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It gets better...

June 26th, 2010 at 05:11 am

So I'm starting to really loathe my new Operations NCO. On May 14th I submitted a packet to take leave from July 12 to the 25th to see my little sister come home from Afghanistan. No big deal. Submissions are allowed 60 days out, I submitted 58 days out.

I got my leave packet back on June 23rd saying it was denied because I'm supposed to take a PT test on July 20th, during my leave. They can't do that per regulation. So my boss went to talk to ops and comes to find out that I have to take a PT test before I go, or they cannot approve the leave.

Leaves have to be approved at least 14 days in advance. That's Monday. So we called Ops back to set up a PT test for Monday morning. No go. Ops was already gone for the day, it being 1430 on a Friday. So since reg says any E-7 or higher not in my chain of command can administer a PT test, we grabbed the E-7 that works in our office as a facility administrator who has no soldiers technically to come give the PT test at 0630 Monday morning. He said I can do it however I want, so long as it's done. He's as pissed about this as I am.

They beauty of the whole situation is that because we're doing the PT test, we choose our course. There are three certified courses on post. One's a long course (2.12 miles), ones an accurate course (2.0 miles), and ones a short course (1.78 miles). Guess which one I'm running? Yep, the one thats nearly a quarter mile short.

So now since we're doing everything by regulation, if the company still chooses to deny my leave, I have a valid IG complaint because of them forcing me to take a PT test with 3 days notice after have 44 days to have given me notice. Thinking about going to IG now, but I'll wait until after they deny my leave a second time, which I'm pretty certain they will do.

My mother in law took 2 weeks off to take care of my wife while I'm gone. My Grandparents are driving 1200 miles here to pick me up, then driving another 1800 miles to get to Ft. Lewis, Washington. Were going on a nice little vacation through Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills on the way. So when they deny my leave again, it's going to screw up everybody's plans. IG is going to love me.

Health insurance

June 24th, 2010 at 07:13 am

My First Sergeant, who is a former medic, decided that he is going to reccomend me for a med board after the kidney transplant. He was vocal about not wanting me to do the transplant because it's expiramental medicine. Since he is a former medic, he knows all the paperwork to have me shown in a negative light to get me chaptered out of the military. I would lose our health insurance which is the biggie.

If I decide to not give DW my kidney so I could then stay in the military, I would in turn be chaptered out on a compassionate discharge due to the longstanding and ongoing nature of dialysis and her need for constant care. Once more, losing the health insurance.

Damned if you do, Damned if you don't. The only major difference is that with a med board chapter, there are two options. First, and most likely, is a medical seperation payment, or severance pay, of about $40,000. The second, and not unlikely, is to be placed on temporary disability retirement until it is known if there will be any issues from the kidney transplant. I would draw $1200 a month based on this for up to 5 years, and then if actually medically retired, continue to draw that $1200 for life, adjusted for inflation. Still without health insurance.

Does anyone know anyway to get health care coverage for someone with a longstanding, permanent disability outside of from a group rate from an employer? Tricare is paying $70,000 a month for her right now. There is now way we could come close to affording any of that. If my First Sergeant is successful in chaptering me, it would be about a year from now. Im going to college full time for an economics degree.

Loving Life

April 8th, 2010 at 07:11 am

So it's been a while since I last posted.

DW's health is great. She's been full of energy lately. We're just waiting for June to roll around to go to Mayo and start her treatments. Couldn't be going any better.

I'm still only working three days a week, which has allowed me to start going to school full time. I take 3 classes every 8 weeks. The college on post is allowing me to do an accelerated program and finish an associates in a year. The green to gold adviser is already working with me to get enrolled in that. Working out quite nicely.

The army eliminated all re-enlistment bonus's for NCO's in my MOS. Beauty of it is, my promotion board for E-5 is finally at the end of this month. So guess what. I re-enlisted for 6 more years and got a smooth $8,800 bonus. I also keep what bonus's are left from my initial contract. If I'm going green to gold anyway, might as well get as much money as I can. We'll see $6,600 of that now, and $1,500 of another bonus next month. Then our tax return will be a minimum of $2,700 next spring because that's the amount with-held from the bonus's and we claim exempt. So that finished off our 6 month EF at $10,000 and will put $2,700 in principal down on our mortgage next spring. Keeps getting better.

We're with Waddell and Reed right now for our Roth's. Not a bad company, but charges a 5% load. Terribly high. Problem is, Vanguard requires a minimum of $3,000 to open any single Roth. So since our EF is done, we'll start putting our 30% towards the Roth now which will allow us to switch to Vanguard by the end of the year. Their expense ratios rarely climb above .5%.

We'll also be able to start paying down on the mortgage now. DW wants nothing to do with the finances, so we'll be putting an additional $250 towards principal each month. DW gets her toys when she wants them, and aside from that she doesn't care.

Life couldn't really be any better at this particular point in time. Everything is going great. If I had to find a downside, it's that we still haven't finished the basement. We have the funds to do so, but not the time right now. 3 classes a week and 3 days of work, plus all of DW's medical and the basement takes a back seat. But anyway, life is great.

I love the army - pays for everything hook, line, and sinker. One of my buddies failed his weigh and tape, the commander threatened to chapter him, so his doctor literally referred him to have lipo done, and tricare approved it. He's having lipo done on the army's dime because he's too fat by 1% body fat but still got a 265 on his PT test. Awesome and hilarious at the same time.

Meh!

February 2nd, 2010 at 03:11 pm

This is kinda three posts all in one.

Taxes

We ended up getting $1938 back from Federal, $39 from Missouri, and $87 from California for a total of $2064. You can take the standard deduction and still get $1,000 more deducted for property taxes. Plus the $1,200 credit for our Roth.

Had I known about it sooner, we would have put more money into our Roth in order to get the full $2,000 possible. Live and learn. We'll do that for next year after the EF is finished.

I had my with-holdings set to only have $20 or so a month come out. My bonus gets taxed at 31% either way though, so they take $620 of $2000. I'll ask finance if there is a way to change this when I go adjust my with-holdings so I pay absolutely no federal tax.

Next year since standard deduction and personal exemption don't change, we will have $11,400 standard deduction + $1,000 for property taxes. Personal exemptions of $7,300. Comes out to deductions of $18,800. $34,000 - $18,800 = $15,200. So if you tax that at 10%, it's $1,520. Add in the $500 for the home buyer credit, and our tax liability will be $2,020.

Now add up the Making Work Pay credit and the Roth matching credit, you get $2,800. Subtract our tax liability, and you get a return of $780 even if we pay absolutely nothing in Federal or State taxes as long as we contribute at least $2,000 each into our Roths.

So it sounds like on Friday I will be making a trip to finance on post to have my with-holdings changed so I pay no federal income tax. It's not often you can say that neither yourself or your spouse will pay state or federal income taxes and still get a return.


Basement

I don't know what the basement will cost to have finished, but we'll take the $2,064 plus my $60 in Lowes gift cards from Christmas and give her the old college try. I think we'll come out right about spot on.

Floor tile: $75 for supplies. $250 for labor.

Carpet: Cost plus installation: $400.

Sink, toilet, mirror, and light: $600
Installation: Free (cousins a plumber)

Paint and trim: $250. Installation: DIY.

Doors: $500

We didn't budget for a tax return because I didn't think we would have one. Our EF will be done this year even without it. I didn't budget for my bonus in April either, which is good because now I can go to my sisters wedding in April, which will cost $500 to go to, and leave $1500 if I can adjust our with-holdings.

We would take the $1,500 left over and use $750 of that to furnish the basement, and the other $750 towards our Roths to be able to take advantage of the Roth credit on our taxes next year.


2010 Financial Goals

So my goals for 2010 should be done without a hitch.

1. $10,000 in big EF. We put $450 on the first and $385 on the fifteenth of every month. There was $450 to start the year from 2009. We should end 2010 with right around $10,500 in there when you figure in interest.

2. Finish and furnish basement. With our tax return, we should be able to finish it, and my bonus, furnish it.

3. Have enough in savings to pay for our costs for DW's transplant w.o a pay advance or using the EF. The other half of my bonus, plus cutting cable ($106/mo) and our house cleaner ($150/mo) for the time we'll be in Minnesota will be able to cover all of this. We should actually come out around $2,000 ahead after it's all said and done when you consider that we'll be cutting our home costs. That will also go towards our Roths.

4. Double contributions to Roths. We put $100 a month each into our Roths. Figure in the $750 from my bonus and $2,000 from savings when we go to Minnesota, and we should be able to more than make up an additional $2,400. It would be in lump sums as opposed to monthly allotments, but it still accomplishes the goal.

5. Purchase investment property. We close in a week or two on a 7.34 acre piece we bought for $12,500 plus roughly $600 in closing costs. We put it on a 5 year note. Don't know the rate yet - the real estate contract said 5% but the banker estimated 8%, so we'll have to wait and see. Either way, the intention is to pay it off over 18 months, not 5 years. It's as much to raise our credit scores with an installment loan as it is to have investment acreage.

6. Get promoted. Blasted points. I hate you points, all 798 of you. Just because my 620 doesn't measure up, doesn't mean you should win. Fall points, I beg of you. Let me make that extra $300 a month.

Filing our taxes today

February 2nd, 2010 at 08:30 am

Filing our taxes today. Tried to the taxact thing and it doesn't make sense to me. It said a refund of right around $1,500. We paid a combined $1550+/- in Federal taxes, and $120 in state taxes. Our taxable income was $36,000 before deductions. Property taxes ($1000), Making work pay ($400), and the Roth credit ($1,200) raised our deductions by $2,600. So standard deduction of $11,400 and personal exemptions of $7,300 comes to $18,700. Plus $2,600. That gives us deductions of $21,300. Makes our taxable income $14,700. So even with a 10% tax bracket, we should pay $1,470 in federal taxes. The new military spouse law makes it that neither one of us had to pay state taxes. So even if all this is accurate and right as to how the tax code works, which I doubt, we should only get a $200 return.

So I opted to make an appointment and have them filed on post today. I've done this the last few years as my first option and never worried about it, so I'll do it this year again. My question is if our return is almost the same as what we paid in federal taxes, should we just not pay any federal taxes at all? But then what happens if I end up owing next year and I have to pay penalties and interest? Irritating.

Anyway, the good news. This weekend we won 4 dugout box seats to a Royals game. My father-in-law is a huge sports fan, especially anything Missouri for college, and Chiefs/Royals. So he'll like it. As if I had a choice in who we take - soon as we won, my wife was on the phone with her Mom telling her about it. Not that I mind going with my in-laws, just that it would have been nice to talk about it. But hey, it happens.

And the highlight of my week. I ran a 14:22 two mile in the gym yesterday. I've never run that fast before in my life. To do that on my first day back to work after having only nominally worked out for the last 5 months was amazing. I don't know who was more surprised, me or my boss. But I only work M-W-F 7a-3p. Pretty sweet stuff.

But I need to go get DW from dialysis and go file our taxes. If we do get the $1500 my basement will get finished in the week or two after we get it.

Yes, I know the tax return should go into our Emergency Fund. But DW and I are both sick of having a half finished basement that can't be used for anything. I can finish it and move my weights back down there and have my cable and DVD's back to watch while I work out. Cross your fingers.

Loving Life.

January 30th, 2010 at 11:20 am

So we won't be starting DW's drug treatment until this summer. The Doctor heading the treatment is rewriting the protocol, and they won't be accepting any new cases for the study until June 1st at the earliest. So I go back to work on Monday for the first time since August 24th. It was a nice break, but I've been ready to go back to work since before Christmas. I get 6 months off this fall too with the transplant and drugs, so anyway...

My Platoon SGT wants me to go talk to re-enlistment this week. Not real high on that idea, but I will anyway. To re-up right now can't give me anything I don't already have. I want to stay at Ft. Leavenworth - so re-enlisting for stabilization or choice of duty station doesn't make sense since I can't be moved without re-enlisting and I don't have to re-enlist until next August. So 1 year stabilization doesn't give me anything extra.

The only incentive to re-enlist now would be a cash bonus. But to do that, I fore go the $2,000 I have coming in May and the other $2,000 I have coming next May. So whatever amount I re-up for, I would have to subtract $4,000 from that to see what "extra" I'm really getting. It will take at least $14,000 to get me to re-up now as opposed to later. I was told that I'll be guaranteed to stay here until the transplant is done and DW can take care of herself again either way, which is about as much as I would get with a 1 year stabilization if I do re-up in August '11. I'd want that in writing though. If I can see a spare $10K then yeah, otherwise, I'll wait until it benefits me the most. I really don't see that much cash being thrown my way, but hey. Everyone can dream.

Going back to work will be a bit different. Both of the guys I've been working with for the past 2 years on a daily basis are leaving in the next couple weeks, and I get two new guys to train. It's not that the new guys don't know their jobs - it's that I'm lower ranking than both of them, but I've been working in the same section for 4 years and they are both new to the section. The guys I was with treated me as an equal because I did as much work as them and pulled my own. I can't expect the same from these new guys right off the bat, but I'm sure it won't take too long. I'm due a promotion from November anyway, but I couldn't get it until I came back to work. So we'll see what happens. I pretty much just don't want to be pushed around at work, which tends to happen with new bosses.

Nothing else really going on. Close on our land purchase in the next few weeks I suppose. Still waiting on DW's W-2's so we can file our taxes. Kind of nervous about filing because I don't know if I lowered our with-holdings too much and we'll owe. California owes me $87, so that can go towards whatever Federal I owe, if any.

Oh - almost forgot. We got $567.44 back on my trip to Minnesota as a reimbursement. Cost was about $240, so we came out way ahead. And we got back around $440 as excess in our escrow account. That all went into savings, which put it back up to where it needed to be. Now whatever extra we get can start going into finishing up our currently half-way finished basement. That's my goal now - to finish the basement before we go to Minnesota for DW's drug treatments for her transplant.

Going to a church dinner/silent auction that's a youth fundraiser tonight with a bunch of friends. Heh - it's amusing to me that it's at a Catholic church - and I've never been to a Catholic church before - and that at the dinner they are selling $1 a bottle beer. It's very ironic to me that a church is selling beer at a youth fundraiser. But anyway, off to work-out. Lost 10 lbs since Wednesday getting back in shape. I had put on about 25lbs since I stopped working, so now I just have another 15 to go. Give it 2 weeks tops. Lots of oatmeal, protein shakes, and cardio.

Travel budget?

January 24th, 2010 at 07:03 am

So the drive home wasn't bad. Dense fog and rain through southern MN and nothing but light rain and a lot of wind in IA. Made it in 6 hours, which is the average.

So I'm trying to figure out how we're going to cover at home expenses and medical travel costs (food, hotels, gas) while we're gone for DW's drug treatment. Right now we have enough in savings to just pull a bit out for a weeks long trip, and then get it reimbursed by my job when I get back. DW's drug treatment is 4 months long. We go to Mayo for 3 weeks, then home a week, and do that 4 times. Plus another month for the transplant and recovery. So we need to be able to cover 3 weeks worth of expenses there at a shot, then get it reimbursed by my job. We would basically be using the same money each time, because it would be reimbursed by the time we went back to Minnesota.

The hotel is $580 for a month, or $225 for a week, so it makes more sense to just get the a hotel room for a month at a time. It has a kitchenette in it - microwave, stove top, and small fridge. So we could reasonably go to the store and get groceries and cook as opposed to getting fat eating out all the time. So I would say our food budget wouldn't change much - maybe be $350 a month instead of $250. Plus gas is about 25 cents a gallon higher there, and we use about 40 miles a day there round trip on the hotel. So that raises our gas budget from $150 a month to about $250 when you figure in the $80 in gas it takes to get there and back. Total monthly costs go up by roughly $780 a month.

We currently pay $150 a month on our maid service - yes I know, it's a lot for something we can do ourselves. You have no idea how much it has improved our marriage to have it, because DW and I would fight all weekend when we did the house cleaning. It's money well spent, IMO. Anyway, we will cancel that for the time we are in Mayo, so for 5 months.

That makes our cost increase go from $780ish to about $530ish. We have that in savings without touching the EF. So would it be a good idea to just pull out $750 from savings and use that, giving us $220 in wiggle room? Then have it reimbursed each month, and keep using it until the transplant is done, at which time it will be reimbursed into the savings account.

The other thing is that my jobs mileage rate is 50 cents a mile. So I get $370 a trip for gas. They don't cover the gas while we're there - they cover the travel mileage to get there and back. So if we spend $250 a month in gas, and get everything else reimbursed, we come out ahead $120 a month. Over the course of 5 months of that, and 5 trips, we come out ahead $600. So really, we could be putting that extra $120 a month back into the savings account each month.

Does this make sense to everybody as far as a financial plan to cover the expenses of the trip? We could do this without changing any of our budget each month - just by taking $750 out of simple savings and having it reimbursed.

The alternative is to get a pay advance, which completely screws up the budget. I get my bonus in May, which is half way through the drug treatment. I just don't want to turn down the pay advance and go off half cocked in doing so. I think I've looked at everything here, but I'm just not certain. We have $2000 in our EF right now and are putting an extra $835 into it each month. We could just stop doing that instead of getting a pay advance if need be.

Am I overlooking anything?

A good week.

January 22nd, 2010 at 02:25 pm

Everything seems to have gone good at Mayo. Trip up was a bit scary, saw 17 vehicles wrecked along the way in Iowa, including an over-turned semi.

All the tests came back fine, nothing to worry about. Get the final vote on Wednesday, and should find out when DW starts her drug treatments then as well.

So now I get to attempt the 6 hour drive back to Kansas City in this eventful weather. Made it up in one piece, should make it back the same. Wish me luck.

Another Day.

January 15th, 2010 at 07:36 am

So a few days ago I made an offer on a small piece of land, nothing much - 7.34 acres. Land around here usually goes for a minimum of $3,000 an acre and this was listed for $13,500. I got it for $12,500 plus closing costs, and the seller pays the survey fees. Comes out to about $13,100 for me. I did finance it over 5 years at 6%. I figure I will pay it off in 12-18 months. Land right down the street from it is listed at $44,500 for 5 acres, same condition. I was thinking of just re-listing it, but have decided to hang onto it as a hedge against inflation. I suspect we will see some hyperinflation over the next ten to fifteen years. Land will always match inflation.

Got quite upset at Tricare. I was told to get medicare Pt. B by our local office, which we did. Now, a case manager from Tricare called us and told me to cancel the medicare Pt. B, because I'll be responsible for the $155 a month premiums. I had done all the work with social security to get Pt. B, only to have to go cancel it. Irritates me.

My life has been fighting insurance agents lately. Not fun, but I guess it's productive.

Kinda disappointing to get paid and then have almost all the money leave the account just as fast as it came in. We started doing an ACH payment to our money market for $835 a month so that the EF actually gets done this year. DW doesn't like it, but she realizes we have to have it done before we adopt. This way, it will be done by the time she's back to work, and we can then save her paychecks to pay for the adoption.

Getting ready to file taxes, as are most of us. Expect in the ball park of $500 back, tops. Probably much less, but we'll wait and see.

Nothing too much else going on. Leave for Minnesota on Wednesday morning, get back late Friday night if everything goes as planned.

Social Security

January 5th, 2010 at 06:14 am

So DW and I are off to the Social Security office when she finishes dialysis. Fun stuff. We're getting her put on Medicare Part B. She supposedly just has to sign one form since she already has Part A and Disability. We shall see.