Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Net Worth: Oct 2017

My foot is still recovering from a bad sprain (I might have fractured a toe bone, but I haven't bothered getting an x-ray). DW is still looking for work. DS1 in the middle of his HSC exams and will be flying off to Europe for a back-packing/youth hostel holiday later this month.

My net worth reached a new 'all time high', mostly due to the strong run-up in the local stock market last month helping my geared share portfolio and our SMSF investments. The valuation for our home also increased slightly (based on suburb sales data). But the Sydney real estate market is definitely 'off the boil' with some weakness in auction clearance rates, a slight decline in the median home price for Sydney, and a 'glut' in new units coming on to the market. If the sale of DW's investment unit 'settles' next month she will be relieved, as it definitely looks like the rental and sales market for new units is getting weaker.



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Monday, 9 October 2017

Net Worth: Sep 2017

I was too busy last month to update my net worth spreadsheet or post a blog entry. Busy at work, and also busy getting my second eye operation done. I was up at my 'hobby farm' last week (didn't get much done while there, as I'd hurt my foot falling off our patio the week before!), so had a relaxing time and only just got around to doing a belated 'monthly' net worth calculation and updated networthiq with the figures.

The stock market improved during the past two months, so my geared share investment portfolio and retirement savings (SMSF) balance both improved during August and September. The estimated valuation for our house also continued to rise in August, but showed only a slight gain in September. I won't be surprised to see Sydney real estate prices stagnate or fall slightly over the next couple of years (especially home units, of which there seems to be a 'glut' developing).

DW is still looking for work, and so she decided to sell her brand new apartment after not having being able to find a tenant during the month immediately following 'settlement'. Fortunately, soon after listing the unit for sale, there was one seriously interested buyer, who has now paid a 5% deposit and exchanged contracts (but also asked for a 12-week settlement period - the normal settlement period is 6 weeks). Hopefully the sale goes through without any problem. If so, DW will have realized a profit of around $100K, which she intends to contibute to her superannuation savings. That way, even if she only has a series of casual jobs for the next ten years (until 'retirement age') she will have already accumulated enough to self-fund her retirement (assuming future stock market returns meet our expectations).



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Thursday, 10 August 2017

DW employed again, again

Fortunately, although her last 'new job' lasted little more than a week, DW had another job interview later the same week, and was offered the position (which she started this week). The new job is less stressful (there are new systems to learn, but at least the business is a successful going concern rather than a shambolic start-up) and actually pays $5K pa more. So far DW seems to be settling in to the new job quite happily, and gets along with all the staff. On the positive side, the company location is slightly more convenient (about the same distance bus trip, but against the peak hour traffic flow, so a quicker trip - about 20 minutes) and it is only a five minute walk from the office to a nice shopping mall for lunch-time outings.

On the down-side, the position is only guaranteed to stay full-time for three months while an existing staff member is away on maternity leave. If the staff member chooses to not return to work (apparently she lives about 1.5 hours commute away, which may not be practical with a young child) DW's position will remain full-time, but otherwise her hours will be reduced to part-time (at least for a while). As DW's last permanent job had been part-time since DS2 was born a decade ago, she would quite like to work part-time. However, having just drawn down almost half a million loan to 'settle' the purchase of the off-the-plan investment unit she bought last year, it would be better if she worked full-time. A full-time job would allow her to pay off about $20K of the loan principal each year, plus she'd be getting more money contributed into her superannuation.

We'll see how this job works out in the long term...

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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Cataract Surgery - one down, one to go

At the start of last year I noticed I was tending to polish my glasses a lot, as the right hand lens often seemed to be a bit smudged. So I wasn't particularly surprised when the optometrist confirmed during an eye test last March that I was developing a cataract in my right eye*. I'd also noticed an obstruction when viewing pistol shooting targets in bright light when the aperture of my shooting glasses was reduced to less than a mm. It looked a bit like a piece of fluff or organic growth in the middle of the shooting glasses aperture...

Anyhow, I put up with my right eye's vision getting progressively less clear (especially in bright light) until March this year, when I decided to get a referral from my GP to an opthamologist. In the initial check-up last month it was confirmed that I had a pretty advanced cataract in my right eye, and there were early signs of it also developing in my left eye (but so far not affecting the vision noticeably). So I decided to go ahead and get cataract surgery done on both eyes (the operation replaces the lens inside each eye, so will correct my distance vision (I currently need bifocals as I've always been short-sighted, and in recent years also had difficulty focussing on computer screens - my natural range of clear focus was restricted to about 8cm-30cm!).

I had the operation on my right eye last Monday afternoon, and was back at work on Tuesday and had a check-up on Tuesday afternoon. The results were pretty amazing - my distance vision in my right eye is now very bright and clear (better than in my left eye wearing glasses) and is pretty good down to about 2m away. Closer than that it is still in sharp focus, but unfortunately it is blurred with multiple images at close range. Hopefully that will be correctly by getting new 'reading glasses' once my left eye operation has been done in a couple of week's time.

The operation on my right eye cost about $2400, with a refund from medicare of almost $800 leaving me $1600 'out of pocket'. The day surgery private hospital fee also cost around $2000, but was fully refunded by the private health insurance provided by my employer. I expect I'll also get a bill of around $700 from the anaesthetist, but will get some of that refunded by the private health cover and medicare.

The operation on my left eye later this month will cost similar amounts, although I'll get a larger proportion of the $2400 surgeon bill refunded by medicare (due to reaching some 'threshold' amount of 'out of pocket' annual expenses).

So, the whole process has been quite successful (so far), rather expensive (even with full private health cover) and fairly painless. I could have opted to get the surgery done in a 'public hospital' under medicare, but there still would have been some 'gap' payments due, a 6-12 month waiting list for this 'elective' surgery, and no choice of surgeon. And of course in the public hospital system there are always a chance that your operation will be part of the training of a new surgeon, which increases the chances of a less than ideal outcome. Overall, when it comes to having knives inserted into my eyes, I'm happy to spend a bit more in order to maximize the probability of a good outcome!

* I'm a bit young to be getting cataracts, but a lifetime of topical steroid medications for severe eczema was a known risk factor.

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Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Net Worth: Jul 2017

It turned out that the large dividend paid into our Vanguard Fund last month was offset by a corresponding reduction in the unit valuation, which hadn't been updated at the time I posted last month's net worth report. So I've corrected the value in networthiq for last month, and this month's figures (below) show that actual monthly change compared to these corrected figures.

After making the correction, it turns out that my NW decreased slightly last month, and again this month, mostly due to weakness in the local and international stock markets. The overall trend in my NW is satisfactory over the past 15 years, although the losses caused by the GFC and EFC basically wiped out the increment in my NW that came from my 'early inheritance' of the lake house from my parents. Due to the use of gearing in my stock portfolio (and letting the index 'put' options I had in place Mar-Dec 2007 lapse just prior to the onset of the GFC), I had to sell off a considerable portion of my geared portfolio in Mar 2008 to avoid getting a 'margin call', which 'locked in' the losses caused by the GFC. As I was a bit more conservative with the level of gearing used in my stock portfolio post-GFC, I didn't recover all my losses as the stock market recovered.

DW is again looking for a job - her latest position lasted just over a week before her 'boss' decided it wasn't working out as he'd expected. After pointing out they hadn't even provided her with a phone or computer (expecting her to "make do" with her own mobile phone and her personal laptop) and that her boss had given unclear instructions (conveyed via mobile phone when she was having her lunch break) and was never in the office to clarify what was required, the directors offered to give her a bit longer to 'settle in' to the role. But they also pointed out that the chaotic office situation would stay the same, So DW decided to call it quits and look for a less stressful/more enjoyable position. She had another interview yesterday, so I'm sure something suitable will turn up eventually.


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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Diet & Exercise update - Week 29

Diet & Exercise update - Week 29

Last week went OK Mon-Fri (Avg 2,333 kcals/day, and walking 12,547 step/day on average), but I then spent the weekend watching seasons 1-3 of 'Fear the Walking Dead' and eating a lot of confectionary. Quite enjoyable, but not a good way to loose weight or get fit! I averaged 4,558 kcals/day over the weekend, and only averaged 7,352 steps/day. I'm back on track this week, but will have to make sure I stick to my diet plan next weekend and do enough walking.

DS1 did a bit of archery in our back yard on Saturday. I collected my new bow from the post office on Saturday morning, but didn't get to shoot it yet. It looks quite good quality for $70, and the draw weight seems fine (and I have no problem using a left-hand bow), but it didn't come with any assembly instructions so I spent a bit of time scratching my head trying to work out exactly how the sight and arrow rest attach. There are some videos on the store's website, but they are for different models and accessories. My best guide is the single image their website has of the assembled bow. I'll also need to get some marine plywood or a block of high density foam to put behind our target before starting to practice.

DW quit her new job today - it had been a hectic first week, staying late and working at home in the evenings to try to get things done, and too stressful. She's had plenty of experience as an office worker, but this was her first attempt at being an 'office manager' and was basically left to sink-or-swim by her busy boss. While she could have probably stuck it out and learned on the job, I don't think it's the sort of thing she would enjoy in the long term, although she was interested in this type of business operation. So, back to the job hunt she goes...

.             Fibre      Carbs    Fat     Protein    kCals     Avg Wt   Steps
              g/dy       %        %       g/dy       /dy       kg       /dy
Week 24       32.8       64.5     17.7    116.2      2,808    105.2      7,258
Week 25       20.6       61.3     24.5     63.7      1,894    103.0      8,406
Week 26       43.7       64.4     16.6    113.7      2,475    101.5     10,257
Week 27       43.2       61.8     22.1    118.7      3,150    102.1      7,715
Week 28       50.6       63.4     19.2    147.7      3,536    102.2      8,099
Week 29       33.4       64.3     17.9    117.0      2,974    101.9     11,062

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Diet & Exercise update - Week 28

Well, taking Friday off work last week to drive up to the lake house to collect DS2 at the end of the school holidays (he was staying with my parents for two weeks) meant that I had a long weekend of fattening home-cooked meals which blew my diet plan yet again. My avg daily kcals over the three days was over 4,000 kcals!. However, even before my weekend trip I'd been struggling to avoid snacking in the evenings, and my average kcals for the rest of last week was over 3,000 kclas/day. My maintenance kcals/day is around 2,800 (as long as I do my 12,000+ steps walking), and my 'standard' diet plan adds up to around 1,800-2,000 kcals/day.

This week has got off to a better start (averaging around 2,200 kcals/day so far). I've managed to (mostly) avoid snacking and stick to my diet plan. I've exceeded my 12,000 step target for walking each day, and I've even done a bit of exercise on the elliptical trainer while watching TV after dinner (it's already included in my step count total, but provides a bit more aerobic exercise than simply walking).

While DS2 was at the farm he enjoyed doing some archery with the cheap ($60) compound bow I'd bought him. As he wasn't too keen on letting me 'have a turn', I decided to also buy myself a similar (ie. cheap) compound bow so we can do some archery practice together in the back yard when the weather is suitable.



.             Fibre      Carbs    Fat     Protein    kCals     Avg Wt   Steps
              g/dy       %        %       g/dy       /dy       kg       /dy
Week 24       32.8       64.5     17.7    116.2      2,808    105.2      7,258
Week 25       20.6       61.3     24.5     63.7      1,894    103.0      8,406
Week 26       43.7       64.4     16.6    113.7      2,475    101.5     10,257
Week 27       43.2       61.8     22.1    118.7      3,150    102.1      7,715
Week 28       50.6       63.4     19.2    147.7      3,536    102.2      8,099

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

DW employed again

Well, it took a while, but DW was finally offered a full-time position last Friday and started her new job on Monday. Apparently there were 100 applicants for this position, with 25 people selected for an interview, and at the end of her interview last Thursday she was told she was on the 'short list' of three applicants being considered.

The position is 'Office Manager' for a start-up financial planning business being created by an existing residential property sales firm (it has an existing client list that are likely to require financial planning services, so has a good chance of being successful). Her starting salary ($55K+SGL) isn't too bad - although the hourly rate is only around 85% of her previous position, the fact that it is a full-time position means that overall she will actually be earning around 40% more than when she was working three days/week as a permanent part-time employee for the past decade or so. And if the business does well she may get an increase once she has been in the role for a year or so.

The company is located in a nearby suburb, which is ideal. I drive that way every morning on the way to drop DS2 off at school on my way to work, so it is very convenient for DW to also get a lift in the mornings, and she only has to catch a short bus trip home after work. It is also located close to the train station DS2 gets off at to catch the bus home after school, so she may meet him there occasionally.

Working full-time will mean that DW can accumulate some additional superannuation savings before we reach retirement age. And she'll be able to fund the shortfall in rental income vs. the cost of her new investment unit, and get some tax benefit from having a negatively geared property investment.

Hopefully she enjoys this new job, and it lasts.

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Aircon con (or just a rip-off?)

When we bought our house about twelve years ago, it came with a renovated kitchen and bathroom and Daikin reverse cycle split system airconditioner installed in the family room. I was flabbergasted by the price the receipt showed that previous owner had paid for the aircon unit (around $6500).

So, when the air con started playing up last summer (it would shut itself down after running for about 5 minutes, and after restarting it about 12 times it would fault out and refuse to restart unless the mains power was shut down to reset the system) I suspected it might be quite expensive to have it repaired. The error message indicated that there was an over-voltage fault, which suggested something wasn't running properly in the exterior fan unit. At the time I tried getting the company that had originally supplied and installed the unit to come for a service call, but during summer the waiting time for a booking was several months! So I waited until mid-winter to make a booking...

The initial service call cost almost $300 (I had to agree to the basic call-out fee and provide my CC details before they would make the booking), and revealed that the fan unit had failed and would need replacing. Apparently the control unit (PCB) was also damaged and would need replacing. At the time the service guy indicated that this would cost a few hundred dollars, and he said that a quote for the repair would be sent through. I wasn't delighted by the prospect of having to pay over $500 to repair a 15-year-old unit with parts that would 'probably' last five or so years, especially since it was quite likely that other pieces of the unit may fail due to age.

Well, the quote arrived yesterday, and it was a whopper! $500+ for installation (apparently it will take their 'professional' repairer 3-4 hours to simply replace a fan unit and a PCB board!), around $300 for the fan unit, and around $600 for a replacement 'motherboard'. All up, around $1400 on top of the $300 already paid to identify the fault. The icing on the cake was that the quote stated that there may be other faults that won't become apparent until the fan and PCB have been replaced and the unit tested... so basically we could pay $1700 and still not have a working air conditioner!

Considering that Aldi often sells split system air conditioner units for only $499 (a 6.4kW system), I've decided to not proceed with repairs to the Daikin system. Instead, I'll shop around for a decent, bargain-priced unit, and gets some quotes for installation. Hopefully I can get a brand new system installed for less than the cost of getting our old system (maybe) repaired.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Diet & Exercise update - Week 27

Last week was fairly unsatisfactory, diet-wise. I didn't walk enough on four out of seven days last week, and I only had two days where my caloric intake was below maintenance level, and three days above. Overall, my average daily caloric intake for the week was above my maintenance level, so it wasn't a surprise that my average daily weight increased slightly.

I saw my immunologist last Friday for a check-up. My blood test results show that the gluten-free diet has brought my Coeliac disease under control. But my eczema hasn't been improving, so we decided to change medication. I also saw an opthamologist later the same day, and it was confirmed that I have developed a fairly advanced cataract in my right eye, so I'll be having eye surgery later this month on one eye. As the procedure will improve my short-sightedness, I'll then also have my other eye operation done a few weeks later (having one eye corrected to achieve good distance vision, and leaving the other eye needing strong corrective lenses doesn't work very well). Having the day surgeries done as a 'private' patient, after medicare and private insurance refunds, I will be 'out-of-pocket' by about $2,000 per eye. Hopefully all goes well.

Aldi was selling some Elliptical Trainers for $299 so I bought one and DS1 helped me lug it to the car (~45kg). DS1 took about three hours to assemble it, only needing to ask me for help a couple of times. It seems to be working perfectly well so far (the reviews online are fairly mixed, with the quality and reliability seeming to vary a lot between units), and we've set it up in the lounge so I can do a bit of exercise while watching TV in the evenings. It is fairly easy to use (in default mode - I haven't yet tried the myriad training 'modes' available on the computer), although the foot rests are slightly further apart than I'd like. To use it I have to shift my weight from side-to-side and it is more akin to stair climbing than walking. The natural cycle time (for me) is around 60 steps/min, which is quite a lot slower than my normal walking pace (~100 steps/min), so although using the eliptical training registers as 'steps' on my step counter, it will only contribute a small amount towards my daily goal of 12,000+ steps. My thighs started to 'feel it' after only five minutes of use, so I'll start off with a few short sessions every evening, and gradually build up to longer periods of continuous use. It is probably a good way to get into condition for doing some cross-country skiing! It is fairly low impact, so it is better for my knees (and the TV!) than jogging on the spot or skipping.

.             Fibre      Carbs    Fat     Protein    kCals     Avg Wt   Steps
              g/dy       %        %       g/dy       /dy       kg       /dy
Week 24       32.8       64.5     17.7    116.2      2,808    105.2      7,258
Week 25       20.6       61.3     24.5     63.7      1,894    103.0      8,406
Week 26       43.7       64.4     16.6    113.7      2,475    101.5     10,257
Week 27       43.2       61.8     22.1    118.7      3,150    102.1      7,715

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