Week 2 of Awareness

Scary what lies ahead. Just have to share this eye-opening blog post.

Tom Bodett, quit leaving the lights on, will ya?

Deu Acres

DAY 1: So, what is oil?

There is so much talk about oil, the consequences of using it, and our dependence on it. But what is it?

The oil and natural gas we use today began millions of year ago, when millions of microscopic oceanic plants and animals died. These beings, containing the carbon they gained from the sun, sank to the ocean floor where they were gradually covered by layer after layer of sediment, other organisms, and bacteria for millions of years. Heat and pressure built up and formed the organisms into either oil or natural gas.2

And millions and millions of years later, humans began to harvest and consume these resources. The majority of this week will be focused on our relationship with the remains of those organisms.

DAY 2: Amount of oil remaining in the world

BP states that 1,687.9 billion barrels of oil remain, which would…

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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.)


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.


You pay the bill. The whole bill.

Lesson: diagnose yourself before you go to the ER.

What? I’m a doctor now?