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 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?

On personal finance

money-down-the-toiletWARNING: Ill-informed rant ahead.  More so than usual, yes.

Shut up.

I got another quarterly statement from MetLife today.  I have something called a 401A.  I phrase it that way not because I’m trying to be cute or lead into an explanation but because I really don’t have the vaguest idea what the shit a 401A actually is.   I know it has something to do with retirement and I know that it is pathetically small; I’ve supposedly been paying into this thing (or maybe someone else pays into it, I dunno) for, what, seven years now?– something like that, and the total amount in the account is still less than the amount of a single paycheck.  They helpfully inform me that I can look forward to a monthly retirement income of $64 (that’s not a typo) based on what I have in my account.

I have some other account with some other company; it has even less money in it.  I think I started paying into that in Chicago, maybe, and then I left that job but I still have the account?  I should probably “roll it over” into something; I hear that money can be “rolled over” in some circumstances and I think maybe this might have something to do with that.

And then there’s my TRF, or Teacher’s Retirement Fund.  Off the top of my head I have no idea how much is in that or what it’s good for, but if I’ve gotten my quarterly report from MetLife I’m probably due to get a statement from them soon too.

That, right there, constitutes the entire sum of both my knowledge of how investments work and the current state of my “retirement fund.”  I just actually tried– I think about this every time I get a quarterly statement, but this time I actually did something about it– to log into MetLife’s website to see if I have the option to be “more aggressive” (that’s a money thing, right?) with how they’re allocating my money, because the $8 that my fund increased in value over the last quarter seems… paltry.

The site is insisting that I give them my PIN.  I don’t have a PIN, or at least I don’t think I do; I’m certain I’ve never logged into the website before.  I clicked the button helpfully labeled “Lost your PIN?” and they have informed me that they’re mailing it to me.  Because it is 1986.

Here’s the thing:  I know, intellectually, that I probably ought to care about and be paying close attention to this stuff.  I also know politically that my generation is not going to be allowed to retire.  That’s an illusion; retirement is basically done as a concept in American society for anyone under 40.  That TRF money?  I’ll eat my own dick if that’s still available to me in any meaningful form when I’m 65, or 70, or whatever age they think I ought to be working to by the time I supposedly get to be that old.  That shit’s gonna be stolen, no doubt by some rich ratfucker who deserves it more than I do.  It’s funny money; I don’t believe for a second that it’s actually real or that it will ever actually make its way to me.  I don’t particularly trust the 401A either, for much the same reasons.

I’d like to increase the amount that is getting put into this 401A plan (the corp is kicking in a contribution– at least, I’m pretty sure this money is coming from them, not me– but I’m pretty sure I can tell payroll to pull more out for it if I want) but the state legislature has made it their goal over the last several years to make sure that no teacher in Indiana ever gets a raise again, and so it’s not like there’s extra money becoming available that I could dedicate to investments.

I think I’ll go buy some lottery tickets.  Or– ooh!  A Bitcoin!