Friday, August 23, 2013

How I plan to win at the game of Yloponom: It’s all about bending the rules a little


UPDATE: This game-plan has changed! Click here to see how & why Smile 

Many moons ago, us kids had a Saturday evening tradition involving a ‘board-game marathon’.  I’d have the games already laid out in my room—stuff like Clue, “Which Witch is Which”, Monopoly (and a flavor-game of the week if we weren’t tired of playing by then). 

But when it came to Monopoly, my sister Shawn & I played by our own rules.  For instance, if I landed on Park Place I wouldn’t buy it—that was Shawn’s favorite property to own.  And the same went with her & Boardwalk, my sister let me have that one.  One night while watching us play, our older brother Duke said “This isn’t how the game is played, this is Yloponom!” 

Duke if you’re reading this—you’ll be happy to know that we still use your expression.  A couple weeks ago when I informed my sister that I’d both gained and lost 3 thousand dollars in my retirement account in 2 days, she said “Well, it’s all yloponom money to me anyway.”  Yep, to me too.

Anyway—I still have early-retirement sugarplums dancing around my head, so after a summer of reading up on investing, healthcare and retirement, here’s my “Five-Five Game”.  I’m writing it all down for future reference, but the rules can change at any time.

 1. I’ve GOTTA stay at my current company until the year I turn 55; if I don’t, this early retirement game’s over

I turn 55 in 2016. Why is that so important?  Because the IRS will allow you to begin withdrawls from a 401K without penalties the same year you turn 55 (without waiting to 59.5), provided you don’t leave the company before that year. (Click here if you don’t believe me!)

2.  But I can’t pull that plug on my work-computer until I have a minimum of 550K (in savings, personal investments & 401K combined).

Should I save even more?  Probably, and should I work until I’m 67 years old or I drop dead at my desk, whichever comes first?  Yes, but we’re not playing by the rules here!

 3. After I retire, I’ll still need to earn income annually until I turn 62.  (401K withdrawls count as earned income) 

I don’t want to tap my 401K early, that’s what my savings and personal investments are for.  But I’ll have to, for one reason:  Health insurance.  For a single 56 year old man, a good insurance plan currently costs approximate $7000.00 a year.  Under the Affordable Care Act, if I “earn” at least 12K a year I’ll qualify for a big reduction in insurance premiums.   (For states that expanded their Medicaid program, you’ll have to earn a higher amount to qualify for Obamacare.) 

But earn less than 133% or more than 400% of the Federal poverty level income level, you receive no subsidy, nothing, nil.  Click here for a subsidy-estimate calculator, it’s approved by Obama.

 4. When I hit 62, I’ll roll my 401K into an IRA, and forget about it

Social Security is now my ‘earned income’ for Obamacare coverage.  Supplement it with personal savings & give my remaining 401K balance a lonnnnng vacation!  

And hopefully over time it will earn back a little of that money I tapped from age 56-62.

5.  When I turn 65, wave goodbye to Obamacare.  Hello Medicare! 

I don’t have to worry about ‘earned income’ now.  I’ll continue supplementing that Social Security check with my personal savings (and maybe dip a toe in my 401K again if the level’s high enough).  I really need to leave that alone as long as I can, though. 

Hopefully, this so-called plan of mine will last me thirty years or so.  So what happens if I live past then?  Your guess is as good as mine!  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Chapter Two in my Diary of a Fat Man: Oh Joy!


Last week when my friend & coworker Jeff  informed me he had cause to celebrate (his wife upped his lunch allowance, which now permitted him to eat out more often) how did we mark the occasion?  By going to the Golden Palace Buffet, of course!

If you’ve never been, it’s a wonderful thing.  There’s a long table laden with steaming metal hot-trays of everything on a Chinese menu (and then some).  I’m partial to the crab rangoons.  It’s all you can eat for $8.00, and if you’re not planning on going back for seconds (or thirds) then you have no business eating there.

So after we filled our plates and sat down, an attractive woman approached our table.  She said “Hello Doug?  Remember me?  We worked together many years ago.”   I said “Um… hi!  It’s nice to see you again, gosh how long has it been?”  (Nope, not a clue who she is—a name or date would help.)  She said “Well, I left in 1996, then got remarried… my last name is so-and-so now.”   She asks how I’ve been, I say just fine and ask how she’s been, she says just fine, there’s an awkward pause & she says “Well it was nice seeing you.”  I say “You too Ms.So-and-so” and she laughs and says “You can still call me Joy!” and walks to the buffet.  My buddy Jeff says “Who was that?” and I tell him his guess is as good as mine.  And just as we’re about to begin our Chinese gorge-fest, it dawns on me:  JOY??

 Here’s me and Joy at a coworkers barbecue sometime in the 90s.  She doesn’t look anything like this now! 

I jumped up & headed to the buffet and said “Hi, please forgive me for not remembering, but are you the same Joy that sat right across from me at the Dept of Aging in 1995?”  

She laughed and said “Yes Doug!”   I told her I was sorry I didn’t recognize her right away & that she looked terrific.  She laughed again and said thank you, she’d lost the weight 15 years ago and it’s been awhile since she received any compliments about it.  Wow.

I went back to work, thought about it the rest of the day, came home and dusted off the digital scales I haven’t stood on since May.  It wasn’t pretty.  I thought “Well, I DID graze at a chinese buffet today, I’ll wait a couple days and try this again…”   No difference, still the same godawful number.  I knew I needed to set a new goal, start posting my weigh-ins again. 

I’m going to update the table below every week until… I don’t know, 2014?  Or until I lose 25 lbs, whichever comes first.  (This may turn out to be one big-ass chart… wish me luck!)


Date Weight Gain/Loss Total
Aug 16 233.50 0 0
Aug 23 232.00 -01.50 -01.50
Aug 30 231.00 -01.00 -02.50
Sep 06 234.00 +03.00 +00.50
Sep 13 232.00 -02.00 -01.50
Sep 20 231.50 -00.50 -02.00
Sep 27 231.50 0.00 -02.00
Oct 04 230.50 -01.00 -03.00
Oct 11 231.00 +00.50 -02.50
Oct 18 231.00 0 -02.50
Oct 25 231.00 0 -02.50
Nov 01 231.00 0 -02.50
Nov 08 232.00 +01.00 -01.50
Nov 15 233.50 +01.50 0
Nov 22 234.00 +00.50 +00.50
Nov 29 235.00 +01.50 +01.50
Dec 06 237.00 +02.00 +03.50

Okay I give up, this is clearly not going in the direction I wanted (and the holidays are not helping)!   Laugh it up Buddha, but I refuse to give up—I’ll be back in 2014!


Monday, August 12, 2013

What happened, little buddy? A prayer for Flynn


I wasn’t planning on sharing two cat pieces in a row, but three days ago my sister Shawn contacted me & said she’d been awakened early in the morning by their new kitten’s cries, and found him sick in his litter box.  She wasted no time (thank God) waking my niece Sophia and telling her they had to take Flynn to the animal hospital right away.  Thankfully, the vet agreed to come in earlier than usual to check Flynn out.

After taking some x-rays, they detected a strange mass in the little guy’s stomach that’s preventing him from digesting any food and causing him to spit everything he eats back up.  My sister thinks Flynn swalowed a felt mousetoy that he was very fond of and carried around everywhere he went, which is now missing.  Ironically, he got it from the same clinic he’s at now, given to him on his last visit when he got his shots. 

I’ve been doing some reading up on animals swallowing items (dogs and tube socks seem to be a popular trend) but opening an animals stomach is expensive and this little guy may not be big (or old) enough for surgery according to the vet.  Shawn says if they do it, she and Jim will figure out a way to pay for it, they just want him back home and well.  So what’s next…

He’s been given more x-rays, enemas, but has only able to eat about a half-teaspoon of food.  It was laced with barium, and they tracked it thru his system so SOME nutrients are getting thru, but not much.   It’s been three days and he’s no better.

It wrecks my heart to know this little guy is suffering… everyone comments how he’s one of the most gentle cats they’ve ever seen and even the vet said she wishes she could adopt him.   I just pray there’s a happy ending here soon.

FOLLOW UP:  The little guy is home from the hospital & appears to be on the mend.  If only the same could be said for my sister & husband’s wallet.   Disappointed smile

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cat People: some of them are a pretty special breed


Last night my sister Shawn emailed me & said they adopted a kitten for Sophia, and that my little niece here named him Flynn.  (They were led to believe he was half-Siamese, but when they took him to the vet to get his shots, was told he was just a regular tabby cat.) 

I have a feeling that so-called regular cat is going to have quite the life! 

Anyway, when I read her email you could’ve knocked me over with a feather.  Y’see, my sister has never been what you would call a “cat person” and I never dreamed there’d be one in her home.  She doesn’t hate them, but there’s no love lost either.  Growing up, we had various cats in our lives & Shawn pretty much left them alone & they reacted in kind.

“We get it sister, we have our space, you have yours.”  

Meanwhile, I couldn’t get enough of the critters.  I had three of my own growing up & still have the scars on my scalp to prove it—in the early ‘70s, my cat Popsi often used the top of my head for a scratching post!


Popsi & me, 1973;  I can still remember my mom laughing when she grabbed her camera & took this picture

This reminds me of a true story from all those years ago.  Back in those days when I had Popsi, he had this habit of jumping up onto the kitchen table at dinnertime to see what the rest of us were having.  Of course, this bothered our dad to no end.  “The next time I see that cat on the table, he’s GONE.” 

(And then the next night come supper, Popsi would be jumping up on that table again; Dad there’s your cue!)

So one Sunday afternoon I arrived home after spending the weekend at my best friend Dan’s house and called for Popsi, but he was nowhere to be seen.  My mom said “Doug… I don’t know how to tell you this, but you know how much your dad hates Popsi on the table when we’re eating.  Well, last night we had some old friends over, and when they told us how much they loved your cat, we let them have him.  They’re very nice people and have a big farm, Popsi will love it there."  

I stood there in real shock.  “You gave away my CAT?!!  I didn’t even get to say goodbye?  How could you!”   My mom just shook her head and said she was sorry.  I didn’t talk to my parents for days. 

Okay, jump ahead 25 years.  I’m home for the holidays and we’re sitting around reminiscing about our years at the farmhouse, and I say “Mom, remember that time Dad got fed up with Popsi & gave him away?  I was so mad at you guys!”  Mom said “Wait, what??  Doug you really thought we gave Popsi away?” I said “Uh, hello!  That’s exactly what you did!” 

Mom said “Oh honey, no.  That weekend you were away, Popsi was hit by a car.  We knew it would kill you, so we swore the other kids to secrecy and said he went to live on a farm.  Jesus, I can’t believe this bunch of mouths never told you!”   Shawn said “Well mom, you told us to keep it a secret.”   Mom said “I know, but 25 years?”  

I said “Mom, you should’ve told me back then—I don’t think you know how angry I was over that” and she said “Oh yes we did, I told your dad you were probably going to club us in our sleep!  The anger I could take, I just couldn’t bear to see you heartbroken.” 

Well, if that isn’t a mother’s love, I don’t know what is; and I’m sure my niece will be just as good a mom to little Flynn.

Mom (who’s birthday is tomorrow) & the love of her life Mimi,1971Mom & Mimi in the backyard