I’ve been meaning to calculate my savings rate and finally got down to it: 29%. Eh. I thought it would be more, but I’m maxing my 401k and the kids college will be funded by real estate.
I haven’t yet calculated my husbands, but I anticipate his is about the same but with a few differences, like funding our HSA.
We’re working to pay down debt, so our savings rate will remain flat for the foreseeable future (three mortgages!).
Here’s the breakdown:
401k: 15% (*just reduced to 13% due to bonus)
Employee Stock Purchase Program: 8%
529: 1% – this is just sad
Roth IRA: 1%
I wonder what our debt paying rate is? I’m not sure what that’ll tell me, but it will be interesting to calculate. It also varies based on other household spends like kids activities and household repairs. And skiing.
We entered this journey already on it.
With the arrival of our first son, I left the work force. We planned for it only in that we decided it would be great for a parent to stay home, but we did not prepare financially. One salary in Seattle and another kid later, I re-entered the workforce with $20k in debt. That meant we lived beyond our means by $5k/year for four years. Which – probably a shocking thing for the FI community to hear – isn’t bad considering where we were living and not being of the FI-mindset. And we were not depriving ourselves. But we also lived in a very walkable neighborhood – it wasn’t unusual to not use the car all week – and didn’t pay for daily childcare.
We knew exactly what we were doing and we took (baby) steps to minimize that:
Cut magazine subscriptions
Reduced cell phone and internet bills
Stopped dry cleaning
Ate out less
But we also did a lot of things on the opposite end of that spectrum:
We vacationed. A lot. Mostly weekend warrior trips around the PacNW, but also CA, Whistler, HI and East Coast trips. Miles/points paid for some at first, but certainly not all.
We went out. A lot. We lived in an incredible neighborhood with great restaurants, breweries, bars and live music. We couldn’t resist.
We paid a monthly fee for a babysitting service. Then paid them by the hour when we used them!
I could go on with both fronts. This was pre-FI and I don’t regret it, but it’s funny to look back and try to see the logic in these decisions.
So when I say we were already on the journey, we had already trimmed a lot of the unnecessary monthly bills about 10 years ago. It was the FI community that gave us the nudge to take savings a lot more seriously and be a lot more budget-minded. We’re almost 10 months in and we’ve taken the basic steps:
already paid off one credit card and have a plan to pay off all debt
I thought a W4 adjustment would be a logical optimization because we had a large tax return and it would be great to have a bigger paycheck instead. But I can’t figure out what our ideal withholdings should be on our W4. Files jointly with two kids … he claims 1, I claim 2. I see conflicting information on the internet and I’m confused. At the same time, the IRS calculator is not available while they’re updating it for 2018 tax law changes.
Maybe understanding this will hit me on the head or maybe it’s no big deal. A large tax return isn’t the worst thing in the world. But until then, I’m just keeping on the road of spending less, saving more, and reducing debt.
Building on the strong foundation we set in 2017, here are our goals for 2018:
#1: Debt reduction. We made some great strides in 2017 by simply organizing our finances and recognizing that we need to be more aggressive and focused on debt reduction. This will, of course, continue …
#2: Travel. We haven’t traveled much lately and we NEED to! This is a no brainer: open a Chase rewards card. Actually, I already got mine and my husband will get his soon. We went with the Chase Sapphire. I’m not sure yet if we’ll get as aggressive as the chase gauntlet just yet. We’re thinking a family vacation to the Bahamas … perhaps that’s because it’s freezing cold right now.
#3: Max out all pre-tax contributions (401k, HSA, FSA).
#4: Increase college savings. Keep 529s at $100 per month and contribute an additional $100 per month into another, separate investment account or Roth IRA for each child.
#5: Save (more) on wireless phone bills. Change DH from Verizon to a Monthly Shared plan with Total Wireless for $60 per month, saving $67 per month. That’s over $800 per year. Cha-ching!
The debt reduction is the biggest nut: credit cards, HELOC, two car loans and three mortgages. It’s daunting, but it’s there and we’re going to make it disappear. POOF!
We started on this journey in May 2017 and I think that in our first eight months, we accomplished a lot. It wasn’t too much of a stretch for us: we know we need to save, but learning from the FI community, we realized that being more aggressive about both decreasing debt and saving more will enable us to stop working our traditional office jobs in about 10 years (at age 54) … we hope. College for two kids is such a wild card. And I don’t even want to think about healthcare.
Our first eight months on the path to FIRE looked like this:
Transferred both our Wells Fargo IRAs, rolled over prior employer 401k and an old pension into Vanguard IRAs, focusing on consolidating into VTSAX
Continued to contribute $100/month into each of two 529s
Maxed out pre-tax HSA and Dependent Care FSA
Sold high expense ratio funds to purchase VTSAX (still working on this because there’s a charge of $50 when selling more than one non-Vanguard fund within 60 days)
Successful job arbitrage saving city wage tax, commuting costs and time, plus a bonus and salary increase
Tracked spending with Every Dollar; this was really helpful to understand where and when our money was going and helped us get started. I feel like we’ve got our finger on the pulse of this now and I’m not tracking every dollar.
I’m addicted to the Personal Capital app. I love seeing our money grow and debt shrink and it also provides a spending analysis that has replaced Every Dollar for me, but it’s not as robust in that department. I was hesitant to provide all my account info and logins to a third party, but their superman encryption convinced me it was safe.
Switched insurance providers for primary house, two rental houses and two cars: saving over $600/year.
Increased rent in both rental homes; this wasn’t by design as much as strongly recommended by our property management company due to market trends in one and tenant turnover in another.
Whew! I’m proud of this. I wish we started 10 years ago, but there’s no looking back, just moving forward. We still have a long way to go: we have goals and we can see how we’ll get there. Here’s to 2018!
I am surprised the ChooseFI guys didn’t win a PLUTUS award. They’re my choice for FIRE info and have introduced me to so many resources. My favorite to date is JL Collins’ Simple Path to Wealth. I got the (free) audio book, shared it with DH and proceed to actually spend money on a hard copy. That’s how much I value the information.
I’m sure I’ll find another great resource on this list … hoping I can find one as an audio book to listen to on my commute and long runs.
Being five months into this journey, I’ve only scratched the surface on the resources available and the amount of information can be a little overwhelming at times. But, I like to keep to the JL Collins mindset: Keep it Simple.
So, in keeping it simple, this week’s FI activities were all about continuing to consolidate our monies:
Sold two of my Vanguard funds that we’re over the 1% expense ratio; no, I’m not 100% VTSAX yet because on some funds, there’s a $50 charge for transactions within 60 days … I’m math adverse and cheap, so I’m avoid that $50 because it’s easier then calculating the impact of a higher percent expense ratio (read: I AM LAZY)
Transferred my 401k from prior employer and firm to Vanguard
Huge thanks to Brad & Jonathan from ChooseFI for inspiring the FIRE in this family. You’ve won our award for being the best FI-influencer. Today’s episode scared me (we own and owe on three houses), but that’s a story for another time.