Saturday, July 12, 2014

Heat Wave

Those of you who know me, know that I really DO NOT like heat.  The hot-hot weather makes me uncomfortable, and I tend to find that sleep becomes difficult because I am one of those people who likes the room I am in to be cold when I sleep.  The challenge with this, during a summer heat wave, is that I do not have air conditioning (I really don't need it for the number of heat waves we actually have here on Vancouver Island) and so am mostly reliant on the good old fashioned fan for some relief.

One has to become a little creative, I have found.

My house is an 1896 wood-frame build.  Insulation, such as it may be in my house, is not fantastic. As I work my way through each small renovation project, windows are being replaced and walls will be insulated - but the only room I have really worked through so far is the bathroom.  Granted, I couldn't live with the old set-up in there, but it really didn't impact the overall heat/cool retention issues my little home has.  I did take things into hand and have the three worst-offending windows dealt with and that has made a real difference already.

A couple of summers ago now, I had a summer fan switch installed on my furnace - it is a brilliant addition and only cost me about $100 in parts and service when all was said & done. The switch turns the furnace fan on - and that circulates the cool air from the crawl space up into the rest of the house.  The summer fan switch and the floor fans I have are able to keep the house almost 10*C cooler than outside - for example, yesterday when I got home the temperature outside was 32*C whereas inside it was 22*C.  Black-out curtains and closed windows help keep in the cool.

I'm also going to try something new today.  Yesterday at work I was speaking with a painter (who was going to be outside all day today and has my sympathies!) and he was telling me about a trick the wife of one of his clients uses.  Evidently, first thing in the morning when she knows it will be a hot one, she bundles up her comforter into a large garbage bag and then puts the whole thing into her chest freezer.  She takes it out at around 8 every night and throws it onto her bed. His (the painter's) comment was that "if the comforter keeps the heat in, it stands to reason it would also help keep the cool in." Apparently it not only cools the bed, but also helps to cool the room. Game to try, I put mine into a big garbage bag and threw the whole thing into the freezer this morning. I'll take it out around 9 when I'm getting set for bed... we'll see if it works.

It is a total scorcher out there today.  I did some running around early on today - banking, groceries, and a couple of other errands including a stop by the tool rental place to pick up an electric hedge trimmer.  I just came in from mowing the lawn (a 20-minute effort) and had broken a sweat... I suspect that greasing up with sunscreen and bug spray and then attempting to trim down one of the two items I rented the trimmer to attack, may be a little more than is intelligent to tackle in the full-on heat of day... so I will wait until tomorrow morning and tackle the evergreen under the front side window then.

My thought is to first (with the trimmer) prune down, and then dig out, the evergreen at the front of the house and then use the hedge trimmer (it looks like a chainsaw) to cut the mock orange back really hard. The soil where the evergreen is will need to be treated (it has to be pretty acidic due to needles) and so I'll treat the soil with bone meal, lime and some plant fertilizer and let the space sit fallow until the fall.  In the fall I plan to move the mock orange from the back yard to the spot where the evergreen is at present. If it lives through the transplanting, great, if not, I'll look at planting something else that won't get too tall. The mock orange will need to be pruned back and maybe isn't the best thing to have there, but I really hate the idea of just chucking the poor thing... it has just grossly overgrown what I can manage in my back yard, and that space could be much better used for something else.  I'm not sure what, exactly, but something else, for sure..

In any case, I have the hedge trimmer rented for a week, so I'll get some done tomorrow and then maybe a little every night for the next week and then return it on Friday or Saturday. I'll post before and afters of both spots...

With love across the (hot) waters...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Goals Based Planning

I recently completed the two modules of Canadian Securities Institute training (Personal Financial Services Advice and Financial Planning 1) that qualifies me to apply for a Senior Account Manager position - when one becomes available in my region.  Since I am LONG finished with being mobile for work, this tightens the circle of where I might be willing to work to three branches of the bank I work for, or, if the offer was REALLY good, any of the other credit unions and / or banks within about a 20 KM radius.

While I was in the final stages of the Financial Planning (1) course, our branch's Financial Planner completed some more of her training and offered to do some goals-based planning with me.  In order to do this, I was asked to consider some financial goals I would like to obtain, and I was given a list of things to gather together so that she could review my current state and then help me put together a plan to reach my goals.

The cool thing is that I recently sat down with one of my other colleagues and he helped to put together something called a Financial Needs Assessment for me. The Financial Needs Assessment was to help me figure out if retirement at 55 was going to be responsible.  The good news is that I CAN retire at 55 on a very reduced pension, as long as my mortgage is paid off.  The bad news is that, based on my current salary and savings, if I choose to do that things will be VERY tight - even considering no mortgage payments. Something that my colleague pointed out to me (that I did not consider) was that though I could manage it, there would be no savings to do things like buy a new car or cover emergencies, should they arise. He fleshed out assessments for ages 55, 60 and 65 and at the end of the day, his recommendation was that 60 is a more responsible target if nothing changes in my financial picture.

Thankfully, my financial picture will continue to get better. The closer I get to my desired retirement date, the closer I will be to having my mortgage paid off.  Once my mortgage is paid off, everything I have been laying into my mortgage can then go into savings - the savings that will be needed to fund the emergency account and the new car fund.

Anyhow, back to the offer of Goals Based Planning made by my Financial Planner. I've managed to collect almost everything together that she needs - I'm still waiting on one document (which is probably in my mailbox right now, to be honest) but what I haven't actually done is put together my list of goals.  Retirement is obviously one of them, a new car and an emergency fund also need to be on the list.  The homework now will actually be figuring out what I will need for a new car and what would constitute (for me) a comfortable emergency fund.  

The primary consideration should always be having that emergency account set up and funded. The standard recommendation is that a person should always have 3 to 6 months' worth of income laid aside in case anything should happen to interrupt the income stream (loss of employment or an injury making it impossible to work, for example) Generally speaking, what people need to determine is what that number should look like.  I guess to be safe I should look at having 6 months' worth of (after tax) income set aside to cover expenses and so forth.  So I guess that creates goal number 1 for me: 6 months' worth of after tax income in an emergency fund account. That means somewhere between 10 and 15 thousand dollars.

The second goal will be to buy a new car.  My car is currently 8 years old - and though it runs like a top and I am maintaining it as required, I can probably count on having to replace it in the next 5 to 7 years.  I'll hold out as long as I possibly can, of course, but realistically speaking, I am going to have to replace it some day and if I can plan to have enough money set aside in 5-7 years to pay for a new car, then I'll be ahead of the game when it needs to be done. I did a little research on line and the average price of a NEW car (off the lot) this year was a little over 25 thousand.

Considering that I am currently only able to put aside just enough money to cover my annual insurance and property tax monies, well, coming up with 35-50 thousand dollars is a very scary thing.

Or is it?

If I look at the full 40 thousand, and I look at a 7 year time-frame I'm looking at about $275 a pay. That amount doesn't take into account any income or growth.  If I were to look at a conservative to a very conservative approach,  and considered a 6% growth per year that would actually make my bi-weekly contributions look a little more like $160 per pay.

I have found that breaking things into much smaller pieces makes them a lot less daunting.

Now, for the good stuff... with the recent completion of those courses, and the fact that I now can qualify for a promotion - when one comes in I can count on an incremental raise of between 3 and 7 thousand dollars a year - yes, before taxes, but after taxes, that could mean anywhere between ninety and two hundred dollars more per pay cheque - and BINGO - there is my savings requirements met!

OK, I should probably get off the computer and get things ready for my week ahead!

With love across the waters...