Category Archives: Budget

Thinking About Retirement Savings… as a Married Couple

My husband and I have very different financial philosophies. He spends very little and keeps his savings in a bank account. I spend too much but given my income have managed to save quite a bit — and I aggressively invest my savings in index funds, stocks, and alternatives.

Together, we have about $550k in savings, with $443 of that in my investment accounts ($235.5k in retirement included in that), and about $100k in his bank accounts. Over the last few years he has been investing in a Roth IRA, so he probably has about $10k in retirement savings to his name. As a married couple, he’s no longer eligible for an IRA, and he is an independent contractor, so I’ve done some digging into how he can increase his retirement savings, you know, before we retire. Continue reading

2016 Spending

Although I saved a substantial sum in 2016, I definitely overspent in many areas. It was the year of my wedding so even though my parents contributed a sizable sum to the event, I splurged and spent too much on it outside of their contribution. We did a small “mini moon” which also cost something, but in 2017 we will splurge on a bigger international honeymoon. Here is a quick overview of how my spending went into 2016…

Income (after tax and 401k): $112.4k
Spending: $81.2k
(remaining / savings: $31.2k + $18k  (401k) = $49.2k saved)

Auto & Transport: $5.1k
Bills & Utilities: $1.5k
Education: $2.2k
Entertainment: $1.37k
Fees: $443
Food: $11.7k (yikes)
Gifts: $1.67k
Health: $5.4k (not counting insurance)
Home (rent and home things): $17.3k
Personal Care: $4k
Shopping: $14.8k
Wedding: $9.6k
Travel: $6.2k Continue reading

Budgeting with 50/20/30 Guideline

As I work to be better at budgeting, I searched the Internet for strategies for how much I should be spending on various items each month. I like the 50/20/30 strategy which seems reasonable and maybe even do-able.

Basically, you split your after-tax, after-401k take-home income into 3 buckets:

50% – fixed expenses
20% – financial goals
30% – variable expenses

So my after-tax income (now that I’ve maxed out my 401k for the year) is $9500. That breaks down to:

$4750 fixed
$1900 financial goals
$2850 variable expenses
Continue reading

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August Net Worth and Budget Report

Spending has been getting a bit carried away this summer – and I need to get it back in check as I begin to seriously contemplate a very drastic career change (requiring a major paycut and possibly additional schooling.)

In August, my net worth was relatively flat at $394k (this includes my car worth estimate, so I’m really considering my net worth to be $386k.) My goal for the year is $400k, which leaves 4 months to save $14k. On my current income, if I stop being SO HORRIBLE at giving in to overspending, that should be very do-able. However, I will likely leave my job in October or November, meaning that most of the saving has to happen in September. This month can’t look like last month. I’m embarrassed how much I spent! Continue reading

New Unemployment/Unemployed Budget

Well. Here I am. Unemployed. Since I received no severance and was not eligible for payout of any PTO (side effect of the supposed unlimited vacation perk), I’m left with my final paycheck and waiting for unemployment to (hopefully) kick in.

When you apply for unemployment they ask you a whole host of questions and I’m concerned I won’t qualify, though I should. Even if I do qualify, it’s a whopping $1800 a month (before taxes) and they make you wait a week to start claiming, so the first month is actually more like $1350 for the month. And $1350 is about how much I pay in rent. Thank goodness I’ve been somewhat smart about saving this year (I knew the job was not going to last long given how I performed with the heaping of anxiety and lack of sleep brought on by a very non-supportive work environment and a long commute I should have never signed on for in the first place.)

I thought it would be a good time to check in regarding my networth and budget. My networth goal for this year was $400k but that was a stretch to begin with (a $100k increase from 2014 including savings and interest.) Right now, counting all my assets I’m at about $350k – which isn’t bad considering the way the markets have performed this year to date. I’m sure with some better investments and less stress spending I’d be a little closer to my initial goal, but not by enough that it would really be meaningful. I have to take a moment and applaud myself for reaching $350k networth. Even though it’s not the big $500k, $350k feels sizable enough to merit a moment of self congratulations. For some reason, this amount makes me feel better about my lack of job stability due to my mental illness. While I can’t touch all that money immediately, and after taxes it would be less, if I was desperate there’s enough there to get through my own personal instances of deep depression (yeay bipolar life.) I don’t feel secure enough yet to have kids, or quite frankly, to get married (which is happening this spring anyway), but I feel like this is an accomplishment of some sort I can be secretly proud of… especially given that just 10 years ago I had about $5k to my name and was basically living paycheck to paycheck.

Here’s how the $350k breaks down:

  • $27.5k – cash
  • -$46 – credit debts
  • $153.5k – stocks (taxable)
  • $178.3k – retirement funds
  • $6.5k – 529 / grad school fund
  • $8k – approx car value

Now, my goal for the rest of the year, revised, is to end the year above $350k. This just brings me back to my older goals of saving $50k a year – which I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I though this year given my income increase I could save a whole lot more, but you know, markets fluctuate so much, and maybe I actually bought enough stock “on sale” this year that I’ll have a really good 2016. Who knows.

The trick at this point is not significantly dipping into my cash to live between my current job and my next job… especially since I don’t know when said next job will start (or what it will be.) The $1350/$1800 a mo in unemployment is barely enough to cover standard recurring expenses, so I’ll have to dip into my savings a bit. I’m hoping that by Dec 1 I have a job so this leaves me with just 1.5 months of unemployment, which shouldn’t hurt too much. With the wedding coming up, and all the expenses for that, I really, really, really need a job – even though I admit it’s nice to have a few weeks to just stop and focus on planning this crazy event since the lack of time to do that was also stressing me out.

But I want to plan for “worst case scenerio” 3 months without a job. I’ll give myself 3 months to find something I really think I can be good at – because the last thing I want to do right now is to jump into a position where my anxiety will get to me again. I’m hoping to find something with a bit more flexible work environment – the amount of work I can get done at home in a quiet space far surpasses what I can do in some horrible open office environment filled with stress-inducing distractions. I’ve made a pact with myself that I’m not going to apply for things I know I’ll ultimately fail at given the work environment. I also am probably going to apply to grad school because I know the field I’m in now rarely meets my minimum requirements for sanity, so despite the great pay, I think I need to take a break from chasing income and now start to actually plan for sustainability. In short, I can’t be crazy mommy who gets fired from her job every year – my future kids don’t need to see that. I want them to see me in my best state – one where I actually like my job more or less. Not the me who I am now. I would never want them to see that person.

So I’m assuming I will need to spend about $2000 a month additional from my savings in order to cover everything from gas to get to job interviews to food to grad school applications to a potential trip home to the east coast to spend some quality time with family when I have the time (dad’s cancer isn’t getting better and despite that he drives me nutso whenever I see him I always think – will this be the last time?) So… say I have $5k of my savings to spend over the next 3 months… give or take. That puts me at roughly $350k at the end of the year – but I’d then be worried I couldn’t find another job. I know that I have some talent and abilities… but I just need to figure out where and how to apply them in a way where someone will pay me money to do so, and I won’t flip out after 3 months or so feeling like I’m so overwhelmed but the piles of things to do and not be able to prioritize those things or even know where to start. Yes, this is the life of a woman who has super anxiety, bipolar II and ADHD. I’m not saying those are excuses for anything – I take full responsibility for losing this job, for falling into the same pattern. But there’s a part of it that is just inherently who I am. I’m different than most people, that’s for sure. I just need to figure out where I fit.

And I’m going to be 32 in a month, which is – such an adult. My body definitely feels like I’m in my 30s — I pinched a nerve a week ago and my back and arm are still in pain. If I don’t sleep a full 8 hours a night I feel it for many days later. And don’t get me started on drinking / hangovers, oy. That’s just to say that I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a full grown adult. Looking around at my apartment I have to stop and wonder if this is what I pictured adulthood to be like. Well, I never actually envisioned myself as an adult. Maybe that’s part of the problem. But when I envisioned adulthood as a general concept, it certainly didn’t look like this — unfinished apartment, used couch that’s falling apart, bike in the corner of the living room because there’s no where else to keep it, a career that doesn’t feel right at all, getting married (ok that’s a start) to a man who also doesn’t have much of anything figured out yet either, to a long life ahead of me that I imagine will poof suddenly transform into one filled with maturity once I have my own kids (I know it doesn’t happen that way, I just like to think there’s some kind of inciting incident to finally growing up.)

Oh well. Today, I just need to focus on not dipping in too deep to my savings this year, and ultimately continuing on to my “round 1” $500k goal. That was supposed to happen next year. It won’t. But maybe I’ll get there before I’m 40.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biggest Purchases in My Life

I’m turning 32 in a few months, and I’m looking at my overall networth and if it could be higher right now if I had not made some “big” purchases. Really, though, it would be higher if I didn’t make all of the small purchases!

  • $17,000 – second car, paid for all cash (used from a dealer) — I don’t love this car, I wish I picked another, but it’s fine and safe
  • $16,000 – stock in private company (purchased stock options), worth $0 today (insert frown face here)
  • $10,000 – DUI fine, legal fees, et al. Worst expenditure in my life, for many reasons.
  • $8000 – first car, paid for all cash (used from a craigslist seller) — lasted me about 7 years, was a great car (V6!) and I miss it; probably could have lasted longer but it ended up not starting and getting towed from my parking space, wasn’t worth paying to get it out of the pound. Should have been able to sell it for at least $1000, so that was a waste.
  • $4500 – invisible braces, cosmetic and somewhat health related, so far worth it but I wish it wasn’t so expensive!
  • $4000 – “unlimited” laser hair removal — WORTH IT — though the place changed owners and “unlimited” was more like “limited”

Those are really all of my big purchases in life thus far outside of college and my annual rent ($16,200 a year for my share of a 1br.) Oh, and of course about $300k in actual stock… I guess you can say that’s a purchase.

Looking at spending $40k+ on my wedding in comparison seems kind of nutso, even if my parents are contributing a large chunk of that.

What are the biggest purchases you’ve made in your life?

Getting my Finances in Order – End of Year Edition

I understand why the rich have personal CFAs to help them manage their finances. Trying to do this properly and have a 24/7 full-time job is a bit chaotic… I can’t imagine making sense of this with kids to boot. For now I have a few free hours each week to make sure I’m keeping on budget, investing the right amount towards my retirement, and paying off bills so I don’t generate any nasty late fees or dings to my credit.

At the moment, the big question is when to pay for what. I’d like to hire a CFA to help me understand this, but think that any savings I see via the CFAs advice would be washed out and then some via the CFAs fee. If someone is super rich then whatever a CFA charges will not be more than their savings gained via the outside expertise, but when we’re taking tens or hundreds of dollars it’s unclear to me if there’s value in bringing in outside help. I really want to make myself an expert so I can make the best choices, but that, again, is not possible with a full-time job.

Right now the biggest question is December spending. I typically play my cards to save up a chunk of cash at the end of each calendar year so I can splurge, so to speak, on my 401k in the first months of the next year. I never have faith I can keep my job for the entirety of the year (the reality of startup life) nor do I have faith my next position will have access to a 401k. There are also various reasons why investing earlier in the year is better vs later, though a lot depends on the stock market performance (i.e. if stock market is sucking at end of previous year then odds are it will start to go up at some point so investing early is important, vs if stocks are performing well like they are now and a downward run seems more likely, so dollar cost averaging over the course of the year is the better way to go.) (*this is my theory and not validated in any shape or form.)

The other open question is how much to put towards my Roth IRA this year. I’m going to be on the line where my contributions are reduced, but I’m really not clear by how much because I’ve held so many different jobs this year – not to mention have dividends and stock sales coming from multiple accounts – and I haven’t done a good job in keeping track of my total earnings. This is where I’m confused as to whether I should just max out my Roth IRA and then deal with recharacterizing before Oct 15, 2015 (and likely have to hire a CFA for this) or just stay well under the limit and accept I’ll probably miss out on some future tax savings (though at my income level who knows if Roth IRAs really hold any value anyway.)

I’m also questioning what to do with my $600 doctor’s bill because I’m waiting for my COBRA to kick in (I sent in paperwork but apparently did it wrong so had to re-send it in.) The actual COBRA costs $800 for the two months so now I’m wondering if I should just pay the bill and have a lapse in coverage – need to do more research into how bad that actually is. I have insurance now through work, but I would be facing the lapse if I don’t legally backdate the COBRA with that $800 payment, which is only $200 or so more than what I owe anyway…

Meanwhile I owe my boyfriend a good $12,000 because he’s been paying my chunk of the rent over the last year. I only don’t feel bad about that because he has most of his money sitting in a checking account (talk about risk adverse) and I’m investing this loan and will pay him back slowly. Given how much it will cost us to buy a house every dollar matters and having thousands of dollars sitting in a bank. At least last year I convinced him to start a Roth IRA.

You know, these are all first world problems but they’re problems nonetheless. I’m going to create a new post to go live tomorrow on how I’m going to manage this mess of my December 2014 finances.

The Wedding Planner – How Much Should a Wedding Cost?

Weddings are a big business. I’ve been to weddings of all sizes and costs — some small and in local parks — others large in luxury city banquet halls. Looking back on the weddings, besides respective heat from being in a park outdoors with no shade, the actual cost of the event does not influence my own review of the event. What I personally remember most is the love the partners shared for each other, the kind words the family said, and how much fun was had by all.

So why is my own wedding budget suddenly increasing from $30,000 to $50,000? Even $30,000 sounds absolutely ridiculous. I have two very conflicting POVs in my mind at the moment and it’s a challenge to find a balance that makes sense.

My parents WANT to pay up to $50,000 for a wedding, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous in my mind. Regardless of how much they pay (and especially if they pay $50k) then it becomes THEIR wedding and not my wedding. At least they’re fairly flexible on some things, but my mother is starting to bring up all the horrific things her mother did at her wedding and, unfortunately, my mother is not the type to think “this means I should not do them to my own daughter” and instead sees this as an opportunity to do the same (*at least she claims she will not force herself onto our honeymoon, which her own mother did.) Continue reading

2014 Budget: Getting Serious

Based on my aggressive financial goals documented here ($500k by 1/1/18), and my 105% increase in monthly rent starting this month (le sigh), I need to stop my shopping trips to the mall and get serious about my budget. The time for fun comes when I obtain a larger percentage of my bonus or if the stock markets start to track faster to goal then planned. Right now, it’s time to be relatively frugal in the first-world-I-still-think-I-get-paid-too-much sense.

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 12.10.59 PM This chart documents my budget plan for May going forward. I don’t actually think it’s reasonable but in order to hit my goals I have to focus on sticking to plan. If I force myself I know I can, and my bf is on board with figuring out how to save each month and help me achieve my goals as well. We’re going to start cooking together so it will be interesting to see what sharing household costs 50/50 does for my budget.

This budget plan keeps me above water monthly while also enabling $3k to be invested into the stock market and $1.4k to go to – also stocks – in my 401k. It’s a little off balance because I’ve actually already maxed out my 401k this year, so in reality I’ll be putting $4.4kish into the stock market (Vanguard funds mostly, maybe 80% ($3500) Vanguard (split between dividend growth fund and international fund) and 20% not-too-risky individual stocks for the fun of it. I’d like to get to $10k in my Vanguard funds ASAP to get their lower cost ratios (just turned my mid-cap fund into admiral going from .26% expenses to .1%, woohoo.) Continue reading

Somewhat Aggressive Financial Goal Setting

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Science tells us that when we set goals we’re more likely to accomplish them. It has been with the help of starting this blog that I’ve managed to grow my networth from less than $25k to over $250k. Now the stakes are raised.

My next big goal is $500k by 2018.

Fortunately, I’ve found myself in a career that pays reasonably well. I could be making more money, but I’ve also found that, as many of the finance gurus say, it’s not about how much you make but how much you keep. I’ll never claim to be a frugalista, but I’ve managed to control my spending to the point where my savings have grown into a sizeable nestegg for anyone who doesn’t live in such an expensive region of the world. Here, where average starter homes cost $1.2M, it’s slightly more than pocket change, but it’s a start.

Readjusting My Savings Goals for the Mid-Long Term

Previously in Mint I had three goals set up for the short term. I track my retirement accounts under one goal, my taxable investments and liquid cash under another, and then my college savings account (529 plan) in another (just because that’s an oddball I set up once in case I ever want to go back to school, but I’m not investing any more in at the moment.) Continue reading