I have two hours a week when I "have" to be online for instant access for my online students. It's a rare week when one of them actually contacts me during those times, so of course I blog, do Swagbucks, and read e-mail. Yesterday--crazy bored--I actually read our horrible HR newsletter. I even clicked on a link from a new HR subcommittee that had ideas to help folks through our state budget cuts--with millions and millions more hanging over our heads.
I was hoping for a small small tidbit of helpful advice on avoiding pension fund fees, maximizing benefits etc. This newsletter goes out to all our employees--most of whom have advanced degrees.
Here's a sample of their advice:
Try a frozen pizza for dinner
Bring leftovers home from your restaurant dinner to eat the next day for lunch.
Instead of that steak dinner, try pizza.
Get a second job. (No awareness that virtually all my colleagues have second and third jobs?)
I swear the whole darn thing was written by second graders. It was awful, horrible, snarky, stupid, and condescending. So, loving to rouse the rabble, I forwarded it to my colleagues' discussion list. Let's just say I set things off. In under three hours, 100 people e-mailed me--equally outraged.
It's not that it was bad advice, but their awareness of the struggles their audience faces was non-existent. The darn thing ended with a listing of FOOD PANTRIES! Thank you, my employer, that you acknowledge some of us are paid so badly we need a food pantry. I cannot even quite figure out my reaction--just that this enraged every single person that read it.
Again, let me say that many people may need to be told things like this--but man--as my boss said--it was a weapon of mass condescension. Someone suggested that our department fridge should have a sign on the front saying "I am bringing my lunch instead of ordering a steak dinner." When I got to work today--it did. And all the various leftovers made into lunches--many had post-its reading, "I'm eating this instead of a steak dinner."
So--I've caused one large uproar so far--and have another in the works.
Viewing the 'Not shy or retiring' Category
The university started up today--and I am tired. Three classes back to back--and I'm wiped. There's always a lot going on these first few days, so it's no surprise.
My only spending today was on my lovely regular cup of coffee. But I came home late to good news. The check for the text review I did in December has arrived, and my flex benefits check is en route.
DD and DH went to the school sock hop, but I stayed home, got some ironing done, and am planning on a bath, bed, and book very very soon.
I found some old texts in my office today so perhaps I can get them listed before I drive into dreamland.
Yep, it's the day after the long weekend and thankfully the beans have been soaking. I see bean soup in our dinner future. It's going to be a mighty cold week here, and the budget needs some tweaking, especially after reading Patient Saver's Atlantic article.
I've got a list; I've got a plan. I'll finish off class prep today, finish off the laundry, and file my flex spending forms.
I've still got some of my mom's clothes in my home office, and I've been having a hard time parting with them--especially her favorite boiled wool jackets. But I think I have worked through some of my grief with them, and remembering how she always was grateful to the Salvation Army for feeding her and her mom through the depression, they'll go to the Salvation Army thrift shop tomorrow.
I'm now happily at the point in the semester where students look harried, exhausted, and overwhelmed, and I don't. Everyone has their final assignments in their hands, I'm just waiting on deadlines and responses. The weekend away did me a world of good.
It will still be busy busy, but I'm feeling good about things. I powered through some papers tonight on a break from my evening class, and I'm spending all day tomorrow grading before the dog gets the stitches out and (hopefully) the cone off.
The husband of my best buddy here has lost his job. They're underwater on their house, and I'm not sure they can swing it on her university salary and extra gig. But we're in the same boat. Small salary, lots of work, one kid, foreign husbands without jobs. I predict we're trading thrifty soup recipes by the end of the week.
I'm starting my "what to cut, shave, trim, snip, and other hair analogies" list.
Our goal will be cash preservation.
So, I think I'll pare down the retirement plan contributions since we have no match, increase the insurance deductible on DH's car which we should've done months ago, stop the mortgage principal prepayment, but what else?
We have no cable, but we're keeping Netflix streaming. I've considered giving up the Sunday NYT, but not yet. Kumon also stays. The grocery bill and the energy bill both need some scrutinizing. The prepaid phone is about as cheap as it gets.
Today I used the Mattel vouchers to buy toys for the Christmas donations at church with a little left for DD's stocking stuffer and some upcoming baby gifts.
I thought I might have a hard time using the voucher at Target, but checked with the service desk first, and they were happy to help. Between that and the coupon for free milk, it was a cheap day.
DH got the official news today. He'll be done at the end of the year. Tomorrow's list will be on more income generation and job search stuff. I'm a little daunted and welcome any advice you want to throw my way!
So, as we expected, it looks like DH's almost 11-year contract will end sometime shortly after the new year. They love him, want to keep him, but can't afford to keep him. Their budget has taken close to a $500K hit. He's indicated he'd work fewer hours happily enough, but his boss isn't sure there's money for that.
His contract with his agency specifies they pay him even if he's not working. But we're both relatively sure they'll dump him quickly if he's not. So he's already put the word out to former co-workers at other firms, to other parts of his current company etc. Later this week we'll revamp his resume. Emergency planning has begun.
Our US cash reserve is ok, almost to the 25K I wanted, but not quite. We should be able to get it there by his layoff. We've got more funds in the UK, but our goal is to live on my regular salary if we can. His unemployment and my second-job and freelance money will go to the emergency fund. All that would work, except there's those three months in the summer when I don't get paid. For those months, we'd rely on unemployment and my freelance and second-job money.
All in all, it's not that bad. We will hope his jobless state won't last long. We are again pleased that I am the insurance holder,and we have no worries or extra expenses there. We are both pretty frugal, and we will crank it down another notch, refiguring travel, entertainment, and Christmas expenses first.
I have some heavy work days ahead, so our budget meeting will have to wait until Thursday or so. Our freezer and pantry are full.
My dear mother always said when faced with bad news, celebrate the good. I bought a restaurant.com voucher (what a deal they are!) for a good Italian place and we went out for dinner and a movie last night. Have any of you seen "Margin Call"? I thought it was swell. Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci are spectacular. Jeremy Irons is as loathsome as he should be in that role. Going out was cheap and raised our spirits.
As I predicted, I got sent to academic service hell as the new chair of a contentious committee. But it might be fun.
DD and I got the great Barnes and Noble 50% off coupon yesterday and spent it on some pent-up book desires. I'm still thinking of ways to get through this tower of papers and have some fun this weekend.
I got some sort of Office Depot rebate today, and need to dig through my bill drawer to find the mattel lawsuit coupons soon. And I'm finally whittling down the mortgage a bit more. Oh how I'd love to pay it off....
I met with students all day and spent nothing except a couple bucks on a gallon of milk (with coupon) on the way home.
Student meetings are always interesting enough, but I started talking to a colleague who is trying to get me interested in teaching several semesters abroad. I am interested, but needed to talk it through with DH. We decided that we would make it work, if I want to pursue the opportunity. Stay tuned on that one.
Next I was informed that I'm being unanimously elected the chair of a committee tomorrow. I protested, saying I am voting for anyone BUT me, but it's a very contentious committee in our somewhat contentious department, so perhaps it will be fun.
Then I picked up the food pantry collection barrel for the department and hauled it three blocks across campus. Normally that would be awkward enough, but it was folded flat about 5'X3', and it was very windy today. At one point I almost took flight.
Back to the somnolence of grading--
I was antsy and anxious all morning yesterday before the big meeting, but everything went fine, and my promotion--and that of my colleague-- went through. We celebrated with a glass of wine and a pizza.
It's not that much money, but the job stability that tenure offers is pretty darn valuable in an economy like this. I'm relieved. I wish there was a little time to celebrate, but I've got lots of papers waiting to be graded!
Leftover pizza for lunch today!
As I'm sure many of you have seen, it's been a tumultuous week in Wisconsin. I hope it's offered some valuable lessons to my students who think everything is about money. Indeed as an SA devotee, I think about money a lot, but I hope I think about value more than just money. Indeed as I spend my day grading on-line papers, I want/need to think even more about it.
Although tumultuous, it's been a cheap week. I'm determined to eat a lot of what's been in our pantry and freezer. I've eaten all my (late) lunches at home or out of my work bag. Last night I made stuffed shells, bringing a pan of them to my colleague with the ill child. We enjoyed them too. I also managed to mix up a box of Williams Sonoma Cookies and Cream pound cake mix I got for a gift. It was fine--not all that spectacular, but DH enjoyed it.
DD is having "Hibernation Day" at her school. She's been looking forward to the nature talks and bringing her sleeping bag into her classroom.
Good weekends to you all!
That is to say--disgruntled. I love my job, I truly do, but the current situation in my state is making it hard to like it very much. As I've blogged before, the state cutbacks mean at least a 10--and more like a 15% paycut. That alone makes me uneasy, but worse than that is the rhetoric coming out of the governor's office that threatens protesters against the governor's attempt to eliminate various kinds of collective bargaining with the National Guard. Gee Guv, we teach your children. Is this a reasonable way to talk to us? There are all sorts of ads running about how overpaid state employees are fostering a climate of distrust and disrespect that I find tremendously unhealthy. I know what I make, I know how much I work, and if I'm indeed overpaid, it's news to me.
I'll likely be in a sulk for several days, but I'm spending Sunday afternoon as I usually do: working.
I've done a preliminary calculation of what the state budgets cuts to the university system are going to cost me. It's somewhere in the very bad neighborhood of $3000. I know we'll be fine, but I was kind of hoping to quit my extra class in the evenings. I'm wiped the next day and could use the break. But with $3000 less, I doubt it will happen. Now to try to brainstorm about not-so-painful ways to save $3000.
Not in the best of possible moods....
I finished my promotion file today and will have it ready to turn in on Monday. I can't tell you how relieved I am to have it done. We spent a big chunk of change at Office Depot today on the binder for the file, dry-erase markers, a big box of printer paper, and other stuff.
I'm really tired tonight; I think the stress of finally getting it done has worn me out and I'm turning in immediately after MI-5!
It won't mean that much more money, but it should mean increased job security.
That seems like a darn good thing.
Even though I've been working pretty steadily through my Winter break, I feel sad it's come to an end. Classes start Monday morning, and while I'm sure there's a great crop of new students headed my way, at least half of me would like to hang out at home another couple weeks. Maybe it's the subzero temps?
I feel like I've accomplished a lot over my break, on prep for next term, my promotion file, and on my decluttering. The trick comes to see if I can keep it up once the craziness starts up.
Our dreadful December/November gas/electric combo came today, and it ain't purty. matter of fact, it's $437 ugly.
I am NOT happy and am sitting with a blanket wrapped around me as I type.
Other bad news includes the IRA statement from American century and the fact that it's still the first week in January. Lots of heating, and probably lots of stock market losses on the horizon still.
Happier news includes the start of a new class last night and my unnatural avoidance of the vending machines there, despite the 4 1/2 hour long class.
Pleased to hear anyone else's good news...
I've decided that all this economic news is too depressing for me. Yesterday's arrival of the quarterly retirement account statements was just too ugly. So I'm ignoring it for a bit and getting on with the rest of the goodness that life can offer. I'm not going to change my investments and will keep to the 403b and IRAs, but I need to take some of the stress of the market devastation out of the forefront of my brain.
So la la la la....
Ok, I'm unreasonably happy about this, but since retirement savings is one of my anxiety issues, I'm pleased to announce that I've fully funded (finally!) my 2007 Roth.
I invest plenty in my 403b, but my Roth has never gotten the attention it deserves, poor little thing!
I'm thinking of it as a valentine's gift to myself, and probably better for me and a lot more long lasting than chocolates or flowers. Too bad the mutual fund folks won't throw in a card or some chocolate-covered strawberries.
I'm still busy rooting around on the shelves and in the freezer for dinners. Except for perishables and a few treats, I'm sure I can make it through another few weeks without buying much.
It was indeed a NS day, although I had to order books for next term's classes. Although the university is SUPPOSED to get me desk copies, they never get around to it until it's too late to use them for class planning, so I got them used on Amazon. I had Christmas credit left over, so didn't spend anything there.
I also spent some time moving funds around, and plopping more into my Roth for 2007. But man, it's ugly when I compare my year-end totals to those a mere month later. I keep telling myself it's the share totals in the mutual funds that count, and that I can buy more shares not that they're cheaper, but ouch. I avert my eyes.
The other day I decided to get serious about how much we'd actually need to have in retirement. I'm a worrier, so I've been generally following Dave Ramsey's 15% solution as a way to keep it simple.
But I decided to go to the Fidelity website, and plug some numbers in to figure out what we should be saving for DH's retirement plan, which is miles behind mine.
Let's say that for the sake of an example, they say we needed to save $1000/month from a $4000 net monthly income to get us to have their desired 85% of current income in retirement. Does that 85% they figure reflect the 25% of current income also? So unless I still wanted to invest roughly 25% of the 85% they say I'd need, wouldn't I actually need considerably less? Because I wouldn't need then to fund the retirement, right?
They're funding gross income, right? Not gross income with the retirement savings taken out?
My other rant for the day is commission-baxed investment advisors. If anyone thinks the average person "needs" a stock broker, they ought to look at how the professionals like Merrill Lynch have bene doing managing their portfolios.
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