Tag Archives: retirement

How to Help My Mother NOT go Broke

They paid for college and a relatively lavish wedding and a lifestyle we apparently never could afford. They made a lot of bad money moves along the way–constantly adding on to and updating a house that was already the most expensive on the block, buying worthless art and “collectables” to clutter the house, taking money out of the markets around 2008 and missing out on the potential returns. Oh, and the kicker is that in 2015 and 2016 my father took a ton of money out of his IRA to buy a condo in florida and pay for my wedding without paying nearly enough in taxes to support those withdrawals, not to mention apparently not filing at all those two years, leaving my mother with $60k in tax debt and fines. For a man who made a career out of planning financial risk, he sure did a horrible job of planning for his and my mother’s retirement.

Dealing with his pretty traumatic death (a week after my NICU son was born last year) was hard enough–but not having to help my mother somehow NOT GO BROKE is going to, well, break me.

Now, I realize they paid for my college AND my wedding and I do feel a responsibility to 1. help her not go broke and 2. pay her back a reasonable amount for some of these expenditures. On one hand, had I known how bad the financial situation was, I might have made a different decision on where to go to college (public vs private school, which was an option) and I would have been less reckless with my spending at the time (when I didn’t understand budgeting or the value of money, sad to say.) But I did save on interest on student loans and I feel like I owe it to my mother to pay her back for at least some of my college education.

…The wedding was a beast of an event–but for my father dying of cancer it was as much his party as it was mine and for what it’s worth I saw him enjoy it perhaps more (much more) than I did with his family and friends. I had offered to pay for it up front so he wouldn’t have to withdraw from his IRA and he flat out refused, but I didn’t have a clue that ALL the money was in the IRA and the wedding plus their condo purchase just killed them tax wise those years. I can’t really blame myself for that as he told me “$50k for the wedding” and I went with that budget. He was too proud to admit that really he didn’t have the $50k for my wedding (and supposed $50k for my sister’s wedding that hasn’t happened yet) — maybe he thought he did. Maybe he was in denial. I don’t know. We shouldn’t have spent that money in 2016. I should have eloped.

I guess until tonight I hadn’t come to terms with just how bad the situation is. It doesn’t HAVE to be as there is a decent pension and social security, but my mother refuses to adjust her spending beyond perhaps not buying 4 matching pants to go with the 8 shirts on sale she just has to have. She’ll buy 2.

After interviewing a ton of CFPs (mostly fee only) I just felt like they weren’t going to add enough value to be worth their 1% annual management fees. It’s not that they wouldn’t tell her the right things she needed to hear, it’s that she would hear it and it would go in one ear and out the other. She’s just so far off from OK, I’m not sure WHERE to start. Scratch that, I know we should be selling her tri-state home IMMEDIATELY to start saving along the lines of $30,000+ a year — BUT, even that just scratches the surface of the issue. Even if I paid her back for the wedding and my entire college education, I’m not sure that gets her where she needs to be.

After all the CFP interviews I set up an appointment for her with Vanguard personal advisory services which is “just” .03% of her portfolio (really not that bad since her portfolio is just $400k in IRA at the moment, but also I get the sense that its’ about .03% of a real CFP service. What I like about it is that it’s .03% split out per month and you can get out at any time, so we can get some advice for cheap from a real CFP (or team of people who work with CFPs) and get some sense for what to do before investing in a private CFP. For free, they ran a basic plan for her… which was just depressing… and had me revisiting her spending and income and, well, the picture isn’t pretty. The picture has oozing wounds and horse shit that’s been festering for centuries covered in maggots.

And she’s doing BETTER than most people in America right now. She has $70k in fixed income (taxable, but still), $400k in the IRA and a home probably worth about $250k cash after it’s sold. But that’s nothing. She’s 65 and she’ll be broke by 70 at this rate.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to get her to take this seriously. She is in LALA land. I don’t want to give her $25k or $50k or more UNLESS she can actually learn to budget properly and makes plans to help smooth this all out, somehow. Instead of saying that she CAN’T sell the house next year, she realizes that she HAS to sell it next year (sadly) and really she should sell it THIS YEAR. She CAN’T get a storage unit to keep all her random things and she HAS to sell what she can and move to her condo full time as soon as possible – even if that means not going to her condo this winter and staying in the cold weather to pack (but, as she says, she would have to buy a whole new winter wardrobe, which would cost a lot, so she should not stay there to pack up the house this winter.)

My thought on helping her out financially is that I need to get my ducks in order first (i.e. buy a house, pay off said house, have a stable career for next 10 years, invest my money) and if in 10 years she has been spending smartly then I can help pay for things like buy her a vacation package or even pay the basic bills if needed, up to a certain point, especially to ensure she’s comfortable in old age when she needs to have help.

It just all feels so unsurmountable I’m erring on the side of just being delusional like my mother and letting her run out of money at 70, go into credit card debt, and then… then what? She has an HOA to pay (her condo was “cheap” but it’s not cheap on a fixed income, and who the hell knows what special assessments will come up over time?)

Any advice on what I should do, other than send my mother a check for $50k and run the hell away from this?

 

How Did My Father Leave Such a Financial Mess?

It has been a while since I’ve written about my mother’s financial situation because seeing the full picture of the train wreck that it is has taken time since my father’s passing. I think we now can see it – and it’s not a pretty picture.

We lived in a fantasy wackadoo financial world, and I never realized this until seeing the hard numbers after my father passed away last year. Sadly, there was a time when there was a significant amount of family wealth–but since my father retired early and then went on disability around age 55 and then got cancer and was told he had 2 years to live and then lived for 8 more, the money disappeared. Well, it was spent, and it was mispent.

My mother isn’t entirely at fault for this. Did she spend the money? Yes. But my father was abusive to her and not only would not let her be involved with the household finances but also told her that the financial situation was fine and she would be set for life. He told me that he had $50,000 set aside for my wedding and another $50,000 for my sisters (I would have never spent $50k had I understood the actual financial situation, and I do feel guilty about this and also want to help as much as I can at least up to that amount over time, but I can’t even afford a house right now so it seems like now is not that time – but down the road, should my mother be out of money, by then hopefully I can help.) Anyway, it was either one big fat lie or my father was delusional (and who knows what the strong cancer drugs did to his mind in those years, let alone his standard aging process.)

I’ll never know what happened. I know from around 2005 to 2018, my parents lost a significant chunk of wealth and it didn’t have to be that way. I know that I will always feel guilty for not stepping in sooner to really push them on their financial situation. I don’t know if I could have helped as my father, until close to the end of his life, kept this information to himself–he even did his own taxes (which was part of the problem–as he DIDN’T end up doing them for a few years) — and everything is clearer in hindsight but I just am not sure if I could have done anything at the time to help avoid this nightmare. Regardless, it’s too late to go back and change things. All I can do is try my best to help the current situation.

The current situation is that:

  •  my father’s supposed “paid” taxes were actually three years of unfiled, unpaid taxes, with two of those years having major amounts owed and massive penalties on top of these amounts – to the tune of $60k+
  • my father was unable to handle dealing with his certain death, despite having 10 years of living with a terminal illness, so my mother had to, the day after he died, race around to find a burial site and pay top dollar for their plots and the service, etc. This cost $30k. I couldn’t bring myself to push for cremation, even though I know it would have been cheaper. The $30k was also due to my mother picking a nicer cemetery (since she’d be buried there too!) and not having time to shop around. Then there was the reception after the funeral… it wasn’t at the fanciest place but everything adds up when you have a lot of people and last minute expenses.
  • So it turns out there was no money out of the IRA (just $400k in there, more on that in a bit) to pay that $30k, then put on my mother’s credit card. My uncle (father’s brother) kindly let her borrow the money to pay it, but she owes him it back by 2020, which is right around the corner. All this happened before realizing there was such a massive tax bill due!
  • my father (and mother) took out a home equity loan to the tune of $200k on a home valued $500k (which was paid off!!!) in order to add on to their house, renovate bathrooms, who knows what else. My mother has no idea what everything cost and sadly there are no records that we can find (which is shitty, because it makes her have to rush to sell the house, see next bullet – though maybe this is a good thing.) Anyway, there’s a $200k home equity line of credit that is tapped with variable interest that’s about $650 a month right now interest only that will be $1600-$1800+ starting May next year when she has to pay principle and interest…
  • I didn’t realize this, but after your spouse dies, you have 2 years to sell your house to get the $500k capital gains exclusion… after that time it goes back to $250k. If my mother and father kept good records of all the work they had done to the house over the years, this wouldn’t be an issue–but, shockingly, these records are no where to be found. My father supposedly, messy as he was, kept all his papers – so I’m hoping they will turn up somewhere, but so far, no luck in finding them…
  • the house is a money sink. This is the hardest for me because I grew up in that house and I’m so emotionally attached to it. I know a house is a house is a house and the memories made in it will never go away once it’s sold, and people sell their childhood homes everyday and it’s not like we could own the house forever—but that doesn’t change how hard selling the house will be for me. I don’t have a great memory… but when I’m back in those walls, my childhood comes flooding back, the good and the bad of it, and I feel like time isn’t slipping away quite so fast. I also dreamed of having my children visit my parents there–it’s a great “grandmas house” — to spend lazy summer days playing in the backyard on vacation as my mother watches my kid(s) run around… it’s just readjusting the plans I had and mourning the loss of my father, my childhood, my past. It has to happen sometime–why not now? But I don’t feel ready for it. I’m so not ready for it I’m wondering if there is a non idiotic way I can purchase the home and rent it back to my mother–just so she has access to the cash and we still keep the home in the family for another few years. I know I can’t even afford my own home living in The Bay Area BUT this would motivate me even more to keep my job and earn more money. The house is worth $500k-ish, and that’s actually affordable. If I can’t buy property here, then is it horrible to own property elsewhere?… but it’s in a high tax state and the taxes on that house are killer, and so is managing the property… it’s not a HUGE house but it’s certainly not small, and the land is expensive to take care of. It doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about buying the house and helping my mom stay there for another few years and still get the $500k in capital gains exclusion in time…
  • In the years of financial recklessness, my parents purchased a “snowbird” condo in Florida. My father told my mother this was always going to be a vacation home, so they purchased a 2br/2ba condo for $60k and fixed it up for another $40k (or so I’m told) paying cash on this (which kills me because it was yet another expense that led to having to pay a bazillion dollars in taxes since all the money was held in the IRA and my dad then somehow failed to pay the right amount those years) — he could have taken a mortgage to buy the property and not paid for it all up front. He could have taken me up on my offer to pay for my wedding or at the least to pay for some of it since I had access to money and he could pay me back over time, if he really wanted to pay for the whole thing. But he was too prideful, or his brain was broken, or both. I wish I could ask him what the hell he was thinking. But they bought they condo. That $100k in cash, with tax penalties for taking the money out of the IRA and not filing/paying on time, probably ended up costing them $200k. I am not sure how to figure out how much money was lost by simply failing to manage the money left wisely due to it being in “tax advantaged” accounts, and I’m not sure it matters now–but I know there was a substantial amount lost because of extremely poor management.
  • The good news is that my mother set up the condo in Florida to meet her liking, and she seems happy there. It’s unclear if she will be happy living there full time since most people in the community go home for the summer and I worry she will be lonely. At least she is the type to be happy anywhere there is a pool and people willing to listen to her stories. But in the summers there it will be extremely hot and the pool area will be rather empty. Her sister also now lives in Florida but a 2 hour drive from her condo. I worry about her being alone, or more alone then I ever imagined she’d be. There’s nothing wrong with retiring to Florida (certainly tax wise it’s a good idea) but how can I manage to help her as she ages without other family close by to check on her, etc? And no money there to help put the proper support system in place?
  • My father was talked int putting an annuity with a death benefit in his IRA by a Bank of America rep. I talked to the rep after my father’s death and he shared why he thought it was a good idea (I’m unsure, but too late for it to matter.) My mother did get a ‘death benefit’ payout in the IRA, which is now sitting in cash, which is a problem, because of the $400k in the IRA, only $100k is in investments and the rest is sitting in cash – and I’m sure to afford her life the rest needs to at least be in bonds or something that is making money but it’s not. We want to hire a CFP but after working with my CFP (more on that in another post) I’m not sure what CFP is the right option as they’re quite expensive and CFPs typically don’t manage tax issues, or other weird issues like the ones my mother is facing. They can certainly run an analysis of when she’ll run out of money and when she has to sell the house, but we still don’t have the final tax bill so it’s hard to even run those numbers yet.
  • Taxes. Do we hire a lawyer or enrolled agent to help with attempting a penalty abatement and lower-cost-per-month payment plan? Another substantial expense and I’m not sure it’s worth it – I mean, it’s worth it if we can get the penalties abated and a good payment plan, but it seems like either we can do this ourselves or the IRS won’t allow this. My father apparently had a number of years where he already had a bad history of payment on time, so the IRS may just disallow our abatement request. However, I’m hoping with proper documentation on my father’s illness and also my mother’s documented abuse record, there’s a chance they’ll take off some or all of the penalties. Do we really need to spend $5000 on a lawyer to do this? I feel like I can probably help here and save that $5000, but if it doesn’t work my mother may blame me (even if it wouldn’t have worked with a lawyer) and if it does, but partially, then how will we know if we got the “best” deal? But all his money – $5000 for a tax lawyer, $5000 for a CFP, etc etc, needs to come from somewhere and that requires taking more out of the IRA. I’m trying at this point to help her avoid taking too much out of the IRA.
  • The good news – if there is any good news – is that my father did have a sizable pension and made sure to take the one that would provide lifetime income for my mother. That, with social security, amounts to something like a $50k-$70k salary before tax. A single person SHOULD be able to live on that income just fine…
  • But my mother is horrible at budgeting. That is to say she refuses to budget. I have her set up with a Mint account and I’m watching and documenting how much she spends on everything each month. She has definitely reduced her spending A BIT but I can’t get her to stop buying clothes “on sale” and spending on unnecessary items. Right now she is spending about $40,000 more than she earns per year, give or take as I’m not sure what her total tax liability is for this year. With $400k in the IRA, she is going to be in credit card debt in a few years at this rate. It will slow a bit once she gets the full SS amount (see blow), but not enough. Really the only way to stop the bleeding is to sell the primary house…
  • This is ESPECIALLY important this year because we have decided (and I’m not sure if it’s the right decision) to wait until she turns 66 to take the full survivors benefit for social security. If the math we ran was right, it will take about 17 years till break even on this choice – so it might not make any sense at all. I think it’s a pile of shit how social security works in that you’re supposed to get the same amount whether you live a long time or not long as all as long as you properly estimate when you’re going to die–because that’s an easy thing to guess.
  • My father made other bad money moves that have left residual issues. A few years ago my sister got into a car accident that wasn’t her fault. She earns minimum wage and although my parents paid for her car in full she didn’t have the type of insurance on it that would pay out in the case of a hit and run. Well, she was in a hit and run and her car was totaled. She was willing to pay a certain amount for a new car (about $10,000) but my father decided that $10,000 was not enough to get a car that was “safe” he would pay $5000 on top of that for her to get a certified pre-owned Toyota Corolla. That certainly was nice of him to do, and would make sense if he had the money to spend in the first place.  He did decide not to pay for this in cash entirely and instead to take out a low interest loan offered by the dealership, you know, while he had a terminal illness… without thinking what happens to the non-transferable warranty or Gap insurance he paid for in the purchase price when he died. So now another issue is figuring out what to do with my sister’s car… about $6000 is left owed on it, and my sister has been dutifully making monthly payments on the % she owes, but apparently once the person on the loan dies it’s necessary to pay off the loan with the estate (so I’ve read) or take a new loan out to pay off that loan. My sister assumes my mother will pay off the loan and she can pay her back, which is fine except that will require taking $ out of the IRA to do and that will cost more than $6000. So I suggested my sister look into how much a new loan would cost (I assume the interest on a loan — if she could get one — would be quite high.) I told her find out what this would be and then let’s talk. I could possibly loan her the $ at a much lower interest rate. Maybe I should just give her the money at 0% interest rate (and I might) but I’m trying to strategically figure out where I should be offering money to help with the whole mess across the board, while also trying to save for a down payment and afford my life. I don’t mind loaning her the money and maybe even for 0% interest but I want her to take the steps of figuring out how much it should cost her to get a loan and at least be an adult about this.
  • My sister finally moved out of the house and in with her boyfriend and she got a job that pays shitty but at least has benefits. So my sister is no longer living rent free (with high utility bills) in my mother’s house, so that will bring down costs a bit, but I’m worried about my sister’s financial well being in the long run. She has no retirement savings and isn’t listening to me when I’ve told her to put aside more money for emergencies and such. I ran her budgets and I know it’s tight and she thinks I don’t understand living in relative poverty but she can be making better decisions overall and I’m hoping eventually she listens to me so I can help her start on the path to financial security. I’ve always said I would never let her end up on the street and I definitely wouldn’t, but I want her to at least take responsibility to try to manage her money better. She doesn’t have any debts outside of the car situation, so that’s good, but she also doesn’t have enough money in an emergency fund and it’s different now that my mother can no longer afford to help her out if needed. I can, as long as I don’t own a house and I keep my job, but I really want her to try as hard as possible for it not to come to that. It’s not like she spends a fortune on things, but when you make that little you have to be even more cautious with your budget.
  • There is so much crap in the house that selling it will be a nightmare. My father has always been a “collector” of (likely) worthless stuff — paintings and sculptures from art shows, baseball figurines, records and CDs and DVDs, books, and who knows what else. Maybe some of it is worth something but selling it all and determining if any of it is worth more than pennies on the dollar is going to take more time than it’s worth. Once he was diagnosed with terminal cancer his collecting definitely increased. I get it – he was dying and collecting was a hobby and maybe helped him feel like he wasn’t in such a horrible position. Still, I wish there was some fiscal logic in the behavior those last years the my parents should have been downsizing anyway, not buying more stuff.
  • My father almost built an additional storage unit in the back of our house (the house already has 3 attics!) as my mother is a hoarder and has run out of room for stuff. Did I mention I’m not looking forward to cleaning out the house to prepare it for sale?
  • My parents spent a lot on making the house accessible and livable for my father. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the amount of years of use vs the probably better thing to do of selling the house years ago and moving to an accessible building just is sad when you look at it from a sheer numbers perspective. Even if they did want to stay, they could have more wisely spent those dollars, and less of them, to make it livable but not to the point of spending way more than the house will ever be worth.
  • Meanwhile, parts of the house are falling apart. The oven has been broken for years. Who knows when a new roof is needed (not my mother, that’s for sure.)  There will be costly updates before selling the house likely that weren’t handled with all the money spent on additions and renovations.
  • He paid for years into long term care but ended up not using it at the end because to use it he would have to admit he was dying soon and he never could. He also wanted to be home and the LTC policy did not cover the full amount of in home care, so I think he knew he didn’t have the money to use it- but unfortunately was unable to have an honest conversation about this – so his last months were spent first in the hospital, then in rehab, and then for a horrible few weeks at home where my mother could not properly care for him, and then his condition worsening (who knows if it would have been better if he never went home or had actual in-home care), and then back in the hospital and then back in a different rehab where he died. That whole process is a long blog post or a book of trauma which haunts me and makes me feel sick every time I think about it. But from a financial perspective, it was just extremely sad that he didn’t use his long term care policy when he needed it most. Meanwhile he stopped paying for my mother’s LTC policy years ago because he said it was “too expensive.” Well, now it’s too late to get her one (probably) and she probably will be the one who needs it. I’m terrified of what happens as my mother ages. She may be a looney toon but she’s still my mother and I want to make sure she’s as ok as one can be in her senior years.
  • My father constantly mentioned wanting to pass money down to his children (myself and my sister) and while at this point I do not expect that, it’s still sad that he made this comment time and again (esp for my sister since he saw her as incapable of taking care of herself) and now there’s basically nothing left. I don’t know how to advise my mother on this as I don’t want to have anything to do with whether or not she cares to pass money down to her children (and I certainly don’t feel like I have the right to anything) but I am worried about my sister and I also just think it’s sad that this was so important to my father but he failed to set things to up to make sure it happened. As a parent now, and one who hopefully accumulate substantial wealth, I want to make sure my child(ren) are set up to be ok even if the world goes to shit.

Well, I’m sure I’m forgetting and/or not seeing other financial issues that will come up. Thus far we’ve successfully filed 2015-2017 taxes (and have an extension on 2018) so that’s step 1. Baby steps. I see the light at the end of the tunnel here, once the taxes and loans are paid off, and the main house is sold. I think her Florida condo, as a full time dwelling, should help her get to at least break even for a few years, and hopefully she can even save some of the pension and social security money at some point to increase her investments and stretch out what’s left of the IRA.

So My Employer Over Contributed to My 401k – Now What?

Although I had the idea last year to contribute enough for my 2017 401k to obtain the match my company provides, I decided against it since I didn’t want to mess anything up w/ my taxes.

Fast forward a few months and I notice something strange when my Fidelity 401k shows a contribution on Jan 2. This clearly came out of my final 2017 paycheck. I looked at my paycheck and confirmed this — my employer made my contribution in 2017, even though I told them not to start contributing to 2018. Continue reading

A Loose 5 Year Plan

The whole “being pregnant” and going into “nesting” mode is real. I’ve been spending way too many hours scouring Redfin and Zillow despite knowing that I can’t afford a home here, other than maybe a 1 bed, 1 bath in a really bad part of the bad part of town.

So. I’m trying to focus my energy on longer-term, more realistic goals, while also ensuring that I keep my job in order to hit them.

2018

  • Age: I turn 35(!)
  • Networth: Close out the year at $645k-$650k
  • Housing: Live in 1 bedroom / 1 bath apartment (50% = $14.1k yr)
  • 401k: invest $22.5k
  • Stocks: invest $30k 
  • Baby #1: born, 0 – 5 mo
  • Baby #2: not born yet

Continue reading

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Life is Really So Short.

Most of us remember being kids and, while we might have been worried about death, our lives were so long ahead of us. What they don’t tell you back then is that your childhood is long and slow, and you end up getting so excited about turning 18 and 21… then you’re suddenly 30 and then 40 and then you’re 50 and however many years are left of your life, the best of your health is probably being you… Continue reading

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