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11 years of retirement progress

July 31st, 2018 at 02:19 pm

I've never looked at my retirement changes year over year, and suddenly was curious. I started in September 2007 since that was the first time I added up all the retirement values, but for every year after I used the July retirement amount. Here's what I found:

2007: $62K

2008: $65K (+$3K)

2009: $69K (+$4K)

2010: $109K (+$40K)

2011: $141K (+$32K)

2012: $151K (+$10K)

2013: $175K (+$24K)

2014: $220K (+$45K)

2015: $248K (+$28K)

2016: $279K (+$31K)

2017: $344K (+$65K)

2018: $421K (+$68K)

It's interesting that growth has been so uneven. There are different factors: I may have found out about some of NT's pensions in 2010. My dad gave me a pre-inheritance of which I put $9K into retirement, which impacted 2011. Between 2014 and 2015 we slowed our retirement contributions while we were purchasing our duplex and trying to sell our condo. And of course vagaries of the market affected everything.

Sure hope we can continue more in the vein of 2017 and 2018 from now on!

July 2018 retirement goal update

July 31st, 2018 at 01:15 pm

Goal: $512,564 by March 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $75,120, so $225,360; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904).

Current balance: $421,009

May 2018 balance: $411,632

Progress: $9,377

We didn't have any progress in June, so this isn't as good as it looks. To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 8 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $91,555 -- $11,444 per month -- to reach it.

We rarely come close to that, so it's pretty unlikely. But at least I'm making progress in the right direction -- nice to see the amount needed to reach this mini-goal has shrunk to a 5-digit number anyway!

Some close scrapes! and dealing with the overspending

July 17th, 2018 at 01:31 pm

Don't you hate the moment of panic when something goes wrong or almost goes wrong, but then love the endorphins that flood the body when you get back what you thought you might have lost?

Last week I was working in my Number Crunch worksheet. It's a Google Sheets file, about 12 years old, and I use it to keep my real-time budget; checking account balance at the top, future income and outgo below for anywhere from one to 4 months. Along the side I show the projected checking account balance after each transaction. I update the checking account balance frequently (at least a couple times a week, sometimes more than once a day) and delete transactions that have happened.

But that's not all; I also keep my own record of AS's freelance income on additional tabs (one for each year). It helps me track tax and retirement and see what income has already come in and what we're still expecting. It has also come in handy because AS sometimes misses things on her much more complicated tracking spreadsheet, so every once in a while we compare bottom lines to make sure we've got the same amounts, and if not we get to the bottom of the issue.

But that's not all! I also have a tab where I note utility costs for each month, and note the highest bill for each month for gas, electric and water/sewer/trash, as well as the average monthly cost each year. This helps me plan my annual budget.

But that's not all either! I also have a separate tab where I track all credit card purchases for the month. Between us we use our CC a lot, so this helps ensure I don't miss any transactions. That tab also has info on all open and closed cards.

Although much of the info in the sheet is "real time" meaning I delete old transactions, I'm also able to use the version history function to look back at changes if I ever think I've messed things up. I use that fairly often as well.

So yeah, that spreadsheet is a beast of burden that does a lot of heavy lifting in my personal finances! Anyway, I was working in it last week and my fingers slipped and I opened a new browser window. When I clicked back to Number Crunch, it said it was trying to update. So I closed out of it and tried to go back in. I got an error message! I tried another browser, same thing! I opened several other Google Drive files, no problem there, just with Number Crunch!

My stomach dropped. I called AS. I left a message on help forums. I went to the file on my phone and lo and behold it was there! I couldn't save it or email it, but I was able to copy the data on each tab and paste into a new sheet. However, it pasted values only, none of the many formulas I use throughout. And of course all the version history was lost! Ugh. But I was so relieved I at least had the info, and I updated a couple of the most-used formulas.

I kept checking the help forum and it said there was an overall problem with Sheets. I didn't think this could be what happened since my other Sheets files were fine, but then lo and behold, they said the problem with Sheets was fixed, I tried to go into my old Number Crunch, and there it was in all its glory! I was sooooo happy. I actually felt euphoric.

I kept the one where I pasted numbers only, just so I now have some kind of backup. AS says I should probably save a backup outside of Google Drive too, to be safe. I should look into that.

Anyway, it made me appreciate the file all the more; in 12 years I'd never even considered the possibility that I would ever not be able to access it. I didn't realize how much of my peace of mind is wrapped up in knowing that document exists!

This was a much smaller moment, but today as I was about to step off the bus to take my 6-year-old to summer care, I suddenly felt lighter. I looked back and realized I'd left my purse on the seat! I grabbed it and stepped off the bus, thinking about my work phone, my wallet, my keys and my expensive glasses. Boy was I glad I hadn't left that purse! And it made me remember last week's close scrape with the spreadsheet and decide to write about both moments.


In other news, AS has the big freelance job! She'll invoice them for hours worked each Friday and get paid the following week. She's also got another multi-piece writing job that she'll be billing hourly for and invoicing as she delivers each round of. So a huge job and a pretty big job that aren't reflected in the spreadsheet because we're not sure how much they'll be in total, but I'll be adding them to the spreadsheet incrementally as she invoices.

It's a good time to be pulling in regular work because booking our UK airfare earlier than expected has stretched our available funds. I'm actually keeping an eye on whether I need to transfer money from savings temporarily to cover that credit card balance when I pay it off in mid-August. It'll be close, but thanks to Number Crunch I'll be able to forecast whether or not we have enough in the account.

We normally have a lot of cushion in checking just because I budget out so far, but with shared spending money a lot in the red, vacay fund a little in the red, and NT's personal money quite a bit in the red due mainly to buying inventory for his hat business, the float margin is looking very tight in August when we pay off the big credit card balance we racked up from UK airfare, our recent Va. trip, NT's inventory, summer program tuition for the kids, and other things. Close to $10K all told will need to be paid off!

Luckily even if we have to transfer from savings temporarily, I'm feeling good about much of the deficit being cleared up over the next few months. AS's two new jobs will help a lot, plus the other jobs she's already worked and expecting payment on, and hopefully NT will see some return on investment at a few key events coming up.

On the down side, we do have another family trip in early August, and they always end up costing more than I'd like. But we won't have to worry about those charges until mid-September, by which AS should have received quite a bit of money from her various projects.

This summer is even spendier than usual! We're having a blast, but one good thing about fall will be lower child costs with school back in session. Not just child care during the day but we tend to spend more on treats and fun activities during the summer.

The worst case scenario is that we would have to use some of our renovation savings to make up the deficit. We haven't heard back from our design consultant, and I'm inclined not to ping her, because that way we haven't committed those funds and have them in reserve if we can't dig ourselves out of the spending hole another way. Paying off the deficit right this second would take about a quarter of our reno savings. I won't do it unless I see no other way, and at this point, I do see a potential other way, so I'll wait and see how the next few months unfold.

News and notes

July 9th, 2018 at 12:28 pm

I'm having an annoyingly slow day at work where no one is giving me the info or go-ahead on several projects, so I'm more or less twiddling my thumbs. Probably if I start blogging, work will come in -- that's how it works sometimes! Smile Let's see how many random updates I can get through before that happens.

We got back from our first Va. trip on Thursday. It was a mini-family reunion and went very well, but we're happy to be home. Suburban Va. is just not our thing.

Every kind of spending money is in the hole now: each of our personal spending budgets, the shared spending, and we overspent our vacation savings on the Va. trip. Despite lame attempts at frugality it ended up costing us about $200 per day, not including the plane tickets. (We still have more than enough in our reno savings to cover the hole if necessary; I'd just rather not dip into it again.)

However, AS seems to be close to locking in that big freelance job! Rather than counting on a full $32K, we've decided to log it incrementally, since she'll be allowed to invoice and get paid weekly. That way if it ends early or anything else happens, we won't have budgeted with that big number in mind.

One of the reasons spending funds are so in the red is that June was a thin month for paychecks and we haven't received any yet in July. So once money starts rolling in we'll at least chip away at the big hole.

AS has started 2 weeks of jury duty and already got called for a case! It's very interesting to me but I know inconvenient, so I'm hoping for her sake that she gets released early.

NT is having great fun building connections with his hat business but is still a couple grand in the hole. It's one of those things that could take off or just end up being a hobby (hopefully a break-even one eventually). Only time will tell, but as long as he's enjoying it and it doesn't end up costing us tons of money, it's worth pursuing.

We enrolled the kids in a new swim school that's not easily accessible on the bus so we have to rent a carshare every Sunday. But they've already progressed leaps and bounds in just a couple of sessions, so the additional cost is kind of worth it!

AS has been pushing me to try to start a joint novel-writing project with a friend who lives in New York, so I'm finally reaching out and getting started on that. I'm excited that this may kickstart my writing outside of my usual November NaNoWriMo thing! I typically don't do any fiction writing the rest of the year, but I'd like to.

The kids are waitlisted for an in-school after-school program for next year, and if it doesn't go through, SL will go to daycare for another year and AA will just come home on the bus. She'll be in third grade and extremely conscientious about safety and rules, so if she's alone for an hour or two it'll be no big deal. Either way -- both in after-school at the elementary, or one doing after-school at our daycare -- our childcare costs should go down significantly during the school year, to $500-$650 per month! It's not been lower than $900 for several years.

My friend-making attempts with one woman may have failed -- I've decided to let her make the next move if she's interested, because I really can't tell -- and a couple others have stalled, but I have some alumni events coming up this summer that should be fun. And I'll be seeing my Canadian pal in person in August, so I'm really hoping we continue to hit it off.

The weather had been rather crappy most of the summer, but it's been wonderful since we got back from Va. However, I haven't been able to get myself back into the night walks I did frequently the past two summers. Hoping to kick-start that soon -- I've barely seen the lake that's only a half mile from our house! Plus my weight has plateaued about 7 lbs. higher than I want it.

Oh, I just thought of something regarding the shared spending deficit! We have an extra paycheck coming in October, so if we can manage to get the deficit to under $2K, I shall budget out through October so we can wipe the deficit out with that paycheck. (I have the annual budget worked out on a separate spreadsheet with one tab per month, and I usually paste into our regular spreadsheet one month ahead, so I've got August in there right now. But the way I have it structured there's nothing to stop me budgeting two or more months ahead.) That would be a weight off. But it would feel like a waste somehow to do the budget through October now and only cut the deficit in half vs. eliminate it, so I'm going to wait on that.

July 2018 debt payments

July 5th, 2018 at 02:37 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US: $724 to principal
UK1: $182
UK2: $39
UK3: $40
All told, $985 of debt was paid.

Current debt totals:
US Mortgage $386,825
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $32,306
UK Mortgage 2 $6,810
UK Mortgage 3 $7,171
TOTAL DEBT $442,112

Did AS just book a $32K freelance job?? and other news

June 27th, 2018 at 01:16 pm

Hello friends! I haven't been very bloggy this month, though I've kept up on all your posts.

It's been such a busy year! I'm having tons of fun but sometimes feel overextended. I continue to ponder work-socializing-rest balance and try to make sure I'm only doing things I really want to do. To that end, I might back out of an alumni board conference call next month. Two hours on a summer Saturday listening to a cacophony of people and not learning anything new doesn't seem like a good use of my time when it's at such a premium these days.

Anyway, not to bury the lede too far down, AS messaged me the other day that a Fortune 500 company she's been in contact with wanted to hire her for about 320 hours of writing work over the next four months. (Which would average out to about 20 hours per week.)

I was stunned because she bills $100 per hour for writing. I checked my calculator to make sure I wasn't hallucinating--nope, sounds like she just landed a $32K project!! (For comparison's sake, the biggest single job she's ever booked was $7500. And the most she's ever made in a year is $57K.) She has already earned or booked over $48K this year, so that could potentially take her to $80K or more for 2018! I'm the current high earner in our household at $75K!

Of course, if it's hourly there's a chance it won't end up being that much. And as she pays self-employment tax her taxes are higher than mine and NT. But still! Holy cow!

None of my other news really compares, but since I haven't checked in for a while, here goes:

- I've been shirking all my goals except guitar lessons. But I've been rocking those: I'm actually taking TWO lessons a week for 8 weeks this summer! Then I plan to go back to one per week. I love learning guitar more than I could have ever predicted.

- Speaking of goals, I may rejigger those. Or at least rethink how I structure goals next year. I might not need formal annual goals, since some of my biggest successes this year have been things I came up with along the way, such as broadening/deepening my friend base. AS said something interesting the other day about having intentions vs. hard goals. Sometimes a hard goal is helpful and important (like for paying down debt etc.) But I could also see intentions helping with things like forming good habits. So we'll see. I'm by no means close to being a perfect person, but I do feel that over the past decade I've morphed into a better, happier version of myself. I'm more confident, more productive/industrious, enjoying life more, more financially stable, more creative, and on balance a little healthier. And I'm certainly never bored or at a loss for things to do! So maybe I'm getting to a point where formal goals don't have as important a place in my life anymore. Still pondering.

- Among my adventures this summer, just this past weekend I just took two overnight bus journeys on consecutive nights in order to see my fave band (and meet up with a friend) in Chicago! The whole trip cost only a little over $200: $65 for the bus, $30 show tickets for me and my friend, and about $120 for food, drinks and other incidentals. I arrived back in Minneapolis Monday morning and walked 3 blocks from the bus stop to work, and managed to have a full and productive day despite having had hardly any sleep! Tuesday was rougher than Monday in terms of tiredness; I guess euphoria from the concert kept me going for a while.

- I have another trip coming up to see the same band in Des Moines in August, this time a 2-night road trip with another friend, and we'll be meeting up with my new Canadian friend there. So far I've only spent about $120 on that trip for 2 nights at an Airbnb (which my friend will chip in a bit for); my friend is driving so I only have to cover gas for transportation, and the show is outdoor and free! So other than that my expenses will be just some meals and maybe museum fees or shopping.

- But first, I have 2 trips to Va. coming up! We leave this Friday for a 6-day trip to hang out with family, and again in August we have a 7-day trip to see my niece get married (and we'll do other stuff TBD, of course). I realized the other day that I've only taken 2.5 days of PTO all year: one for a snow day in January, one for my bday in March, and one to hang out with my 8-year-old during her first week of summer break this month.

- In other travel news, we booked airfare for a UK family vacation! Shorter than our usual 14-day trips, this time we leave the day after Xmas (Boxing Day) and come back Jan. 6. I wasn't expecting to buy our tickets so soon, but I saw a nonstop flight deal for about $800 per person and snapped them up. Usually it's more like $900 and nonstop isn't always affordable. We also booked the car and travel insurance, and NT's mum and sister will work out accommodations, so we're pretty much set for that trip!

- We've done some preliminary planning for our kitchen reno, but our designer hasn't replied to the last email I sent her a few weeks ago. That's OK since we probably don't have enough money for the reno we want yet. But we'll keep saving up and maybe it'll happen later this year, or maybe we'll start it next year.

- Our reno savings are doing pretty well (around $23K) and our EF is steady at $10K, but our travel savings are virtually depleted as a result of booking the UK trip (and NT booked hotel and car for one of his solo trips). That's OK, we'll build it back up.

- Our shared spending is once again in the hole, about $3800 this time! As you may recall we took $5K out of reno savings to cover a shortfall earlier this year, yet here we are again. About $1630 of it is due to a letter from MN State Revenue letting us know AS isn't eligible for a property tax rebate our tax guy claimed for her. So we won't get $820 this year, and we'll likely have to pay back $816 from last year. So I already took that out of the budget. Another $500 or so was from medical bills and related expenses. And the other $600-700 was just general overspending: Father's Day, date nights, kid outings, guitar lessons, etc. AS is expecting some checks, of course, so that will patch up part of the hole. And if she's able to bill regularly for this $32K job, which starts in early July, we may be able to get back in black by August!

I think those are the major pieces of news. Work's great, social life's great, family is great, home life is great (even if I don't get much down time)! Very few complaints overall. Smile

June 2018 debt payments

June 2nd, 2018 at 05:20 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:

US: $721
UK1: $181
UK2: $37
UK3: $40

All told, $979 went to principal.

May 2018 retirement goal update

June 2nd, 2018 at 03:30 pm

Goal: $512,564 by March 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $75,120, so $225,360; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2017 was $50,452, so $100,904).

Current balance: $411,632

January 2018 balance: $404,682

Progress: $6,950

Finally we have more retirement worth than we did in January! We didn't have any progress in February, March or April, so this isn't as good as it looks. To reach the interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 10 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $100,932 -- $10,093 per month -- to reach it.

We rarely come close to that, so it's pretty unlikely. But I'll keep tracking anyway.