Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I wish you a very Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year!

I hope all problems we all encountered will remain in 2012 and 2013 will be a much better and prosperous year. 

Peace at Home, Peace on Earth!

courtesy of designtutorial.com

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More on my Goals of 2013

As a part of my 2013 goals, Mom and I decided to start a diet and not tell anyone. She is planning to spend most of the winter with me. We shall go see a dietician (covered by our Social Security) and support each other. She will need to return to Ankara to have a cataract surgery in March. Until then, we are not telling anyone that we will be doing this. Hopefully, we shall lose enough weight to surprise my sister by then.

We plan to go for long walks when the weather permits it, use the stationary bike at home and some home exercise DVDs. I think support is the most important thing when you are trying to get rid of debt or lose weight. So, I am hoping we will benefit from this undertaking:)

Since we shall not eat out much, this will also help our budget.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goals 2013

I was very hesitant to establish financial goals this year because of the irregular income stream I have to deal with for the first time in my life but, I did it anyway. I just kept the consultancy income estimate at a very modest level and found out that, it may be a tight year. I am glad that I sat down to make these calculations because, honestly I was not thinking it would be tight at all. It always pays to do the math I guess. Of course, the consultancy income may be more than what I estimated but, that is not something I will count on.

So, here are my goals:

1. Contribute the maximum to retirement that will be matched by the Government by 25% from Feb.13-Dec.13.
2. Have a mini vacation with Mom.
3.Have a vacation with friends from the US if they can make it to Turkey this year. (This may be a little on the expensive side but, I am thinking of ways to make it affordable already).
4. Have the apartment painted.(Not a big ticket item).
5. Keep on paying the rental apartment debt.

I had posted that I would work on Thursday and Friday and was  very happy about that. Unfortunately, the Customer postponed the scheduled visit. No big deal but still...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Can you say "No"?

I chatted with an old friend of mine couple of days ago over a cup of coffee. For a long time, I have always thought that her family was taking advantage of her just because she is a really really nice person. They step on her like a door mat all the time and I have known her for over 20 years. To me, it is sad.

As usual she was complaining about her sister and her parents and suddenly I realized that, her family is not the real problem. It is her inability to say "No". She feels bad when she refuses them so she almost never declines anything.

There is nothing wrong with saying "no" when you do not want to do something. I am not talking about being selfish here. I am just saying if you will feel bad about something later and resent it, do not accept it in the first place. There is only so much one person can do within her/his schedule, abilities, patience and stamina. It is absolutely OK to say "no" when you know you need to.

I never had her kind of problems with my family because I think we all have a sense of sharing the load when things must be done. Besides, we can openly tell each other whether we can do something or not without getting anybody's feelings hurt. We know and accept what each other likes and dislikes. This does not mean we do not argue, we do but, we never stop talking to each other or apologize.

I love my family to the moon and back but that does not mean that I would always accept anything and everything they may ask. I know they feel the same and it's OK.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why do people save things for special occassions?

Today mom showed me a beautiful leather handbag that I had given her more than 20 years ago. She never used it because, she saved it for special occassions and perhaps forgot it for some time. The bag must have cost me the half of my salary back then.

She asked me if I would like to have it and I said "Well since that you are not using it why not?"

I am not upset. Over the years I bought many things for mom and she used most of them till they basically fell apart.

However, I have a problem with saving beautiful things for special occassions. When is a better time than now?

When I was a kid, many people had a "guest room". Some people still do. That usually was the largest room of the house originally intended to be the family room. It would be expensively furnished and decorated and would be kept closed most of the time. The room would be barely used and some women even covered the furniture with throws or sheets so that the furniture wouldn't get dusty or fade.  Even as a kid, that was such a stupid thing for me. After all, why shouldn't I enjoy the best room and best furnishings that I can afford?

Who knows how long we shall live or how long we will have the good health to enjoy our belongings?


Monday, December 24, 2012

Update on the Family Situation

I came to Ankara last week and stayed with sis and BIL. Mom was already staying with them, cooking and keeping them company.

Yesterday we came back to my mom's home.

Things were looking good as far as her MIL and FIL were concerned until last night. Last night the MIL had another massive stroke wiping out all the progress she has made in the last two months. She was at a therapy  center when the stroke came, so they immediately notified my sister and her husband and transferred the patient with an ambulance to the hospital. Her MIL is now in ICU and her situation is critical.
Everyone is devastated. Such a horrible day...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!

courtesy of designtutorial.com

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy New Year!

Peace at home, peace on earth!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Debt gives me an itch...

Ever since I got rid of Debt 1, I find myself crunching numbers to see if I can pay the rest. Well, that will mean dipping into my EF and I shouldn't do it. An EF is for emergencies only and paying a debt less than 9,000 USD in 18 months is a wiser thing to do while building a stronger EF and investing in my BES.

I must keep reminding myself that my contributions to the BES are much more valuable than reducing that small debt. After all my contributions will be matched by 25% by the Government, come 2013. This is something they are doing to lure people into setting up and funding personal retirement funds which I have been doing since 2004 a little after the system became available. I know it will be for a limited time once enough people start understanding that social security will not be sufficient and start contributing. I am sure the amount the Government is matching starting in 2013 will be reduced. Until then, I should take full advantage of this and it means maxing out my contributions.

So, stop itching!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two More Days of Work

Today I received a call from my colleagues and they asked me to go to the new client on Thursday and Friday in Izmir next week. This is great news! I did not think there would be more work before the end of the year. It is only two days but still better than none.

This is also a good sign that shows there will be more work on January and February. Yay! Hopefully a good start for 2013...


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review of Financial Goals - 2012

It is time to review the financial goals I had set early 2012 and see how I did.

I do not calculate my Net Worth. So, my financial tables do not include the two apartments and the car I own nor the small debt I have on the second apartment. What I track of is a basket that contains the following:

Emergency Fund (Cash and two short-term interest earning accounts)
BES (similar to a ROTH)
Stocks
Gold (Coins and a gold account at a bank)
Foreign Currency (USD)

For privacy reasons, I am sharing them as graphs only. Below is what they look like:

2012 Actual

2012 Goal


I have exceeded some of my goals because the Turkish Stock Exchange did comparatively well this year. I am short on my cash goal, the Emergency Fund: (Well... If need be, Gold and USD can easily be converted to cash). 

I think it is worthwhile to mention that my EF is sizable. It is not a small one. Right now, it is a few months of my living expenses. My original goal was to make it 8-9 months worth of living expenses but, alas!

I own the apartment I live in free and clear. No mortgage on that. I owe less than USD 9,000 on the rental unit. That debt will go away by May 2015 if not sooner. 

I am already in my semi-retirement so, it is important for me not to have debt. As soon as I pay for the rental fully, I will feel very relieved. Until then, I am allowed to worry a little.



























I have exceeded some of my goals because the IMKB, the Turkish Stock Exchange did comparatively well this year. I am short on my cash goals:( Welll... If need be, Gold and USD can easily be converted to cash.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Prayers are with the Families of Sandy Hook Elementary School

I cannot believe the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. I can only imagine the families who lost their inncocent little kids must be devastated and the surviving kids will forever be scarred.

My prayers are with those who were affected by this horrible event.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Need to go to Ankara

I was planning to go to Ankara to spend the New Year's with my family, but I need to go earlier than I originally planned. My sister's FIL had a back surgery on Wednesday and it will take some time for him to recuperate. Her MIL will likely go into a physical theraphy center this week for at least three weeks. Both my sis and BIL are emotionally and physically drained running between home, work and hospitals and doctors' offices. BIL is an only child so he lacks the support of siblings and his only pillar is my sis.

I think I will hit the road on Monday. I am planning to stay until the 4th-5th of January and take mom with me coming back home. This way, she will get to spend some time in Istanbul which she loves and my sister will not have to think about her while her in laws are healing. Actually, mom is pretty good on her own but still, at least every weekend sis tries to spend time with her especially now that I am back in Istanbul.

If I can run a few errands for them while I'm in Ankara, I know it will be appreciated. I need to consume what's in my fridge until Monday. I am going to be out on Friday night but, there's still plenty of time to clean out the fridge. I hate it when food goes to waste.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Non-Touristic Attractions of Istanbul: Eminonu Part 2

I went to Eminonu today and came home with four pashminas and two sets of  brass mortar and pestle (one is for sis). It was so crowded that I totally forgot to take the pictures of the shops but I have some neat pictures of my motor boat rides.

I did not feel like I would be able to walk around much buy I did OK. If it wasn't so cold and if I was feeling better, I am sure I could walk more. I did not buy unnecessary stuff. There is only my sister's father in law left on my gift list. I will pick up a shirt or a sweater for him.

Here are the pictures as promised:
Starting Point Kadikoy



A Car Ferry
Eminonu Outside of the Spice Bazaar

A typical ferry crossing the Bosphorus
Heading back to Kadikoy


For a while, I tought, we were on a collision course with this big guy

Haydarpasa Train Terminal


Pulling back from Eminonu

The colors were more vibrant, my phone camera did not do justice

Up on the hill, you can see a glimpse of the Topkapi Palace

Another shot of Topkapi from afar


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Non-touristic Attractions of Istanbul: Eminonu Part 1

Tomorrow I will head to Eminonu to complete my gift list. Eminonu is right by the Spice Bazaar and very close to the Grand Bazaar. The prices are much better than the Grand Bazaar for similar items. I do not say that Eminonu offers the same variety that the Grand Bazaar offers but, it still is a vast shopping area.

It is crowded and it appeals to lower income level shoppers the most. Some days you find nothing that you need or want, some days you can score real well. Each time I go there (may be twice a year), it is an adventure. I am determined to take pictures and post them along with my finds tomorrow. I will be on the lookout for pashminas and/or scarves, sweat pants, pajamas or nightgowns and a brass mortar and pestle if I can find one.

Today it was rather chilly so I could not sit at the outside benches of the ferry. Tomorrow I will bundle up and sit outside and take pictures. A ferry ride across the Bosphorus with a cup of tea is priceless.

I walked 6,000 steps today. I have a step counter app in my cell phone. Tomorrow, I will do just as much if not better.

Irregular Work

Last week and the week before last, I was swamped with work. This week nothing! Nothing at all. I do not know if there will be any work until the end of this year. Yikes! I knew the work and the income would be irregular and I was financially prepared for this yet, it is still scary.

The company I work with is a little disorganized. They rushed me last week and today I received a phone call from them inquiring about a package of documents I have delivered on the 5th of December! They have a very heavy workload but it looks like the customers are pulling them in all directions and they cannot plan the business well.  I think they are trying to close some of the projects and bill the Customers this month. The lack of new work may be due to the year end, I do not know.

Initially, I had asked them to guarantee me at least 4 days a month on the average so, I will give them 6 months to see what the average comes to. If they cannot keep me busy at least 4 days a month, I will tell them we cannot be exclusive. There are other companies interested in doing business with me so, I may talk to them. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Paid the highest interest debt! YAY!

I have closed the 12.60% interest debt. I feel very good about this. Unfortunately the Ticker Factory is malfunctioning and I cannot update my ticker ruler above. (UPDATE: The ticker is now showing the current status:)

Now I have only 16,000 TL (less than USD 9,000) left to pay till May 2014. I am happy!

I will not meet my cash goal at the end of the year but getting rid of a part of the debt was more important to me. Hope, I will make enough money on the consultancy business so that, I can get rid of the rest in the first 6 months of 2012.

This was my big New Year gift to me! Isn't that a great gift?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shopping for a baby

Today I went out to get a gift for the cleaning lady's new granddaughter. She will be born in a few weeks.
I am not used to shopping for babies and I wanted to get something practical for the new mom-to-be.

I got a three pack of bodysuits, and a one piece pajama. I did not buy a very small size and opted for a 9-month old size. I also got an exhange card in case they may want to get something else. Baby stuff is expensive when you know you are paying so much for so little material.

It took me at least an hour to select the gift but everything was so cute and it was lot of fun to shop for a baby:) Hope she will have a long, healthy and prosperous life.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nothing special

I delivered the project on hand on Wednesday and now I do not have any new assignments.

Yesterday, I had my brake pads changed. Although the technician told me they would still be good for another 5,000 Km., I thought it would be wise to replace them since I am planning to do some driving in the winter. I already have my winter tires installed on the car. I wasn't feeling comfortable with the brakes as they were. Better be safe than sorry

Yesterday I also exchanged a sweater I bought for my uncle as a New Year's gift, picked-up two funny T-shirts for Sis and BIL. I am almost done with my shopping and I did very very well, way under my budget.

Today I woke up at 8:30 although I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. I dyed my hair, paid some bills online and made lunch with enough leftovers for tomorrow As I am typing this, I am getting ready to chat with a long lost, recently found friend on FB. After our little chat, I will make a Tiramisu for a friend of mine who invited me over to dinner. It is a simple recipe with store bought cake. I will be making it for the first time, but I think I can make it.

I am busy but not rushed. It's a good feeling. Hopefully, the weekend will be like that too.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

My interesting tenant

I have an investment property in Ankara and the day I moved out, my tenant moved in. At first I was reluctant to rent my apartment because I do not like to deal with unpaid rents or damage in the apartment. I put it up for sale but, there weren't buyers around and the real estate agent talked me into renting. He promised I would never have to deal with the tenant and that he would take care of it.

The first month's rent plus a deposit of two months rent was handed to me when I gave the keys and signed the contract. The second month's rent was not deposited on time. I called the real estate agent and it turned out that the tenant was having trouble with my account number which is weird so he sent the rent to the real estate agent and he forwarded it to my account. OK fine. I gave them another account number.

December rent was again delayed. I called the apartment management to see if the monthly maintenance fees were being paid or not. They weren't paid either. So, I called the real estate agent again.

He talked to the tenant and again he is having trouble with my account. So, he sends the real estate agent 3 months worth of rent plus the overdue maintenance fees with interest. Weird huh?

Now I have December, January and February rents. Until March, I will not have to worry about rent.

I have to go back to my calculations to see if I can close the smallest debt with the highest interest AND make maximum contributions into my retirement account next year. If I can, I will.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Made up dinner: Turned out pretty good!

I do not know about you but I never stick to a recipe when I am cooking. Sometimes I totally make up new meals like the one I made tonight.

I had leftover lentils cooked with a bit of ground meat. I had pre-cooked red kidney beans and had some leftover broccoli. I put them all in a pot, added some tomato sauce and sprinkled it with some cajun seasoning and let it simmer for about 5 minutes till the broccoli cooked. I had them with some whole wheat crackers because I was to lazy to make rice or potatoes to go with it.

It was a good dinner. Lentils, red beans and broccoli... Healthy and hearty in this cold winter day.

Oh yes! The winter finally arrived here. We saw some snow, a lot of rain today and it is pretty cold outside.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Financial Choices

I had mentioned that the debt I had taken out for the rental apartment was three parts. Here is what is remaining:

Debt 1: 5,903 TL at 12,60%
Debt 2: 8,693 TL at 11,52%
Debt 3: 7,350 TL at 11,03%

I can only earn around 7,5% interest on my savings account. Earlier, I had decided to pay Debt 1 by mid-December. Then, it hit me! Starting January, the Government is going to match 25% of personal retirement funds!

Our system is a lot different than what you are used to. First of all we have a Social Security System which is not doing real well. I am barely past 45 and I was able to retire this year. So, obviously this system is not sustainable in the long run. Few years ago they pushed the retirement age in increments but, the effects will be seen much later. Therefore in 2004, a legislation passed for personal retirement. This is thought to be a supplementary system for the Social Security. Up until this year, I would document my contributions to my employer and I would receive a tax refund. A lot of people could not take advantage of this so the Government decided to match 25% of all contributions. Of course there is a cap.

In lieu of the above, doesn't it make more sense to contribute more to the personal retirement and get the 25% government match? It is free money so, why not take it?

Yes, I would like to see the debt gone earlier but, the logical thing to do is to up the retirement fund contributions. In the personal retirement system, the earliest date that I can be eligible to retire is when I am 56. That is still 11,5 years away. As long as I can contribute to the system, I will receive the Government match. Not bad huh?

The debt will still be paid as planned.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Joneses

Have you seen the movie? I am watching it for the first time as I am typing this. What a story. It is sad how people envy each other and can be influenced so easily. I even caught myself thinking what product was making Demi Moore's hair so great. Silly!

Many years ago, I was the head of a team of 7 people. The company was not doing too well and the HQ decided to downsize our unit and finally merge with another. Once this has been made public, I gathered my people and advised them to avoid frivolous spending because, almost all were looking to buy a house or a car at the time. Nobody was expecting to see the changes happen in less than two years but still, I personally wouldn't want debt on my shoulders if I had to leave the company so, I felt it made sense to warn them.

In less than a month, 3 of them bought brand new cars with 36 month payment schedules. When asked, one of them said instead of buying an apartment, she decided to get a new car so that the debt would be less. Yeah, really clever.

In about ten months, things have rapidly changed and since I was upper management, I was offered a nice package if I resigned on my own along with the other managers. I took it. The team members stayed with the new company and were gradually let go sans any package.

The money I had received was substantial. Since I had been driving a company car prior to parting ways with the company, I did not have a car of my own and needed to get one.

I could have easily bought a brand new car with cash but, instead I called the leasing company who provided our company cars knowing that it would be returned to the leasing company. I asked them if they could offer a price on my car and they were happy to give it to me at a very competitive price way below the market rate. I knew that they already had quiet a bunch of second hand cars and selling them is hard work.

This was in 2006 and the car was a 2003 model. I was the only driver and I knew it was in good condition. A year later when I joined a new company which gave me another company car, the leasing company helped me again selling the car at the same price. I am still grateful to them.

I think it pays to be nice and ask for things. You never know how much help you can get.




Saturday, December 1, 2012

Knitting a Blanket


I am not much of a knitter but, I think it is pretty cheap therapy. If you do it while you watch TV, it takes the guilt out. I am currently knitting a blanket for mom. It is for next winter because, that is when I will be able to finish it at this pace.  It will look like something like this, I hope:)



So far I have been able to finish the first 5 pieces

I have knitted a similar one for my sis and she likes it very much.

The yarn is pretty cheap and I think I will have quiet a bit of left over yarn for smaller projects such as learning different stitches. I have never been able to find a nice fitting knitted hat for myself. I might try making one and try to improve my knitting skills which are basically at kindergarten level...