Category Archives: Savings

Money is an Easier Goal than Happiness

Since 2007, I’ve been writing, on an off, for HerEveryCentCounts. I was reading another 20-something-year-old’s blog and was massively jealous of her networth that was around $250k. I thought about my massive savings account totaling $7k and how my part-time job and internship were not even making it possible to break even every month. I learned a lot about personal finance and got myself a Roth IRA account. I started investing. I pushed myself to increase my income year-over-year. I got to the point, a few years ago, where I made a goal for myself to hit $50k in networth growth, year over year.

What’s crazy is that, after a lifetime of never focusing on one thing long enough to achieve my goals, and even with my life consistently crumbling around me due to my bipolar depression, I managed to hit my fiscal goals time and again. Nothing else made me quite as happy as seeing my networth increase every month in my OCD spreadsheets. I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to investing, but I kept on putting money into the stock market, especially when it went down, and I saw my networth grow.

At the end of last year when, on paper, I reached $300k in networth, it felt like the biggest accomplishment in my life. I’ve never run a marathon or won a competition. I’ve never really done anything impressive. Hitting $300k at age 30, which was the goal I had set out for myself when I was 22 – at the time when it seemed completely impossible – was achieved. All of the ups and downs over the years seemed to be, at that moment, worth it. $300k wasn’t enough to retire on, but it wasn’t chump change. Suddenly my also unreasonable goal of $500k in networth before having children seemed possible, if I could just hang in there for a bit longer.

My boyfriend does not share in my money-obsessed ways. He saves a bit here and there, but he hasn’t invested any of his money outside of a Roth I convinced him to open when he turned 31. Meanwhile I’m throwing most of my earnings into the stock market, which is maybe dumb, but so far it’s worked out. As of Feb 15, my networth is ahead of monthly target towards my annual goal of $400k (this is the first year I’m trying to achieve $100k networth growth vs $50k.) As of Feb 15, I have $319k in networth. The stock market has performed quite well for the past few weeks, so this upward trend probably won’t last, and there will be pullbacks, but I’m excited to see that 1.5 months into the year I’m already trending towards my goal.

All I know is that I have to work hard for the next two to three years until I have my first child. There is no way in hell I can do the job I have now with children. I may have to change careers at that point, or at the least, accept a lower-paying job in order to be the mother I want to be. I’m strongly considering leaving my state and moving somewhere where I can purchase a nice house with a backyard for $500k, not $1.5M. My boyfriend is open to moving as well. It would be tough because it takes me a while to meet people, and at the least we have a few friends in the area, but I know if we stay in our region I will have to maintain my level of work and simultaneously raise a family. It’s just not going to happen. I see my friends who are parents who are either not working or working from home part time, and I can’t imagine how I would be able to keep my current job, or something like it, and also take care of a young kid.

While saving money, investing, and seeing my networth grow is exhilarating, at the end of the day, it’s my own little semi-secret. My parents still see me as this ongoing series of failures, jumping from job to job every few years. My boyfriend doesn’t care about my savings, which is good, but I don’t get any sort of extrinsic reward from his acknowledgement of my success. I guess that’s why I keep this blog to begin with, because it feels good to impress someone somewhere with my little fiscal victories, month over month, year over year. When you’re an adult no one really gives a shit about the amount of money you saved every month. I guess that’s why people buy fancy cars and big houses – because then it’s easy to show off your success. I don’t need to show it off, I want to be renowned for being the millionaire next door – one day – for being a woman who, despite suffering from crippling mental illness, has saved enough to be able to take breaks from work when depression hits, or when she wants to spend time with her future children instead of spending 10 hours per day working.

Then, I also realize it’s really dumb to want any sort of recognition for saving. Everyone does it. And my own saving has been made possible due to my parents paying for my college diploma, and my graduating without any loans. I’m too scared to dip into my networth to go to grad school, even if it means finding a career that I would be more naturally suited for, so I just hold my breath and hope I can last long enough to see another paycheck come through. I am well aware that my income, strong as it is right now, is likely short-lived. All I can do is push hard and save as much as possible each month — climbing as quickly as possible to my $500k goal.

I know $500k is an arbitrary number. It’s a lot of money but it really isn’t a heck of a lot of money. What $500k means to me is the ability to take a $60k a year job that is meaningful in a state where costs of living are lower, let the $500k grow and use the $60k to cover basic day-to-day costs, along with the income my boyfriend makes. $500k growing at 5% rate over 30 years is $2.1M. So if I can not touch my principal or the interest income until I’m 65, I’d have $2.5M in retirement. That’s how much I think I need for a comfortable retirement. And if it happens to grow at 8% YoY by 65 I’d have $6.3M in retirement.

So that’s why $500k is the magical number to hit before I can start doing things I actually want to do in my life… like being a mother, working part time building my own business, or writing for a local newspaper, or attempting to write my first science fiction novel. I still need to earn an income that covers my annual expenses, but I believe $500k is my version of financial freedom. I would still have to work, because I couldn’t tap into that money until retirement, but I’d be pretty much set as long as my average rate of annual return was at least 5%.

The exciting part of this picture is that the $500k by 32 IS possible, if I can succeed at my job and maintain my current salary for at least two years. I may come out of that with a head of grey hair and a heart attack or two, but I’ll be able to be the mother I want to be.

Feb 1 Networth Progress:

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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

Where to Get Good Finance Advice?

My parents never taught me the value of a dollar beyond it costing any sense of household calm that might have been. Today, they constantly complain about not having enough money, blaming the stock market for its poor performance over the last decade – which I find ironic since my father spent his career figuring out investment risk as a pension planner for major corporations. If he couldn’t see the crash coming, who could?

I definitely don’t turn to my parents for money advice, but other than the wild west of the Internet and self-help books with a lot of contradictory information, I don’t have one trusted resource to discuss the ins and outs of personal finance with. Not that most people do – I just wish I had someone who I could confide in about my financial concerns and questions. Continue reading

The Next 10 Years

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the next 2 years, up until turning 30, but I haven’t seriously thought out the next 10 years (other than I want to get married, buy a house, and have three kids.) I spent a few minutes thinking through what I really want over the next 10 years, and find it fascinating how I see myself, once having kids, significantly cutting back my work hours to spend time with my family. I still want to work, and possibly even work full time, but I cannot imagine working a job earning six-figures when I have kids. I think I’ll want to work 40 hrs/week max at that point, and ideally consult so I can work from home and spend time with my family.

What makes me nervous is that with this plan I only have $525k in networth by 38, and that’s if everything goes as planned where I can continue saving $50k per year until I have my first kid. This all freaks me out quite a bit, I wish there was a way to get to $500k before I get married and have kids!

 

Age 28. — 2012
$200k networth. Earn $100k+ for the year, save $50k.


Age 29. — 2013
$250k networth. Earn $110k+ for the year. Get married, move into 1br w/ bf.


Age 30. — 2014
$300k networth. Earn $120k+ for the year. Start trying to have my first kid.


Age 31. — 2015
$350k networth. Earn $130k+ for the year. Have my first kid.


Age 32. — 2016
$375k networth. Earn $50k for the year. Take time off to be with kid?


Age 33. — 2017
$400k networth. Earn $50k for the year. Consult.


Age 34. — 2018
$425k networth. Earn $50k for the year. Second kid.


Age 35. — 2019
$450k networth. Earn $50k for the year. Consult.


Age 36. — 2020
$475k networth. Earn $50k for the year. Third kid.


Age 37. — 2021
$500k networth. Earn $50k for the year. Buy a house?

Age 38. — 2022
$525k networth. Earn $50k for the year. Consult.

Selling GLD *Before* My Profits Are Too High

I’m not a day trader, or even a month trader. But I’ve started to realize if I want my portfolio to have any serious upside, I need to rebalance every now and again. I’ve sold off most of my cleantech investments including PBD, ENOC, and COMV, and put that money into a mix of large-cap tech companies (AAPL, CSCO), international funds (HAO, EWZ, EDIV), and food (MCD, CBOU, SBUX, WFM.)

Up until today, I’ve only sold small cap losses that seem to be destined for failure or, at best, growth after years of retreating even further, while that money could be in a large-cap dividend stock earning income. Today, however, I decided to sell one ETF where I have turned a profit.

So long GLD, at least from my taxable account. After making an early $500 investment in GLD I found out that gold, even in an ETF, is taxed at a collectors rate. That means 28% capital gains tax. Instead of letting my $500 sit in my taxable account (it is at about $900 now) I’ve decided to sell the 5 shares and move my investments into other funds that belong in my taxable accounts. And after today’s AAPL earnings news, I’m tempted to put the $900 into purchasing two more shares of the company that made the computer I’m currently writing on and the phone I’ll be making calls on in a few minutes. I only own 70-some odd shares of AAPL stock, my goal is to get to 100 shares before the company hits $500 a share. Since AAPL doesn’t pay dividends, this is the perfect company to hold in my taxable accounts.

Meanwhile, I invest regularly in GLD in my Roth IRA account. It seems GLD is fairly expensive right now (afterall, I nearly doubled my initial investment from just a few years ago) so I might hold on aggressively investing in it. My Roth account is my “play” account, since I can only put $5k in it per year. I put that mostly into high-dividend ETFs and rebalance by adding more funds in new sectors the following year. For instance, this year I’ve already invested about $2k into XLE (oil) and XRT (retail companies) as well as GLD. I only have $3k left for my Roth this year, but I plan to start contributing to my 401k (no match) soon, and trying to max that out this year. I’m hoping for a significant raise, which in the ideal world will be enough to cover maxing out my 401k without noticing those contributions too much, but I’m not sure yet if that’s actually going to happen. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I have $900 liquid that I can invest somewhere. Oh goody. I think it’s pretty crazy that I currently have $149339.25 in my investment accounts right now, not counting about $10k liquid (though taxes are going to eat some of that up I think.) Even though $150k doesn’t seem like a lot of money, I’m proud that in the last 6 years since I’ve graduated college I’ve been able to go from $5k in savings to over $160k. Still pushing for that $200k this year — if the economy decides to recover and I manage a sizable raise it will help lift me up there, otherwise I’ll probably end up at $180k for the year. Really would like to see that happen, I’m so set on entering my 30s with $250k in the bank, I’ll be pretty peeved at myself if I don’t make that goal.

Mid April Budget Check-In: Goal to save $3,000 this month

To keep tabs on my monthly budget, I promised to check in at least twice a month. So here’s where I’m at so far this month….

My goal is to save $3,000 this month after expenses.

INCOME: $2700

Rent: $630 / $630
Personal Care: $145 / $150
Food & Dining: $310 / $350
Auto & Transport: $155 / $200
Shopping: $107 / $150
Bills: $0 / $150
Entertainment: $0 / $150
Health & Fitness: $75 / $100
Gifts: $0 / $100
Travel: $0 / $50
Fees: $12 / $20
Education: $0
———————-

$1478 / $2053 spent

Spending Habits of the Weak

In my attempt to determine where my money disappears to, I’ve sought out the aid of online personal finance tracking sites. Those of you who have been following my blog know that I enjoyed the ease of getting my finance info up to the Geezeo site. I’ve actually had a bit of trouble with signing in to the site lately (I’m pretty sure I’m using the right password, but then even when I try to reset the password it doesn’t work.) In any case, given that I have little patience and quickly got fed up with typing in my June spending into Excel, I signed in to my Wesabe account and updated my info so I could track my spending…

Geez. I spent a lot last month. I knew I was spending more than I made, but it’s kind of painful to see how grossly I burst past my invisible budget. I spent $3559 in June. But I only made $2273 for the month. Actually, come to think of it that’s all inaccurate because I deposited my final paycheck (which I received June 30) sometime in July. So right now my July earnings are noted as $2466, but really that money was earned in June, and half of the money counted in my June income was really my May paycheck. Plus, some of that money was the $450 my friend paid me to live in my apartment for the month. Oy, my income is much harder to track than my expenses.

I do need to start keeping tabs on my income. While I’ll be making more money at my full-time gig (when I start in a week), what I really need to do is track the money I make working the small freelance gigs I pick up on the side. Whether that’s doing some copy writing for my uncle’s digital marketing company, or designing a basic website for a friend who offers to pay something for the work… I really need to figure out how much per month I’m making on outside projects. Why? Well, it’s difficult to figure out a budget when these extra projects become a consistent portion of one’s income. When I was making about $2000 a month after taxes this year, the extra $100 a month I made on copy writing for my uncle was really a huge bonus. But then one of the companies that I did work for (through him) decided they no longer wanted him to put together a monthly newsletter, so I was then out $50 a month. Considering how much I spend, that $50 isn’t worth that much, but it’s also worth a lot. That $50 covered one voice lesson and a cheese plate at Starbucks.

My general theory on spending (albeit an irresponsible one) was that if I spent slightly more than what I was making at $35k a year, when I received a raise or managed to land a job with a higher paycheck, I’d be able to live comfortably at a slightly higher salary. After all, I don’t overspend EVERY month. Just most months. But only by about $600 to $1000. I don’t think I’m the type who will start spending more just because I’m making more. Sure my rent went up $145 a month (ouch), and I might splurge on nice clothes and paying for a nice dinner with the bf more often, but overall I think my spending habits will remain constant.

One thing I’d like to spend money on… if I had more money… would be travel. I’d love to take a real adult vacation, like to Hawaii or someplace like that. Thus far my only travel during my full-time work years has been back home to New Jersey. And up until now, my parents have chipped in for my plane ticket back east. But that doesn’t really count as a vacation, despite the high cost of that ticket. Going home is something that I just have to do every once in a while, but it’s not a relaxing getaway.

Since my bf doesn’t work, I’d really love to be able to afford to take us both to Hawaii, or maybe Seattle, or even to some random small ocean-side town in Southern California. I’d love to be able to splurge on a massage every once in a while, or just while on vacation. A massage and a facial. And maybe one of those fancy foot scrubs. And then there’s the laser hair removal and teeth whitening that I want to be saving my pennies for.

So… there’s plenty of things I could spend any extra income on, surely. Would I actually spend it? I’m not so sure. I’m not a huge saver, but I’ve never been good about spending money on big purchase items that I actually really want. Like that laser hair removal. I have this syndrome called PCOS and one of the lovely symptoms of the disorder is having excess facial hair. I don’t have a full-grown beard or anything, but I do spend a ridiculous amount of time tweezing random hairs out of my chin line and sideburns. God, what’s I’d give to permanently get rid of those hairs! Would I give $1500, or whatever the cost is these days for permanent (and painful) hair removal? Possibly. I’m afraid if I did that and it worked, I’d be addicted. I’d have to get my legs and armpits done, and my belly and back. I’d give anything to be hair free in the places where hair oughtn’t be.

Anyway, what makes me sad about my spending habits is knowing that I can go and spend $700 on clothes and makeup in one month, but I’d never really consider spending that much money on laser hair removal at this point in my life. Even though obviously it’s one of those things that I really want. I think I need to go to spending school. I need to get my financial priorities straight. I’m not sure where laser hair removal would fall into these priorities (after all, the treatment would be a luxury for sure, but in a way it’s a medical expense because it’s not like I can live a normal life with a thousand hairs growing out of my chin). Too bad my health insurance doesn’t care about that.

Savings Breakdown

Ok, so at least my Vanguard accounts started to gain some money. I just realized that I have no idea how my VGMIX Mutual Fund account will be taxed. Do I get taxed when I take out the money or do I get taxed each year on capital gains, even if ultimately I could lose that money before taking it out of the account? There’s probably a simple answer for this, but as of now I’m clueless.

Ready for a little bit of a rant?


So, in short, my bank is driving me mad. I have no clue if all of this mess is my bank’s fault, or my fault, or Vanguard’s fault, but I’m really pissed off and to be honest I feel a bit bipolar about my whole financial situation right now.

Remember those two accounts I opened at Vanguard for $3000 each? The ones that were slowly but surely gaining interest that had me jumping for joy?

Well, I come home today to check my accounts over on my portfolio on BoA… and what do I see? They’re gone. Somehow my bank decided to buy negative shares back so now my investments are back to 0. I have no idea what’s going on. The mutual fund purchases were never posted to my checking account. But Vanguard’s site said they transferred. What is going on?

I called BoA and the woman I talked to didn’t understand anything. Of course it’s 8:30 on a Sunday night so customer service is closed.

Btw, two days ago they apparently turned off my debit card for “suspicious activity.” I’ve yet to have it turned back on. I decided that my transfers of $6000 to Vanguard must have freaked out BoA, but according to the person I talked to on their help line, the activity on my account should not effect my debit card and vice versa.

I appreciate my bank trying to protect me from fraudulent activity, but gosh, the reason I haven’t moved my cash to an online bank is because I like being able to go in to a banking center for help. Except the banking centers these days, at least BoA’s banking centers, are entirely useless. I mean, there are some nice people who work there, and I even found a BoA that has cookies to munch on while you’re waiting. That’s nice. I like cookies. But what I don’t like is how difficult it is to manage such simple things like transferring my money to an outside mutual fund. I mean, it seemed like such a concept was alien to this customer service woman. She couldn’t quite grasp the idea of someone transferring her money FROM a checking account TO a mutual fund.

Oy.

Ok, my rant is just about done now because there’s nothing I can do until the morning when I’ll have the opportunity to call up customer service and whine to them. I e-mailed Vanguard because maybe they can tell me more than what BoA doesn’t understand.

I’m really getting fed up with BoA. It sucks, because I do like having a local banking center where I can deposit my funds. And I LOVE my mini BoA debit card for my keychain – I use it all the time and… I really think I’m the only person in the entire world taking advantage of the miniature debit card because every time I present it as a form of payment, the person ringing up the bill laughs out loud and says something along the lines of “wow, is this real?”

Anyway, I’m just really sad that the $30 some-odd dollars I supposedly made last week on my mutual fund is no more. I’m not even going to get hopeful about Vanguard being able to somehow place the purchase date on May 30 so the interest remains the same.

*end rant.*