Category Archives: Networth

My New Buckets FIRE Retirement Strategy

This will be a short post — but just documenting as I figure out my family’s goals for Fat FIRE / Coast FIRE using a new buckets retirement strategy. I really like this model as it helps me understand how much money I need to earn and how much I need my existing savings to grow in order to live the life I want. Since these are “Fat FIRE” goals they are a bit aggressive, but I like aiming for aggressive goals. I know if I hit them, then I’ll be in a really good place. If I don’t, then we’ll still probably be ok!

I’m now including my husband’s savings in a total Fat FIRE goal–he’s note exactly on the Fat FIRE train, but he’s naturally frugal and has agreed to maxing out his solo 401k annually, so I’m looking at all our money together for our net worth goals. At the end of the day, it is “our” money since if either of us get sick and need care, our funds will go to that.

  • Goal 1: 7M in retirement accounts by age 65 (by 2048 – to last 35 years)
    • Current: 514,000 (est 2M in 28 years at 5% YoY)
    • Gap: 5M (1.3M in today’s value before returns)
    • (*at 10% YoY value is 7.4M and I don’t need to save a dime more today to hit goal!!!!)
  • Goal 2: 3M in taxable accounts by age 50 (by 2033 – to last 15 years)
    • Current: 757,076 (est 1.4M in 13 years at 5% YoY)
    • Gap: 1.6M (750k in today’s value before returns)
    • (*at 10% YoY value is 2.6M and I only need 125k more saved today to hit goal – riskier since 10% YoY over 13 years is shorter time horizon, but not impossible)
  • Goal 3: 150k per child 529 before they turn 3
    • Current Kid 1: 35k (Plan – superfund 75-150k next year)
    • Current Kid 2: 35k (Plan – superfund 75-150k next year)
    • Current (Future) Kid 3: 18k

Since I am unable to save more than allowed in tax-advantaged accounts for retirement, what is likely to happen in that some of my 7M retirement goal will be in taxable accounts once I save the 750k additional to hit 3M at age 50. And, of course, the above does not into consideration that my accounts may perform well about 5% YoY, especially with dividends reinvested! But for now, I think these are really good goals. Some may say they are crazy goals (do I really need that much) but at least they are clear goals I can aim for, to help guide spending choices over the coming years.

The above also does not include emergency fund, home equity (I would like to own house outright on top of the amounts above.)

I am doing this all pre tax because I’m too lazy to calculate it post tax and I think if I can get to 3M + 7M pre tax buckets I’m still in good shape!

What do you think? Is this strategy too aggressive?

Some Real Numbers and Planning a Real Career Change

I slept last night so had some rather clarifying revelations  this morning:

  1. I need some actual financial targets that are meaningful. They may be scary, but at least then I can actually feel like I’m making progress towards a real objective and financial security vs an arbitrary number.
  2. I need a career change. I know what I want to do. I’ve wanted to change into this career since I was 22. It will require a much lower salary for a while and some additional education… a master’s degree would be helpful but it’s also possible to get a certificate and spend time teaching myself. It means I need to plan for this as well to figure out how / when I can afford that pay cut and not mess with my retirement goal.

To start, and to make the career change palatable, I need to figure out that retirement goal number.

  • Set a retirement goal: My (family) goal is to have 10k per month (inflation adjusted) in after-tax retirement income at age 65 (assuming my house is paid off or I use proceeds from my house to buy another lower-cost home in cash.)
  • Determine 4% rule amount: how much do I need for withdrawals of my accounts at age 65 through age 100? So I’ve read you need 2.5M today to afford 100k/yr expenses in retirement. With inflation of 3% for 35 years, that is a total of 7M needed to retire (when I’m 65.)
  • Calculate my current totals:
    • IRA Pre-Tax: 523.9 (366.7 post tax)
    • IRA Post-Tax: 96.9
    • Total 2020: 463.6
    • Total 2055 @ 5% Returns = 2.5M
    • GAP: 4.5M
    • (I need about 1.3M today w/ 35 years to grow 5% / yr to hit goal if I never touch it) or about 836k in additional savings today in my retirement accounts

Now, do we really need 10k a month of retirement spending (in today’s dollars?) I don’t know. Maybe we could live on less. Assuming we want to retire in a HCOL area and travel and pay for my kids to travel with us and pass on some inheritance, I’d like to at least aim for that. I have 35 years to make it happen. If I can make it happen WITH a career change, that’s even better. If the career change will get in the way of that 7M at age 65 goal, then I just want to understand what that means for expectations when I retire. (*Note I’m not including social security because who knows if it will exist in 35 years.)

Right now, we can save about 100k per year in retirement accounts. Some of this is actually going to be Roth, but for the sake of simplicity I am going to count this as all pre-tax (70% of value) to figure out what we will have in retirement when. Once I change jobs, or if my husband gets a FT job, we may have less opportunity to invest in retirement accounts. (*Note, at the moment I’m not including my taxable accounts in this calculation — only retirement accounts. The taxable accounts do change the picture substantially, but the moment I am not counting those as they are basically my house payment put into the markets vs into paying off house.)

  • Calculate my future totals (2022):
    • IRA Pre-Tax: 723.9 (506.73 post tax)
    • IRA Post-Tax: 96.9
    • Total 2022: 603.6
    • Total 2055 @ 5% Returns = 3M
    • GAP: 4M

I need to spend some more time with these numbers because right now, even with the ability to put 100k to retirement accounts for the next 2 years (which is also unlikely as I’m probably going to change jobs in early 2022 and/or go to school so will have a gap in savings) then I don’t see how we’re going to hit the 7M goal at 5% per year return.

The picture looks very different if we can secure 8% YoY return with dividends reinvested as well. With 603k invested at 8% YoY for 33 years (assuming after 2022 we don’t invest a dollar more in retirement) we would have 7.6M(!!!) when we retire (and it would be more because a chunk of that is pre-tax.)

This tells me that it’s very important to hit goal of having 603k in my total retirement accounts by 2022. It also tells me I need to then hire a good CFP/CPA to figure out a strategy for future investments and conversions–because too much of my retirement money is tied up in pre-tax. I want to work it out where if I go to get a master’s degree for 2 years I can do some conversions then (when we have very low income) so that at the end of the day we actually are cancelling out the loss of income through low-tax conversions.

That said, I do want a third kid, so chances are I will be working in my same career (although a different company) through the birth of my third child and at least the first year of their life. Then school? I don’t know. That’s going to be a while. But it also means the opportunity to continue to contribute to my retirement accounts. Phew, this is looking a bit better if 8% is realistic (is it?)

  • 2020/36: 436k
  • 2021/37: 506k (baby 2)
  • 2022/38: 603.5k
  • 2023/39: 633k (baby 3)
  • 2024/40: 660k

At 40 or before, I do a major career change and feel like I’m in a good place for retirement, right? Or not. 660k with 25 years left to retirement is just 4.5M in retirement. I guess that’s because I’m not including actual gains on the account over five years, only contributions. The initial 436k should gain 200k at 8k. Which would put me at 880k at age 40 (including total family contributions) which still only gets me to 6M at age 65. Ugh I wish I was better at math! Well, 6M at 65 sounds pretty good too, considering I’m not counting social security or any of my taxable savings, which should also be substantial at that point. I feel pretty ok with the plan above, assuming growth to 880k of these accounts (or something like that) by the time I turn 40.

Since I’m going that post tax, let’s say I need 1M in my retirement accounts before I feel like I’m “safe” for retirement (i.e. money I’m not going to touch until I’m 65) and then I’m in a really good place for a career change. Or I pull the plug earlier, but I do think getting through my third and last child while having good insurance and a stable career (if you can call my career stable lol) is a lot smarter than switching now. That doesn’t mean I have to wait until then to take a class or two or prep for my career change. It just means I have a real goal to save for retirement. Once I get to that safety net in my retirement accounts — aiming for 6M-7M when I’m 65 without adding another dollar to my retirement accounts — then I’ll feel a lot better. Then all I need to do is be able to afford my expenses between “now” and age 65. I can do that with my taxable investments/savings and income. My family’s lifestyle will be dependent on my ability to move up in my new field as well as gains on my taxable investments (which are 757k today and should be about 1M by the end of next year if I can hang on to this job for dear life and the stock market doesn’t crash. Knock on all the wood.)

Perhaps I should splurge and buy a new computer with a functional “4” key (yes this is why I am not using the dollar sign in any of my posts… I have “4” as my clipboard paste item but I can’t have that and the dollar sign. I should probably reprogram some key I don’t use to the the “4” — or I should buy a new computer? Hah.

Ok, this makes me feel a little better. I do want to figure out the “37-65” annual income vs living off savings and where I can dip into savings for a career change without having to take a major lifestyle cut. And I like to spend money, so I’d like to be able spend as well… especially on fixing up my house (a major addition, at some point, or moving to a nicer place in an area I want to live) and travel while paying for my sister to come with us. And helping my mom out when she runs out of money because she probably will.

In any case, once I have enough in “retirement” accounts I’m just going to feel a lot better. I have to catch up since I didn’t have access to a 401k in my 20s and my husband started his retirement contributions in his 30s as well.

Shorter term, since 2022 seems SO far away, here are some realistic goals for the end of next year:

Calculate my future totals (2021 End):

    • IRA Pre-Tax: 623.9 (436k post tax) + 5% = 654k
    • IRA Post-Tax: 96.9 = 101.7k
    • Total 2021 (Pre Tax): ~750k

Total End 2021 Goals:

    • Home Debt: -900k (300k equity + 1.2M loan)
    • Taxable Accounts: 1M
    • 529 Kid 1 = 75k
    • 529 Kid 2 = 75k
    • 529 future Kid 3 (my account) = 50k
    • Retirement (Mostly Pre Tax) = 750k

Actual Earnings 2021 Goals:

    • Income: 250,000
    • Vested Stock (Sold Pre Tax Value): 500k
    • Other Benefits: 30k (ESPP growth), 4k (401k match)
    • Total Income: 784k (very approx)

This would be an incredibly positive total income next year and end to 2021. That’s only 13 months away. It’s going to be a crazy 13 months with a lot in the air. If I can get the above set by end of 2021 (leading into getting pregnant with my third kid) I think I’ll be in good shape.

I need to do a better job of running these numbers. If I can hit the above goals, I’m going to hire a good CFP to help me figure out my strategy for the years ahead.

Coast FIRE sounds good to me.

I’m digging the idea of Coast FIRE–which is basically what my goal has been for a while, I just haven’t had a name for it. By “Coast FIRE-ing,” basically you save enough that you no longer have to keep saving. You just work to pay expenses and your savings grow to support your expenses forever. I like the sound of that.

One of my commenters reminded me that at two million in savings, I might already be there. But then I realized I don’t actually have two million in savings. So I need to figure out how much savings I need to Coast FIRE and then focus on getting there, versus some meaningless arbitrary number that sounds good (like five million, though that still sounds good.)

  • Cash – 185k
  • Home Equity (After Sale) – 226k
  • Taxable – 508k (726k at 30% tax)
  • IRA – 211k (353k at 40% tax)
  • Roth – 103k
  • 529 – 90k

Total Actual Family Networth: 1.3M
Minus home equity and 529 = 984k

So… we’re not really at 2M. I think where I’m going is that we need to get to 2M after tax, not including home equity and 529, to be Coast FIRE. I need to run some more numbers, but the above is a more realistic breakdown of our actual family net worth.

It can definitely grow over the next year with my vesting a chunk of company stock, but it will be a while before we hit 2M… and even then I’ll have to make enough income to afford about 12k a month in expenses for the next 30 years without any savings on top of that. I guess if we get to 2M after-tax net worth (minus our home equity and 529 funds), then we have to earn 250k a year together to cover 12k a month in expenses. If my husband makes 90k, that means I need to make 160k to Coast FIRE, once we’ve saved 2M.

Is $2.5M next year realistic?

When I think about numbers like $2M (or look at my family personal capital net worth tracker and see it show $1.9M in net worth) I get a strange feeling. Just 17 years ago, I was a fresh-out-of-college gal with pretty much nothing to my name, struggling to pay $400 a month for a tiny room in a Bay Area apartment (it was more like a closet) and afford gas for my car to get to my internship, where I earned $50 an article the newspaper published.

I didn’t know what I was doing with my life (spoiler alert: I still don’t!) but I knew I couldn’t fail. I couldn’t ask my parents for help. My father had quite an interesting financial philosophy of being overly giving through college but then you’re cut off. I’m grateful for the no college loans, but in hindsight find the strategy unwise overall versus instilling a sense of understanding the value of money.

I had to learn that on my own.

But I’m also glad I did. It worked out for me, while my younger sister is still struggling. I made a choice to be self sustaining. I realized than meant no kids until a decent nest egg was built (I loosely set a goal of $500k in savings before kid #1.) I didn’t want to marry for money and I didn’t feel comfortable dating career-minded men. Due to my mental health challenges it was important to find a partner who would be emotionally there for me and our family. I wanted a guy who I could see being a dad to my children. Granted, when I fell in love with my now husband at 22, I thought he may eventually be motivated to earn more income. It turns out people don’t change. But I’m ok with that. It works for us.

Sometimes I realize that lots of my peers at work (especially women) are married to partners who make equal to what they do, or more. Men overall tend to make more, so those married to SAHMs or “business owners” who barely break even are generally in a more stable boat overall, with earnings of at least 300k per year if not much more. But I also exist in a bubble, where you have a bunch of people who make 500k a year per household and then the rest of everyone who is making like 100-200k (as a family) and actually struggling to get by. We exist in this weird in between.

Saving and investing is the only reason we can stay here and make this work. I’m working with my husband to have him catch up on his retirement accounts (since he is self employed he can put a good chunk into his 401k each year.) I am trying my best to max out my own tax advantaged accounts, which now include 57k with a backdoor Roth through work. As we approach $2M, I feel little sense of stability or satisfaction. It’s a HUGE number, but it didn’t financial security. It’s better than the 10k I had 17 years ago or 100k 5 or so years after that. But it doesn’t make me feel good—yet.

My whole money mentality is broken, though, due to growing up with parents who earned enough for a good life but failed to budget or save effectively (case in point a $200k HELOC on a $500k home that was basically paid off when they were in mid 50s and empty nesters to ADD on to their home—my mom at 67 is just beginning to pay that down.) There were other bad choices and sad errors that led to losing about 100k overall. I’ll write about them one day.

But I grew up not worrying about money. We didn’t have a luxurious lifestyle by any means, but we were solidly middle class. And while I definitely do not expect or want any further money from my family, it is terrifying to me to lose that sense of security, however false or ill-conceived it was. I want to get to a point where I can send my kids to summer camp… or take the family on a nice vacation… without worrying I ought to put that money in the stock market instead. I want to get to the point where I don’t feel like every $1 I spend today is $20 30 years from now invested. Where I can step back and say, ok, we have enough and we just don’t need more even if we can save more.

Right now that number seems to be $5M. The sooner I get to that, the better. Again, it’s another arbitrary number I’ve picked out of thin-ish air, but it just seems right. My goal is to be able to focus on working to pay annual expenses but no longer having to save at that point. If I can no longer work for some reason, the $5M, spent and invested wisely, can last quite a while. I don’t have any desire to keep going and make $10M or whatever—what is the point? Who needs that much money? At $5M I could help my mom out, pay my expense, help my sister, pass on enough to my kids, and even comfortably pay down my 30 year fixed mortgage.

I just really want to get to the point where I can work because I enjoy it. To say fruck you to the golden handcuffs and do my own thing. Start a business. Start a non-profit. Build a company that helps people. Write books or screenplays or direct documentary films or who knows what else. Spend time with my kids because clearly they grow up way too fast. Spend time with my family because they won’t be around forever.

I am not quite sure how we get to $5M. In 10 years at 10% YoY if I don’t touch the 2M that’s 5 right there. I don’t know if 5 will feel enough then, but it will be close. Imagine, $5M when my kids are 12, 10, (and 8??)—what that would mean for the rest on my life. And their lives. I’ll be 46, which is old in that is likely half of my life if not more than that, sadly, but still if I am at 46 with $5M my family is in a really, really good spot. My mom, hopefully healthy and well, will be 76. I can finally feel like I am in a financially safe enough place to pay her back for college and my wedding, through helping her out if she needs it or treating her to massages and other gifts on the regular. I can help my sister buy a house, or buy one and rent it to her at below market (in her lower cost area.) I can finally be free of worry (almost—I’m sure I’ll fear total market collapse and never truly feel secure.) I can donate chunks of money and also buy some frivolous things just because. Like nice furniture. And lots of experiences to create the most valuable asset of all—memories.

This next year will be life-altering for me, and yet even with its income potential it still feels like baby steps towards my goal. I’m so impatient. But next year, as long as the market doesn’t totally crash and I keep my job, I should make $650,000 at a minimum. My husband will bring in about $100k on top of that. So after tax we will be bringing home about $350k, or nearly 30k a month. We should easily be able to save $20k a month for the year, which adds $250k to our net worth. It’s kind of crazy how big the income seems and how many people would kill to be able to save $250k per year and yet that’s just one year. If we could make $650k consistently for 10 years and save $2.5M on that alone, that would be one thing. But this is a special year. After that we go back to about $300k in income, and likely $2k-$3k  a month or so in savings. Back to reality.

So the trick is figuring out how to obtain a series of high-paid (due to stock) jobs for the next 10 years. If I can make 300k per year on my own and my husband can reliably do 100k we will be in a pretty good place. Of course that’s not easy — before this job my highest income was 190 and before that 170. It may be impossible to find another job that pays well. And staying in my current role doesn’t help—due to minimal stock refreshes, by 2022 my annual income will be around 200k WITH bonus. So I’ll need to move on (target date April 1, 2022) in order to have a shot at hitting my goal. April 1, 2022 is actually very soon! But right now I’m trying not to think about that. I have to keep my current job for 18 more months. That’s 3 months of work, 5 months maternity leave, and another 10 months of kicking ass and taking names (or, you know, just meeting deadlines and following through on plans) to remain gainfully employed and win the lottery where I am already holding a winning ticket.

So I can’t focus on $5M now. I have to focus on $2M and really $2.5M. How fast can we get to $2.5? Well, my husband promised me if we have 2.5 we can try for a 3rd kid. Given I’ll be 37 this month(!!!) I don’t have a lot of time left to make that happen. And I’m more than incentivized. It will happen. Somehow.

My Three Year Plan: $2.5M Net Worth, IVF, and Baby #3.

The only reason I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved thus far in life is, quite frankly, this blog. Well, the fact that this blog has, since I was 22, force me to plan my life in tiny increments and seemingly impossible goals that I’ve managed to reach time and again. Despite a ridiculous amount of setbacks caused by my mental health issues, here I am, just short of the goal of hitting $2M in networth (including husband’s savings) by 37, and before having baby #2.

But as my 30s come to a close, I have a few major goals to accomplish that are definitely not givens. While my husband and I lightly talked about having a third child should we have two sons first, this week my doctor completely ruined my “sex surprise” by blurting out the sex at my appointment. So it’s a boy. And I’m happy, I really am, and I just want my son to be healthy and yada yada. I know after my first childbirth with my first son ending up in the NICU, just having a smooth birth where baby comes out breathing is a big win. I’ll take that for sure.

Yet like many woman, I long for a daughter. I know it’s a silly thing–people aren’t defined by their genitals. I could have a daughter who decides she is more manly than my boys. Still… I know I’m not the only woman who wants to have a girl. I also know if I don’t at least try (as in use medical intervention to skew the odds in my favor) I’ll regret it. I also will feel that after two kids if it doesn’t work out, I will be sad but accept it. And if I can, in my ripe old birthing age of then 39, make magic happen–I’ll be quite happy.

So, without further ado, here are my goal for the next three years. Keep checking back here as I update with posts on if I’ve achieved any of these goals…

(All goals based on December EOM of the following years)

2020 (Age 37)

  • $2M in total family net worth
  • Own a home and live in it
  • Pregnant with baby #2
  • Keep job through maternity leave start (start in Jan 2021)
  • Don’t get COVID.

2021 (Age 38)

  • $2.5M in total family net worth (including home equity after potential commissions)
  • Live in home and enjoy it (meet the neighbors)
  • Pregnant with baby #2 (give birth in Jan)
  • Keep job through maternity leave (start maternity leave in January)
  • Remodel bathroom, fix electric, add HVAC/AC, epoxy garage floors, don’t let all plants and grass die around house)
  • Use 1 month of mat leave later in year to go back to my childhood home and visit family, help mother clean out house and prepare for sale 🙁
  • Go back to work in May/June, remain gainfully employed (and do a good job) through end of year. Complete vesting of first stock grant.

2022 (Age 39)

  • $2.75M in total family net worth (including home equity after potential commissions)
  • Begin IVF for baby #3 in March 2022 (or sooner, if weaning prior to 2 years of age); g-d willing, pregnant by September (expect to spend 100k on IVF with PGS but hoping to find a job that covers some of this cost)
  • New job by July 1, 2022 (ideally April 1, 2022) closer to my home

2023 (Age 40!!!!?!!!)

  • Survive and not freak out about being 40.
  • $3M!!!?! in total family net worth (including home equity after potential commissions)
  • Give birth to baby #3?!?!
  • Employed at a job I like, that I’m actually good at.

Hmm. I wonder if any of the above goals are possible. The 2M by end of this year is reasonable as the long as the stock market doesn’t totally tank. And I should defiantly be having a baby this January (and hopefully a healthy baby.) Everything else is very TBD.

But these are my goals. I think if I can reach 3M by 40 that would be pretty insane. That’s definitely a stretch goal, even with my husband’s savings added in. But go big or go home, right?

And… I am so scared about doing IVF to try to have my third child, a girl, at 39. I just can’t not try. And I’ve always wanted three kids. I just Never pictured myself pregnant at 40! Gosh, how did I get this old?

Cash Needed for Buying a Million Dollar Home

We just purchased a $1.6M home. That isn’t a huge home here in the Bay Area, but it’s also not the cheapest home we could buy–especially of the 3 bedroom / 2 bath variety. But it was large in terms of square footage and with an oversized lot in a neighborhood we wanted to buy in (or, well, a block away) I ran all the variables in my head and decided while this isn’t the one now it definitely can be with some work. It’s also in an up-and-coming area and I think the value will hold in 5-10 years time, if we do decide to sell.

Rules for Buying a Million Dollar Home

I have a few home buying rules that are a little nutty but they work for my oddly conservative financial brain.

  • 20% down + 3% closing costs
  • 6 Months of home and rent expenses (we will have 1-2 months overlap on rent and house to make the move smooth)
  • 6 months of basic living expenses outside of housing
  • Any taxes due within the next 6 months
  • $50k-$100k “first year fixes” fund (try not to spend all of this, but have available if needed esp when buying an older house)
  • 6 months additional in emergency fund (all monthly costs)

My one additional rule that I am going to stick to (but will be harder) is:

  • No more than 20% of networth in equity at any one time.

Home Equity =

+ Downpayment
+ Principal Paid
+ Any Realistic Gain on Home Value (if sold today)
– Any Realistic Loss on Home Value (if sold today)
– 10% current value of home (cost to sell)
– .30% of any gain over $500k+home maintenance fees

This means that right now, my home equity is worth:

+ $322k
+ $0
+ $0
– $0
– $161k
– $0k
=======
$161k

This means that my remaining AFTER TAX cash & investments should be $805k to have 20% of my networth in my home.

Buying a Million Dollar Home Doesn’t Have to be That Scary

This is what makes buying a $1.6M home less scary, but it also means that before buying a $1.6M home you not only should save a large downpayment, but also an additional $1.1M. Not everyone can do this, or wants to do this before buying a house. It’s possible I should have purchased a house 10 years ago for $800k, where now my mortgage would be $3500 a month, vs $7000 a month (give or take) and I’d have 20 years left to pay it off. But then I wouldn’t have the $1.1M, and I would have definitely gone into home ownership with way too much of my networth in home equity.

I prefer to build up that larger cushion and know that a chunk of my money still has access to the markets, which will likely outperform my house after you factor in lost opportunity cost with the downpayment, etc.

How much of your networth is in home equity?

Journey to FIRE: 2021 Networth Goals By Account Type

Quick “after tax value goals” post for Jan 1, 2022

  • Home Equity: $456k
  • Cash: $311.8k
  • Stock: $811k
  • IRA: $201.5k
  • Roth: $147.1k
  • Husband’s Retirement: $108k
  • 529 (2 kids): $138.3k

NEW TOTAL AFTER TAX NETWORTH GOAL:
$2,065,832 (age 38)

I’ll be tracking this closely as this is a significant growth in networth, as well as assuming we own a $1.6-$1.8M home… if we ever buy one.

My Journey to $2,000,000 — A Quick FIRE Check-In

2020 is weird. Remember when our stocks dropped about 30%, then bounced right back? I made some not-so-wise money when the market was down, but also made a few good ones. And maybe the bad ones weren’t so bad after all.

My asset allocation is all out of whack. Still. It’s worse, because I admit I’m a wee lil addicted to individual stock buying and those individual stocks are primarily US tech stocks. I do not recommend this to anyone, this is me being dumb and seeing investing as a hobby outside of my actual diversified index fund investments. It was fun when I had about $50k in my old Sharebuilder account and I could see if I could beat the market, for kicks. Now I have about $300k in that account (moved to another broker but nonetheless), it’s getting a little, well, scary.

Right now, my networth (after tax*) looks like this:

  • Cash: $318,937 (downpayment fund + emergency fund)
  • US Large Cap: $546,150 (65.5%, target 43%)
  • US Small Cap: $31,810 (3.8%, target 5%)
  • International Developed: $183,258 (21.9%, target 27%)
  • Emerging Markets: $28,546 (3.4%, target 5%)
  • US Bonds: $0(0%, target 12%)
  • Int Bonds: $45,142 (5.4%, target 8%)

TOTAL: $1,154,954

(*why after tax? I count my networth based on after tax value, not including any penalties or fines for early withdrawals, so I have a full picture of my actual savings and asset allocation)

As you can see above, I’m wayyyy overweight in US Large Cap.

This doesn’t tell the whole picture, because:

  • it doesn’t include my husband’s savings or investments (~$200k which help the diversification but not much, total ratios look like 65/3.9/21.8/3.7/.4/5.3 %)
  • it has $0 in bonds because I sold US bonds for downpayment, and need to rebuild my bond fund
  • the above does not include my potential RSU earnings in the next 16 months, which after tax = ~ $536,896 if I can keep this job for another 16 months, which I hope I can! (total networth including 16 month RSU vested and taxed = $1,691,850)

At this point, for my goal of $2M after tax networth by 40 (solo, not including husband’s savings/investments), I think I’m making good progress. The next 16 months will be key. If the stock market crashes, given how heavily I am invested in stocks, the $2M goal could be far off. If it goes up, then I could be closer than I think.

$2M isn’t a substantial goal for me. I won’t feel good about my personal finance progress until I get to $5M. I want to do that by the time I’m 50, so I have enough money to raise a family in a very HCOL area and help my mother and sister out, so they don’t have to worry. My mother will be 76 then, and I expect that to be the age she is running out of money. When I hit $5M, I plan to pay her back for my college education and wedding (if she really needs the money before then, I will definitely help her out and I already pay for her trips to visit my family, etc.)

$5M seems like a long way off, but if I can find another company growing at anywhere near a similar rate to my current company and get an equivalent or larger RSU grant, maybe 2-3 more times, it’s somewhat possible.  I didn’t think $100k was possible just 15 years ago, so who is to say adding $3.5M in 10 years isn’t possible? With my current funds growing at 5% a year, that will add about $1M in 10 years, so I just have to makeup for $2.5M, which is saving $250k a year. That’s going to be rough, maybe impossible. It depends what kind of salary and total comp growth I see in the next 10 years. It’s probably impossible… but I always pick impossible targets, why not this one?

 

Still Shopping For a Home—Will We Ever Buy One?

Nine weeks pregnant with number two. Wide awake at 4am due to some pretty bad nightmares and a moderate amount of dehydration. I would go to the kitchen to get a water bottle but I can’t because I live in a one bedroom apartment my son sleeps in the living room, next to the kitchen.

I feel so ridiculous to consider my problems problems when the real problems in this world and in this country are so, so much worse. Anyone reading my story, especially without context, would think—man, what a crazy rich woman who is afraid of spending money. Maybe I am. Maybe I shouldn’t be. But my mental health issues make it really hard to know what my life will be like in a year let alone a day. So what do I do?

Looking at houses here that are under $2M and you wonder why anyone buys a house. If they cosmetically are acceptable then there is something wrong with their bones, if their bones are in good shape they are three bedrooms in a space only slightly larger than my current one bedroom apartment. With my husband’s mission to have his dad live with us (which I support IF we could find a place that worked), it makes it all the more difficult.

Part of me says — rates are so low right now, now is the time to buy your forever home. It will hurt financially for the first 5-10 years and then not be too bad. But that is if I can maintain employment for 30 years. I cannot imagine doing what I am currently doing for 30 more years. I desperately need a career change. Without a clear vision of what that is or the income on the other side, I really don’t know how to plan at all. And my husband mutters how I make unreasonable requests of him like try to earn $150k in 5 years (he is at about $80k now but works part time, and he is 38.) I try to tell him I don’t care about his income but if we are going to buy a house that changes things. I need to know we can afford the mortgage or at least most of it on one income—mine OR his.

I know many families have one SAH parent and buy a house. But around here the only families like that I know are one engineer households. If you are a good engineer at a good company you are pretty much set for life unless you massively fuck up. I’m not in a position like that. My job is a weird one that in some companies would be considered a junior role and in companies where it is paid anywhere near what I’m making it would require a lot more management experience.

So I am in this weird spot. I am earning more than I ever thought I would and my networth is climbing (it is realistic to think, if I can keep my job, I’ll have $2M in 2-3 years saved up pre tax, unless the stock market crashes) but I still don’t feel at all stable or accomplished. Yes living in the Bay Area is living in lala land — anyone reading this post from anywhere else would say leave! But my husband grew up here, our friends are here, I am better mentally without my typical seasonal depression in most of the country, and we really want to stay.

I just wish my husband would step up a bit. I know he is tired since due to COVID we lost our part time childcare and now he is watching our son all day while also working part time at night or whenever he finds time to do his work. So maybe I am asking for too much. I would like him to take an online class or something—just to move in the direction of building a career. Like my job, his doesn’t really make sense outside of his company. Some skills would translate but since he has worked for one small company his entire 13 year career, it’s harder to show variety or new learnings. I still think he could get a better paid full time job if he tried, but he never has been interested in having a career.

And some days I think—maybe I can just work my way up to VP and consistently earn, say, $300k a year. For others in my position, that might be doable. But I’m no VP. I do not like managing people or hiring or firing people. In my creative field, I find it very difficult to give feedback without redoing the work myself—and even then I don’t like what I’ve done so how am I supposed to guide someone else to do better?

All of this is to say, here I am, 36, pregnant with #2, with a good chunk of change in savings, and I feel more vulnerable and scared than ever. Up until now I’ve lived with no debts. Some of that is due to fortunately having parents who footed my bill for college (and I really want to pay my mother back for that one day!) But I’ve also bought my cars used with cash and live in small apartments that are less than I can afford based on any housing to income cost calculators.

It’s hard to go from NO debt to $1,500,000 in debt.

But isn’t that how wealth is acquired? My friends who 11 years ago paid $800,000 for a small house, probably with $180,000 down, now own a small house valued at $1,700,000. Maybe $2,000,000 in 10 years will sound as cheap as $800,000 sounds now? Though it’s hard to imagine these homes being worth $3M let alone the $2M they are going for today.

On top of all this, I dislike the real estate business as a whole. Sure, if you know what you are doing and buy the right investment properties you can do very well for yourself. But when you are buying a home for yourself, you are in it on your own while all the people who are supposed to help you don’t really have your back —

your lender — well they want you to be as low risk as possible and any small risk they say you have gives them a reason to charge you more for it. This makes sense for actual risks — but my latest finding from one lender is that we qualified for 3.125% 30 year fixed except when they realized my husband is self employed it jumped to 3.85% (clearly they don’t care that my husband has worked for the same one non profit for the past 13 years and has always made the same annual income with them plus raises while in that same time I’ve had six jobs. Whose income is more stable???)

Then, since you can’t do contingencies in the Bay Area if you want to buy a house, you apparently have to risk 3% of the price of the house (your “earnest money deposit”) and pray to god your loan closes in the allowable amount of time. If not, bye bye $30k! Well, none of these lenders are giving me much confidence our loan will close with no hiccups. With my husband’s self employment status and some new rules around that, not only will our rates be higher, they also will need to see some crazy things like a deposit within 10 days of close. Maybe that makes sense for someone with ongoing business income, but my husband gets paid four times a year for each quarter of work. That is not a big deal—to hold a check and deposit it, but only one lender told me this. What other weird rules will pop up during our closing process that we don’t know about?

your realtor — she drives a nice car, always. And she is an extrovert and smiles and sells you on why to buy a house. She may look at the disclosures and warn you of major risks, but she isn’t really an expert on that stuff, that’s what inspectors are for. But you don’t need an inspector to see that this house built 60+ years ago has issues. There are tiny cracks here and there. The floor is uneven. A tree looks like it’s roots might be going under the house. Everything creeks when you walk upstairs. The layout is nonsensical which is a cosmetic issue but still will you regret having to walk a weird way to get around for the hundredth time? What other issues are lurking in the foundation and in the walls?

The sellers, at least here, pay for their own inspections. I’ve read plenty of reports. Termites. Water damage. Fungus. Liquefaction zones. Flood zones. Seismic hazard zones. Environmental hazard zones. The list goes on. In any area where we are considering a $1.8M home (that will probably go $2.1M anyway) the ground water apparently is 0-10ft deep. That’s not in the inspection report, I found that online! But two “tanks” with one leaking(?) is in the report. What does that mean? My realtor said she would be comfortable with that risk. But we don’t know what’s leaking.

I’d feel so much better buying a 3/2 for under $1.4M. If it turns out to need work we would have the money to do that work. Husband refuses, wants a large home on a large lot with an in law where his 76 year old dad (who can pay $2000 a month until he goes into assisted living) can live. I want that too—but without me knowing I can maintain a mid-senior role in public tech companies every month for the next 30 years, well, that seems like a horrid idea.

your inspector — ok, they are going to try to find issues to help you out (that is their job after all) but given no inspection contingency is allowed in most cases, you won’t actually have your own inspector.

Ok, so maybe we should rent-forever. It is difficult to find rentals I want to live in (at a reasonable cost) and I can’t fight the nagging feeling that if we don’t buy now we will be priced out forever. I certainly know most people would recommend we rent for a few years then move to an area with a lower cost of living. But we really plan to stay here forever. At some point, into the far off future, buying becomes a better financial Option than renting. Emotionally, it is a better option day one.

The reality is that houses that really check all the boxes are around $2M-$2.5M. Y’all think I’m crazy but look at Bay Area listings on the Peninsula and in the nicer areas of San Jose. Can we get a house for less than that? Of course. It’s even possible to get a dump for $1M! But if we get what we want — 1800 sq ft, 4br/2ba with an in law or ADU on 7000 sq ft in actual good shape, in a half decent school district, that’s easily $2.2M. So then I question should we just wait until we can afford $2.2M? Will we ever be able to afford that? And by then I won’t that house be $3M and the mortgage rates will have gone up?

i know I know first world rich people problems. But most rich people have either trust funds or faith in their career and ability and skills and value, and often two parents who are earning a good income. What do I have? A few crazy good years of income thanks to RSU growth then back to earning $150k a year, if that?

I feel like I can’t buy a house until I figure out my career but at 36 that now seems like it’s never going to happen. I want my son and tbd child 2 to grow up in a house. It isn’t necessary, it is a want. But when I’m making $600k a year (what I will likely earn this year if I keep my job which is absolutely insane) I feel so confused about how I should think about my “class,” my risk tolerance, and my home purchase price. A few more years at this income and I can afford that $1.8M house. Heck, I can afford that $2.2M house. But in 2 years my income drops to $300k, then $210k, as my stock isn’t being refreshed enough since I am not a very valuable employee. I should get some small stick refresh this year so I’ll probably hover around $210k if I stay in this company in this role forever (last year I got a 1.7% raise so I’m not expecting any big salary growth here.) $210k isn’t bad either, but with my husband’s $80k that is not enough to afford $2.2M or $1.8M.

AND that $210k is IF i keep this job forever. It is good for now—I am going to stay at least to get all of my initial grant as long as I don’t get fired or let go, and maybe one more year, but then I need a change. Maybe I need to make $80k for a few years (or less) while I figure things out. Maybe I need to go back to school. Maybe I want to take some time off to spend with my kids while they are young and consult part time, I don’t know what I want but I know I don’t want to overbuy and close doors to whatever out there could make me happy, if such a career exists.

So this is where I am. We’ve agreed it we don’t buy a house by October we will rent a bigger place for a while. We are considering putting a $1.8M offer in on this 5br listed at $1.875, which I am fairly confident we wouldn’t get. I’d prefer to lose out on a bunch of bids then overpay. The house is far from my current job but I won’t have to go back to the office this year and in 3 years I can change jobs. But it’s also far from SF which most jobs I’m qualified for are. If I change careers, maybe that doesn’t matter. But it’s scary to think I might get stuck with some crazy San Jose to SF commute one day to not lose our house.

we are looking at another two coming up—not as nice, both $1.8-$2M, both with built in laws. The inspection report on one was pretty scary though most old buildings have issues so who knows.

I wonder at what networth I will be able to relax a bit and enjoy life. I have the $5M number in my head. It’s arbitrary, as all my numbers are, but I think that’s it. That’s enough for a $2.5M basic house and enough to stay in the stock market and grow as long as we keep working and at least pay our living expenses each year. That’s enough to pay my mother back for college and my wedding and help my sister out a bit if she is still earning minimum wage or close to it. And to start giving to charity in substantial ways. I mean, $10M sounds better, but more realistically I want to aim for $5M. I guess that’s my FAT FIRE number. I don’t know how I’ll get there (unless I manage to keep getting jobs at rocketship companies where my RSUs go up in value.) I mean, realistically I’m looking at $2M by 38 or so. If I don’t touch that and get 5% on it YoY, in 20 years we will have $5M. Of course, in 20 years $5M won’t be worth $5M today. The real question is how do I get to $5M by 45? That’s saving about $400k a year for 8 years in a mix of interest, stock growth, and new earnings. It seems impossible. But my first $100k also seemed impossible. So maybe it is possible. Maybe it’s only possible if I buy a house. Maybe it’s only possible if I don’t.

 

 

 

How I Grew My Networth from $15k to $1M in 15 Years

In 2005, I had about $5k to my name. By 2010, I had increased that amount to $88k while living in high cost of living (HCOL) area and earning an average salary of $56k for those first years out of college. Five years later, my networth hit a respectable $342.4k. I kept working at startups with decent-but-not-great pay (stock options are worthless) and lived relatively frugally over the years.

By 2017, I achieved my first goal of $500k — a bit milestone, as I wanted to have $500k in the bank before having my first child–and I made it! Thanks to finally switching to work in a public company (and that company performing stronger than the market), I’ve been able to dramatically increase my networth in a short amount of time… doubling it in under 2 years. I haven’t really spent time to appreciate that I actually doubled my networth in two years.

Do I think anyone can do this? No. I got lucky. Some of this lucky has to do with my working at a lot of different startups and building up a reputation for being good at one thing that ultimately got me the job I have now. Will I continue to make such a high salary? No — probably not. My income is largely dependent on my RSUs and after I vest the remaining two years of stock, I’ll be back to a lower (but still good) salary. I’ll need to leave my company and find a new job for a chance at making close to the same income. Hopefully by then my experience at this company will get me the ticket in the door at another company that pays well and will offer me a good compensation package.

I know a lot of people look at my income now and think–well, I’ll never make that much. And that’s probably true if you work in a different industry that doesn’t offer RSUs as part of your compensation package and you aren’t a highly skilled employee. But you can see you can still save quite a bit on a lower salary in your 20s if you are single and don’t have kids. Now, I admit I did not have college loans to pay pack (thanks to mom & dad) so you can fairly say that my total networth should be about $200k less than is now, or even less than that since I would have lost out on compound interest repaying a loan. So comparably to others who have loans, my networth today is about $800k and by the end of this year will be $1M or more.

I still have a long way to go to achieve my goals. I want to get to $2M before having my third child (whether or not I have a third child is dependent on achieving this milestone by the time I’m 38 or 39) and I want to buy a $1.7M house. Below, you can see my income, networth, and YoY growth for the last 15 years. I plan to continue tracking this for the rest of my career — subscribe to my blog to get updates and learn more about my path towards wealth. If it inspires you to save a little more each month — awesome! Remember, I live in a 800 square foot apartment with my 22 month old and husband and drive a used car built in 2011.

Year Income Networth $ Growth % Growth
2005 $15k n/a n/a n/a
2006 $35k n/a n/a n/a
2007 $50k $24.9k n/a n/a
2008 $60k $15.8k -$9.1k -37%
2009 $60k $32.7k  $16.9k 206%
2010 $120k $88.6k $55.9k 270%
2011 $90k $145k $56.4k 64%
2012 $100k $200k $55k 38%
2013 $110k $253k $53k 26%
2014 $125k $299.5k $46.5k 18%
2015 $160k $342.4k $42.9k 14%
2016 $190k $416k $73.6k 22%
2017 $130k $551.3k $135.3k 32%
 2018  $300k  $625k  $73.7k  13.3%
 2019  $400k  $1.05M  $425k  99.83%
 2020  $500k $1.3M Goal  $250k goal  23% goal