Day 10, Cheat Day!

Rewarding myself for 10 days of exercise!

After 10 days of solitary confinement (OK it really isn’t that bad), and working out every day, I decided to reward myself! In order to support local businesses and my cravings I placed a door dash order from a local pizza place for a buffalo chicken pizza! Its a small reminder that no matter how difficult a journey that we are on, its important to celebrate small milestones.

What can we celebrate?

I’m sure your wondering, what can we celebrate during all this? The answer is whatever you want! It can be something that you feel you’ve accomplished (like working out for 10 days straight), making it through another day, a home cooked meal, or even just spending time with a loved one.

In physical training one uses a cheat meal to reward themselves for a week of healthy eating and exercise. It allows one to scratch a craving itch and eat “normal” food without sabotaging any progress they made in a week. You can also apply the same principle to other phases of your life. For example if you are making an effort to improve your financial life by minimizing spending and maximizing savings, you can reward yourself with those AirPods after so many weeks or months of financial responsibility. I really like to use this method when purchasing expensive or luxury items because it gives you a chance to really value what it is going to cost you as you work toward your “cheat”.

The key thing to remember about Cheat meals or cheat items is that they must remain in moderation. We definitely have to live for today, but we absolutely want to make sure that we spend a large portion of our time working and saving for tomorrow. For all my fellow millennials, remember YOLO, but only YOLO in moderation!

Remember to enjoy

One thing that I focused on today was enjoying everything. Most of my professional work can wait until Monday, so I don’t have to be highly productive today. I took time to slow down, exercise, order a pizza, and watch a couple movies.

I finally caught all of Fight Club (can you believe I that I had never seen it before?), and let me tell you I had no idea what I was watching at first! Probably not the best choice for “during a pandemic” movie. I also watched Shazam! in the evening before going to bed. It was much more of a laid back, funny, popcorn style movie that really helped to bolster my spirit. Again I had to remind myself to not focus too much on the negativity of the news and only focus on how I can positively impact the world around me!

I’m really starting to be in a better mental place now as I only have 4 more days before I can pack up and head home to the family!

Goal Update

Pretty good popcorn flick to take your mind off the news
  • Get 8 Hours of Sleep- Check, slept in slightly
  • Eat Healthy- Its cheat day! Cereal for a late breakfast, a large late lunch (Buffalo chicken pizza!), and some fruit for a late snack
  • Exercise Everyday – Check, Day 10 of 10.
  • Still be productive- Eh, Cheat Day!
  • Virtually date my wife (and talk to the kids)- Check, Face Timed with them several times and played backgammon with the wife
  • Launch the blog –Complete, day 10 of 10 posting!
  • Read more – Still not doing a great job here, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time now that more things are starting to close as a precaution
  • Minimize TV/Internet/Video Games – Cheat day! 2 movies watched today
  • Relax- Check

What are you celebrating today? What do you do for cheat day?

Day 9 Feeling Hopeful!

Don’t just let your money burn!

So we are entering the home stretch of my quarantine period. I’ll be able to get out of here in 5 days! This leads me to some positive share some positive thoughts !

First some Virus related Thoughts

I know that everything seems scary right now. Multiple states and cities are starting to close everything down. Italy continues to have more and more deaths reported. Its easy to feel like that this thing is spiraling out of control, however our leaders are taking this seriously and that is the cause for all the closures. They are making sure we are making short term sacrifices for the long term viability of our country.

Our generation has never experienced anything like this in our adult lives, but this is not unprecedented. Our grandparents or great grand parents lived through the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. That was in a time when the country was not nearly as connected as it is now. We are reacting much swifter and medicine is much more advanced now. These extreme measures are just what is required.

I read a great post on Chris Powell’s instagram tonight and it really helped me focus on that our end goal is to get life back to normal as quickly as possible. Here’s a link to his post:

We need to remember to surround ourselves in as much positivity as possible in order to mentally get through this time.

Some financial positivity

Even though the stock market is down a huge amount over the last month, there are always places where we can financially improve our lives. One of the key places many people forget to look is at refinancing their mortgages. Often the process is viewed as complicated or intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be.

Currently I’m in the process of refinancing our mortgage on our house, and we were approved to close today. Obviously the actual closing will have to wait until later this week when I can get out of the hotel, but the numbers are all finalized. Currently we are 3 years in to a 15/15 ARM at 3.5%. It was the lowest 30 year rate I could find at the time, and it would only adjust after a period of 15 years. A lot can change in ones life in 15 years and when you factor in the average homeowner stays in a home for ~8 years this was a no-brainer to go for the ARM at the time.

Now rates have dropped to 3.0% for a 30 year fixed (check your local mortgage companies and banks, because of the pandemic rates are now all over the place), it becomes another easy decision to refinance. For each $100,000 of financed money this rate drop will save at least $500 per year! Here’s the part where most people get intimidated, the costs to close are nearly $6400! But lets break down what is that $6400 figure.

Breakdown closing costs

Don’t let these costs intimidate you!

Closing costs for conventional mortgages generally consist of 2 parts, the loan costs and the “other costs”. These are usually classified as these categories on the Loan Disclosure Document. This document is required for all closings on conforming loans in the states.

The loan cost section is what the loan is actually going to cost you. This is where the you’ll find things like the title company fees (what you have to pay for a licensed title company to process your transaction) and the underwriting fee (the cost the mortgage company or bank is charging you to process your loan). On my disclosure sheet this section totals out to only $2400.

The “other costs” section will generally make up the bulk of the closing costs. For me this section is about $4600. Lets take a closer look at what these fees include. My other costs section is broken up into 3 subsections.

Breaking down the “Other” Costs

The first of those sections is the Taxes and Government fees section. This section only contains $125. This is the recording fee to record the new loan with your city or county. This is a one time fee only.

The next section is the Prepaid section. In this section there are several line items for insurance, taxes, and interest. Since this is a refinance and not a new purchase, I’ve already paid my taxes and home owners insurance for the year so these two line items are blank. The only item that has any cost to it is the prepaid interest at right at $1,000. But why are we prepaying interest? This covers the interest between the time that we close (end of March) until our first payment is due (June 1). So we are essentially trading our current April first mortgage payment for this prepaid interest. Since its only interest for April and no principle and we are not going to make a April mortgage payment we come out ahead!

The last section, and where the bulk of the cost lies, is our escrow account setup. Here is where we fund our escrow account for our next years Homeowners insurance and Property taxes. This section is $3500. So why is it so expensive? The answer is pretty simple, this is approximately how much is already in our escrow account for the original mortgage. Each month our mortgage payment consists of PITI- Principle, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance. The taxes and insurance each month go to our escrow accounts so your bank can make your homeowners insurance or property tax payments when they are due.

Now I’ll tell you a secret. When you complete your refinance and your current loan gets paid off, they will send you a check with the money that is in your current escrow account! These numbers may not match exactly, but they will likely be within a few hundred dollars of each other, so these costs essentially offset!

Closing on the Closing

So if your doing the math these numbers don’t add up to $6300. They add up to $7,000, so how did I get to $6300 in closing costs? Simple, the bank wants my business and is giving me an additional $700 credit (discount) on the overall closing package, making my costs only $6300!

So now when we factor everything in where are we at? If you subtract out the prepaid interest and the escrow account setup my actual out of pocket costs are only about $1700. With this refinance I will save approximately $220 a month. This means that not only am I freeing up ~$220 a month in cash (or $2640 a year), but I will also have recouped all of my closing costs after 8 payments ($1700/$220=7.7 months). These are the single most important stats when you look at refinancing in the short term. My personal rule of thumb is that if you get ROI (Return On your Investment) in 2 years or less that it makes sense to do the deal. With an amazing 3.0% rate locked in for 30 year, and an ROI of only 8 months this was a great deal!

Finally if your not interested in saving the monthly cash flow, you can add that savings to your monthly payment and payoff your loan even faster! For us if we add that $220 a month back in we will shave nearly 4 years off our current mortgage time frame (or 7 years of the new mortgage)! This is really a win win!

This whole ordeal shows that even in times of chaos, there are still great financial decisions to be made that will help you and your family. Remember we must live for today, but continually plan for tomorrow!

Goal Update

Still eating good!
  • Get 8 Hours of Sleep- Check
  • Eat Healthy- Check, Muffin and Yogurt for breakfast, tortilla wrap and pretzels for lunch, steak enchiladas for dinner! (Still eating in style!)
  • Exercise Everyday – Check, Day 9 of 9. Doing extra sets now!
  • Still be productive- Check (Refinance is a big productivity booster!)
  • Virtually date my wife (and talk to the kids)- Check, Face Timed with them for few hours tonight!
  • Launch the blog –Complete, day 9 of 9 posting!
  • Read more – Trying to read, but after reading all the news everyday I’m having a hard time getting into my book
  • Minimize TV/Internet/Video Games –Check, mainly watched a couple comedy sitcoms today.
  • Relax- Check

What are you doing to stay positive? Are you still making financial moves even in these uncertain times? Do you need help understanding your mortgage? Drop me a note in the comments!

Day 8 The world is grinding to a halt? (Or is it?)

There’s still traffic, where are they all going?!?!?!?

The news from the outside makes it sound like everyone is starting to quarantine (or home isolate) but outside my window tells a different tale. There is a constant stream of cars throughout the day and traffic in the morning and evening. As my hotel is on a main road that connects directly to an interstate this has to be people going to work. So are people quarantining or going about life as normal?

Probably Both

Knowing that there are still many professions (health care, police/fire/ems, grocery workers, gas stations, etc.) that still need to be at work, this is likely the cause for some of the traffic. Others I suspect really haven’t grasped the seriousness of this yet and are still going about their day to day activities. I think its especially hard for us as Americans because this enemy is one we can’t see.

By our very nature American’s are fighters and competitors. Most of our first instinct in a crisis is to take action. To jump in and do things we think will help ourselves (like buying large amounts of groceries) or others. Because of our nature however we are also defiant. We think that these things won’t happen to us, so we won’t let it affect our daily lives. The unfortunate thing is that the virus is preying on that. It wants us to come out of our homes and continue like nothing has changed. That will let it continue to spread throughout our homes and communities in search of the at risk population.

Our Greatest Action is Inaction

Its hard to feel like you helping anything when you are just sitting around. Trust me, I’ve been in a hotel a few miles from home for 8 days now. My type A personality is going nuts sitting in this room. I want to go out and do something to help my family (even though they don’t need any real help right now).

However my action of sitting here in this room separating myself from them is an action in and of itself. Its protecting them from something I could be carrying without symptoms that may effect them. In this battle the correct thing to do is to stay home an minimize our physical interactions with one another. We’ve seen how that works in country’s like South Korea and how when not followed it can rapidly not work (like in Italy). For some of us we have to learn to be OK with this inaction as an action. It is what will save our family members, our friends, and ultimately our way of life.

Still want to do something?

If you still can’t get it our of your system and have to feel like your doing something, make a list of the positive things you can do from your home or self quarantine location. That is what I did when I first went into quarantine and on day 8 it has paid massive dividends. I still feel some of the world’s uneasiness, but it has allowed me to focus on things i can achieve from in here. Choose things that will help you going forward like exercising more, cleaning or de-cluttering your house, becoming more efficient with your working hours, or focusing on your family. These may seem like small or even selfish things, but that is exactly what we need in the world right now.

Goal Update

Treating myself with a healthy snack!
  • Get 8 Hours of Sleep- Check,
  • Eat Healthy- Check, Muffin and Yogurt for breakfast, Sandwich for lunch, Pasta and Salad for dinner (And a fruit snack at night!)
  • Exercise Everyday – Check, Day 8 of 8. Getting stronger and wanting to do more!
  • Still be productive- Check
  • Virtually date my wife (and talk to the kids)- Check, ate dinner while they made dinner
  • Launch the blog –Complete, day 8 of 8 posting!
  • Read more – Trying to read, but after reading all the news everyday I’m having a hard time getting into my book
  • Minimize TV/Internet/Video Games –Check, watched a sports documentary
  • Relax- This is easy without having to get ready for work or commuting (Its a real time saver!)

Day 7 Mild Anxiety

Do I have these symptoms?

I’ve felt pretty positive over the last week or so, however tonight I experienced something that has slightly heightened my anxiety. We received notification today that someone at the trade show we were at tested positive for COVID-19. This individual tested positive today so there is a chance they contracted it after I left, but that still doesn’t give me much comfort.

Obligatory Call to the Doctor

Word of advice, googling illnesses is never a good thing!

To further add to my anxiety, my wife instantly insisted that I call my doctor’s office to see if I can get tested. While a test could effectively end my self quarantine, it also makes this whole thing seem real. What if the test comes back positive? The hypochondriac in my starts remembering that I have had a cough the last few days, but I had chalked it up to spring time allergies.

Upon contacting my doctor’s office, I was directed to an e-consultation to review my case. After filling out what seems like a 1,000 medical questions, I get a notification that I will be contacted in 4-6 hours for my appointment. Instead of just sitting around waiting I decide to exercise and make dinner.

About 3 hours later I get a call from the doctor. She validates my information and reviews my story with me. She asks me if I’ve had any other signs of illness that may imply a COVID diagnosis. Specifically she asks about if I have had a high fever or trouble breathing. These are a resounding no for me.

The doctor goes on to tell me that due to the limited supply of tests they are essentially holding them for people who had confirmed contact with an infected person or someone in the at risk demographics. Since I am fairly young and can’t trace back to a direct encounter, she said that it is still likely just seasonal allergies/sinuses. She said I should continue to monitor my temperature for any additional signs, but that I should be OK since I am now 7 days out with no sever symptoms and already quarantining myself. If I do start having more severe symptoms, then I should immediately call them back.

I feel better I guess?

While not the definitive negative a test would yield, my Doctor was still able to quell some of my anxiety. The one thing we all need to focus on is one day at a time and focusing on the positives in each day. For me I’m focusing on the fact that I am one day closer to seeing my family again.

To help further take my mind off of everything I’ve started a list of things that I want to do when I get home. These items include watching a movie with the family, taking a nap with my wife, cooking together, plans for indoor adventures with the kids, and the home projects I want to tackle. Having a clear plan of things to do will make the time go faster and grow our family bond.

Goal Update

Still eating good!
  • Get 8 Hours of Sleep- Check, still not sleeping well away from home, but getting the rest in.
  • Eat Healthy- Check, Muffin and Yogurt for breakfast, Sandwich for lunch, Chicken Alfredo and Salad for dinner
  • Exercise Everyday – Check, Day 7 of 7. One of the few things I can control right now.
  • Still be productive- Check
  • Virtually date my wife (and talk to the kids)- Check, participated in “bath time” with the kids through Face Time, LOL!
  • Launch the blog –Complete, day 7 of 7 posting!
  • Read more – Didn’t have much time today, focused on getting stuff done for work.
  • Minimize TV/Internet/Video Games –Check, watching sitcoms
  • Relax- Becoming routine?

Day 6 Things I Miss….

Trying to find sports to watch…….

One thing that this whole experience has made me realize is all the things that we take for granted. A lot of us don’t take the time to appreciate our lives, our loved ones, our jobs, our health care and the other little things that bring us joy every day. Being in quarantine has given me a chance to reflect on the things that I miss now and the things that I think I’m going to continue to miss in the coming months.

The List

  • My wife and kids – Counting down the days until we are together again
  • My family and friends – We all live hectic lives, but being in here makes you appreciate that you can normally just go hang out with your tribe
  • Basketball (and sports in general) – Not only is there not any basketball on TV right now, I suspect the upcoming rec league I play in will be cancelled as well. No telling when I will get to play again.
  • Driving a car- This sounds simple, but I drive a lot for work and I miss just being in the car and listening to the radio/music
  • Human Interaction at work – I’m still accomplishing a lot remotely, but some things are just easier when you can review in person
  • Home Improvement Projects – I’ve got tons of things I want to do around the house, itching to get started again
  • Stability – It might all be in my head but things just feel so unstable in the world now

How to get through it

Focus on being responsible with it now more than ever!

As this blog will eventually be much more focused on your financial journey, I think this is a good time to look at how we should be handling an event like this with our finances. We are all going be affected in some way financially over the coming weeks or months, but here is my plan to weather this storm.

First, focus on the necessities. You have to prioritize food, water, housing, and electricity over anything else. By ensuring these four things, you are making sure you are investing in the most important thing that you have; you and your family’s health and safety.

Secondly, minimize any frivolous spending. Now is not the time to go out and spend money on things that really don’t matter to your day to day survival. (I’m looking at you Air Pods! I’ll do another post on the cost/value of Air Pods at some point.) I’m not advocating not spending any money at all, just be mindful on what you are spending your money on in the coming days. Netflix and takeout may be key to keeping our sanity in the coming months.

Thirdly, I would start to save money. If you are currently paying off debt by using a proven financial strategy (Dave Ramsey’s debt snow ball is a good one), I would stop making those extra payments at this time. Instead take every single dime that was being allocated to extra debt payments and place it into a savings account. We don’t know how this is going to affect our personal finances over the coming weeks, but having extra cash stashed away will make any unforeseen issues much easier to deal with. If this thing blows over in a few weeks, feel free to sock that extra money right back into your debt snowball.

Finally, if you are investing in the market, pick a simple investment strategy and just stick with it. That could mean simply not changing what you are doing, continuing to buy on the way down, and on the way back up. That could mean parking your investment money until the market recovers. The one thing that will surely add to your stress level in the coming weeks is trying to “time” the market recovery.

Goal Update

Bacon brings me joy!
  • Get 8 Hours of Sleep- Check, Up bright an early for work today.
  • Eat Healthy- Neutral?, Fried Some Bacon! for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, cereal and fruit for dinner
  • Exercise Everyday – Check, Day 6 of 6. What else am I going to do?
  • Still be productive- Check
  • Virtually date my wife (and talk to the kids)- Check. Some quality Face Time with the wife!
  • Launch the blog –Complete, day 6 of 6 posting!
  • Read more – Check
  • Minimize TV/Internet/Video Games –Check, trying to find comedies to watch to keep my mood up
  • Relax- Becoming routine?

Is the current world making you nervous about your money? What are your plans to weather the financial storm? Drop me a note in the comments!

Day 5, In Need of Supplies!

Avocado Toast in Captivity?!?!?!

So things are starting to get serious it seems. City and state governments are starting to recommend self quarantine, closing restaurants, bars, gyms, and movie theaters. There are obviously some people that are ignoring these recommendations (see Bourbon street and spring breakers on the beach). These people are clearly taking the point of view that they are not in the effected age demographics, so why should I interrupt my life?

Its Not About You

This is about all of us. All of us are going to experience minor inconveniences the next several weeks while we work through this as a planet. The goal here is to minimize spread to allow the hospitals a chance to care for the ones who are ill and for the doctors and scientists to try and find something that will stifle the outbreak.

It’s tough sitting here in my hotel room reading and listening to whats going on out there in the world. I’m not personally experiencing the slowly dwindling traffic on the roads, the empty grocery isles, or being in the house with kids for days on end, so it still feels a little surreal to me. Even though work is still going on and I’m attending meetings remotely you can just feel the underpinning of the concern that is starting to grow. Just how long will this last?

For those of us with loved ones (that’s all of us!) it will last as long as necessary to keep our families safe. This may mean adjusting to a new normal for a few weeks or even a couple months. The one thing that we can’t done now is to take action now and not change our behavior in the future.

Supply Drop!

Got the goods!

My wife was obviously a bit flustered when she brought me supplies the other day. I ended up with plenty of items for breakfast (maybe even too many) and only a few days worth of dinner supplies/meat. So she made another grocery run for me today. This time she managed to get me a few pasta meals that were pre-cooked and a couple of meal kits that I can make here in the kitchen (that will probably feed me for two nights).

So far eating healthy is going well. I’m limiting myself to no snacking except in the evenings, focusing on drinking water, and exercising every day. Also I managed to make home made avocado toast! Who says quarantine doesn’t have to have the finer things in life!

Goal Update

  • Get 8 Hours of Sleep- Check, Up bright an early for work today.
  • Eat Healthy- Check, Avocado Toast and Eggs for Breakfast, Sandwich for lunch, Lasagna and salad for dinner
  • Exercise Everyday – Check, Day 5 of 5. I can feel myself getting stronger even just being pinned up in this hotel room.
  • Still be productive- Check
  • Virtually date my wife (and talk to the kids)- Check. Made dinner together on FaceTime, spent some time talking to everyone.
  • Launch the blog –Complete, day 5 of 5 posting!
  • Read more – Check
  • Minimize TV/Internet/Video Games –Check, watched part of the 30 for 30 on Micheal Vick during lunch, played video games for a few minutes this evening (Trying to finish up Zelda!)
  • Relax- Getting pretty easy to relax in the evenings as I settle into my routine.

Have you needed more supplies yet? What do you think about the people not taking this seriously? Do you think these precautions are foolish? Drop me a note below!

Day 2, Settling in

Hopefully it doesn’t feel like this….

After my first night in my quarantine hotel, the sun still came out. Looking out my window there doesn’t appear to be much change in traffic as there are still numerous cars streaming to and from work. As the day goes on though this thing appears to be getting even bigger nationally.

We Must Take This Serious

Today was a much more productive day with regards to work. After breakfast I was able to settle in and get in a groove to get some things done. By now many of my coworkers have heard of our instruction to not come into the facility for two weeks and several reach out to touch base. Other’s make the transition seamless as we have already been using some technology to collaborate that makes remote working more functional (Thank you Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, etc.).

Still even with my increased productivity its hard to ignore the news around the region and world. Many colleges and schools around the region are starting to cancel classes and “extending” spring break. Major sporting events, including the NCAA Basketball tournaments, are being cancelled all together. Mayors and governors across the country are promoting the social distancing practices we’ve been told about and recommending that there not be large gatherings of people.

How Is This Helping?

From my hotel room it’s a little hard to fathom whats going on in the outside world (there appears to be supply hoarding and panic buying of many products). But like anything I’m curious about I start spending some time researching the theory behind all of these actions.

It appears that most sources agree that this virus is about twice as contagious as seasonal flu. The contagion rating (the system they use to determine how many people a single person can infect) for COVID-19 seems to range between 2 and 3. This means that a person who has the virus will likely infect 2 or 3 other people. While it might not sound like a lot, you combine simple math (1 person infects 3 people, those 3 people infect 9 people, those 9 infect 27, etc.) with the fact that many people don’t show symptoms, or don’t have severe symptoms, and this is what is driving the global concern.

The goal with these measures is to “flatten the curve” and spread out the number of simultaneous cases by slowing the spread of the virus by limiting contact between people. The real concern here is that if our healthcare system gets over whelmed, patients who might need hospital level care to make their recovery might not be able to be treated effectively. This apparently won’t limit the number of people who will eventually get the virus, but it will control the flow of people who get it, much like a dam helps with river flooding.

The “Curve” From Wired.com – https://www.wired.com/story/whats-social-distancing-flattening-curve-covid-19-questions/

Quarantine Update

Quarantine so far has been mostly uneventful. To make sure I stay as productive and positive as one can be in isolation, I’m going to try and stick to my normal routine as much as possible. This includes waking up early, showering, getting dressed, and moving through my responsibilities at work.

I am still missing my family though. We however are blessed with a plethora of technology that will at least let us keep in good contact. Face Time is a marvelous tool to allow you to see and interact with your loved ones if you can’t physically be there. A good thing that we’ve found is to find games that you can either play together on your phones (my wife and I love playing Backgammon) or even games that you can play over Face Time. I played several rounds of Guess who with my kids tonight all over Face Time! Being alone, and intentionally being alone, can be very trying, but seeing and interacting with your loved ones makes it easier and provides a light at the end of the tunnel.

Guess Who over Face Time? (Spoiler, I lost)

Goal Check – Day 2

  • Get 8 Hours of Sleep- Check
  • Eat Healthy- Check, Scrambled Eggs, Toat and fruit for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, home made tacos for dinner.
  • Exercise Everyday – Check, Day 2 of 2. Shaun T believes in you!
  • Still be productive- Check, made good progress on work items today
  • Virtually date my wife (and talk to the kids)- Check. Backgammon and Guess Who via Face time!
  • Launch the blog – Check, third post, have ideas for more financial related topics that I’ll cover later
  • Read more – Fail, Didn’t really read much today outside of news and work
  • Minimize TV/Internet/Video Games – Check, watched the forth episode of Chernobyl and finished the 30 for 30 about “Catholics vs Convicts” during lunch.
  • Relax- Check

Has your routine been affected yet? If not do you expect it to? Looking for more ideas on things I can do with the wife and kids on Face Time (Games, etc.). Drop me some tips in the comments below!