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personal capital

March 28th, 2018 at 09:48 pm

I just linked tonight all our data on personal capital website. It was an interesting and enlightening snapshot of our assets and investment allocation. I did it myself earlier this year. Gave me fits figuring everything out efficiently because I worked with what my DH had done and with his 401k.

First up, we have enough in our investments to pay off our mortgage. Not enough in taxable but more than enough to pay it off if we cashed in our retirement accounts. Hadn't every really looked but interesting. Only thing taxable is the 401k and looking at it, I think we'd still have enough after taxes. Very nice.

Second, they checked my target asset allocation and I pretty much hit it dead on. I'm interestingly at a higher 90% stocks and 10% bonds mix. Higher than I thought. I thought I was at 85% and 15%. I wanted to be more at 80% stock/20% bonds. But I guess it's okay.

I just readjusted DH's 401k from VINIX to a mix of a small cap, mid cap, international growth and more bonds. I think we are holding cash that it makes sense to perhaps put a bit more into bonds even with the cash. Actually looking at it more carefully this portfolio does not include our cash position so with it included we are at my 80% stocks/bonds 10%/10% cash so maybe I shouldn't have adjusted the 401k. But I feel like this year bonds might go big and the stock market is due a correction.

A really impressive point is my management fees were evaluated at 0.07%. Yes that's awesome I think. Something I am considering is building a stock dividend portfolio. Investing in our taxable account maybe 5 stocks that pay heavy dividends.

I am also 52.2% US stocks and 23.74% international stocks. I guess things are looking good overall. This is a very nifty tool.

I also am considering buying RE as a diversification play. This is something I want to put 25k into or as much as $50k into a rental. We are talking about partnering with friends, which we'll see.

Finally the retirement projections. Well it says I have a 96% chance of retiring at age 53 with $7600/month. Substantially more than the $4k/month I was projecting. I'd like to hit that instead in 10 years but we have save more than I'm projecting which is entirely doable because I'm projecting only saving $40k/year, right now we're doing more but I want to be conservative.

We are also projecting unfortunately to be $30k short for each kid's college fund by 18. I'm thinking we might be closer to $15k. Why? Because I think it's assuming we won't have the projected $81608 by the time they start which is true. But we still have another 4 years to "save" the $2k/year we are doing and that takes care of $8k. And seeing the number in black and white being a projected $30k short each, means that if I for the next 10 years saved an extra $2k/year we wouldn't be short for either. I'm thinking maybe this year we do a one time $10k contribution to each kid for college and call it a day? I think we might have that the cards.

Anyway try using personal capital. It's an amazing website. https://www.talkable.com/x/cbBCMQ

checks

March 17th, 2018 at 07:17 am

Wow okay so I wrote over 50 checks last year. Crazy. I thought checks were a thing of the past turns out not. Check bill pay does not seem to work for me. I tried 3 times to have them mail a check to the guy who came and cleaned our gutters. I also am told to send a check to the school for activities. They don't seem fond of having an electronic check sent. Nor does the music teacher. Pretty much any kid activities wants a check cut unless they take credit cards.

I only realized this as I am looking over our annual spend and figuring out our taxes. I am pretty sure pre-kids we pretty much never wrote a check.

Oh well. I guess this explains why we run through checks a lot faster than I thought. When I told DH his eyes opened wide. Of course he pays no bills and hasn't cut a check in years. So he was floored. I can now see how many moms walk around with a check and comment "i am constantly cutting checks for every activity." More kids = more activities = more checks. Yes even if it's one activity it's still one check.

do i need an ef?

March 15th, 2018 at 05:46 pm

Years ago we ran so lean that every penny had to be accounted for so we didn't overdraw on anything. Our credit cards functioned as float but we basically ran it as a check register. No extra pennies anywhere. We squeezed dollars till they screamed.

But the things got easier for awhile and then we had kids and went down to one income and it was tight again for awhile. Then we decided time to get serious again and we started saving hardcore looking back we were at 50% savings again. We had made a plan in Christmas 12/2012 for 6/2016 that we were going to save 1 year of living expenses and move without jobs. We bumped it up to 6/2015 and we saved more than expected.

Anyway we lived on our savings (ie spent it the horror!!!), then knew we wanted to buy a house so we kept a lot of cash on hand for 2 years from 6/2015 to 6/2017 and then even after. We paid 100% cash out of pocket for our $75k renovations this year. No debt. We also bought a car and put down $8k.

But it appears we are unsure what to do about our saving again. We are back to having a "normal" EF of about 8 months cash. The problem is my DH I think feels insecure now and talks about having 1 year sitting in cash. I think not a good idea.

Second, I think that maybe we should start running lean again and have 1 month cash on hand and the rest we invest in something.

I'm struggling because I do think the stock market is high and I'm not sure I want to invest more in stocks right now. Second I'm really becoming interested in investing in real estate as a diversification in our overall portfolio. Not something we fall into but a real investment and bought solely with cash flow in mind.

But the the housing market seems red hot right now and I'm not sure it's the right time to plunk down cash. I mentioned the duplex a co-worker is selling that I've considered. It wasn't enough of a return to generate making it worth investing right now.

But if we are serious about getting into RE i think we need the cash to put as a down payment so investing it in stocks doesn't seem wise either. Nor does running with a lean EF. We probably should have a fully funded rental EF.

For people who invest in RE what's the wisest decision? For people not invested in RE is it because of the entry barrier in cost? Too much time? Too much risk?

I have been pondering this for awhile actually. What we should do regarding our Emergency Fund and whether to invest it for now or to wait and perhaps buy a property.

rethinking college costs

February 6th, 2018 at 11:26 am

So I've been rethinking college costs as I investigate into 529 more. I think I'm going to pass on it for now.

I really have been considering putting more than our $2k/year away for the DK. But since FASFA considers children's accounts more heavily than parents it might make more sense to keep the money in our accounts and use it for that purpose than to ear mark it now.

I see a lot of parents paying out of pocket for college. I know the timing usually works since you are usually making more by the time your kids are 18 than when they are 2. But I wonder if this is the tack to take? I guess there is so much uncertainty about what college will costs. How hard it will be to get in and go? How do you really plan?

That being said we did fund 2017 and 2018 ESA with $2k/year. So my DK 8 in 2nd grade has about $27k and my Dk 5 in kindergarten has $19k. I think it's something. They both lost a lot this week since they are both in VTI only. But at least we are taking the risk.

Assuming college will be $100k if we can manage to save $50k by 18 for both I think $50k over 4 years will be $12k and we could afford to cash flow that.

ceding control of investments

February 5th, 2018 at 12:08 am

Reading TexasHusker's post made me reflect a little. From the start my DH and I had conflicting investment strategies. He believed he could beat the market, I never thought so. So when we met and before we married we had pretty much nothing. We were struggling to stay out of debt and pay our bills. When he got his first job we finally were married (got a green card), and started saving and investing. We each had a Roth IRA and his 401k. We put the 401k into investments chosen by his company and I picked them. Then we agreed to invest our Roth IRA ourselves. We could each choose to invest risky or not. He decided to buy individual stocks. I chose to invest in boring ETFs. I did better than him.

That being said. In around 2010 with the birth of our first child I cede control of my Roth IRA to DH because I fell into deep post-partum depression/anxiety. I was on medications for about 18 months until I was again pregnant. Then I was off for a few months but mid-way again I needed the medications. Please don't say I didn't need it, I did and yes I saw someone and I can describe now as this anxiety of wanting to throw myself off the roof or constant anxiety and fear of being crazy. I wasn't myself until I finished breastfeeding my DK2 at a little over a year so end of 2013. My hormones made me crazy. I suffered a miscarriage as well between DK1 and DK2 hence their 30 months apart instead of 24 months as I planned.

So I handled basically our budget, living expenses, and oversight of taxes. But I relinquished all investment control during this time and I couldn't tell you what we were doing. I could see it from our tax statements but I had no energy to care.

But we lost a ton of money in our Roth IRAs during this time though the market was good. DH was trading oil commodities. Lesson learned. Turned out this lesson made him realize he couldn't beat the market.

So he began investing in index funds and he changed his mentality after losing the money. That also allowed him later to get on board with hands off investing into index/etfs. Tomorrow I'll finally dig into our finances during that time.

day 5

January 18th, 2018 at 10:52 pm

Good day eating I guess. It's boring.

Day 5
1/2 oatmeal
salad with 4 oz of chicken alfredo - lunch
1 cup split pea/ham soup
butternut squash roasted for dinner
blueberries and strawberries 1 cup for snack

Day 4
1/2 oatmeal
salad for lunch
fried rice 1/2 cup measured
2 dumplings = 2 oz weighed
roasted butternut squash
1 cup watermelon
1/2 strawberries

I saw a friend post on facebook they bought this food plate from amazon for $20.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071GT5XZW/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_m9wyAb8E30HMT?th=1

It sorts your food and portion controls. My DH said if you use it for 1 year and lose weight it's worth every penny. I am going to think on it until after hawaii. Then I'll come back and if i'm losing weight i'm thinking I'll buy it.

As it stands I think I've lost 3 lbs. But I feel like that's my normal flux and I also feel like I gain and lose the same 20 lbs all the time.

My mom comes next week and we tend to eat out so that will be interesting.

Fire Success Rate

January 17th, 2018 at 10:52 pm

So I calculated that maxing out our 401k and IRAs for the next 15 years will give us a 100% success rate of retiring for 45 years with a $90k/year income. This is with $0 SS income coming in.

2032 retirement gives us a 2% chance of failure. 2031 retirement gives us a 14% chance of failure. So if we continue down our path the earliest I think we could retire is 2031.

However if increase our savings to $40k/year, saving $10k/year outside for 13 years the failure rate is 2% in 2031. And in the year 2030 it's 12% failure, and in 2029 it's 18% failure.

Also adding back SS does nothing to the success rate. Because we're assuming a lower SS and taken at age 62 even if we retire at age 55.

I think it would be easier to lower the number we need to retire not $90k/year. If we lowered it to say $60k/year we can retire in 2028 or 10 years with 1% failure rate saving $30k/year and 50 years of retirement. That would take us to 100 years old. About what I guessed off the cuff.

I have always said DH and I are about 5 years away from FI. According to Fire Calculator we are. If we save $100k/year for the next 5 years and spend $60k/year, we would have a failure rate of 1% of living on $60k/year for 50 years to age 95.

But the reality is while I know we spend around $60k/year and live well, we need more because we aren't done with say college. Plus I'd rather know that everything above and beyond is gravy rather than cutting it so close.

Have you ever calculated?

day 3

January 17th, 2018 at 03:02 pm

Another good day with eating. Same old same old.

Oatmeal 1/2c
Salad for lunch with 3 oz of smoked salmon
salad for dinner with 4 oz of quiche
1 cup watermelon
1 cup strawberries
Broccoli, bell pepper, and asparagus

So far today day 4
1/2 C oatmeal
salad with 2 tbsp dressing
1 cup watermelon
1 cup strawberries

The breakfast and lunch is super easy but I was hungry last night interestingly. I hadn't been in awhile. I am busy at work so I have to hurry and eat at 2 before getting kids.

day 2

January 15th, 2018 at 08:30 pm

It is day 2. Yesterday was not a great day but today was better. Last night I weighed out my chicken alfredo 4 oz. Tonight I weighed out my 4 oz of Broccoli, ham, cheddar quiche I made.

Dido made me look back at what I cook make? Do I eat bad? Here and there. But overall not terribly. I made chicken teriyaki, tacos, chicken salad, etc last week. We did eat out one night but that was it for the last week.

The real problem? I know what it truly is. I overeat. I eat portions way out of control. I know the right size is a fist, but I probably eat 2 portions.

Usually until now I never weigh my food. Meat is definitely not a deck of cards, nor is it even close to 3-4 oz. Instead it'll be 8-12 oz of steak at home. It'll be that much of salmon I'll bake.

I also do not eat half a cup of rice or pasta. I probably eat 1-1.5 cups if I'm being honest. I don't snack really but then I will eat what is an improper portion size of carbs and protein.

I found it hard even doing weight watchers and nutrisystem. The portions were hard. I really need to get used to eating less. I mean seriously do people eat 4 oz of meat? Or starch? Probably not or we might not have a weight problem.

I'll have a soda once a week. I drink a lot of water and tea. But a glass of wine? Sure 1-2x/week. And I know it's not a 4 oz pour either. It's a generous 8 oz pour at home. So I'm not just having 1 serving it's more and it's I believe 200 calories for 4 oz.

So I know where my problem lies. Not necessarily what I'm eating or cooking. But honestly not eating everything I make. I also have admitted this I find it HARD to waste food. So I eat my kids leftovers on top of what I eat.

Sometimes I leave it there and finish it later in the evening. Tonight I scraped the plates and threw it away. No more.

This morning I had 1/2 oatmeal (usual), salad for lunch with a bell pepper, 4 oz of quiche I made. That's it. No leftovers from kids.

I am also aiming to drink more water. Baby steps. NO more eating kids leftovers. And I'm going to be honest and conscious about my portions. I am also going to try and avoid all alcohol to prevent the extra calories.

turning into a health blog not spending

January 14th, 2018 at 07:43 pm

So 6 months ago I had "high" cholesterol. I have been trying to avoid red meat and fried foods. It hasn't worked. I haven't also lost the weight. So I have a two fold problem.

I am still in the high zone at 205 cholesterol. I'm worried. I need to get serious about this diet and losing weight. Perhaps it won't change my cholesterol alone losing weight. I probably need to change more of my eating habits. But it's a place to start.

I have to be accountable so I might as well start here. I am going to post everything that goes into my mouth. My small goals are to lose 10 lbs in the next 6 months and get my cholesterol under 200.

If in 6 months I'm successful I'm going to get myself a treadmill. I haven't found a gym that works for our new house. But I will try to use the insanity tapes I once used and walking.

I'm also debating weighing in everyday. I do want to lose weight. I'm going to try myfitnesspal. I am not joining any weight watchers or anything special. I just have to commit to doing this.

I am going to do it.

Today I had half a donut for breakfast, samples at costco for lunch with a hot dog with a diet soda, and a salad/veggies with 4 oz of chicken alfredo I made. Yes I decided this after lunch today but still I have to make good choices.

And I can't do a crash diet like before lose 20 lbs and then gain it all back when I go back to being "real". Diets haven't worked. I've tried them all.

snowflaking success!

January 14th, 2018 at 02:49 pm

So my new floor mats? Well I have found $65 in snowflakes so far. $45 bonus at work on prepaid CC which I'll use to pay another bill. And a $20 rebate from Black friday pillows. I am debating counting coupons I use.

I also am very excited we finished Roth IRAs for 2017, 2018 and kids ESA for 2017, 2018. Very solid beginning.

Next time I am going to move the Kids ESA to the same place we have our Roth IRAs even without a bonus that I've been waiting for. Because it's a pain to have accounts all over the place. I use TD Ameritrade and they are good.

Third I am opening a savings account at our local credit union for the kids. They pay 6% for kdis accounts up to $500 and DH hates the idea of more accounts, but we just became members because they offered me 2.24% on our 4 year car loan $24k. So i figure we already have an account why not?

Besides the kids will have fun seeing a real bank book and real bank to deposit money. All the rest of their money we have online somewhere. I think they are both doing pretty well. DK1 has $28k for college and Dk2 has $18k. They also have about $2k in savings. Not too shabby. I have been talking to DK about earning money and investing.

As soon as they start babysitting I'm going to have them start to save into a Roth IRA. Right now I told my DKs anything more than $5 gift they should save 50%. Then 50% to spend

Staying Invested

January 12th, 2018 at 11:04 am

I'm curious who on this site is not investing. Or cashing in their chips now to take some of the risk off the table. I've been thinking a lot about it. We're dumping quite a bit into the market right now and I do worry it's high. This is a big topic if you can imagine in a tax office. We're all discussing whether we think the market has another year of gains. So it's on my mind.

Well I decided the other day that we're staying invested. We are sticking with the plan. I am going to put more in and hold it. I'm not going to sit in cash or buy more bonds. I will put rebalance being the beginning of the year, but I'm not going to hold back or change our aggressive stance.

What made me decide this? PS wrote that. Well as I perused our previous net worth and years of record keeping. I know we kept investing in 2007/2008 when we had less than we saved. But then it paid off gangbusters afterwards.

So now yes we have a more invested. And yes we are 10 years older. But talking with DH, he's in it for 10-15 more years. He's not planning on retiring until 15 years when our youngest should be done with college. If they lay him off that's a different story but as of right now it's in our heads he's going to work 15 more years.

That being said I think with a 15-20 year time frame of investing we risk it now. We stay in an aggressive investment strategy of 85% stocks/10% bonds and 5% cash. I don't think we cash in and take some of the returns off the table because we could miss out on more gains. My thoughts are until we are 5 years out we keep on investing aggressively. At 5 years out we switch more to preservation. And perhaps because at 5 years we can make a year to year decision to retire if the market is down maybe work 1 more year.

Do you think you'll keep on investing? Or is it better to take gains off the table?

good news in 2018

January 11th, 2018 at 12:51 pm

2018 has been good so far. Today I deposited 2017 and 2018 IRA contributions for DH and I. $5500 each for each year for $22k in contributions to our Roth IRAs.

Second it's weird but we ended 2017 a bit short of $800k and now it's powered through. We are at $810k, I think the company match came through for DH's 401k at the beginning of the year for last. And now we just contributed $22k. I wonder if I should rethink our stretch goal?

I also wrote down all our investments and I'm going to clean things up this next month.

E-File Cabinet Organization

January 10th, 2018 at 10:57 pm

So we have an electronic file cabinet. We scan in everything, keep electronic copies of all statements, all tax documents, important receipts, etc. It makes very organized every month statement of investments, checking/savings/CC, loans, etc.

But it does take quite a bit of while. I have been working 1.5 hours tonight and I'm still not done. I'm doing monthly statements pretty much for every account we have for 2017.

I already have our 1099 for Chase for our checking/mortgage documents because of this. But loading each pdf can take awhile. Then saving it and cleaning it up. Further scanning in bills that are not electronic like our water bill takes time. Also invoices or receipts for our remodel takes awhile as well.

I used to try and keep up 1x/month. Usually in the 1st week I download all credit card bills and statements and sit and make payments as well on the 1st. This usually takes 1-2 hours. I also log each payment and copy the confirmation code into an excel spreadsheet. But today I am doing all statements for investments mostly I've missed in 2017.

Then after I'm done my DH comes along and backups our electronic file cabinet, that's what we really call it, onto an external hard drive along with our photos from our phones. He also do a cloud backup as well. So we have a few different copies of everything. Included our file cabinet is scans/photos of birth certificates, passports, visa, all important documents.

I will admit has become quite time consuming. Sometimes I wonder if I should just kick it off. But it really helps us keep all bill paid on time.

What do you do

2017 earnings for me

January 6th, 2018 at 09:48 am

I made around $3200 working for the year. I'm happy. It's not a lot but it's a lot of snowflakes. Considering I did the bulk of it when my kids were in school and I paid $0 for childcare it's gravy.

I've been thinking a lot about it. I could probably go back and land a full time job of $50k starting. But I'm not sure that's the path I'm meant to go down. I like being busy. I love having adult interactions. But at the same time I like have the freedom to call in if the kids are sick. I like not bringing work home. I also like being with them.

But let's say I start now making $50k. And work another 10 years and make $80k by the end of 10 years. Not an unreasonable goal I believe. But out of the $50k the biggest savings would be the $18.5k 401k savings I manage to work at a full time job with one. So we'd save an extra $185k in 10 years. But then the rest of my income let's assume 60% ($30k would go straight to taxes). I'm in the 34% bracket or higher so $15k would go straight to federal taxes. Then assuming SS and Medicare I'm looking at another 8% gone. So working full time I will make around $10k/year to spend on after school care since I'll be working full time. That $10k will be gone with 2 kids and after school costs $500/month during the year plus the summer costs? I won't be making $18.5k savings probably closer to $15k/year.

I believe I can make around that much working part-time where I. I can make $15/hr easily and if I make $20-25/hr part-time why not? I'm thinking still of doing the CFP and going out on my own. Writing off expenses would work better.

Anyway I think having more time this year to work out the numbers of my earnings I think it still makes more sense to work part-time and flexible for less money.

new recipe goal

January 5th, 2018 at 12:12 pm

I was thinking of keeping it easy. I want to make 1 new recipe a month. I'm not the best cook and I make a lot of the same meals. My family eats very boring food.

Plus I'm trying to lose weight so I'm trying to eat more veggies. The kids eat a lot of the same veggies and aren't super adventerous with vegetables. I've felt like it's a losing battle because at least they eat broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, chinese broccoli/bok choy, bell peppers, edamame. But they aren't interested in asparagus, artichoke, snap peas, kale, spinach, etc. They also eat very boring apples/berries/watermelon, etc fruits. Sometimes they will eat a banana or pear but they aren't super into new foods.

I know it's more diverse than most of our friends but I feel like we eat a lot of the same meals. So I am going to stretch the kids and my cooking skills this year and make 1 new dish a year.

This week I am making ham bone soup. I have chicken noodle soup on for tonight after rotisserie chicken these past two nights. Tomorrow the plan is short ribs and then ham bone soup and then ham/broccoli quiche. Also clam chowder is on the agenda for dinner next week.

My other plan is to make beef broccoli at home in a slow cooker (new recipe) and twice cook pork. I've made them but I want to make something less labor intensive and I want to try slow cooking it or something. I also want to try a beef taco bake because we eat tacos about 1x every 2-3 weeks. Or switch it to fajitas?

Is there any easy meals you make that is ethnic? I do a slow cooker curry but my kids eat the same 3 curries I can make Japanese, Chicken tikka Masala, and panang. I would like to expand my repertoire.

I might make also for the first time sloppy joes something I loved growing up.

$350 car accessory -snowflake

January 3rd, 2018 at 08:39 pm

So I want weathertech floor mats for my new minivan. Very extravagent. They already put it in the trunk. But I want the rest The question is how do I buy it? Yes I can afford to buy it. But I want to not just pay for it.

I'm thinking I might try to make it a challenge and see how I can snowflake my way to it. Maybe coupon clipping? Maybe ebates? Pinecone surveys? What else could I do?

I don't want to use my paycheck. Or maybe giving myself the cost of a meal out if we skip eating out? I'm actually trying to not eat out because I want to lose weight.

Do I count borrowing books from the library? Or anything free I can snag? Or selling stuff at the consignment? What can I do to make this happen? Skipping a starbucks?

What do you consider snowflakes? My ticket savings to hawaii? Or our trip at the end of the month?

cars got me thinking

January 3rd, 2018 at 11:47 am

After we bought the cars I got to thinking about how I've changed my mindset about cars quite a bit. I have always been a buy new and keep car till it dies sort of person. But recently I've started to change. I'm wondering if it's okay to not keep a car until it dies. I am starting to think that it's worth being okay buying a car that you can afford at that moment in time for a purpose. And when that purpose is done it's okay to sell the car?

Cars are depreciating assets. So in the ideal world people would only buy used cars and keep them till they die. But that still raises the question, how used a car do you need to buy to be uber frugal? To maximize the frugality of cars, which are SUPER expensive does it have to be 10 years old and you drive it for 3-5 more years? What if it's only 1 year old and you drive it 10 mores years? Why couldn't you keep it longer?

I guess it's a sliding scale. Right? That to each person the valuation of car is what they put on it. Some would argue any used car is a deal. While myself included might argue perhaps it's gotta be at least 5-6 year old to be worth? But I did save a bit buying a 2-3 year old used car.

Reflecting back on our cars we've now had I've come to the realization that we can just make the best choice at the time we make the decicion.

My first car was a 99 toyota corolla bought for $11k including taxes/fees we sold in 2012 because my DH really wanted a car with latch and airbags. It had 150k miles and still running super strong and if my DH didn't want newer safety features I'm sure it'd still be running! We sold it for $3500. We bought a 2006 Hyundai Sonata in 2012 for $11000 taxes and fees.

He had 2000 ford focus bought new for $13k including taxes and fees we sold in 2010 because it broke down. We sold it for $2500. We bought a new subaru outback base model for $23000 including all taxes and fees.

In 2015 we sold the Hyundai Sonata for $6500 and leased a 2015 Subaru Legacy for $28k. DH wanted the car so we did it. What will happen I'm unsure.

Now in 2017 we ended it buy buying a used 2015 Sienna Minivan for $31k. We aren't selling the Subaru Outback 2010 instead we're giving it to my mom and i'll call it $7k value.

Looking back the best value of depreciation was the new Toyota Corolla for $576/year. Then the Ford Focus $1050/year deprecation, then the Sonata $1500/year. I'm not sure what our current 2 cars will end up but I've decided that you can't always make the best decision with cars.

You have to make the best decision with the information at hand. That means what sort of car do you need or want? Can you afford it? Do you think i'll serve it's purpose?

Have you reflected on all the cars you've owned? How would you judge your purchases? Wise? Unwise? Okay? Did it make you happy and serve a purpose?

Bought a minivan and 2017!

December 31st, 2017 at 10:03 am

We bought a 2015 Toyota Sienna AWD Limited minivan. I love, love, love it. I can't say how nice it is to have the space and ease of a bigger car. The car was $28k plus taxes and fees and we borrowed $24k for 4 years at 2.24%.

We are giving my mom the 2010 Subaru Outback. I do feel guilty about getting rid of a car so new, but the minivan I think will be good for 7 years. The plan is to evaluate it when it is 10 years and decide what we need at that time. My mom is getting rid of a 21 year old 1996 Toyota Avalon. And she could buy a new car but refuses so my used car is perfect. Sigh. Trust me I was trying to get her to buy a new car.

2017 wrap up. Our retirement accounts were ridiculous. We started at $626k and contributed $29k. We ended up with $790k today and approximate 21% return for the year.

We started the year with $435k taxable accounts and ended the year with $294k and $250k home equity we put down. Up $109k for the year. Guessing not as much saved as we should have but we did pay a lot of expenses this year.

Overall our NW went up $263k. Our kids have $22k and $14k in college. Plans to discuss this month pay off the car, how much for driveway/drain repairs this summer, roth IRA $11k, $20k taxes, and how much we plan on front loading the kids college.

I think we should earmark $10k per kid this year and see how the year goes. Then with the continual $2k/year per kid we could do another $10k in Jan 2019. I think this should cover 4 years of college?

whew - not at fault

December 20th, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Recall the accident last month? I know I wasn't at fault but it really stressed me out a lot. I guess because we had used our insurance and paid for the deductible $500 and the overage on the rental car $250. It wasn't the money but the worry that I'd have another black mark on my record. I mean 2 years ago in January 2016 I had a car accident my fault. And DH is finally getting his record of accidents clean so we might have a reasonable car insurance.

We paid $897 for 2 drivers, 2 cars for 6 months. So we're at $1800/year for 2 30-something year old drivers. We're paying like we're teenagers. In March 2017 we were priced at $2100/year. Recall the debacle of getting kicked off Ameriprise Costco for non-payment because we didn't get our mail?

Well looking back we were at $1275 for 6 months in 8/2016 or $2550/year. You can see why I was stressing out about liability and if I had made a good decision going through insurance. Before the accident we were looking at $774 for 6 months in 2/2016.

So now I'm a little more relaxed. However I will say that Commerce insurance, the company I have through AAA is terrible and useless. It took me hours of prodding them and calling Nationawide directly to determine liability (they were the other person's insurance). Also Commerce didn't respond back to the repair shop, and they didn't fax over authorization for 3 days claiming it was due to the appraisor. Turns out because it was an authorized shop I didn't need an appraisor. Ugh.

Anyway come March 2018 I plan on shopping around not just for cost but because I don't find Commerce/AAA very helpful. My AAA insurance agent never returns my calls.

AAA started a home owners insurance in June, but didn't cancel my renters insurance and kept charging me until I argued with them in September. I was then worried they hadn't started a home owners insurance. In Spetember 2017 because they didn't cancel my renters insurance they mailed my auto insurance renewal to my old address!!!!! Only because I called to inquire did they realize their mistake and did I renew my auto policy.

I guess you can say I'm done with them. But for now I'll just wait. At least I have insurance.

2018 tax reform bill

December 17th, 2017 at 11:58 pm

I'm not entirely sure we'll get a tax cut but whatever. It is what it is.

That being said I'm sort of being pushed to buy our new to us car now this month because I think I want to capture the sales tax break since we itemize. I'm not sure how everything will shake out next year.

Is it worth it? I'm still contemplating. The only good thing is that we've been thinking about it and meaning to do it for 2 months now but haven't pulled the trigger.

I will say that I think the tax bill will have negative repercussions for charitable donations. I think less people will give. But until everything is signed I think we'll still have to see.

Holiday gifts

December 11th, 2017 at 02:30 pm

So I'm not ready yet to tell my DK that santa isn't real. I'm sure my DK1 knows but I say if you don't believe in santa you get nothing.

This year we did the lego and chocolate advent calendars. We are doing a book again, pajamas, and a toy, and stocking stuffers. They get two toys 1 from DH and myself and 1 from santa. We provide the big toy because DH wants credit and the toy from santa this year is $10 bank. We usually aim for something nice around $20 then we get gifts from family and friends and we do the stockings.

It's really cut back on what we spend, not that we ever spent much. Until we moved 3 years we spent $0 on gifts because we were always traveling every holidays to see our families. So we just brought back enough gifts that we NEVER bought the DK a gift. We had enough and they were 5 and 3 before we got a tree.

So in 2015 we got out first tree and started gifts. I mean when we traveled usually to Hawaii my mom did stockings and gifts. I bought them gifts and my family but not the DK.

Now that we're hosting it we had to buy presents from us and Santa and I realize listening to other parent HOLY MOLY how much people spend on Christmas, Hannukah, etc. A LOT. They have a lot of big ticket items.

I think for our big gifts the kids want another hatchimal (peacat and griffin). Then these books they picked and $10 pajamas from Target.

But ugh I am hating wrapping and doing the stockings. Worse yet DH turned 40 yesterday (yeah!) but I got him nothing but an apple pie (he didn't want a cake) and a card. Seriously we looked at each and again we're struggling to want something to wrap up.

I know he's supposed to "get" me tiles to attach to my keys and phone so I can find them easily. But what else?

I wonder it comes with age. There is nothing we want for that we can't and won't buy when we want it. Because we don't want much there isn't much to buy. I was going to buy him a new hockey jersey but he said , why bother? Spend money on tickets to a game maybe.

I love the feeling of christmas and new years. I love having a tree decorated by kid ornaments. I love our lights and music and just relaxing. But boy this whole present thing is a PIA.

Any tips for buying for significant others?

Holiday Cards

December 9th, 2017 at 04:12 pm

Do you do holiday cards? Do you get them? I like getting holiday cards. I like seeing my friends kids get older and hearing about their lives, especially those who we don't live by anymore.

But it's not cheap to do it. This year on groupon I bought a groupon for holiday cards from staples for $42 for 200 cards. But then there is also the cost of stamps. So probably we're spending $100 in all. I get it now why people hate doing it and say it's expensive. But I still like it.

Do you do it? Do you like getting them?

Overbudget and over time

December 1st, 2017 at 02:11 pm

Well we are officially over budget and way over time Well the timing thing is tight. The contractor told me Thanksgiving which I always thought was optimistic. Turns out I was right. As it stands we are hoping 12/20 before my parents arrive. Of course it won't be completely done the glass shower door and side won't be done. That is looking like January but hopefully everything else will be done.

We are currently framing the windows and just finished priming. We have to paint and do the tile of the fireplace and floor. Then there is still the upstairs work and attic, fan, insulation to still deal with, which I may tell them come back in January. We've got guests for the holidays and I don't think I can deal.

Budget wise we are over period. Over my "budget" not what they told me. When we started we were at $3700 for garage doors, $55k contractor, and $5k for designer and OOP. I figured we would come in around $75k. We are at $77k and not done. I knew things would come up and things would change But I was thinking 20% over was generous. I was wrong.

Things that changed? Our shower was rotted, we finished the garage, moved a door, found rot on the siding, replaced some rot and reinforcements. So our change orders are currently at $18k and we aren't done yet. Things happen when walls come down and you don't know what's behind them.

Oh well. I hope this works out okay. We are in so deep that we can't turn back now. Whatever it's worth I think if I escape under $100k I'll be happy right now. I don't think we should be that much further over I am going to guess $85k all in. But don't hold me to this. I'll continue updates and more importantly I'll post photos when it's done. I can't wait.

Tax Reform?

November 15th, 2017 at 10:14 pm

My thoughts on the tax reform? It appears the reform is going to hurt all families with more than 1 kid. If you had 2 kids before and took the standard deduction you had $12k standard deduction and $16k in personal exemptions for $28k. Now with the standard deduction raised to $24k but personal exemptions gone by the way side it appears to be less than the $28k the family with 2 kids had. Assuming a larger child tax credit is $600/per child for $1200 in tax credit.

It really depends on the bracket but if I had to guess most families will end up paying more in taxes with more than 2 children. The $600 tax credit won't offset the personal exemptions.

As far as the SALT I think they should keep it instead of the mortgage deduction to be fair. After all it's a double taxation. And honestly they should probably do away with the mortgage deduction period. But that's impossible with the lobby groups. I also have seen a lot of elderly people use the medical deduction and if you are in nursing home care the bills for that are astronomical and easily fufill the 10% income minimum to write off.

Something that does bother me is that estate tax going away. Seriously so $22 million tax free inheritance is not enough? And the middle class needs to give away inheritances above that tax free? And it's inherited at a step-up basis? Really those 5000 people who have enough to leave more than $22 million need the tax break?

I have to admit I'm pretty liberal. But I'm a bit stunned these tax cuts have come without really cutting the budget. That republicans are okay with increasing the deficit so much? I thought it was supposed to be cut taxes, shrink government and deficit? Seems resonable and responsible budgeting. But instead we're cutting taxes and still spending wildly?

I am curious what will pass. It'll be an interesting sell.

minivan test run

November 8th, 2017 at 11:11 am

So I'm renting a minivan for a week. Not because I want to but on Friday I was in a fender bender with a high school senior in a parking lot. I swerved to avoid him from running his stop sign and making a left turn. Fortunately it wasn't too much damage. However I did force him to stop and call his mom. He was about to drive away. Sigh, if you have teenagers tell them that the number one thing is to call you. Don't cry and say my parents will kill me. Yes they'll be upset but I think they'd be more upset if you just drove off and didn't call them.

Luckily it wasn't too much damage. My car will be ready by Monday after a week in the shop. So I am filing through my insurance who will go after his insurance. He offered me $3000 or more to pay for all the damage off the books of insurance. I said no.

My friend later told me it was wise since he was a minor and underage not to accept going through cash.

That being said I don't like my insurance company commerce west through AAA at all. They are incompetent and slow. I didn't get the emails until Tuesday when I called for the 3rd day in a row looking for my forms and I had to email the claims worker because they couldn't get my email right. I further had called and reported everything Friday right after and they still couldn't get the paperwork in order to the shop and rental car company. I had to call and write down the claim number which was wrong by the way. Ridiculous.

This is the same company that didn't cancel my renter's insurance when we bought a house. Then didn't update my address or mail me a renewal for auto insurance because they sent it to our rental. Which boggles the mind since I prepaid to our mortgage company a year of home insurance and it would stand that cancelling our rental policy would go hand in hand? At least that's what I was told. Then updating the address I also assume was common sense wasn't. They fixed it eventually.

This is totally my fault for getting kicked off of Ameriprise for non-payment because we were traveling and I didn't get the mail until too late. However as of March 10th we are going back to Ameriprise because they are competent when handling claims.

Anyway though since we have rental car coverage I got a minivan to test run what it would be like. I have to admit I love the convenience. I won't buy a dodge caravan it's terribly uncomfortable driving. But wow it's super useful with carpooling and just picking up kids. I am definitely on board with buying one.

The only hesitation I had was waiting until next year the 2019 Subaru Ascent. But I think I want a minivan with the larger trunk. Of course I have to really consider the options.

Retirement compounding numbers

November 3rd, 2017 at 05:30 pm

Here are some interesting compounding numbers. I don't want to run the returns right now.

DH in 2006 started saving the maximum 401k and IRA. But he contributed to Roth IRA in 2005 In total he's saved $201,500 in 401k and $55,000 in a IRA. His total retirement savings is currently $651,693. The number break down something like this.

2005 $4,871
2006 $8,871
2007 $28,729
2008 $56,569
2009 $62,282
2010 $116,743
2011 $174,548
2012 $202,696
2013 $262,920
2014 $381,248
2015 $437,108
2016 $469,526
2017 $532,991
11/2/2017 current value $651,693 with only contributing $18,000 and we haven't saved our Roth IRA.

For me I sort of started in 2003 but my numbers are messy and I didn't have a 401k. But as of today I have $108,687.

2003 $1,604
2004 $1,650
2005 $1,523
2006 $5,797
2007 $6,055
2008 $11,247
2009 $11,964
2010 $18,810
2011 $21,820
2012 $29,829
2013 $39,922
2014 $62,515
2015 $77,467
2016 $83,467
2017 $93,054

11/2/17 current value $108,687 without $5500 2017 contribution. I have contributed $55,000. Power of compounding and staying the course? I've been boringly invested in just the stock market and nothing fancier than an index fund.

If things continue the way they are going I am going to predict we'll pass $1 million in retirement accounts in the next 18-24 months. I guess the truth is that slow and steady win the race. Probably we'd have made more investing in RE but this was pretty easy.

Keep on chugging.

basement financial update

October 24th, 2017 at 01:51 pm

Well we added a few things to the basement repair. Another $8500. That means we are up to around $60k at least? We were at $52k including all tax. And I'm pretty sure we have another change order and more money going out. This is on top of the $3700 for garage doors. So we are at least out $65k. Wow my initial $75k budget is looking pretty close to target. Also we're not finishing by Thanksgiving although they did say for sure Christmas. So my initial estimate of Christmas seems appropriate as well.

The new windows are almost all installed except for the bathroom. The contractor ordered the wrong window without frosted glass so it's on him to reorder it. I didn't do anything with the window order.

I did however score an extra 5% off my garage doors in the form of a Costco cash card because I ordered my doors 9/29/17 and on 10/2/17 the sign went from 10% cash back card to 15% for the month of October. So I called and asked for my extra 5% back. I got it and scored another $100. Which okay in the grand scheme of things isn't a lot, but it made my day.

Things that have changed during our renovations included a rotted shower in the bathroom so new framing needed entirely and a tile floor for shower instead of shower pan. Rotted supports under the stairs that needed replacing. Moving a support for the door that we didn't know was there. Opening the walls and realizing there was minimal insulation so we asked they fully insulate the house. Replacing the water heater, which we thought they knew we wanted and quoted us, they didn't but then they are doing it. Adding the cabinets to the laundry we were going to have done by someone else but they ended up doing it is the $8500. I haven't mentioned every little thing but you can see how it quickly adds us.

Of course we aren't done yet. Let's see if we can stay within the $75k I budgeted it's getting close and I'm stressing out with the timeline.

Disneyland is not for poor people

October 22nd, 2017 at 10:41 am

Our first trip to disneyland with kids is complete. It was really fun for the kids and the Halloween decorations and ambiance was fun. They were still pretty scared of most of the rides, frightened of Pirates, haunted mansion, etc. But we did a lot of the smaller toddler rides and they like looking at different things. Two days one at California Adventure and one at Disneyland was more than enough for us adults. I think our kids could have done a day more at each park and we could have taken it easier but the taste and fun was enough. Going during the week was nice especially Thursday it wasn't busy really. Friday it was a lot busier. I will say that staying across the street was well worth it. Very convenient and just easy.

But Disneyland is not for poor people. I've heard from people say going to amusement parks are where poor people go to waste money. The comments that it's a waste of a vacation. But personally DH and I have had fun at all the disneyland locations we've been and the kids had a great time.

But interestingly it's not a cheap vacation and I really doubt any poor people are going there. Actually if I had to guess it seemed more like middle to upper middle class people in terms of income were there. The tickets alone run around $90/day per person. Let's assume you have an annual pass and live locally. Then yes it could be very cheaper fun. But the annual passes from what I can tell still are around $1000 per person.

Then assuming you aren't local you have to pay for pretty pricey hotels, we spent $200/night. Which for us is a lot considering I usually consider $100 an indulgence. Then the flights and car rentals.

But then with all these people wearing paraphanelia which on average is around $20/each piece I'd say that no way does a poor or even really a middle class family afford this vacation. Not to mention the food. For the four of us I'd say skipping breakfast and eating lunch at the park and dinner outside we spent on average $50 for lunch. The kids shared or got a kids meals but with tax and tip and bringing our drinks in. We could have brought in prebought sandwiches from the stores on the way or panera but it wasn't that much of a savings actually. Panera and even mcdonalds for the 4 of us would run around $40 and we'd have to lug stuff all morning.

So I'm curious why people think Disneyland/world/amusement park vacations are so cheap? How they seem to think the average family can afford it? How do people have this stigma about it? Personally if anything after this visit I think the foreigners visiting must be upper echelons of money from their countries, and most americans did not seem local to southern california, probably are in the top 25% of income if I had to guess. We were asked if we were locals probably because we weren't dressed up and very casual about rides. But even the couple of locals we talked to, everyone had an annual pass with maxpass upgrade, and said they had to with all their friends and families they always came with.

I know my family in southern california always used to come with us to Disneyland when we would go. My first trip was at age 5. My mom scrimped for about 3 years to go but interestingly my family was known to travel on a dime and I know my aunts and uncles helped a bit financially. A single aunt traveled and stayed in our room and my uncle paid for my grandparents and we ate outside the park across the street where we stayed. Plus back then we booked huge rack room deals with connections we had and traveled en masse. All my aunts and uncles were massive savers and extremely thrifty when traveling and still are. In my family we are totally into trying to outdo each other with the best travel deal (i've been winning a lot lately!).

But I don't think people do disney the way they used to. Before talking with friends they would talk about how their parents would also do disney on the cheap. DH hadn't gone till after we met and even then it was for a day once until now.

But disneyland is not for those on a budget. I'm still astonished how much it can cost and how people can afford it. But the truth is I think most people are in the top income %.

What do you think? I'll put up some photos later.

Visualize a plan

October 18th, 2017 at 11:50 am

I think people wonder what they are saving for. Recently more and more friends keep saying the same thing. They don't know what they want out of life. Unhappy and not sure how to change it.

I tell them they need to sit with their partners and visualize a plan. They should write a list about what they want. Some can be short term, some can be long term.

I think people get bogged down in the tiny details and comparing themselves to others. It starts with "oh I don't have any money to save for retirement. Or it's too little." To it's impossible to save for a house, car, etc.

The first step is to sit down and write/think what's important. College for kids? Retirement? Paying off the house? Clearing credit card debt? No car payment.

Then you can look at each goal and make a plan. I will save 1% to retirement and up it every year. I will save $100/month to college. I will keep making car payments into a car fund.

Sometimes I think it's so overwhelming getting started that people throw up their hands and give up rather than just asking what is important? From that answer you can always sketch a more detailed plan.


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