Open Enrollment Yet Again

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Once again, it was Open Enrollment time at work. Enrollment usually requires me to some calculations to figure out what the best options for me are, but this year’s enrollment is fairly mundane compared with previous years.  In fact, I do not have to make any changes to my benefits at all and there is little change to my costs.  I will let you take a look at what is happening again with my benefits as well as take a peek at my medical claims this year versus last.  I will also give you a quick peek into my long-term disability coverage since I looked at that in conjunction with my enrollment. Benefit Changes This year there are no coverage changes for the plans my employer is offering me.  It is probably the first time in a few years that I did not have to evaluate which plan would be the better option for me.  As … Read more…

Is Bitcoin An Investing Option?

Several years ago, we wrote about whether or not forex was an option as a means of investment. For those who may be unfamiliar with the idea, forex is essentially the trading of one national currency against another, meant to capitalize on the shifts in value between them. On a very basic level, it involves buying currency itself and hoping that that currency’s worth inflates. Forex remains as much of an option as it ever was for investors, but recent years have also brought a different sort of currency investment to light. Specifically, Bitcoin—the pioneering digital currency that some predicted would ultimately supplant ordinary money—has become a popular consideration for a lot of traders. There’s ongoing debate about Bitcoin’s status in that some view it as a currency, some as a commodity, and others even as a type of property. Nevertheless, the fact is that it’s an entirely digital concept that can be used to purchase goods and services, to exchange money with friends, or to be stashed away as an investment. How Does It Work? There is a way to obtain Bitcoins without actually spending money, but it’s not one that’s considered accessible to most people. There’s a complex … Read more…

Refinanced Yet Again

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. I did it again, I refinanced my mortgage.  This was the third time since my initial closing on my house that I refinanced.  It has been slightly amusing as each time I think that it will be the last time, but that hasn’t happened yet. The first couple of times I refinanced, it was more about lowering my monthly payment.  That was not the case this time around, this time it was more about lowering the life and total payments. Paying Attention Since I had just refinanced my mortgage back in early 2015, I had not really expected to go through the process again this year. I had a 3.99% 30-year fixed mortgage which I was going to pay off early, in just under 24 years.  However, I began to notice that the rate for 30-year mortgages began to drop again.  I kept noticing headlines and such mentioning that the rates were nearing historic lows.  … Read more…

Marathoning

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Long-distance running has been one of my main hobbies now for about six or seven years.  It serves as a useful endeavor because it helps me to stay dedicated to exercising and also to reduce my stress.  I was reminded again of the parallels between distance running and long-term financial planning when I completed my third marathon. Long Build Up For those that have never run a marathon, it takes some time to prepare.  The training plan that I follow is 17 weeks long.  It is one of the reasons I like running marathons.  By signing up for the race, I set a goal for which I need a significant lead time to prepare.  It takes time to build up your running distance to the point where you can tackle 26 miles.  Do too much too fast and you risk injury. Similarly in personal finance, you need to set goals.  Goals help focus your efforts, … Read more…

Performance Review Time

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. My annual performance review has come and gone this year. I always seem to be harder on myself than my boss.  This is a good thing, as he thought I performed well over the past year.  There were a couple of areas he thought I should work on and I don’t disagree with his assessment.  Overall he liked my contributions to the team and hoped for more of the same in the coming year.  In conjunction with the performance review is the compensation review.  The money is tied to performance, so the better you perform, in theory the more money you can earn.  This is all subject to the company’s overall performance.  The money is broken into 2 pieces, salary and bonus.  Naturally, I’m going to give you a peak into how much I received and what I am planning on doing with it. The Salary In my opinion, I would almost always rather have … Read more…

Tax Comparison

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Tax time has come and gone, thankfully. I wouldn’t say that I dread it.  Since I plan accordingly for it throughout the previous year, it usually is a non-event.  It is more of a time annoyance than anything else.  I did receive a small refund from both the federal and state governments.  What is more interesting to me, is comparing the return this year with my returns from previous years, and looking at the tax return as a window into my financial year.  I know complete surprise from the numbers guy. Wages It was not my best year ever, but it was close, 2014 was the best. Looking at the wages line on my federal return, does not quite tell the whole story.  The reason for this is all of my health benefits and 401k contributions are removed from my wages and only the net number is reported.  On a gross basis, I had total … Read more…

Surprise

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Whenever I have budget surprises, they normally aren’t the happy kind.  They usually mean something has been more expensive than I anticipated or there was an unexpected expense.  This time is different however.  There is going to be a surprise source of income. My wife will start bringing in an income starting in September.  She will be providing childcare for someone 5 days a week.  She will be earning between $1,000 and $1,400 dollars a month depending upon the number of days she watches the baby.  Since I don’t count on her for any income, this certainly will be bonus income. What to do? The easy answer to this question would be to save it all.  Though it would not be easy to convince my wife this is the best course of action.  So, I need to balance saving some of the extra income with the need to enjoy some if it too.  What I … Read more…