A little bit about money but more about health

It’s a new year 2018 is gone and 2019 has begun. A lot has happened financially since making my last posting. I may be a bit long-winded in this post, but just because there are a lot of things to cover.

In hopes of become more sociable and making new friends, I joined a local kickball league. It was a lot of fun going to a structured event every weekend and having human interaction in the process. Unfortunately for me, during the second to last game of the season I attempted to catch a fast moving ball and managed to fracture my finger in the process.

Had planned a 2nd date and bought a ticket to see the Michelle Wolf concert at Texas Theatre. The date went really well I thought. I got to meet his sister and her husband they were both super nice people. Long story short, he went silent during my trip to see family in New York and friends in Boston. I messaged him about seeing each other again. Then he said he had met someone else, but did say I was really sweet. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. However being single for 4 years and having gone on numerous dates I’m kinda used to it.

Saturday night at midnight I made the decision to visit my local emergency room. This was after losing complete mobility in my finger and starting to see it turn black and blue. Typically in these types of situations I would try and wait until I could schedule an appointment with a normal doctor. However the pain just wasn’t going away and I was afraid of any potential long-term damage. Fast forward to earlier this week, I got the bill after insurance. $1,942! For what was essentailly some tape, a $10 splint, and 3 x-rays on a cd-rom. Their website says that they accept insurance at in-network rates.

Being the fiscally responsible individual I am, I began to look at my options. I asked a friend who works in the insurance claim business. He basically said most of these places are a scam, and to see if they will knock a few hundred dollars off the amount. So that’s exactly what I did. The originally knocked $500 off, then I told them $1,000 is what I have in my HSA. The lady on the phone said she had to clear it with her manager. After two rounds of this and me being direct but polite, they agreed to knock $942 off the bill! This helped me avoid having a mini meltdown about neverending bills.

Less recently, I had to put new brakes and rotors on my car. Driving a car I paid $30k for with squealing brakes is kind of embarassing. Not to mention I unsuccessfully tried to get it fixed under warranty twice. First time they said it was normal, even the service advisor’s brand new sports car does it. Second time, they cut all 4 rotors and the problem returned after just several weeks. Altogether I paid about $700. The car also needed an alignment, synthetic oil change, brake fluid change, battery service, to the tune of ~$250.

My auto insurance recently came up for renewal. After using Allstate since 2013 I began to grow tired of increasingly high prices. I have good credit, the car is nearing 3 years old, no speeding tickets or accidents on my record. Why on Earth should the rates continue to be going up? They basically said it was a statewide thing and they have no control over changing the rates.

On the topic of personal health and weight loss I recently found out that I have high blood pressure. During the previous doctor visit I was given a prescription to help me control my appetite (Belviq). It made me a little bit dizzy but overall I did end up dropping about 7 pounds. This was incredibly difficult, combining a vacation, multiple Thanksgiving outings in Dallas, along with some bad emotional eating habits.

I was also given a prescription to help lower my blood pressure. If I wasn’t able to lower it the natural way, I’d be open to taking it over the short term. However I did a fair bit of research, and a lot of people have had major side effects with it. I’m 35, not 65, but even then I don’t think people absolutely have to take these medications. Along with these visits came $150 worth of lab work to make sure my numbers are within normal ranges.

Since hitting my highest weight of my entire life of 256 pounds I decided to make a series of changes that helped me drop to 242 over the course of about 6 weeks. What have I done?
1. Started doing intermittent fasting. This is singlehandedly one of the biggest contributors to losing weight. I try not to eat too late the night before and skip breakfast.
2. Fasted cardio. Speeds up the process of burning fat.
3. Reduction of alcohol consumption. I usually will only have one drink when I go out. Before I was often having two or three. Then eating in excess on top of that.

I’m still very much a work in progress. I’m not a big believer in having new years resolutions. I instead prefer to have regular habits that contribute toward be getting closer to achieving my goal.

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30 Months later I bought a warranty

Usually I’m against these things on principle. I did however decide to purchase a 96mo/120k mile warranty for my car. My thought process is below:

I purchased my 2016 Nissan Maxima in March 2016. My purchase price was approximately $31,380. Currently owe $14,840.54. Overall I still like the car, but….
I’m at 35k miles. Past 36k, I can no longer order an extended warranty for it and have it be considered a new car. The bumper to bumper warranty is 36mo/36k miles, powertrain warranty is 5 years/60k miles. Currently between work, social life, and random activities I drive about 15k miles per year. That puts me at around 5 1/2 years or March 2024.

Couple of quotes off a forum I’m on for the same model:
1. “Need help….. Any Nissan techs on here?? who can I call to escalate a warranty claim. Driver seat motor seized 45 k miles dealer wants $350 for new motor showed me a seat invoice for $3,400 claims Nissan will pay 90 percent. Also said cannot just replace motor in driver seat need to order entire seat etc. I feel like that’s bogus and they are just taking a shot at me.” Then after a few comments were posted: ” It’s a lease. They can have it back broken”

2. “At 24k Miles I had transmission failure which was very disappointed Nissan warranty covered it all but I feel like the car is compromise who else had trans problem” … a second person posted “mine failed at 2K. what was the issue that caused the replacement?”… a third said “Mine failed at 48k” … a 4th “Mine failed at 18k. And the wheel bearings. And the driver seat. And the windshield is next.”

3. “Navigation screen went dark on my 2016 Maxima for 1 minute then rebooted. Should I be concerned? Car is out of warranty”

4. “Has anybody had their USB 1 port go bad? Dealership said it needs to be replaced so no CarPlay for me at the moment. They quoted me $360 for the part and labor. And no, I’m not under warranty anymore. Wondering if I could take it on myself…”

5. “I’m getting my radio replaced!!! Woohoo!!!! The Bluetooth issues I asked y’all about was annoying. I couldn’t take anymore. Thank goodness I purchased the warranty!”

6. “Hey guys, I’m a little worried…
My son came over today with his Altima and we needed to go to the store, so I let him drive my Max. My son used the keyfob to do the auto start, and then got into the car. When he put it in reverse, my husband stopped us because he heard something in the engine that he described as sounding like a plastic spray paint can being breaking like it was being run over–no we did not run over anything in the garage.
I didn’t notice anything when my son was driving, but when I made a quick run to the grocery store, I noticed that between 35-40 the car was doing the kind of surge and let up that I have felt it do in cruise. It has never done this before today. Could this be the beginning of the CVT problem that people have been talking about? I’m concerned because at over 25k, I’m coming close to my warranty expiring.
Have you experienced something like this?”

7. “Has anyone experienced a clunking noise when going over bumps or corners.Just got done with the dealership and they said its the connecting rod and will be covered under warranty.”

Since this current model debuted only 3 years ago, maybe there are some design flaws that just haven’t manifested themselves yet. So let’s compare to the 7th gen Maximas…
1. 9/2015 : “Gotta love that warranty baby!!! Should have her back by Tuesday… Somehow the motor blew and thanks bro”… I bought a 100,000 miles 5 year warranty when i bought the car..block cracked so I couldnt keep anything every little piece has to go back to nissan and I have 68,000 miles on the car” See picture of a brand new engine below the post.

2. 12/2015: “Loving this warranty… Fixed seat track, blown shock, and realigned car… # winning” Then I see a picture of a bill for $1,971.10.

3. 4/2017: “So its confirmed I have the Main Bearing Issue 😒 right outside of the warranty. Should I panic or nah?” His car only had 67,900 miles. Another person commented “I had my long block replaced at 5700 on my 2014 under warranty…the cost on the invoice was $8,300 if I had to pay out of pocket”

4. 3/2017: “Well the extended warranty approved the work and getting a new transmission 🤷🏽‍♂️ let’s see how long this one last 😂 also wanna thanks my dude XX XX for helping out with this. If not they would of denied that XXXX”

5. 2/2017: “Glad i brought that extended warranty. $2000 parts and labor. All i had to pay was $100.. lower control arms. Front Wheel hubs. Slid him a few bucks and he changed my belt too..” …. “The rubber on the control arms basically dry rots and starts tearing. They noticed it awhile back and pointed it out to me. Told me i would need them replaced in the near future.”

6. 4/2018: “This car…. as soon as it’s out of warranty the factory head unit goes out. Then the A/C. Now it’s just reading whatever now. Car is almost paid off and I just started moddinh. Now I have electrical issues. Emissions are due at the end of the month and I cant even pass.”

7. 7/2014: “Just left the dealer. Maxi needs $2k in repairs and warranty just expired. Guess I know where my tax return money is going toward. Smmfh.”

8. 10/2015: “This is what I was quoted today by Nissan Service department. My warranty covers everything but the front Struts, 2 front tires, rear taillight, and the 60, 000 miles service tunes up. After doing the calculation that’s a whole lot of money.” Proceeds to show a bill for $5,246. THe biggest of which were the steering rack, motor mount and tail light unit.

9. 2/2017: “So my 2010 with 126 (6k outta warranty) cvt just flat out died no warning no signs no issues…only person happy about this was the dealer because they wanted me to trade up for a 17 SR a month ago…shoulda took the deal when I had the upper hand..#cvtboom”

10. 4/2016: “Yup! Just got the news it is indeed my AC compressor that died. Thank GOD I kept that extended warranty because I was seriously contemplating cashing it in as this car hasn’t given me not 1 issue in 2 years until now. But even then I will take that as opposed to anything pertaining to the engine or CVT. 😊”… “Didn’t cost 1 cent with my Platinum Extended Warranty😁. Just have to bring it back in the morning because the part isn’t in stock. But that’s like an $700-$1000 job….ughhhh”

I considered trading in for a different car in a less premium class. After factoring in present / future depreciation, a new set of tires I recently purchased,  how few other cars on the market have both the power / size at a comparable price point, sales tax, markup, miscellaneous fees… The decision was very clear. Keep it, pay it off, in 18 months it and the warranty will both be gone.

I’ve already had to make one warranty claim for moisture in my headlight. The part alone costs over $600. Then add-in labor associated with dropping the front bumper, removing the old unit, installing a new one, and reattaching the bumper…

How much did it cost? $2,585 total, 0%, $258 up front and 18 payments of  ~$130. This will cover me for 96 months from my vehicle in-service date, up to 120k miles. 8% of the original purchase price of the car. I did try shopping around at 2 local dealers. One only wanted to cover me to 72k miles for the same price. I politely declined, another only offers warranties through Fidelity Warranty Services, which has a ton of negative reviews… Another never called me back even though I emailed them, and spoke to a salesperson and receptionist…. I know, not the most exciting thing in the world… Short of getting a cheap used car and driving the wheels off it, I do think I’m setting myself up for long term financial success.

August Update & Opening Up About My Biggest Struggle

Just over 6 weeks left until Summer 2018 will be over and done with. The temperatures have been pretty brutal in Texas, often rising above 100°F. As you may recall, I stopped contributing my 401k to the max in favor of other more liquid investments and paying off debt.

As of this past weekend I think I’m doing moderately well.
Nissan Motor Acceptance Loan: $15,125.90 (1.9%)
Credit Card Debt: $904.81 (16.74% APR)
iPhone X Loan: $1,235.68 (0%)
Total Debt: $17,264.03

Emergency Fund: $2,000
Roth IRA: $676.01
401k: $41,727.45
HSA: $265.38
Assets: $44,668.84

Why do I have the credit card debt? Had a relatively heavy road bike for 4 years. In 2016 I rode 238 miles, in the last 12 months I did 308 miles. So I decided to buy a new one from Performance Bike. It’s a Fuji Roubaix 1.3, weighs about 18.8 pounds, a 6lb weight reduction from my Windsor Wellington SL. I am still working on getting my cadence up. The more advanced rides want you to do an average of 19mph for the ride. I’m averaging 12mph right now, so I have a lofty goal to reach for.

 

 

Selling the old bike has been a bit of a challenge. No one seems to know what it is, or wants to low ball me. “That sure is a beautiful bike. I love to buy it today! I know there’s lotta wishy-washy people here. But, I’m a serious buyer and I can drive to you today and give you cash in hand. My offer is $50 today pickup.” My current asking price is around $320, I don’t plan to let it go for anything under $300. Worst case I keep it as a backup bike or for when someone else wants to ride with me. To-date, not a single friend has biked with me in 5 years, or worked out with me in 4. Pretty shitty.

Still not having very much luck in the area of social interation with others. I signed up for a beginner bike ride with a local group this weekend. Tomorrow I’m going to a concert with coworkers so that’s something. I guess it’s normal to have fluctuations in social activities. 7 whole days of no plans is a most frustrating feeling. I’ve broken it down into a couple of beliefs.

1. I’m a loser who lacks the basic skills to make new connections. I know for a fact that isn’t true, but usually there are more periods of awkward silence than anything else.
2. Despite my best efforts, even seeing a therapist at some point for associated anxiety, people just don’t really choose to make me part of their activities. This I don’t expect to change.
3. Everyone else is sort of busy doing their own thing, you have periods of the same. Especially if they already are in a relationship, have kids, organizations they area a part of.
4. I have almost no common interests with the social circle closest you’re closest to, so why be surprised when you don’t get invited out. Some of the activities they do like board games I am outwardly miserable being part of. Just not my thing but that’s okay.
5. The people you were closest to all moved away, lots of people from Texas are weird. Many of the ones who weren’t from Texas moved out of the state, often closer to their family. Or in an area for a new career opportunity / more closely aligned to their political beliefs. Altogether there were about 10 of them since I moved here in 2011. Now they’re all gone.
6. Attempts at going to the gay area of town and strike up a conversation by myself have been unsuccessful. Even with the usual series of apps at my disposal. The anxiety kicks in hardcore, I’m lacking a starting point to work off of. Commenting about the weather or what someone is wearing can be sort of lame. For the most part only the old, borderline creepy type guys show me any interest. Maybe one day this will no longer be the case.
7. I try to make plans with friends I do have and they’re usually busy. Some don’t even text me back. Took me about *5* months to meet a former close friend for lunch who works less than a mile away from me. One of my closer friends in the area admitted to me he has a drug addiction problem, and is in the middle of recovery. Generally he has not been the same person over the last 2 years. I would still hang out with him but it’s really not the same anymore. His personality is different and he’s been way too emotional with everything.

I’ve struggled meeting new people for literally the last 20 years. Trying to shift out of a defeatist attitude but weekends with literally no plans with people just make me feel deflated. Maybe focusing on actions, and the things I do have power over will help improve my situation. Keep on pushing…

It Shook Me To The Core

The headlines is not for dramatic effect. Some recent news one of my old friends on Long Island told me took me offguard. Especially with my 35th birthday coming up Wednesday. I just needed to get this off my mind.

First a bit of context… I didn’t come out of the closet until 2004 at the age of 20, just a few months after my father had passed away. It wasn’t until about 2008 that I went to my first gay bar. A late bloomer? Sure. When you work full-time, go to graduate school at night, and try to see how long you can stretch $20 in a night, stuff like bars becomes a secondary priority.

The name of the bar was The Bunkhouse, it was kind of a”deluxe” dive bar on long island. Complete with a dance floor, inside & outside bar, light show, loud music, and what I’d call the usual suspects. Over the course of a few years I made some friends in that particular scene. I only communicate with maybe 2 or 3 of them at all these days.

One of them I’ll call R. Lean build, looked like he was into partying, would occasionally, and be a social drinker. We never dated or anything, but he was always easy to talk to. The kind of guy who you could just vent to and he knew just what to say. I wanted to see more of him, but things didn’t quite work out. I met someone, then left New York state. Last year he messaged me something very brief, like hello man, what’s up. No verbose array of questions to connect the last 8 years like points on a map, or even anything simpler about how life is in Texas, or if I’m seeing someone. It was still nice to know that he thought of me. I won’t go into reasons here why I didn’t try to pursue things further, but they were / are valid.

A mutual friend of ours told me he passed away last Sunday after battling cancer for 6 months. I really wasn’t sure what to say, other than be shocked. You don’t expect a 35 year old you remember as being fairly healthy to suddenly be gone.

I was down for a couple days. Even though we weren’t close, it’s still a sense of loss. I have this idealistic view in my mind that no one should die of health-related conditions in 2018 before the age of 70. He was halfway there, half of his life ahead of him. Maybe he could have cleaned up his act, found a career, husband, a house, done a fancy vacation most of the instagays go on these days. Maybe we could have just had a few drinks and catch up on old times…. Gone too soon.

raffi

Reflections at 35

Originally posted on my Facebook account, but some of the lessons are just as relevant here. Made a couple additions here a couple weeks after the original post.

1. Having people close to you is important for happiness and mental health. Even if you’re separated geographically it’s still nice to stay in touch with them. For me personally I’m 1500 miles from my hometown, so it takes a little bit of extra planning. Most of the time I have no regrets about spending a few hours out with a could friends.
2. It’s way too easy to get fat and eat what I call dirty. The chemicals in what we eat is kind of shocking from the bottom of the food chain up. Real food is always better.
3. If all you do is eat, work, and sleep you’re doing it wrong. That’s kind of what I did in college. I have the three degrees to show for it but I could’ve had more fun l if I made some tweaks. I still am working on this. The worst feeling to have is regret, looking back 10, 20, or 30+ years in life and realizing you were a complete slave to the dollar and basic things in life.
4. Material things – Love them, I still buy them. Not to impress other people though. I do it for me. Big ticket items almost always depreciate, so choose wisely.
5. Travel – really helps you put perspective on life and think of possibilities. I moved to Texas 7 years ago with a lot of fear, uncertainly, and doubt. Will I stay here forever? Who knows but I did know it was time for a change. I also love exploring new places with other people.
6. Do real shit – get away from the screen, social media, and live your life. Comparing yourself to others is toxic, and lots of what you see is fake anyway. I keep waiting for the point where society will say enough is enough and start to push back on these things. Sometimes I’m not so sure. The extent to which people focus on what a particular celebrity or politician is kind of insane.
7. Focus on the fundamentals – saving for retirement, doing things that will allow you to live long enough to enjoy it, get out of debt, have insurance so that $50k medical expense is only $7k.
8. Past is the past – living in the past, wishing things were a certain way accomplishes nothing. Close one door and open a new one if the time has come.
9. Don’t burn bridges – it takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and just minutes to destroy it.
10. Be mindful of who you surround yourself with. Sometimes you have no choice but set limits. Feeding constant negativity doesn’t help you or the other person.
11. Defeatism kills dreams – talking yourself out of everything without even considering the upside or how it will make you grow as a person is a recipe for regret lol. Things may not always work out but if you’re not in the game you’ll never win.
12. Pets are awesome. I didn’t get a dog until I was 29. She is amazing and shows unconditional love. Sometimes you need to wake up to that in the morning, after a long day, or after a date that goes horribly wrong.
13. Enjoy the news in small doses. Be aware but don’t let it ruin your day, no matter what happens.
14. Don’t settle – that minimum wage job as a cashier was a step to the next point in my life. Others are following their own path, never look down on them because that’s where they are today.

Last buy not least… Don’t buy shit you’re not going to use.
Take care. Be well.

Life Updates – Traveling to Colorado and Boston

Not too long ago I wrote what I thought was a pretty freaking amazing blog post. Then unbeknownst to me, as I hit the publish button, the entire thing was gone. You’d think I would have known by now… So this my readers is my second attempt at writing a June posting. Arguably this version will be bigger, better, faster, stronger.

In May I went on a work trip to beautiful Colorado Springs. I stayed at a resort that is known around the country as being one of the top places in the entire state. Drinks were shared, stories of business were told along with some amazing sights. The city was about a mile high and I completely was not ready for it. Next time I will do more research before going someplace with such a huge change in elevation / climate. My nose will thank me.

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After settling back in Dallas for another week, I made a trip up to Boston to drop off the cat I’ve had around for months. Its owners owed and promptly paid me $500 for associated expenses including cat food, cat litter, cat litter box, toys, treats, veterinary bills. They also covered my airfare and shuttled me around.

Boston is a beautiful city. Some of the sites I got to experience include Harvard University, Paul Revere’s house & statue, Quincy Market, New England Aquarium, Cambridge and Dedham. It’s a lot more walkable than Dallas, and the parking garages were a bit on the pricey side. The cost of real estate was kind of insane. $500k was the starting point for many pieces of property, with many exceeding that. On the flip side, my odds of finding a partner are higher, it’s more socially progressive, and closer to my aging parents. The $64k  question… 5 years out do I still want to live 1500+ miles away from family..

Upon returning to Dallas, I was blessed with a nail in my rear tire. Got the tire plug patched at a nearby Goodyear service center before work and was good to go. The repair was $25, I opened up a claim and got $12 back. When I bought the tires in April they included Road Hazard Protection. Luckily it was a cheap repair and I didn’t have to file a claim for a completely new tire…

 

I think my soul yearns to travel more. I made excuses for years about wanting to find the right person to go with. Only to realize I’m not getting any younger. Plus  you can’t bank vacation time, either you use it or you lose it. I’ll end this with a quote by Paula Pant of Afford AnythingYou can afford anything, but not everything”.

June 2018 Financial Update – $40k Retirement & Dating Life

June 2018 Financial Update

Happened way earlier than expected, I hit a major milestone in my retirement last week. June 2018 less than two months away from my 35thbirthday I hit a total of $40k. Started with a 401k right before 30, I was also burdened with almost $40k of student loan debt at the time. It’s a great feeling to have things turning around completely in the other direction.

With this major milestone being, I’m shifting gears again. Going to max out my Roth IRA, switch to / max out an HSA-based insurance plan as part of my open enrollment. Once the Roth is maxed out, then I might just stop playing with this 1.9% car loan and pay more principal payments until it’s 0.

Why this change? It boils down to a couple of key points…

  1. I would like to have more money liquid. The future is uncertain and I’d like to have money available to cover 3 months worth of an emergency fund.
  2. The market may be due for a correction soon. I’m not one to believe in market timing. However…if tomorrow my investments lose 20% of their value, I would be feeling a bit of remorse by having it all wrapped up in something I can’t access penalty free until I’m 59 1/2, or possibly longer if lawmakers decide to start changing the rules.
  3. I am tired of having debt. Specifically I’ve written about eliminating debt for over 6 years. I’d rather have the $541/mo in my pocket or other investments rather than lowering my cashflor.
  4. Tax free vs taxable investments. I like the concept of having eggs in both baskets. I’m of the opinion that tax-free growth of any investment is a bit of fallacy and Uncle Sam will try to find a way to penalize people or bring it to a halt. Maybe that won’t happen.
  5. It’s a bit of a stress relief to be able to move a couple hundred more dollars each month into my emergency fund.

Current Debt:
Car Loan: $16,571.34
Current Investments:
401k: $39,256.41 (it’s dipped a little bit over the past few days)
Roth IRA: $270.81

This is more of a money update type blog, but I needed to get this off by shoulders…

Recent news stories have been a bit of a wakeup call for us to all pay attention to the quality of our mental health. There have been a few moments of me feeling down, nothing too severe. I try to be aware of this and react accordingly. I am happy for people who have found a significant other. In my case like 3 of them got married or found the love of their life just a few months after things didn’t work out with me. One recently changed his relationship status to in a relationship. Another I was interested in dating, but said I was going too quickly because I actually wanted to meet… is dating someone now. Then being told things like to be a good Christian he couldn’t act on his sexuality. Maybe I should just put all this stuff into an excel document with a brief summary of what happened. That should be my homework fo the night..

I can relate to folks who say it’s a new day, and there are other fish in the sea. Just get fed up with the dating scene, guys who say they’ll meet up on a certain day of the week, you message them and then no response. Yet most of the apps show when they were online last. Then 10 days later I get a hey handsome. I honestly think there have been over 150 types of experiences. Maybe it all did happen for a reason though.

In the meantime it’s time to focus on getting buff, increasing the ole Sexual Market Value. Maybe I’ll end up moving if this keeps up a couple more years. Dallas has been great for my career, but my love life sucks. Almost 4 years of being single…