Monday, March 31, 2008

Saying Goodbye

I promise this blog won't turn into a depressing blog about my father's death. Give me a few more posts, then we'll be back to the normal (boring?) discussions of personal finance and how to live debt-free. Dad read my blog daily and was very excited about what I was doing here, so it's only right that I continue it.

Looking back over the past month, there are so many things that were getting us prepared for this. Someone knew what we were going to be facing made sure we were as ready as we could be.

Grandchildren - The Tuesday night before he died, my boys had a sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa. Green and 3 made a very special dinner with fancy decorations, all for Grandpa when he arrived home from work that night. They got to work on their NCAA brackets together. Dad told me the next day, "Green spent at least 20 minutes making fun of my bracket!" When I asked Green about it, he said, "Mom - he has GEORGE MASON!"

My Brothers - He loved going to Colorado. I think he secretly wanted to move there. He got to spend his last evening with his sons and they were with him when he died. I can't image how difficult that is for Andy and Luke, but I hope they eventually realize what a gift they've been given. They were there for him when he needed them most. What a blessing.

My Mom - They drove to Colorado, which means they had many hours of discussions which I'm sure Mom will never forget. Even though it may have been random chatting, what a special trip for her to remember. How many people given the opportunity to have so many hours alone with the person they love, during their last full day on earth? I hope she treasures that.

My Grandparents - My Grandma had some health issues just a week or so prior to Dad's death. That seemed horrible at the time, but my Dad was there with them throughout the whole thing. He sat with his Mom and Dad for many hours in the hospital, visiting with them and caring for them. That time together has to be comforting to them. He called them after he arrived in Colorado, so they got to speak with him in his last few hours.

His Brothers - At the same time my Grandma was starting to deal with his health issues, my Dad went to Texas for his annual golf trip with his brothers. He always looked forward to this trip and this year was no different. I think that's awesome they all got to see each other so shortly before he died, even though they live all over the country.

His Friends - Just the Saturday before he died, there was a party that quite a few of his friends attended. As far as I know, they rarely got together like this - especially during the winter. How ironic that they got together at this time.

And Me - I worked with Dad so I got to see him every day. The last day before he left for Colorado, I stopped in his office to say I was leaving for the day. He said, "Well, Goodbye. Have a good Easter."

Most of us got to say goodbye to Dad - we just didn't realize it.

Be Prepared

As horrible as it may sound, please take a moment and think about your own situation and how your family is setup to go on without you or your spouse.

1. Do you have a will? Is it up-to-date? If you have a spouse, of course everything will go to him/her be default. But what if both of you should die? Who will raise your kids? Who will handle your estate? (Those should be two different people, by the way.)

2. Term Life Insurance. I hate to break it to you, but you will die. And if you happen to be the first to go, you will leave people behind who will have bills that need to be paid. Your term life insurance policy should be 8-10 times your annual salary. Having you to deal with the grief will be difficult enough on your family - don't add a financial burden on top of it.

3. Paperwork. Your survivors need to know where everything is and how to access it. Last summer I documented all of our information and put it into a special planning book. Pool Boy knows where this book is. I think I also told someone else, and hopefully they'll remember if the need arises. This book has all bank accounts listed, all investments, all necessary websites, all debts (except we've paid most of them off by now), health insurance policies, life insurance policies, and any logins and passwords that would be needed. If something should happen to one of us, all we have to do it pick up this book and we'll know exactly where everything is.

I've heard many people say, "I don't want to talk about those things. It's too morbid." That's pure selfishness - don't do that to your family. It can happen to any of you at any time.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Night

Wow, what a crowd at the visitation. It just shows what an amazing person Dad was. Here is what Pool Boy said on the way home, which sums it up perfectly:

"I think people stuck around a long time tonight because your Dad always made sure all of his friends and relatives knew each other. He truly liked everyone and always made people feel welcome. So when people came tonight, they all felt like hanging out with each other."

Thanks to everyone who attended the visitation tonight. Even through the horror of the past week, we felt truly blessed tonight. Surrounded by so many family and friends, getting hundreds of hugs, having wonderful conversations with so many people we love - awesome. Thank you for that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dad's Last Pictures

These pictures were taken the morning Dad died. They were skiing at Winter Park, Colorado, on Friday, March 21.

Luke, Mom, Dad, Andy

Andy, Dad, Luke on the ski lift. Mom said they were making fun of his hat that morning. "What? This isn't how I'm supposed to be wearing it?"

Dad and Andy

Dad, Luke, Andy, Mom

Wednesday Afternoon

My god, the days drag on.

Two of my dad's brothers and their wives arrived from Houston today. The family will be trickling in from now until Friday. It's hard to see each of them for the first time, especially Dad's siblings.

Luke, Andy and Emily went to each lunch with the boys today school. They ate with each boy, which means they had two Pigs in a Blanket. Luke said he hasn't had a hot dog for years, and probably never will again! I'm so thankful that they did that for Green and Three. That will be a treasured memory for those boys.

I'm still not on a computer that has the pictures of my dad and family from last Friday morning right before he died. Those are treasures. As soon as I get them, I will post them here. He was so happy.

I owe so many thanks to so many people. I've counted on friends, family and co-workers for so many things over the past few days. People have watched my boys, driven me to my parents' house, looked up phone numbers and websites, brought various things to my house for me, and on and on. Having people around you during a time like this makes a world of difference.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday Night

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by to read my story about Dad. There were so many of you who were here today - almost 200 readers. It really helps to know that people out there care about me, my family, and most importantly, my dad.

We are hurting more than we ever dreamed possible.

Today was odd. I stopped by his office (which is also my office) to get some pictures from his desk. That was horrible, as those of who you witnessed it know. I'm glad I went, though.

After that visit, I didn't cry again today. I'm feeling a little guilty about that, but I also know that nothing is "normal". It all sucks, and whatever we do is the right thing.

As I told a co-worker today, my mom and I are really interested to hear how people found out about Dad's death. It sounds so wrong and morbid, but for some reason it comforts us. If you are so inclined, you can send me an email privately at And if it's a personal thing for you and you'd rather not share, I totally get that.

I hope to write down exactly what happened and share it with all of you. Mostly because my dad hated rumors and would want the truth to be known. Secondly, I need to document it for our family. The story and the months/weeks leading up to his death are truly amazing.

Loving you and missing you, Dad.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I Have No Title For This

So this is what a broken heart feels like. The physical pain in my chest is more than I can bear. It hurts. Really hurts.

My dad ended his journey exactly how he would have wanted. He was skiing at Winter Park Resort with my brothers and mom, and died at the top of the Mary Jane mountain in the arms of my brother. His skis were still on his feet. My other brother was there also, and my mom was in the lodge at the bottom of the mountain. If it had to happen, it could not have been more perfect. He was only 55.

I’ve been trying to write up the perfect post. I’m finding it’s impossible to sum up my dad’s life in a blog post. So I’m choosing to remember my dad by listing all the things he loved, in no particular order.

Iowa State Cyclones, Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, National Public Radio, science fiction, reading, Sunday movies with mom, trips to Colorado, my sons’ sporting events, family NCAA tournament pools, movie O Brother Where Art Thou, sleepovers with his grandsons, Willie Nelson, vacations, holidays, boating, men’s golfing league, the tiki bar at The Port, his skid loader, his dump truck, daily phone calls with his boys, working with me, tailgating, family gatherings, movie The Big Lebowski, golf trips with his brothers, Star Wars, The Band, Saturday Night Live, watching old family videos, strange types of beer, any type of party, card nights in Nick’s garage, and many other things I can’t think of right now.

I’m forever changed. I’m no longer the innocent person I was last Friday morning. Life is precious, friends. Hug those around you and tell them you love them. Treat each day as a blessing.

I know you loved me, Dad. And I’m positive you knew you were loved. Thanks for everything.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Little Bit About Me, Thanks to Because I Said So!

Because I Said So tagged me for this meme. Here goes!

Four Films I’d Watch Again

1. Thumb Wars - If you are a Star Wars fan, watching this movie is a MUST! And I just happened to find the whole thing on YouTube. This movie is right up my alley. I'm not sure what that says about me...

2. Grease

3. Man in the Moon

4. Dodgeball

Four Places I’ve Lived
1. Jefferson, Iowa - where I grew up

2. Mt. Ayr, Iowa - I lived there for 6 months when I was in first grade

3. Ames, Iowa - college years and a few years afterwards

4. Current city, which shall stay unnamed. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, so why start now?

Four TV Shows I Watch
1. Oprah’s Big Give, although I’m not liking it as much as I hoped I would. Some of those people really annoy me.

2. American Idol

3. Amazing Race – I watched this for the first time this past season. Made for great family TV night!

4. I seriously can’t think of another one that I watch on a regular basis. I don’t watch much television!

Four Things to Eat
1. Almost any version of potatoes, bread or anything else that’s carbolicious.

2. Cheesecake, or anything with the word “cake” in it.

3. Fettuccini Alfredo, something I wouldn’t have touched 5 years ago.

4. Cheese fries from Wallaby’s, but with their old fries. Their new fries are horrible.

Four Places I’d Rather Be
1. In a cottage right on the ocean

2. In a mountain cabin in Colorado.

3. On a cruise

4. At the mall shopping, and being able to spend whatever I wanted.

Consider yourself tagged!

Retail Debt

Spending money you don’t have to pay for stuff you don’t need is what I call “stupid debt”. There is one type of stupid debt that I really don’t get – retail credit cards, such as Gap and Eddie Bauer.

Carrying a balance on these cards makes absolutely no sense to me. If you are using a credit card to purchase clothes and not paying them off each month, YOU CANNOT AFFORD THE CLOTHES! Have you ever calculated how much those clothes are actually costing you? Get them out of your billfold, cut them up, cancel the card with the company, quit using them. And then pay them off.

Carrying retail credit card debt is just beyond stupid…and a tad shallow. Buy clothes you can afford, not clothes you can’t. You’re not impressing anyone except the credit card company.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tax Results

We finally got our taxes done tonight. There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that we will be getting a $2500 federal tax refund! The bad news…we will be getting a $2500 tax refund.

This has been a pattern of the past few years, and I’m sick of loaning the government money interest free. I have been afraid to make changes to my federal withholding in the past because I never knew what damage our side business was going to do to our taxable income. But the first thing on my to-do list Monday morning is to fill out a new W9. I would much rather have extra $200 per month!

Speaking of “per month”, let me share with you how we’ve increased our take-home pay by over $400 per month.

1. Changing my federal withholding - $200 per month
2. Pausing Pool Boy’s 403B contribution - $50
3. Pausing 529 contributions - $100
4. Reducing my 401K contribution low enough to make sure I’m getting the match – not sure of exact amount yet

Changing the federal withholding is a no-brainer.

The 403B is just an additional retirement account that Pool Boy has been contributing to for 15 years or so. It’s not his primary retirement account, so I’m not too worried about pausing this.

The 529 contributions were minimal. Once we become debt free, we can really throw money at these. With our plan, we’ll be fine by the time the boys get to college.

Reducing my 401K was not hard for me. Even after we’re debt free I plan on keeping it at this rate, but also will start maxing out a Roth – can’t beat the Roth.

Are there ways you can increase your take home pay? Remember, if you are going to increase your pay, make a point of making that extra money work for you. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Being Broke, But Not Realizing It

I'm back from my unannounced blogging break!

Let’s take a look at this made-up family, since it’s typical of what American families are like:

They live in a nice home, with a mortgage of $150,000
Two vehicles, with at least one car loan balance of $15,000
Student loans carrying a balance of $40,000
Best Buy card with a balance $1000
Lowe’s card with a balance of $1000
Gap card with a balance of $500
Discover card with a balance of $4000
Some other little debts here and there
Minimal savings

Regardless of what their income is, this family is dead broke. They just don’t realize it. In my opinion, this is one of the worst financial positions a couple can be in. If you’re broke and you have a plan to fix the financial mistakes you’ve made, you’re miles ahead of the couple who don’t know they are broke and they keep spending and spending and spending.

What are the chances the above couple knows how they are going to send their kids to college? What kind of stress is being placed on their marriage and family, due to bills always coming in the mail? And don’t even think about retirement – there is zero chance that couple will be able to retire at a decent age.

Unless, of course, they quit spending, start saving, getting rid of their debts, and quit acting like they are wealthy. Acting wealthy only gets you a bunch of stuff and a bunch of debt. If you can get yourself on a plan, one day you can actually BE wealthy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm Fast (ing)

Ever since our first child was born, we’ve each had a $250,000 term life insurance policy. At the time we got it, we thought, “If something happens to one of us, the other one is set for life!” Twelve years later, that dollar amount won’t get my family very far if something should happen to me.

If one of us should pass away, we want to make sure the spouse has no debt to worry about, no college tuition to worry about, and does not have to work several jobs to keep the bills paid. From an emotional standpoint, life would be very difficult without one of us here. We don’t want financial problems to make that even harder.

We’re upping our term life insurance policies by quite a substantial amount, and tonight they are coming to draw blood, hence the fasting. Once we pass this final test, hand over our check, then we’re set.

It’s stinks to think about life insurance, but not as much as it would be to deal with the problems afterwards if you did not have enough. Life happens, so you need to be prepared.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How Wii Got It For $75.00

I know, I know. We didn’t NEED a Wii. We resisted the urge to buy a Wii at Christmas, when everyone else was getting one. We listened to all of our friends say how much they loved their Wii. But we new there was no way we were going to pay full price for one.

For my birthday, I got some cash. I like to spend my birthday money on fun stuff rather than debt, because I never buy things for myself like I used to. I used a little bit of it to buy a book. I still had $50 left over.

I also had a $25 Target gift card from her that I hadn’t spent yet.

On the same day I received my birthday money, I found some money we’d received for Christmas that we hadn’t spent yet - $100.

So we put the $175 toward the Wii and only had to pay $75 out of pocket! We did end up buying an additional remote, so there was a little more spent. We haven’t bought any additional games, since the bowling, tennis and baseball are keeping us entertained for now. The boys have used their own money to rent some games.

By resisting the urge to buy it when it was hot, we saved a ton of money. Wii Rock!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Net Worth - You Need to Know This Even If You Think It's Boring

The first time I calculated our net worth was back in our spending days, when we thought we were doing well. But the figure I came up with about the same as the number of fingers I have, so I didn’t do it again. “It’s bogus to know your net worth,” I thought to myself. “There’s no way my net worth can be $7!”

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t $7 but it was something equally as awful, like maybe $12.

I know that calculating your net worth may seem like a boring thing to do, but seriously – you need to do it. It’s not hard. All you need is a spreadsheet. Or if you must, a pencil and paper.


First, list all of the things of you own, along with the value. Include all assets such as cash, bank account balances, retirement funds, 401K, real estate, cars, home furnishings, antiques, and so on. For pension plans, only calculate the amount you are fully vested in.

What does vested mean? Some companies require you to wait a certain time period before you are eligible for the full percentage of the contribution put into your retirement account by the company.

For all values, make sure to use the fair market value, which is “the price a willing, rational, and knowledgeable buyer would pay” for the item. For cars, use the blue book value.

Now, total all of that up.

These are your ASSETS.


This is the sucky part of the equation – figuring up how much you owe. Include all loans, mortgages, student loans, credit card balances, unpaid taxes. Don’t say “that one doesn’t count," because they all count.

Total up those amounts.

These are your LIABILITIES.


This is the easiest step, but may be the most painful.

Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

What is this amount supposed to be? Multiply your annual income times your age and divide by ten. This number should be equal to or higher than your net worth, according to The Millionaire Next Door. Where do you fall?

Credit Reports, ones that really are free

Dang! I think I'm finally recovered from the flu. I would not recommend getting the flu if you have the option. But I'm back now and ready to continue where we left off.

At least once a year, you should check in on your credit report to make sure everything is correct. Each of the big three credit bureaus allow you one free report per year, so take advantage of this!

I recently ran mine and found two credit card accounts and one empty bank account, all of which need to be closed. Everything else was correct.

If you’ve had credit troubles in the past, it’s especially important to find out what is on file for you and make sure it’s accurate.

I recommend that you use It’s the only one I’ve found that is truly free. No, those commercials advertising free credit reports are not really free, so don’t fall for them!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Here is what I've been up to

I don't know which of these is the worst part of it. The sore throat, the muscle aches, the extreme fatigue, or the fact that you have to take your kids on a already-delayed-once-because-of-an-illness vacation.

It's been a week since I got sick. And I'm still sick. Still achy, still stuffed up, still achy, and every inch of my body is still exhausted.

And yes, I really did take my kids to Minneapolis this weekend, because moms aren't allowed sick days. But Pool Boy took the reigns and made sure the kids had fun.

Time to lie back down on the couch...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Silly Sick

It's ok if your sick child rolls around on the floor for 20 minutes, all the while saying random numbers. Right?


Oh. That's not normal? Ok, then. We're all getting drugged up and going to bed.

Grandparents Have The Best Advice

I sent an email to my Grandma yesterday. Well, actually it was to both my Grandma and Grandpa, but Grandpa only reads the printed out version of my emails, which I don’t believe qualifies as an actual email.

Anyway, I was explaining to her how we were getting out of debt and that I had just purchased a book called The Millionaire Mind. I knew Grandma and Grandpa were not fans of debt, so I figured they would be excited that I finally got smart about my money.

She replied to my email and what she said was so perfect I had to share with you:

“We've always liked the idea of people paying us to use our money rather than us paying someone else so we can use theirs.”

Doesn’t that just sum it all up?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Perfect Post Award Goes To...

Miss Britt!
Britt is one of my regular reads, but this post is one that all of women should read. I could go on and on about why I think you should read it, but I'd really rather have you just go there and find out for yourself why it's so good. Your body wants you to read it.
Don't forget to check out Petroville and Suburban Turmoil for more Perfect Posts!

Hey! An Award!

Jenn was kind enough to present me with this! Thanks, blog friend!

Recipes Updated

What is there to do when you have a sick kid, bad foot, and you feel like you are coming down with an illness yourself? Update my recipe blog of course! I organized it a little better so it's easier to see the list of recipes I've got out there.

Don't worry, Melanie. Plenty of "casseroles" for you to try out.