Sitting Pretty bids farewell

After nearly four years of blogging, I’m officially retiring Sitting Pretty. Since 2006 my posts have always first appeared over at Queercents before being published here. As life gets busier, I’m less motivated to maintain this blog for the mere sake of archiving my personal content.

If you’re still interested in following along, then you can read my posts at this link or feel free to bookmark it here:

Or better yet, just subscribe to the Queercents feed and you’ll be able to read my posts along with the growing number of Queercents writers… We’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going shopping without coupons!

Be well and prosper.

Happy ending to Fertility and Finances category

Fertility treatments: $15,600

Sperm donor and other fees: $5,000

Three IVF procedures: $34,400

Deciding to Adopt: $30,000

Becoming a parent: Priceless

Since many of you followed our story (fertility and finances) over the last couple of years, I wanted to let readers know that our darling newborn arrived on Monday. His name is Sam. We’re home now and everyone is healthy, happy and eating every three hours.

Spending $85,000 never felt better.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.

Ten Money Questions for Cooper Smith

Cooper Smith is the editor-in-chief & publisher of Gay List Daily, a snarky, but superbly useful e-zine that boasts daily editions. I’ve dubbed it the DailyCandy for homosexuals. Cooper, who leads a public relations firm in his spare time, is the master at getting the word out on all things gay.

After all, just look at his Queercents endorsement: “Did you know that when the economy is down, booze sales go up? Shake yourself a martini and log on now!” Spot on suggestion! Now, we’ve turned the spotlight around and asked for his comments on all things money. List away…

Mosey on over to Queercents to read more or catch other interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

Equity Line of Credit: Seek Other Financial Shelter

“As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.” – Charles O. Prince, III, former CEO of Citigroup

Earlier this year, the HELOC on our Newport Beach home was reduced to practically nothing and the line on one of my rental properties was suspended completely. Both notices came as a result of the decline in home values.

I could argue that our house in Newport still has equity – covering at least, if not more, than the original amount of the equity line. In order to reinstate it, we would need to hire Citibank’s exclusive appraiser (LSI) at our cost – which back then was quoted at $750. But even if I went through this whole process, Citibank could rescind the reinstated credit line at any time according to the terms of the agreement since property values continue to decline.

After I wrote those posts, the blogosphere quickly took me to school about other people’s money. While I never used these lines of credit, I considered them part of my “peace of mind” strategy. That said, it’s nearly a year later and despite the warnings, I’m still here, paying my mortgage in Newport and on my rental properties.

So when the latest “your line of credit has been suspended” letter arrived the other day, I half glanced at it - out of curiosity - and to understand the current reasons. This HELOC (for $21,000 – and never used) was on a single family home I purchased in 2002 for $136,000. Recent / comparable sales in the neighborhood are in the $180,000 to $200,000 range. I owe $101,000 on the property – I have equity. But that’s not the problem.
This time they’re placing the blame – not on declining property values – but on Lehman Brother’s:
Dear Customer,

GreenPoint Mortgage Funding, Inc. services your home equity line of credit, which was sold to Lehman Brothers, Inc. some time ago. As the servicer, GreenPoint is responsible for temporarily advancing draws against your line of credit.

Lehman Brothers’ recent bankruptcy has created a situation where GreenPoint is not being reimbursed for those draws, making it imprudent for GreenPoint to continue advancing the funds. As a result, your line of credit has been suspended.

We appreciate how well you have managed your account, and we sincerely apologize for this inconvenience.
The reckless days of lending are finally over although the letter ended with this provision:
We may still allow line advances in cases of extreme financial hardship. If you believe you qualify, or it you have any question, please contact us at…
I’m sure GreenPoint will be getting a lot of calls this week. Of course, not from me. My peace of mind is banked in other places these days. What about you? Feel free to comment over at Queercents.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.

Life Insurance: More dependents, more premium

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works is the family.” – Lee Iacocca

With the birthmother due in mid-December, our baby’s arrival is just around the corner. We saw her over the long weekend and if looks are the last signal, then it could be any day now. Jeanine and I came home and blitzed the house in final preparation.

We’re geared up: Yesterday, a friend stopped over with her 7-month-old and when it came time to change her diaper we took the nursery for a trial run. Our set up worked perfectly and appears to be adequately equipped. One diaper down!

There are a few other loose ends… mostly the kind that involve paperwork. Upping our life insurance policy is one of them. When I was single, I never carried life insurance because I had enough in savings to cover the final expenses to put me in the ground.

After Jeanine and I purchased our current home, we became more financially intertwined (thus dependent on each other) and this is when we first bought life insurance policies. It was term insurance… don’t get snookered into buying whole life. After all, the purpose of life insurance is really just to keep a person financially afloat if his or her partner passes on. Life insurance is meant to buy someone time… preferable enough time to cut expenses or find another partner that would bring in the missing income. Jeanine likes to remind me that the additional income scenario sounds better to her than cutting expenses. Apparently, we are all replaceable!

Now with the baby on its way, this topic seems even more important and begs the question: how much insurance do we need? Just like with retirement calculators, there are different formulas for figuring out the right amount. Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar writes:

If you have child dependents, though, that’s when you really need good life insurance coverage. Take out a sheet of paper, find your last Social Security benefits statement, and do this calculation: calculate 90% of your salary, subtract your dependent Social Security benefit from that, then divide that amount by 0.08. That number is roughly what you should have in life insurance if you have any dependent children.

Here’s an example. Freddy has a wife, a child, and an $85,000 a year job. His Social Security statement reveals that his dependent benefit is about $11,000 a year. So Freddy calculates 90% of his salary ($76,500), subtracts his dependent’s benefits (leaving $65,500), and divides that amount by 0.08 to get $818,750 in term life insurance.
Using Trent’s method, my calculation is three times more than the policy I currently have today. And Jeanine’s policy is half the amount that I have. We figured since I travel worldwide for my job, there is a greater risk of tragedy for me (e.g. consider the recent events in Mumbai). Jeanine dislikes talking about these matters… but I’m practical and a realist and it actually makes me feel less uneasy about the unknown knowing that we have planned properly. For Jeanine… this conversation just leads to the hebejebes.

But it’s really important to discuss and take action; especially now that we have this tiny bundle of joy completely dependent on us. Yes, we’re under insured and I’ll be calling our State Farm rep this week. That said, the amount we need is varies widely depending on the person dishing out the advice. For example, Suze Orman suggests:

Most people should get a 20-year level term policy that has a value equal to 20 times the amount of annual income your family needs to live securely.
Twenty times my annual income? Other personal finance authors say at least 8 times your annual income. So what’s the right amount? I’m curious to learn what other parents have done so please feel free to comment below.

In closing, I was searching GetRichSlowly for J.D. Roth’s take on this topic and found this guest post that came with a different reminder:

You are more likely to get sick during your working years than you are to die during the same period, so take care of that first.
So this means I should really be thinking about my disability insurance first or at least in parallel. How much disability insurance do we need? Is the offer that I get from employer enough? Probably not, since short-term disability benefits are typically better than the long-term ones. One more thing to add to the list of baby preparation… but it’s a list I’m happy to make! We are so excited about the arrival of our little dependent. Life is good… even when it requires paying for more insurance!

Photo credit: stock.xchng.