The Money Snapshot: A CPA Shares Thoughts on Her Side Gig and Saving for Retirement

Presenting our fifth “money snapshot,” this time with a CPA in Arizona! She notes: “I save approximately $ 40,000 after tax a year. This is my side-job income after tax. I try and spent half of it on meaningful purchases such as building my current house, and save the rest long term. … [My goal is to] pay off my house and afford to live on only my side-job income.”

By way of background: We got a few requests from readers to launch our own “money diary” series, so we’ve asked willing readers to fill out a form with lots of details about debt, spending, saving and more! If you’d like to fill out the form and be considered for a future personal money snapshot, please click here to submit your response! You can see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time. See others in the Personal Money Snapshot series here.

Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! — Kat

Name: AZCPA
Location: Arizona, LCOL
Age: 38 [now 39]
Occupation: CPA
Income: Salaried job: $ 155,000. Side job $ 55,000 gross, $ 46,000 net
Partner’s age: 43 (live together, intentionally not married, not having children)
Household income:
$ 220,000
Net worth: Not including partner, net worth $ 400,000
Net worth when started working: Worked part time in high school (16). Started FT at 22 after college — net worth was $ 5,000.
Living situation: Own 4/2 single-family home, mortgage $ 2,000/month.

We asked what AZCPA meant when she wrote “intentionally not married,” above, and she explained: 

I wrote that to indicate that we were stable/happy as we are, rather the necessarily seeing this as a step towards marriage, or that I’m waiting for him to propose or anything. There is a financial impact — we’d pay a ton more in taxes, and my boyfriend is likely going to do another degree; he’ll get infinitely better financial aid single. But if we were dying to get married we’d probably do so regardless. 

Debt

What does your debt picture look like?
Mortgage $ 300,000, car $ 20,000. No CC or other debt.

How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
$ 2,400 on mortgage and car combined

How did you pay for school?
Scholarships and one 30-hour/week job

Have you paid off any major debt?
n/a, never had non-mortgage/vehicle debt

Home debt: 
My current home is the third I’ve owned. First was at 24; built current home in 2017. This is intended as the permanent/dream home. Looked at existing homes for two years before deciding to build a semi-custom home (chose from four set floorplans in a 24-home new subdivision, but all interior finishes and many options such as bathrooms were custom). Based on income and assets, wanted to pay ~$ 350,000 for the house and planned $ 50,000 for backyard, furniture, etc. Took out a $ 300,000 30-year mortgage and paid cash for the rest. Was an optimal price point for the area and features — well above median for Tucson, but easy to sell if needed. Am inside city limits, with all city services (a huge perk in Tucson, as “rural” fire and water service are very expensive). A similar home in an equivalent area in Austin inside the city limits would be $ 750,000, or $ 1.2M in San Diego (other places I looked to live).

Savings, Investments & Retirement

How much do you save for retirement?
$ 25,000/year

How much money do you allocate to other tax-savvy investments/accounts?
When I could do an HSA, I put in the max allowed. I currently have an FSA, and I contribute ~$ 2,000 annually. No 529s, as no kids.

How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
I save approximately $ 40,000 after tax a year. This is my side-job income after tax. I try and spent half of it on meaningful purchases such as building my current house, and save the rest long term.

Talk to us about investments.
I keep it simple, using target funds and index funds. When I bought my first Mac in 1998 I also bought $ 1,000 in Apple stock, which I still have.

Do you have an end goal for saving or are you just saving for a rainy day?
I want to pay off my house and afford to live on only my side-job income.

When did you start saving seriously? How has your savings strategy changed over the years?
I’ve always been a saver.

How much do you have in cash that’s available today?
$ 5,000

How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week?
$ 77,000

How much is in your “emergency fund,” and where do you keep it?
$ 50,000, included in above

How much do you have in retirement savings?
$ 350,000

We asked AZCPA about her impressive retirement savings and whether she’s planning to retire early: 

I honestly don’t know. I really just want enough savings to be able to be flexible and enjoy wherever life takes me. Since I’m hoping to live on my side job once the house is paid off, I’d like to front-load my retirement as much as I can now, while I have a higher income.

How much $ do you have in long-term investments and savings (CDs, index funds, stocks) that are not behind a retirement wall?
$ 50,000

If property values (home, car) are included in your net worth, how much are those worth?
home $ 400,000, car $ 24,000

AZCPA told us more about her job on the side: 

My side gig is a boutique tax practice (my main job is tax-related for a major corporation). I was in public accounting a long time and had a number of clients who desperately wanted to stay with me when I left. That was the start. Now I have part-time employees to assist me as the business grows. I was super used to working tons of hours at a CPA firm (like 100 a week), so even two jobs doesn’t feel that hard on comparison. The side gig is somewhat seasonal, so a lot of the year its only five hours or so a week.

Spending 

How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?

Groceries: $ 400
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery:
$ 400
Clothing and accessories: $ 800
Transportation: $ 475
Rent/living expenses: $ 2,500
Entertainment: $ 25
Health care — premiums and other costs: $ 25/month for insurance through employer

What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?

Vacations – Range: $ 500–$ 8,000
Vacations – Average:
$ 4,000

Individual items of clothing – Range: $ 40–$ 300
Individual items of clothing – Average: $ 30 for tops, maybe $ 50 for pants/shoes — I buy almost exclusively on sale or Poshmark for those items. But I do own two four-figure designer bags (both purchased at half their MSRP from Poshmark), which would drive up the average dramatically!

Apartment or house – Range: $ 200,000–$ 400,000
Apartment or house – Current main residence:
$ 400,000

Car or other vehicle – Range: $ 15,000–$ 50,000
Car or other vehicle – Last purchase / current main vehicle: $ 35,000

Fill in the blank on this question: I could save _____ if I stopped ______, but I don’t because _______.
I could save $ 500/month if I stopped eating out, but I don’t because I enjoy it.

At any point in your life to date, has inheritance played a role in your money situation?  
Never 

Money Strategy

Do you have a general money strategy? 
No 

What are your favorite resources for personal finance?
Mint

What advice would you give your younger self about personal finance?
Keep saving.

Photo credit: icons via Stencil. 

The post The Money Snapshot: A CPA Shares Thoughts on Her Side Gig and Saving for Retirement appeared first on Corporette.com.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

The Money Snapshot: A Government Worker Shares Thoughts on Pensions, Retirement, and Rapid Income Growth

text over icons reading "A 33-Year-Old Government Worker Shares Her Money Snapshot"

Presenting our fifth money snapshot, this time with a government worker in the Northeast! She notes: “Our income has grown rapidly in the last several years — in 2011 we made $ 32,000 (together), in 2014 we made $ 135,000, and in 2018 we will make approximately $ 235,000. Because of the timing of my husband’s schooling, we were in a position of playing catch-up on our retirement accounts, specifically his accounts, but we look to grow our overall financial portfolio in the coming years.”

By way of background: We got a few requests from readers to launch our own “money diary” series, so we’ve asked willing readers to fill out a form with lots of details about debt, spending, saving and more! If you’d like to fill out the form and be considered for a future personal money snapshot, please click here to submit your response! You can see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time. See others in the Personal Money Snapshot series here.

Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! — Kat

Name: Clementine
Location: MCOL medium-sized city in the Northeast
Age: 33
Occupation: Government  
Income: $ 92,000
Family members: Husband, 37 (engineer with extensive work travel), and a 3-year-old who recently told me they are planning on being a dinosaur when they grow up.
Household income:
$ 235,000
Net worth: Outside of retirement accounts, our net worth is approximately $ 100,000. My husband has approximately $ 250,000 in retirement accounts plus a small pension account, while I have a defined benefit pension.
Net worth when started working: I started working at 14, used scholarships and worked through college and grad school, and graduated at 23 with approximately $ 25,000 in debt (not bad for no parental support!). My husband had been in the military and went to school utilizing the GI Bill, graduating at 30 with approximately $ 20,000 in debt. While he was in school, my career was in a holding pattern, but I was quickly able to build my career once he graduated and we relocated.
How much debt do you have? $ 5,000 in student loan debt that will be paid at the end of the year [2018], $ 35,000 car note with a low interest rate, $ 300,000 left on our mortgage. 
Living situation: Own — mortgage + taxes + insurance is $ 2,200/month.
How much do/did you spend for childcare and/or education? $ 1,000/month
Is there anything else we should know about you?
Our income has grown rapidly in the last several years — in 2011 we made $ 32,000 (together), in 2014 we made $ 135,000, and in 2018 we will make approximately $ 235,000. Because of the timing of my husband’s schooling, we were in a position of playing catch-up on our retirement accounts, specifically his accounts, but we look to grow our overall financial portfolio in the coming years.

Debt

What does your debt picture look like?
We are down to minimal student loans (subsidized only, we utilized the snowball method of paying off our highest interest loans first). We do not carry credit card debt as a habit, but do have a car note which we were able to get at a lower interest rate than the average return on our investments for the past few years. Our mortgage interest rate is also very low; however, it is psychologically important to my husband that we pay that off sooner rather than later.

We asked Clementine how she and her husband handle differing opinions on finances, such as the mortgage question: 

My husband and I are both very rational people — we joke that because we’re both Libras, we just talk and talk an issue until we reach balance. We also do a very good job of picking our battles and understanding the other person’s needs.

How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
We have prioritized student loan debt and have paid (on average) an additional $ 1,000/month for the last two years to eliminate it. Our next priority is paying off our car note; however, the interest rate is low enough where it made more sense to invest those dollars elsewhere and take out the loan.

How did you pay for school?
I didn’t go to my “dream school.” Instead, I took a five-year, full-tuition scholarship at a well regarded state school. I worked as an RA during college to get a free room and a monthly paycheck and worked summers and retail jobs to pay my car insurance and for my meal plan. That being said, I still walked away with $ 25,000 in student loan debt, largely owing to the few semesters I chose not to (or was unable to) RA.

Have you paid off any major debt?
We are so close to paying off our student loan debt I can taste it! I am so tempted to just take money from our emergency fund to pay it off.

Home debt: 
We have a fixed, 30-year mortgage that was a VA mortgage. We were offered the option of reducing our interest rate without paying any closing costs or extending our term and took that option, so our interest rate is 3.5%. We could have been approved for more, but were able to buy a home in our ideal neighborhood for what we felt was a reasonable monthly payment. We make biweekly payments, meaning that we make an extra principal payment annually. It is important to my husband that we pay off our mortgage ASAP; however, I acknowledge that from a financial standpoint it doesn’t make sense.

Have you ever done anything noteworthy to avoid or lessen debt?
We have worked and worked and worked some more. We replaced a 20-year-old car only when it began to have safety/reliability issues and choose experiences and time over material items.

Savings, Investments & Retirement

How much do you save for retirement?
Annually (outside of pensions), we aim for $ 35,000; however, the majority of our retirement accounts are pensions.

How much money do you allocate to other tax-savvy investments/accounts?
$ 1,200 annually (currently) to 529, $ 5,000 to our Dependent Care Advantage Account (for daycare).

How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
That amount varies based on our ongoing expenses. We do not currently have significant automatic transfers going on; however, we do have a combination of money market accounts (minimum 24 hours to access funds but high rate of return) and linked savings accounts.

Talk to us about investments.
We have a financial planner as well as utilize index funds. We have chosen to diversify our investments at this time so as to not “put all our eggs in one basket.”

Do you have an end goal for saving or are you just saving for a rainy day?
Our financial goal is that if either one of us chooses to leave our jobs and be either a stay-at-home parent or take a major pay cut, that option is on the table.

Here’s what Clementine said when we asked her to elaborate on this goal:

I don’t think it’s likely; however, it’s our security blanket. My husband would be the better stay-at-home parent, and his job is also the job that is harder on our lifestyle (extensive and extended work travel). Ultimately though, he loves what he does and I’ve accepted that as my “price of admission.”

What’s the #1 thing you’re doing to save money, limit spending, or live frugally?
Both parents are still working rather than taking one parent out of the workforce.

When did you start saving seriously? How has your savings strategy changed over the years?
We started saving seriously in 2012, then paid for a wedding (taking out no debt but using those savings), then saved for a house (purchased in 2014), then had some income loss related to maternity leave in 2015, and really started to seriously rebuild our savings accounts in 2016.

Have you ever made a big money move or investment with savings in mind?
We moved our “orphaned” 401K accounts into an employer-subsidized deferred compensation plan, ensuring that we were actively managing all accounts.

How much do you have in cash that’s available today?
$ 18,000

How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week?
$ 50,000

How much is in your “emergency fund,” and where do you keep it?
$ 80,000 (included above), a combination of checking/savings/money market accounts. I did not include any accounts I would incur a penalty for withdrawing (e.g., retirement).

How much do you have in retirement savings?
I have a defined benefit pension plan plus $ 20,000 in an additional retirement account. My pension will pay me 60% of my three highest years of pay plus health benefits. My husband has a small pension (expected to pay approximately $ 1,000/month) plus currently $ 250,000 in retirement savings.

How much do you have in long-term investments and savings (CDs, index funds, stocks) that are not behind a retirement wall?
$ 68,000

If property values (home, car) are included in your net worth, how much are those worth?
Car is worth $ 10,000 more than is owed (included), home is worth approximately $ 100,000 more than is owed. Note that I may not have included that full amount in our net worth.

Spending 

How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?

Groceries: $ 600
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery:
$ 240
Clothing and accessories: $ 200
Transportation: $ 900
Rent/living expenses: $ 4,000
Kid-related expenses:
$ 1,500
Entertainment: various
Health care — premiums and other costs: $ 150 in monthly premiums, $ 1,000 outside of that, but has varied drastically in prior years.

What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?

Vacations – Range: $ 20–$ 12,000
Vacations – Average:
$ 3,000

Individual items of clothing – Range: $ 20–$ 80
Individual items of clothing – Average: tops $ 30, pants $ 40, dresses $ 60

Apartment or house – Range: $ 400–$ 2,200
Apartment or house – Current main residence:
$ 2,200 monthly mortgage (house cost $ 355,000)

Car or other vehicle – Range: $ 0–$ 50,000
Car or other vehicle – Last purchase / current main vehicle: $ 50,000. It was a splurge but chosen for size and safety.

Fill in the blank on this question: I could save _____ if I stopped ______, but I don’t because _______.

We could save a drastically large sum of money if we cut out vacations and several items that are “luxury’ items” (e.g., house cleaner, organic food, etc.); however, I actively choose not to because I have known multiple people in my life who never spent, planning on having a fabulous retirement, and then died suddenly before they got to enjoy that retirement.

If you’re married: When was your wedding, how much did it cost (total), and how much did YOU pay? 
2012, $ 15,000, and we paid $ 14,000 of that.

Tell us about your wedding!
It was great! We focused on what mattered to us and had a fun but elegant party.

Have any large medical expenses for yourself or others played a role in your financial picture?
Yes. We lost a significant amount of income related to pregnancy-related complications and then had approximately $ 13,000 in out-of-pocket costs on top of that lost income.

Are there any other large expenses in your life, now or previously?
We own an older home on which all repairs seem to cost $ 8,000.

At any point in your life to date, has inheritance played a role in your money situation? 
I got $ 10,000 from a grandparent, which I used to pay for some living expenses during graduate school.  

Money Strategy

Do you have a general money strategy? 
Work hard. Make smart choices. Buy less stuff.

What are your favorite resources for personal finance?
NPR’s Marketplace

What advice would you give your younger self about personal finance?
Don’t stress so much about money.

Photo credit: icons via Stencil. 

The post The Money Snapshot: A Government Worker Shares Thoughts on Pensions, Retirement, and Rapid Income Growth appeared first on Corporette.com.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

The Money Snapshot: A 32-Year-Old Tech Support Worker Shares Thoughts on Budget Tracking

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Presenting our fourth “money snapshot,” this time with a tech support worker in Kansas! She notes: “Our decision to move from L.A./Orange County to Kansas City … [has] been probably the biggest factor in allowing us to improve our lifestyle and financial standing. When I told one Californian friend what I paid for my 3BR house, she literally fell over. It’s an enormous difference for the cost of living.”

By way of background: We got a few requests from readers to launch our own “money diary” series, so we’ve asked willing readers to fill out a form with lots of details about debt, spending, saving and more! If you’d like to fill out the form and be considered for a future personal money snapshot, please click here to submit your response! You can see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time. See others in the Personal Money Snapshot series here.

Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! — Kat

Name: Aerin
Location: Overland Park, KS (suburb of Kansas City)
Age: 32
Occupation: Tech support worker 
Income: $ 58,300
Partner’s age: 37, works as a technical trainer
Household income:
$ 115,000
Net worth: House is worth about $ 190K, have about $ 55K in retirement/savings. My husband also has savings accounts; don’t know his totals.
Net worth when started working: My very first job was babysitting at 14, so I didn’t have much net worth one way or another. I graduated college at 23 with about $ 11K in student loans and $ 5K in credit card debt.
Current debt: $ 1K credit card, $ 4K on car, $ 1K student loans, $ 138K balance on mortgage, $ 25K on personal loan
Living situation: Own, pay $ 1,100 mortgage

Is there anything else we should know about you?
Personal loan was to consolidate credit cards and financing for a major home repair, plus a bit of a slush fund for further home improvements. That total also includes the financing for our bed, which we got at 0% interest.

Also, my parents and I were in a commercial when I was a baby, doing one of those customer testimonial things. Commercial money is kind of insane, because you get paid every time it airs. I had to pay taxes as an infant! That money helped set up savings accounts for me and my siblings, and was the seed of what my parents later contributed toward a down payment for my house (about $ 5K by the time I cashed it in).

Debt

What does your debt picture look like?
I have some student loans, not a ton. My husband has more, but he handles that separately. I ran up some credit card debt in college due to some emergencies/large expenses that took me a while to pay off. Recently I had to carry a balance on one of my cards due to a large vacation.

How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
$ 100–$ 200 for credit card beyond regular use (see below), $ 70 for student loans, $ 177 for car payment, $ 1,200 for mortgage, $ 560 for personal loan.

How did you pay for school?
My school had a very generous aid package, and a commitment to ensure that any student they accepted could attend, regardless of what they could pay. For the first year and a half or so, my dad was contributing to the tune of maybe $ 6K/year. Then my sister was in a serious car accident that required two months in the ICU and several follow-up surgeries. He talked to the school and they eliminated his contribution, replacing it with grants. Student loans were a small percentage of aid to begin with, but then my senior year the school made headlines by removing loans from the package altogether. Beyond that, I had a work-study job, and worked an additional part-time job for about half my time there, which covered day-to-day expenses, travel, books, that sort of thing.

Have you paid off any major debt?
I had three separate student loans in my package. Two of them are paid off, and the third should be cleared in 2019. I also cleared a credit card by paying it down by an extra $ 100 each month. (So if the balance had been $ 1,900, then usage + interest brought it to $ 2,050, I would pay $ 250 to bring the balance down to $ 1,800.)

Home debt: 
We pay $ 100 more than the minimum. We looked at what we were paying in rent and tried to keep our mortgage payment similar. We ended up spending more than we hoped, but still less than we got approved for. Paying off the mortgage faster is a nice idea, although we plan to sell this house which would start the clock over anyway.

Have you ever done anything noteworthy to avoid or lessen debt?
The debt consolidation loan was kind of a big deal. It lowered the interest rates on some of my debt pretty substantially. And, of course, it just felt really good to zero out those other accounts. Oh, and I can’t forget our decision to move from L.A./Orange County to Kansas City. That was entirely financial — we had outgrown our one-bedroom apartment, and our options were to get a roommate, get second jobs, cut our expenses significantly, or move someplace cheaper. We opted for the last one, and it’s been probably the biggest factor in allowing us to improve our lifestyle and financial standing. When I told one Californian friend what I paid for my 3BR house, she literally fell over. It’s an enormous difference for the cost of living.

Thinking of making a move like Aerin’s but worried about leaving behind big-city life? We asked her to pass on some advice: 

It’s funny, I actually do a lot more in Kansas City than I did in L.A. — we’re members of the zoo and had season tickets for the symphony and the Broadway series for the past couple of years (although we’re not renewing either), plus we do a fair number of concerts, author events, and conventions. In L.A., we had annual passes for Disneyland and … that was about it. We have the time (thanks to a commute that’s over an hour shorter each way) and disposable income to do things we just couldn’t there. I’ve always lived in cities (well, suburbs of major metros) so I don’t think I’d do well in a legitimately small town. But I’ve found that basically if a city is large enough to support an airport, it’s likely going to have a decent selection of good restaurants and cultural offerings. I mean, Des Moines has a better Broadway series than KC does for next season! There are still some specific things I miss (returning to In-N-Out is the closest I get to a religious experience), but on the whole the trade-offs have been worth it.

The deal I made with my husband when we first talked about moving was that if we weren’t happy, we could just save aggressively for a couple of years and be better positioned to move back. It helped that we didn’t have kids, and that he was able to transfer within his company so we retained his income and our insurance for the transition. I’m open to making a big move again if the right opportunity comes up, but we’re more settled now, so the bar for that would be pretty high.

Savings, Investments & Retirement

How much do you save for retirement?
I contributed $ 3,600 this year. My company matched that, plus an additional 1% of my salary.

How much money do you allocate to other tax-savvy investments/accounts?
None. I know my husband has an FSA, though.

How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
I have a $ 25 monthly savings transfer that I set up in college and still use. I also have a keep the change program that rounds up my purchases to the nearest dollar and moves that to savings. Beyond that, I allocate money to savings as I can when dividing up paychecks.

Do you have/use a financial adviser or planner? 
I just use the default for my retirement plan. I don’t really have enough of anything else to do any serious investing.

Do you have an end goal for saving or are you just saving for a rainy day?
Mostly I like to save for a rainy day. We also tend to save up for large purchase/projects, especially vacations.

What’s the #1 thing you’re doing to save money, limit spending, or live frugally?
I try to avoid purchasing things until I have the cash on hand to do it. I also try to price compare and find good sales. We lived paycheck to paycheck when I was growing up (we were pretty solidly middle class, but my mom kept the regular expenses extremely tight to allow for spending/safety nets in other areas) so I learned a lot of tricks and a frugal mindset that way.

We asked Aerin to share some more money-saving strategies she’s learned:

When we were kids, my mom made us divide our money into 50% savings, 20% gifts, 30% spending. So this acquainted me with splitting early on, but I kind of resented not getting to keep much of my money. So when I wanted to buy a laptop in high school, I ended up sort of skimming off myself — if I made $ 17 babysitting, I’d hand over $ 15 and squirrel away the other $ 2 in a hidden spot. I found it easier to get my head around saving up for something specific than for its own sake. That’s still largely how I operate, very goal-oriented.

The other big thing I remember is her teaching us the importance of tracking expenses. Once we were about junior-high age, she gave each of us kids an equal envelope of cash and took us back-to-school shopping for clothes and supplies, where we’d each pick out and pay for our own stuff. The trick was, we didn’t go to Walmart for supplies until very last. So if you didn’t hold back enough money to pay for a new backpack or binder, you were stuck using last year’s. Definitely a hands-on lesson! Another time she and I went on a long weekend trip to visit the campus of my first-choice college, and she put me in charge of writing down every penny we spent. Seeing how little stuff could add up was very enlightening.

How much do you have in cash that’s available today?
$ 3K in my personal account, $ 4K in joint account. My husband maintains a separate personal account; I don’t know his total.

How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week?
$ 1,200 in personal savings, $ 4K in joint savings.

How much is in your “emergency fund,” and where do you keep it?
Savings accounts as noted above. Some money in the regular accounts is allocated for specific larger expenses as needed (like medical bills or car stuff).

How much do you have in retirement savings?
$ 50K; don’t know about my husband’s.

Spending 

How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?

Groceries: $ 400
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery: 
$ 300
Clothing and accessories: $ 30
Transportation: $ 200 (car payment; car is fully electric, so charging costs are minimal)
Rent/living expenses: $ 1,100
Entertainment: $ 150
Other major expenses: If I’m working on a major sewing/craft project, that can eat up a lot of cash. (I do have an Etsy shop, and it’s not something I would consider a full-on side hustle, but it usually brings in enough to pay for supplies for the next project and keeps that stuff from cluttering up the house. The downside is it means I tend to pick projects with an eye toward inventory rather than fun or challenge.) We also allocate about $ 50/month for pet expenses. 
Health care — premiums and other costs: $ 3.300/year medical, $ 130/year dental, $ 280/year vision, all for me and my husband. I probably spend about $ 1,000/year outside of coverage for things like chiropractor (not covered), co-pays, tests, that sort of thing.

What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?

Vacations – Range: $ 1,000–$ 8,000 
Vacations – Average:
$ 4,000

Charity – Range of Donations: $ 10–$ 200
Charity – Average Donation:
$ 30/monthly recurring donations, $ 10–20 here and there when I can

Individual items of clothing – Range: $ 5–$ 300
Individual items of clothing – Average: It hurts me to spend more than $ 20 on a single item of clothing. I do a lot of thrifting. One thing I do spend more on is coats.

Apartment or house – Current main residence: Purchased at $ 153K

Car or other vehicle – Range: $ 2,000–$ 10,000
Car or other vehicle – Last purchase / current main vehicle: $ 8,000

Any other large personal expenses? 
Lawn care $ 75/month (although we’re probably gonna get rid of that).

We asked Aerin to comment on whether she’d like to spend less (or more) on any of the categories listed: 

I’d really like to get our food costs down. We’ve been experimenting with a few different things for that, but everything at the grocery store is getting so expensive that it’s tricky. And I’m always trying to find extra money to throw at the vacation fund.

Fill in the blank on this question: I could save _____ if I stopped ______, but I don’t because _______.
I could save a decent chunk on groceries if I cut coupons and planned my meals better, but I don’t because I just don’t have the time or energy.

When was your wedding, how much did it cost (total), and how much did YOU pay? 
2010, cost $ 7K, my parents contributed about $ 4K

Tell us about your wedding: 
We cut down the guest list to literally the people in the wedding, their spouses, and any other family on the same tier. (So my husband’s uncle performed the ceremony, so we also invited the uncle’s siblings but not other aunts and uncles. He’s closer to his extended family than I am to mine, so this gave us a clear way to draw lines.) Total was about 40 people. Since my family is scattered all over, we got married in Las Vegas to make the travel easier. We booked a huge suite with a great view at Mandalay Bay, and that’s where we did the welcome dinner, rehearsal lunch, ceremony, and reception. When our caterer asked for my budget I told him $ 35/person, figuring I could go up as high as $ 50/person plus booze. He came back with a cocktail menu including beer/wine/soda for $ 35. The food was great, and that allowed us to cater the other meals plus take everyone to a breakfast buffet the next day.

We did a bunch of other stuff to cut down on expenses. My gown was $ 250 at David’s Bridal, marked down because it had been discontinued. I spent nine months making roses out of book pages. Instead of a regular cake, we did cookie cakes on a tiered display I designed and built. (That one got featured on CNN!) I spent ages scouring eBay for things like bridal party gifts (my side each got a nice leather-bound copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales), cake topper, shoes, jewelry, etc. Photographer and videographer were both friends who gave us good rates. The one place we didn’t skimp on was the rings, since we figured that was one of the few things we’d still have after the day was done. Those cost about $ 1K each.

Basically, we wanted to put our money toward showing everyone a really good time. We knew that traveling was expensive and annoying, so we wanted to make sure our guests were well cared for while they were there. The whole affair was pretty relaxed and we got to see nearly everyone outside the wedding itself, so it was pretty successful in that regard. And we did so well on the cost of the wedding that we had about $ 3K left over to pamper ourselves for a few extra days in Vegas.

Are there any other large expenses in your life, now or previously?
Buying myself a MacBook Pro in college cost about $ 3K that I didn’t have at the time, and I spent quite a while paying back that credit card debt. But I didn’t need to buy another computer for about six years after that, so I guess it worked out? Moving across the country pretty much wiped us out. We had some friends who let us live with them for a couple of months until we got on our feet, which was a huge help.

At any point in your life to date, has inheritance played a role in your money situation?  
My mom inherited some money from her parents, but we were all adults when they died so none of it has really passed to us (since there wasn’t a ton). 

How has your family provided financial support in your adult life, if any? (Or, do you provide support to them?)
My mom and stepdad gave me a car when I was in college, because I desperately needed one due to how far away my job was. When that car died and couldn’t be revived, my dad had just paid off his car so he gave it to me and bought a new one. I was extremely broke at the time and couldn’t afford car payments, so this was extremely necessary. Beyond that, I haven’t really leaned on my parents for much financially. 

I should revise the non-financial support from family: I don’t live anywhere near family, though they’ve sometimes advised from afar. Recently I had a weird power outage, and I told my mom who told my stepdad who told my stepbrother. He correctly deduced that it was an issue with the power company, which saved me from having to pay an electrician on a Sunday.

Does your family provide any non-financial support? 
I don’t live anywhere near family, though they’ve sometimes advised from afar. Recently, I had a weird power outage, and I told my mom, who told my stepdad, who told my stepbrother. He correctly deduced that it was an issue with the power company, which saved me from having to pay an electrician on a Sunday.

Money Strategy

Do you have a general money strategy?
Oh, yes: The Spreadsheet.

I started doing this after we moved to the Midwest, before I found work and money was extremely tight. It’s got a column for each category of expenses: one for each bill (mortgage, power, insurance, etc) and then columns for things like vacation, appliances/furniture, or other things I’m saving up for, like new computers or a tattoo. Each column is marked with a target amount that it needs to get paid up to. On bills, this is the high-water mark of what we’ve ever owed. So one time our power bill was $ 250 for the month, so I keep $ 250 in that fund even though it’s usually much less each month. For other categories, it’s the savings goal, either a specific cost if there is one or a general guideline.

Then I go through the checking account, and each transaction gets entered in its own row. The amount gets listed in the correct column. Paychecks get divided up accordingly, and I have another page in the spreadsheet where I can keep track of which credit card transactions came out of which column so the bill can be divided accurately.

Functionally, this means I have at least one month’s worth of expenses on hand at all times. Once a bill comes out, I then put back the money so it’s ready for next month. It also allows me to work toward long-term goals, because even if I can only allocate a couple of bucks a week I’m still at least making space for it in my plans. More importantly, it means I don’t have to do a lot of thinking about my money when I’m spending it. If I get really concerned, I can pull it up on my phone to see where I’m at, but for the most part it works as a sort of post-hoc budgeting. If I overspend on one category for this week (like when I bought a bunch of work clothes from a store that was closing because they were 80% off), I know that I can’t put as much into other funds until I’ve made up the difference, and I also should avoid spending from that fund until it’s been rebuilt.

It’s a fair amount of work to sit down and log everything once every couple of weeks, but I absolutely love that I can buy fun, silly things on impulse without having to worry about whether this will mean I can’t pay a utility bill. It was a long road to go from being overdrawn in that account to having this sort of cushion, and The Spreadsheet absolutely helped me get there.

(After submitting her Money Snapshot, Aerin sent us this update: “I dug up the link to The Spreadsheet! Way old, but still works. I uploaded mine into Google Drive so it’s accessible from multiple devices — one version for my personal account and one for joint.”) 

Time vs. money — do you spend money to save time (e.g., cleaning service)? Do you donate your time instead of money? What else does this phrase mean to you?
There are definitely times when I do that, especially with home repairs when the DIY route usually ends up being more expensive as well as more time-consuming. I worked a retail job part-time for a while, but I realized that the bit of extra money wasn’t nearly worth the time, energy, and stress of it. My time is a non-renewable resource, and pushing myself beyond the limits of my energy had a much higher cost. I donate money over time, though, for much the same reason. I just don’t have the bandwidth to give extra time beyond my current commitments, but I can at least provide some support to the people who can.

Anything else to add? 
When my husband and I moved in together, our system was basically that he’d pay for everything, and I’d write him a check once a month for my half. It worked, more or less. Now, we have a joint account that we both pay into, which we use for shared household bills and anything that is used by both of us. However, we’ve still maintained our separate personal accounts as well, and I think it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. See, if there’s only one account, things become a zero-sum game: If he springs for some nice clothes, I might not be able to get the video game I was eyeing, because it’s all coming from the same pot. But with separate accounts, you don’t have one person held responsible for the expenses the other person incurred independently. We’ve been together for 10 years and we’ve never once argued about money. We talk about it a lot, and it’s been a source of stress when it’s not there or when we get thrown a curveball, but there’s just not the resentment about each other’s choices and priorities.

So that’s probably my biggest piece of advice to people getting serious with a partner: Keep a personal checking and savings account, even if you combine nearly everything else.

Photo credit: icons via Stencil. 

The post The Money Snapshot: A 32-Year-Old Tech Support Worker Shares Thoughts on Budget Tracking appeared first on Corporette.com.

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BEST DEAL UPDATE:

The Money Snapshot: A 33-Year-Old Management Consultant Shares Thoughts on Three Mortgages & Her Aggressive Savings Strategy

 

Today we’re proud to present our third “money snapshot,” this time with C, a management consultant on the West Coast! She notes: “I paid off my student loans extremely aggressively — all were paid off within two years of graduating. Although I had a job that paid well right out of college (I started at $ 60K), I tried to live frugally where reasonably possible in order to prioritize paying these off.”

By way of background: we got a few requests from readers to launch our own “money diary” series, so we’ve asked willing readers to fill out a form with lots of details about debt, spending, saving and more!  If you’d like to fill out the form and be considered for a future personal money snapshot, please click here if you’d like to see the form and/or submit responses! You can also see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time. See others in the Personal Money Snapshot series here.

Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! — Kat

Name: C
Location: HCOL suburb on the West Coast
Age: 33 
Occupation: Management consultant
Income: $ 180K/year base, $ 10K–$ 40K bonus
Net worth: About $ 900,000
Net worth when started working: Negative $ 52K (student loans) at age 22 
Current debt: Three mortgages (home, rental property, and vacation home) totaling $ 830K
Living situation: Own a house and pay $ 2,000/month in mortgage.

Debt

What does your debt picture look like?
My only debt right now is mortgage debt, across three homes (primary, vacation, investment property), totaling $ 830K. I have pretty good mortgage rates (3.5%, 3.75%, and 4.5%, all 30-year fixed), so I am paying the regular monthly payments. While I made an extra lump sum payment on my primary home with a bonus a few years ago, I now just put those bonuses into savings/investments so that I could pay the mortgages off later if I needed to.

How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
$ 5,400 in monthly mortgage payments, though $ 3,500 is paid by tenants

How did you pay for school?
I paid off my student loans extremely aggressively — all were paid off within two years of graduating. Although I had a job that paid well right out of college (I started at $ 60K), I tried to live frugally where reasonably possible in order to prioritize paying these off. I am very uncomfortable having debt, so it was important to me to not have my student loans hanging over my head.

What advice would you share with readers about buying and maintaining a rental property?
Find someone you trust that you can call for repairs! I don’t have a property manager per se, but I do have a handyman who lives right by the property to whom I sole source all repairs. If he can’t do it, he will call around and find someone who can, then charge a one-off commission (which is well worth it). It’s amazing peace of mind to know that if there is an issue, my tenants can call me or call him directly in an emergency. Also, if you are looking to buy a rental property, remember that you don’t need to like it personally, so try to avoid any upgrades that make it to your taste, and stick with something more generic.

Savings, Investments & Retirement

How much do you save for retirement?
I max out my 401K ($ 2,100/month). I used to max out my Roth IRA before I became ineligible for that. I still do a “backdoor Roth” where I put it into a traditional IRA and then immediately convert it, so that the earnings will be tax free.

How much money do you allocate to other tax-savvy investments/accounts?
I max out my HSA at $ 260/month… I figure even if it stays in there now without me using it, it will be good to have when I’m older and more prone to health issues. I have had two health issues that depleted my HSA significantly, over 10 years, so I figure it’s a great emergency fund — especially since I’m on a high-deductible plan.

How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
I also save $ 4,500/month post tax in a combo of index funds and a managed portfolio. I prefer to manually transfer the funds when my paycheck comes in, which forces me to check out my financial situation every two weeks and see how I’m doing. I transfer the money from my paycheck bank account to another “transaction” bank account, then I have automatic transfers for my investments set up to take the money a week after my paycheck hits. I feel like that’s the best of both worlds — keeps it simple but also forces me to continuously evaluate and reassess. And if I’m short on funds, I could always stop a transfer.

Do you have/use a financial adviser or planner? 
I started using a financial adviser last year, who manages a portfolio for me that complies with my company’s guidelines around what I can/can’t invest in. (Working in consulting, there are a lot of restrictions around investing in clients.) I felt pressured to start using an adviser by my company, but I do wonder if it’s worth the fees (1%) or if I’d be better off with it all in index funds. I put $ 2,000/month into that portfolio for my adviser to invest as he sees fit, and then I put $ 2,500/month into the Schwab Total Market Stock Index fund. I feel very uninformed/inexperienced when it comes to investing, but I haven’t prioritized learning about it.

Do you have an end goal for saving or are you just saving for a rainy day?
I’d like to retire early (mid-40s) and am well on track to do so. But if I decide to have a family, I know that timeline would be pushed back significantly.

What’s the #1 thing you’re doing to save money, limit spending, or live frugally?
I think I am generally pretty frugal, though I’m motivated by knowing I CAN buy anything I want thanks to my otherwise-frugality. I’ve made a few big impulse buys over the years (my vacation home wasn’t supposed to happen for a while longer, but I found this house and fell in love with it). It feels SOOOOO good to know that I never have to worry about money, which is the opposite of how I grew up. No matter how much my salary increases, I plan to always live well below my means and try to avoid keeping up with the Joneses.

Do a lot of your financial decisions today stem from the money situation your family had growing up?
Yes — it’s really important to me to pay my bills on time (which my parents weren’t financially able to do), and it also makes me feel amazing to be able to buy things without having to worry about bouncing checks or overdrawn credit cards, which were common in my childhood.

When did you start saving seriously? How has your savings strategy changed over the years?
The day I graduated college! It’s always been a high priority for me to be financially comfortable and not in debt.

Do you have an estate plan in place?  
None — I probably should. However, as a single, I don’t really know who I’d want my estate to go to. Probably my parents, and they will get it by default anyway.

How much do you have in cash that’s available today?
$ 20? Ha. I don’t keep actual physical cash.

How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week?
$ 8,000 — currently very depleted from the down payment on my vacation home. I would like this to be $ 20K. This is my emergency fund, and I keep it in a savings account.

How much do you have in retirement savings?
$ 201K

How much do you have in long-term investments and savings that are not behind a retirement wall?
$ 142K

If property values are included in your net worth, how much are those worth?
Home: $ 338K equity
Rental property: $ 82K equity
Vacation home: $ 125K equity
Car: fully paid off and worth about $ 15K

Looking back, did you ever expect to own three properties at 33? In general, say, 10 years ago, did you expect to be where you are now financially?
DEFINITELY not. I feel like all of my real estate purchases were accidental — the investment property was a short sale that came across my lap when I had a bunch of cash in savings and hadn’t really figured out investing. My primary home was of course planned, but the vacation home was something I didn’t expect. I thought vacation homes were only for richer/more established people and was pleasantly surprised when I happened across the property and found I could make the numbers work. I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am today financially; I honestly never really expected much more than being able to make ends meet and am proud to be well ahead of that.

Spending 

How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?

Groceries: $ 120 
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery: 
$ 500
Clothing and accessories: $ 200
Transportation: $ 20/week on gas, $ 100/month on car registration/insurance
Rent/living expenses: $ 2,000 mortgage payment  
Entertainment: $ 30/month for a local concert series I like. I rarely buy books (yay for libraries!) or go to the movies.
Health care — premiums and other costs: $ 80/month for a high deductible plan ($ 3,500 deductible). I probably spend about $ 500/year from my FSA for various things (medicine, co-pays, contact lenses).

What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?

Vacations – Average: Low — I tend to take a lot of three-day weekends, using hotel points and frequent flyer miles, so they still often fit in my regular weekly budget of ~$ 400/week.

Charity – Average Donation: $ 20 to any friend asking for money for their pet charities, and then I go to a decent number of events ($ 150 for a ticket, another $ 100–$ 500 on auction items/general donation).

Individual items of clothing – Range: $ 10–$ 100 
Individual items of clothing – Average: I have inexpensive taste — I really like Old Navy for trendy stuff because I don’t care if it lasts that long anyway, and for classic pieces that I do want to last, I tend to buy from Banana Republic and Lands’ End. I like shopping brands online that I can easily return in stores rather than having to mail them back, and I tend to buy a LOT to try at home, and then return a lot. I almost always wait till things are on sale to buy, and will often put things into my cart that I like, then come back to it weeks later when I see they’re doing 50% off everything (or whatever). I’d say I typically pay around $ 30–$ 50 for a work dress, $ 10–$ 20 for a shirt / sweater, $ 20 for jeans, and $ 20 for shoes. For black-tie events, I’ll find gowns for $ 80–$ 150; there are a lot in this price range from basic department stores (e.g., Macy’s). I like seeing the pieces featured on Corporette, but most of them are much more expensive than what I’d consider buying.

Apartment or house – Current main residence: $ 2,000/month

Car or other vehicle – Last purchase / current main vehicle: Bought a new SUV for $ 25K that is five years old and that I plan to drive several more years.

Fill in the blank on this question: I could save _____ if I stopped ______, but I don’t because _______.
I could save $ 1,000 a month if I got a roommate for my gigantic house that I live in alone, but I don’t because I really value having my own place. I love my neighborhood, but it doesn’t have any 2-bedroom houses, which would have more than sufficed! I did look at a few townhomes that would have been a great size, but the value wasn’t nearly as high compared to paying just a little bit more for twice the room.

How much did your car cost?
$ 25K. In hindsight, I wish I had bought a used car rather than new.

How much did your home cost?
$ 470K

If you have vacation homes, timeshares, or income properties, how much did those cost?  
(1) I bought a townhouse five years ago for $ 130K; it’s now worth $ 180K. I rent this out for $ 1,500/month, which more than covers the $ 1,000/month mortgage. (2) Last year, I bought a vacation home for $ 525K; the mortgage is $ 2,400/month. I partially rent it out for $ 2,000/month, which allows me to still enjoy it part time without having to pay the full burden of the mortgage. I eventually plan to stop renting it out.

How has your family provided financial support in your adult life, if any? (Or, do you provide support to them?)
When I graduated college, I went home and lived with my parents for three months until moving to start my first job. I worked at a restaurant to cover spending money, but they paid my cell phone bill and I didn’t pay rent/utilities. I’ve made loans to a few family members of $ 5K–$ 20K; some have been paid back and some haven’t. I don’t like loaning money to people so I only make loans that I am comfortable losing entirely.

Money Strategy

Do you have a general money strategy?
I keep a spreadsheet of all my accounts, and a general budget, though the only categories I “budget” for out of my paycheck are mortgage, utilities, internet, savings, and the rest in a generic “spending money” category. I don’t budget separately for food because I could easily make dinner for $ 5 from the grocery store or buy a meal for $ 150 at a restaurant, so I think of food as a form of entertainment and want it included in that generic “spending money” category. I budget $ 1,500 month for “spending money,” and when I pay my credit card bill (which I do in full each month), I see how it compares to that budget. If it’s over, I keep it in mind and try to tighten my belt a little bit the next month. But I like the freedom of not having to worry about individual purchases, and just looking at it in aggregate. I’ve used this strategy since I graduated college, though back then my budget was $ 800/month ($ 200/week).

Time vs. money — do you spend money to save time (e.g., cleaning service)? Do you donate your time instead of money? What else does this phrase mean to you?
I volunteer about 20 hours/month and generally try to give back this way instead of financially. Writing a check doesn’t really mean much to me, but I get a huge psychological benefit out of spending time volunteering — for me, that decision is much more about the psychology than it is about saving money. However, I definitely tend to spend time to save money. I don’t hire a cleaning service, and do it myself — it’s really not that hard if I block off an hour a week and keep up with it regularly. I try to save whatever I can on things that don’t matter to me (e.g., store brand groceries vs. name brand) so that I don’t have to worry about spending money on the things I want to indulge in (a great meal at a fancy restaurant).

What are your favorite resources for personal finance?
Blogs: The Simple Dollar, Mr. Money Mustache. Both of those are often much more frugal than I’m comfortable with, but I get some good ideas from there. And, it helps to normalize extreme frugality for me, which makes me feel comfortable with how frugal I am. 

Photo credit: icons via Stencil.

Wow – huge thanks to C for sharing her life with us!

The post The Money Snapshot: A 33-Year-Old Management Consultant Shares Thoughts on Three Mortgages & Her Aggressive Savings Strategy appeared first on Corporette.com.

Corporette.com

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

The Money Snapshot: A Chemist in New Jersey Shares Thoughts on Student Loans, Mortgages, & More!

chemist-nj-money-snapshot-under-30

Presenting our second “money snapshot,” this time with a 29-year-old chemist in New Jersey! She notes: “We paid off our cars and my student loan debt, and now we are saving for a house.”   

By way of background: we got a few requests from readers to launch our own “money diary” series, so we asked willing readers to fill out a form with lots of details about debt, spending, saving and more!  If you’d like to fill out the form and be considered for a future personal money snapshot, please click here if you’d like to see the form and/or submit responses! You can also see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time. See others in the Personal Money Snapshot series here.

Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! — Kat

Name: J
Location: Collingswood, NJ
Age: 29
Occupation: Chemist
Income: $ 85,000
Household income: $ 176,000
Partner’s age: 30
Household net worth:
not sure
Net worth when started working: Nothing except $ 55,000 in student loan debt (age 22)
Current debt: $ 0
Living situation: Currently renting; rent is $ 1,525/month

Debt

How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
$ 3,000 credit card bill — covers almost all expenses except rent

How did you pay for school?
Grants and loans

Have you paid off any major debt? 
Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to pay off student loans so quickly ($ 54k in 7 years) if I didn’t have a partner covering all our daily expenses. 

What is your living situation?
We are renting — we rented for five years before we aggressively started saving for a house. In 18 months we had enough for a mortgage that we felt comfortable with, but we’re still hesitant to buy because property taxes in our area are so high and we aren’t 100% sure we want to (can?) commit to this area.

Savings, Investments & Retirement

How much do you save for retirement?
15% or more of my salary in 401k, and I have a rollover IRA that I haven’t touched. Both are more risk-balanced since I’m under 30.

How much money do you allocate to other tax-savvy investments/accounts like HSAs, 529s, FSAs, and others?
From 2011–2018, I put $ 10 a month into my HSA to focus on student loans. In 2019, I’ll contribute almost the maximum.

How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
My partner pays for day-to-day expenses, and most of my salary (minus Target trips and a few monthly expenses like Audible) goes to a savings account.

Do you have/use a financial adviser or planner? Do you have a favorite index fund where you stick everything? Are you doing a bond ladder or other asset allocation strategy (like value funds or target retirement funds)?
No, but I think we should use a financial adviser soon. After Christmas [2018], I want to buy index fund.

Do you have an end goal for saving (e.g., early retirement or job change) or are you just saving for a rainy day?
House, Travel, and Apocalyptic life events. Early retirement would be great, but I haven’t thought about how to do that.

What’s the #1 thing you’re doing to save money, limit spending, or live frugally?
Automatic transfers help. Also, this sounds terrible, but having almost all our expenses on one credit card keeps me accountable. I’m far less likely to impulse spend if I know my partner is checking the credit card every week. My personal credit cards don’t have travel rewards, so I only want to use the joint CC and use the points to travel abroad. So my impulse spending is limited, and when I do spend, it’s at least going to be rewarded with crepes in Paris or something.

When did you start saving seriously? How has your savings strategy changed over the years?
I started saving seriously at the age of 26, and even more aggressively at 28.

How much do you have in cash that’s available today?
$ 2,000

How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week, such as with an online savings account?
$ 70,000

Spending 

How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?

Groceries: $ 300
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery:
$ 150
Clothing and accessories: $ 150
Transportation: $ 160
Rent/living expenses: $ 1,525 (rent)

What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?

Vacations – Range: $ 0$ 5,000
Vacation – Average: $ 2,500

Individual items of clothing – Range: $ 5–$ 75
Individual items of clothing – Average: $ 40

Apartment or house – Range: $ 900–$ 1,600/month
Apartment or house – Current main residence: $ 1,525/month

Car or other vehicle – Range: $ 0$ 400/month
Car or other vehicle – Last purchase / current main vehicle: $ 400/month

Fill in the blank on this question: I could save _____ if I stopped ______, but I don’t because _______.
I could save $ 150/month if I moved closer to work, but I don’t because the state I work in is undesirable in so many ways.

When was your wedding and how much did it cost? 
Everything including honeymoon cost about $ 30,000. My parents covered about half. We spent a lot of money on the venue, food, and photographer. We bought our own alcohol (tax-free Delaware), hired the least experienced but still awesome DJ, and I got all the table flowers from Produce Junction and Trader Joe’s. 

If you own, how much did your car cost?
$ 22,000  

Money Strategy

Do you have a general money strategy?
Save as much as possible, and between my partner and I, try to live on one income and save the rest.

What advice would you give your younger self about personal finance?
Get a roommate after college. Don’t buy a new car.

Photo credit: icons via Stencil. 

Psst: We’ve talked about automatizing saving and automatic investing, as well as how to decide whether to pay down debt or save

 

The post The Money Snapshot: A Chemist in New Jersey Shares Thoughts on Student Loans, Mortgages, & More! appeared first on Corporette.com.

Corporette.com

BEST DEAL UPDATE:

Personal Money Snapshot: An Administrator in Public Higher Education and Former Lawyer Shares Her Money Snapshot!

 

Eeek – we are thrilled to present our very first personal money snapshot! By way of background: we got a few requests from readers to launch our own “money diary” series, so we asked willing readers to fill out a form with lots of details about debt, spending, saving and more!  If you’d like to fill out the form and be considered for a future personal money snapshot, please click here if you’d like to see the form and/or submit responses! You can also see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time.

Today’s snapshot features reader P, who notes: “I have worked almost exclusively in public administration or higher education, so not a high roller here! Husband had a job loss early in career (about five years ago) that screwed us up.”

Please remember that this is is a real person who has feelings and isn’t gaining anything from this, unlike your usual friendly (soul-deadened, thick-skinned, cold-hearted, money-grubbing) blogger — so please be kind with any comments. Thank you! — Kat

Name: P
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Age: 32
Occupation: lawyer –> public higher ed administrator
Income: $ 83,000
Household income: $ 165,000
Partner’s age: 34 (husband)
Household net worth:
 About $ 100,000
Net worth when started working: $ 26,000 (age 24)
Current debt: $ 15,000 credit card debt, $ 2,000 student loans
Living situation: Currently renting; rent is $ 1,400/month. (I do not contribute to rent.)

Debt

What does your debt picture look like?
Aggressively paying down $ 15,000 in consumer debt (credit card) accrued due to a job loss, a period of underemployment after a relocation to a much lower cost of living area (from D.C. to Chapel Hill), and shopping like an idiot. I have about $ 2,000 left on my student loans, which was only $ 10,000 to start.

How much money are you spending each month to pay down debt?
$ 2,000

How did you pay for school?
I made educational choices that left me with as little debt as possible (full scholarships to both undergrad and law school, albeit to lower ranked, less challenging institutions than I could have succeeded in). I always had two jobs during school (except for during 1L). Parents generously paid my rent and let me drive a family car.

What is your living situation?
We rent because we moved here with very little in savings and have lower-paying jobs. We sold our home to move to D.C., which subsequently ate our money ($ 2,500/month in rent for a 1-bedroom in Maryland), and now we rent for both money reasons and for flexibility reasons. We are planning to purchase again in 2019, thankfully, as we build savings and have a better grasp on what we want from our home.

Have you ever done anything noteworthy to avoid or lessen debt?
We had to cash out a small retirement account when my husband lost his job in 2013. We used it as a stopgap for some major things, but ultimately he re-invested about $ 4,000 of that.

Savings, Investments & Retirement

How much do you save for retirement?
I invest about 15–20% of my gross pay each month (target date retirement funds), with some of that as an employer match. Higher ed has its minimal benefits for things like matching!

How much do you have in retirement savings?
$ 70,000 (just mine)

How much do you save outside of retirement accounts?
We fund an emergency account for about $ 400/month, a down payment account at about $ 1000–$ 1500/month, and a vacation fund at $ 100/month. Buying a house is first priority, and a not-sucky retirement is the other. We are childfree and find that impacts some of our decisions with relationship to both the house and retirement.

What’s the #1 thing you’re doing to save money, limit spending, or live frugally?
We just don’t buy a lot of stuff, clothes, disposable things. We’re relatively minimal with our “stuff” consumption. And we bring lunches!

How much do you have in cash that’s available today?
Twenty bucks? Idk, I’m a millennial.

How much do you have in cash that’s available in a week, such as with an online savings account?
$ 20,000, all of my banking is online, no brick and mortar (includes $ 7,000 emergency fund).

Spending 

How much do you spend on the following categories on a monthly basis?

Groceries: $ 600
Restaurants, bars, takeout, and delivery:
$ 400
Clothing and accessories: Less than $ 100
Transportation: Household spends about $ 330 (gas plus car payments, two cars)
Rent/living expenses: $ 1,400
Entertainment: $ 25, Hulu and Netflix only
Health care: $ 50/month each for two individual plans; no kids

What’s your spending range for these things? What’s your average?

Vacations – Range: $ 50–$ 7,000
Vacation – Average: $ 2,500

Individual items of clothing – Range: $ 10–70
Individual items of clothing – Average: $ 40

Apartment or house – Range: $ 1,000–$ 2,600
Apartment or house – Current main residence: $ 1,400 (rent)

Car or other vehicle – Range: $ 8,000–$ 10,000, always buy used, hate cars
Car or other vehicle – Last purchase / current main vehicle: $ 10,000, used vehicle

When was your wedding and how much did it cost? 
2010, $ 30,000 total (parents paid), $ 250 for my wedding ring, about $ 300 for bridesmaids’ gifts, $ 250 for husband’s gift. Was married at 24 to my high school sweetheart (still am!). Tradition in my family is parents pay; it is “their party in our honor,” and the guest list was big (175+) due to very large families. Did not get married in a church. Married by judge I interned for, on lawn of beach club in New England. No honeymoon, as we had just started jobs.

Are there any other large expenses in your life, now or previously?
Husband doesn’t do the taxes anymore… didn’t know how to calculate “income” for IRS purposes so we had a $ 6,000 tax bill one year. Ugh.

Money Strategy

Do you have a general money strategy?
Make as much as you can while still having a life and being happy; spend it on the experiences and food you really want.

Stock photo credit: Deposit Photos / Dualshock

 

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Personal Money Snapshot: Corporette Edition

personal money snapshot

I know everyone (including me) loves to read those money diaries on sites like Refinery29, and I’ve been meaning to create a “personal money snapshot” series to feature readers who are willing to share a summary of their financial situation. We now have a Google form (similar to the form we have for the CorporetteMoms Week in the Life of a Working Mom posts), and I would love to a) open it up for participants, b) get your feedback (too long?), and c) note that everything is possible for change. (The nice thing about Google forms is that we can edit questions, which is not always the case with surveys and things.) Click here if you’d like to see the form and/or submit responses! You can also see a PDF of the questions if you want to review them ahead of time.

Notes on the Personal Money Snapshot Form:

1. The reason we ask for your email address: It would be much, much better if we could have your email address so that Kate or I could ask follow-up questions for clarity — sometimes not everything is obvious from an outside perspective. THAT SAID, there are a lot of personal questions on the form, so I understand if you don’t want to share your address. I can’t quite figure out how to make that question optional, though, so just put something obviously fake and we’ll deal. (If you DO trust us with your email address, thank you very much! We will keep your info safe pursuant to the Corporette Privacy Policy — and I promise to never ever hit you up for a loan if you’re loaded.)

2. The general nature of the questions (and why it looks longer than it is): I’ve been observing reader comments and discussions on money for a long time, and I think the usual “what I spend in a week” summary isn’t necessarily illuminating or educational. That’s why the questions on the form are pretty wide-ranging — and it may seem long when you first look at it, but that’s because I’m not expecting EVERYONE to have something to say in EVERY category. (I’m assuming readers will have a lot to say in one or two of the sections and less in others.)

I also believe that people have “quadrants of knowledge” when it comes to personal finance. Maybe you know everything about country club fees, which markets are awesome for second homes, and which ostrich bag is REALLY worth the $ 10,000. That’s awesome, and we want to hear from you! We also want to hear from people who are in six figures of debt, flirting with bankruptcy, and/or living paycheck to paycheck (yes, even if you have a high income and are living paycheck to paycheck). We also want to hear from the FIRE people who are putting away $ 100K of their $ 120K income, and people who had their lives wildly shifted (for good or bad) by something like inheritance (hopefully good) or crazy medical bills (probably bad). 

3. Big Picture questions: There are a few questions I want everyone to answer because I think they generally inform the reading of responses. One question asks specifically what your net worth was when you started working since I think there’s a huge difference in what your personal finance journey looks like if your net worth at 25 or whatever is -$ 260,000 (in debt) vs. $ 5,000 vs. $ 150,000. Another question asks, “Is there anything else we should know about you from a “Big Picture” perspective up front, for context, as it relates to your net worth, expenses, or debt?” I included that to delve into situations that we wouldn’t know to ask about but certainly affect your money situation, e.g., “had to be life-flighted to the hospital and had $ 100K in medical bills,” or “private schools are not optional for my family because I don’t believe my kids will get a fair shake in public school” or “all of our home-related finances are super high because my in-laws live with us and we pay for everything.” 

Like I said, it’s pretty wide ranging and hopefully not TOO… asky. If there are specific questions that are offensive to people or otherwise problematic, I’d love to know which ones in particular. If people think there need to be specific questions added to any part of it, we’d love to hear those too.

Here’s a quick question for discussion today, though: what are your favorite resources to learn about money? What’s your favorite podcast, book, blog, or other resource?

Psst: here’s our last discussion on the best personal finance books for beginners, as well as my “money roadmap,” or what my own personal finance journey has looked like. 

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Smoke-Filled Snapshot: California Wildfire Generates Dangerous Air Quality For Millions

At 11 a.m. last Friday, thousands of former Paradise, Calif., residents were taking stock of all they had lost to the worst wildfire in the state’s history while they continued the grim task of looking for missing loved ones.

At the same moment, with smoke from the deadly Camp Fire blanketing much of the state, millions more Californians were struggling to breathe.

Nov. 16 was one of the most dangerously smoky days in Northern and Central California, as wildfire smoke shrouded communities like an acrid fog.

Air quality readings in several cities, including Sacramento, Modesto and Chico, spiked into “hazardous” territory. But the risks extended much farther away. Residents of San Francisco Bay Area communities couldn’t see the city’s iconic skyline because of the intense smoke.

“We saw the highest readings in some of the locations that we’d ever seen before,” said Simrun Dhoot, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the local government agency that monitors air quality. “It was pretty much the worst air quality that we’ve ever experienced.”

The Camp Fire, which broke out on Nov. 8, has killed at least 79 people, burned more than 150,000 acres and destroyed more than 12,000 homes. The combined smoke from that and other California fires has drifted as far as the East Coast.

Wildfire smoke is dangerous because it contains fine particles that enter the lungs and can infiltrate the bloodstream. Prolonged exposure can cause or worsen respiratory issues, such as asthma. Some groups are especially vulnerable, including those with cardiovascular issues, children and older people.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website displays air quality with its “air quality index,” or AQI. On a scale from 0 to 500, the index is divided into six categories: good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous. The readings are based on measurements of five kinds of pollution tracked by the EPA, including ozone and particulate matter.

In this case, the AQI readings reflect the density of fine particulate matter in the air full of wildfire smoke.

On this scale, readings above 100 mean the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups, including people with heart or lung disease, older people and children. Readings above 150 are considered unhealthy for everyone.

Sacramento’s air registered in the 300s for much of the day Friday, a level considered “hazardous” and constituting “emergency conditions,” according to the EPA. Residents were warned to stay inside. Sacramento’s AQI — and others in the region — topped 400 at times.

Some of those levels were worse than readings captured at the same time from cities known for their terrible air quality, like China’s Shanghai and Delhi, India.

By contrast, air quality in other parts of California, especially Southern California and coastal communities, were in the healthy range. For instance, San Bernardino, hundreds of miles away, was categorized as “good,” with an AQI of 26.

The massive Carr Fire that blazed in and around Redding in July and August was the last major fire to significantly affect air quality in the Sacramento region. The worst recorded reading during that fire was around 130, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District said.

At AQI levels above 150, public health officials suggest people avoid prolonged activity outdoors, or wear the right kind of mask if they must go outside — especially if they have a health condition.

State health officials recommend “N95” respirators or “P100” masks, which are intended to block at least 95 percent of the tiny particulate matter measured by the AQI — known as PM2.5 — that spews from wildfire smoke.

Meteorologists were predicting stronger southerly winds and rain for Wednesday, which is expected to help clean the air and fight the Camp Fire, which is 70 percent contained.

But experts warn that Californians might have to learn to live with smoke-filled air.

“We’re expecting to see these events happen more often because of climate change,” Dhoot said. “People are starting to realize they need to stock up on N95 masks.”


This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Kaiser Health News

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