Picking up Nickels

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July 2017 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on July 10th, 2017:


Asset Jun
2017
Jul
2017
Change
Checking 2,606 6,256 3,650
Money Market 63,105 63,323 218
Savings Bonds 135,847 136,107 260
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 41,215 41,327 112
Brokerage 143,285 152,782 9,497
401k 150,536 150,478 -58
Roth IRA 132,389 132,402 13
SEP IRA 645,805 644,800 -1,005
529 Savings 158,384 159,098 714



Total Assets $1,473,172 $1,486,573 $13,401
   
 
0.91
%


The S&P 500 has been relatively flat since the last update, down slightly 0.08% during that time:

(chart courtesy of google.com)

On the jobs front, the unemployment rate for June rose to 4.4%, with a strong number of jobs (222,000) created. Oil prices have continued to fall to the current $44 level, which corresponds to several local gas stations selling regular unleaded for $2.09.

On the financial front, my asset levels have reached an all-time high for the EIGHTH month in a row, breaking the previous high from June 2017. As for money moves, the only potential transaction on my radar screen is a possible S Corp distribution later this month.

As for the non-financial, we're enjoying the warm summer weather and are planning a brief vacation later this month. We're also at the point where my eldest child has started looking at colleges. Where does the time go?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

DIY Mosquito Magnet Cleaning/Repair

We have wetlands on our property and have been using a Mosquito Magnet for thirteen years to help keep the mosquito population under control and make our yard usable. While Mosquito Magnets do work pretty well in my experience, they can be very temperamental pieces of equipment that can be expensive and inconvenient to get repaired.

We originally started out with a Mosquito Magnet Liberty Plus (MM3100) model and ended up replacing it after seven years with a ~$200 refurbished swap from themosquitostore.com when its brick and mortar presence was within driving distance in Narragansett, RI. That refurb proved to be a bit flaky, so I broke down the following year and bought a brand-new Executive (MM3300) model. After a rough start due to a bad thermistor, our newer Mosquito Magnet worked quite well for five seasons, until I tried to start it up a few weeks ago and got the dreaded “Gas is empty/Insufficient gas flow” flashing red light. After many futile attempts at trying to resolve the issue (change propane tanks, OPD valve reset, Quick Clear Valve cleanout, check for bad connections/leaks with soapy water, etc.), I decided to see if I could get our old Liberty Plus model running. Unfortunately, I was greeted by the same “Gas is empty/Insufficient gas flow” flashing red light on my older Mosquito Magnet.

After doing some online research, I found that others had experienced the same issue and offered some ideas for how to resolve it. I came across this Youtube video and decided to try that approach to see if I had a clogged fuel nozzle:


According to the comments in that video it appears that replacement nozzles are currently in short supply, so I removed the nozzle from the unit and used a 12 mm wrench to remove the filter from the nozzle. I took both parts and soaked them in an old tuna can with a small amount of Walmart’s Super Tech carburetor cleaner for about three hours, using an old toothbrush to scrub them a few times. After that, I dried them off, reassembled the unit, and ran one more Quick Clear cartridge through it for good measure. I set the unit back up in my yard and it restarted successfully on the second try, and has been running for ten straight days now. Feeling empowered, I decided to try the same procedure on my newer Mosquito Magnet.

I cracked open my Executive model and tried soaking the fuel nozzle in carburetor cleaner followed up by a blast from a Quick Clear cartridge and was greeted by the familiar blinking red light of pain when I attempted to start it. Digging in a bit deeper, I took a closer look at the Executive’s fuel nozzle and based on the markings I identified it as a Delavan 17545A oil burner nozzle:


As luck would have it, this item is apparently not readily available to consumers so I decided to go all-in and soaked both parts of the nozzle in a can of Berryman Chem-Dip Carburetor and Parts Cleaner for six hours. After a nice bath and a little work with that old toothbrush, this nozzle was looking like a new part. And since I had already waded in up to my elbows, I decided to see what else I could clean up while I was at it.

My next move was obvious, so I used my wet/dry vacuum to cleanup all of the spider webs and debris that had collected inside the unit over the years. Then I skipped ahead to about the 6:10 mark in this Youtube video and removed what I’ll call the “plume assembly” from the exhaust side of the catalytic converter with a T20 Torx bit:


Unfortunately, the green gasket between these two parts (seen at the 6:25 mark) crumbled into several pieces, which meant another issue I had to deal with. Anyway, I found quite a bit of black granular material plugging up the screen from the catalytic converter exhaust and cleaned that up. I did not take the additional step of taking apart the plume assembly as shown in the video, so I picked up some Permatex Ultra Copper High Temp Gasket Maker at a local auto parts store and put all the internals back together. I used another Quick Clear cartridge before I had completely assembled the unit and I could feel the compressed air shooting out of the plume assembly, which I hoped was a good sign. I then re-assembled the entire unit and nearly fainted when it started right up. My Mosquito Magnet Executive model has been running for three days now, and I’m hoping that will continue for both units when they are due for their next propane tank change.

In the future, I think at the end of every season I will remove the fuel nozzle and soak it in Chem-Dip for a few hours before storing them until they are needed again in the spring. I’m also going to see about getting spare nozzles for each of these units just in case their performance degrades over time. Hopefully I can keep both of these units running for a while without having to spend beaucoup bucks fixing them. :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 2017 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on June 12th, 2017:


Asset May
2017
Jun
2017
Change
Checking 1,226 2,606 1,380
Money Market 66,564 63,105 -3,459
Savings Bonds 135,590 135,847 257
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 41,100 41,215 115
Brokerage 143,934 143,285 -649
401k 148,323 150,536 2,213
Roth IRA 130,547 132,389 1,842
SEP IRA 630,848 645,805 14,957
529 Savings 155,797 158,384 2,587



Total Assets $1,453,929 $1,473,172 $19,243
   
 
1.32%


The S&P 500 has continued to rise since the last update, up 1.24% during that time:

(chart courtesy of google.com)

On the jobs front, the unemployment rate for May fell to 4.3%, matching the low near the beginning of the post tech-bubble recession in May 2001. Oil prices have dropped a bit to the $46 level, which could signal continuing low gas prices for the summer driving season. It's amazing to me that the S&P 500 is up ~13.5% since the 2016 Presidential election on November 8th despite the many stumbles of President Trump. Despite the political turmoil, it has certainly been a nice time to be an investor!

On the financial front, my asset levels have reached an all-time high for the SEVENTH month in a row, breaking the previous high from May 2017. After a busy May, I anticipate all things financial will be pretty quiet for the foreseeable future. Then again, Penfed may come out with surprise CD deal any time now (then again, maybe not :p).

As for the non-financial, we're working on our second heat wave of the year and we finally have a non-green pool to swim in.The young Frugalsons will be done with school for the year next week, so we'll have a couple of tired and hungry teens to deal with over the next couple of months. Good times...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

May 2017 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on May 10th, 2017:


Asset Apr
2017
May
2017
Change
Checking 1,705 1,226 -479
Money Market 61,079 66,564 5,485
Savings Bonds 130,331 135,590 5,259
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 40,216 41,100 884
Brokerage 139,653 143,934 4,281
401k 142,141 148,323 6,182
Roth IRA 127,500 130,547 3,047
SEP IRA 620,363 630,848 10,485
529 Savings 153,421 155,797 2,376



Total Assets $1,416,409 $1,453,929 $37,520
   
 
2.65%


The S&P 500 has been on a nice run since the last update, rising 1.80% during that time:

(chart courtesy of google.com)

On the jobs front, the unemployment rate for April fell to 4.4%, matching the previous low from May 2007. Oil prices have fallen back below the $50 level to $48, which apparently has OPEC saying "Please don't pump so much oil!".

On the financial front, my asset levels have reached an all-time high for the SIXTH month in a row, breaking the previous high from April 2017. I've had a lot of financial activity since the last update, starting with the maturing of a Penfed 1.51% APY 15 month CD and moving that cash into a Penfed 1.46% APY 15 month CD. I also added some more paper Series I savings bonds to my stash courtesy of my 2016 Federal personal tax refund. Finally I made my initial 2017 SEP IRA contribution and took a distribution from my S Corp since I've officially closed the books on 2016.

As for the non-financial, Spring has finally sprung around here. Things are turning green and we're getting our yard cleaned up in anticipation of warmer weather. The young Frugalsons will be done with their school year next month and we're another year closer to our oldest heading off to college and putting some of those 529 savings to use.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

March CPI-U numbers released: April 2017 issue I Bonds are a buy

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the March 2017 Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) inflation data last week, which increased by 0.08% last month.

As always, now (along with the release of the September CPI-U) is one of the best times to consider purchasing I Bonds. The reason for this is that we now know what the rate of return for April 2017 I Bonds will be for both the first and second six month periods, which is important since I Bonds must be held for 12 months before they can be redeemed.

Using the CPI-U data from September 2016 (241.428) and March 2017 (243.801) (courtesy of inflationdata.com), we can calculate the variable rate for the second 6 month period for April 2017 issue I Bonds.


That means these bonds would earn a composite rate of 2.76% (using 0% fixed & 1.38 variable) for the first 6 months and 1.96% (using 0% fixed & 0.98% variable) for the second 6 months. Based on this, April 2017 issue I Bonds are a strong buy when compared to something like the 12 month CD @ 1.50% APY currently being offered by Connexus Credit Union.

I already maxed out my 2017 annual I Bond allotment in January and have already received the bulk of my April 2017 issue paper I Bonds from my Federal tax refund, so I'm pretty much all in at this point. :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 2017 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on April 10th, 2017:


Asset Mar
2017
Apr
2017
Change
Checking 1,788 1,705 -83
Money Market 66,397 61,079 -5,318
Savings Bonds 130,175 130,331 156
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 40,103 40,216 113
Brokerage 137,322 139,653 2,331
401k 139,556 142,141 2,585
Roth IRA 121,541 127,500 5,959
SEP IRA 620,304 620,363 59
529 Savings 151,176 153,421 2,245



Total Assets $1,408,362 $1,416,409 $8,047
   
 
0.57%


The S&P 500 has pulled back a bit since the last update, falling 0.65% during that time:

(chart courtesy of google.com)

On the jobs front, the unemployment rate for March fell to 4.5%, the lowest it has been since the 4.4% number in May 2007. Oil prices have picked up to the $53 level, apparently with a little help from the US missile launch in Syria last week.

On the financial front, my asset levels have reached an all-time high for the fourth fifth month in a row, breaking the previous high from March 2017. My 2016 personal tax returns and Roth IRA contribution are complete and the bulk of my Federal income tax refund will be in the form of paper Series I savings bonds. I'll likely make an initial 2017 SEP IRA contribution before the next update and am considering taking a distribution from my S Corp now that the dust has finally settled on 2016.

As for the non-financial, I'm very pleased to have extended my contract with my largest client! I'm looking forward to having another successful year with such a great customer. :)

Monday, March 13, 2017

March 2017 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on March 10th, 2017:


Asset Feb
2017
Mar
2017
Change
Checking 2,086 1,788 -298
Money Market 68,804 66,397 -2,407
Savings Bonds 130,022 130,175 153
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 40,000 40,103 103
Brokerage 132,265 137,322 5,057
401k 138,607 139,556 949
Roth IRA 119,715 121,541 1,826
SEP IRA 605,331 620,304 14,973
529 Savings 149,998 151,176 1,178



Total Assets $1,386,828 $1,408,362 $21,534
   
 
1.55%


The S&P 500 has continued to rise since the last update, increasing 2.44% during that time:

(chart courtesy of google.com)

On the jobs front, the unemployment rate for February fell to 4.7% with a strong 235,000 new jobs created. Oil prices have dropped to the $48 level, with local gasoline prices slightly above the $2 level.

On the financial front, my asset levels have once again reached an all-time high for the fourth month in a row, breaking the previous high from February 2017. I have made my final 2016 SEP IRA contribution and my S Corp tax returns are complete. I'm very close to doing the same with my 2016 personal returns and corresponding Roth IRA contribution. As usual, any Federal income tax refund due will be used to purchase up to $5,000 worth of paper Series I savings bonds.

As for the non-financial, we're looking at another potential blizzard starting tomorrow morning. With the mess/damage/power outages this storm may bring, it's hard to believe that Spring officially begins in one week. :(