GI Jane Finances

March 23, 2008

Temptations

Filed under: Bling Bling — gijanefinances @ 10:11 am

One of the advantages of living overseas is the various temptations that involve dropping some serious dough. I went to my first Persian/Oriental carpet auction on Friday. It was so much fun. I was not going to buy anything at first. I already owe a Nain carpet that is presently in my tiny living room.

They had a nice spread of food–tuna sandwiches, tuna bites, pizza and cheese sticks. The beverages included: wine, beer and soda. I was in heaven, right there. After an hour of viewing carpets, the auction began. The first carpet was a steal for about $150. I did plan on not spending more than $1,000 on any one carpet. In the end, the final damage was $1,700 on four carpets. I purchased three Afghan and one Pakistan carpets.

My poor little savings account! I will continue to revise my savings plan whenever serious amounts of money flow out. Especially, when today at a furniture sale, the only thing that prevented more purchases was having a tiny living space to work with. However, I will not leave Japan without several Japanese/Chinese pieces.

I love shopping.

GI Jane

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March 16, 2008

Random humor

Filed under: LOL — gijanefinances @ 10:15 am

Favorite best of craigslist post:

seeking a roommate
Date: 2007-11-24, 8:57PM PST

Hello, I am seeking out a roommate. I’ve had several the past 3 months that did not work out so well and am hoping to find “the perfect housemate.” I think it can be done!

1. I am a plastic surgeon, single straight male, and am wealthy but rather lonely. I could keep this house to myself, and have for about a year, but I’ve realised that life is much better when it’s shared with people who are conscious (as opposed to my clients and my nursing staff!). (This is not to say that my nursing staff is unconscious – obviously they are not! It’s just very difficult to become friends with a staff that is somewhat dubious of my methods. I’m no rogue, but I do have Eastern-influenced techniques that some find odd and/or disconcerting – but I do have a 99% success rate! In any case, it doesn’t make much sense to mix business and pleasure.)

2. I do have a dog, Basil Ironweed (yes that is his name, people seem to be confused that I have given him a full name like a person and some kind of laugh, but I assure you I take my dog very seriously and treat him with respect, and I ask that you do the same). It would actually be ideal if you have a female dog of pure pedigree (I’d need to see the papers though, for breeding purposes) and I’d prefer her to be a medium-sized dog (I will consider most breeds except absolutely no Australian Kelpies and no American Water Spaniels, please! The colouring of the mating dogs’ possible kin would be horrendous if this were the case! Also, Basil is a Border Collie in case you were wondering!) If you do not have a dog, that is also fine. All other pets will be considered except: no cats unless they are of the outdoor variety, no arthropods, and all avians must be salmonella-free, clipped toenails, and tagged.

3. My house has only a one-car garage. It used to be a two-car one, but I decided to convert half of it into a micro-personal gym as I am rather health conscious. (I do have a gym membership, but my gym is not 24-hour, and sometimes at night I really need to get on the bowflex to burn off some of my energy since I have a lot of it! Also, after meals it’s inconvenient for me to run off to the gym, and that is why I need one at my disposal. The gym membership is because they have a pool there, and swimming is really good for the joints. Just in case you were wondering.) That said, you’ll have to use street parking, but I assure you that my neighborhood is quiet and safe, and there is usually a spot right out in front of my house! (The only time the spot is taken is when the lunch truck comes for the construction workers that are on the corner of my street. It only sits there for about 20 minutes between 1 and 2 pm during the week, depending on how chatty the boys are that day.) Anyways, I have a few rules that need to be followed, but other than that, we should get along fine!

I request that you listen to all music via headphones. I have mild tinnitus and the sounds from most Hi-Fi equipment sans headphones really irriate me. I am open to discussing music, but sadly we cannot directly share it as my ears can’t handle rapidly changing frequencies. (If you’d like to share lyrics, I’d be more than delighted to oblige!)

If you are going to cook, please do not use the following spices: curries, paprika, anything Cajun, and dill. The smells of these things turns my stomach. (If you have any scents that you’d like to avoid, by all means let me know and I’ll do you the same honour.)

You must brush your teeth at least twice a day. If there is anything I cannot stand it’s filthy teeth. (Believe me, I’ve had a couple roommates who just could not handle this simple routine – your gingiva may not mind, but I certainly DO.)

If you are going to watch tv, please let me know in advance which programs you’d like to watch. I do have TiVo, by the by, and I have certain shows that I simply must watch when they originally air. I cannot be too flexible with this because I cannot stand to wait to see my programs. You have to understand that I simply have to watch them when they originally air or I will get a little batty. Most of my programs are on public broadcasting and do not tend to run during prime-time spots.

I do not appreciate unannounced house-guests. I need to know at least two days in advance that company is coming – I need to know the duration of the stay, and the nature of the visit. But, I am open to any and all visitors, I just need to know the specifics involved.

I have reduced rent drastically because I realise that some of my requests might seem slightly stringent. I will pay the bulk of the rent in exchange for your understanding, your commitment to the house, and your humouring of my quirks.

You must be ok with my upholstery hobby. On every third Tuesday of the month I request that you vacate the house between the hours of 4 pm – 11:45pm while I upholster various pieces of antique furniture. I am a perfectionist and require complete silence in the house. I’ve tried this with housemates who’ve promised to stay in their rooms, but this proved impossible as bathroom habits demand a regular schedule that interrupts my artisan work. That said, I will give you a small stipend on these days if it will assist you in finding something to do with that block of time.

No newspapers or magazines. The ink gets everywhere and the gloss irritates my eyes. Sorry! You are free to read them on the front porch, but they must be stored outside of the house (perhaps in your car?)

This is not to sound discriminating, but, if you speak either French, Urdu, or Afrikaans, I kindly request that you not speak them in my vicinity as the cadences used in these languages are grating to the ears and nerves, for me. I have fresh produce delivered from an undisclosed location to my home every Wednesday afternoon.

Please do not purchase fruits or vegetables and bring them home. You can request any that you desire and I will add them to my order queue. (I am fastidious about potential-GM produce and pesticide usage – I will not tolerate either!) Also, if you insist on preparing red meat dishes in the home, do cook the meat thoroughly. IT MUST SIZZLE.

No cellphone tones in my home! Please use silent mode only! You are not to use paints in the home. The noxious odours will aggravate my allergies!

That’s the summary of my requests! I do actually have a handbook which I will provide for your perusal during our interview (yes, there will be an interview for final-stage candidates) that outlines all of my more particular requests. If you are interested, please email me the following information:
1. Name
2. Occupation
3. Age
4. Allergies
5. Favourite author

Cheers!

March 15, 2008

Random notes

Filed under: Etc... — gijanefinances @ 3:33 am

Thank heavens it is Saturday (at least in Japan)! This week, I finished my Japanese 112 class with a 6-page final. We had to give an oral report and write in Hiragana and Katakana. I needed to translate the test in English to even answer the questions.

I signed up to be member of a professional organization. They are having a really awesome conference in San Antonio in May. I used to live there for 3 1/2 years–but it would give me a good chance to visit a dear friend there. I was also impressed with the caliber of the members and where they work. It will be a handy networking tool in the future.

Even though I am excited about living here in Japan, next year there may be an opportunity to move to Europe. More importantly, to Belgium…my dream tour right before the Lt Col board. I was excited about the possibility of moving to Germany, but there is someone I dislike moving into one of the billets. I think (a) if working with her will make me want to poke my eyes out and (b) I would extend here another here. Option “B ” wouldn’t be bad and actually better for my finances. It is expensive moving, even though you get an allowance. Plus, my language training would not have been in vain. We will see…

Tomorrow, I will attempt to cook all of my meals for the week in advance. Today, I will need to research a 5 or 6 day menu. It sounds get in theory, but the commissary here does not have the greatest selection. I couldn’t even find chicken stock for my yummy chicken piccata.

I may be going to Beijing, China for the Olympics this summer. I hate crowds, but this sounds too exciting. It will, of course, derail my well-intentioned student loan reduction plan. But I think it is worth it–I’ve heard great things about China.

One of my property managers has yet to deposit my rent for March. I wish they could be “fired,” but I would need to sell the stupid house first. Still contemplating, even though it is a slow market.

Ja mata,

GI Jane

March 11, 2008

Bills, bills, bills

Filed under: Cash crunch — gijanefinances @ 10:34 pm

Why oh why, do I have $73 in my checking account?

This is what I have after paying on two mortgages. I have laid off AMEX by using cash for 90% of my purchases. One property manager, was being pretty prompt for a while, the rent was deposited by the 7th. The other one is usually chronically late.

I cannot wait until one house is sold or Salliemae paid off.

Update on Salliemae~
Account information

Next due date:
03/16/2009

Monthly payment amount:
$288.95

Past due amount:
N/A

Late fee(s):
N/A

Other charges:
N/A

Present amount due:
N/A

Pay this amount:
N/A

Original principal balance:
$41,176.29

Capitalized interest:
$2,921.84

Outstanding principal balance:
$9,280.96

Accrued interest:
$11.57

Total amount outstanding:
$9,292.53

I feel good about the amount–especially when you look at where I started from. I began paying my loans in 2002 at 6.5%. In 2002, I also had $7500 left on my car and $8000 credit card debt. I remember opening my SM bill and nearly collapsing. My head was in the sand for years as I deferred the undergrad loans for 5 years (it is where the $2,921 interest capitalization comes in). The undergrad was the cheap part–the bulk came from graduate school circa 2000-01. I would say at least $20-25,000 came from graduate school.

Grand total of non-mortgage debt in 2002: $56,676
Grand total of non-mortgage debt in 2008: $9,292.53

I had also maxed out Roth IRAs for the past 8 yrs and contributed to TSP in the last 6 yrs. I used to be so clueless about money and now it is somewhat my passion. I used to fantasize about being rescued by a knight in shining armour. But, he never came…and that is just fine by me.

GI Jane

End of Times?

Filed under: When it snows in hell — gijanefinances @ 9:30 am

Interesting article that was posted on the Early Retirement forum. The proposal would only go in effect for new recruits if passed:

Panel also recommends combining active, reserve retirement systems
By William H. McMichael – bmcmichael@militarytimes.com

A congressionally chartered commission has called for scrapping the entire military retirement system and making active-duty troops wait until at least age 57 to begin drawing retired pay. The proposal, which would spell the end of the current active-duty system that pays nondisability retirement immediately after a service member completes a minimum of 20 years of service, is among 95 recommendations in the final report of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve, which went well beyond its original charter to review the structure and management of the reserve components and delved into personnel policies for active-duty members. Under current retirement rules, an active-duty member is eligible for retired pay immediately after completing a minimum of 20 years of service, which can be as young as age 37.

However, reservists must wait until age 60 to draw retired pay, although a law signed Jan. 28 by President Bush allows reservists to draw retired pay 90 days earlier than age 60 for every 90 days of mobilization in support of a contingency operation. Under the commission’s plan, a revamped retired system would grant limited retirement benefits starting at 10 years of service, although payments would not begin until age 62. Those who serve at least 20 years could receive payments at age 60; those who serve 30 years could get them at age 57. Under the plan, troops could begin drawing retirement pay at earlier ages, but the annuity would be reduced 5 percent for each year that a member is under the statutory minimum retirement age.

The commission said that would bring the military in line with the Federal Employees Retirement System. The commission concluded that combining the training, promotion and management of active and reserve troops into one integrated manpower system is the only way the nation’s military can become a truly efficient operational force for the future. “The increasing cost of personnel, and the challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified individuals, will, we believe, inevitably require reductions in the size of the active force,” states the 432-page report, released Jan. 31. “This shrinking active force will necessarily be accompanied by an increased reliance on reserve forces for operations, particularly for homeland missions. The overall effectiveness of those forces will depend on greater integration of the reserves with the active component.”

The commission argued that modifying the 20-year retirements would give the services an incentive to retain troops whom they want to keep for more than 10 years but for less than 20. Additional pay or bonuses would be needed to keep such troops in uniform beyond 10 years to maintain retention rates. “As part of the reformed retirement system, retention would be encouraged by making service members eligible to receive ‘gate pay’ at pivotal years of service,” the report says. “Such pay would come in the form of a bonus equal to a percentage of annual basic pay at the end of the year of service, at the discretion of the services.”

Matching funds for TSP
In addition, the report says Congress should expand current law to permit all service members to receive up to 5 percent of annual basic pay in matching government contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan. Service members currently receive no government matching funds for TSP contributions. “The government’s contribution would vest at 10 years of service, and the Thrift Savings Plan benefit would be portable and thus capable of being rolled over into a civilian 401(k) account,” the report says. Among the report’s other recommendations:

• The military’s promotion system should be competency-based versus time-based.
• Active and reserve officer personnel management systems should be merged into a single system.
• The number of duty statuses should be reduced from 29 to two — on active duty or off.
• The Defense Department should implement a combined pay and personnel system to eliminate problems with incorrect pay, low data quality, multiple personnel files and inaccurate accounting of credit for service.
• The Guard and reserve should be given the clear lead in Defense Department homeland security missions within U.S. borders. The recruiting and job market landscape has shifted in dramatic ways, the commission said, which means the Defense Department “must recruit, train and maintain a technologically advanced force in an era that will be characterized by ever-increasing competition for a shrinking pool of qualified individuals whose expectations about career paths and mobility are changing dramatically.”

“We need to look at our manpower assets with a totally integrated approach,” commission Chairman Arnold Punaro said. For active and reserve service members, such a system would create a “seamless” transition to and from active duty — “on-ramps” and “offramps,” as Navy personnel officials have described the concept. Basing promotions on competency rather than time would keep troops competitive within the system.

Reserve reorganization

The 95 recommendations in the report also include a call for the reserves to be reorganized into two formal categories: operational and strategic reserve forces. The operational reserve would consist of Selected Reserve units and individual mobilization augmentees who would deploy periodically. The strategic reserve would include Selected Reserve personnel and augmentees not scheduled for rotational active-duty tours and the “most ready, operationally current and willing members of the Individual Ready Reserve,” the report says. The commission also calls for scrapping the Standby Reserve category and said members who are not “viable mobilization assets should be excluded from the total reserve force.” The Defense Department would have to consistently provide the support needed to ensure the sustained viability of both forces, and Congress and the Pentagon would determine the missions each would perform. “There used to be an understanding that if you were ready for the away game, you were ready for the home game,” Punaro said. “Most everyone admits that’s not the case anymore. We need a very ready force at home in peacetime, just like we need a ready force for the overseas mission.”

The reserves were conceived as a strategic force that would be called to active duty only in national emergencies. But they have morphed over the past 18 years, beginning with the 1991 Persian Gulf War and spurred by the military drawdown of the 1990s, into an operational reserve that is now regularly called upon to meet the demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s clear that if you hadn’t had an operational Guard and reserve, you would have had to go back to the draft, which I think everyone agrees is … pretty unacceptable,” Punaro said. Punaro is “very bullish” on the prospects for the commission’s work to receive serious attention. Half of the 95 recommendations “can be done immediately,” he said. About 40 will require congressional or presidential action, according to the report.

March 5, 2008

Audacity to hope

Filed under: Politics — gijanefinances @ 11:22 am

I am slightly disappointed that Obama did not win Texas and Vermont. Clinton has gained some momentum after capitalizing on Saturday Night Live’s skit on how the media treats her. I still have hope that Obama will recover. This is such a heady and exciting time, I practically skipped to the mailbox and registered in my home state. I will be devastated if Obama does not when the primary.

With that said, I was slightly annoyed with Huckabee speech in where he recounted how someone hocked their wedding ring to contribute. It did not elicit any sympathy. I think it is taking it a bit too far in pledging allegiance to a campaign. If I ever do get married and is strapped for cash, my favorite candidate will have to forgo any yen from me. Sorry, that is just a bit too fanatical.

GI Jane

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