Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fake millionaire

[Blowing off cobwebs]

Hi there, internets. How's it going?

This is the first time I've visited this blog since, well, since whenever I last posted. Haven't checked the email account, haven't done squat. Instead of writing about my financial life, I've been off living it, and that's been pretty groovy.

A few things have changed since I last posted. Here's a brief roundup:

--I fell in love, big, big love. It wasn't with the Australian guy I started seeing last May: He's very charming and we had unbelievable chemistry together, but among other things, he turned out to be completely crackers. After a few months that started out great and then got very, very bad, I pulled the plug. We tried to evolve into friends a little while after that because we missed each other (remember, chemistry), but he just can't function without generating drama. In the end he began interfering in my new budding relationship, so I cut him off entirely.

I met someone else in August, an American this time. We had a shaky start, but somehow it caught fire and now I can't imagine life without him. There are so many things I could say about him, including the facts that he's six feet tall and very handsome, but the most compelling for me are that he's a good man and a grounded one, with a heart the size of Texas. We've cautiously started circling around the idea of moving in together once his lease is up in November. November's a long way off, but right now shacking up is on the table as one of a number of different options to consider as the time draws closer. I think he's thought a bit beyond living together, but I'm not really ready for that conversation yet and I don't think he is, either. There's no rush, anyway: We're in our forties and neither of us has or wants kids, so there's no reason to make life-altering decisions prematurely. In the meantime, the relationship continues to grow at a pace and in a direction that feels like home for both of us.

--My mom's health took a dump. She is now nearly blind, in a wheelchair, and showing the onset of dementia, and all of it was triggered by a series of infections. Some days are good and some are bad, but I'm so thankful that she has onsite 24-7 assisted living in her retirement community: She will never live independently again. I wasn't actually sure she would make it to her 86th birthday, but she did and has been doing incrementally better since then. She gave up her townhouse (ever moved a lifetime of stuff in six days? I have), which makes visiting as often as I do both expensive and logistically complicated.

--Knocked off another marathon, for ten total. I have three lined up for this year and I'd like to do a couple more after that, but my body's starting to tell me that I need to make some changes. I've been rehabbing a couple of chronic injuries in physical therapy for months now, and I'm going to have to find a way to manage them because they're not really going to heal.

--My job became my angry job on steroids. It's harder than heck because of all the politics and I'm putting in huge hours, but it's good in a way: Somewhere in the dysfunctional shards of what was once a pretty good organization until it was restructured into god-knows-what a few years ago, I've finally found my niche. I'm in a two-year sweet spot where my pension grows at an unusually fast pace, so I'm determined to stick it out for a while yet. Thirteen more years will give me a decent income from age 60 onwards, and it's harder and harder to contemplate walking away from that.

--I spent a whole lot of money last year. After a tough couple of years at work and with my mom's horrible stroke in 2010, I thought a little more engagement with the present took precedence over the future planning I was doing, at least for a while. It was fun. I'm pulling it back into balance in 2012 because I feel like I'm out of whack on the wrong side of the save-spend equation, and that's not a comfortable place for me.

--Goal setting. I should get back to that sometime. My one concrete goal for 2012 is to save $65,000 and invest $70,000.

--Other than one or two I pop in on periodically, I don't follow blogs anymore. The landscape has changed: I think a lot of people who started around the same time I did have dropped by the wayside, and that's okay. I haven't looked for new blogs to follow; it's just not a priority.

--Last but not least, and thanks to a strong stock market recovery in the first two months of the year, I reached one of my major financial milestones today: Once the sum total of my cash savings and investment portfolio hit $650,000, I became a Fake Millionaire. I call it that because once the approximate value of my apartment after transfer fees and flip tax are deducted is factored in (my conservative estimate is that I'd clear about $350,000), my net worth is a million. The reason why I think it's a false construct is that although I know a lot of people count the value of their primary home as part of their net worth, I don't. To me, it's a place to live and I'm always going to have to live somewhere, so I don't think of my home as an asset that I'll ultimately cash out.

Nevertheless, the idea of being worth a cool million is pretty neat.

I'm arriving at this goal a few months later than I had hoped, but after the economic bloodbath of the last couple of years, I'm glad I stayed fully invested in the stock market even if I didn't add to my investments as much as I should have last year.

My next financial goal is to hit a million in investments and savings alone, and I'd like to get there before I turn 46. I'm 43 now, so I won't hit my deadline without some pretty aggressive saving as well as continued positive performance in the stock market. I've engaged financial advisory services through one of my investment companies in hopes of getting some guidance on simplifying and streamlining what I have, and I have a second meeting with my assigned advisor next week. Should be good fun.

As far as blogging goes, I'll stop in here from time to time as I feel like it, but the spark I had before is gone. One day, you might find that the blog is suddenly gone as well. Part of it is that every day I feel a little more robbed of my privacy, and that bothers me. My first and last name together are a little uncommon, so it's easy to search on my full name and get meaningful results. I've received a couple of unwelcome contacts thanks to busybodies from the past digging through search engines, so I've had every identifiable listing I could get my hands on removed. (Those online "directories" are a disgrace: Public information or not, no one has any business aggregating personal data and spreading it out like a buffet table for any old crazypants stalker to find.)

Largely thanks to social media and online shopping, data mining is faster, more accurate, and a lot sneakier than it was just a year or two ago. I realize that privacy as a concept is outdated, but I have a hard time letting it go and embracing a world where no one has a filter and everyone knows everything about everyone. Knowing that I can't keep my identity from being outed makes me a lot less willing to write openly online about my life, and about my finances in particular.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't use social media or shop online. It's fun. To the limited extent that I do it, I really enjoy it. If you choose to use it, though, never forget this: Once information about you reaches the internet, you can't pull it back. In addition, if you use social media, always be mindful that you are what's for sale.

I don't want to end on a somber note. My mom is stable for now, and although it's been a tough transition for all of us, she's living in a place where she gets the ongoing care she needs. My sibling and I still have a contentious relationship, but for now we're mostly in a state of detente. I've taken a step back on a couple of friendships, but others have deepened. Life is rich and rewarding, and I'm deeply in love.

As always, I'm bullish on the future.


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