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Posts tagged money

Cash Flow, Fiscal Tides

Beltane                                                               Early Growth Moon

Boy.  This money stuff doesn’t seem to get easier, even with practice.  The annoying reality of cash and its flow, in and out, never seeming to be quite enough, no matter how much is available.  A well known phenomenon at all income levels this is an area where Kate and I have grown enormously over the last 15 years, yet still have growing to do.

We have different approaches to money, no surprise there, we’re different people and most of the time the differences seem to complement each other.  Her more detailed way, my big picture way.  Her more generous nature, my more conservative one.  (when it comes to money.)  Sometimes we work at cross purposes and that requires extra conversation, extra listening, extra patience.

Money is very far from the point of life, for either of us, but its misuse can make life pretty damned miserable.  As we’ve experienced.  So we’re committed to staying on top of this, to stay in the conversation, to keep things clear and honest.  It’s good for us, but it’s not always easy.

I’m proud of both of us and how we’ve become more adult, more rational, more compassionate in this area of our life.  We never stop learning or growing.

Live From the Front Range

Winter                                                   Waxing Moon of the Cold Month

Ancientrails hits the road tomorrow, coming to you cyberlive from Denver, Colorado in the new and rapidly expanding area around the old Stapleton Airport.  There will be wonderful grandchildren stories, important updates on children and a report on the interior of the Denver Mint.  Don’t miss anything.  Especially those grandchildren stories.  I can already tell you how they begin:  Ruth is the most amazing 4 year old I’ve ever known and here’s why.  Same for Gabe only 2 year olds.

We’ll be there a week, the newly liberated Kate and the still liberated me, easing in to this new full-time togetherness thing.  We took a reluctant Vega and Rigel, along with old hand Kona, over to Armstrong Kennels.  Like always, once they got out of the truck and into the lobby, ok, the entry area, they started sniffing around and seemed quite alright with us leaving.  So we did.

Lunch at Azteca which was on the way home, a nap, a business meeting.  This had good news.  Our finances are in the best shape they’ve been in since ever.  A propitious moment at which to retire.  We sorted through the various tasks remaining before Kate’s big party on the 20th, considered the positive news of Kate’s retirement again, and finished.

I’ve been putzing around on various computer related matters since then.  I’ve managed to create or acquire three nagging problems, ones I’ve not been able to fix and it annoys me, but we’re leaving tomorrow and they will wait until we get back.  Fortunately, my netbook, which travels with me, isn’t one of them.

Up. Again.

Samhain                                                           Waxing Moon of the Winter Solstice

More insomnia.  This time stuff churning through about our finances–nothing bad, just a lot to process.  It’s as if this couple of weeks have shaken the old me loose from his moorings in the past and allowed him to float free, surfacing now in 2010, usually in the early morning.

Kate and I are looking at heading out to Colorado the week after she retires, see the grandkids, Jon and Jen, hopefully Joe.  Ruth wants to go back to the stock show with her grandpa.

Adult Activity

Samhain                                                Waxing Thanksgiving Moon

Another meeting with Ruth Hayden, our cash flow and strategy money person.  She’s so sharp.

Kate has done so well with earning money and putting money away that we’re going to have an ok retirement.  We’re still calculating, but things look good.

The transition from Kate working full time to casual time, then to full retirement is something I anticipate with pleasure.  I have wanted to grow old with her and now we can get started.

Being adult, though, for a whole morning makes me want to run screaming into the streets, doing something crazy.  Gonna have to settle for handling the comcast installer.  That’s crazy, in it’s own demented way.

Money, Money, Money, Money — Joel Grey, Cabaret

Fall                                             Waxing Harvest Moon

An interesting meeting last night in Paul’s new digs at 1818 Douglas, Harvey McKay’s first house and far less than a stone’s throw from Alan Page’s current one.  Among the usual this and that of our lives–caring for parents, a son’s troubles, the Taj kitchen under construction, playing flag football with grandkids, we talked about wealth.  It seemed to me our view of what constitutes wealth in the 3rd definition from the OED suffers from a stunning lack of perspective.  I went hunting for some numbers.

The Woollys and our social circles represent, in general, at least the top 5% of both income and wealth.  Not all of us, but most of us.  We are wealthy, OED #3.  By quite a large margin.   Just sayin’.

Here are a few from:

Who Rules America?

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%. Table 1 and Figure 1 present further details drawn from the careful work of economist Edward N. Wolff at New York University (2010).

The L-curve

income-usThe US population is represented along the length of the football field, arranged in order of income.

Median US family income (the family at the 50 yard line) is ~$40,000 (a stack of $100 bills 1.6 inches high.)

–The family on the 95 yard line earns about $100,000 per year, a stack of $100 bills about 4 inches high.

–At the 99 yard line the income is about $300,000, a stack of $100 bills about a foot high.

–The curve reaches $1 million (a 40 inch high stack of $100 bills) one foot from the goal line.

–From there it keeps going up…it goes up 50 km (~30 miles) on this scale!

The Economic Library

The 1990s and early 2000s witnessed the 
establishment of a growing body of work, increasingly precise, 
describing how the income distribution has changed. This work can be 
summarized in three points:
The distribution of pretax income in 
the United States today is highly unequal. The most careful studies 
suggest that the top 10 percent of households, with average income of 
about $200,000, received 42 percent of all pretax money income in the 
late 1990s. The top 1 percent of households, averaging $800,000 of 
income, received 15 percent of all pretax money income.
 In the longer view, the path of income
 inequality over the twentieth century is marked by two main events: a 
sharp fall in inequality around the outbreak of World War II and an 
extended rise in inequality that began in the mid-1970s and accelerated 
in the 1980s. Income inequality today is about as large as it was in the
 Over multiple years, family income 
fluctuates, and so the distribution of multiyear income is moderately 
more equal than the distribution of single-year income.

Shame, Guilt, Fear

Lughnasa                                                  Waning Artemis Moon

While it’s fresh.  A meeting this morning with our financial manager where we went over, again, the various moving parts of our investments.  It resulted in a down feeling, almost defensive.  What was this?  He said we’d be fine financially and I believed him.  We overhauled our whole approach to money now over ten years ago and have a great track record since then.  When I mentioned my feelings to Kate, she said she trusted in our ability to adapt.  Again, I believed her.  We have and will adapt to changed circumstances.

It took a while to delayer my feelings.  First, I noticed anxiety (my unfortunately favorite response to the unknown), as if a vast pit were about to open ahead of us.  A pit of this and then a possible that and more stuff we didn’t know, or have impact on.  A little deeper I recognized a fear about being dependent on a bag of gold held in some financial dragon’s lair and only won back by dint of great effort.  Silly.  Obtuse.  Still, the case.

Pushing a little further, a different layer.  Retirement.  When Kate retires, my long tenuous connection to the world of work would fray, then vanish.  It’s as if she’s retiring for both of us.  Or, rather, that I feel the imminence of retirement perhaps in a manner similar to the couvade, a strange situation in some cultures where a husband takes on the characteristics of his wife’s pregnancy, often placing a heavy rock on the belly near the birth moment and heaving it off.  So, there’s the unknown, the strange sense of money coming in from a pot somewhere far away, a feeling of retiring that is sympathetic or empathetic rather than actual.  But, that wasn’t the end.

What finally came to me was a mixture of shame, guilt and fear, all related to no longer having a viable connection to the world of work.  This is my middle class roots talking.  As long as Kate practices, I have a tangible though fragile link to work and the income it produces.  After she retires, all semblance of that relationship vanishes.  In the central Indiana world where I grew up not to work was shameful, weak, irresponsible.  Kate responded with, “Well, I’m upper middle class and I don’t care! (about the abandoning work)”

All of our life comes along for the ride and we never knew when one part or another will express itself, rise up and claim attention.

Oh, Yeah? How’d It Go?

Summer                                                  Waning Strawberry Moon

We keep our walkin’ around money at the Credit Union, Associated Health Care Workers.  I like credit unions because they’re small and friendly, unlike our mortgage holder, Wells Fargo, who has shafted us time and again.  The credit union knows who we are.  I went in today to pick up our weekly cash and the teller said, “I’m used to having Lynne pick up the money.”  She doesn’t Lynne goes by Kate, but otherwise.  “Yes, she had surgery.”  “Oh, yeah, how did that go?”  “Well.  She’s walking around.”

I grew up in a small town and I value personal interaction with merchants.  It makes me feel known and welcome in a broad, perhaps shallow way; but a wider net of personal connections away from work or friends gives a sense of density to life often, perhaps usually, lost in the city.

The electrician, Jeff, who works on our stuff from time to time was out today.  He lives here in Andover and we talked about bees and hemp while I tried to identify where the fence guys cut the wire to the sheds.  Again, personal.


In Alexandria, where I lived from age 2 to age 17, most people knew who I was and I knew who they were.  Alexandria had about 5,000 citizens, but the families were much fewer and knowing a family member meant you had some sense of the rest, too.  Yes, it can be suffocating, perhaps more so as an adult, but as a kid, it meant there was no where in town I felt anonymous, a cipher, just a person paying 4 bucks for a latte or buying a new computer.  Neither of which we had of course when I grew up in the 50’s and early 60’s.

You can take the boy out of the small town, but…

And Then Again

Spring                                     Awakening Moon

OK.  Turns out I had read the numbers right.  No sudden shower of wealth.  No happy Buddha of good fortune.  Also, no tears.  We have enough, more than most.  We have each other, family, the dogs, our property, our friends, our creative work.  And our Latin.  None of that changes, so the amount of money is just what it is.  Still, that brief interlude when we thought we had an unexpected windfall made us realize that we could absorb any amount of extra cash.  Big surprise there, eh?

In for my 6 month eye exam.  A space invaders day with visual field dots and the clicker.  The machine thought I pressed the button too frequently, but I just followed the tech’s suggestion to press the clicker when I thought I saw something.  My pressures are normal, my nerve unchanged.  Jane West, my eye doc, said, “Someone else might look at this and say its physiologic.”  How’s that?  “That you were just born with unusual nerves.  Still, they’re round and they stay the same from photograph to photograph.”  They took portraits of my retina’s every once in a while.  Physiologic, eh?  Explains a lot.

Home.  Reread my e-mails.  Oops.  Education for an exhibition I’m touring, Until Now.  So, brief nap, back in the car, back into the city.  I spent an hour after the education wandering the museum, looking at the Art Remix objects.  I have a Remix tour on May 6th.

I also checked out two print shows, The Wild Things and Old Testament prints.  These are well worth catching.  Prints are the ephemerals of the museum, their sensitivity to light means their exhibition has limits.  They can’t be exposed to even dull light for very long.  So they come up, like daffodils, hang out for a brief time, then they’re gone, often not to be seen again for years.

Kate went to see the back surgeon today.  He thinks her right hip pain may well respond to a hip replacement.  I hope so.  This has gotten pretty bad, too.  It’s not as bad as it was, but before was really bad.  More tests.  More doctor’s appointments.  Still, perhaps a little hope at the end of the tunnel.

Life Is a Cabaret

Spring                                                         Awakening Moon

When we drove over to our financial consultant this morning, I looked up and saw a crescent Awakening moon tucked in behind three wispy rows of cirrus clouds.  The moon, faint and slightly out of place, added a moment of mystery.

It was an omen.  Ever had a really pleasant surprise?  I had one, Kate and I had one this morning.  We sat down with Ruth, our consultant, and began going over this and that as we always do.  She got caught up on matters personal and physical like Kate’s back surgery and asked questions about Kate’s impending retirement at the first of next year.  That was why we were there, to make sure about our resources after Kate leaves full time medicine.

We tossed ideas around and looked at a 2011 budget Kate and I did last week.  It was,  in my view, tight but manageable.   Ruth made a comment about the amount of money we had coming in from social security and pensions and then how much more we needed from money in Kate’s retirement account.  Wait?  What was that?

We add the money from the retirement account to the social security and the pension?  My mind went blank for a minute as parts of me processed what this meant.  It meant I’d viewed our post-retirement budget from a very restricted perspective.  I had, for reasons I no longer understand, folded the our social security and pension payments into the total from the retirement account rather than adding them all together.  This means our available cash after Kate retires just went up by about 50%!  50% is a big number.  That means our budget goes from being adequate to pretty damned good.

A pleasant surprise, indeed.

Afterward, we ate lunch at Spoonriver, Brenda Langston’s place by the Guthrie.  I saw Brenda there and complimented her on her class and the restaurant.  It was a great, healthy and damned expensive lunch.  But, what the hell?  We can afford it.

Surgery, Money and the Electric Fence

Fall              Waxing Blood Moon

Saw Ruth Hayden again, today.  She has guided us since a stressful period in our finances over 7 years ago.  As Kate’s retirement comes closer and closer, Ruth helps us with fine-tuning our retirement budget and preparing our holdings to manage the inevitable ups and downs of the market.  Her help is practical and wise.  Everyone should have a Ruth in their life.

Kate has scheduled her back surgery.  It will take place on October 19th.  She plans for 8 weeks of recovery, 4 of pretty low key activity.  That means extra care and nurturing.  I look forward to it.

The electric fence has become part of our property.  I check the l.e.d. two to three times a day and walk the property after heavy winds.  Thanks to the fence, Vega and Rigel now run and romp, tumbling over and over in the way puppies will.  The electric fence teaches a strong life lesson about freedom within  constraint.  Once our limits are clear, we are free to act as we are.  This seems like an oxymoron, but in fact life has limits at every turn.  Like Rigel you may be inclined to climb the fence and run free.  Like Rigel you may find that exhilarating.

Consider this, however.  She has a secure place in which to play with her sister, get fed and hang out on the couch in the evenings.  She risked losing that when she climbed the fence.

Not a conclusive argument and I don’t mean it to be, but it’s worth thinking about.

June 2018
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