Obtaining Financial Stability With a Disability | City Transportation

Two years ago, I sold my car and moved to the city knowing that I would need to depend on public transportation to get me places. When public transportation routes were inefficient, I used Uber and Lyft. And for the most part, this wasn’t a financial strain because I could walk places and my transportation to and from work was reimbursed. My mobility has since declined. I can’t walk nearly as far, and even taking public transportation is physically taxing.  Now most places are seemingly too far away.  And I’ve found myself becoming increasingly dependent on Ubers and Lyfts.

So I finally bit the bullet and looked into paratransit in my city.  According to wikipedia:

Paratransit is recognized in North America as special transportation services for people with disabilities, often provided as a supplement to fixed-route bus and rail systems by public transit agencies.

In other words  it’s a door-to-door alternative to using the bus and subway for people who can’t otherwise ride the bus or subway.  My city utilizes shared vans and subsidizes taxis for their paratransit fleet.

To qualify for the paratransit system, I had to have some forms filled out by my doctor detailing my medical conditions; my physical limitations; and my inability to ride the bus and subway at least some of the time. I had an interview over the phone, and I’ll have an in-person assessment for eligibility in a couple of weeks.

A program my city offers is 50% reduced public transportation fares for those with any disability. However, if you qualify for paratransit service, meaning you are not able to ride the bus or subway 100% of the time, the bus and subway are free. This provides a financial incentive to use more traditional transportation on good days.

I’ll be the first to admit that using such disability services felt embarrassing two years ago, and I didn’t think I needed it then (though, in retrospect I probably did). But I can’t afford to keep taking Ubers to and from work. My job won’t pay for Ubers but they will pay for paratransit since it’s considered public transportaiton. Similarly, I can’t afford to spend $10-30 to attend a doctor’s appointment every few days. Paratransit provides a much more affordable option that costs ~$5.

If you live in a city in the US that has public transportation, your city should have a door-to-door paratransit service for those with disabilities. The city may also provided reduced fares for those not in need of door-to-door assistance. I’m glad that I looked further into my city’s paratransit system. I am looking forward to and am genuinely excited about my new-gained freedoms.

Net Worth Update – March 2018

I know this is a bit late. Life got…interesting over the past week or so, specifically in regards to my health. I have a new diagnosis that I’m trying to come to terms with. Overall, it’s good I have answers to what’s been plaguing me, but there are a ton of mixed emotions. This diagnosis is difficult because it was missed for years when it really shouldn’t have been. I’m now in need of insanely expensive medical treatment that may not even work. This reminds me of why I started this blog and I do need to start refocusing on finances from the perspective of someone with a disability/chronic illness.

And on a more positive note, I continue to stroll through 2018 with financial stability. I am thinking about posting quarterly net worth updates instead of monthly. I’ll decide for sure next month.

Liquid Assets Start End $ Change
Cash & Checking $1,384 $1.824 +$440
Emergency Fund  $4,995  $5,159 +$164
Savings Goals $245 $171 ($74)
Brokerage Accts $892 $877  ($15)
Illiquid Assets Start End $ Change
Savings Bonds $863 $569  ($294)
Home Equity $14,000 $14,775 +$775
401K $28,444 $28,560 +$116
Roth IRA $21,114 $20,921  ($193)
Liabilities Start End $ Change
Credit Cards ($507) ($1,141) ($634)
Loans ($11,772) ($11,472) +$300
Net Worth $59,658 $60,243 +$585
% Change +0.1%

It’s a surprise my net worth managed to increase given the market conditions. But things continue to look good.

  • Liquid Assets

    • Cash & Checking – For simplicity, I continue to further aggregate this category to now include cash, cash-equivalents (i.e. gift cards), and my checking account balance.
    • Emergency Fund – I contributed and some illiquid savings bonds (ibonds) obtained liquidity.
    • Savings Goals – Birthday gifts!
    • Brokerage Accounts – Stock markets are down.

    Illiquid Assets

    • Savings Bonds – This decrease is due to savings bonds (ibonds) becoming liquid assets.
    • Home Equity – I’m gaining equity!
    • 401K & Roth IRA – the market went down, but my continued contributions  helped cushion the blow a little.

    Liabilities

    • Credit Cards – I sadly continue to carry over credit card balances. But I do pay them off in full by the due date!
    • Loans  – I have two loans and continue to make steady progress towards repayment

Budget & Spending

Category Budgeted Actual Remaining
Bills & Utilities $410 $441 $31 over
Food $200 $266 $66 over
Medical $- $513 $-
Everything Else $274 $253 $20 under
Total $650  $532 $77 over

I increased my “Bill & Utilities” budget due to paying two annual bills. I increased the Everything Else category due to purchasing birthday gifts.

My medical expenses were fairly high this month, but I don’t budget for medical costs, for now. I still have a healthy FSA balance so that helps.

I was $31 over budget on Bills & Utilities because I prepaid two months of internet. And I went over on food because I bought groceries a few days before the end of the month. Hopefully this means I’ll be under budget for food in April.

 

 

Net Worth Update – February 2018

For the month of February, I stuck to my budget and I eventually came well under budget. I’m proud of myself. Tracking my budget on a weekly basis, and adjusting accordingly seems to work best for me.

The markets aren’t doing so great, but my net worth increased slightly. Here’s where I stand net worth wise:

Liquid Assets Start End $ Change
Cash & Checking $700 $837 +$137
Gift Cards $0 $45 +$45
Emergency Fund  $4,100  $4,995  +$895
Irregular Bills  $1,185  $502 ($683)
Savings Goals $245 $245 +$0
Brokerage Accts $910 $892  ($18)
Illiquid Assets Start End $ Change
Savings Bonds $1,650 $863  ($787)
Home Equity $13,225 $14,000  +$775
401K $28,517 $28,444  ($73)
Roth IRA $21,548 $21,114  ($434)
Liabilities Start End $ Change
Credit Cards ($636) ($507) +$129
Medical ($735) ($0) +$735
Furniture Loan ($1,687) ($1,582) +$105
401K Loan ($10,432) ($10,190) +$242
Net Worth $58,590 $59,658 +$1,068
% Change +1.8%
  • Liquid Assets

    • Cash & Checking – I try to maintain a $500 cash cushion in my checking account.
    • Gift Card Balances – This is a new “account” I’ll be tracking in hopes of  maximizing my credit card rewards subject to minimizing my online shopping.
    • Emergency Fund – I contributed a bit and had some illiquid savings bonds (ibonds) obtained liquidity.
    • Irregular Bills –  I hold cash for less-than-monthly bills here.
    • Short-Term Savings, Long Term Savings, Brokerage #1 & 2 – I saved but no investments this month.

    Illiquid Assets

    • Savings Bonds – This decreased due to savings bonds (ibonds) becoming liquid assets. But I did buy some new ones.
    • Home Equity – I’m gaining equity!
    • 401K & Roth IRA – the market went down, but my continued contributions  helped cushion the blow a little.

    Liabilities

    • Credit Cards – I’m carrying over a credit card balance at 0% interest.
    • Medical – I finally paid off all my medical bills
    • Furniture Loan  – A 0% APR loan for furniture
    • 401K Loan – Used to finance my condo.

Budget & Spending

Category Budgeted Actual Remaining
Bills & Utilities $250 $205 $45 under
Food $200 $147 $53 under
Medical $- $832 $-
Everything Else $200 $180 $20 under
Total $650  $532 $118 under

I fell $118 under budget. Admittedly, part of the reason for the low food budget was a $40 refund from the month prior. And I did make $50 in online purchase returns.

February 2018 Week 3

The third week of February has come and gone and things continue to go well. Tracking and adjusting my spending on a weekly basis is works better for me.

I have (once again) changed how I track my expenses by breaking down my expenses into determinate and indeterminate expenditures (before they were lumped together). In the case of determinate expenses, I know their final value at the beginning of the month. Below is a summary of my spending.

February 2018 Budget Week 3

The biggest expense in week 3 was a grocery haul of $80 from Amazon Fresh.  I decided to activate a free trial in order to get 30% off. I’m still in the process of stocking my pantry, so I’m glad I avoided lugging everything myself. I also spent $27 on other “groceries” in the form of a meal kit service.

Additional notable expenses include a bluetooth speaker ($31), a rug ($25) and going to out to see Black Panther ($9).

I’m left with $65 to spend over the last 7 days in February. I’ve actually spent $26 today, but don’t anticipate any more expenses.

Feb 2018 Week 2

This is my spending check-in for the second week of February. In order to keep track of my weekly expenses, I created an excel file to facilitate the process. The table below is one component of the excel file that tracks my income, expenses, and savings. I’m following a zero-sum budget approach. So if I go over budget in one category, I’ll balance it out by moving money from another.

As seen in the table below, excluding medical costs, I spent $186 in the second week of February. Comparatively, I spent $68 in week 1.

I have approximately $124 remaining for food, $124 remaining for shopping and $12 remaining for transportation expenses.

02-18 Week 2 Budget.png

February 2018 Intramonth Checkin

Today marks being a third of the way through February, and as mentioned in my previous post, I’d like to do more frequent check-ins to keep better track of my spending.

My proposed monthly budget for 2018 has me set to spend $400/month on variable expenses.  That means that today I should be at $133 or less in spending. Here is where my money has gone so far:

  • Food – $62 ($37 Groceries, $25 Eating out)
  • Home Maintenance – $17
  • Shopping – $49 ($24 Amazon; $14 Target; $11 Computer Game Purchase)
  • Ubers – $5
  • Total: $133

While I don’t budget for my health care, I’ve also spent:

  • Medical Expenses – $35

I haven’t paid any fixed expenses yet, but my goal is to limit it to $250/month. My fixed expenses include bills for my internet, electricity, cellphone and a furniture loan. This will be my first electric bill payment and since it covers 2.5 months worth of electricity, it will be fairly high. I still should stay within my budget due to prepaying my internet bill and having a credit on my cellphone account.

For whatever reason, Februarys tend to go well for me. It’s the other months that give me a hard time.  I’m exactly where I should be, which is surprising and yet fantastic.

Net Worth Update – January 2018

This year is off to a decent start. My net worth increased by a little over 10% in January.  It helped that the stock market performed well and that I received three paychecks. However, as mentioned in the previous post, January was a bit atypical. I took a two week vacation and I’m settling in to my new condo.

I’m still experimenting with how I want to post my current holdings and net worth.  In December I was less detailed than usual. For January, I’ve decided to go back to being more detailed in hopes of controlling my online spending.  Typically the reason why I go over budget during any given month is because of a website called Amazon.com.

Without further adieu, my  net worth at the end of January can be summarized below:

Liquid Assets Start End $ Change
Cash & Checking $450 $700 +$250
Amazon Balance $0 $0 +$0
Emergency Fund  $3,405 $4,100  +$695
Irregular Bills $0 $1,185 +$1,185
Short-Term Savings $525 $95  ($430)
Long-Term Savings $0 $150  +$150
Brokerage #1 $502 $530  +$30
Brokerage #2 $195 $380  +$185
Illiquid Assets Jan-17 Feb-17 $ Change
Savings Bonds $2,135 $1,650  ($485)
Home Equity $11,850 $13,225  +$1,375
401K $26,235 $28,517  +$2,282
Roth IRA $20,224 $21,548  +$1,324
Liabilities Jan-17 Feb-17 $ Change
Credit Cards ($0) ($636) ($636)
Medical ($0) ($735) ($735)
Furniture Loan ($1,792) ($1,687) +$105
401K Loan ($10,748) ($10,432) +$316
Net Worth $52,981 $58,592 +$5,611
% Change +10.6%

Liquid Assets

  • Cash & Checking – I try to maintain a $500 cash cushion in my checking account.
  • Amazon Balance – This is a new account I’ll be tracking in hopes of curbing my impulsive Amazon spending.
  • Emergency Fund – I contributed a bit and had some illiquid savings bonds (ibonds) obtain liquidity.
  • Irregular Bills –  I hold cash for less-than-monthly bills in this account. I included this account in my “Cash & Checking” category.
  • Short-Term Savings, Long Term Savings, Brokerage #1 & 2 – I saved & invested a little.

Illiquid Assets

  • Savings Bonds – This decreased due to savings bonds (ibonds) becoming liquid assets.
  • Home Equity – I made my first mortgage payment this month, and I’m finally gaining equity.
  • 401K & Roth IRA – the market performed well and these accounts saw a nice increase.

Liabilities

  • Credit Cards – for the first time in a while I’m carrying over a credit card balance. It’s not much and it’s on a card with 0% APR. I’m not thrilled about it at all.
  • Medical – sigh, medical bills…
  • Furniture Loan  – I’m paying this off over the course of 18 months. It is a 0% APR loan.
  • 401K Loan – I borrowed money from my 401K to finance my house.

Budget & Spending

One thing I have yet to officially post is a budget for 2018. The biggest change from last year, of course, will be considerably higher housing expenses. I will not be disclosing my housing expenditures. I’ll have to figure out a way to incorporate increases in my HOA fees on this blog. The budget/savings plan I’d like to follow for the remainder of the year is as follows:

Category Budget
Mortgage $-
Bills & Utilities $250
Food $200
Everything Else $200
Total  $650

Since January was a weird month, I didn’t intend to follow a budget, but I did want to keep my spending comparable to that of a typical month ($650). Unfortunately I went quite a bit over. Below is my spending:

Category Budget Actual
Mortgage & HOA $- $-
Vacation $- $410
Bills & Utilities $- $200
Food $- $215
Transportation $- $25
Medical $- $110
Everything Else $- $220
Total  $650  $1,180
  • Vacation – this includes everything spent while on vacation including food, taxis, souvenirs, etc.
  • Bills – I had an annual bill I paid this month ($50 towards this blog) , I am still waiting on my first electric bill so I expect that to be considerably high.
  • Food – I didn’t expect to eat out much after my vacation, but it was Restaurant Week ($85) and I also went out to a going away lunch ($15) for a colleague. I subscribed for grocery deliveries as well ($15) due to being sick.
  • Transportation – ubers and lyfts
  • Medical – this includes both direct and indirect healthcare expenses. These are reimbursable.
  • Everything Else – I did a bit more shopping than planned, mostly on Amazon. Hopefully I do better in February.  Moving in to a new place is expensive.

I was about $530 over budget. Thankfully my extra paycheck and pay raise helped offset the over spending.

Goals

My 2018 Goal Progression is below:

Fund/Goal  Budgeted  Actual Value
Emergency Fund $50 $185 $5,750
Roth IRA $460 $460 $460*
Short-Term Savings $50 $95 $95
Long-Term Savings $50 $150 $150
Irregular Bills Acct $50 $50 $1,180
* – the value for my Roth IRA is my YTD contributions

In February I would like to limit the number of financial spending transactions to the number of days in the month. I’m actually not sure how many transactions I usually make, but I think 28 is a good number to start off with. Last month there were 72 such transactions, but  a lot of that was because of my vacation. I also would like to limit my online shopping to Mondays and Thursdays.

That’s all I have for January folks!

A Sloppy Start

January is my third consecutive atypical month, and financially things are looking messy. I’m writing this post to come up with a way to better meet my savings goals and get myself back on track. Just a quick month-by-month overview of how I got in this situation:

  • November – purchased a condo which resulted in expenses associated with buying a place, moving and settling in.
  • December – still had expenses associated with settling in and purchased holiday gifts.
  • January – went on vacation and I’m still getting settled.

I’ve basically spent too much and my credit card balances are higher than I’d like. My anticipated income for the remainder of the month is $500 (this is a crude estimate). I’ll be roughly $500 short of paying off all my credit cards…oops.

Updates/Check-in Frequency

I need to start doing weekly updates/check-ins to make sure I am on track. I may not do this formally on my blog, but I do need to assess my financial standing more frequently than once a month.

Saving and Checking Accounts

I have the following savings/checking accounts to meet my various savings goals. My next net worth update will reflect these accounts:

  1. Regular Checking Account – $500/month towards monthly expenses
  2. Amazon Gift Card Balance – $100/month for Amazon purchases
  3. Emergency Fund – $50-$100/month for emergency
  4. Irregular Bills (sink fund) – $55/month towards non-monthly bills
  5. Short-Term Savings – $75/month
    • Fund #1: local transportation sink fund (ex. ubers, taxis)
    • Fund #2: Eating out sink fund
    • Fund #3:  Home Maintenance sink fund (bulbs, batteries, minor improvements)
    • Fund #4: Travel fund ($500 est.)
  6. Long-Term Savings – $50/month
    • Goal #1: laptop ($1,000 est.)
    • Goal #2: Hardwood Floors ($2,000 est)
  7. Mortgage Holding- $X,XXX/month towards mortgage payment

One new accounting strategy is to keep track of my Amazon Gift Card Balance. I need to start treating this as another asset due to the frequency in which I use Amazon and my desire to earn credit card reward points. If I treat my Amazon Gift Card Balance like all other accounts, I should be less inclined to blow through the balance as I usually do.

Note that I still am not disclosing how much my mortgage payments are. But I do set aside my mortgage payments in a separate account. It helps me mentally avoid considering the use of a sizable sum of money designated for my mortgage when making financial decisions.

Credit Card Repayment Plan

My current credit card balances and my repayment plan is detailed below:

  • Credit Cards #1-4: $400
    • Will pay off with next paycheck
  • Credit Card 5: $600
    • Lowest priority: 0% APR with incoming $200 reward
    • January Payment: $150 ($100 from income, $50 from “Irregular Bills” Sink Fund )
    • February – November Payments $40/month (tentative)
      • February Additional Payment: $40 (for prepaid internet)
      • March Additional Payment: $40 (for prepaid internet)

Credit Card Rewards

  1. My 0% APR credit card (Credit Card #5) has a $200 reward incoming for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. I opened this card to insure my new phone at no (explicit) cost.
  2. I am starting off the year with 30,703 Chase Sapphire Reward Points.
    • I need to earn ~8,333 points (or $125 travel credit equivalent) to break even. Though in actuality, additional card perks, such as airport lounge access, lower the break even point.
  3. Chase Freedom – 5% categories include phone/internet, gas stations, & Android pay. I should purchase and possibly prepay for:
    • Groceries
    • Gift cards (Amazon, Grocery stores etc)
    • Internet (prepay in March)
  4. I need to do better when using my Chase Cards in order to increase the points I earn. For example, I should:
    • Use Chase Freedom only on 5% categories
    • Use Chase Sapphire on dining and travel expenses
    • Use Chase Freedom Unlimited on all other purchases

 

A Year in Review | 2017 (& 2018 Goals)

Yes, this post is finally up and happening. Here’s my end-of-year review for 2017! It was a whirlwind of a year for sure. In the financial sense everything went smoothly. My net worth increased by over 75% in 12 months. I bought a condo. And I met all my financial goals.

Here’s an overview of my holdings at the beginning and end of the year:

Liquid Assets Jan-17 Dec-17 $ Change
Cash & Savings $1,200 $450 ($750)
Emergency Fund  $2501 $3,405  +$904
Short Term Savings $75 $525  +$450
Long Term Savings $43 $0  ($43)
Illiquid Assets Jan-17 Feb-17 $ Change
Brokerage  – $697  +$697
Savings Bonds $500 $2,135  +$1,635
Home Equity $11,850  +$11,850
Retirement Accounts $25,950 $46,459  +$20,509
Liabilities Jan-17 Feb-17 $ Change
Medical ($100) ($0) +$100
Furniture Loan ($1,792) ($1,792)
401K Loan ($10,748) ($10,748)
Net Worth $30,169 $52,981 +$22,812
% Change +75.6%

Buying a condo had a huge impact on my finances. I now have a mortgage and two loans. I have decided not to disclose my mortgage amount. Instead I’ll be sharing my home equity each month as I track my net worth. My liquid assets were somewhat depleted due to the condo acquisition, but the financial impacts would have been worse had I bought the condo before the end of the year.

And as previously mentioned, despite buying a condo, I was able to meet all of the following financial goals:

Fund/Goal Goal Progress Initial Goal Percent
401K $18,000 $18,000 100%
Roth IRA $5,550 $5,500 100%
Emergency Fund $5,500 $5,500 100%
Vacation $1,125 $1,000 112.5%

My spending wasn’t terrible either but I did tend to go over budget most months. If I exclude the costs towards homeownership, my 2017 spending breaks down to be:

  • 56% – Rent
  • 23% – Everything Else
  • 10% – Food
  • 7% – Medical
  • 4% – Fixed Expenses

If I Include home ownership expenditures:

  • 39% – Homeownership
  • 34% – Rent
  • 14% – Everything Else
  • 6% – Food
  • 4% – Medical
  • 3% – Fixed Expenses

Most likely in 2018, I should start tracking the “Everything Else” category in greater detail so I can attempt to trim the fat off of unnecessary expenses.

I know I don’t talk much about the non-financial aspects of my life, but one of the main reasons why I seek financial independence/stability is because I live with a chronic illness. The year 2017 wasn’t a great year for my health, and so far 2018 has not been much better. I do hope 2018 changes for the better and is the year I can find a viable treatment option. I’ll take a cure too. Without proper control of my illness, my life will eventually get very complicated and even more expensive.

Outside of my personal health, everyone in my immediate family had very serious health problems too. Thankfully, everyone seems to be fully recovered and I hope they stay in good health throughout 2018 and beyond!

Financial Goals for 2018:

  • Contribute 15% of income towards retirement (20% stretch goal)
  • Pay $2,500 towards 401K Loan ($3,000 stretch goal)
  • Pay $1,250 towards furniture loan ($1,900 stretch goal)
  • Contribute $1,000 to emergency fund ($1,500 stretch goal).
  • Increase net worth by $20k, barring a market downturn ($25k stretch).
  • Start saving towards home improvement projects (hard wood floors, new furniture etc).

******EDITED TO ADD******

I would like to note that I am starting off the year with 30,703 Chase Sapphire Reward Points. I need to earn ~10,000 points (or $150 travel credit equivalent) to break even on my travel credit card.  Though, I also do use perks such as airport lounge access which more than make up for the cost of the card.

Nov/Dec 2017 Spending

Okay so I’m trying to get caught up on some details that I left out in the November and December net worth updates. Neither month went as well as I would have liked due to the condo purchase and the expenses that come with a new place.

November Spend

Category Budgeted Actual Remaining
Rent $1,050 $1,045 $5 under
Fixed Expenses $125 $122 $3 under
Food $200 $337 $137 over
Moving Exp. $600 $600 $0 over
Everything Else $250 $924 $674 over
Total  $2,225  $3,228 $803 over

In November I was $803 over budget.  I ate out a little more than usual and I made quite a few purchases for my new place. I also used Uber frequently to run errands and purchased Christmas gifts.

December Spend

Category Budgeted Actual Remaining
Mortgage $- $- $0 over
Fixed Expenses $125 $315 $190 over
Food $200 $183 $17 under
Medical $- $52 $-
Everything Else $250 $702 $352 over
Total  $575 $1,134 $559 over

In December I was $559 over budget for many of the same reasons. Thankfully my first mortgage payment wasn’t due until January 1.

I spent a week with my parents which helped cut down on food costs.

I did purchase a new phone and also applied for a new credit card to insure said phone (some credit cards come with this free benefit). In order to get the $200 bonus reward from the new credit card, I need to spend $1,000 in 3 months, so I went ahead and prepaid my internet bill and Netflix. This resulted in high spending in the “Fixed Expense” category.

Under the medical category, I bought new glasses for $52.

I’m satisfied with the amount of additional expenses that came with moving and settling into a new place. I only made one major purchase which was a leather sofa.  I did take out a 0% loan for the purchase because of the interest rate. I’m hoping leather will allow me to sit on this sofa without breaking out in hives. The sofa will arrive in February.

For 2018 I’ll need to tweak my budget to account for additional fixed expenses (an electricity bill and the furniture loan). I also need to come up with financial goals.

I’m still on vacation but hopefully I can churn out a couple more posts when I return home next week.