Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring Update

What a busy few months it has been... for the first time in years, my job has been stressful enough that I started to question whether it was worth the money I make. Sweetie has been feeling the same way, and we often fantasize about ways we could escape the office grind and make a living in some other way... like winning the lottery! We are definitely prisoners of our lifestyle-- we enjoy having certain luxuries, but they have to be paid for, and it's not that easy to find jobs that would make us enough money to continue as we are. We know we could cut out some of those luxuries and still be happy, but they are things we enjoy. When we fantasize about quitting our jobs, it's so we'd have more time to do things like traveling and reading books-- but travel and books cost money. (Books might be obtainable for free at the library, but there is no travel library where you can borrow a plane ticket, unfortunately!) We're both grateful to have jobs in this economy, but when you go from being challenged and entertained by work to feeling like you're stuck in a Dilbert cartoon or just deluged with thankless tasks, it's hard not to question whether there's something better you could be doing.

This is all made more complicated by the fact that retirement seems to get closer and closer. Sweetie is older than me, and will have a nice pension, plus income from a 401k and other savings. I will have to rely on just a 401k and savings. Sweetie's retirement income will actually be pretty good unless the stock market totally tanks, but that would all change if there was less income in the in-between years. I'm still worried about whether my savings will be enough to live on by the time I retire, so the thought of early retirement doesn't seem very feasible. But we need to sit down and do some in-depth analysis and planning, which will be made easier by the fact that I finally got Sweetie set up with Quicken to track expenses.

In other news, one of the little luxuries we've currently been enjoying is a food delivery service. It's a weekly delivery in which you get all the ingredients for 3 meals, plus recipes. All you have to provide is your own pots and pans, salt, pepper, and olive oil. The cost works out to $10 per person per meal (including shipping), and you can pick a meat/fish plan or a vegetarian plan. We've been doing the vegetarian plan, and I love all the new ideas we've been getting for how to eat a well-balanced meal without meat. The portion control is helpful too. Sweetie is someone who can cook creatively and inventively, but I am not, so I love having someone else make all the decisions and just tell me what to do!

As for the cost, I've been thinking it would be interesting to do an analysis on whether this service is "expensive." A lot depends on the specific ingredients included each week, but even without getting too in depth, it's possible to draw some comparisons. Compared to a restaurant meal, $10 per person is definitely cheap. Compared to ordering takeout food, it could be about the same price per meal, depending on what sort of takeout-- it probably works out to be cheaper than most takeout in our area. Is it cheaper than buying our own groceries? Probably not, except in the cases where the recipe requires an unusual ingredient. If I had to buy a whole jar of a spice, it could easily cost $5 or more, so it's nice to get just the exact amount needed and not have to worry about waste. And occasionally the recipe and ingredients make enough food that we have enough leftover for a lunch the next day. When you factor in the convenience factor and the enjoyability of the meals, I would say it's a good value and certainly reasonable in relation to our current financial circumstances. But if we did lose our jobs and have to budget more carefully, I'd probably discontinue it and make more effort to cook at home with cheaper ingredients bought in bulk. (The service is called Blue Apron, if you're interested, and I have not been asked or paid to write about them.)

What else is new? Well, I think my mom is going broke, as predicted. She has had her cable TV service turned off to save money and occasionally says things about money being tight, but I haven't asked for details. It is just too upsetting to get into it with her. It really makes me ill that she couldn't listen to reason a few years ago-- she should have sold the house instead of pouring money into renovating it, and moved into an inexpensive condo. I think she still has a little money left in CDs that haven't matured yet, but I'm sure she'll cash them in soon if she hasn't already, and then she'll be stuck living on just Social Security and the continuing payments she gets from my dad's pension plan, which she'll find impossible to do without running up debt, so she'll end up having to sell the house anyway, and then she'll blow through that cash too. There is no satisfaction for me in being able to say "I told you so."

How about you? What are your financial plans and dreams and worries these days?


Andrew said...

Sorry to hear about your mom's situation. Would a reverse mortgage work in her circumstance?

As for my financial plans...well my wife is pregnant and we're thinking that she'll take some time off from work. In a way, it wouldn't really make sense for her to work financially with the costs of daycare. So becoming a one-income family and adding the costs of a new baby will be whats new with me. Excited yet a little apprehensive!

Stephanie said...

I'm hoping to get pregnant in the next year or two, so my husband and I have been working on saving as much as possible, both in and out of retirement.

Being poor is one of my fears, so it makes me happy to know that we're building toward our future. I'm not 100% sure whether I will work after a baby (or two), but I've set myself up with a job that can be done on a part-time basis for less pay, which is totally reasonable to me.

I really don't want to be in your mom's situation when I'm old, so I've been socking away money since I was in my 20s. Right now we're saving about 15% of our gross income in savings earmarked for retirement (no 401k unfortunately!). My husband thinks it's too much, but I think it's probably just right.

Andrew - I think that generally speaking, reverse mortgages are a bad idea. The only people who really think they're a good idea is the people selling them. At least that's what I've always heard about them. And congrats on the baby!

Al said...


Are you saying you do not have a pension plan from your company?



Madame X said...

Andrew-- I have thought about a reverse mortgage for my mom, but I share Stephanie's concerns about scams!

Al-- just to be totally clear, since sometimes people use the terms pension and 410k interchangeably: When I say "pension," I mean a defined benefit pension plan, where the employer pays the employee a certain amount per month after their retirement. The idea is that the employer is investing money in a pension on the employee's behalf, and getting that money is just part of the compensation package depending on how long you stay at the company, how much money you made etc. But the employee doesn't have to contribute to it.

A 401k is a defined-contribution plan. The employee puts money in, and the employer also puts money in. The value of the fund can go up or down over time depending on how it's invested. When you retire, you can withdraw money monthly, or in lump sums.

My employer does not offer a "pension" but I do participate in a 401k to which they contribute a matching amount up to a percentage of my salary.

Madame X said...

And I should have added, Sweetie's company provides both a traditional pension AND a 401k-- best of both worlds!

Anonymous said...

I would be really curious to hear what you think about the popular "early retirement" bloggers like Mr. Money Mustache, who reduce expenses and save aggressively enough to retire in their 30s. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/
Have you ever considered relocating and adopting a 'richly frugal' lifestyle?

Anonymous said...

To be honest this message is written over the internet . I live in Cape town . In no way is it meant to be
derogirtory or negative .

I dont know how open minded you are ..... but to be honest your life seems just about money ......... how much you save ... how you can retire. Why dont you try something for the next 30 days ---> focus on somebody but yourself ..... the life of the generous gets larger and larger .
you must come to africa and see how people retire ... your problems are so first world ... if you are really open minded go see hillsong New yourk city ... thst will change your mindset .