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My Pitiful Net Worth

October 18th, 2013 at 07:12 am

I looked at my net worth through the years yesterday -- I've only been keeping track since 2008. Well, I actually have kept track longer, but I lost all my data in computer crash. Anyway....

In 2008 my NW was $184,222. The following year it sank to $146,707 -- that reflects the hit my retirement fund took after the economic downturn. In 2010 it rose to $160,214, then to $178,681 in 2011. In 2012 I had almost recovered -- $182,030. But then I bought my condo, which took it down to today's $172,546.

It is not much, not at my time of life. But I know the reasons I ended up this way. I was divorced when I was a stay-at-home mom, and it took me years to recover economically. My ex paid me $100 a week in child support and that was it. The first job I got, I remember that the salary was $11,000. About ten years after my divorce I had finally worked my way up to a job paying $40,000. (I also wasted money on taking classes toward a teaching certificate, which I did not complete -- long story). And I had a debt problem -- not so much from frivolous spending, but from hand-to-mouth living.

I decided along the way that the solution for me was to share housing with my cousin, which turned out to be a big mistake, financially as well as emotionally. She lived in a different state, and I sold my house and took early retirement in order to move in with her. Then the economy crashed, and suddenly I was decimating my meager retirement fund just to live. I wasn't able to find a job in the new area -- not even temporary work.

So I made a cross-country move to take the job I am in now. It only pays $40,000. I have had either no raises or minimal raises in the five years I've been here, because the College is struggling financially. At my age I am just glad to have a job.

But I do worry about the future. I'm going to be very dependent on social security. My plan is to take my ex's benefit for the first four years and then to switch to mine when I am 70. The first four years will be very lean. At age 70, I won't be rich, but my income will be fairly close to what I am earning now, and it will be doable.

When I look at the net worth of others, and read the articles about retirement, I feel like a failure. All of the articles pretty much say my net worth is not nearly enough.

I keep telling myself that at least I don't have any debt -- other than my mortgage. My mortgage payment is low and the interest is only 3%. And I have frugal skills and self-discipline that I have learned through the years that will help me stretch what I have. But is it enough?

I will soon see. I am retiring for the second time in two years. I am not going to attempt to work any longer than that at this job, for many reasons. The long commute, for one, my aging brain in a youth-oriented profession, my general disenchantment with the work. I hope, after retirement, I can find a part-time job close to home that will give me a little income stream. But I am not counting on it -- I see how many people are looking for the same thing. It's not an easy market, not yet.

On the lucky side, I bought my condo at exactly the right time, and it was in move-in condition. I will be secure in this home as long as I can pay the mortgage, assessment fees, and taxes. I have easy access to incredible public transportation, so when my car dies, I won't have to replace it. My son is close by, and so is a nephew. I'm in good health.

I hope all of you will be around, because I'm going to keep on blogging about it! I can't even express how much help it has been to me to be able to talk about money with like-minded people, and to take advantage of your sage advice!

40 Responses to “My Pitiful Net Worth”

  1. ceejay74 Says:

    ((hugs)) I think you've been amazingly resilient and practical. You've made good choices most of the time, and found ways to rebound from the mistakes. I've no doubt you'll make retirement work.

    I think I'll be around for a while, so I'll be cheering you on in your (next) retirement!

  2. MonkeyMama Says:

    I agree with ceejay. I have no doubt you will be just fine - and are doing better than MANY people out there.

    A lot of us here on the younger side aren't counting on social security and are trying to make up for that.

    I don't think most people know or understand that my primary motivation to "take care of myself" is due to watching several of my very "domsestic" aunts devastated by divorce. That's been a very huge force in my life as to my own financial and career decisions. That, and I have a sense that it is an extremely rough road - so I admire you for coming out the other end as strong as you have.

  3. creditcardfree Says:

    You have done VERY well given the circumstances. Do you have place in your budget you can cut further? Any extra funds you can save now WILL make a difference. I also agree with MM that we are not counting on social security. I was told in high school not to count on it, thus I don't when I figure our retirement savings.

  4. Petunia 100 Says:

    I don't think your net worth is pitiful. You've got more in your retirement and bank accounts than the majority of Americans, if the media is to be believed. Also, you have locked in low housing costs by buying your condo. While "low housing costs" is not an entry on a net worth statement, it's still valuable.

    Life threw your some curveballs, but you persevered anyway. Smile

    If a regular part-time job is not available, perhaps you could look for temporary sitter type jobs. My mom did that for a few years, she signed up with a service. They called her when they needed her, and she had the option to accept or reject each assignment. Mostly she would work as a babysitter for doctors who were on call. Sometimes the doctors would never leave home, but they needed to be able to leave immediately if needed at the hospital. She was paid pretty well, sometimes for sleeping in guestrooms.

  5. Kiki Says:

    I would also recommend looking to work for or as a house or pet sitter. I make a good enough income with it as a side job, and you are so close to a major city that you would be able to as well. Even if it was $30 or $35 a night 6-8 nights a month or a dog walking job it really adds up! With such a low mortgage payment i bet it would pay for the mortgage itself once you had a few regular clients.

    It really is easy just keep house safe and neat and animals fed and happy. It has also cut down my own expenses because i dont have to run ac or heat at home when i am gone.

  6. Bob B. Says:

    I constantly remind myself that the posters here don't reflect "average". If you compared yourself to average, I bet you're not so different from many. And not pitiful.

  7. CB in the City Says:

    Aw thanks, you are all so nice! No wonder I love this community!

  8. My English Castle Says:

    I agree with everybody here. Not pitiful, but inspiring. It sounds like you have lovely kids, you work hard, are a respected and caring co-worker, have good ties with your family (and even your ex!), and write a great blog.

    Divorce is a big financial hit, but sometimes it's a hit we can't avoid. Sometimes when I can't sleep fretting over something, my ex's hijinks during our divorce and how much they cost me haunts me.

    I like Kiki's ideas--especially in your Chicago neighborhood. I also think I'd hire you out as my Goodwill personal shopper!

  9. My English Castle Says:

    ps. I'm reading one of those Camila Lackberg books too. I still like Mankell best.

  10. CB in the City Says:

    I just finished Ice Princess! It was well-written. Who is Mankell? A character? In the past few years I've been drawn to Scandinavian murder mysteries -- don't know why -- there just seems to be a good crop of writers in the frozen north!

  11. CB in the City Says:

    I just realized that I gave the wrong amount as "today's" net worth. That was my net worth in January. Today's is $175,356. A little better!

  12. BuckyBadger Says:

    Your net worth shouldn't have decreased when you bought the condo! Net worth includes that sort of asset!

    Sure, it's not liquid, but it's part of your worth. And every time you pay over $700 a monthon it you're increasing your net worth again and again.

    Right now go add the value of your condo, subtract what's remaining on your mortgage, and report back.

    You're doing great!

  13. BuckyBadger Says:

    What I meant to say was the downpayment didn't disappear from your savings - it just shifted into a non-liquid asset.

    It's making your net worth look worse. At least use a conservative estimate of your home's worth and take another look.

  14. TashaC. Says:

    Its not what you have, its what you started with and have now. People with a million dollars to start with can end up with a thousand dollars after a few years. Trending onward and upward! Great job and keep up the effort. You'll be fine.

  15. snafu Says:

    Adding another voice to Well Done! You could teach your younger colleagues a lot about how to cope with life's challenges. I couldn't figure out where you added the current value of your condo.

    The economy is due to take off after this political bump and you'll see the value of equities go up. Love the idea of house sitting as a retiree. What do you think?

  16. My English Castle Says:

    CB: It's Henning Mankell--the guy who wrote the Wallender series.

  17. Kiki Says:

    I realized after I replied that you weren't asking for advice or suggestions and I apologize if I overstepped at all.

    But...If you were interested in learning more about the house sitting/pet walking-sitting possibilities let me know. I'd be happy to send you to some resources and ideas for starting. You even have an advantage over me as you own your own home. Many homeowners see that as a plus. And I think you are doing really well!

  18. baselle Says:

    Your net worth is not pitiful - its actually above average. And you have a plan for keeping the money coming in stable. You probably will use some of your savings as a hedge against the real cost of living as it goes up.

    The other issue is that if you are a free spender, you could have many millions and it wouldn't be enough. If you know how to live carefully with a budget, you can mostly make it work.

    And remember that you can't take it with you.

  19. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    I agree with the others! You're networth is not pitiful at all - especially considering the circumstances/life happens. At almost 38 if I exclude the stock from my networth, I barely have $40k - and no long-term housing. (I am not counting the stock because I still feel it's sometimes way too good to be true and will possibly lose half it's value before I can get out ..)

    You know how to live well on your income, and I think you'll make it just fine no matter what may come.

    P.S. To add on to Kiki's suggestion - if you are interested in house/pet sitting, be sure to check out sittercity . com/org (can't remember which) You do have to pay a $10 fee for a background check every year, but in a large city like where you are, you'd probably find lOTS of opportunities.

  20. LuckyRobin Says:

    I think you are doing very well considering all life has thrown at you.

  21. CB in the City Says:

    BB, unfortunately it DID decrease when I bought the condo. The condo's value is counted in my net worth (conservatively). The problem was that I had to use some of my retirement funds for the down payment (the part that was in the stock market, and accessible) and I took a tax hit (but no penalty; I had enough years in age and service to avoid any penalty). I know this is against conventional wisdom, but I chose this option with my eyes wide open. Around here you cannot rent in a safe place for any less than $1000. I had to find a long-term place to live for less than $700, so that's what I did.

  22. CB in the City Says:

    Kiki, I'm not ignoring your comments! I am very interested in pet sitting/walking and house sitting, and I think the services would be in high demand in my area -- but since I'm still two years away from retirement, it won't be an option quite yet. I'm interested to hear your thoughts, though!

  23. Petunia 100 Says:

    Aside from finances, I also think you must have done a great job raising your boys and building strong, close family relationships. Priceless. Smile

  24. CB in the City Says:

    Thank you! I really appreciate that!

  25. SecretarySaving Says:

    I enjoy and look forward to your posts. You are amazing!

  26. Rachael777 Says:

    I will add my comments to the chorus. I think you are doing FANTASTIC.. have a good head on your shoulders. I would be proud. Sounds like you have had some ups and downs and have definately come out on top. You have a pension (and not sure of your age) but definately appear are doing better than most people out there and more importantly you have a plan. Keep up the good work. Smile

  27. starfishy Says:

    not sure how i missed this post, but i agree with everyone else - your net worth is not pitiful. you HAVE a net worth, which is more than most of the world can say! plus, you enjoy life, have provided yourself with a safe and affordable place to live and you have a wonderful family. the only reason my net worth is so high is because i don't have any children (not really by choice, just marriage and kids never happened and i didn't think i was a good candidate for doing it alone) and i'm terrified that i'll have nobody to care about me if i live to an old age, so i am overpreparing out of fear. i would gladly trade my bottom line for a close family relationships. i think you and the life you have created for yourself is awesome!! Smile

  28. imarunner Says:

    not a failure at all, so you're not where you want to be - i've done stupid and neither am i - but you are doing better than most. hold your head up and be proud you have money and good health.

  29. PatientSaver Says:

    Would it be possible to delay retirement until you find just the right p/t job close to home?

  30. Kiki Says:

    If you are interested in a part time business and all the tax beneftos it brings I would recommend starting before you retire so you have a customer base. While i have new clients every month i have ten or so regulars. New clients are great but getting those first few regulars takes time.

    And i am always happy to give information! My aim for 2014-2015 is to make enough to pay my rent and utilities every month. That means i need about $920 a month.

  31. PatientSaver Says:

    You have worked hard to save what you have, so no need to apologize or give yourself less due.

    However, I AM a little concerned. Although I'm no math whiz, I'm looking at your $73,000 mortgage. I don't know your monthly expenses, how many years you have before you can collect Social Security, or your age, exactly, but I'm thinking you're about my age, in your 50s? How will you pay that mortgage with just a p/t job?

    I completely understand about not liking the long commute (been there, done that!) and the work, but there are other jobs you could pursue. I just think it would be highly preferable to pay off the mortgage, even a relatively "small" one like yours, before you quit f/t work. What seems manageable now, even on a modest income, will not seem so doable on a p/t income.

    I am glad that so many people are supportive of your decision, but I'm surprised no one has asked the hard questions.

  32. CB in the City Says:

    Thank you for your concern, PS. I've asked myself the hard questions, which is why I expressed my worry.

    I will not retire until I can collect SS. That's two years away, when I am 66. And since I can collect on my ex's benefit until age 70, mine will accrue till then. (And my ex has the maximum benefit, which will help.) Still, it's those four years between age 66 and 70 I'm worried about.

    My mortgage is only $321 per month. I'm making more-than-double payments right now, but when I retire I'll only pay the $321. I can pay it even without a part-time job. I've done a budget, and yes, it's lean. It will be hard, but not impossible.

    As for my current job -- the commute aside, it is a field that is changing dramatically with changes in technology. I am doing my utmost to keep up, but it is taking its toll on me. I am aware all the time that my employers would prefer someone younger and more techie. It is a young office, and I'm the dinosaur. And fundraising is extremely volatile -- I've seen entire staff replaced because dollar goals weren't met. I just don't see working here till age 70 as a reliable option, even if I could physically and mentally survive the schedule. And as for other jobs, never say never, but I don't think people in their mid-sixties get hired very often! It may be illegal to discriminate, but that only means no one can say out loud that age is the reason the application is put aside!


  33. MonkeyMama Says:

    @CB - I was not worried about you because I had a better sense of your age. If you are eliminating the car for the long run and have a $321 per month mortgage... I think you have a solid plan.

    My thought on the pet sitting - or babysitting - is that it sounds very physically demanding. (I found it exhausting in my 20s!!). Maybe temp office work may be a better solution for those few years. Regardless, I am sure you will get many ideas here to supplement your income.

  34. Kiki Says:

    I wanted to add that about half of my clients don't have any pets to care for but just want someone who is seen coming and going and home in the evenings, maybe water their plants. That is a nice easy care job with no responsibilities really. And pulls in more han half my income.

    And many of my clients with animals, for short weekend stays, say don't bother with a walk just give him/her some love. I still usually do a walk because their energy could be higher or they dont sleep or digest their food as well. Certainly with the Illinois winters it would be much different if there is snow on extreme cold.

  35. Kiki Says:

    And i had a question about the spouse SS payment. Whose amount is higher? That is the amount SS will pay. When my mom retired they looked at hers and my dads, her exhusband ss earnings and pay her from his. They will continue that now that she is over 70 without affecting his benefit, so why at 70 will you pull your own? Is it worth more than his payment?

  36. Petunia 100 Says:

    Kiki - CB's strategy works well if the benefits are about the same. If one person's benefits are substantially higher than the other's, it doesn't work so well. While she is drawing her spousal benefit, her own benefit will continue to increase 8% per year.

  37. PatientSaver Says:

    I feel considerately better now that you've told me how low your mortgage is. So thanks for setting me straight! Smile

  38. CB in the City Says:

    Thanks for answering, Petunia, that's exactly right!

  39. soogar Says:

    I want your net worth! I am totally in the red with student loans and credit cards and no big assets like a house. I think people can get discouraged when they see where other people are at financially- especially people who had good jobs that offered good salary, benefits, 401(k) and pensions. It's much more difficult to amass wealth when you have to provide and pay for everything on your own. So you can only go by what you can accomplish and do the best that you can, and as long as you can comfortably support yourself and meet your basic needs, you are doing very well.

    I also don't compare myself with others or look back with regrets. There are people who do everything right but make the wrong investment or get sick and can lose it all or a substantial amount in a flash. I always keep that in mind and plug forward.

  40. Looking Forward Says:

    A bit late chiming in but wanted to comment.
    As many others have already said; you have a plan and the will to carry it out. I say that alone is better than half the population (Sad, but true).
    Sounds like there have been some rough spots, but instead of giving up and playing the victim you worked through it.
    SO I say keep up the good work! Smile

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