In which I gain levels in Adult, Responsible and Financial Independence

…and then ruin them by relating them to Dungeons and Dragons.

Folks, as of today, technically, and definitely as of Saturday when the payment will officially go through, I have no credit card debt. This has not been true at any point since I was in college– probably since my freshman year, in fact. Said credit card debt was at one point north of thirty thousand dollars and it is now gone. Now, I’m not free of debt itself by any means– there is a mortgage, and a car loan, and my student loans, and another installment loan at a very low APR that I used to make a large chunk of that credit card debt not credit card debt any more. But this is still a Goddamn milestone; I don’t owe any money to actual credit cards any longer, and every debt I have is on an installment plan where I can point at a date on a calendar and say “This is when that will be repaid.”

Except not really, because now that I’ve got the money I’ve been using to aggressively pay down credit card debt back in my pocket, I’m going to start working on the car. I think I can actually afford to make my car payment twice a month now and still come out ahead from what I was putting into credit cards. That’ll have that paid off in a little over a year, I think. After that, assuming I don’t lose my job or have some other shit life event, things are going to seriously change. I will be moving into Actual Discretionary Income territory, which … well, I know it probably seems like I already spend money whenever I want to, and yes, I’m saving up for a criminally expensive lightsaber as a Paid Off My Credit Cards award, but … this is still a big Goddamned deal, y’all.

I just gotta remember to spend the rest of my life not being stupid now.

Some realizations

  • First, that it is 7:30 PM, and I probably ought to blog today;
  • Second, that I am officially closer to retirement than I am to college, even assuming I wait to 65 to retire;
  • Third, that my student loans are due to be paid off four years prior to said 65th birthday, which should be a crime;
  • Fourth, that even if the notion of living another 20 years much less teaching for that long is difficult to wrap my head around, I probably ought to take this retirement thing seriously since I have, y’know, a wife and child in the mix now.

In case you can’t tell, I met with a retirement … dude, of some sort, at work on Friday, and several mortality-confronty sorts of things were discussed, and then this weekend I managed to keep my shit together long enough to dig through the folder that I throw anything even vaguely investment-related into and find not one but two different investment-related accounts that appear to no longer be receiving active contributions; I did some strategic scanning and sent them off to The Dude with a note attached that basically said I don’t know any of the money words, please help and we will see if anything happens. I have never really believed in retirement, to be honest; not in the sense that I don’t want to eventually quit working– I want to quit working now— but in the sense that I suspect any money I “invest” in my “future” will be stolen or siphoned off somehow before I’m able to actually benefit from any of it.

Today also included mowing, putting all my laundered clothes away like a big boy, finishing a book, starting another one, getting my grading done, writing a number of important emails, and a couple of videos recorded for The YouTubes. All in all, not bad for a Sunday.

In which it looks like I screwed up

You may recall that I turned down an opportunity to teach summer school in June. Now, despite everything I’m about to say, the reason I turned that position down remains true: that by the time they got around to offering me the job, we had signed our son up for a bunch of summer camps and I’d signed up for National Board Certification, meaning that I now need to cram four years of high school mathematics into a summer.

That said:

There are twenty days of summer school, six hours long each, and I was originally under the impression that my hourly rate was around $32.(*) That would mean that I’d have made $32 x 20 x 6 = $3840 before taxes. Which isn’t nothing by any stretch of the imagination, mind you, but it wasn’t quite enough to get me to back out of stuff that I’d already committed to or screw up my kid’s summer.

Then I found out my actual hourly rate is $41. I’m not sure how I fucked up that calculation, but that means my actual pay would have been $41 x 20 x 6 = $4,920 before taxes, and at that point– I discovered this after I turned the job down– losing out on that money starts to hurt a bit.

Well, they’re having serious trouble finding teachers– because I’m not the only person who took the two-month gap between applying for jobs and finding out whether they’d been accepted as a reason to find other summer plans– and the union and the district just signed off on increasing the summer pay to seventy fucking dollars an hour. Which is over twice the original rate I had calculated and would have meant a whopping $8400 before taxes, enough money to kill my last remaining credit card bill and put a substantial dent in the amount of money I owe on my car.

And … well, now I’m pissed. I mean, I’ll get over it, and I’m still not screwing over my son, but … shit.

Anybody want to hand me a big pile of money for no particular reason?

(Also, shit, how much Covid money must my district be sitting on right now, that they can even contemplate this level of pay? Holy shit.)

(* And before anybody jumps on my case for being a math teacher and not being able to calculate my own hourly pay: it’s not as simple as dividing my salary by 52 and then however many hours of pay I get in a week– first of all, it’s the actual number of weeks we’re paid for teaching in a year, a number I don’t know off the top of my head, and secondly, at least until recently anything that was paid on an “hourly” basis was actually paid at the scale of the lowest-paid teachers, not actually on my individual hourly pay, so the “hourly” for all the teachers in the district was the same. They’ve apparently changed the formula at some point and I didn’t notice.)

In which I’m on to this now

In the past time-has-no-meaning-anymore-so-let’s-say a month or so, I have developed and abandoned several new hobbies. I was super into woodturning for a while, and recently I’ve developed a fascination with paper- and bookmaking. I have turned no wood, made no paper, crafted no books, but I’ve been watching a lot of videos. I’ve managed to avoid spending any money on anything, although the fact of the matter is investing in the few things I’d need to make some shitty little notebooks with my copious spare time and brain cycles would actually not cost very much.

The other day I discovered that an app I was already using for something else allows me to buy stocks and Bitcoin. On a lark, and because I’m so unused to the concept of having spare funds that I don’t know what the hell to do with it, I bought $20 in Apple stock and $20 in Bitcoin, and at some point in between then and now I bought $25 in Moderna stock and upped the Apple buy to $25 so that they were even. Because that is how you make stock decisions; you look at how much you’ve spent on two entirely different companies and even the amounts out just for the hell of it.

Bitcoin has plunged in value since I bought it. Like, to the point that there are articles being written about it. I’ve made like two bucks on the stocks. But the fact is, I don’t know anything about any of this and in theory I would like to retire some day, so … maybe I should learn something about how, like, investments work? When I was unemployed a few years I had to cash out what little retirement I had so we could, like, keep the house, so in theory I have some investments in some funds somewhere and some retirement accounts, maybe something with a K in the name of it or something, although it’s not a 401K because something something public employee, I don’t know. But I don’t know anything about this.

(An example of how little I know: I found out earlier that a Pfizer … subsidiary … named BioNTech may be close to a Parkinson’s vaccine. I don’t know what a subsidiary actually is or whether BioNTech is one, but the companies are related somehow. BioNTech is BNTX on the Nasdaq and the app I’m using appears to not know it exists and I don’t know why, because I don’t actually really know what the Nasdaq is, or if it’s different from what I’m using to invest, and blah blah blah blah. I do not actually really know what “The Dow” is, in any functional way, other than it seems to be a graph that reacts to the emotions of rich people on any given day. I’m real real real dumb about this. I need to be less dumb, so I need a way to learn.)

So here’s my question, if there’s anyone out there who knows a useful amount of information about this: if I were to want to fiddle with the idea of being a small-time investor for a little while, making the occasional trade to the tune of, like, $20-25 a week or something like that, what apps or services should I be looking at for something like that? Ideally with a portfolio that has independent existence outside the app, so that I can take it with me, so to speak? The Bitcoin thing isn’t something I’m dedicated to, and I’m fine with the idea of selling everything I’ve bought in this app before moving to another one– I’m using such small amounts of money right now that even if I took a hit on it it’s not a thing I’m worried about.

Also, before you say anything, yes, I understand that right now is probably not a great time to get into the market, what with the impending civil war and all; again, I’m just dipping my toes in and only putting in money I’m willing to lose. I’m not about to suddenly invest an entire paycheck and cross my fingers that I’m going to get rich or something like that.

But all that said: any suggestions?

How to be bad with money

Quick note, just because it entertains me: due to a combination of 1) some bonus money from the state connected to last year’s teacher evaluations and 2) an actual raise arriving with retroactive pay back to the beginning of this school year, tomorrow’s check is going to be almost a grand higher than usual. I knew this was coming eventually, but I just found out yesterday that it was going to be this week– and both coming on the same check was a pleasant surprise.

Now, remember that I just bought a TV and a Playstation 5, along with a couple of games, with the clear knowledge that this money was coming and that was how I’d pay for it. I also recently ordered a new desk chair, which wasn’t cheap either.

So this money is spent. Again, I knew it was coming, so this isn’t an issue of me just tossing funds out there and hoping, but the bonus money is spent.

And naturally, my first though this morning upon seeing how much the extra funds were going to be was Ooh, I should go splurge on something!

Sigh.

Possibly more later; I always like to record it when I notice I’m dumb.