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May 29: Three Hikes Along the Staunton River

June 9th, 2014 at 04:06 am

This was the second day of my three-day "shakeout" trailwalking trip.* The weather forecast predicted rain, but I dodged it all day and did all my hiking** while staying dry. I pulled off my plan for the day and logged 3 hikes in 2 state parks along the Staunton River.

I started my day with a nice country drive along 40 or so miles of back roads from the Best Western in Danville to the Staunton Bridge Battlefield State Park*** outside the teeny-tiny town of Randoph (VA). Although this was a smallish, one-day battle, the state and a non-profit group have done a great job of preserving the site. There is a very well-done visitor/education center and the 2.2-mile battlefield trail I hiked**** is well posted with interpretive signs on what happened when during this engagement fought over control of a bridge vital to Confederate resupplying of the besieged city of Petersburg.

Next, I headed for the Staunton River State Park***** some twenty miles away, after enjoying a picnic lunch at the battlefield park. The big highlights of this hiking were the river views along the trails. This was aerobic, up-and-down, body-leaning-forward hiking that gave me a good workout. From the extensive network of intersecting trails, I cobbled a composite 3.5 mile hike going from the River Bank Trail to Crow's Nest Trail to Robin's Roost Trail to Captain Staunton's Trail and back to end at the River Bank Trail trailhead. And I was ready for some rest!

My stop for the night was the Super 8 at South Boston, which I reached after another 20-mile drive. No luggage cart there, so I had to do a lot of back-and-forth trips to my truck to get fully set up in the room. But it was all good, anyway. I had a good night and it was a good day.

# # #

* May 28 -- Little Mountain Falls Trail:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/06/06/may-28-lit...

** My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

*** Staunton River Battlefield Park:
http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/staunton-river-battl...

**** Frugal Fun: Hiking Civil War Trails:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/16/frugal-fun...

***** Staunton River State Park:
http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/staunton-river.shtml

OCIR: Big Dividend, Big Profit

June 6th, 2014 at 04:16 am

Between February 5th and February 21st, I bought 1380 shares of OCI Resources (OCIR) for $29,288. On May 28th, about 3 months later, I sold those shares for $32,766. That sale gave me a $3478 realized gain. Just one month before that sale, OCIR had paid me $690 in quarterly dividends. All told, holding OCIR for a little over 3 months netted me $4168 which worked out to a 14.2% profit on my original investment. This was another "textbook case" of my dividend-based investment approach* in action. Here is how that worked this time.

I discovered OCIR during my weekly stock search. Its 9.4% dividend yield caught my interest. Its financials passed my tests.* And its business model, centered on long-term sales contracts, gave OCIR's dividends the extra stability I like to see.** So it was just a question then of when to buy shares of this utterly boring soda ash mining and production company.

OCIR was good to buy right then. That was because the stock was selling around $21 a share with solid price support at $20.00. So, if I bought around $21, the stock's annual $2 dividend would give me downside protection down to $19, which would be well below OCIR's $20 price-support level. This made OCIR a "safe buy"* right then and there.

I bought at an average $21.22 and sat back to collect dividends. Because that is what I always do. I buy stocks for the dividends.*** I never buy a stock on the expectation that its price will rise. (Well, almost never.****) But often, the price does rise. That is what happened with OCIR, due to some happy talk about the company here and there in the investing blogosphere.

And within 3 months, OCIR reached my sell point. That sell point was a 10% realized gain, which in my view is the same as collecting an entire year's worth of dividends in advance.***** So I pulled the trigger and sold OCIR once its price had risen past that point -- which is another thing I always do. And that (1) put a year's expected income in my pocket now from the $29K I had invested, and (2) gave me a year's time to find the next company in which to invest that now cashed-out $29,000.***** Like I said at the beginning: a textbook case.

The takeaway: Have a plan for your investing. Have the discipline to stick to it if it is working, and the flexibility to change it if it is not working. Know how much money you want to make and take it when you have made it. Do not be greedy. And know how low a stock's price can fall before you need to start worrying. Do not be a Pollyanna. But do not be a scaredypants either.

# # #


* My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

** Stacking The Deck For Dividends:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/14/stacking-t...

*** Why I Only Buy Dividend Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/01/why-i-only...

**** Stock Panic Nets Me 13% Overnight:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/15/stock-pani...

***** What Makes Me Sell a Stock?:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/14/what-makes...

May 28: Little Mountain Falls Trail (FairyStone Park)

June 6th, 2014 at 03:38 am

Today was the first day of my 3-day TrailWalking trip. Not only did I have fun, but this day's hike* also marked the start of my attempt at a hiking-based part-time business**.

My morning was spent actually driving down to my destination area. I arrived at Fairy Stone State Park (VA)*** around noon or so. Had lunch at a picnic table (I always pack my own trip vittles) and planned my hike.

I spent the next 3 hours finding, hiking and photographing Little Mountain Falls Trail.
-- The park trail guide was not very good and neither were the trailhead sign posts.
-- Long story short, I had to hunt for the Little Mountain Falls trail head by cutting through a campground and walking around a closed-gate access road. But I found it.
-- I hiked the 3.3 mile loop trail, which included a panoramic view overlook and the 20-30-foot drop creek waterfall that the trail is named for.
-- And I did my first test of the "TrailWalkers Trail Notes Form" that I developed to record trail observations which I will then use as the basis for a trail report to be posted in my new hiking blog.

With that nice workout under my belt, I drove about another hour to get to the Best Western at Danville, where I spent a very comfortable night.

A good start to the trip!

# # #

* My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

** For Fun And (Maybe) Profit:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/01/for-fun-an...

*** Fairy Stone State Park:
http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/fairy-stone.shtml

Cashback Cards ARE Worth The Effort

June 4th, 2014 at 04:15 am

Some people think that there is not enough money in cash reward cards to go to all the trouble of managing them. Of course, I do not see it that way at all.* Check this out.

I just placed a $2692 order for 16 new windows. I made sure to charge that purchase on my Discover cashback credit card, which is running a special 5% cashback promotion on home improvement store purchases.* By doing so, I got a $135 credit in cashback dollars from Discover. And I will leverage those cashback dollars** to get anywhere from $168 to $270 in good-as-cash gift cards to use on goods and services I would buy anyway.

To score all that free money, all I had to do was (1) know that Discover was running that special promotion, (2) sign up for the promotion, and (3) make sure I carried that card in my wallet when I went to buy the windows. It just took a little credit card management on my part to capture a big cashback payout. It is worth the effort. Here is more on that.

In the first place, cashback card management is just another fun round of the Frugal Game*** that I love to play to save money without really giving up anything.

Second of all, it is not chump change I am getting here. My annual baseline living costs are around $18,000**** and I figure about $8000 of that is credit card billable. At a conservative 2.5% average cash back on that $8000, that is 200 cashback dollars. Factor in a modest 25% average redemption leverage** and my found money goes up to $250 a year. But that is just from my baseline living expenses. I also spend another discretionary***** $10,000 a year for fun stuff. And all of that is credit card billable. So add another $300 to my yearly found money from putting in a little effort into the management of my cash reward credit cards. That means that in total I am adding $550 a year to my discretionary fund for just taking an hour or less every 3 months to check a few credit card websites and rotate a couple of credit cards in and out of my wallet. I am getting over $100 an hour for my effort.

No, I do not pay more in order to get cashback rewards. For example, I bought those 16 windows at a big box home improvement discount store. I timed the purchase to get a 15% special sale discount that saved me $475 over and above the store's already discounted price. And I used a $25 store coupon to push down my cost even further. So the 5% cashback I got from Discover was on top of the $500 I would have saved without using the card.

And, yes, I will pay off that window purchase charge when the credit card statement comes in. Which is what I do with all the purchases I charge on cashback cards. It is all good.

The takeaway: Doing cashback credit cards is worth it to me in principle because I never leave money on the table. That would not be very frugal.

# # #

* Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

** Leveraging Up CashBack Rewards:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/18/leveraging...

*** Playing the Frugal Game is Fun!
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/14/playing-th...

**** My $18K Annual Baseline Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/29/my-18k-ann...

***** A Discretionary Fund, Not a Discretionary Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/29/a-discreti...

May 27: Getting Ready for My First TrailWalker Trip

June 4th, 2014 at 03:59 am

My plan for the day was to do some financial paperwork and finalize my planning for the 3-day TrailWalker trip I am going on tomorrow. By day's end I was good to go. Lots of hiking fun coming up*!

My early-morning blogging went very well. I finished the article "Cashback Cards ARE Worth the Effort" and started a new one titled "Free Gourmet Coffee Every Day."** All while having some of that delicious free gourmet coffee.

My morning went to financials. Reconciling all the bank accounts, updating the income and expense projection records, and managing my cashback cards*** all got done.

My afternoon went to trip planning. After lunch and a prehistory course DVD lecture (The First European Farmers), I concentrated on getting ready for the TrailWalker trip I am starting tomorrow. My plan is to do a 300-to-400 mile loop that will take me to 5 Virginia state parks where I will hike 5-10 different trails.

My evening went to relaxing by watching (again) some of my favorite DVD war movies (Zulu and Windtalkers). Can't wait 'til tomorrow!

# # #

* My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

*** Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

May 26: Plowing Through Paper and Stock Investing

June 4th, 2014 at 03:38 am

My plan for the day, which is my plan for most Mondays, is to dive into last week's piled up home administration work and do a heavy investment management timeblock. Got it all off my to-do list and cleared the rest of the week for want-to-do stuff.

I started my day by starting a new blog article I am titling "Cashback Cards ARE Worth the Effort" while enjoying my first cup of coffee.* Then off to "work" at the computer the rest of the day.

8:00am to 12:00noon
Did a 4-hour time block on home administration (bills, phone calls, follow-ups and record-keeping) and cleared the decks.

12:00noon to 1:30pm
Had lunch and watched a DVD prehistory course lecture (Why Farming?)

1:30pm to 5:30pm
Caught up my stock portfolio records** and then went hunting for more stocks to buy.***

5:30pm to ...
Playtime! Dinner, movies and some Pacific War game playing.****

# # #

* 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

*** My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

May 25: Lots of Blogging and a Church Picnic

June 4th, 2014 at 03:18 am

My plan for the day was to give myself a day off from tasks and chores and enjoy. So I did. I caught up my blog day posts for May 23 and May 24, completed and posted my latest article post "LTC: a Lesser and Necessary Evil"* and went with my wife to a nice church picnic.

Today was also the day that we ordered 16 new windows for the house and got a whole wad of credit card cashback** by charging the purchase on my Discover Card. And scored a big bagful of free gourmet coffee at Bed Bath and Beyond using leveraged cashback gift cards.***

# # #

* 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

** Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

*** Leveraging Up CashBack Rewards:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/18/leveraging...

May 24: TrailWalkersClub Business Planning

May 26th, 2014 at 04:50 am

My plan for today was to crunch through a bunch of household paperwork and to spend a good amount of time developing my TrailWalkers Club (TWC)* business idea. I made good progress.

Over my first cup of coffee, I wrote 200 words or so** on a new blog article that I am titling "LTC Insurance: A Lesser and Necessary Evil". Then breakfast and off to "work."

8:00am to 12:00noon
-- plowed through that paperwork
-- finalized my day plans for next week***
-- used "left over time" to do some housework

12:00noon to 5:30pm
-- lunch and a DVD lecture on prehistoric man (After The Ice Age)
-- developed a "Trail Note" form to document all aspects of a trail hike from trip mileage to costs to trail observations to picture records, etc. Everything on one form from which to write up TWC blog posts and document expenses for tax purposes. The form came out great.
-- updated my TWC accounting and other journal pages

5:30pm to 7:00pm
-- ran a couple of bundled errands****
-- cleaned out the back of my truck

7:00pm to ...
-- dinner and a movie (Donnie Darko)
-- and played Pacific War*****

# # #


* For Fun And (Maybe) Profit:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/01/for-fun-an...

** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

*** Making Time For Fun:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/08/making-tim...

**** The Frugal Game: Errand Bundling:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/26/the-frugal...

***** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

LTC Insurance: a Lesser and Necessary Evil

May 25th, 2014 at 03:11 pm

I have maintained a long term care (LTC) insurance policy since I was in my mid-50s. I do not like paying out the $176 premium every month, but I have done so now for about 10 years. About a year ago, the insurance company got approval from state regulators to change my benefits duration from lifetime to a maximum of 10 years. I most certainly did not like that. But I have kept the policy and continued paying the premiums. Am I a glutton for punishment? No. Not at all. I am convinced that having an LTC insurance policy is the lesser -- and necessary -- evil. Here is why I think that.

Once you need LTC, having it is not optional. You go into long term care when you cannot take care of yourself. You cannot dress yourself. Or you cannot feed yourself. Or you cannot literally wipe your own butt. If and when the time for LTC comes, you cannot say no. You are going to get long term care or die in the street. So the only questions will be (1) who will provide you with long term care, (2) what kind of care will you get, and (3) how will it be paid for.

Long term care could bankrupt me. Or, at least, totally wreck my carefully crafted financial plan.* At a minimum $150 a day for a decent facility, LTC will suck up $4500 every month. That is $54,000 every year. And that is at today's prices. If I had to pay that out of my own pocket, my income would no longer stay ahead of my expenses. And my asset base would shrink -- and shrink -- year after year. To avoid that, an LTC insurance policy is the lesser -- and necessary -- evil.

I am not rich NOW, so self-insurance is no solution. LTC insurance is not just for if/when one might need care at 85 years old. Something could happen to me today to make me need LTC right now. I could have a crippling accident today. I could have a stroke today. And I would need LTC right now. So there is no time to build up a self-insurance stash by investing the insurance premium money instead of handing it over to the insurance company. To self-fund long term care at a minimum cost of $50,000 a year I -- and anyone else -- would need an extra half-million to 1.25 million dollars. Since I do not have that extra fortune today, I am covered by an LTC insurance policy as the lesser -- and necessary -- evil.

Long term care by family is a wrong solution. I cannot justify pressing a family member into who-knows-how-many years of forced LTC service just so I can spend the monthly premium money on something else. If I care for a person, I do not see how I can rationalize turning that person into my 24/7 servant -- never again being master of his or her life -- until I am dead and gone. To me, that seems the perfect way to turn that person's love for me into something else entirely. To avoid all that, an LTC insurance policy is the lesser -- and necessary -- evil.

Government-provided LTC is a poor and impoverishing "solution." Health insurance does not cover long term care. Neither does Medicare. The one way to receive government-provided LTC is through a Medicaid program. But Medicaid is specifically for people with no means. So, to qualify for Medicaid LTC, one has to become a person with no means. That boils down to not being able to qualify for Medicaid LTC until after virtually all of one's assets have been consumed by LTC costs. Nothing left for a legacy. Damn little left for your spouse. It is a financially hellish way to go. And the tradeoff is not good.

Government-provided LTC is minimal LTC. Budget limitations force it to be. With my LTC insurance, I can at least approach my choice of an LTC facility as a paying client with some expectations. As a Medicaid recipient, I would have to accept wherever I was placed and whatever care I was given. I do not want my living conditions -- and possibly even my life -- to depend on the good graces of a bureaucratic, non-performance-based government program. I will take the lesser -- and necessary -- evil of LTC insurance instead.

LTC insurance is a necessary expense. That is why it is a part of my $18,000 annual baseline living budget.** To me, LTC insurance is a need, not an optional want. And at less than $180 a month, it costs me much less than other people's frivolous new car payments.*** Even less than some people's cable television monthly bill. And the peace of mind I get from having LTC insurance is worth much more to me.

The takeaway: Long term care insurance is not just for when you become old and decrepit. A stroke, an accident, or some other health misfortune could make you need long term care now. So you have to protect yourself now. Otherwise you face the loss of all your financial assets. Or face the prospect of forcing your most loved family members into an unchosen life of servitude and limitations. Or both.

# # #

* My Six Lines of Financial Defense:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/29/my-six-lin...

** My $18K Annual Baseline Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/29/my-18k-ann...

*** My Oldie-Goldie Thrifty-Nifty Truck:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/25/my-oldie-g...

May 23: Another Basement Dry-Up and a Camera

May 25th, 2014 at 06:40 am

My plan for today was to dry up the standing water in the basement of our rental-house-to-be, do a "dump run", do some errands and go home. It all took me until after 8:00pm but I got it done.

Over my early-morning cup of coffee, I wrote the first 200 words or so* on a new blog article that I am titling "Long Term Care Insurance: a Lesser and Necessary Evil." Then breakfast and off to "work."

8:00am to 12:00noon
-- checked the news on my stocks**
-- spent 2 hours in the basement mopping and wringing out wet towels until the floor was dry
-- loaded up my Dodge Dakota*** for a dump run
-- drove to the dump and emptied out the truck

12:00noon to 5:30pm
-- had a "treat" lunch at yet another Chinese buffet
-- drove around doing bundled errands****
-- including getting a smoking deal at WalMart on just the perfect camera for hiking***** (a $270 retail-value display model for $155)
-- and when back at the house loaded up the truck with another batch of boxes for storage******

5:30pm to 8:00pm
-- had a nice country backroads drive home

8:00pm to ...
-- dinner
-- and some Pacific War game playing*******

# # #


* 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

*** My Oldie-Goldie Thrifty-Nifty Truck:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/25/my-oldie-g...

**** The Frugal Game: Errand Bundling:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/26/the-frugal...

***** My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

****** Packrating Is Costing Me Plenty:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/30/packrating...

******* My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

May 22: A Good Hike and Rental House Surprises

May 25th, 2014 at 04:45 am

My plan for today was to drive 100 miles to our rental-house-to-be and do some work there. And to do a good hike* at a park that is on the way. The hike went great; but the work on the house took an unexpected turn.

8:00am to 12:30pm
-- got myself ready for the trip
-- drove the first 50 miles to my targeted park
-- had a nice 1.5 hour hike along a creek and up and down hilly terrain
-- treated myself to a chinese buffet lunch

12;30pm to 3:00pm
-- drove the last 50 miles
-- did an errand-bundle** stop at the town's DMV office to get our car tags renewed
-- and got out of DMV in less than a half-hour by going to that office(!)
-- then went to the rental-house-to-be and the surprises waiting there for me

3:00pm to 8:00pm
-- found a stink bug infestation (dozens of them) in the front room
-- found a lot of standing water on the basement floor from the recent super rain event
-- found the grass had grown to about 3-foot high since my last visit
-- first I took care of eradicating the stink bugs
-- then I mowed a small fenced backyard area with the gas-powered pushmower I had brought with me
-- and found that a pushmower was not going to be up to the job of mowing the meadow now grown on our one-acre property (and I would not have the stamina to do it anyway)

8:00pm until...

-- dinner and a movie... and crashed

# # #


* My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

** The Frugal Game: Errand Bundling:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/26/the-frugal...

May 21: Blog, Blog, Blog and a Boat Surprise!

May 23rd, 2014 at 04:13 am

My plan for today was to draw up some legal papers for a dangling real estate deal, clean house a little and do a "blog blitz". I did all that. But the neat surprise my wife sprung on me pushed my scheduled cost optimizing time block aside.

That is because today was also the day that my wife surprised me upon her return from a family assistance trip by showing up towing a lake boat and trailer!

Over my first cup of coffee, I wrote and posted my May 19th day "what did I do today" blog memo*. Then breakfast and off to "work."

8:00am to 12:00noon
-- first thing (of course) I did the am critter care
-- checked the news on my stocks**
-- swept the house and cleaned the kitchen
-- caught up the laundry
-- drafted two real estate deeds to correct a boundary discrepancy between 2 parcels of land we sold last year

12:00noon to 3:30pm
-- lunch and a DVD lecture on pre-prehistoric man (The Great Diaspora)
-- wrote and posted a May 20th "what did I do today" blog memo
-- played an hour of Pacific War***

3:30 to 8;30pm
-- my wife comes home from a 2-week trip towing a surprise!
-- it is a 12-foot lake boat on a trailer, with a 5-hp outboard motor, a trolling motor and anchor
-- which she got for just $300!
-- and which goes towards my way-behind-schedule $5000 spending spree****
-- so after finding a place in the yard for our new toy, we took a walk around the property to check her new plantings and then went out to dinner

8:30pm to...
-- finished editing and posted my blog article "The Chuckle Benefit of Financial Planning"
-- and played some more Pacific War!

# # #


* 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

*** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

**** A $5000 No-Guilt Spending Spree
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/24/a-5000-no-...

The Chuckle Benefit of Financial Planning

May 21st, 2014 at 05:42 pm

I am financially planned "up the ying yang." It is for financial reasons, of course. But that planning gives me more than just financial benefits. I get more from being insured against this, that and the other* than just the protection of my financial assets. I get more from having several backup layers to my income** than just the provision of secure cash flow. I get more from keeping my baseline expenses well below my income*** than just the creation of a large surplus for discretionary spending.**** What all this planning gives me that cannot be measured in dollars is peace of mind. What I call the chuckle benefit of financial planning. Here is what I mean.

Last week, I took my old blind dog Little Bit (of Trouble!) to the vet for her wellness exam. The doc found a mammary gland tumor that requires surgical removal. So just to know what to expect, I asked about how much. About $700, the vet said. Okay, I said. No sticker shock. No stress. The chuckle benefit at play.

We are having 16 new windows installed at the house. I brought in my handyman guy for an estimate on the installation itself. Between $800 and $1000, he said. I looked at him and nodded. He started to defend his price. I stopped him. You do not see me freaking out, I said. It is okay, I said. No stress, no worries. The chuckle benefit in action.

Last December, I had one of those LifeLine screenings done for no money out of pocket (which is another story). When I showed the results to my doctor, he advised getting a carotid ultrasound test at the hospital. Even though I would be on the hook for 20% of whatever the test costs, I did not even ask how much. Moneywise, when I get the bill that will be just another chuckle.

The financial planning I have set in place shields me from any sort of unexpected expense stress. My discretionary fund will cover Little Bit's surgery. Our home repair fund*** will pay for the window installation. My health expense reserve***** will defray any medical out-of-pocket costs I might have. It has all been covered in advance so that when an unexpected expense crops up all that is left for me to do is to chuckle at yet another curve ball thrown at me by life.

My financial planning makes it possible for me to enjoy one of the great benefits of being wealthy without actually having to be rich. It is not about being able to afford anything I might wish for -- because I cannot. It is about not having to worry about money -- which I do not. And that, as they say, is priceless.

The takeaway: The peace of mind that comes from being in financial balance is well worth striving for. Every new (or even current) major expense or payment commitment needs to be screened through that mental filter. Will I still be in financial balance if I go ahead? Or am I robbing myself of my chance for financial freedom?

# # #

* My Stash-Shielding Insurance:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/10/my-stash-s...

** My Six Lines of Financial Defense:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/29/my-six-lin...

*** My $18K Annual Baseline Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/29/my-18k-ann...

**** A Discretionary Fund, Not a Discretionary Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/29/a-discreti...

***** Taming My Health Care Costs Monster:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/18/how-i-tame...

May 20: Bookcase Building!

May 21st, 2014 at 11:49 am

My plan for the day changed to bookcase-building after I got a late-night phonecall the previous evening from Anthony the carpenter letting me know he could come to work today. We had to adapt and improvise some, but we had a good day and got those bookcases* built.

I did not do my usual early morning blog post writing.** Instead I spent that time getting the work area, materials and tools ready for the day's project.

8:00am to 3:00pm
My usual 8am to 12noon task time block also went by the wayside as Anthony and I remain fixed on getting the first bookcase completed.
-- from 8am to 9am I kept readying things for the carpentry to come
-- from 9am on, Anthony and I worked together to construct a floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcase measuring 28 inches wide by 12 inches deep to fit into a corner/nook of my library.
-- I modified my original books-only design to be able to use the expensive lumber panels more efficiently and so ended up with 5 shelves for books and 3 for DVDs.
-- my final cost for the built unit was $315 ($165 for materials and $155 for Anthony's labor). And that I am counting as a part of my current effort to do a $5K spending spree.***

3:00pm to 7;30pm
-- with Anthony gone, I took a DVD prehistory lecture coffee break (The Great Diaspora)
-- then filled out my new bookcase with some 120 or so DVDs, my books on Roman history, Greek history and my biographies (bookending each shelf with one of my collected horse figurines).
-- and in the process emptied out 6 of the boxes in my packrat pile****

7:30pm to ...
-- dinner and a movie (The Joyluck Club) after I had put the barnyard to bed
-- and some Pacific War gaming***** to cap off the day

# # #


* My Books -- A Huge Frugality Exception:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/25/my-books-a...

** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

*** A $5000 No-Guilt Spending Spree!:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/24/a-5000-no-...

**** Packrating Is Costing Me Plenty:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/30/packrating...

***** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

May 19: Bills, Stocks And A New Hiking Trail

May 21st, 2014 at 04:06 am

My plan for today was to do the weekly bill paying, straighten out some discrepancies in my recent dividend payouts and hike a "first time" trail.* All went according to plan.

Over my first cup of coffee, I wrote another 200 words or so** on a new blog article that I am titling "The Chuckle Factor of Financial Planning". Then breakfast and off to "work."

8:00am to 12:00noon
-- first thing (of course) I did the am critter care
-- checked the news on my stocks***
-- paid the bills, checked my follow-up file and took care of pending admin "fixes"
-- reconciled the dividends discrepancy (and found I had a 140-share count error in my QRE position)

12:00noon to 5:30pm
-- lunch and a DVD lecture on pre-prehistoric man (The Origin of Homo Sapiens)
-- had a great time doing a 1.25 hour hike on a new trail (for me) at Walnut Creek Park. Saw a young fox close up. And there are more MILES and MILES of trails over there for me to do!
-- back at home, I wrote and posted a May 18 "what did I do today" blog memo
-- played Pacific War****

5:30pm to 7:00pm
-- straightened out my QRE stock tax lot positions and worked out my true cost basis for them
-- watered all those plants (again) and put the barnyard to bed
-- surprise! Tony the carpenter called and he can come tomorrow to get those built-in bookcases done!*****

7:00pm to ...
-- dinner and a movie (Hereafter)
-- and some more Pacific War!

# # #

* My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

*** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

**** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

***** My Books -- A Huge Frugality Exception:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/25/my-books-a...

May 18: New Investing Work Plan & Pacific War

May 19th, 2014 at 01:14 pm

My plan for today was to finish setting up the protocol and forms for my new investing work plan* and to also have some fun -- which I did blogging and playing my Pacific War pc strategy game.**

Over my early morning coffee, I started writing a new blog article*** that I am titling "The Chuckle Factor of Financial Planning". Then breakfast and off to "work."

8:00am to 12:00noon
-- first thing (of course) I did the am critter care
-- got nearly done with my investing paperwork revamp

12:00noon to 5:30pm
-- lunch and a DVD lecture on pre-prehistoric man (The Neanderthals)
-- wrote and posted a May 17 "what did I do today" blog memo
-- played Pacific War
-- watched a movie ("Lovely Bones") while I brought my diet control tracking forms up to date (Yes, I have those too.)

5:30pm to 7:00pm
-- finished the forms and plans for my new approach to reinvesting
-- watered all those plants (again) and put the barnyard to bed

7:00pm to ...
-- dinner, reading mystery short stories and more Pacific War playing

# # #

* A New Work Plan:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/17/may-16-err...

** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

*** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

May 17: Basement Drying and Investing Catch-Up

May 18th, 2014 at 10:41 am

My plan for today was to deal with our flooded-floor basement before any mold developed, and to bring my investing old paperwork up do date and set up a new system for it. I got it all done and still had time left over for fun.

Over my early morning coffee, I did the final editing on my blog article "Should I Still Work at Investing?". Then breakfast and off to "work."

8:00am to 12:00noon
-- first thing (of course) I did the am critter care
-- it took me 2 hours, but I got that basement dry as a bone! I also set up 2 dehumidifiers as an extra help.
-- got halfway through my investing paperwork revamp

12:00noon to 5:30pm
(This is my first day on my "new" time block plan)*
-- lunch and a DVD lecture on pre-prehistoric man (The First Human Diaspora)
-- posted "Should I Still Work at Investing?" on my SavingAdvice blog
-- wrote and posted a May 16 "what did I do today" blog memo
-- played Pacific War**
-- watched a movie ("Purpose")

5:30pm to 7:00pm
-- worked some more on forms and plans for my new approach to reinvesting***
-- watered all those plants (again) and put the barnyard to bed

7:00pm to ...
-- dinner, another prehistory DVD lecture (The First Europeans), and more Pacific War playing

# # #

* A New Work Plan:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/17/may-16-err...

** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

*** Should I Still Work At Investing?:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/17/should-i-s...

May 16: Errands, a New Work Plan and Dividends!

May 17th, 2014 at 04:09 pm

My plan for today was to do some errand-bundling*, draw up a new day-by-day plan for next week** and otherwise take it easy. And that is just what I did, though it included putting into place some big changes in how I allocate my time.

Today was also dividends day!. Ten of the 20-some companies in my portfolio paid their quarterly dividends this week***. So, now that the dividends have been duly credited to my investment accounts, I spent some time checking to make sure they actually came in and adding them up. The total came up to $3349. Yowsir!

Early this morning, I edited my blog article**** "Should I Still Work at Investing?" while enjoying some nice Keurig-brewed Tully's French Roast coffee. Then I "officially" started my day.

8:00am to 12:00noon
-- did the am critter care for the rabbits, chickens, geese, parrots, dogs & cats that are part of our lives
-- monitored and reviewed my stocks*****
-- and did some mundane housework

12:00noon to 4:00pm
-- had lunch
-- did those errands and added a fun library pit stop to pick up some DVDs

4:00pm to 8:00pm
-- played some Pacific War on the computer******
-- tried to do my daily plan for next week but got stuck because the way I have been allocating my time is not working right
-- watered the new plants and put "the barnyard" to bed. (The hens still have to be bodily carried one by one into the geese-and-chicken coop.)

8:00pm to...
-- after dinner, I totally revamped my daily plan structure
-- concluded I must boost task time to 6 hours a day from the 4.5 hours I have been trying to make do
-- I developed an approach to my investing work that takes away the reinvestment pressure and now makes it more like a hobby. (So it does not count as a task now, either!)
-- and then I was able to come up with a base weekly activity plan that may work.

# # #

* The Frugal Game: Errand Bundling:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/26/the-frugal...

** Making Time For Fun:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/08/making-tim...

*** Why I Only Buy Dividend Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/01/why-i-only...

**** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

***** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

****** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

Should I Still Work At Investing?

May 17th, 2014 at 09:47 am

Overseeing and managing my stock portfolio is just like having a part-time job.* To be sure, at $100 an hour** the pay is great. But the truth is I do not need that money*** and spending it does not come easy.**** So I have had to ask myself whether I should "quit" this part-time job and increase my time freedom even more.***** Here is how my thinking went.

My baseline living expenses would still be covered. Heck, at $18,000 a year****** my baseline living expenses get covered by my Social Security pension. And that $18,000 a year includes premiums for insurance to cover just about anything.******* So I do not need my investment part-time job to make ends meet.

I would still have extra money coming in. If I stopped putting time into managing my stocks, the portfolio would still generate a lot of dividends.******** In fact, if I did leave my stock portfolio on "autopilot" it would throw off about $32,000 a year without touching the principal. So I do not need my investment part-time job as a backup to Social Security or to have plenty of spending money in my pocket.

My stock portfolio would still be my ace in the hole. Besides the social security income and besides the stock dividends, I would still have my portfolio's principal value. At the presently accepted 4% so-called safe withdrawal rate, that principal value by itself would keep me solvent for 20-plus years. So I do not need my investment part-time job as a backup to my backup.

So why should I hang on to this part-time job?

There are 2 main reasons to stop. The first reason is that I would reclaim the 8 hours a week that the job eats up. The second -- and really the main reason -- is that I would eliminate the mental pressure that comes from always having cash from dividends and stock sales sitting in the account demanding to be reinvested. If I stopped my stock selling*********, the portfolio would remain fully invested and I would not have to constantly be looking for companies in which to invest. So I would have no reinvestment pressure and no time demand.

But there are other reasons NOT to stop. These reasons cannot be about money, because I have already decided that there is little point in more money. The reasons have to be about the doing. And it turns out I do have such reasons. Like finding the financial research and the learning about how companies operate interesting. Like finding the evaluation and decision-making that comes from that research mentally stimulating. Like finding that those profit-making sales actually feel like emotionally rewarding "scores" in some complex computer game.

So it is not just a job after all. Overseeing and managing my stock portfolio is -- almost -- a hobby. And I can turn it into an actual hobby by removing the pressure to reinvest the cash from sales and dividends. I know I can do that. So I will.

The takeaway: Work is not always just about making money. Sometimes the activity itself is part of the reward... even the main reward. A small adjustment may be all that is needed to make that work feel like it is not work. But we may have to look behind the surface to put all that together. So let's make sure we do look.

# # #

* My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

** Profiting From Working My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/28/profiting-...

*** My Six Lines of Financial Defense:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/29/my-six-lin...

**** Making Sure I Spend That Money!:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/08/making-sur...

***** Optimizing My Use of Time:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/12/optimizing...

****** My $18K Annual Baseline Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/29/my-18k-ann...

******* My Stash-Shielding Insurance:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/10/my-stash-s...

******** Why I Only Buy Dividend Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/01/why-i-only...

********* What Makes Me Sell a Stock?:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/14/what-makes...

May 15: An Investing Plan Redo and Rain

May 16th, 2014 at 08:03 am

My plan for today was to concentrate on a rethink of my approach to the work of investing (not the strategy), and to mix that up with blog writing and pc game playing. I did all that, but the heavy rain threw another (wet) iron into my fire.

While I drank my morning coffee, I completed the drafting of a blog article titled "Stock Panic Nets Me 13% Overnight" -- which I posted later in the day.

Today I did not divide my activities into time blocks. Instead I did 2 hours on, 2 hours off back and forth between my work (the investing work approach redo) and my fun (the blogging and pc game playing). Throw in the hour or so that it takes to take care of all the critters around here and that was my day.

I developed a new investing work approach that will change it from feeling like it is a part-time job* to feeling like it is a hobby. It all had to do with taking the time-urgency pressure to reinvest gains and dividends off the table -- which I have now done.

I drafted another blog article based on the introspection that led me to deciding to change my mental approach to my investing. That one, which I titled "Should I Still Work at Investing?", I will post this Friday or Saturday**.

Today was also the day that very heavy rain seeped in, wetting both the basement and the "patio room" floors.[/b] We thought we had the patio room seepage taken care of. Back to the drawing board!

# # #

* Profiting From Working My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/28/profiting-...

** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

Stock Panic Nets Me 13% Overnight

May 15th, 2014 at 08:41 am

On Friday May 9th, I bought 1040 shares of Niska Gas Storage Partners (NKA) for $13,138. On Monday May 12th -- the very next market day -- I sold those shares for $14,802. That is a gain of $1664, representing a realized profit of 12.7% overnight (since weekends do not count as market days). I made that money thanks to a flash stock panic. I made that money by keeping my head, not falling victim to the panic and taking advantage of it instead. Here is how that went down.

On May 8th, stock analysts panned NKA. They did that based on their perception of "challenging fundamentals for natural gas storage providers." They discounted everything NKA had recently done and is going to do to overcome those upcoming industry challenges. So the analysts threw out the baby with the bathwater and set a $12 price target for NKA -- which was trading around $15 that day. And the selling panic began.

On May 9th, I saw opportunity in the panic. My daily stock monitoring* brought NKA to my attention. I ran the company's financials through my tests** and found NKA solid. I read the company's conference call transcript and saw how NKA was taking big steps to stay ahead of the game. Refinancing its debt so it would not come due until 2019. Reducing the company's interest costs by $15 million a year. Building up a war chest and making concrete plans to use it to diversify away from gas storage. Bringing in new top management experienced in such diversification. It was all good! And it had all been ignored by the stock analysts.

So I bought NKA for its dividend. NKA's stock price had dropped from around $15 on May 8th to around $13 on May 9th. With an annual dividend payout of $1.40 and a price of $13 a share, NKA would yield 10.8% a year. That made the stock what tv stock guru Jim Cramer calls an "accidental high yielder" -- which is the only kind of company I will invest in.*** So, taking into account the stock's downward price momentum, I set my buy price at $12.63 early on May 9th and waited.

I got my buy and it was well hedged. NKA's annual $1.40 dividend made my $12.63 price a safe buy for me even if the stock's price dropped down to $10.23.** And for an extra bonus, the next 35-cents quarterly dividend would lock in on May 15th, less than a week away. That made my buy safe even if the stock price dropped to $9.88.

But NKA's stock price went up, not down. The panic subsided. Other people must have begun seeing what I had seen. And they pushed NKA's stock price up to $13.74 by the close of market May 9th.

So on May 12th I set up to sell. I was up 8.8%. Though I buy a stock for its dividend, I will sell it at a 10% profit.**** And it looked like NKA would get to that point that very day. I got ready to put in an order to sell at $13.89, which would give me that 10% profit. But then (greedy me) I decided I also wanted that May 15th 35-cent dividend. So I upped my asking price to $14.24. And I got it that day. A 12.7% realized profit in just ONE market day.

The Takeaway: Never pay attention to stock brokerage analyst recommendations. If they knew what they were talking about, they would be stock-market rich and not be working for a living. In fact, do not listen to anybody's opinion on a stock (including me). Get the facts and make your own assessment. When you do, never judge a company solely by its industry's prospects. And remember that you must be nimble. The opportunity to grab a ride up -- or jump off before a plunge down -- comes and goes in a flash.

# # #

* How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

** My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

*** Why I Only Buy Dividend Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/01/why-i-only...

**** What Makes Me Sell a Stock?:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/14/what-makes...

May 14: House Fix-Ups And Pacific War (!)

May 15th, 2014 at 06:22 am

My plan for today included chipping away at my storage boxes* and some home improvement decorating. But the rainy weather dissuaded me from doing all the back-and-forth from the garage that working on my stored stuff would have required. I did a bunch of house stuff instead (but not decorating), got lazy and gave myself a Pacifc War gaming** afternoon off.

I started my day with good coffee, breakfast and another 200 words*** (plus) on my next blog post "Stock Panic Nets Me 13% Overnight".

8:00am to 12:30pm
-- just a bunch of house to-do's, the critter caring and the plant watering. Ho hum...

12:30pm to ...
-- after lunch, I just blew off being "productive" the rest of the day and played Pacific War. After playing this game for over 15 years, I have found a new (very mentally challenging) "theatre army" approach to the game and I am really having fun with it.
-- around 11pm, I decided I better review my plans for the rest of the week. Did so (while watching the movie AVP), made some adjustments and felt better about the week so far.

# # #


* Packrating Is Costing Me Plenty:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/30/packrating...

** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

*** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

May 13: Ordering Windows, Doing Books & Hiking

May 13th, 2014 at 05:53 am

My plan for today included selecting the windows we will have installed thanks to our $7800 roofing windfall*, the monthly doing of the household "books", and taking a hike** in a new (to me) Park. Ahh... things did not happen that way.

Yet again, I kicked off my day with good coffee and blog post writing. I set aside the post I originally titled "Enough Should Be Enough" and started drafting*** "Stock Panic Nets Me 13% Overnight" because I am too much in touch right now with just how stupid "professional" investors can be and I have to write about it.

8:00am to 12:30pm
-- did the daily am 45 minute critter care
-- watered wife's dozens of new plantings
-- worked on a real estate "transaction issue"
-- searched for those windows (still needs more work)
-- did some cleaning and fixed a modem problem
-- but no time to do "the books"

12:30pm to 2:30pm
-- lunch while playing some Pacific War****
-- kept catching up my Pacific War fantasy journal
while watching Elizabeth R.

2:30pm to 7:00pm
-- headed out for my hike but got rained out on the way to the park. Aborted.
-- errand-bundled***** a couple of spots on the way back home
-- did some brainstorming on my way-behind-schedule $5000 spending spree******
-- caught up my Pacific War fantasy journal (now at
December 18, 1941).

7pm to ...
-- dinner and a movie (Kingdom of Heaven)
-- more Pacific War gaming

# # #


* A Frugality-Without-Sacrifice $7800 Windfall:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/12/a-frugalit...

** My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

*** 200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/05/07/200-words-...

**** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

***** The Frugal Game: Errand Bundling:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/26/the-frugal...

****** A $5000 No-Guilt Spending Spree!:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/24/a-5000-no-...

Optimizing My Use of Time

May 12th, 2014 at 03:15 pm

We all have two core assets with which to carry out our lives: time and money. Both are limited. It stands to reason then that we can get more out of life by getting more out of our money -- and out of our time. By optimizing my spending*, I am continuously getting more and more out of my money. Doing so has made me financially independent sooner.** Now, being financially independent is allowing me to optimize my use of time so that I can get more and more out of the time I have. Here is how that works for me.

Financial freedom is time freedom. That is the biggie, of course. Not having to give up 40 hours a week to a job, plus another 5 to 10 hours a week to commute to that job, drastically expands how much time I have for me. In fact, on a weekly basis it almost doubles it from 55 to 105 available hours of personal time a week. And that brings with it a scheduling flexibility that is the key to optimizing my use of time.

Time freedom is scheduling freedom. A lot of people have to live with "Saturday slavery." Saturday is the day they can get the car's oil changed. The day they can take the pet to the vet. The day they can get their stuff taken care of. And because this is true for a whole lot of people, they all stand in line -- or sit in line -- and wait. But being financially free eliminates the need to wait and gives me all that waiting time back to use and enjoy. Simply by being able to sidestep Saturday slavery.

The same goes for the daily rush hours, as well as the Friday mega-long bank lines and the end-of-the-month jam-ups at places such as vehicle inspection stations. Having scheduling freedom means that I avoid all those waits. I get to put that time to better use.

Scheduling freedom is weather freedom. I always have good weather on my "days off" from assigned tasks. I never lose my hikes*** to rain. I never drive on icy roads, or in storms of any kind. Scheduling freedom allows me to shift my plans around any way that is needed to match my outside activities to good weather.

Time is money. And money is time. It turns out, then, that financial freedom results not just in more bang for my bucks but also more bang for my time. Optimizing the use of my time gives me more options on how to use that time. I can spend more time actually having fun. Or I can apply that time to save even more money by using it to do things like replacing the bathroom undersink pipes myself instead of paying a plumber to do it. By not having to wait in some line, the time I saved turns into more money.

OR I can use some of the extra cash in my discretionary fund**** to pay the plumber, get my pipes replaced faster, and go take another hike instead of messing around under the bathroom sink. The money I previously saved turns into more time.

It is ALL good. And it is all thanks to having reached financial freedom.

The takeaway: Reaching financial independence is not just about money. It is also about being able to give yourself the precious, priceless gift of TIME. Which means giving yourself the precious, priceless gift of LIFE. And that is worth working for... as if your life depended on it.

# # #

* Budgeting By Exception:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/28/budgeting-...

** My Financial Independence Key:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/17/my-financi...

*** My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

**** A Discretionary Fund, Not a Discretionary Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/29/a-discreti...

May 12: Bills, Hiking and an Epiphany

May 12th, 2014 at 06:11 am

My plan for today included paying bills and other "mandatory" paperwork, cleaning the kitchen (ugh), a trailmarking hike*, a library visit, and some more Pacific War gaming fun**. Oh, and posting a new blog article titled "Optimizing My Use Of Time".

Today was also the day that I scored a 12.5% OVERNIGHT stock profit thanks to stock market idiocy. I will be posting a short article with all the details tomorrow.

Once again, I kicked off my day with good coffee and blog post writing. I continued writing a post I originally titled "Enough Should Be Enough." But I have had an epiphany about my stock portfolio management being "work" while writing today, so I may have to reslant the beginning and retitle.

8am to 12:30pm
-- did the am critter care
-- monitored my stocks***
-- cleaned the kitchen
-- paid the bills
-- made the phone calls, did the follow-ups...
-- watered the wife's plants

12:30pm to 2:30pm
-- lunch
-- mental fun (people must think I'm nuts) planning out the organization of 5 separate theatre-based armies in my Pacific War pc game

2:30pm to 7:00pm
-- went on my hike (and was challenged on the trail by an I-am-standing-my-ground copperhead snake). Ran out of paint so I only did 3 trail marks.
-- did a library stop for more DVDs and some browsing
-- polished up and posted my blog article on "Optimizing The Use of My Time"

7:00pm to ...
-- dinner and a movie. I watched Carlito's Way: Rise To Power. Unexpectedly good.

# # #


* My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

*** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

Frugality As A Way Of Life

May 10th, 2014 at 07:09 am

I have consciously practiced frugality without sacrifice* for about five years. It made very good sense to me to do so because this powerful personal finance tactic enabled me to arrive at much lower baseline living expenses** and drastically accelerated my arrival at financial independence.*** But I am there now, with passive income that greatly exceeds those baseline living expenses. And yet I continue to be vigilantly frugal. So I have been questioning why I am still doing this -- and whether I should continue to do so. Here is what I have figured out.

A dollar saved is a dollar earned. There is no good reason not to save money when doing so takes no effort. Like buying my gas at the lowest-price station on my normal driving route. Like paying for that gas with a credit card that returns 5% of that low cost to me.**** But what about when it (at least) seems to take effort?

Frugality can be fun. My hiking/handyman jeans are a good case in point of frugality as a game.***** I needed "new" jeans because I had shed a lot of excess weight. I could have just bought an inexpensive $10-$12 pair at WalMart with no financial stress. But no. I kept wearing my cinched up jeans on hikes and while handy-manning. I looked in thrift stores whenever I was going by one anyway. And after 3 or 4 such tries, I found jeans that fit me for $3. I enjoyed that frugality win. I still do whenever I think of it.

Frugality is good business. I cannot imagine making a large purchase or arranging for a major service to my home or vehicle without first doing some serious comparison shopping.****** And the objective of that effort is to save money -- to be frugal. No one bats an eye when a business or government agency seeks a low bidder for its purchases and service needs. I do the same. Not to do so would be to waste money.

Frugality keeps me financially independent. If I go "off the reservation" and let my baseline living expenses swell, those expenses could -- in theory and in time -- exceed my passive income. And my financial independence would end -- unless I went back to being frugal.

But frugality is not always necessary. That is the point I am at. I have no problem continuing to practice frugality without sacrifice where my basic living expenses are concerned. But I marvel that I extend that frugality to spending my discretionary funds.******* It is just NOT necessary. And I do not always do it. But it is my norm to do it.

Being frugal must be me! Somewhere along the line, I internalized frugality in principle, as a life value, as part of who I am. And I get a kick (sometimes big, sometimes small) out of each and every frugality win I score. Because to me it really is a game. A fun game I play every day as a way of life. And I have concluded that is a good thing.

# # #

* How I Do Frugality Without Sacrifice:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/12/how-i-do-f...

** My $18K Annual Baseline Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/29/my-18k-ann...

*** My Financial Independence Key:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/17/my-financi...

**** Raking In Credit Card Cashback:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/11/raking-in-...

***** Playing the Frugal Game is Fun!
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/14/playing-th...

****** Big Job Estimates Save Me Big Money:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/20/big-job-es...

******* A Discretionary Fund, Not a Discretionary Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/29/a-discreti...

200 Words A Day That (Hopefully) Matter

May 7th, 2014 at 10:55 am

One of my recent retired living pastimes has been the publication of my personal finance and retired living blog, Retired To Win. At its beginning, my blog was definitely just a nice, no-pressure part of my day. A want-to-do. But in the last month, I have seen Retired To Win morph into a semi-obligatory have-to-do, with created expectations of (1) posting a content-rich article every day, and (2) keeping that article "in front" of the SavingAdvice website via Forum postings linked back to the blog article. This now feels too much like a job. So I here is what I am doing to change things.

I want a blog so I can reach out*. I like to write. I like to get my ideas across. I like to deal with personal finance and investing topics. And I want to build a public body of work that is accessible to anyone and (hopefully) contributes valuable ideas that help people in their personal finance quests.

But I want a blog on my terms. No imposed publication quota or schedule. Not even self-imposed ones. And that is what has gone off course for me. I have taken on a self-imposed obligation to post a new article every day. And I have expanded that obligation to include the posting of Forum entries several times a day in an effort to keep a link to my blog work on the front page of the SavingAdvice website. Retired To Win has taken over my day.

So I am going back to how it was at the beginning. I used to enjoy a really nice "pre-start" to my day by doing a little blog writing over my first cup of coffee. By longhand, in pencil, on a yellow pad. I would set down 200 words and stop at the end of the next sentence. Each day, I would pick up the thread of the article where I left off the day before and do another 200 words until the article was completed. Whenever it got completed. My love of writing -- and need for self-expression -- made this ritual a positive launch of my day. And so am I making it again.

I will have a "free form" article posting schedule. My article posts will appear as I complete their drafting, editing and typing. At 200 or so new words a day, I should have at least one new article to post every week. Probably more. But even just one new posted article a week will meet my needs for publishing a blog. The body of work I want to build will accrue. And I will have my days back to live a financially independent retirement my way.

# # #

* Why Share My Retirement Journey?:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/13/sharing-my...

For Fun And (Maybe) Profit

May 1st, 2014 at 05:44 pm

When a person is approaching standard retirement, or is contemplating the possibility of financial independence and early retirement, there are two main questions that come to mind. One: do I really have enough money and will that money last? Two: what in blue blazes am I going to do with my time? This is so common and recognized that it has been written about numerous times. But it somehow seems different and special when it is you who are asking the questions and looking for answers.

I have been going through that uncertainty too. The money question I answered and stopped worrying about some time ago*. But the other question has been nagging me for the year I have been retired. Until now. Here is what I have learned in that year and the answer(s) I have come up with.

It is not enough just to stay busy. And, boy, have I been busy this past year. I sold two pieces of surplus real estate. I went around and around with the State of Virginia to finally get a fair settlement on another piece of property that the state's Department of Transportation partially eminent domained for a highway improvement project. I moved into a new house. I worked -- and am still working -- on getting the previous house ready for the market. And I spend some time every day managing my stock portfolio**. But it all feels like bits and pieces to me. Have-to-do's but not want-to-do's. Busyness that will settle down and not last. Not fun. Not satisfying. And you have to have something that really motivates you to keep wanting to get up in the morning when you no longer have to get up to go to work.

Hobbies and such are fine but they are not enough. I have my hiking***, my computer games****, my history reading***** and my movies. (Oh, and this blog!) But all these activities have been in the nature of pastimes. That word says it all. I am passing the time. Which is another way of saying that time is passing me by. I am having fun, yes, but I need more.

That is the allure of the second career or the startup business. Expert after expert tells us to have something to retire to. Take up that latent interest in painting, or photography, or writing, or whatever and pursue it as an encore career. Take your love for cooking, or baking or quilting or whatever and turn it into a retirement business. Whatever it is, the key is this: you do not need to do it for the money. You do it because you love it and it fills you up. If money comes from it great; but if not it does not matter. It is the doing that matters. Lots of retirees are finding that to be their answer. And -- I think -- that is my answer too.

So I am starting a part-time business based on hiking. Its core will be a monetized blog. Its business model will be membership benefits based. It will give focus and purpose to my hiking, my photography, and my writing. It will bring to bear all the business building skills I developed during my working career. It will overcome my resistance to spend my money****** by making its spending on equipment and on travel investments necessary for the operation of the business. It will push me to do even more hiking and more hiking trips. It will crank me up!

# # #

* My Six Lines of Financial Defense:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/29/my-six-lin...

** How I Stay On Top Of My Stocks:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/09/how-i-stay...

*** My Love Affair With Hiking:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/23/my-love-af...

**** My Strategy Games Rainy Day Passion:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/07/strategy-g...

***** Time Traveling With History Books:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/03/time-trave...

****** Making Sure I Spend That Money!:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/08/making-sur...

Packrating is Costing Me Plenty

April 30th, 2014 at 09:52 am

The office chair I replaced last year. The sofa we have no place for. The box of pants too big for me. The bin of extra cast iron skillets we are never going to use. And lots more. At last count, over 200 boxes and 31 pieces of furniture occupy our two-car garage and our 400-square-foot outbuilding. Here is what they are costing me -- and what I should do about it.

I cannot set up my workshop. That is what one half of the garage is supposed to be. But there is just no room. My table saws and workbenches are jammed into a corner and inaccessible. There isn't one clear working surface in the whole place. All those pieces of unwanted and unneeded furniture have taken over.

We cannot put our outbuilding to good use. It is a spacious 20 x 20 foot metal building with an overhead door. It could become part pottery studio, part astronomy station, part hiking hangout, part something else. But not until and unless we stop using it as storage for those 200-plus boxes.

We cannot make ourselves throw the stuff away. That office chair might sell for 20 bucks. Some of those pants still have their tags. Cast iron skillets go for $10 and up each at second-hand stores. Almost all of it could be worth some money. And even though we do not need the money -- and could even say we might never use the money* -- we cannot make ourselves throw or give the stuff away. It would be unfrugal, I say. It would be a big waste, she says. And so the stuff remains -- and we do not get to use our spaces as we would prefer.

Sell, donate, discard. The solution is obvious. But neither of us is putting in the time or effort to make it happen. Yet it has to be done if we are ever to reclaim our spaces. So I am going to apply my time planning (obsessive) habit** to the problem and chip away at "the pile" one box at a time, one furniture item at a time.

I am going public to make myself accountable. I am going to set up a page on my blog sidebar where I will keep a countdown list of the stuff and document my decluttering progress -- or lack of it -- on a weekly basis. And I will do a weekly forum post where I will make sure I keep this out in the open for other people to cheer me on or slap me upside the head if need be.

One way or another, I am going to lick this. I have to.

# # #

* Making Sure I Spend That Money!:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/08/making-sur...

** Making Time For Fun:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/08/making-tim...

How I'm Defending My Retirement

April 29th, 2014 at 06:09 am

(I now blog weekly on frugal living, personal finance & earlier retirement at:
retiredtowin.com)



I would hate having to look for a job because my retirement income has crapped out on me. Or because some huge unforeseen expense has totally ruined my financial plans and left me in need of immediate extra income. So I've done something about it.

I have reduced my basic living expenses down to $15,000 a year.

I have set up emergency cash reserves to cover one year of my living expenses.

I am maintaining several types of insurance to make sure some catastrophe doesn't wipe me out financially.

I have structured my investing to throw off dividend income to cover my living expenses without having to dip into my principal. So it can be held back as another last-ditch reserve.

And more.

All this I discuss in much greater detail on my RetiredToWin.com main blog in a post entitled "My Six Lines of Financial Defense."

Enjoy.

# # #

* My Financial Independence Key:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/17/my-financi...

*** How I Do Frugality Without Sacrifice:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/12/how-i-do-f...

**** A Discretionary Fund, Not a Discretionary Budget:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/03/29/a-discreti...

***** My High Yield, High Risk Investing:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2013/12/20/my-high-yi...

****** My Unrecoverable Cost of One-More-Year:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/05/my-unrecov...

******* My Stash-Shielding Insurance:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/04/10/my-stash-s...

******** Making Over My Reserves Plan:
http://retired-to-win.savingadvice.com/2014/01/04/making-ove...


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