accepted my offer.

No fooling.

I held onto that home for 16 years and sold it for enough cash equity that I was able to retire at the age of 50 without ever lifting an extra finger, working an extra hour or going without a single thing! I believe that a life well lived is the best revenge. I don’t want to be a millionaire. I just want to live like one.

This tactic has been a part of my life since I was 10 years old. That’s when I attempted to make my first business transaction. My cousin and I wanted a special game so we walked to the neighborhood toy store. The owner had the two games. They were $15 each. I asked the owner (remember, I’m only ten years old) if we bought two, could we get the toy for only $12 each? My cousin tried to pooh-pooh me, but I persisted and we eventually got the toys for less. I knew that the neighborhood store was short on sales. Wasn’t it better to earn $24 rather than $15 or better yet, nothing at all? I knew the shopkeeper would see it my way AND I used my young age as an accelerator. Who could resist the cute, adorable tactics of a 10-year-old little girl?

Maybe when I was young, my subconscious knew I’d never be an earner. So perhaps I started young honing in my purchasing powers. I’ve been like this all my life, for practically every single thing I’ve ever bought. That includes cars, clothes, vacations, food, furniture, equipment, services and anything else that would cost me more than a penny.

Next week my family and I are going to a Broadway show. Don’t let anyone dissuade you. There’s nothing in this world that can equal the professionalism of a New York Broadway show. We’re seeing the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular in Rockefeller Center at Radio City Music Hall. I’ve been going there since I was a little girl. My mom used to take my sister and I and if we arrived before 12 noon time, the entrance fee was only one dollar! Yup, you guessed it. I learned my sharp purchasing ways from my mother (who died a mulit-millionairess). And now, I am in the position to take my own daughters and granddaughters to see this amazing holiday performance.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I will pay full price. If I bought the tickets this week, this is what they would cost:

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The tickets are $121 each! A family of five would be $605 (plus tax & fees)

This is what I paid for the same area but a few rows back:

my ticket
At $45 each, a family of five is $225 (plus tax & fees)

And THAT’S the difference between me and everyone else. I didn’t have to wake up early and wait in the cold on any line. I didn’t have to beg or borrow or steal. I don’t have to suffer or go without anything. I just have to be smart enough to know the earlier you buy the less expensive it is. I also have to know which website offers the best deal, has the best codes etc. etc. And why wouldn’t I know these things? It’s because I will not falter, I will not back down, I will not not settle for less. I want the best life possible without suffering. Don’t tell me it’s not possible. Don’t tell me entertainment is entertainment and can be enjoyed at any other venue level. Because it can’t. Don’t tell me I can not have it because that’s a falsehood.

I can get and have whatever it is in life that I truly want.

It’s all a matter of price. Sweet, natural, affordable price!

 

 

 

 

Why I’m Choosing a New iPhone Over A New DSLR Camera.

Unbeknownst to some of us non-photography people, the processors used in most cameras have reached a brick wall. In other words, technology has gone as far as it can go regarding camera hardware processing. What’s the next best thing to give you the photos of your dreams? Software, that’s what! And what could be better (or easier) than having the latest photography software right there in your ‘camera’!

DSLR cameras can’t do it but iPhones can! Especially the late-model, dual lens iPhone Xs.

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the larger iPhoneXs on the left has the dual lens. The smaller does not.

With just a touch of your finger, you can get fantastic, professional looking photos from your dual lens iPhone that will surpass anything taken with a DSLR camera (hands down!) iPhone is also way better than any point-and-shoot camera!

Here’s an example:

before falls
I took this shot of Letchworth Falls with my iPhone 7PLUS in ‘live’ mode.
after falls
With just a flick of my finger, I created this long exposure look of the waterfall. If I had used my DSLR camera, I would have needed a tri-pod and taken endless photos with different settings and exposures till I got this perfect dreamy water effect.

First off, this post is not an advertisement for Apple’s iPhone lines. (click here for more info) No, it’s just an acknowledgement that smart phone camera technology has, in most instances, surpassed a DSLR or point-and-shoot camera. You won’t fully understand all the new technology brimming out of the ‘s’ series of iPhones till you take some lessons or at least watch some YouTube videos touting the new software. You just can’t figure this stuff right out of the box. You need to learn from the experts.

I can, however, recommend the iPhone Photography School (click here) as a good starting point. I did. But I only watched the free training videos. I won’t pay for lessons when there is so much information available for free. The latest iPhone Xs has dual lenses (wide-angle and telephoto), a 6.5 inch display, a bionic chip, an innovative & faster sensor, deeper pixels, enhanced Bokeh (for portrait photography) and 4K video for movies.

Click here to view my very own YouTube channel. Please note: All my videos were made on my iPhone and I used just one of my fingers to do them!

I’ve become a lazy photographer. I’m tired of lugging my heavy equipment around with me. I love just whipping out my iPhone and snapping photos on the quick that I know I’d never get with my bulky Canon DSLR camera. How many shots have I missed while I was inter-changing lenses? People balk when they see a bulky black camera aimed at them but for some reason most everyone doesn’t mind a smart phone camera. I keep mine strapped to my wrist, ever ready to snap a food porn photo, a quick smile, an awesome sunset, a quick-moving deer across the plain, a flower closeup, a mountain view…….and with a touch of my finger I can edit, copy and paste to social media. Heck, I can even make a YouTube video in a few minutes thanks to the iMovie software included with all iPhone purchases, with only using one of my fingers.

How cool is that?

Your creative juices flow much more fluently when you’re not bogged down with inertia.

To upgrade my existing Canon camera to a newer model, I’m looking at a price tag of $749, and that’s just for the shell. I’d have to transfer my existing lenses over. If I were to purchase the new iPhoneXs, the price would be $1,099 but Apple would give me 18 months at zero interest to pay it off or AT&T would give me 24 interest-free months.  Right now I have an iPhone 7PLUS, with the dual lenses and as long as I can keep upgrading the software to the latest and the greatest, it will do just fine.

I am, however, still a photographer at heart, even a lazy one at that and the thought of all the latest technology just oozing out of the Xs model is itching at my finger. I may just buy myself something insanely great this upcoming holiday season.

If I can get a photo like this (below) from my older iPhone model, can you imagine what I can do with the newer model? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram (link at page bottom)

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I took this photo atop a bridge walkway, using the zoom lens of my iPhone 7PLUS. Look at the colors, the clarity, the definition! Amazing.

How To Maintain Your Standard Of Living On A Fixed Income Despite Rising Expenses

One of the must-haves in retirement IMHO is maintaining a budget. Without one, you really can’t make proper judgment calls on your standard of living, especially when you are on a fixed income. I have a budget that I refer to practically every single day (or at least whenever I spend money) My retirement financial life is based upon the passive income that comes into my life on a monthly/semi-annual/annual basis. In other words, I can spend only up to the limit of what dollar amount comes in. If I want or need to spend more, I either have to go back to work (never!) or liquidate some assets.

For example: I needed a new winter coat this season. The keyword here is ‘new’. I wasn’t going to Goodwill or a thrift shop. I wanted brand new. I also wanted a down, full length coat to cope with the brutal northeast winters. I had a pre-fixed price in my head: my budget allowed $100. Most down coats however, are usually priced upwards of $200. What to do? How do I keep my budget intact as well as my standard of living? (a wool coat was not an alternative)

First I researched the down coat and the price. The list price was $180. Once I found the item, I searched for discounts or coupons. Luckily a reader sent me a coupon for 25% off. I also discovered if I ordered the exact coat in misses sizes instead of woman’s sizes, I would save $10 off the cost of the down coat. This and the coupon lowered the price of the coat down to $127.50. This was still above my budget limit. What to do? I looked through my hall closet and found two nearly new winter coats I could sell at my local consignment shop. I got $23.20 for one of them and $43.60 for the other. I now had more than enough money to buy myself a brand new down, full length coat without sacrificing my standard or quality of living.

And that’s how it’s done. And that’s how I’ve been doing it all my life. I’m not afraid of inflation. I’m not concerned about my quality or standard of living. My motto is: there is always a way through the maze. You just have to imagine the end result in your mind and then let your brain figure out the rest.

What did I do with the extra cash I now had once I purchased the coat? I bought myself a brand new, wool hat to go with my new coat. I was actually ahead of the game rather than behind it.

My bills for January 2019 are starting to roll into my mailbox. From what I have received so far, here are the annual increases each category will go up starting on the first of the year:

  1. $212.40 medical supplemental insurance
  2. $578 propane gas
  3. $231 property taxes
  4. $36 internet fees
  5. $235.08 satellite TV
  6. $39.38 sanitation
  7. $135.96 car insurance
  8.  $208 home insurance

So far, I am looking at an annual increase of $1676 to cover my standard bills. That comes to $140 more a month. The above list is NOT taking into account what I pay for food, gas, clothing, haircuts, home maintenance and repairs, all of which we know will be going up. Will my income be increasing next year by $140 a month? I doubt it. So, what do I do to continue to maintain my standard of living as inflation rears its ugly head? The first thing I did was look over my total budget and all of my categories. Was there anything I could cut without feeling any pain?

I lowered my $500 monthly food bill down to $475 but that reduction didn’t last very long. I like to eat, so that move was moot. I tried to cut back on restaurant meals but that didn’t work either. Eating out is a form of socialization for me, so I’m not skipping it. I was able to cut back on vehicle gas but not much. DH and I are already set with our clothing needs for the foreseeable future, so that was another moot point. I just discovered the beautiful benefits of the $40 haircut vs the factory $13 haircut I used to get. This item is non-negotiable. I’m not going back to factory cookie-cutter haircuts. I have a professional cutting my hair and it shows! Now that DH is home more, he’s back to doing all the maintenance, repairs and general property upkeep (this alone was an annual savings of nearly $1,000)

One of our biggest expense categories is TRAVEL. When you’re retired, this is what you do. Our retirement travel dream has always been to own an RV and travel throughout America. (during our working years we did Europe and the Caribbean) The last few RV trips we’ve taken however, astounded me as to how expensive they can be! We only RVed on the coastal shores of Maine for 8 days and that set us back $954 plus $32 in tolls! I calculated, at this rate, we were going to spend at least $5,000 a year on RV travel.

Wrong.

I recently discovered the wonders and the near zero rates national and state parks charge for RV sites and I was able to lower our travel budget line item from $5,000 to $1,932 per year! That’s a savings of $3,068 off our annual budget without any decline in our standard of living or travel expectations! This money goes into a savings account for now!

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Shopping at Aldi using our frequent flyer charge card for double points!

The other alternative I discovered regarding our travel requirements was the wonders of frequent-flyer miles on our charge cards. For years hubby and I had been acquiring non-expiring miles. We have enough points accumulated to go to Las Vegas this year (and rent a car and drive to The Grand Canyon), Bermuda next year and probably Aruba or Mexico the following year. Heck, we might even go to South America. We haven’t decided. All for free (we just have to pay the taxes on 2 round trip tickets at a total of $22.50. That’s it)

Lastly, let me emphasize the holistic benefits of sales, sales, sales. As long as you are buying whatever it is you would normally buy, but now you are buying it on a sale, you are saving actual money. Again, a good friend alerted me to an up and coming Italian Food Sale because she knew I was scheduled to cook several lasagnas for a holiday party. I was able to save 50% on the required ingredients (plus I bought a little extra to store in our freezer). I actually saved an authentic $39.50 off this required food purchase!

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Thanks to a tip, I saved $39.50 off a required holiday party shopping list!

Personally, I’d say DH and I are doing better, despite inflation or any rise in our expense categories. The trick is to set up a budget, look over your expenses often and when you see a rise in one category, if you do not have the income to meet the increase, deduct something in another category to offset the rise. The other alternative would be to either work or sell an asset. The last alternative would be to do without the item but that’s a personal choice. I like the quality of my life right now, as it is. It took me a while to get to this standard of living and I’m not reducing it nor going without anything. I’m not giving up a thing. I’m just finding another route through the maze.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

And if you know of a bargain someone can benefit from, share! We’re all in this together!

 

My Working Life

It’s not a secret that I despise working for a living. I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than ever answer to a boss. Why am I like this? I certainly wasn’t born hating work. I just had horrible jobs and was never once treated with any respect nor was I ever paid what I was worth.

My first jab at employment was applying for a job as a camp counselor’s assistant at the CYO I attended for six years. I was now 16. I could qualify for work papers but when I applied, the camp director knew I was also going to summer school (because I failed a subject) and he refused to hire me. “Study hard” was his nasty, mean-spirited reply. Man did I despise him!

My next job attempt was two years later. At the age of 18 I applied for a summer job with Merrill Lynch on Wall Street in New York City. That job I got, but I lied to get it. Merrill didn’t want to hire teenagers in May who were going to college in September. So, I told them I wasn’t going to college and got the job. I was considered full-time, so I was paid twenty-five cents an hour more than the summer kids. I made a whopping $2.00 an hour. When my boss told me my salary was going to be $86.54 for a 40 hour week, I asked him if that was gross or net? Yes, I knew the difference back then. His answer: Gross.

I sweated that long hot summer working on Wall Street. I was trained as a bond clerk. I had to wear a dress and stockings each and every day. I had to endure hours of daily commuting in hot, hot subways each and every way. It was brutal. My father used to laugh and make fun of me. He thought it was hilarious that I clipped bond coupons and stamped bonds all day long. One morning a fellow co-worker and I arrived at work at 9:05 AM. He was fired instantly for being late. Since I was a full-timer, I got a warning. When September and college rolled around, I simply told them I broke my leg and never went back.

When I attended college my father told me I couldn’t study the courses that I wanted. I was a very creative individual and wanted to pursue graphic arts. My dad said there was no money in graphic arts and made me attend Ophthalmic Dispensing school instead. Since our entire family was in the eyewear business, I had no choice but to follow their foot steps. I went to a special technical school and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Most times I got zero on a test. And yes, the class would laugh at me. The school was made up of mainly boys/men/guys. There were only 3 girls in the entire school.

Eventually I graduated, got my degree but could never pass the licensing part of the ‘career’. I never became an optician BUT I did become an ophthalmic assistant. Again, despite having a degree from the technical school PLUS a liberal arts degree from a Catholic University, I never made much money. No boss ever paid me what I was worth. They basically took advantage of me. I worked in the optical profession till my mother died. Once she was dead, I was finally free to do whatever it was with the rest of my life. I was 32 years old.

Since I was extremely good in money management, I took a free bookkeeping/accounting training course with a local New York authorized special education program. I received a certificate at the end and applied for bookkeeping jobs. I never once had any trouble getting a bookkeeping job. I did everything from payroll, to employee taxes, health insurance, profit and loss, cost analysis, debit and credit, General Ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable. I even did collections and I had a 100% rate of return.

In 1989 I landed the job of a lifetime (or so I thought). I was hired as a Budget Administrator for a well-established, prestigious law firm. I was in total charge of their entire financial operations, oversaw a $12 million dollar budget, managed the payroll for 44 employees, responsible for all procurements etc. etc. etc. etc. I did all of that (and much more) @ $560 a 35 hour week. I was newly divorced, newly remarried and all the senior partners knew I needed that job more than life itself. And, of course, they took advantage of me.

Not a day went by that one of the senior partners didn’t make at least one sexual innuendo or one ethnic harassment notation. They knew I couldn’t do anything about it (nor would I have tried) but the office was disparaging anyway. We girls used to laugh it off. Me? I kept notes and records. For example, my phone extension was 38. Most everyone said my extention was 38 Double D (referring to my bra size). I later found out that after I was hired, the 2nd senior partner asked “Did they hire that woman with the big tits?” Yup. It was that kind of office. And as the years went on, it got worse.

One Christmas time, a senior partner gave me a coloring book as my gift. When I opened the book, it was a book that you had to fill in a man’s penis and then color it. Another Christmas I got a pair of sexy lingerie. Everybody laughed. Everybody thought it was funny. I never did. But I desperately needed my job and where I lived good paying jobs were very hard to find. I had to drive 2 hours total round trip just to get to this job. I had two young daughters to house, clothe and feed. My bosses knew this. And yes, the other women in the office also needed their jobs and yes, the bosses took advantage of them also.

Twice one of the senior partners put his fingers down my blouse because he “wanted to feel what real breasts felt like”.

After eight years of working in this office and after eight years of getting outstanding rave employee reviews, my supervisor wanted me out. She had just returned from a pregnancy leave of absence and was enraged that I had done such a great job without her. She made my working life there a living hell, Heck, she even called me in to her office on a Friday afternoon to tell me she put my job in the paper just to see what the responses would be. Sure enough, my job was listed in the Sunday paper. I didn’t get mad or anything. I hired a labor attorney instead. All my fellow co-workers told me I’d never win against such a strong law firm but I knew better. After all, they were the ones who taught me everything I knew PLUS I had been stashing damaging evidence against them for years.

I’ll get to the end of this story, I did eventually win my lawsuit against them. But not without so much stress that I wound up in the hospital almost dying from everything this law firm put me through. And for what? A job? They wouldn’t pay my vacation (14 days). They wouldn’t turn over my retirement money. They wouldn’t pay for my unemployment checks. They kept lying stating I stole from them, I crashed their computers, I damaged their backups……….they were despicable. But I was relentless PLUS I had a fantastic, hard fighting attorney representing me. I sued them for age discrimination (since I had turned 40 and they were hell-bent on getting me to quit)  AND sexual harassment.

I won my back pay, my vacation pay, unemployment benefits, my retirement funds in full, plus a settlement equal to two weeks pay for every year I worked (16 weeks), plus a separate check for $5,000 (for simply annoying me) and I got an outstanding Letter Of Recommendation (that I wrote myself but the senior partner signed).

This was the last time I ever worked for anyone ever again. Oh, I’ve had a few bouts of work here and there but honestly, I’ve never worked for any boss since. I started my own businesses a few times. I had a good run of success with my computer company (1998 to 2001) but was wiped out with the dot come disaster. My husband had a great run working for Disney Imagineering for 12 years and thankfully has a pension from them. But between him and me, we’ve had so many episodes of unemployment that we never properly saved for our retirement.

Over these last few years I have become so adept at frugal living that I can suck the coinage out of a wet ten-dollar bill to last a lifetime. As I said, I would rather stick needles in my eyes than ever work for a boss ever again. I had a lifetime of employment misery and I’m done with it forever. So, I honed a frugality craft instead.

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I have total control over my own world now.

They say the good Lord provides and with me, He did. My dad must have been overwrought with guilt (he literally is responsible for destroying any chance I might have had for a fulfilling career of my own choosing) because when he died, after threatening me for decades that he was going to leave me nothing, must have had a change of heart. He put me in his will. He didn’t leave me as much money as my brother and sister but my father did include me after all and I suppose that is all that matters.

My entire (disastrous) work life prepared me for living a sustainable life without a job. I was FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) before it was even invented. I was debt free before Dave Ramsey breathed a word about his own bad financial experiences. Some people just aren’t made to work for a living. They are more suited to be creative and inventive and imaginative. Consider me guilty on all those counts.

I’m a survivor.

I made it, despite it all. No one can ever take that away from me.

Side Note: The law firm had to replace me with a CPA at a salary of $60,000 per year and a Bookkeeper at $40,000 a year. That amounted to $100,000 in 1995 vs paying me $29,120 a year. Also, in my whole entire working career, I never made $30,000 or more a year despite having two college degrees.

 

 

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