Picking up Nickels

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 2010 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on July 12th, 2010:

Asset Jun 2010 Jul 2010 Change
Checking 108 657 549
Money Market 36,009 33,043 -2,966
Savings Bonds 36,057 36,080 23
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 115,569 115,991 422
Brokerage 79,640 81,976 2,336
401k 82,137 83,046 909
Roth IRA 38,494 38,826 332
SEP IRA 200,817 200,815 -2
529 Savings 43,117 43,870 753
Total Assets $631,948 $634,304 $2,356

The S&P 500 had a rollercoaster ride up and back down, with the index falling 0.74% since the last update:

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

The unemployment rate for June declined to 9.5%, although that could be due to a shrinking labor force as people stop looking for work. Oil prices haven't changed much as they are around $76 per barrel in the middle of the summer driving season.

We've finally taken a major step toward fixing the sinkholes in our yard caused by the flooding we had on our property in late March. A couple of weeks ago, our landscaping contractor tore into our yard with a backhoe and removed a shocking amount of buried stumps left by the builder who thought it was a good idea to bury them there. Unfortunately, we were left with a barren wasteland for a yard and have to go through the time and expense of getting some topsoil and having grass planted. I plan on posting a more detailed update on that mess as time permits. I'm also being pitched many home improvement projects by Mrs. Frugalson as she has become a home decorating blog junkie. Over the weekend, I built her a couple of "cafe shelves" similar to ones she read about at the Beneath My Heart blog. She hasn't painted them yet, but I think they turned out pretty nice considering the ordinary (and inexpensive) materials they were built from. Of course, that will only make her more determined to get me to install that fancy molding in the dining room. :)

Moneywise, I spent a decent chunk of change having a backhoe destroy my lawn and I'll need to invest a bit more to get that addressed when the weather cools down a bit in the Fall. I'm also hoping to get my 2009 SEP IRA contribution fully funded by early August, which will allow me to close the books on 2009 once and for all.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sump pump installation update

When our basement was flooded in March, I mentioned that I wasn't terribly confident in the Utilitech pump we were sold by the guys that did the emergency pump out and temporary sump pump install for us. While it got us out of a jam, it wasn't something that I wanted in place on a long term basis.

The company that performed the temporary install of my original sump pump (in a sump liner installed by the builder) did a bit of a sloppy job since the work was rushed as they did it while standing in a few inches of water at the time. They left me with a pump of questionable quality, sloppy PVC pipe joints with dripping glue, daylight shining through the hole they made for the sump pump outlet pipe in my concrete foundation wall, and a jury rigged length of leaf blower gutter extensions diverting the basement water from sump pump away from my foundation.

With that in mind, I began to plan my permanent sump pump install by doing some reading at the terrylove.com forums (which led to my earlier purchase of Toto Drake toilets) and by picking the brain of a retired pipe fitter (whose daughter I happen to be married to :D). The consensus was a 1/2 HP cast iron Zoeller Flow-Mate 98 sump pump with a Zoeller 30-0181 check valve (a valve which allows the water from the sump pump to flow through it in only one direction) and a short run of buried 1.5" PVC pipe to divert the water away from the house.

On a related note, if anyone out there is trying to decide what kind of sump pump to purchase, this basementsystems.com youtube video does a nice job of discussing what you should be looking for in a sump pump (properly sized, cast iron body, solid float switch type, screen-less intake, etc.) and while the presenter doesn't actually mention brand names in the video, the pump he recommends at the end is a cast iron Zoeller pump:

Now, on to the work...

Unable to find the model pump I wanted locally, I ordered the Zoeller pump and check valve from irawoods.com for about $205, who took a few weeks to ship my order due to the high demand for sump pumps (I actually received the pump 5 days after the date of manufacture stamped on the housing). I also spent about $27 on 20 feet of 1.5" PVC pipe plus miscellaneous fittings, a pointing trowel, and a small bucket of hydraulic cement at Home Depot to complete the install.

Once I had my materials gathered, I cleaned all of the water and debris out my sump liner and installed my new pump and check valve in it. Next I dug a small trench out in the yard for the run of 1.5" PVC pipe that would divert the water from the sump pump away from the foundation, assembled, glued, and tested the drain line, and backfilled the trench. Finally, some white oakum was packed between the PVC pipe and the hole in my foundation wall and the rest of the void was filled on both sides of the foundation with hydraulic cement. Amazing, all this glim and glam for the grand sum of about $232 plus some sweat equity! ;)

After one final test, I verified that my new pump installation was working well (and more quietly to boot!). While I was at it, I installed an inexpensive Reliance Controls THP205 Sump Pump Alarm and picked up a First Alert Radon Test Kit for a little more peace of mind. Similarly, I will have my old sump pump on standby in case I have a problem with my Zoeller pump.

We've also had the contractor start work dealing with our sinkholes by removing the buried stumps out of our property. More details (and pictures) to follow.