Dec 28 2012

Our financial year in review 2012


I’m looking back at the plans and goals I had for the beginning of 2012 to see how that all worked out.

I wanted us to put 15% toward retirement. I’m not sure our actual percentage contributed. Mid-year when Shane switched jobs, we lost his 401k and contributed only to our IRAs. We’re going to max those out for the year, but we’d like to do more for 2013. I think it’s possible that Shane will have a 401k for the year, but if not we might look into other options for investing for retirement (opening a Health Savings Account with the intention of saving that money for healthcare in retirement; opening a taxable investment account).

We wanted to put a big chunk toward the kids’ 529 college savings plan, and we hit the dollar amount we had in mind. College!

Our total net worth has improved over the last 12 months. Cool.

Some other highlights:

:: Automating our finances as much as possible, and switching to budget billing for our electric and gas bills to keep the dollar amount consistent per month. I’m spending less time on the weekly/monthly budget since things are automatically divvied out, and I think when money is automated, it’s easier to reach certain goals.

:: Back in January, we thought for a second that Shane would be going back to school. His company acted like they wanted him to do that, but then they dropped the funding for the program shortly after. Shane doesn’t work there now anyways, and he doesn’t want to go back to school. Whew. He did have $200ish in a 529 account in his name, and we’ll just transfer that to the kids at some point.

:: I did a big retirement guide this year. It was a lot of work, but I learned some things and hopefully you did, too. Shane made a nifty retirement calculator. The series:

  1. Series intro: From drugstore deals to retirement
  2. How do you want to spend your retirement years?
  3. How much money will you need to retire?
  4. How much should you save with each paycheck to reach your goal?
  5. Where should we invest our retirement funds?
  6. How to choose your retirement investments in your portfolio.
  7. How to choose your asset allocation.
  8. Our plan for maxing out our IRAs in 2012
  9. Retirement series wrap up: Debt, college vs. retirement and more

:: I wrote a guest post for Money Saving Mom about how to stay motivated when getting out of debt.

:: I talked about how to take a break from being frugal. It can be so hard to stay on track for a long period of time, and it’s ok to take a little break.

:: The biggest financial impact this year was Shane’s new job. He interviewed for a telecommuting job in Pittsburgh (and we got to see some great Pittsburgh friends while we were there!). The day of the interview, he found out his company was being bought, and his job wouldn’t likely stay in Indianapolis. Score. He got a job offer from the Pittsburgh company, and he was also pursued by an Indianapolis-based company. He used his Pittsburgh offer as leverage for the second company, and ended up getting something even better. It’s continuing to work well (even though we have to pay for our own health insurance and there’s no 401k).

:: We refinanced our mortgage, to a  15-year at 2.875%. We will save gobs of money, and each month we are now putting more toward principal than interest, just by making minimum payments. We don’t plan to accelerate the payoff any time soon. The rate is just that low. We want to boost retirement and college and everything else first.

:: We got a new roof, and it cost us around $700 (insurance took care of most of it).

Overall, this was a really good year. We are truly blessed.

Thank you for reading and commenting and emailing me. It means a lot!

See ya in 2013!

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Dec 12 2012

Our new roof, and what could have been a disaster


When we bought our house last September, we knew that we’d eventually need to replace the 13-year-old builder grade roof.

We joked about praying for a hailstorm, because that would be the cheapest way to a new roof.  I did it anyway.

We kinda forgot about all that, and then in September 2012, we had a wild hailstorm blow through our area. We hunkered down in our closet while hailstones beat the house. It was loud. And yet it didn’t occur to me that there could be roof damage. The hailstones weren’t that big.

Huh? Dunno.

A few weeks later, a guy knocked on my door. He went into a spiel about the category 5 hailstorm that hit, and blah blah blah, would I like a free roof inspection? If he thought there was enough hail damage, he’d work with my insurance company to have them pay for a new roof.

You see where this is going?

And yet, the sales guy was really good. I signed a paper, thinking it was to allow him to get on my roof and look for damage. I was seriously mislead, but that’s no excuse for signing anything without fully understanding it.

The sales guy said he thought there was enough damage to get my insurance company involved, so he gave me a binder of info and some roof samples. I called my insurance agent and an adjuster came out (along with the sales guy) and the adjuster approved a new roof, gutters and downspouts.

It was at that time that it all began to click for me — I realized the microscopic fine print of the “agreement” said that I had to do work with that company, and if I wanted to cancel that, I had to pay a 20% fee. Oh great. Panic!

I didn’t want that company to do the work — I wanted to shop around Angie’s List and get estimates and the whole legit bit. And yet I almost got taken by this company. I wasn’t thinking.

I doubt the workmanship would be any good. I question the materials they would have used. I question whether they would have even completed the job, or if they would have taken my money and left.

I frantically emailed a few friends who were either in law school or lawyers, and while they couldn’t give me actual advice, the consensus was I should consult with an attorney to find out if that “agreement” had any teeth, and how to proceed.

I contacted a lawyer and she was fantastic. She researched this company and found they were in violation of several Indiana statutes. She didn’t think the agreement would hold up in court. And also, did you know there is a “cooling-off period” for canceling a sale or work agreement if the transaction happened in your home or in a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business (read that link for the details).

The salesman was supposed to give me info about that, and also a cancellation form with an address to mail it to. He did not.

So. No real agreement here, just some scary words on paper that he could use to make me think there was a real agreement.

Oh, and I also contacted the insurance adjuster to let him know I thought the guy was a scammer. I wanted to know if the adjuster thought my damage was hail-related or vandalism. He did think it was hail-related, whew.

I paid the attorney to draft a letter to the salesman’s company, officially letting them know that no, they would not be doing my roof and they should not set foot on my property. It was a strongly worded letter and their legal counsel called her, and said “Ok, we’ll drop it if your client agrees not to sue us for damages.” HAH. (Sub-lesson: Sometimes hiring an attorney is a great move, and in this case she was well worth the fee).

They knew they were being shady.

I agreed I didn’t want to sue them; I just didn’t want them on my property ripping my roof off. If it was something inside my house, I’d tell them to buzz off without getting a lawyer involved from the get-go, but I wanted to be sure I had it documented that I did NOT want them on my property. What if they tore my roof off while I wasn’t home? Unlikely, maybe, but a frightening thought.

I had a big lesson learned here, and it’s important enough that I’m sharing it here on my blog in the hopes that it will help someone avoid this entirely. If that’s the case, then it’s worth the embarrassment of talking about this.

  • Avoid door-to-door sales people! Don’t let them even get started with their spiel. They might be pretty bad at sales, but if they’re clever, they’ll sell you without you even knowing it.
  • I’ve seen conflicting info on the “no soliciting” signs at your own door. Some salespeople ignore them entirely, and consider you to be a great mark with low resistance. Your town might require peddlers to purchase a license through the town.
  • You have no obligation to open your door to anyone. Home invasions do happen. You can speak to people through your door or nearby window, if you want.
  • Some advice suggests not entirely ignoring the presence of someone at your door. You can just holler “we’re not interested” and leave it at that, so at least they know someone is at home.

Since that first encounter with the salesman, I was home for three other storm-chasing roofing companies knocking at my door. I did open the door for all of them (Shane was home and I felt better about that) but in hindsight, I should have just told them to buzz off through the window.

One salesperson was a teenager or in her early 20s. I opened the door (wearing a hoodie, maybe that was it?) and she asked if my mom or dad was home. I gave her a really confused look, because what? I am the mom! Bye.

If your area is hit with a serious storm (hail or otherwise) you can expect storm-chasers to knock on your door. It’s a pretty common scam, though I had never heard of it. These typically are not local companies (though they may pretend — the scam company I was involved with used a local address, with a “suite” number. I looked it up later and it was for a box at a UPS Store. Suite? Right).

So. Wrapping up this long story, after I got rid of that first salesman, I went on Angie’s List and found three local roofing companies with excellent reviews. I had them all come out and give me estimates, and I chose what I thought was the best choice of the three.

They did the work a few weeks ago (in just a day! all of it!) and I’m happy with it. We opted to upgrade our shingles to the 30-year architectural style since it would look better, last longer and hopefully resist some types of damage. We also had them install a drip edge, since when we bought our house the inspector said whenever we replaced the roof, we should add one to help with moisture drainage.

The roofing company hasn’t been perfect. The communications have been less-than-ideal. They damaged part of my gutter with a ladder. We opted not to replace our gutters since they were all functional, but they will need to replace that small section now. They’ll do it free of charge (as they should!). I haven’t paid the company any money yet, so that works in my favor.

I made a big mistake signing a piece of paper without fully knowing what I was doing (or talking to Shane about it first). I was an easy target. I’m thankful this all worked out. And hey, the door-knocker alerted me to the fact that I did have hail damage so it wasn’t all bad.

How about you? Ever had a bad encounter with a door-to-door salesperson? 

This post is a part of the Carnival of Personal Finance at Money Life and More.

Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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