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Archive for January, 2013

Exercise and Flying

January 27th, 2013 at 02:51 am

I have been working out in the gym in our apartment building for the last week. This is after a 20 year hiatus from weight lifting, and ten years after doing any organized sport activity.

I ache everywhere. If you remember the old Dick van Dyke episode where he went skiing and got hurt, you have an idea of where it hurts. (Season 2, episode 22 if you have netflix. Don't Trip Over That Mountain)

I hope that continuing the visits will alleviate some of the pain.

Just saw an article on Yahoo. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/when-is-the-optimal-time-to-bo...

It says that you should book 7 weeks in advance for domestic flights (49 days) and 10 to 11 weeks in advance for international flights (81 days). I've heard that 21 days is best for domestic flights in the past. I have to book flights all the time, but it is usually at the last minute, so there's not a lot I can do to lessen my fare. Of course, it's business travel, so it gets charged to the job, but it comes out of my office budget, so I'd still prefer cheaper fares.

Hit the Emergency Fund

January 25th, 2013 at 02:51 am

On January 10, a notice went up in the elevator that on 21 January 21, the barriers and building access systems would be activated, so you needed to have your cards.

I had applied for my card in November, but - with typical Dubai efficiency (NOT) - I still had not received mine. I waited until two days before the "drop dead" date to finally go to pick up the access cards.

Well, even though I had a receipt that said all fees were current up until July 9, 2013, it seems a new fee was due at the end of the year. Note that had they issued the card when I applied, this fee would not have been due, and I would not be in a position to need access cards in two days.

The fee due was about $4,000. I called my landlord who said, "No, I'm paid up through July." Yes, he had the same receipt. As I needed access, I paid the fees, then wrote a synopsis of the problem and copies of all bills and receipts to the landlord.

As I now had access to all of the paperwork, I worked out the amounts. My Landlord has to pay over $6,000 per year for maintenance fees, facility-access fees (gym, beach, pool, etc.), and parking fees. In addition there is a general-fund fee that goes to who-knows-what. How would you like to have condominium fees at that level? That's what the high price of living in Dubai is like.

Landlord has promised to refund the amount. I don't know when or how we can get the money, though.

DW and I went out and got groceries at a new store last night. They had American items like pop tarts and taco mix. We cannot even find chili powder over here - we did find cumin and cayenne, so we have the basics of our own - so we spent a bit on some "home country" food we wouldn't normally buy. It came to just under $200 for maybe 6 bags of nearly nothing. Just to give you an idea, a can of red kidney beans is over $4. DW likes beans in her chili, and also decided to make "Three bean casserole" this week. I don't think she realizes that instead of being a frugal meal, over here, it is going to run about $30 for a single casserole.

Anyway, we're now low on our EF for the rest of the month until the Landlord repays us for his fees. As an aside, we have to pay our rent in a single check for the year, so he already has our money until next November.

Milestone Reached

January 19th, 2013 at 04:48 am

But not a financial milestone.

I broke the 200 lb barrier yesterday! At 6'4", that puts me into my optimal range, but my goal is to get down to about 193 or so. I'm averaging just over 2 pounds per week, so another month or so and I'll be there.

We have contacted a personal trainer. DW and I will be supplementing our evening walks with some weight training. I went down to the gym and saw like 500 different machines that have whatever purpose... At least I know what the free weights are for. Also, there are some of those stationary bikes, but looking at the control panel on them makes me think of flying a 747, except there are probably more controls on the bikes.

I wonder if they come with an auto-pilot? Just hop on, and let it do the work. Smile

Newspaper Article

January 17th, 2013 at 08:42 am

I need to stop reading the news.

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Mone...

This doctor and her husband apparently committed suicide over money problems.

Some facts from the article:
They drove up in a Mercedes.
They paid $1100 cash for the hotel room.
Her clinic has now been taken over by someone else.

So, they had significant debt, I would assume, and apparently decided to kill themselves instead of facing the problem and trying to solve it. The fact that someone else has taken over the clinic tells me it was or could have been profitable.
I don't understand why they couldn't make the sacrifice to buckle down. Were they unable to accept a lowering of their lifestyle?

I really don't understand why anyone would commit suicide over money.

Lottery Winner

January 16th, 2013 at 08:01 am

There is an article out today about an unemployed guy buying an $8.00 lottery ticket and winning $1 million. Good for him! He got a check for $670K after taxes were withdrawn.

Now, I seem to remember that they just raised the tax rates, and a quick check on Yahoo finance shows that anything over $450K is taxed at nearly 40%. That means that he'll owe $340K to the US government alone, although only $330K was withheld.

Now, with any State income or sales tax, I'm pretty sure he's going to already be below $640K.

He said he tithed 10%. Assuming that was $67K (ten percent of his take home), he's now down to $570K.

He bought two jeeps: $520K. And now he's made an offer on a house. For convenience sake, I'll estimate $250K for that.

He just won the lottery, and he has no job. He has a paid-for house and $270K in the bank. I will guess he has a lot of credit card debt, so I'm going to arbitrarily put his bankroll at $220K right now.

How long do you think it will be before he's borrowing on his house to pay bills? I'm guessing no more than 2 years. After all, this guy immediately started spending after he got some green in his palm.

Dreams, Wishes, Goals, and Plans

January 14th, 2013 at 04:26 am

I saw a post on the forums here where the OP stated (paraphrased), "I want to save more and buy a house some day."

That's a dream. Dreams are things we like to think about as if they might magically happen. Most of us like to dream about what we'd do with our money, jobs, and family (and to our bosses and neighbors, sometimes) if we win the lottery.

The idea of what we do here at SA is "goal setting." A goal is an objective with the following criteria:

1. A time frame in which to accomplish it
2. A metric that tells us what the goal actually is.
3. A plan that gets us to the metric within the time frame.

Taking the original quote above, we can turn it in to goals with plans instead of dreams with wishes.

"I want to save more" becomes "I will save $25 per biweekly paycheck, putting $1300 into a Roth IRA. I can do this by cutting out four beers (plus tips) at my local pub every two weeks."

The time frame is 1 year. The metric is $1300.00 in a Roth IRA. The plan is to cut back entertainment spending.

"(I want to) buy a house someday" becomes "I am going to save $50,000 within 10 years to purchase a $250,000 home with 20% down and no PMI. I will do this by setting aside $200 per paycheck in a mutual fund account with a target date of 2023. I will get the $200 by turning off my cable TV, scaling back my cell phone plan in 14 months when it expires, bringing my lunch to work 4 days per week, and quitting smoking."

The time frame is ten years. The metric is $50,000. The plan is to cut back on entertainment, luxuries, and bad habits.

Note that neither plan counts on pay raises, but also that neither plan expects a job loss. I feel that these two occurrences are "plan changers" whether to the good or to the bad. In other words, either event will require a re-working of the goals, metrics, and plans, but both are more or less beyond my direct control.

I used to be the first guy from the quote. I am pretty much the second guy, now, when it comes to planning instead of dreaming.

Do you know why most people don't hit their savings target? Because they don't aim at anything; they wish for it to happen.

So, when I buy a lottery ticket, I used to say, "I'm just doing a little retirement planning."

Exchange Rates and Spending

January 11th, 2013 at 03:29 am

As I've said many times, I am a US citizen living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I have lived overseas for maybe 12 years in total over the last 35 years. You would think I would be used to different monies, and for the most part you would be correct. I can easily convert from one currency to another in my head, as I've traveled extensively and it is imperative that you be able to do such calculations to enable you to both stay on budget as well as not get ripped off in marketplaces.

The interesting part is that even though I know that 99 Dirhams (the local currency) is just a bit more than 25 US dollars (around $27), in my head I still THINK of it as if it were ninety-nine dollars.

Tomorrow, our "Saturday" - which is actually Friday on the calendar, but it is the first day of our weekend - DW and I have plans to meet some friends for a mid-day brunch. The whole gig costs 99 Dirhams per person for food and drink, but in my head I cannot help but think that we're paying nearly $200 for a day's entertainment and food.

This has the beneficial effect that I tend to buy less than I otherwise would. When I see apples for 14.50 per kilogram, I immediately think "$6.50 per pound for apples is a LOT of money" - my head also automatically converts metric to "real" units of measure such as we use in the US. Of course, it's really about $1.75 per pound as the 6.50 represents the local Dirham currency, which is still a lot of money for a pound of apples, but not nearly as bad as my head automatically applies to the price.

Too bad I can't transfer this to the US when I return. When I get back, $1.00 per pound for apples is going to be $1.00 per pound, and no brain-tricks are going to be able to help me.

Just as an aside, typical apples imported from the US can cost twice as much over here. Red Delicious from the US are about 29.50 Dhs per Kg, which is about $3.50 per pound.

Kids are gone...

January 9th, 2013 at 04:09 am

and so is much of our money.

DW and I actually spent only about 60% of the amount budgeted for the kids' trip, so we actually did quite well. I asked her if she wanted me to send some of the surplus back to the US for loan repayment, but she deferred and said to send it at the end of the month. She's right. I've been sending too much back the last few months and leaving us with a tight week at the end of the month... making us actually stay on budget!

Anyway, we're going to make our full goal this year unless something very expensive intervenes so a one month delay on a partial payment won't make any difference.

The kids left at 6:00 Monday morning, and arrived that evening in Texas. They called the next morning with news that the kitchen drains are backing up again. Due to this, it is quite likely that we're going to need to hit the EF for a significant amount to square away the plumbing drains. That will leave ONLY the "front of the house" water supply plumbing to complete the renovation of the house 100%. The back of the house plumbing - supply and drain - was done before, so now we have only the front of the house left. We don't want to pay $13K for both at one time, since only the drains are in need. That's the lion's share, anyway.

We got to watch the fireworks at the Burj Khalifa and the Burj al Arrab from our balcony on NYE. It was quite a show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO8G5jUp9KA and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FKYebXq-PY. The Burj al Arrab show went on for a full 15 minutes and never slowed down. We couldn't see the Atlantis Hotel display from our balcony, but we got to see the other two. DD got some great photos (she's a professional photographer). The photo attached is approximately the view from our balcony, though it is a professional photograph and not one I've taken.



We did the desert safari (rode camels and 4x4's nearly rolling over in the sand dunes), went up the Burj Khalifa, shopping, Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, more shopping, the Big Bus tour, and pretty much kept busy every day the kids were here.

I have to do a report in the next couple of hours, then I'll have off until Sunday (our "Monday"). It's the first real vacation I've taken in over 4 years. I really needed it.