Friday, February 27, 2015

Fitness Check-In

I recently did a check-in for the financial side of my quest, and realized that it had been sort of a while since I had updated on the  fitness side, so I thought I'd do a quick rundown:

Current weight: (as of last weigh in on Sunday 2/22) 180.4 pounds--Just a mere 10 pounds from my originally stated goal weight of 170! So I am very excited about that. I had, due to holidays and general less-exercise-than-usual, had been stuck at 181-184 for a while, so it's nice to finally break that, if even by a little.  I expect that if I stayed consistent and maybe even work just a bit harder, I could be around 170 by Mid-March or so.  Since I am happy/comfortable when my old clothes in my closet fit, and this doesn't require an exact number on the scale (after all, that number doesn't account for muscle anyway),  I am confident that I will be there very soon. (And I guess I better start trying on said clothes semi-regularly to see how I am doing...)

Fitness Levels compared to goals:
Running: ehhhh... it's been a while since I have ran consistently, so I am not sure what it would be.  I know that six months ago on my birthday, I said that by 29, I'd like to run 10 miles, but I haven't been working on that. Hmmm. I wonder if I could get to that level in time. That's 6 months (give or take a few days) away, so maybe.  Though, lately I have taken to a mindset to not set such specific goals because I get very upset when I don't meet (or beat) them, which can cause me to get demotivated and lose sight of the bigger picture that being healthy and strong will be a lifelong journey and accomplishment.  Not to say that goals are not important, they definitely are, but I feel it's also important to not beat myself up over it as long as I am working on it. (Sitting around being lazy and not working on anything, on the other hand, is fair game for me to beat myself up for....)

Weights: (Current Max weights)
Squats: 135 Pounds
Deadlifts: 115 Pounds
Bench: 75 Pounds
Pushups: I am up to about 40 wall-based pushups, though  have not worked on it in about 2 weeks.
Shoulders:  20 Pounds each hand (40 total)
-Not currently working on pull-ups/lat pull downs, clean and press, or isolated muscles (other than shoulder press) as husband and I are currently working on a 5*5 program to up our strength. (Which will be it's own post here in the future.)

So that's where I am currently--making some pretty decent progress all told. How are you doing with your goals. Please weigh in (no pun intended) below in the comments!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review: Nudge

I recently finished reading (yesterday, actually) Nudge: Improving Decisions for Better Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.  Here are some of my thoughts on it:

If you are unaware,  Nudge is about, as the back cover says, "Choices-how we make them and how we're led to make better ones." It addresses common problems, such as savings rates for retirement, making better health decisions, reducing environmental impacts and a few other things where choices could be made better.  They talk early on about nudges come from what they call "Libertarian Paternalism" and "....Influencing Choices in a way that will make the choosers better off, by their own judging."  In other words, they want to make it easier for people to make better choices.

Some interesting points made in the book:
  • No matter how much we believe otherwise, we are all "Sheeple" (my words, not theirs) and are prone to being influenced by other people or outside factors, even if unconsciously.
  • Because we do crave approval from others or want to do what others are doing , if people are doing something that is good/better than others, it is best not to tell them so.  A line from the book that I liked on this subject was: "If you want to nudge people into socially desirable behavior, do not, by any means, let them know that their current actions are better than the social norm." An example they give on this, is people in a certain city/neighborhood being given information on their energy use in comparison to their neighbors', and those that were told their use was lower than the average use, their consumption went up but those who were told that their use was higher than average brought theirs down. But when given either a smiley face or frownie face for good/bad usage, those with good usage didn't tend to change to a higher consumption. So, overall, don't tell people if they are doing better than average or normal.
Some great Nudges they mention:
  • For Increasing people's retirement savings rates, they propose employers have automatic enrollment into retirement plans for employees, with an opt-out option instead of the current opt-in that most employers have currently. The authors also talk about an idea, "Save More Tomorrow", which automatically increases the contribution account at a set time frame (e.g every 6 months). I think this is a great idea, and if implemented by more companies (some already do), it could really help reduce the crises of people not being prepared for retirement and not having enough from social security.
  • Speaking of Social Security, the authors talk about how Sweden had semi-privatized Social Security by setting aside part of the fund into investment accounts for individuals and allow them to select the investments or to use the default fund that was selected by experts. I think this idea is really interesting. People have to pay social security tax anyway, so to have a chance to have a say in how it is accumulates/grows is quite a concept. I would really be interested in learning more about this...
  • One other Nudge that I found interesting was, in relation to increasing organ donorship, the authors talk about a mandated choice program (being required to choose whether your answer is yes or no), and mentions how Illinois has a similar program in place already where when at the DMV you have to select if you are a donor or not before the license can be renewed/etc. If you say yes, they will advise you that family cannot override this and if you would like to reconsider. I find this to be an interesting concept because it helps for the greater good (more organ donations) without intruding on people's right to decline to be a donor, and makes it convenient--which is the entire point of a NUDGE.
Overall, I think this book is an interesting insight into various topics and choices, and a worthwhile read for those reasons, but I think I would have liked some more information on how an individual can incorporate better choices/nudges into their own life, rather than broad spectrum information for larger beings (governments, corporations, etc.). So I will give this a total score of 4/5.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Financial Check-Up

Last week, I FINALLY set up both mine and hubby's Roth IRA, with automatic funding of $50 each monthly.  Why in the holy hell did I not do this before? Well, to be honest, I was in the "I know I should do it but don't know what to do, so do nothing" phase. Which, when I think about it, is very interesting, considering I set up the 401Ks and set them with lifecycle funds so that it at least could grow while I/we figured out what we should do with it, but for some reason that same logic didn't carry over to setting up the IRA account.

But the important thing is that it is at least set up NOW, and that it will be (with $50/month) an extra $600/year for each of us ($1200 total) that will go towards investment and savings. Of course, every little bit adds up, and we'll be looking for ways to add even more to it as we go on. But now we have to figure out what we'll do with the accumulated funds. I guess that will be my next reading material or quest.

I figured since that is finally set up, now is as good a time as any to do a progress report and see where I stand, at least financially. So, here we go:

Savings (between all accounts): ~$2500
401k: Mine is about $1100, but was transferred by previous employer to a rollover IRA. (And I need to set up 401k with current employer, even though it doesn't offer a match, but need to call because they had trouble finding my info in the online verification system.) Hubby's is about the same, but has not yet been rolled over that we are aware of.
Car Payment: $0 as I mentioned recently in the end of year check in, here. Woohoo!
Roth Ira: $50 start in mine, $50 start in hubby's.
Credit Card: $150ish. Wait...what? I thought that was taken care of already. (Small charge of buying tickets to a play and needing to transfer the funds from the fun account.) Looks like I'll be shifting funds from one savings account this week. Ooops.
Net Worth: $3650 if counting only mine/$4800 total including Husband's. Minus $150 for that Credit card, means $3500/$4650. This is about $1700 more than the total in the Starting Numbers, and that included the money in checking (which I intentionally didn't include in this one since it is so fluid in and out). So while progress may be somewhat slow so far, the important fact is, progress is definitely being made. Now to find some ways to add even more to savings and investments.....

So that's where I currently stand. Not too bad, but can definitely be improved upon. We've been thinking of ways we can cut costs and get rid of wastefulness, but things can be hard when it's only me working right now (and making just about $23,000). So since husband is still unemployed, and all things considered, we're doing really well. So I just know that when Shaun is employed, we will be socking away even more and doing even better, and I am excited to see things grow and can't wait to see where the journey takes me.