Posted in Home, weight loss

How having pink eye is making me think twice about my health

The inevitable has happened. I have pink eye. Pink eye, or rather, viral conjunctivitis sucks. But as a contact lens wearer, I’m also really worried about a corneal ulcer. Which, this might very well turn out to be. Due to the fact that I have a high deductible insurance, I have yet to establish care here in the US. Which means I can’t really walk into any clinic and have them check if there is a corneal ulcer or a foreign body, or if its just plain old viral conjunctivitis. And this sucks.

However, having pink eye has also made me start thinking about other aspects of my health which I’ve been neglecting. Well, let’s be honest. All aspects of my health. I’ve been eating junk food because I’ve been so stressed. In addition to the increasing numbers on my utterly disgusting weighing scale, my face has been breaking out into horrid acne and I’ve got red blotches. As someone who has never put on make-up on a regular basis I’ve actually taken to wearing BB cream, not a big deal for most people, but a big deal to me. I haven’t actually been exercising because the thought of shelling out $150 to join a gym and then another $25 every month for the privilege of going is simply too much for me right now. I’ve been trying to walk a little bit more but I’m getting bored of walking. I was going to join an exercise class but haven’t found the motivation to commit to anything at the moment.

Well, no more. As of this moment, to make myself more accountable to, well, myself. I’m hereby declaring a small step towards committing to my own well being. I have a little jumping rope (thanks Target!!!) and I’m committing to jumping rope 20 times a day for the next 2 weeks. And if I can do that without breaking any bones, I’m going to try to increase it by 5 every 2 weeks until I reach 50. My current weight is 69kg and I’m hoping that with the added exercise and eating healthy, I’ll be able to lose at least 1 kg every month. My healthy weight range is 52kg (a number which I have never ever reached before) but I’m hoping to be 62kg by the end of this year.

Here’s to a healthier start.

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Posted in Home

home sweet home?

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Its been 6 months since I moved to the South Bay area and things are finally settling down into a rhythm.

The transition hasn’t been easy. The original plan was that I was going to continue working on my research project long distance. But I found it too difficult to keep the momentum going and to keep juggling and catching all the different pieces just got too much so I handed in my resignation. Thankfully, all I had to do was pay the penalty for giving up my license early and that was it. They were willing to forgo the resignation in lieu of notice penalty which was a lot of money that I did not (and still don’t) have.

In addition, the Beau and I are still trying to adjust to each other. I mean, for the most part, we get along really well. But that old adage about money tearing a couple apart is true. Money has been a source of conflict in our marriage. We are both trying to adjust to the differences in how we each handle money (or the lack thereof). I sometimes think that the main reason why we haven’t both given up is because we don’t have kids.

Yea. You read that right. The main reason why we are still together is because we don’t have kids. I know that the common assumption is that couples stay together is because of their children. Well, in our case, I think not having kids and deciding not to have kids, may be saving our marriage. For one thing, it eliminates a huge source of stress. I mean, fighting about money is one thing. But fighting about how we bring the kids up, how we are going to find enough money to survive as a family is another. I’m not saying that our marriage or our lives are perfect. Nor am I saying that no one should have kids. Its just that, for us, not having children, is the right decision for us. We are officially DINKs (Double Income, No Kids) although I won’t be surprised if we become SINKs in the near future.

Although the both of us are still mired in debt, I’m still trying to think ahead to retirement. The Beau if almost 10 years older than me. I don’t really plan on staying here for too long. I mean, the weather is lovely and its great to have nice sunny weather year round. But its so expensive living here, I’m not sure its worth the stress. Plus I also have to worry about future healthcare costs as well. So I guess all I can say is that its home sweet home — for now. But we are definitely going to have to think about moving when he retires. I’m not sure where yet though. I would like to be near the water. And hopefully in a safe place. He wants to be closer to nature. But I’m a city gal through and through. Hopefully, time will bring both our wants closer and we can compromise on a good (and affordable) location. But it looks like we are going to continue to stay here in the South Bay for a while.

Posted in camera-phone love, Food, reviews

Food court finds

The last few weeks have been tough. We had been arguing over everything from getting the carpets cleaned to buying orange juice. We are both exhausted and we are hardly spending anytime together. But last thursday, we finally we managed some couple time so we went out for dinner. The mall seemed the logical choice. It was convenient and we had not yet explored the dining options there beyond our usual table at PF Changs.The Beau tried a pizza from the piźza stand. I was hungry and opted for the 3 meat rice bowl (Meat lover’s special) at bibigo. It was surprisingly good.

There was a sweet chicken, some beef mixed with pork with an egg thrown into it as well. In total, it was $14. A bit pricey for a food court. But then again, what isn’t these days?

Posted in finances, Home, money

Bye bye 2017. Hello 2018

2017 has been a year of change and learning to roll with the punches.

Here’s hoping 2018 will be a bit less exciting.20171230_102948.jpg

The major changes that happened this year:

a) I got my first research grant

b) I moved to the US to be with the beau

Getting the grant was cool. Managing it, not so much. I’m not sure if its because of the steep learning curve, or maybe I’m just not cut out for it. But either way, I’m not sure if I’ll apply for a research grant again. Or if I would want to try to edge my way into an academic position in the future.

As for moving. Well, that’s been the long term goal for a while. But because of the grant, a lot of balls had to be thrown in the air, and it jeopardized a few of our long term goals like being able to save for a house. We’ve spent quite a bit of our savings on lawyer’s fees to get me a green card and ideally I would be able to work here and work on saving up enough for a downpayment. But because of the grant, I had to take No Paid Leave, which basically ties me down to a job that isn’t going to pay me for a year since I’m technically on leave. Its very frustrating. Of course, I have a choice. I can quit. But it seems irresponsible. That said, I’m giving it 6 more months. I had 6 months of being frustrated while still being in Singapore dealing with the useless bureaucracy inherent in a large institution and I almost quit while I was there. Unfortunately, due to a policy stating that I cannot give notice while on no paid leave, I’m still stuck unless we manage to raise enough to pay 2 months of salary in lieu of notice.

Which, of course, brings me to the goal setting part of 2018.

After I got here, I realized that the beau has a lot of debt. Credit card debt (bad bad debt) and student loan debt (not bad bad but still, bad enough). Which makes our goal of saving up for retirement and a home to call our own in major jeopardy. He has no financial plans whatsoever, and in the past 10 years, has made many stupid financial decisions. That’s not to say that I’ve been the poster child for sound financial decisions, but other than having to figure out how to cough up enough cash for the 2 months salary in lieu, I’m not in debt. But I definitely still have financial responsibilities in Singapore that need to be taken care of. Still. As a type A person. I definitely panicked. And we have definitely been having our fair share of arguments. Of course, I’m not perfect, but I’m realizing that I don’t know my husband as well as I should and I probably should have been more insistent on sitting down and talking with him about our finances before we got married. See? All the stuff that I said I would do when I was single, but yet I never did it. I swear, love makes people blind. I know. So cliche 😦 On the upside, we don’t have children. Nor are we planning on having any. So really, all we need to do is pay off debt and save for retirement. And buy a home. And pay for 2 cars. And the insurance. And and …

*breathe*

I know. #firstworldproblems

And instead of concentrating on the negative, I’m going to focus on fixing the problem. To prepare, I’ve been reading a lot of blog entries on how to save, micro-save/invest, pay off debt, etc. And even though we are not millennials, it certainly feels like we act like them (minus the potential for income growth) so I read the “If you can” booklet by Dr. Bernstein. You can be nice and buy the book from Amazon, or just download it for free (he was actually nice enough to cache it somewhere for free). And I also read “Smart Couples Finish Rich”. Which made me realise that we have very different values when it comes to money. Still, all is not lost. He’s happy go lucky. I’m a plan plan plan kind of person. That’s ok. We can do it.

So with the core financial values of “freedom” and “security” in mind (I mean, there were supposed to be 5 according to Mr. Bach, but honestly, it all boiled down to these two core values) I have decided that our financial goals for 2018 (in order of priority) are:

  • maximise our 401K and IRAs
  • pay off credit card debt
  • pay off student debt
  • downpayment for a small condo

Obviously, these are very vague goals. I mean, what does maximising 401K really mean? To the beau, it means putting enough to get the employer match. To me, it means putting in the full $18K allowed by the government in order to maximise our tax advantage. But to him, it means not being able to pay the rent. So my bad. I didn’t look at the small details. Oops. So we came to an agreement. We increased his contributions from 6% to 10% and in July, we’ll see if we can increase that by a bit more. We are going to try to save a bit to put into the Roth IRAs as well. The goal is to put at least $2K in there. Now, if we are in our 20s, this won’t be such a bad goal. But for a couple with a median age of 45yo between the two of us, it seems like we are either never going to retire or we are both going to end up in poverty.

But, its a start.

And I think that’s the most important bit. It’s a start. Who knows, maybe if car sales improve, he’ll feel more motivated? Or maybe after 6 months of me nagging at him, he will cave. Haha. But the short-term goal in order to meet Goal 1 is 10% of pre-tax salary will go to his employer-sponsored 401K. That way, he will have 16% contribution of his salary towards his retirement funds. But in July, I’m hoping to increase that to 20% (14% from him, 6% from his employer). Officially, the goal is to save $1k for his Roth, but I’m optimistic that with a little bit of nudging, we can probably hit $3.6K since that will be only $300 a month on average!

He also accumulated over $16K in high-interest credit card debt. I used the 0% APR offers on my credit cards to pay that off. But one of the offers will expire June 2018 and the other won’t expire until April 2019. The one that will expire in June 2018 still has $7K outstanding on it (or I will face 18% APR *shudder*) and the one for April 2019 only has $5K left on it. We are going to focus on paying off that $7K and making the minimum payments for the April 2019 one. So to be honest, in order of priority, the $7K debt really needs to be paid ASAP and then I think we can work on improving his retirement contributions while still paying off the 2nd credit card.

As for his student debt, he currently has $35K (including interest) on his student loans with Nelnet. I’ve read that if we increase his contribution, it might decrease the length of his loan and possible total interest repayments. But the steps we are planning on taking to tackle that is to a) see if we can get it refinanced at a lower interest rate and b) see if he can increase his monthly payment. His current interest rate is 5.125%. If we can get it for lower and for a shorter term, that should lower his overall interest payments. To that end, I’ve put in the paperwork to see if we can change his payment scheme from a graduated payment to a regular payment. And every month, if we have a bit of money left over, we will see if we can apply a bit of that to the student loan as well. According to Nelnet, even if we make an extra payment,  it reduces the next payment, but the extra money doesn’t actually go towards the principal. But by increasing it, I think we can still reduce the loan because if we finish paying it off earlier, it will still lower the overall amount we have to pay. Plus there is the payoff amount. So if we try to put in a little extra each month, and maybe save a bit extra each month into a savings account, at some point, we might save enough to be able to just pay it all off! Obviously, we won’t be able to pay off the full $35K in a year. But the plan is in 5 years, I want to pay off this whole darn thing. But there is also the option of refinancing. I think the private student loans will apply extra payments towards the principal. So we’ll research that as well.

And last but not least, the downpayment on a condo. With the rate at which property prices are going up, I’m not sure if home ownership will ever be a reality for us. But I feel like even though it’s not the highest of priority right now, it still needs to be placed as a priority because without owning my own home, I feel like I’ll never truly feel secure. I hope to be able to save at least $60K. That should be a 20% downpayment for a decent 1 bedroom. But I also know that by the time we do save enough, that might actually only be enough for 10%. And I wasn’t ok with having to pay a mortgage insurance due to the lower downpayment. But with all the changes to the tax code happening, that may be the reality we will face.

I know a lot of financial experts will take a look at my financial goal list and shake their heads because I didn’t add in an emergency fund. But to me, the house fund and emergency fund are the same. For now. If an emergency does come up, we will have to dip into the house fund. I realize that saving for an emergency probably should be higher up there. But we each pick our poison, right?

But hey. At least I’ve visualized what our financial goals for 2018 will be. And as every SMART person will know, a visualization of goals is the first step towards Achieving a goal.

So in order of priority:

  1. $7K to pay off Discover Credit Card debt
  2. increase 401K contribution to 14% in June
  3. Refinance or increase monthly payment to student debt
  4. $300/mo for IRA
  5. minimum payments to Capital One credit card debt
  6. double minimum payment to Capital One after paying off Discover debt
  7. $20K in house/emergency fund

I can’t wait to cross them off one by one.

Posted in finances, Home

Adjusting to life as a housewife

So turns out being a stay at home wife really isn’t easy. For one thing, I’ve completely lost my independence. At this point, I’m kicking myself for agreeing to go on no-paid-leave. I’m also regretting not taking more active control of my money while I still had an active income. Don’t get me wrong. My husband isn’t being a tight-wad or anything. But he’s a car salesman. And car sales are not doing well. Everyone is waiting for the big recession. But my optimist of a husband still thinks things will turn round. Sigh. In the meantime, he’s spending like its still the 90s. Added to that, he has a stay at home wife who doesn’t know how to cook, or clean. Its a mess. Its a good thing he’s a strong believer that love will fix everything.

I do too. To a certain extent. But on the more practical side of things, I realise that we need to learn how to budget. And how to stock away some savings for when things go south. He’s being really sweet and has really really cut back on his expenditure via buying all those CDs (*groan* who still LISTENS to CDS??? My husband apparently) but I got him hooked on Starbucks coffee (*oops*) and I’m having a hard time weaning him off it. We have both tried to start cooking more but my lack of cooking skills is a huge impediment.

In the meantime, we both got talked into (well, by we, I actually mean ME) into buying a whole life insurance policy. I know, probably could have made a more prudent move through other more active means….but I suck at money. And even though the overall fees are high, and in the long run, we probably can make more by other means….but I think this is a good step towards making us START saving.

I also started a stockpile account for us. Each trade is $0.99 which is way cheaper than the CapitalOne Investing account that I have languishing (in case anyone is wondering what I want for xmas…*cough*). I also started a M1 financing account for us as well since for the first year, they manage your money for free using roboadvisors (well, not completely free since the fund have management costs, etc but that’s true even if you sign up with vanguard, etc) and then they put your money in these portfolios that they choose so you have a diversified investment (Stockpile lets you buy fractional shares in individual stock) but there’s a minimum starting investment of $100 (we are saving up the $100 to get started) and then a WealthSimple account because they will manage $5K for free for the first year, have giftcard offerings (*ahem*) and require $0 minimum to start with autodeposits (I’m starting my husband off on $5 ‘cos I mean, he’s not going to notice $5 coming out of his account every month…). If you click on my link, I think you help me get $10k managed for free for a year (which let’s be honest, I’ll never use since I doubt our investment will reach that high with just $5 going in each month) but you get the $5k for 1 year (and more if you get others to sign up as well).

Anyway, I think that’s the plan for now. $5 a month into WealthSimple, $5 a month into Stockpile. Slow steady investments. Not much, but then again, this to me is a means of building up an emergency fund. What do you think?