Monday, July 17, 2017

My 529 Plan Plan

I have 2 kids, a 4yo Girl and a 2yo (we will round up 3 weeks) Boy. As soon as I got their SSN's (which takes a surprising amount of time, weeks to months after you file the initial Birth Certificate) my kids were the proud owners of a bank account and a 529 plan (they also have an investment account... I like to keep the money they get as gifts in their cash/investment accounts).

So then I came up with the 529 Plan Plan -- how to, with our own money (avoiding any presumption of windfalls/etc) to fund their college education. My parents paid for mine and I want to pay it forward as much as feasible (we are already funding ~25% of our net into our retirement accounts(plus another 8-9% to taxable accounts), so we already are paying ourselves first). Not seen on here is that thanks to a trip to Afghanistan I was able to sign my Post-9/11 GI Bill to my kids, so each gets 2 years of 50% college costs + books + a housing stipend. And who knows what college is going to look like in 14 years, I cannot see the current trend continuing.... But at least I am making the effort to cover them. And since my state plan (Virginia) allows me to deduct contributions from my State taxes it at least reduces the burden on us.

The plan is simple, 100 dollars a month, increasing that amount by 10 dollars every birthday.  One catch to the plan in that there a 130 dollar a month jump on their 5/6th birthday. That is the celebration of them not being in daycare anymore, it represents less than 10% of the monthly cost.... (side note, there is a plan for at least some of that money as well... while post-daycare the kids costs will seem light as feather, it is better to save and bank that money (50%) to cover things like camp, after-school, etc). I also programmed in conservative returns for the duration.

Below is a screenshot of my google sheets that contains the original plan, combined with the actual's (since I like seeing how the battle plan matches up with reality).



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

August Reads

More long car trips (it is 3ish hours down to Ft. Pickett, where I had to go twice this month) plus more walking plus more working out equals more books read.

December Reads


  • Battle Cruiser (Lost Colonies Trilogy #1) by B.V. Larson
    • A giant solar flare knocks a rapidly expanding Earth back, affecting the technology as well as the transportation system that Earth used to get to its colonies 160 years before the start of this book. The main character, LCDR Sparhawk, is a member of the ruling (this is a hereditary democracy (not that we can comment, Bush family for example), complicated by cloning. They are called *cough* Public Servants *cough* and Sparhawk has rebelled and joined the Space Guard) families and after long isolation the universe is coming to visit the Earth again. As it often happens, a lot of big activities all center around our hero.
      Overall a fun read, complicated by... interesting politics and some really odd 180's by some characters, this story kept me entertained for a long day of driving. (3/5)
  • The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files #7) by Charles Stross
    • This story changes a lot of the Laundry Universe. While the last book introduced giving the perspective of a non-Bob character, this one pretty much removes him from the equation completely (except for a few references and borrows Bob's most notable sidekicks, Pinky and Brain). Told from the perspective of Alex, the moderately capable vampire (don't be silly, Vampires don't exist) and in Leeds (vs London). So much happens that my head is spinning a bit and I am deeply curious how things, given that the Laundry basically gets aired by the time everything is done.
      This is probably the most approachable (and one of the top 3 of the series) book of the series other than the first book, since while it helps to have read the first 6 books you really could come into this book cold and be able to understand what is going on. (4/5)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Quite (from being so busy)

Kids, travel (work and my wife's), work all combine to kill my blogging time. I still go through a lot of books (mostly Audible) which you can see if you become friends with me on Goodreads ( https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/10193172-daniel )

Work has a lot of stuff going on.. That's about all I can say there. My part-time (hah!) job with the Army has taken some turns. I finally attended the first part of the Signal Captains Career Course (it was nice to see Fort Gordon again after a 9 year gap), got notified that I have been selected to be the BDE S6 (Main Communication guy for a 4,000 person Brigade), of course finally got my Command position posted (so I can move on to new job) and did the myriad of things that I basically have to do to support both positions.The good news is that I should get promoted to Major out of this, so that should be fun.

Kids are doing well and running my wife and I ragged. They are so smart, energetic and clever that we have to work hard to keep ahead of them.

I am going to try to post more now that I seem to have moved past the crazy busy hump, it is good to exercise my writing in something other than work.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Saving

This past Friday was a reminder why I have an account labeled "House Savings Account"(HSA). Now you may say, Daniel, you already have a house, why would you have a house savings account? Because even though you already have a house, doesn't mean that you won't have unexpected (or expected) expenses in maintaining that house.

My HVAC (13 year old heat pump) decided to give up the ghost. And yes, I could get the basic one for maybe 4k less than the top of the line, but in the end there are advantages of putting in the top of the line for a system that consumes 40-60% of my home energy costs. So shortly (having it go down over the holidays is difficult) a healthy chunk (all actually, but I have other cash accounts) 11k will be leaving my accounts. In the time we have bought this house (less than 3 years) we have had to replace the roof, an outside door and the washer and dryer. This is why every month I put 200 dollars into to my HSA (as well as its other friend accounts, travel and car maintenance).

So while it may sometimes look like I have extra un-invested money laying around, we are prepped when life comes up

Thursday, December 01, 2016

November Reads


  • Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) by Octavia E. Butler
    • Meh. This was one of those drag me to the end (since if anything life has proven, I have the ability to power through pretty much anything) type of books, that actually had me reading other books in between before finishing. While it was an interesting concept (aliens abducting survivors of an apocalypse on the Earth with the intent of repatriating them in the far future), the very concept was so grim that I had a hard time keeping up my interest (in particular as you learn the plans of the aliens). I know that even though there are more books that more me this is a one and done. (1/5)
  • Grits, Guns & Glory - Bubba the Monster Hunter Season 2 by John G. Hartness, Melissa Gilbert (Editor)
    • Bubba, the most unlikely Church employee that you are going to find, is a lot of fun. This collection of short stories (all chained together to provide a comprehensive overall sequence) will keep you awake during a long drive. Bubba is a mostly straightforward good-old boy who, along with his assorted allies (life-long friend, girlfriend and his handler Priest), fights the things that go bump in the night that are creating problems. Taking off right from the end of the last book where Bubba is doing his impression of a shis-kebab, the book ramps thing up for a the main fight at the end of the novel (with a couple of fun turns down side stories). Bubba's big fight is with his brother who effectively defeated him last "season" and continues to gather power towards his overall plan at the end. Overall this was a fun book to read in smaller bites. (4/5)
  • First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) by Darynda Jones
    • A nice light pallet cleanser after the heavy handed book I read lately. A little more harlequin than I normally go book-wise, but the overall concept (the world that is being spun) is pretty interesting. I enjoy the concept of Grim Reapers living with the rest of us (Everything from Dead Like Me on TV to good old Death in the Discworld universe) and this story delivered. Took a little while to get into it but hard to stop once I got started. If you enjoy a book where the paranormal is more leaning toward normal, this can be a nice fun read. (4/5)
  • The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R.S. Belcher
    • Another good urban fantasy read. What if the Truckers and Motorcycle Clubs are really agents of a secret society (formerly the Knights Templar) that is out there to protect the travelers of the roads? Well in this world they are and we get to learn more about them and how they handle a big bad enemy from effectively destroying reality. The world and situation are slowly revealed through the eyes of the newbie characters, a MC guy and an investigative cop. I definitely would look forward to another book written in this universe. (4/5)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Digital vs Physical Delivery of Content

Is anyone else really confused why in God's name it is cheaper to purchase a physical copy of multiple types of digital content than to download it through the standard mechanisms?

The best example was this past week, where Titanfall 2 and Battefields 1 were both on sale from Amazon.

Buy digital : $ 59 99 Download now!
Buy new : $ 35 00

So the options were to buy a physical copy, which involved producing the disc and assorted material, shipping it to a distribution center, then shipping it yet again to my house, for $24.99 less than buying a digital copy (which the content producer has a higher control on and I cannot re-sell or lend out to another person)!? Yes, there are some costs to the digital distribution (bandwidth and (hah) storage), but those have to marginal compared to the entire supply chain to provide the digital copy. If they were comparable in cost I would definitely do the digital, even though I as the consumer come away less well off (because I cannot share nor can I sell it) because in the end I don't want more little plastic cases taking up space in my bookcases. I will take the hit because it seems the logical, and environmental, way to go.

This problem has also been observed in some cases in music (for example it has been cheaper to buy the CD and get the digital copy for free than to buy the digital copy) and for books.With DRM getting relatively hard to remove and people being relatively lazy, piracy isn't really a concern anymore either.

I just don't get it. We are in the 21st Century, why are we stuck doing this stuff the old way!?

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

October Read's


  • Scattered, Smothered and Chunked - Bubba the Monster Hunter Season 1 by John G. Hartness
    • Since I have read Larry Correia's MHI series the concept of a redneck monster hunter isn't too far of a stretch for me. But Bubba is a distinct voice. Working, for of all groups, the Catholic Church as a freelance monster hunter the stories in this book were varied and entertaining. We don't learn the whole truth of what formed the personality of Bubba until the final novella, which goes into his origin story, but overall the flow works. There were a number of LOL moments in this book that kept me entertained throughout.
  • CTRL ALT Revolt! by Nick Cole
    • Set in the not too far future, this is the story that addresses why a large fear of the tech community, artificial intelligence (or machine sentience), represents such a fundamental threat to the human race. Gaming plays a big role in this story, focusing on Fish, a game developer, and Mara, a blind DD girl who is trying to rise above it all. The pace was a little anemic at first, but things slowly come to a boil and people are racing around both in the real world and in the electronic games worlds which play such a key role to the plot. And now I learn that the author has another book (Soda Pop Soldier) that this basically the prequel to, so that just got added to the pile.
  • The Trafalgar Gambit (Ark Royal #3) by Christopher Nuttall (Goodreads Author)
    • Breaking away completely from the BSG-yness from the first the first book, this story yet again focuses on the mission and crew of the HMS Ark Royal. Shifting a little more into the geo-(galacto?) political realm, we find the crew on a last ditch attempt to open up diplomatic relations with the aliens (which they determine to have seperate factions based on the actions of some of the ships in the second book). But war is politics in another form, so even with the diplomatic mission there is still a lot of action left in this story to satisfy. The trilogy is ended in a satisfactory manner (and only because of a hunch did I realize that there was a follow-on series).
  • Dead Six (Dead Six #1) by Larry Correia
    • Parallel stories about two black-ops operators dealing with a murky world. Both of the main characters, Valentine and Lorenzo, are engaged against the terrorists that exist in a fake middle eastern country similar to Qatar.  Valentine works for Dead Six, an black CIA backed set of operators who are tasked with taking the war to the terrorists homes/vacation spot. In the end they are deemed to be disposable and are themselves marked themselves. Lorenzo is more of an independent operator with a small team that is being blackmailed to complete a mission of obtaining a key (which opens a special door.... the contents of which aren't explained but are very mysterious/supernatural). There is some overlap, characters die and in the end you have Valentine and Lorenzo up against their respective organizations as a team. I am interested to see where this goes in the next book.
  • The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story (Gap #1) by Stephen R. Donaldson
    • This is kind of a twisted perverse little story. The two main characters are pirates, in a future where the area of space they are operating in is fairly lawless. The more twisted part is what happens to the female space cop, who is captured and controlled by Angus Thermopyle who takes advantage of her and is also the focus of attention of the other main character (also a pirate) Nick Succorso. I am not sure why this series is so popular but since I already have the second book I guess I will find out.