Tag Archives: retirement

Annuities are FUCKED UP… aren’t they?

As the resident personal financial advisor for my family (despite that I have no idea what I’m talking about half the time), I’ve jumped into understanding my parent’s financial situation (the good the bad and the ugly) as I will have to help my mother manage her finances for the rest of her her life once my father is gone. He may live longer than her but she is relatively healthy right now and he has terminal cancer, so it’s likely I will be the only person able to really help ensure her quality of life since she understands zilch about money.

My parents are doing ok financially – not great – not as good as they should be doing given how much my father earned throughout his life — but they overspent and now they’re left with about $300k in retirement funds and $400k in real estate, give or take a few hundred thousand since I can’t get a straight answer from my father (who unfortunately doesn’t like to talk about this stuff because his go-to answer about any important financial question longer than a few years out int he future is ‘i’ll be dead then’). Continue reading

10th Anniversary of Her Every Cent Counts and Exciting News

10 years ago, I wrote my first post on Her Every Cent Counts. Well, I missed the exact anniversary date, but it was on May 29, 2007 when I started writing, noting that my networth at the time was $27,000 and that my income was $35,000 a year.

Over the last 10 years, as I started to save money each year, investing in retirement and taxable accounts, I got this crazy idea that I wanted to save $500,000 before having my first child. Given I had less than $100k to my name when this idea popped into my head, it seemed to be an impossible quest.

I ran my networth numbers on June 1 and discovered that due to growth in my portfolio and other savings, I have achieved my goal of $500,000 in networth (before having kids.) It feels kind of surreal – on one hand, it feels like a huge accomplishment, to have saved $500k before my 34th birthday — on the other, as I confront the realities of unemployment and consider changing careers, I wonder if I should fight through life in a role that isn’t suited for me in order to move on to my next goal of $1M by 40 – or, do I find peace with living a simple life, find a job I can actually be good at, and not touch the $500k (outside of educational funds) so it can blossom into a substantial retirement account to enjoy later in life?

There is no one in my real life to be able to celebrate this moment with — so I’m celebrating it here with you, my anonymous and semi-anonymous readers. Thanks to you, I have kept up savings for the last 10 years – have turned down opportunities to live closer to work and in nicer housing, have generally been more frugal than my income would enable me to be, esp in the last few years, and have been heads down on achieving this arbitrary goal that nonetheless is incredibly rewarding to achieve. With 32 years left to retirement, not touching the $ and it growing an average of 5% YoY gets me to my retirement savings goal of >$2M. The trick, now, is not touching that money, and still managing to make enough to live a decent life.

Happy 10th Anniversary HECC, and to all of you who read my blog regularly or occasionally or are brand-new readers, thank you for inspiring me to be a good saver, and for making it possible to achieve this major life goal.

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Are 401k Accounts a Scam?

I’m no financial expert, but I try to follow the basic principles of investing and retirement savings in order to hopefully not be dirt poor in old age. One of these principles has been to consistently max out my 401(k) each year, which I’ve done faithfully now for many years, ever since I finally had access to a retirement account at work. As soon as as started making too much money for a Roth IRA, I socked away $18k a year in my 401k… and now, between all my pre- and post-tax retirement accounts, I have about $235k locked away, compounding over time.

However, after reading more propaganda on 401k investing, I started to suspect something fishy is up. Most of the anti 401k content focuses on issues with high fees — which, indeed, are a big problem with 401ks. But, really, the most suspicious piece of messaging out there on the benefits of the 401k is that you don’t have to pay taxes now so you get the “benefit” of paying them later. Continue reading

Joining J. Money’s Million Dollar Club

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Today, I’m taking a pledge and – being one of the last to the party – to join J. Money’s Million Dollar Club. I’ve already unofficially been a member since I’m working towards $1M (well, $2M is my financial freedom money goal) but this makes it all more official. Plus, hopefully he’ll add me to his fancy list. I like lists.

I would like to become a millionaire by the time I’m 45 (or sooner) independent of any wealth my husband is accumulating. This puts me well on my way towards $2M+ in individual networth AND means that when my (hypothetical) children are in their pre-teen and teen years I can be more flexible with my career and actually see my kids before they’re out of the house, married off, and spending time with kids of their own (tear. boy do they grow up fast.)

In order for me, Her Every Cent Counts, to become a millionaire by 45, I pledge to do the following:

1. Invest an average of $5000 per month for the next 10 years (between taxable accounts and retirement accounts)

2. Max out my 401k each year for the next 10 years (or every year I have access to a retirement plan through work) even without match (because let’s face it I’ll never work for a company that offers a match.

3. Live in my 1 bedroom rented apartment with Mr. HECC for as long as possible (i.e. until our first child is two) even though I would much prefer to live in a 2-3 bedroom house. Only buy a house after I have $750k-$1M saved for retirement that I don’t need to touch, so it can grow to $2M by the time I retire.

4. Continue to drive my used 2011 car until it dies (but invest the appropriate amount into keeping it in good shape.) Never buy new cars.

5. When possible, increase my monthly savings beyond $5000 (for instance, I can save up to $7000 right now per month if I’m extremely frugal) but don’t let being “ahead” of my net worth goal at any moment in time change my savings rates.

6. Put aside any additional income (bonuses, tax refunds, extra income) into my investment accounts.

7. Find a career that enables me to consistently save $5000 per month for the next 10 years (which means that I can’t go back to grad school unfortunately so I likely have to stay in my current career and just learn to suck it up.)

8. Gain skills and keep up to date with latest skills to become highly valuable as a consultant in my industry so I can potentially earn more money working for myself and enjoy my life more.

9. If needed, move to an area of the country with a lower cost of living (but only if I can continue saving $5000 consistently per month for the next 10 years)

10. Invest in experiences only, especially travel before kids and family vacations after kids. Rotate cheap vacations (camping) with fancier ones (Hawaii). Any additional income (if income increases) should be split between savings, “life experience” fund and housing fund.

 

 

 

We All End Up There in the End

I’ve always been afraid of dying, but after visiting my now deceased grandmother’s “home” in Las Vegas, I gained a new fear of living. Aging is not a fun process by any means as we lose control of our minds and our bodies towards our inevitable fate.

Why am I thinking about this on Christmas? My husband’s grandmother, who is in her 90s, is in one of those homes and the situation, from what I gather, is not a good one. When you’re in your 90’s – even if you are mentally intact – you often lose your autonomy. If you are lucky, you have a family member who genially cares for your well being who is given power of attorney  over you and everything in your life. Where you live, when you go to the doctor, when you can go for a walk, and practically how often you’re allowed to breathe per day. Continue reading

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Are State Sponsored Retirement Plans a Good Idea: California Secure Plan Bill Passes Assembly

Americans are not saving enough for retirement. In lieu of accepting that the standard fiscal state for the majority of retirees is poverty, some states are trying to help people get their financial acts in order. This week, California became the latest of those states (see what’s happening in your state here), with the “Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program” bill to create a state-run retirement plan for roughly seven million private workers passing the Assembly – one step closer to becoming reality. This would make California the eighth state to establish such a plan.

There are 55 million workers who don’t have a way to save for retirement at their workplace, and of those, only 5% take the steps to open an IRA, according to the AARP.

Continue reading

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A Brief History of Retirement and the Social Security Crisis

Ah… retirement. That time in life when you’ve worked hard for long enough to “deserve” time to sit back and relax – maybe play some golf, or take classes to reignite an old hobby, or travel the world. Today retirement is so engrained in our culture as a natural phase of life that it’s easy to forget that it is a very modern concept.

In 1881, Otto von Bismark, a conservative minister president of Prussia, came up with an idea to have older adults not have to work to the very last second of their lives. Eight years later the German government started to provide a retirement system for anyone over the age of 70. At the time, not many people made it that long.

Across the Atlantic in the US, retirement was a fledgling idea. Municipal employees started to receipt public pensions in the mid 1800s and in 1975 American Express started to offer private pensions. It wasn’t until 1935 when the Social Security act passed and the official retirement age in the US was 65. (Life expectancy for men was 58 at the time.) Continue reading

My Parents Are Actually Not That Great with Money

When I grew up I knew two things to be fact – my dad was talented at earning money and my mom was equally talented at spending it. My mother constantly complained about us not having a lot of nice things – and we indeed were upper middle class and not a millimeter over the upper class line – but we had it rather great. As my father worked a professional job requiring his math brain, the money kept rolling in. And my mom (and I) would keep spending it.

But despite the “every time we come back from the mall” fights on spending it never was  a “real” issue. We weren’t in danger of losing the house. My private college tuition was paid for outright. So was my sister’s private school for a learning disability and then college. Apparently at some point my father’s company was sold and he did fairly well for himself in his stock and income appreciation. My parents should be comfortably set for life and then some.

However my father (who was told he had two years to live about nine years ago, mind you) and my mother have spent and spent and spent post “earning” years and with the stock market underperforming all his estimates about his finances didn’t quite pan out. Shocking for a man who made a career out of calculating risk. Yet, here we are today, with my father looking at all the numbers involved in the family finances and he can’t make heads or tails of it. There’s a massive home equity loan out that has to be paid back fairly soon, and there’s little left on it to borrow at this point anyway. He wanted to spend a lot on my wedding but, now that I better understand their financial situation – I realize it was not a good idea. It’s not that they are broke – they have social security and pension money coming in… about $100k a year. But in order to afford not only my wedding but also a winter condo they bought in the southeast and renovations to that condo and fixing a bunch of things breaking around their main house there is the reality that my dad had to pull out a bunch of money from the IRA bumping him up into a higher tax bracket so most of the income they’re making goes to taxes.

So they have to in the next few years pay back about $200k in home equity. How? The idea seems to be either from a reverse mortgage (which as I learn more about I really don’t like) or taking more money out of the IRA and paying a lot of taxes on it or, well, there aren’t many other options. The money is there, but it isn’t. They’re so much more fortunate than most people their age (due to smart saving at least and the possibility of a one-working-parent household being able to afford a nice life and a decent retirement) but their spending is just out of control. It’s not just my wedding – which theoretically my father had budgeted “forever” for – it’s the lack of acceptance of 1 – what life really costs and 2 – what their life really costs.

My father keeps talking about how they’re going to have to “get frugal” and I can’t help but laugh. They aren’t exactly going on luxury vacations but my parents do spend. My mother has no concept of money and I worry she’s going to eventually spend every last cent of her retirement money leaving her with “just” the monthly income – which at some point may not be enough to pay for her care. I’ll help, of course, as much as I can – but I’m stuck in the reality of my world which = I cannot ever afford a house, I cannot figure out how to save enough for my own/my family’s retirement, even on my current substantial income (which will not last because I’m about to completely crack in my current career and my next step is something less profitable but more personally fulfilling, I hope) – in any case, I’ll need to help out of guilt knowing how much my own life has cost them, but it’s still frustrating that this didn’t have to happen… they were doing so well and then they had to put an addition on the house and had to buy too-nice further for the vacation property and had to get a new dress for every wedding-related event coming up (I’m glad I talked my mother out of purchasing a $2000 dress for my wedding when the $300 dress she got looked WAY better than the one the fancy store was trying to sell her.)

I just worry too because I know that in so many years my father’s cancer will eventually end his life (I hope this is a long time out but who knows) and my mother will – god willing – life a very long time. But as bad with money and gullible as she is she’s suceptable to all sorts of scams and con arts and just about any potential way for her money to disappear. My dad likes to talk to me (so awkwardly) about how he wants my sister and I to get an inheritance – and I can’t comment on that because on and hand I think inheritances are just plain awful and unfair and should not be allowed and on the other hand the world we live in is one where people can or can not afford to, say, buy a house or send their kids to college due to such mini dynasties. It’s not a topic I’m comfortable talking about and I certainly don’t want to be the person held responsible for convincing my mom not to, you know, spend that money that one day would possibly end up trickling down to me and my sister – even though I honestly don’t want it if she needs to spend it, I just don’t want to see her getting conned. I worry I’ll have to be the responsible one because my sister knows nothing about money and clearly I’m the best educated on the topic (I don’t know how that happened but anyway, it happened.)

My father was even asking my advice on how to repay the home equity. I have no idea. $200 is a lot of money. It took me a very long time to save $200. Now I have almost double that. But it’s all locked up in retirement funds and such. It’s about half of the cost of their actual house. I don’t understand home ownership and the whole taking loans out against your property. It seems like he has a really great rate (2 percent?) so maybe that’s a smart/good thing. But it’s only smart insofar as the needed to spend the money. It’s my wedding but it’s more than that for sure. It’s just this nature of spending and spending and spending and being delusional slash not wanting to deal with the time to come when they really do need to be “frugal” in their own middle class sort of way… not something my mother has known how to do for years. I worry they’ll lose their home – though my father said that will never happen – but I’m starting to doubt his ability to predict these things. He seems rather surprised about how much taxes he owes in general and how things add up and money keeps disappearing. He seems perplexed that the stock market didn’t perform strongly so his networth shrunk more than expected and he didn’t have a backup plan to deal with this. And this all has led me to the conclusion that my father – the math guy – the financial industry risk expert – is actually really bad with personal finances. I worry for them, and I also hope somehow I can do better with my own family and wealth. I’m beginning to think that all starts with NOT owning property – EVER. Rent is expensive but at least it’s not handcuffs.

How I Increased My Networth 13% in 2015

Last year I increased by net worth from $309,894 in January of 2015 to $352,066 in January of 2016 (increase of $42,112 or 13% YoY increase.) This is not accounting for the last week of declines, which may or may not hinder 2016 growth. With a total net worth of $352k to start this year, I’m focused on my goal of hitting $400k by the end of 2016. Although this isn’t my original goal of $500k by the end of 2016, I think $400k is still a very aggressive and challenging goal for this year.

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In 2015, my stock portfolio increased from $144k to $171k. My retirement portfolio increased from $152k to $171k. Thus, the year concluded with approximately $342k in active investments (mostly stocks.) This is why when the market dips my portfolio significantly decreases. Since I have a substantial amount of funds in the stock market I tend to wait now a bit before putting large sums into play beyond what is already invested.

Goals for 2016:

Stocks: $200k, including $15k additional in Vanguard admiral healthcare fund, which has a $50k minimum. This would = $29k in net new investment, or ~$2.5k per month. If the market drops lower than monthly investments will have to increase to make up the difference.

  • $1250 / month — Vanguard Healthcare Fund (to get to $50k admiral minimum)
  • $400 / month — loyal3 fee-free partial stock investing
  • $850 / month — Vanguard fund TBD to get to $10k admiral (might reinvest in the dividend growth fund I sold for losses after a month or so. We’ll see.)

Retirement: $190k (max out 401k and IRA for 2016 — $23.5k additional investment, or $2k per month)

  • $18k = 401k max
  • $5.5k = vanguard IRA (post tax)

Cash: $10k – I’d like to close out the year with a $10k emergency fund.

This = a total monthly investment of approximately $4.5k per month, up to $6.5k if the market drops further. $6.5k is fairly impossible w/ my general monthly expenses plus the wedding, so I think the $4.5k goal (esp with some of it in pre-tax dollars) is a reasonable objective. If the market sucks this year then I probably won’t get to $400k, but I’ll still be buying discount stocks which will hopefully go up at some point in the next 10 years to make up for any losses.

If I can do this then and maintain my job I should be able to close the year out with $400k net worth. This would be a very exciting achievement for this year, as I’d still be on target to hit $500k prior to 35 (2018.)

November Networth Check-In and Retirement Update

Now that I am “in between incomes,” so to speak, I am re-focusing my objectives for total assets this year, and beginning planning for 2016 based on my potential earnings at my new opportunities.

As a reminder, my goal was to close out 2015 with $400,000 in net worth. That figure was always a stretch, but it isn’t going to happen this year. My new goal is to wrap up the year with at least $350,000 in net worth, which is about a 15% increase in my nest egg – not bad but not great either. My goal is to give birth to my first child in the summer of 2017, when I’m about to turn 34 (yikes.) That means getting pregnant in the fall of 2016 or soon after would be ideal. That means that I still want to aim for $500k in net worth by the time I have my first kid (let’s call that July of 2017.) This is about 19 months to increase my net worth by $150k.

Let’s start with where I am today — according to www.networthIQ.com my current net worth is $380,783. I will subtract my car ($8000) and stock options that will soon be worth nothing from that ($16,000) to what is my “actual” net worth — so about $356k. I’m also losing money now since unemployment doesn’t cover my monthly expenditures, so assuming the stock market does decently this month and I land a new job for December start (which is looking quite likely) I should be able to close out the year about $350k. A reminder, in January of 2009 I had about $5k to my name (see graph below.)

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In order to hit my goal of saving $150k in 18 months (assuming ending 2015 with $350k), I need to “save” $8333 per month. How is THAT going to happen?

If I (knock on wood)  increase my income levels in my next job to $190k (which is super exciting and feels like too much yet if the market will pay that for my services, I’ll take it!), that is a take-home of about $9400 a month (which is a lot and really starts making this dream possible – this is where it gets exciting!) Even with my average spending of about $3500 a month,  I will have $5900 per month to put away. But this also, theoretically, is two years of 401k investment, which I can max out each year. So that’s $36,000 of the total $150k right there (assuming I can keep my job and do well at it!) Ok, so one opportunity has a 3% match of your salary on that, which is awesome (I’ve NEVER had a 401k match in my entire career!) That means each year I’d make an extra ~$5700 just for putting the money in my 401k (if I’m understanding the match thing correctly.) So that is $11,400 on top of the $36k. Ok, so that takes care of $47,400 of the $150,000, and leaves a slightly more realistic $102.6k left to save over 18 months, or, $5700 per month. Income is reduced a bit with the 401k investment, of course, by $18000 a year – but that’s all pre-tax. But with bonus, etc, it should balance out to still taking home somewhere around $9k a month, or maybe a little less. That’s still a lot for the short-term goal.

Now, let’s assume my stock portfolio / the market increases by an average of 5% each year. It could be less and it could be more, but let’s say 2% – 5%. That is somewhere between $7000 and $17500 for year one, and a max of $20.9k in year two (at 5%), minimum of $8368 (for the entire year, but I’ll count that in these numbers since even if I’m not working my portfolio will continue to gain interest.) Ok, so on the more conservative end with just a 2% year-over-year gain, I’ll have another $15,368 covered by investment interest…

$150,000 goal
$36,000 = 401k investment
$11,400 = 401k match @ 3% of income
$15,368 = portfolio interest at 2% YoY
———————————————
$87,232 to save in 18 months, or,
$4846 per month

This is very doable, as long as I select a job where I can stay a minimum of 18 months. One opportunity does not have 401k match, so I am leaning toward the one that does, since this clearly helps substantially in reaching my long-standing goal of $500k by childbirth.

Once I have kids, I am expecting to work part-time and see my annual savings levels decrease. Of course, I’ll have a husband who is also working, but he doesn’t earn as much as I do or invest his savings beyond a Roth IRA (which he’ll no longer be eligible for once we’re married – yeay marriage.) We’re not really combining incomes when we’re married – just continuing to split major household expenses. We’ll probably start to split a little more… right now we just split rent (I pay more since I make more) and food (we spend way too much on food for two people) — but in the future when we’re married I can see us splitting healthcare expenses, and maybe things like gas/transit. When we have a kid all those expenses will be split too. Luckily I have a penchant for household accounting. What a great hobby!

Seriously, though, if I can get to $500k before I have a kid, this frees me up so much from this looming fear of the future I have. It’s not exactly a nest egg that will make me rich, but it’s a very good start to be at $500k by 34. The goal was by 30 but so what… goals are meant to be hard to reach, but they keep you focused on getting to where you need to be.

With $500k, if I can manage to not touch that money until I’m 65, at an annual return of 5%, that gets me to about $2M in retirement (not counting any future earnings or my husband’s earnings/savings. At a 10% YoY return that’s about $8.7M in retirement. Heck, if that grows at 10% YoY in 20 years once hitting $500k, that will be worth $3.3M – not exactly placing me in the .01%, but certainly providing enough income for early retirement / starting my own business / doing what I want when I’m 55 years old. I know a lot of women in their early 50s and I can see this age being a good time to have that flexibility. You’re still healthy enough to trade and have fun, your kids are old enough to appreciate spending time with you (hopefully) and overall if you’ve been smart about saving over the years, you can take a moment to actually enjoy life.

So when people read this blog and comment about how this $500k goal is so silly, well, it really isn’t.

The MOST important thing right now for all of this is picking a job where I can stay stable at for the next 19 months, at a minimum. That’s a long time and I’m going to take it month by month and focus on being so productive my employer couldn’t even dream of replacing me. 18 months is just 6 quarters, and that will go fast, especially if I’m pregnant for half of them!

I really hope I can do it. I’ve come so far. This seems within reach. Having my first kid at 33/34 is not ideal, I’m going to have to have my second at 36 and if I want a third, well, that’s going to have to be pretty much right away after that. This leaves me little time to keep earning at the same rate, especially in my field, where having kids doesn’t seem to align with the amount of hours required to work. I have to make the money now, so I can leave the options open for the future.