Thursday, January 31, 2019

WHY DOES THIS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME????


Now that Deacon is also in school for three hours in the afternoon, I decided to volunteer at our local Adult Community Center.  The author of one of my favorite blogs (The Misadventures of Widowhood) writes of such great offerings from her senior center in Michigan.  

I emailed the director with some ideas from the midwest and told her I'm available for a few hours each week.  She introduced me to the lady (Mrs M) who runs the transportation part of the center who was looking for a team member to help research ideas for lunch trips twice a month as well as a short day trip once a month.  Food is my hobby so I sent her some suggestions.  And be a substitute driver.

Mrs J wanted to meet in person.  For now, it would be the two of us.  She has volunteered there for 20 years ... mostly driving the vans and busses. I volunteered there years ago, when Kate was in grade school.  Mainly I was looking for a special friend who needed a little company once a week and perhaps phone calls in between.  I ended up driving the van, driving my own vehicle to take Seniors grocery shopping, delivering meals on wheels and finally was asked to work part time as the Volunteer Coordinator.  I agreed but only during school hours.

Little did we know how many snow days we would have that year.  And how often kids are NOT in school!  It was a short 6 month stint and I found my special person (through my hairdresser!) so she was my volunteer project (I need to blog about her ... such fun we had!)

There were a few hurdles to jump through before I could be a volunteer again.  I had to take a driving seminar on how to interact with passengers.  Then get my fingerprints taken and pass a criminal background check.  (Yes, I passed.)  After careful consideration, I am not comfortable driving a bus and learning to park it.  Hard enough with my minivan!

Last week Mrs M asked me to be in charge of the transportation section of the adult center as her husband has cancer and is going to have a stem cell transplant.  CRAZY!  I don't want to work that many hours and I don't want to be in charge of anything!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

LIVING MY LIFE ... MY WAY

I contacted Ms. J at the mostly female and totally employee owned firm of financial advisors.  We met for coffee and had a great talk.  I did a data dump on my recent experiences but she didn't advise me to jump ship that moment.  We decided to keep in touch as it might be easier to switch at the first of the year.

When Mr. X sent me a link to fill out a financial information document, which asked for policy numbers on auto, home, umbrella coverage ... I contacted Ms. J again.  Why bother if I was going to be doing the same thing for her company.  She said don't do it ... and that's usually what your consultant does FOR you.

She finally broke down and told me she was interviewing with Evergreen Gavekal!  And would get ALL of Mr. X's clients, including me.  After waiting a few more weeks, she sent me a letter of introduction!  We recently met for coffee again, she brought me two sheets of summary information and then asked ME how I wanted to live and invest.

She explained that it’s her job to listen and help you navigate such things as:
  • Prioritizing goals – how do you want to spend your time? Which goals are needs vs. wants? 
  • Clarifying the big picture – what does everything look like together ... to you?
  • Planning and transitioning to generating your own paycheck.
  • Planning for how you will spend your time in retirement.
  • Working with an attorney to make sure your assets are properly titled and will be passed on to the people and/or organizations you wish.
  • Understanding how both controllable and uncontrollable variables will affect your long-term cash flow such as lower market returns, a health event or spending more now.
  • Working with an insurance agent to determine adequacy of insurance coverage – Too much? Too little? Long Term Care? 
I told her I was using some of my profits NOW, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  For the next year (maybe two since Mr. D may not move on to Kindergarten for a year), I want to encourage and support one parent being home full time.  It's a bit selfish, but I like to watch them enjoy their "inheritance" while I am around.  After that, I shouldn't be helping them financially except extra activities for the boys although I wish I could send Mr. D to Montessori.  She said why don't you?  Investing in your family is a great choice.

Later that day she sent such a supportive, encouraging email WITH a link to a Montessori school near us. The grown ups have had several discussions and we can make this work.  We can eliminate cable TV and just use Netflix, etc.  Eat in more.  Skip vacations. (they can go camping and hiking and fishing).  So many things we can cut back on.  One parent can work part time during school hours and Gramma can cover child care when necessary.  And we are all three on the same page.

Plus, we decided Mr. B could benefit from Montessori as well!  Kate found a non-profit school that goes to Grade 6 so we may as well have them both at the same place.  Might even be a tax advantage.  A friend's grandchildren attended this location and she had good things to relay.  And ... Google "famous people who attended Montessori" ... WOW!

The next day Ms. J sent me a link to a program to track my expenses for a month or two.  Then we will work on my first ever IN WRITING budget!  I am willing to employ someone who wants to help ME achieve MY dreams.  And not berate me for spending my own money.


Two lucky little boys.  And the future.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

FINANCIAL PLANNING for THE AWKWARD WIDOW

Mr. Ralph LOVED the stock market, learning about people and the companies they run and managing the ups and downs of our money (posting daily prices on his huge spreadsheet!), so he was in charge of that aspect of our lives.  We would always talk buy/sell ideas together so I knew what was going on.  I am NOT a risk taker and I'm glad he did it.



I started a women's investment club years ago and we were together for ten years.  And did GREAT!  Although I have the knowledge, it is too nerve wracking for me on a daily basis.  And I feel to be wise, you do have to manage it every day.

After his death, I asked my Schwab contact about how to hire someone to manage things.  He's a great guy and always gives too much information (which I prefer to not having enough).  Since he already knew my conservative thinking, he arranged meetings with three "Schwab approved" financial planners.  I chose Evergreen Gavekal.



The guy assigned to be my "wealth consultant", Mr. X, was very personable.  He presented a plan based on my antirisk personality then sold off some of our (favorite) stocks and replaced with companies I have barely heard of.  He would email once or twice a year and schedule a face to face coffee date.  Each subsequent interaction became a little more uncomfortable.  He didn't like me asking questions.  When I would ask a question about the growth or lack thereof, he would reprimand me about how much I was spending out of the accounts to live on.

Late last year I took the time to look through statements and asked him to put together a short comparison of my accounts with several criteria side by side so I could understand them better.  After two weeks of no response, I kept emailing and leaving voicemails every day.  But he never had time to meet.  Which is FINE by me, I'd rather have email.  His next excuse was oh we can't just email important financial papers, we will have to encrypt them and then let you log in.

But I couldn't print them.  Oh no, he would have to print them.  It was sounding weirder and weirder.  I didn't want 48 pages of graphs and charts.  I wanted a one page SUMMARY .... starting amount of the account, Evergreen Gavekal fee amount (as a percentage and as a dollar amount), gain/loss and ending balance.

Finally got him to commit to a coffee date.  Then he didn't show!  I finally called my Schwab manager to tell him I wanted to end the relationship with Mr. X and as we were talking, he mentioned that another client was also having a challenging time with  Mr. X.  He asked if it would be okay if he called Mr. X as maybe he could explain better what I was asking for.

Two minutes later an angry and RUDE Mr. X called.  How dare I call Schwab????  I told you don't worry, I was working on it.  Even though I didn't want to, I agreed to meet.  He was drunk at 9am.  Pulled huge folders of reports and statistics.  Brought me a bottle of wine (peace offering), kept putting his knee against my leg.  I called the meeting DONE in 15 minutes just to get away.



I called my guy at Schwab to start the process over AND I searched independently for local successful financial managers, asked friends for recommendations and low and behold!  I found Ms. J at an all female firm in Portland.  She was our Schwab advisor in the past!


..... to be continued

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

HAPPY HOOLIGANS

These grandkids make me chuckle every day.  They wake up cheerful and full of fun.  Momma has set their clock to turn green (okay to get up) at 9:00 am and they play quietly in their room until then.  It's amazing!

When I looked up "hooligan" it was mostly negative adjectives, so this one better suits these guys:


I just like the alliteration of Happy Hooligans!

Maybe I should discontinue The Awkward Widow and change to Grandma Overload but that would take a little effort so I won't.

Deacon turns 5 in March.  He rarely walks ... always scampering! Or skipping or hopping or belly crawling.  And he is still a handful!  He's in preK at the same place Braeden went.  But he is having a bit of trouble learning the ropes.


This is big brother Braeden going to pick up brother at school.  Dadda had to push Deacon in that stroller every day to take Braeden to the same school and back.  It was fun to have it be the other way around!  That stroller must have a million miles on it.

Deacon is the mischievous one.  During Christmas goodie season, he would quietly snitch sweet things and built a stockpile under the Christmas tree.  Which was not discovered until Braeden was handing out the gifts!  Thank goodness we don't have ants!  

He's also proving to be an interesting challenge at school.  While he seems young for his age to us, apparently that is not the case at school.  I think it has to do with having an older brother?  When the teacher announced it was storytime, he LOUDLY whispered "boring baby book" when she chose a book.  Later the same day, when he wasn’t listening to the teacher, she asked him to repeat what she said. He replied “blah blah blah blah blah”.  He does super great ... if it is something he wants to do.

So the parents are working with him about respect, listening and participating even when it's not his choice.  And using KIND words.  (Sorry, I have to chuckle .... when I'm alone!)



They both love Alexa.  Braeden figured out he could ask her to solve his math problems.  Now homework is done at the kitchen table (Alexa is on my desk).  Momma does dance parties with them.  Dadda does wrestlemania ... which is over when the first person gets hurt (every. single. time).  They take turns packing lunches and doing bedtime.  My heart is so happy here.

Although they are both brutally honest.  Why is your nose so big?  I thought you weren't going to let your hair get white.  Why do you like wine so much and not rootbeer?  I keep a small stash of M&Ms in my room ... so they can come in and "cough" and I give them a medicine.  It was suggested that I get Skittles next time.

Did I tell you they got me a "girl" Lego set for Christmas?  So fun!  They can't NOT play with me when I bring out the girls!  Even IF they want to bring their guns to the tea party or turn the puppies into guard dogs.








Thursday, January 17, 2019

THE MAUI HOUSE - Part 10

Ten parts to this story?  I suppose I could turn it into a novel ... Don't Mix Friendship with Business. It was a horrible, awful, no good three months and I learned a lot.  She finally moved out on Jan 3.  What an experience but at least it is over.  My realtor is gearing up for spur of the moment showings and an open house or two.  I'm concerned about leaving the house empty so she has volunteered her 25 year old daughter to live there until we arrive!  Win/win as she gets a break from living in the family room at home and I feel more secure that a vengeful tenant will be deterred.

To celebrate, I am taking my family to Maui for TWO WEEKS in February for our last big hurrah.  If it hasn't sold, we will keep our stuff in the garage so it can be shown on a moment's notice.  We adults have agreed to no screen time for ANY of us until after 8pm.  This will be a real family vacation!!!

The boys are old enough to enjoy a boat snorkel trip and a luau.  Those will be our two big splurges.  The rest of the time is beach or community pool or looking for shells and whales.  February is prime time for whales!  I wanted to get us a room for just one night at the Grand Wailea as it is the Disneyland of swimming pools on Maui.  No can pay those prices!  Goodness!!!

Let the good times of 2019 begin!


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

THE MAUI HOUSE - Part 9

Telling my friend that I wanted to sell the house was very difficult.  We had day dreamed that when the kids got tired of me, or ran out of room in the condo, that I would move back and we would be little old lady roommates.  I had been giving her signals since summer that I would most likely not be returning.  After meeting with the Financial Planner (and that's ANOTHER blog!) and after the wedding, I gave her the news.

She was MAD AS A HATTER!  How dare I "do this to her".  I would have to wait until her lease was up on February 28, 2019.  I tried to calm her down as I have every intention of fulfilling the end date of the lease.  Even if the house sold, the new Owners would have to allow her to stay (at the same rate).  I was shocked as I thought I was doing her a favor giving her 5 months notice.  And assuring her if she found the perfect spot before her lease was up, no problem.

I introduced the realtor and the tenant (... now former friend) via text (favorite way of communication for all of us) as realtor wanted to schedule a walk through to see what needed to be done or updated or rearranged before listing.  At first, tenant did NOT want to communicate with realtor, only me.  And tenant would NOT be cooperating in any way as this whole thing was an "invasion of her lifestyle".  Realtor has been working in this field in this State for almost 40 years.  She knows the ins and outs of everything AND is the sweetest, kindest woman ever.  She calmed her down a little by giving her two weeks before the walk through.

Tenant texted me several times a day and she didn't have time to put her things away just because my realtor was coming.  I explained she just needed it tidied up like she was having two good friends over (I named them for her .... ).  Nothing over the top. No need to put her stuff out of sight.

Realtor was greeted at the front door ...



Yes, somewhere beneath the pile of rotting leaves there is a welcome mat.  The next day in the mail I got a "notice" from HOA for below par landscaping and leaving out the trash can (they included dated photos).  Nope.  Tenant says "they got the wrong house.  This place looks better than when you lived here".  "And I never leave the trash can out".  When I sent her the photos ... yada yada yada.  I am "giving her an ulcer".  I thought I was simply asking her to do what she should have been doing all along!

She's gotten mean and threatening and name calling ... but has paid rent ON TIME for Nov and Dec when she is usually five days late.  She blocked me from her Facebook account.  She begrudgingly cooperates with realtor.  Once realtor called on a Tuesday at 8:30 pm to ask if she could do a showing on Thursday afternoon around 3:00.  "Well, that is not 48 hours notice so I can't work with that."

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

THE MAUI HOUSE - Part 8


YES!  After much internet research and emails back and forth with realtor and the escrow company, I got the number of the person in charge of HARPTA in Maui.  As long as I've lived there for two years during the past five, I do not have to pay the tax.  I am considered a Maui resident.

Big sigh of relief and prepping for the sale continues.  The decking had to be cleaned, primed and painted due to the sun bleach stains.  The outdoor shower had to be renewed as well.  The a/c finally got tuned up.  The water purifier got it's quarterly check up six months late but no harm.  I don't understand WHY tenant did not cooperate and schedule an appointment with preventative maintenance.  I pay for it all!  She just had to make arrangements to let them in or leave a key.  She is not employed so I just don't get it.

Realtor FINALLY got in to get photos to put on the multiple listing.  (You can take a peek if you want .... Maui MLS# 380919)  The outdoor furniture isn't arranged as I would like but once tenant is out, that will be fixed.  After much snarling and digging in her heels, tenant said Jan 3 would be her last day.  HOORAY!!  I'm getting a massage as soon as I know she is out and the locks changed.  

The "realtors" open house is Jan 8 and then open house whenever my realtor wants.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

THE MAUI HOUSE - Part 7


Nine years after Mr. Ralph's dream come true, the financial manager convinced me I can't afford two homes.  Even with my friend living there and keeping an eye on things and paying some rent, I pay a chunk of change out of pocket.  Plus the concern when things stop working, break and need replacing.  Or she asks me a question on "how to" and I just don't remember .... she has to read the manual.

While living with my little family these past two years, I have decided I would rather live here than there.  More family here, easier to visit family, more retail, more volunteer opportunities, more seasons, better library, better Adult Center and a great foodie area.  And they convinced me that they would rather have me here, despite the close quarters.  I suggested maybe when Braeden turns 10 I could find a small apartment nearby and he could have my room.  Nope!  They think having them share a room keeps their healthy relationship growing.  Of course, I may want my own bathroom by then ... 

Luckily (I thought), Maui housing prices have gone WAY up since we purchased.  This is my retirement nest egg.  I was so excited to think about earning even 4% on the investment of net proceeds, coupled with Social Security ... I would be on Easy Street.

I contacted my friend who is the realtor who helped us buy the house.  She did a little research and WOWZA!  The price range she mentioned is even better than I was thinking.

My bubble was burst the week before Christmas when my friend/realtor gave me a draft escrow recap.  I had no clue the State of Hawaii imposes a 7.25% tax on the SELLING price of homes sold by nonresidents.  



So, now I'm trying to figure out what length of time will suffice for me to be considered a resident who would not have to pay this "withholding".  I may be moving back for a year.  It might need to be two years (from what I've read) although I do have a current Hawaii ID and have paid state taxes for two of the years.  I'm also hoping there is a one time home sale for seniors (or widows) that does not require capital gains or reinvestment.  Stay tuned.

My realtor is not too happy.  I don't blame her.  She's put in so much time and energy and dealing with a grumpy and obstinate tenant.  But for $45,000 ... I think it is in MY best interest to not pay!  She keeps telling me how I can file and get some of that money back (it is NOT a tax, she says, it's a "withholding".  I get that ... but it's a withholding of a TAX)  At least with just capital gains I can deduct the cost of the house (at the time of Mr. Ralph's death), all the improvements and be excused from the first $250,000 of gain.

Sorry for whining.  I know it is a first world problem and this will make me an upper middle class white privileged Widow.  I don't mind paying my fair share of taxes but Hawaii?  You are asking too much!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

THE MAUI HOUSE - Part 6

Two years ago, when my daughter mentioned she wished I could live near her and her little family while the boys were young, I immediately went into thinking mode.  I wanted to keep the Maui house because it was Mr. Ralph's dream come true.  And, when the boys became teenagers, they might come spend the summers with me ... who wouldn't want their summer job to be in Maui?

I found a property management company who got good reviews from Maui neighbors who had used them for years.  When she came to visit she said she wouldn't feel comfortable renting it because it was too awesome!  Renters would be hard on everything, inside and out.  Most properties she rented were empty and the bare basics outside.

About the same time, a friend I met through volunteering, Lisa Lou Who, was just informed her condo rent was going to increase.  Again ... every year.  Hmmm ... she loved my outdoor living area and loved gardening ... if I rented to her, at HER current rate, it would cover all my costs + $800 per month.  That would almost be enough to cover a studio apartment in Portland.  I mentioned my scheme to her.


She would be getting a tremendous bargain ... a two car garage and more space and the outdoors of all outdoors.  Electric would be $20 a month (instead of $200+) and rather than change utilities out of my name, I included them (up to a maximum) in her rent.  A bit nicer neighborhood for her AND she had already met several of my neighbor friends.

I was getting peace of mind that LLW would care for things just as I would, maybe even better.  I could leave everything there ... coffee maker, kitchen stuff, garage filled with the necessities of upkeep, bikes.  And I could ask her for two weeks of vacation there ... as part of the lease.


This could really be a win/win situation!