The Coronavirus and my 2020 Plans

This post was originally planned in December and was going to be about my planned around the world trip for Summer 2020 and my other plans for 2020. I procrastinated so long on writing this post that current events have made the plans I was certain of in December 2019 to be rather doubtful now.

Last November I found a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo for just 16k Delta Miles. That is a great bargain since the price is usually at least double. It was too good of a deal for me to pass up. Since I already had plans to hike on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) right after the end of tax season I booked the ticket to Japan for the first week of June, giving me a little over a month to hike and prepare for my Japan trip. Since I was planning so early I was able to select a bulkhead seat for just $40. On a transpacific flight having the extra legroom that you get with a bulkhead seat is easily worth $40. My plan at that time was to buy a cheap ticket from Japan to Thailand leaving after about a week in Japan.

I had over 60k in Virgin Atlantic miles from a credit card signup so I started looking at my options to use those miles to get home from Thailand. The drawback to using Virgin Atlantic miles is that they tack on huge fees and surcharges from most destinations. After doing some research I discovered that I could fly with them from Hong Kong to London for just 22,500 miles and about $40 in fees. That gave me the idea to make this trip an around the world trip and I booked that flight leaving in early September.

Later I booked a flight from Japan to Singapore in business class on Japan Airlines. After a six hour layover I continue on from Singapore to Bangkok in Cathay Pacific business class. I was able to book both of these flights as one business class ticket using 30k American Airlines miles I had from another credit card sign up bonus. I thought this was a fantastic deal since it would be my first time experiencing long haul business class and I’d get to experience business class on two different airlines with highly rated business class. Additionally, I’d get to enjoy the business class lounge in Tokyo and Singapore. I also wanted to see Singapore Changi airport since it is a tourist attraction itself.

When I booked the first two flights I hadn’t even heard of the coronavirus. When I booked the third flight the coronavirus was in the news, but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal yet. Now it is a pretty big deal and might derail my travel plans for the Summer. I’ve delayed booking any more flights or hotels. It is still over two months before my trips begins so perhaps the situation will be better by then. I still plan on going on this trip as long as travel as still allowed to Japan and Thailand and the spread of the disease isn’t significantly worse there at that time. By the time I leave the coronavirus might be a bigger concern here in the U.S. then in the countries I’m visiting.

Although many airlines have announced fee waivers for ticket changes, none of them have extended the fee waiver to June yet. If I do decide it is unsafe to travel and have to cancel my trip I’m hoping they will have extended the fee waiver by then. All I can do now is wait and see what happens.

If I do cancel my Asia trip, I intend to extend my hiking trip. Instead of going one month, I will hike for two months. If I hike for two months, that should be long enough for me to finally finish hiking the A.T. I’d be pretty happy if I accomplished that. Also, if I cancel my Summer Asia trip, I intend to make an Asia trip in Winter instead. It would be nice to be in sunny Thailand while it is freezing back here in Missouri.

My other plan for 2020 is buying a house. My mom wants me to buy a house with her. She would basically be giving me the 1/3 of the house that I’d one day inherit now. I’d have a small mortgage to get me from being a 1/3 owner to a 1/2 owner. This would be a great deal for me financially. There are still a lot of details we need to figure out. We were planning to do this in the Fall after I returned from my trip. If I end up canceling my trip, we will buy the house sooner.

Although buying the house would be a good deal for me financially, I’m not 100% certain I want to do it. One reason for that is that I don’t especially want to live in that small town or even in Missouri. I’ve been wanting to live somewhere warmer, like Florida, for several years, but have never made the move. Buying a house would ensure that it would be a long time before I made that move. Another reason is that my mom can be rather bossy, and I can see her unilaterally making all the decisions regarding the house and coming up with lots of projects around the house for me to do. Overall, I think the positives of buying the house outweigh the negatives, but I’m going to think about it some more before making a final decision.

That is my 2020 plans for now, uncertain as they are. What are your 2020 plans? Would you visit Asia this summer?

My Depression History

The last couple of months I have been battling with depression. I’m happy to report that I appear to be over this bout of depression. The last few days I’ve been in a pretty good mood. Sunday, I even felt energetic enough to give my apartment a good cleaning. Although I like having things nice and neat I dislike actual cleaning tasks such as sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing. Those things don’t get done when I’m depressed. Thus, the fact that is swept and mopped my entire apartment, and scrubbed the sink, shower, and toilet is an indicator that I’m no longer depressed.

This bout of depression set in a few days after I returned from Thailand. After returning from Thailand I moved back to KC to the basement studio apartment I lived in last year. The apartment was worse than I remembered. I had planned to start working at my document review job after returning to KC. It soon became clear that it was going to be a while before they had a position for me. I think the combination of those two things contributed to the onset of this bout of depression.

I’ve been depressed before. I’m not referring to “the blues” or being a little sad. I’m referring to clinical depression. I’ve battled with depression since I was a teenager. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I was first diagnosed with depression. I was lucky at that time to be able to participate in a psychological study to help with my depression. The study involved using cognitive behavioral therapy to treat the depression. I was skeptical that it would be effective, but I do believe it helped a little. That bout of depression did eventually go away even though I quit the study.

When I was in law school I became depressed again. The plus to becoming depressed in law school is that it isn’t that uncommon and they have resources available to deal with it. At my 1L law school the doctor put me on Lexapro and I had a couple of therapy sessions. It was the last month of the school year when I went to the doctor and got diagnosed with depression. That prevented me from being able to continue with the therapy. The Lexapro didn’t seem to have any effect on me. As far as I was concerned I might as well have been taking a sugar pill. Shortly, after my IL year ended I quit taking the Lexapro. That turned out to be a big mistake since my depression got even worse.

I transferred to a new law school for my 2L year. I didn’t seek out any treatment for my depression at the new school. It didn’t seem like the treatment did any good and I was embarrassed to admit I couldn’t fix my depression. After almost failing out of law school my 2L year I admitted to my academic adviser that I was depressed and I was referred to the school’s clinic. They psychiatrist there put me on another medication. I don’t remember the name of that medication, but it also had no effect on me.

After a dosage increase in the first medication still didn’t produce any results the doc put me on Wellbutrin. That medicine did have an effect on me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good effect. It made me feel drugged and fuzzy all the time. I didn’t take that medicine very long and refused to try any other medications.

I continued going to therapy for about a year more. I didn’t feel like it helped much. I eventually quit going as the depression went away.

I’m not sure why my depression went away this time. I think the chemicals in my brain get back in balance after a while. Getting them back in balance is largely out of my control. Things like exercise, eating healthy, and being productive help with the depression. Of course, those are all things I find very hard to do when I’m depressed. Now that I’m over this bout of depression I will try to exercise, eat healthy, and keep busy to hopefully lessen my chances of suffering another bout of depression.

To tie this in to personal finance I will add that depression has cost me a lot of money. It has kept from working long term at a job and building a career. I should have made a lot more money in my life at this point than I have. It was a factor in me switching law schools from a top 25 law school to a tier 3 law school and barely graduating from the tier 3 school. I think it was also a factor in the gambling addiction I had in my 20’s which resulted in bankruptcy. I lost thousands of dollars more even after the bankruptcy. Those are just a few of the ways depression has cost me money.

There is nothing I can do about how depression has affected me in the past. I just need to be sure that if I ever have another bout of depression that I don’t delay treating it.

Beating the Summer Doldrums

I’ve been back from my hike for over three weeks now and the Summer Doldrums have started. I have been extremely lazy since coming back from my hike. First, I took a few days to relax and get settled. Then I went and visited a friend at his lake house for a couple of days and afterwards visited my mom for a few days. I returned home last Friday and I have not motivated myself to get much done since returning.

Some of the reasons I took a sabbatical from my job this year was to lose weight/get healthy and to work on my blog/develop other sources of income. I have managed to lose a few pounds, but that has stalled out the last couple of weeks and I know I should be doing much better. I haven’t done any work on this blog. Since returning from my hike the only posts I’ve published are my monthly income and expense posts that I publish every month. Now that I have time I should be publishing more  posts and trying to improve this blog.

Right now, since I don’t have to do anything it is very easy for me to do nothing. I have no problem filling a day with various wastes of time such as reading random articles on the internet, watching Netflix, going to the movies, reading books and magazines, watching random YouTube clips, etc. I don’t get bored with my random time wasters. However, my enjoyment of them does decrease as I spend more time doing them. These time wasters would be more fun if I did them after spending a few hours working.

There are a couple of things I’m going to try to start being reasonably productive. One is that I’m going to stop claiming unemployment. Having that steady supply of income gives me less incentive to try to develop other sources of income. I may have a temp job soon. If the temp job doesn’t happen, I will drive for Uber, do Amazon FBA, work on the blog, and work on other sources of self-employment income.

The other thing I need to do is to work as soon as I get up in the morning.  If I decide to relax in the morning with the plan of working later in the day the odds are very good that I won’t get anything done that day. If I start off the day working or otherwise being productive I usually continue working for most of the day. I need to remind myself of this every morning when I’m deciding whether I should go out for a leisurely breakfast or go for a run/drive for Uber/write a blog post. If I go out to breakfast the day is probably shot. If I do one of the other things I’ll get stuff done and still have time for a leisurely meal later in the day. This is going to be a continuing battle, but I do not want to let this summer get away from me. This time off is a great opportunity and I do not want to waste it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If you’re not able to leave a comment please let me know via email/Twitter/Facebook. The comments appear to be working correctly on my end, but I’ve had a lot of problems keeping them working this year and I’d like to know for sure if they are working correctly or not.

Working and Comments are Fixed

This year I am working a slightly different position at my tax job. Although I’m doing a lot of the same things I was doing in previous years I also have a bit of a supervisory role. The new position didn’t come with a raise, but it did come with unlimited overtime during tax season. I’m currently scheduled for 10 hour days M-F and 7 hours on Saturday. I can usually take off an hour or so early on one weekday. There are other days that I end up working over 10 hours. It ends up with me working about 60 hours a week. For me, working 60 hours a week isn’t much worse than working 40 hours a week. Either way I am not going to feel like doing anything except relaxing after work. The plus side of the 60 hours a week is that I get paid 20 hours overtime for the week. Friday will be my first paycheck with the 60 hour weeks so I’m looking forward to seeing how much that will be.

Since I’m working so much I don’t feel like spending much time blogging after work. Not that I was doing a lot of blogging before.  I’ll keep the usual monthly income and expense posts coming and try to get more other posts published the next couple of months.

I also wanted to let people know that if they had problems commenting on the blog in the past couple of months they should be able to comment now. The comment spam plugin I was using seemed to block everybody. It only took me a couple of months of no comments to figure that out. I’ve gotten a few comments since removing the plugin so comments seem to be working correctly now.

Paris Vacation and Other News

paris eiffel tower There haven’t been many posts this month since I started my tax job. I know a lot of people work full-time jobs and keep blogs going, but once I’m done with a day of work I don’t feel like doing anything. I procrastinated so long there is no point in doing my net worth post this month because it is almost next month. Starting this week I will have one day off during the week and Sundays off. My plan is to do any blogging on my weekday off. The job is going about as well as could be expected.  The main thing I don’t like about this job is that I have to be there forty hours a week. That is a problem with about any job I would work. Next season I might be able to snag a remote position. I think the job would be a lot more palatable if I were able to work from home. The main reason I’m working this job is to build up a nice cushion of money. I didn’t have any specific plans for using the money other than a hope to travel some this year.

I now have something to spend that money on. Last week I booked a flight for me and my GF to Paris where she will stay ten days and I will stay twenty-three. The Paris trip came about due to there being some super cheap flights from Boston to Paris. I was able to book a round-trip ticket for $324. I booked the flight through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal using my Sapphire Preferred card which gives me 1.5 my points when they are used for travel. That meant I only had to use about $215 worth of points to book the ticket. I was able to book both of our tickets using my credit card points and I still have enough points left for another $1500 of travel. Most of the points came from the very generous credit card sign up bonus. Credit card spending for my FBA business helped boost my points quite a bit as well. We’re using Southwest points to get from Kansas City to Boston.  I now have to come up with a plan to cover our hotel for the trip. My GF and I both just signed up for a credit card that will give us each two free nights. That will take care of four nights so we’ll need to cover six more nights. I’m considering booking a place through AirBnB. Their prices are pretty cheap compared to a hotel and they would be very convenient. There is still plenty of time before I have to decide on that.

In addition to the flight and hotel there will be the cost of seeing the various sights, local transportation, food and other stuff. I’ll try to get deals on that stuff too. Since I got such a good deal on airfare I can probably splurge a little on that stuff and still have a relatively low-budget vacation so I won’t worry about getting deals too much. If any of  you have tips on what we should and shouldn’t do while in Paris I would love to hear them.