Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

A Gray Day…Sky-wise and Financial-wise

California’s rainstorms are making their way over here. Every time a significant storm blows into California, eventually it crosses the mountains and the desert and arrives here. The sky has been threatening to dump on us all day. And…speaking of “dump,” naturally I pick today to work on the financial books.

Not too bright. As it were…

So one thing — the one thing — that appears immanently obvious is that the current amazing budgetary triumph is a fluke.

And: even if said fluke continues indefinitely, as long as I have to make car payments on top of helping my son pay the mortgage on a house he can’t afford on the salary he earns, I cannot make make ends meet. Said salary of my son’s ranks slightly above Arizona’s paltry median household income (and his 66-year-old virtually uninsulatable house is valued right at the Greater Phoenix median cost for a single-family home) — Yes. Well. The one obvious factoid: my RMD and Social Security are not going to support me unless I get rid of the car and the dogs.

That’s even if I were able to keep monthly expenses at the flukish minimum. Which ain’t bloody likely.


Because I hate the recurring budgetary data-entry job, I tend to put it off. So today had to spend two or three hours ripping open envelopes, poring over statements, and entering number after number after tedious number into spreadsheets. And, of course, paying bills.

Engaged in this fun project, I happen to notice that this month’s water bill is exactly the same as last month’s bill, right down to the penny: $99.69.

Say what?

Last month it did not rain every day or two. Last month the watering system was running — it came on every third day. This month the watering system has been off for at least two weeks (could be longer), and the ground and pots are still soggy from the unending rain. Not once have I had to pour tap water into the swimming pool. And because it’s colder than Billy-Be-Damned, I put off bathing as long as I possibly can.

Soooo…there’s no reason the current bill should be anywhere near as much as last month’s bill. That it would be identical makes no sense at all.

I called the water department to inquire about this anomaly — a hundred bucks being high for this time of year, especially after all the rain we’ve had. I was told the meters are still manually read in our neighborhood. This seemed contrary to the notice we got a couple years ago saying our meters would henceforth be read electronically…but who knows? Anything’s possible. The woman I spoke with, Linda, said I should go outside and check the meter to see if it registered the same as or less than the figure shown on the statement. If it didn’t register more, in order to get the Water Dept to investigate, I would be charged a $23 gouge for the privilege.

meter2So I went out this afternoon, in the rain, to check as advised. What I saw was a gauge encrusted in dried-on dust, leaves, and old bougainvillea blossoms.

The statement says the meter was read on January 3. Today is January 9. Obviously, no one could have read the meter without pushing aside the crusted-on dirt. That much mud and crap would not have weaseled its way in to the covered meter box in six days.

Curious about the condition of the irrigation system, I turned the valves on and then traipsed back through the rain and checked to see if any change registered with the meter. None: it didn’t budge. Evidently there’s no leak in the system, even when the system’s valves are open.

I called back and reached Mario.

He said, in direct contradiction to his agency’s first representative, that the meters are read electronically.

He further said I must have used that much water, and it must have been just an AMAZING coincidence that the two readings were the same despite the fact that I happen to know the irrigation system was turned off, no water was added to the pool (thanks to this month’s rain), and (because it’s colder than a witch’s t**** in December in this house when you can’t afford to run the heating system) I haven’t bathed excessively.

After I hung up from this run-around, I sent a complaint to my city councilperson. An exercise in futility, I expect. WTF.

I’m going to have to find a way to get more money. I simply cannot bear the thought of teaching freshman comp again. Honestly. I’d rather starve.

Which at this unemployable age, I probably will.

Wonder-Accountant has said, in passing, that it’s about time to draw down a “salary” from the S-corp. Well. Yeah: actually, it’s probably way past time.

An extra ten thousand dollars would do the trick. But…there’s only nine grand in the S-corp’s account. Most of its income goes to cover its expenses. It just about breaks even. So obviously, it’s not going to keep any wolves from the door.



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Author: funny

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  1. Thank you Funny….Just when I was starting to feel sorry for myself, you shared your story of whoa. It would seem I’m the only person in the US that experienced “less than perfect” results from their mutual funds. I see results of 10-20% return from financial blogs….mine 1-2% on one and 5-6% on another. In the good ol’ days 30-35% returns…what the …? I read the statement from the Company and a large does of CYA is apparent….sheeeez.
    Do you think things will improve when DS’s refi goes thru? As for the car and “it’s companion” the payment book….that’s a challenge…You were in a tough spot…A marginal vehicle which required more and more repair OR bite the bullet and buy a “gently used” vehicle. And you have 4-5 years to figure out if it was the right decision. Peace of mind is certainly worth something. Thank goodness your place is paid for!

    • Yah…if the house hadn’t been paid for by the time I was laid off, I’d be writing this from my camp under the 7th Avenue Underpass today.

      The cost of the son’s mortgage won’t go down; at least I’d be surprised if it did. Probably the contrary: we had a ridiculously low rate. But he’ll avoid the problem of the 30/15 mortgage balloon. In a few years we would have had to refinance or else pay off the whole balance of almost $200,000…and in a few years — make that a few months! — the low interest we’ve been enjoying will be ancient history. If he waited until the balloon came due, it would mean MUCH higher payments. He’s barely managing the bills on the munificent pay Arizonans earn as it is. If he had to refinance at a higher rate, he’d be back in the fire-trap dump of an apartment he was renting.

      I don’t know how young people manage, if they don’t have a parent who can help them out. They don’t, I guess. Hence the acre on acre on endless ACRE of slum and near slum tracts in the Phoenix area. Leave Scottsdale, and you find yourself in the dreariest urb this side of Calcutta.

      As for the new(ish) car, I’m going to have to get a job to support the thing. Yesterday I talked with a friend who teaches ESL in the junior colleges. I’m told ESL is a lot easier to handle than hateful freshman comp, because you don’t have to read reams of student drivel. Apparently it’s mostly classroom interaction and conversational practice. I have a BA in French and (vaguely) know something about teaching language.

      So we’re going to see if I can get hired, despite my old age, in the junior college down the road. It’s pretty low-rent, but at least it’s closer than Heavenly Gardens, and driving down there will take me past Costco and AJ’s and a Safeway, making it possible to do some errands on the way home from class.

      It’ll bring an end to my publishing fantasies. Which is probably just as well.

    • And on the investment front: mine are partly in mutual funds and partly in actively managed securities. Risk is higher, but when times are good, return is better. Just received this from the head financial dude:

      “In response to the market sprint since the November election, some sectors of the market, and some companies in those sectors, seem to have gotten ahead of themselves. We have maintained a healthy weighting in the industrial sector of the market, as stocks in those companies presented an attractive value for investors, and it has benefited your portfolio.

      “During this sprint, Lincoln Electric (LECO) surpassed our valuation target, so when the stock price finally paused, we decided to reduce your industrial sector weighting and take profits on the position. Over a two-day period last week, we sold your position in LECO, reducing your weighting in the industrial sector and used most of the proceeds to add HSBC Holdings (Hong Kong Shanghai Bank), increasing your financial services weighting.

      “As short-term interest rates are poised to continue rising, bank profit margins are expected to rise as well. Typically, bank stock prices are somewhat correlated as they all play in the same sandbox, but HSBC has lagged the pack, and the valuation gap was simply too much to pass up. As we await earnings improvement and the price performance gap to narrow, you will be earning a dividend of approximately 4.80%.”

      So…banks, I guess. Invest in banks?

  2. Banks? I’m the wrong one to ask about Banks…Took a severe beating from Washington Mutual and I still wonder how the management of that Bank isn’t “under the jail”! My folks at TIAA-CREF basically said ….”we made bad bets”…better luck next year. Now the decision, send these “jokers” more funds to…”work with” OR something else. For my money oil looks like the place to be especially domestic….Occidental or Marathon. People are already strapped where will the money come from with higher interest rates? I’m thinking higher default rates. Just my 2 cents….
    As for the water bill….don’t trust those guys as far as I can throw them. I got a crazy bill on a vacant rental and asked for an onsite audit. I got there early, got my tools out of the truck and placed a 5 gallon paint can lid over the water meter access hatch. When the Supervisor and the meter reader got there neither could find the meter and despite assurances it was NOT read electronically. After 5 minutes of FUN I lifted the paint lid, took a reading and got EVERYBODY’s name and badge number. Wrote a nice letter and did get a new bill along with an apology…. and a CREDIT to my account. Took almost a year to work off the credit WITH the unit occupied. Just like they said in the X-files…..”trust no one”….

    • Yeah, I’d be awfully careful right now (or any time…) about investing in financial institutions. IMHO things are going to look nice and shiny for awhile, and then we’re going to have one hell of a recession. The extreme conservatives’ theories on commerce, economy, and government suffer from some deep flaws — and we saw the result toward the end of Bush Junior’s reign.

      Bush the Younger himself was none too bright, but the people behind him were wily enough, and they were the ones who were pulling the strings. But only a few of them were doctrinaire extremists. Now we have the inmates running the asylum, and IMHO nothing good can come of it. If I were deciding on my own about what to invest in, the choices would be a) diversified and b) pretty damned conservative. I’d avoid taking any risks, real or perceived.

      Ha haaaa!!! The Paint Can Lid Gambit!!! It’s too, too good! You’d love Arizona: we have bureaucrats of that caliber scuttling all over the place. They’ve been on the phone and the email this morning. Unfortunately I have to rewrite my CV this morning in order to apply for a new teaching job (snarkle! good luck with THAT!), so it’ll be much later today before I can attend to that sideshow.

  3. I am likely missing something here but is helping your son out entirely on you, thus causing this major shortfall in your own budget? Can he put in overtime, cut his expenses, take on a second job, ask his dad for help? You already put in so much work, I’m not sure how you’re to survive taking on yet more!