Tag Archives: retirement

Roth IRA: Just Maxed Out 2008, down $5000

Today, I put the last $300 into my Roth IRA for 2008. It feels rewarding to know that I’m saving for my future, yet the $5000 in losses to my Vanguard Portfolio due to current economic conditions isn’t exactly a fun “reward” to look at in my accounts.

Still, I’m investing with the hope… and faith… that the economy will recover again. I think it will, eventually, but it’s going to take a while. Had I followed my faith a year ago that the stock market was going to keep tanking, I would have possibly shorted some stocks and cold have been much better off now… but I don’t have time, or the heart, to deal with such “high risk” behavior. Instead, I put my money in the stock market, knowing it’s going to tank now, hoping it will rise in the future.

The question I have now is when do I invest in my Roth for 2009? Usually I put a large chunk of money in up front (money left over from taxes). By “usually” I mean over the last two years, since that’s how long the account has been open. I like to just get it out-of-sight, out-of-mind before I start thinking of myself as wealthy enough for luxuries. The stock market seems pretty bad right now, so I’m not too worried about adding another few thousand once I get my tax return back. Still, this all begs the question whether I should spread out my investments ($440 a month) or put a bunch in up front and finish up over the later half of the year (like I’ve been doing.) Dollar cost averaging is always the recommended way to go… but, eh, when the market is this down, maybe it doesn’t matter as much?

Also, as far as retirement savings go, I decided to do the HSA for my healthcare. In addition to my company putting $100 in the account per month, I’ll be putting $100 in. So that’ll be $2400/year for healthcare *or* retirement. I’m just worried my frugal save-for-retirement self will avoid doctors in order to save for my retirement, and I’ll end up killing myself slowly in the meantime. (Not that I ever go to doctors, even when I have full insurance, I’m too lazy and busy). In any case, the savings rate for the HSA is so sucky – 2.1 or something – and w/ the taxes in California taken out of that it isn’t a huge savings. But I’m going to look at it as a traditional IRA that’s being overtaxed by my bankrupt state. One that I can dip into if I need to go to the doctor for antibiotics every once in a while.

The HSA does have the option to invest with Ameritrade, so I’m probably going to look into setting that up soon. I won’t put all the money in stocks, but I’d like to diversify my retirement portfolio outside of Vanguard and I do want to get some Gold/Silver ETFs in it… since they don’t get taxed at the ridiculous collection tax rate if they’re in an IRA. Well, I don’t know how that works in an HSA… esp since it doesn’t get taxed federally but it does get taxed in CA. Hmm.

The Weirdest Conversation With My Dad about Saving Money

Maybe my dad’s perspective on saving for retirement has changed since he has cancer and may never make it to see the 401k fruits of his many years of labor, but the phone conversation I had with him earlier today about investing was bizarre.

My dad has never been the frugal type, but he made enough money where his spending was reasonable. He enjoyed eating out, living in a nice-yet-modest home in the burbs, and taking a good vacation with the family once a year. Being as he worked as an actuary, his company provided a sizable pension.

Since my dad is the math and finance expert in the family, I’ve asked him for advice on where to put my savings and how much I should be saving for retirement. His immediate reaction to the question was “why are you saving for retirement now you’re only, what, 25?” I’ll let my dad off the hook for not being sure how old I am for the time being (I’m not sure if he’s 57 or 58, so that’s ok), but it kind of irks me that he almost thinks it laughable that I’m attempting to save for the long run.

His response about long-term saving is that I shouldn’t worry, that the “inheritance” will “cover” my retirement. (A lot of you were upset at me in an earlier entry when I wrote about expecting a sizable inheritance in the future, but this is where I get the idea from!) Still, I’ve realized that I’m not going to expect that or rely on it, because who knows what will happen over the coming years. If I end up retiring with a butt load of money that I didn’t expect, all the better, I can donate it or give it to my hypothetical kids. In the meanwhile, I want to save $5M for my retirement.

So I go on to ask my dad where I should save the money, if not in a long-term account. He seemed perplexed why I didn’t want to spend it. “Enjoy life” were his exact words. Again, the fact that he now has a terminal illness might influence his advice a bit. He wouldn’t advise wasting the money on clothes or such (which is a bad habit of my mother), but other things like travel, sure.

That’s not to say I haven’t or won’t spend my money. I spent a lot in the past year on travel. Going home ($300 flights twice a year), my trip to Israel… all of that added up. And to be honest, I’m still not clear on where my net worth ended up for 2008. I feel like I spent a lot. And I did… if my taxes actually were 50% of my total income for 2008 I’d be at a loss for the year (though that’s also due to losing “thousands” in the market like everyone else). But I save a lot for my taxes and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up getting some money “back” (which really just means I’ll move the money from my “taxes” account that I ignore to a savings account that is included in my networth).

2009 is going to be a totally different story. With my promotion at work, as long as I can keep the job (and I plan to) I’ll be making quite a bit of money. Of course, it’s all relative, and it’s super easy to spend it all on things I don’t need. My cost of living is really low for someone my age in my location.

But I foresee a lot of major expenses in the next 10 years including, but not limited to, grad school, a house, a “new” likely used car, infertility treatments if I want kids ($20k a kid is not out of the question, and who knows if it will even work), etc, etc, etc.

All of those things cost a lot of money, which makes me so confused about saving. I only have about $1500 a month after taxes and rent/bills, even with my pay increase. Which is a lot, but not a lot, a lot. As I said earlier in this post, it’s so easy for me to spend that in a few days at the mall. Or at least a huge chunk of it.

I’m not planning on doing that this year. I want to spend this year, well, not spending. To see just how much I can save. I’m not going to live “frugally” but I am going to live well within my means. I just don’t know where to save the money.

I’m so tempted to put a lot of it into the stock market. Worst case scenerio it gets stuck in there long term because the stock market takes a while to recover and at some point it pulls out. That doesn’t seem wise. I’m planning on maxing out my Roth by putting $400 a month into the account. So that leaves me with $1000, give or take. $1000 a month isn’t that much, if that’s going to everything from vacation to clothes and other savings.

And I’m so so so fortunate to have the luxury to ask my dad about what to do with my extra savings. And to ask the finance guy at my company if we’ll get a 401k and be embarrassed to admit that I’m maxing out my Roth IRA at 25 and would like another tax advantaged account to put more money away for retirement.

Or maybe all of this retirement savings talk is teaching me the right things and wrong things at the same time. Maybe I should be saving my $5k a year for retirement, but beyond that it might be wise to invest elsewhere, for the short term. I’m pretty sure I want to do grad school within the next 3 years, and that ain’t cheap.

My dad has mentioned that when he can get into his 401k he’d “help” me out with grad school costs, but a part of me doesn’t want the favor. It’s tough to say “no” to that kind of offer, but I’m at a point in my life where I take pride in paying for my pursuits. I didn’t do that all through undergrad, and everything seemed worthless. I mean, I knew it was expensive, but it wasn’t something I paid for, something I earned or would have to earn in the future. Now my life – it’s really mine. Because I pay the bills. Because I have the choice to go to grad school and take out a loan, and pay it back. I guess I just want to feel normal, when it comes to finances. I grew up so spoiled in relation to the rest of the world and I’m tired of it.

But I’m also terrible at spending on big purchases, even if it’s things I really want but don’t need… like laser hair removal on my face (I have a hormonal disorder called PCOS that causes hair to grow where it shouldn’t which really sucks) and maybe Lasik for my eyes. I did pay $300 for Brite Smile this past year (I’ll post a review about the treatment tomorrow) which was huge for me, but I wanted to treat myself. Instead of wasting the money on clothes. I’d waste the money on brightening my teeth a few shades. Waste of money? Maybe. But it felt better than wasting money at the supermarket on things that went bad before I got around to eating them.

Immortality, Death, and Retirement Planning

The other day, my boyfriend and I were discussing death and immortality. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in this blog before, but I have a huge fear of death. I’m not a religious person and the concept of just not existing anymore scares the shit out of me. While I know it’s not possible to live forever, I get past my morality-anxiety by pretending like perhaps there will be some cure to every illness known to man (including old age) by the time I’m wrinkled like a prune and somehow I can live forever.

Why do I bring all that up? Even though we (and I) can’t live forever, our society is all geared around helping us live longer. In the early 20th century, the worldwide life expectancy for a human was 30-40 years old. Now it’s 67. In another 100 years, most people will probably be livin to at least their 90s.

That’s great in terms of… well, getting to stick around, aware, on this planet for a few extra years and for medical science as a whole, but how does lengthening one’s life mess with the concept of retirement?

Ok, so in one of my days of freaking out about my mortality I ended up doing some research into Cryogenics and started reading up on a place where for a shit load of money I could get frozen after I die and maybe, just maybe somehow in the future I could be brought back, alive.

That got me thinking… if ultimately many of us would want to live forever… if that’s what all our medical science is working towards with stem cell research and such, well, at what point in our future will the concept of retirement simply vanish?

Retirement exists, as I see it, for two reasons. One – you get old, you just can’t work as much as you once did because you’re sick a lot and need to take it easy en route to death. Two, you worked a long(ish), hard life and it’s time to sit back and enjoy the last few years you have on this earth. Either way, what’s that worth if you can remain healthy forever.

It’s kind of interesting, thinking about how much our culture would change if immortality were possible, and then how much it has changed simply due to medical advances and the increase in average life expectancy. If we could live forever, even the celebrity making billions upon billions of dollars would still have to be careful with how much money they spent because if life forever were possible, at some point money would run out.

So death, not too far along from birth, is really a requirement for the concept of retirement to work (sorry I’m being so morbid today folks, but it’s just been on my mind a lot lately).

Also, there have been a bunch of articles and blog posts out in the past week or so about how retirement is impossible for many people these days, what with the cost of inflation and lack of appropriate savings.

The Motley Fool recently published an article called “The End of Retirement“inspired by the also-recent PBS Frontline series “Can You Afford to Retire?

Well, the Fool was pitching its investment advice for sale (as it does in every article on that site) but it also pointed out some of the sad yet very real facts raised in the Frontline documentary. “[Thanks to how people of different wealth classes invest throughout their lives…] The richest people are getting richer, and the middle-class workers are falling further behind.

I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle, though lean towards the rich end of the spectrum. While I feel like I’ve just struck gold with my newly minted annual salary of over $60k (if I can hold this contract job for the whole year, mind you), after you take away taxes… including the lovely 15% self-employment tax I learned about the other day, my healthcare expenses, the fact that as a contractor I don’t get time off, paid holidays or any other benefits, and suddenly my $60k seems not as much as it did when I first gladly accepted my offer (well, I asked for $200 a month more, then accepted the offer).

It’s weird how two years ago I was thrilled to be making $35k, finally a year out of undergrad with a full-time job. Now, as I worry more about saving for retirement in my 20s and somehow saving up for a house (even a fairly decent downpayment on a house… in The Bay Area) and possibly an expensive MFA a few years down the line, I am not sure how much money I’d need to make in order to really feel, well, rich.

Yet I know I’m lucky and that I’m more rich than a lot of people will ever be.

I want to invest heavily towards my retirement and I already have $7000 put into my Roth IRA of a total $9000 I could invest since I opened my account. Not bad, but that was taking my savings and putting most of it into that Roth IRA. Well, it’s nice to know that if I make it to 65 I’ll at least have some money to take out, tax free. But what about now? What about that house… or 2br condo… that I’m dreaming of? How about grad school?

Other than knowing I ought to live more frugally overall, I haven’t a clue about how to allocate my money. They say “max out your IRA first” (if you don’t have a 401(k) and that sounds fine and dandy, but now that I’m a slightly higher tax bracket I’m not even sure if I should be investing in my Roth IRA or if now I ought to open up a traditional IRA that gets taxed later on. Ugh, I’m so confused.

Llama Money jokes about how the $1 million saved up for retirement isn’t really enough anymore, and explains how to save up $1 billion by retirement instead in this post.

“If you start investing at the ripe young age of 26 ( that’s how old I’ll be in a few months ), then you have 34 long years to enjoy the magic of compound interest. Assuming you earn an average return of 10% per year ( shouldn’t be difficult if you stick with low-cost index funds ), then you must save $308,700 per month until age 60. At that point you will have just over $1 billion in your brokerage account.”

Yikes! Um, I don’t think I’ll be able to save $309k per month anytime soon, or ever.

Llama poses that putting away $280 a month is enough to at least help you out financially at retirement.

The only thing that helps me worry less is knowing that I’m the type of person who won’t want to retire. I can’t imagine wanting to stop working just because I’m old. I’ll want to work a more flexible job, maybe take a bunch of time off, travel the world. But I don’t see why I should stop earning an income as long as my health allows.

And being that I’m 24, I can’t imagine myself incapacitated to the point where I’d be forced to live off my IRA income and nothing else. If that’s what’s going to happen, well, I better figure out how to start, uh, making $339k a month so I can save the $309k. Yea right.

Dreams of a 401(k)

Oh 401(k), when I think about you, I touch myself.

Employers matching contributions? That’s a truly beautiful concept, and one I’ve never been able to take advantage of.

At the moment, my freelance career prohibits me from obtaining full benefits at one company. That’s how I chose to live my life, so I have to deal with the fact that my Roth IRA has lost significant amounts of money this year, while if I had been able to contribute to an employee-match 401(k) I might have at least broke even amidst this recession mess. However, I just have to go it alone. That’s my choice.

But that wasn’t always the case. My first full time job at a magazine showed me how even full-time gigs at companies don’t always equate to earning the luxury of a 401(k). That company was a bit, how-do-you-say, confused in terms of organization. We had a meeting about getting 401(k)’s where the financial companies came in and presented our options, then they came in another day and we met with the reps and signed the paperwork. Of course, since the company was not making any money, our 401(k) was not going to include a match at all. So ultimately the only benefit was that it would encourage employees to start saving (but tax-wise, most of us would probably be better off with a Roth anyway).

Next up on my job history resume, I obtained another full-time gig at a startup where I was to get stock options instead of a 401(k). I never actually earned any of those stock options because I left the company after three months. I was fired. I was bored with the topics I was writing about. And I couldn’t keep up with the pace. It was for the best.

I worry a bit about my retirement. I know it’s many years off, but I won’t have the security that my dad has. He retired early so my family is living on a tight budget now, but in a few years he’ll have access to his pension and he and my mother can live off that. What will I have to live off of in 2058? Or whenever it is I end up retiring?

Thus far I put $4000 into my Roth IRA (started in 2007). It’s down to $3600. I know… I know that investing is a long term thing. Still, I can’t help but be concerned about what my future holds. Maybe the smartest thing to do would be to get a stable full-time job at a public company or government agency. But I’m trying to balance my happiness and my future. It’s hard to find that balance. I’m worried I’m leaning too far towards happiness right now.