When you want to quit, how low will you go?

I’ve decided to work hard toward an early retirement (like, maybe in August 2017) and that will be quite the challenge considering the debt I need to pay off and the money I need to squirrel away.

‘been thinking a lot about how I can accomplish this and this led me to think, how low go I go? How much am I willing to give up in terms of my current lifestyle with this goal of retiring early?

This led me to come up with an amount of money I am willing to live on each year.

Because I hate completing my taxes every year and I hate accountants and lawyers (sorry if you, reader, are either or both of those), I am thinking about earning just enough to not have to file.Or, if I file, just need to file that EZ form.

According to Turbotax,

In 2016 for example, if you are under age 65 and single, you must file a tax return if you earn $10,350 or more, which is the sum of the 2016 standard deduction for a single taxpayer plus one exemption.

I can then add my college kid for another exemption of $4500, which brings my total to $14,850. Once a month, I can hand $375 over to the kid. Good luck living on that, honey.

Keeping the long term in sight,  I am preparing to live on the $10,350, increasing it as allowed by the IRS.

I know there will be some state tax to pay and I am ok with that because the state tax form is pretty easy to gag my way through.

So, here is what I’ve come up with so far: rapidly pay down my debt, rapidly build up my 401K and HSA so I can retire when I turn 60 in August.

I plan to live on $10, 350 each year from my 401K until I draw from Social Security.

Starting today, I am going to practice living on that amount, which comes out to $28 a day.

 

It is 2016 and I have no rights?

I work as a nurse for a major health insurance company. According to the US Department of Labor, I am “salary exempt.”

Salaried Exempt Employees

Employees classified as both salaried and exempt receive the minimum weekly wage for salaried workers, plus they are exempt from the FLSA regulations on overtime pay based on their job duties and responsibilities. Employees who work in an administrative, executive or professional capacity generally are exempt from overtime rules because the work involves duties related to the company’s management. Some outside sales personnel and employees in computer-related occupations are exempt as well. The criteria for exempt classifications vary; however, a common thread in the exempt status criteria is that employees must use independent judgment in performing the majority of their job duties. Exempt workers do not receive overtime pay, yet the company expects them to work as many hours as it takes to fulfill their job duties, even if they have to work more than 40 hours during the workweek.

Houston Chronicle

It sucks. I was told I must work as long as it takes to get the job done and I can not work less than eight hours on any work day. If need be, I work 10 or 12 hours to get the day’s assigned work done but I can’t take any flex time or comp time and I sure as hell don’t get overtime.

Our work load and our responsibilities are increasing daily. Our ability to use ‘independent judgement’ is being restricted more and more. Many of my co-workers are working 50 or more hours each week to get it all done.

Let’s talk about

Rights of exempt employees.

An exempt employee has virtually “no rights at all” under the FLSA overtime rules. About all an exempt employee is entitled to under the FLSA is to receive the full amount of the base salary in any work period during which s/he performs any work (less any permissible deductions). Nothing in the FLSA prohibits an employer from requiring exempt employees to “punch a clock,” or work a particular schedule, or “make up” time lost due to absences. Nor does the FLSA limit the amount of work time anemployer may require or expect from any employee, on any
schedule. (“Mandatory overtime” is not restricted by the FLSA.)

www.flsa.com

Really? This sucks.

 

A Fresh Start in a New State

It’s official. My youngest graduated and is heading off to college in August. I am now free to move. Well, sort of. I am going to move to the state of the college she is attending to establish residency so I can perhaps get her in-state tuition in a year or so.

I am thankful I have a work-at-home position that affords me the opportunity to live anywhere I can get a decent broadband internet connection. I went this past week to scout out locations. I haven’t found a house/apartment to rent, yet, but I am looking online, checking out the local realtors’ websites and the classifieds in the e-edition in the local newspaper.

I plan on working hard to reduce my spending/cost of living to just one bi-weekly paycheck each month so I can use the other to pay down the consumer debt as quickly as I can. The age of early retirement is looming and, while I may not be able to retire by then, I really want to be free of debt.

I am going to use this opportunity to find a rental that is at least $300 cheaper than my current rent of $910 and has room for a garden, even if that is a container garden. I would also like to use my car as little as possible so being near a grocery store/fresh market/farmer’s market is important.

I am so looking forward to this fresh start!

Finally Tracking Daily Spending

Spending TrackerI have a latent rebellious nature that likes to come out and sabotage some of my efforts to improve my life. One thing I have rebelled against is budgets and expense tracking. I hate it and I never do what I should do. And now I am sitting here mired in debt, wondering how the hell am I going to save the money I need to retire in 9 years?

Oh, what I do to myself!

Enough, I say. This weekend I sat down and put all I could on ‘auto-draft’, set up a budget and put an app on my phone to help me track my daily spending.

I am giving my household a $20 daily spending budget which includes groceries, gas and incidentals- actually, every thing that is not a bill.

So far, I am really liking that phone app Spending Tracker.  It’s free and easy.

Maybe this time I will stick with my budget.

 

 

If You’re Wondering Why You Can’t Make Ends Meet

living wage calculator
image courtesy of lifehacker.org

You might want to check out the Living Wage Calculator developed at MIT. This calculator gives you an idea of how much it costs to live in your area and, in case you’re planning a move, you can use it to decide where you can afford to live.

Another potential use is to decide just how much you really need to live on and, if you make more than that, sock the rest away for escaping the 9-5 rat race early!

The Living Wage Calculator sure shows that minimum wage is not a living wage.

I am reading Linda Tirado’s book Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America. It is opening my eyes to what it is like to try and live on minimum wage. It also makes me want to kick myself for accumulating so much debt on my more than ample income that I am forced to try to live on minimum wage.

If I could do it all over again, I would use this calculator to keep my spending to the level of the living wage and save the rest. The future would be much brighter.

 

If You Go to the ER…

It better be an emergency.

Your insurance company will look at the diagnosis the ER doc sent in and, based on that, will decide that, no, that severe pain you went in for at 4 am on a Saturday a.m. was not an emergency.

Claim DENIED!

You pay the bill. The whole bill.

Lesson: diagnose yourself before you go to the ER.

confused
What? I’m a doctor now?

How to Deal with Emotional Eating

Hello, my name is Cam and I am an emotional eater. I eat when I am happy. I eat when I am sad. I eat when I am angry. I eat when I am upset. Whatever the mood, I eat food.

Food makes me feel better. Especially foods that have sugar. I really feel good after eating sugar. While I really enjoy my sugar with chocolate (I feel twice as good then!), I won’t pass by pretty much anything with sugar.

I have been an emotional eater since the struggles of those pre-teen and teen years. Food helped me cope and it made me fat. And that added another struggle and emotion- hurting from  peer ostracism and struggle to control my emotional eating.

It was years later when I read that sugar acts like a drug in my brain (yours, too- not that I mean my brain is your brain, though there are times when you are welcome to it, but rather that sugar is a drug to the human brain).

Of course, being the skeptic that I am, I needed to do my own research so I paid close attention to how I felt before and after eating sugar. Yep, sugar is my cocaine. (confession: I have never used cocaine but I have heard you can get addicted after a single use). And a study did find that ‘intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward‘.

My addiction to sugar led me to being over 200 lbs. And my health was definitely showing the effects of it.

Then I read more about the dangers of sugar.

It’s also dangerous. In a recent study, we showed that sugar, perhaps more than salt, contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease. Evidence is growing, too, that eating too much sugar can lead to fatty liver disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and kidney disease.

Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive.

Holy camoly, Fatman! I recently had some blood work done and the results showed I was heading toward heart disease. Unless I changed my ways.

I needed to get control of my eating. I needed to get control of my emotions. I needed to stop the emotional eating.

The thing about emotions is that they are super-powerful. Emotions are powerful enough to drive us to harm ourselves, hurt others.

And I was not strong enough to overpower the emotions that caused me to seek food. I finally realized that I needed help.

I went to the doctor and told him that I needed something to help me with my anxiety and depression because that caused me to become angry and sad and overeat. But, please, don’t give me anything that will make me fatter.

RX Prozac.

And it worked. It helped me to keep my emotions in check and go on to lose over 50 pounds.

I believe that overeating has a HUGE emotional component to it. Many of us are emotional eaters. First we need to control our emotions. Then we can work on the eating.

It worked for me. I am still on the Prozac and will stay on it until I lose the extra weight. Then I will work on the emotions.