End of the Year Goals Update

Happy December 11th! We still have twenty more days of 2017 left, which will fly by for our family, as we’re preparing to spend most of those days in South America, ringing in Christmas and the New Year with our Chilean family.

I thought it appropriate to go ahead and write an end-of-the-year goals post, though, because we have pretty much completed or are in the process of completing our 2017 goals.

End of the Year Goals Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

 

Earlier this year, I shared our 2017 goals for this year, and in July, I shared a mid-year update. This blog documents our three year journey to double our net worth (see our latest update here) and become location independent, so we had some pretty specific goals for this year to make that happen.

At the beginning of 2017, I sat down with a piece of plain white printer paper and divided our goals up into a couple of sections. I organized our goals from least specific and time-sensitive to most specific and time-sensitive. It may seem like I repeated myself a bit, but this system works for us. Continue reading “End of the Year Goals Update”

A Year of Good Habits: Laugh

After getting up today, for the second day in a row, at 5am (okay, it was 5:09; I pushed the Snooze button once), I’m reminded of why habits are so important in my life. When life gets busy, I can fall back on my habits to help me cope. And life has gotten really busy. We are racing toward the finish line with our to-do list to get ready for our trip to Chile. It feels like every second of my day is booked with something to do.

A Year of Good Habits: Laugh--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

So getting up at 5am, which I’ve been moderately successful at over the last month, has given me time and space that is unscheduled. I can write, think, make goals for next year, and all that nerdy financial stuff my family rolls their eyes at.

It’s amazing that this is the last month of my A Year of Good Habits year-long experiment within our larger three-year experiment. Focusing on a different habit each month has brought me awareness of how important these rituals are to my short- and long-term happiness. I’ve undertaken eleven habits so far, some for the whole year and some for just a time, but they have all helped me realize how my life has improved by changing my behavior.

I’ve also undertaken a few habits I haven’t written about in my Year of Good Habits, for one reason or another, mainly because I thought they wouldn’t apply to a wider population of readers. I stopped drinking alcohol at the end of June and started intermittent fasting at the beginning of August. I had been having some health problems, and changing what (and how much) I eat and drink has radically changed my health for the better–plus I’ve lost fourteen pounds! The health problems, including my stomach and lower back pain, have virtually disappeared. I’ll write about both topics in future posts, because they’ve contributed to our Three Year Experiment in major ways.

December’s Habit

Inspired by Amy at Life Zimplified, I’m going to make it a habit to Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Laugh”

November Net Worth Update

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Each month, I record our progress on our net worth and our spending (gulp!). This year has been a year of fixing our house (the roof) and paying off debt, plus saving as much as possible. As of October, we were roughly 24% of the way to doubling our net worth. 

At the ThreeYear house, we’re in the midst of colder temperatures (it’s currently 21 F/-6 C). Our Christmas decorations are up and we’re enjoying the few weeks of winter until we pack up and head to South America for a few weeks, where we’ll enjoy delicious summer weather.

November Net Worth Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

It’s hard to believe that the end of the first year of our experiment is coming to a close. It’s been amazing to document this journey on the blog.

November was a month of higher expenses. We had my family in town, so we did some home improvement projects related to that. And we stocked up on food. My mom very generously donated money to our food costs, which I put into our savings account. Yay for extra savings! We started buying Christmas gifts for our family in Chile. We had a second month of high medical bills. For next year, we’ve switched our insurance from the high deductible to the higher cost, everything-is-covered policy. 2017’s experiment with the high deductible healthcare didn’t work for our family. Between physical therapy, psychologist visits, braces, and managing our sons’ ADHD, we pay a lot in medical costs. It would have been cheaper to pay the higher bi-weekly premiums and have less to pay out-of-pocket. Mr. ThreeYear will also rest easier knowing that whatever medical issues life throws at us, they’ll pretty much be covered by our healthcare plan. When he developed tennis elbow and decided not to pursue any more physical therapy because of the cost, it was a pretty frustrating situation for him to be in.

Thanksgiving turkey--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our Thanksgiving turkey. My sister and I made a low-key, low fuss meal, and her turkey turned out beee-uu-ti-ful and delicious.

We know that December will also be a very high spending month, because of our Chile trip. We’ll also pay the remainder of our church tithe (which doesn’t show up in our monthly spending report, because we want to keep our giving on the downlow). We’ll pay off the Prius and the apartment in Chile, pay a little extra on our mortgage, and pay our house taxes.

We’re grateful that we only have one more month of monthly payments for our apartment in Chile and our Prius!!

Continue reading “November Net Worth Update”

The Best Christmas Gifts for That Person Who Has it All

I am a person who loves the holidays, and loves to give gifts, as I recently shared in this post.

But when you’re buying Christmas gifts, what do you get for that person who has everything?

The Best Christmas Gifts for That Person Who Has it All

A friend of mine, Liz at Chief Mom Officer, recently wrote a wonderful post called I’m Sick of Christmas Materialism – Instead Let’s Make a Difference #ActsOfKindness. As much as I love gift giving, making a difference and helping others is what Christmas is truly about. Liz challenged bloggers to think of ways to help people in need this holiday season, and several fellow financial bloggers have taken up her call to action. A complete list of bloggers and their articles about ways to impact the lives of others and spread #actsofkindness this Christmas appear at the end of this post.

So if you have that hard-to-shop for person on your list, why not take an opportunity to give to others on his or her behalf? Every time someone gives to a charity on my behalf, I feel a warm glow. The Minimalists list this as their number 1 gift suggestion.

It really is better to give than to receive.

Below I’ve listed several of our favorite options for charitable giving this Christmas season.

Chickens

The first time we received a charitable donation for Christmas, I was a teenager. My uncle gave us a card that said, “A flock of chicks has been given to a family in need in your honor.” I remember giggling over the thought, and then quickly reading more about Heifer International, the organization in question.

The website explains, “Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs and more. Animal donations can provide families a hand up, increasing access to medicine, school, food and a sustainable livelihood.”

The gift of chickens quickly became the most memorable of the year. I can’t tell you the other gifts my uncle gave me over the years, but I remember the chickens vividly. I loved the idea that a family in need would not just have donations to help them once, but a flock of animals from which they could receive eggs, meat, and income for many years.

When I was in high school, I went to Honduras as part of a medical mission team. The Hondurans who we helped wanted, more than anything else, Continue reading “The Best Christmas Gifts for That Person Who Has it All”

Don’t Want to Think About Saving for Retirement? Just Do This.

Personal finance can be overwhelming. There are so many steps, dos and don’ts, behaviors to adopt, what have you. Once in a while it would be nice to have a fail-safe, simple solution to follow to make sure you have enough for retirement.

Don't Want to Think About Saving for Retirement? Just Do This--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

As Mr. ThreeYear and I struggled to pay off our debt and become more financially responsible, I met with a personal finance instructor who taught at a local college. I showed her the ins and outs of our finances, and I remember her saying, “you’re not even maxing out your 401K?” We weren’t, at the time. We were only contributing enough to get the match, because we were saving for a house downpayment. We’d contributed more in the past, but never maxed it out.

It took us another two years to completely max out Mr. ThreeYear’s 401k, but when we started to do so, I realized that for many people, this was the simple key they were looking for to save for retirement.

Maxing out your 401K is the single best way to save for retirement, lower your tax implications, and spend less, all in one fell swoop. Continue reading “Don’t Want to Think About Saving for Retirement? Just Do This.”

Just Do It

Why does my post title sound like a Nike commercial? Just do it. It’s a kick in the pants, is what it is. As I mentioned in a previous post, I tend to go a bit crazy during the holidays. My extended family was here last week and we ate turkey, played laser tag (even Grandpa!), and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The kids tore the house upside down, much coffee was consumed, and we decorated for Christmas. Eventually, my family left, and we were left with cleanup, the extra turkey and dressing, and a huge disinterest in returning to the routine parts of life that we’re somewhat required to engage in to keep the paychecks coming.

Just Do It--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Mr. ThreeYear and I dragged ourselves back to work, got the kids off to school, and made lists of all that needs to get done before we leave for Chile in just a few weeks.

As I drove to work, I listened to Afford Anything’s latest podcast. In this one, she interviewed A.J. Jacobs, who I momentarily confused with J.D. Vance, until I read his bio and remembered he’d written A Year of Living Biblically, which I’d read several years ago. In that book, Jacobs spent a year following the more obscure commandments of the Old Testament, such as “wear no mixed-fiber clothing” and “dress in all white.” He grew out a beard and posted the ten commandments on the doorway of his apartment, in order to see how his life changed for the better (or worse). He’s engaged in such experiments many times, both as exercises for living a better life and journalistic fodder. One of the takeaways from the interview was that if you want (or need) to change something in your life, just start doing it. Motivation follows action, or something like that.  Continue reading “Just Do It”

Entrepreneur of the Week: Susan

Hi readers! Welcome to a new series, where I’ll interview entrepreneurs who’ve created a unique business or stream of income. I’m constantly amazed at the creativity and ingenuity of the businesses people start, very often in industries I didn’t know existed. There are thousands of ways to create streams of income, to help you become financially independent faster and retire earlier. And that’s not to mention the tax breaks and write-off incentives. 

Entrepreneur of the Week: Susan--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Today, we’ll hear from Susan, my mom. She and my dad started a clinical research trials business a few years ago, and she sat down with me over Thanksgiving break to tell me a bit more about their unique industry and business. Susan was in the education field for many years, eventually earning her Ed.D., and only started this business in retirement. Not only has it provided a challenge and purpose for her during retirement, she has an i401K , tax incentives, and other benefits. Read on for more! 

Can you tell us a little about your business? What do you do, what’s the industry like, etc.?

Our business is involved in doing clinical trials. We contract with pharmaceutical companies to do pediatric trials that fit the population of our collaborative pediatric practice.

What does that mean in layman’s terms?

When a pharmaceutical company has a planned trial (when they’re trying out a new medicine or further establishing dosage recommendations) they send out feasibility study questionnaires to see if we’d be a good fit, to see if we’d have a good population of patients that fit their criteria.

If they find we’re a good match, they come to do a visit to see if our setup is appropriate for their trial. For example, if the trial is for a medicine designed for swimmer’s ear, we determine how many cases of swimmer’s ear we typically see in a given month, and whether or not we have a population who’d be willing to participate in a clinical trial. Patients that participate in trials are compensated for their time. We estimate the number of patients who may want to participate, and based on that, the pharmaceutical company develops a contract. Once we sign a contract, we agree to follow exactly the protocol they’ve established with the FDA for the trial. Continue reading “Entrepreneur of the Week: Susan”

I Go Crazy During the Holidays

Let me let you in on a little secret–I love the holidays. For me, the time from Thanksgiving through Christmas all the way to the New Year are a time of family, food, and excess.

I Go Crazy During the Holidays--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

That’s right, excess. For Thanksgiving, we eat a ton of food. My fridge is packed for weeks afterwards. We don’t just have one pie. We have three or four. We often have two turkeys–one baked and the other fried. Have you never had a friend turkey? They’re beyond delicious. Crispy skin on the outside, juicy on the inside…

I go a little crazy for Christmas. I love to give gifts and I like to give people nice things. I spend tons of money at Christmas and throw frugality out the window during gift-giving. We way surpass the average American’s holiday spending of $800.

In New Hampshire, we have snowy, white Christmases almost every year, and Thanksgivings are chilly and fallish–just as Thanksgiving is supposed to feel. On Thanksgiving weekend, we put up our Christmas tree, pull out our favorite ornaments, and decorate the whole house. Then, at Christmas break, we wear cozy sweaters and overeat for several days. We spend lazy days with family members, playing in the snow, playing board games, opening presents, and listening to too much Johnny Mathis Christmas music (just kidding! There is NO SUCH THING as too much Johnny Mathis Christmas music!).

Christmas hug--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
This picture of my two boys gets me every time. We took it a few years ago, but it captures what I love the most about Christmas–the time we have together and the love we get to share.

Yes, it’s true. It’s my dirty little secret. I go crazy with my spending during the holidays. But you know what? I love it. I love to spend money on nice things for other people. And believe it or not, I have changed my gift-giving over the years to better match my values–to use money (a little more) wisely, buy higher-quality items you can use every day, and focus less on material goods. 

For example, in 2008, when we started our get-out-of-debt journey, we realized how much money we were wasting by buying excessive toys for our son–that he didn’t even want. He was overwhelmed on Christmas Day, and afterwards, we ended up donating or throwing out many of the things we bought. So, we adopted our “Santa Gives Three” rule to focus on less higher-quality gifts. Continue reading “I Go Crazy During the Holidays”

5 Money Moves We’re Making Before the End of the Year

While we’re still over a month-and-a-half from the end of the year, we know that soon, December 31st will be upon us, so the ThreeYears are currently working on end-of-the-year money moves to make sure our finances are in good shape.

5 Money Moves We're Making Before the End of the Year--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Here’s what we’re doing to close this year out:

1. Contribute as much as possible to my i401k

Since I’m self-employed, I have an i401k (if you’re interested in the particulars of opening one, read this post). I am playing catch-up with my contributions since we had so many cash goals that we funded with my income this year. So, in the final quarter of the year, and in the first quarter of next year (or at least until we file our taxes), I’ll be contributing a lot to my 401K. Even though the market is high now, I don’t want to miss the tax contributions of these contributions. I estimate we’ll save several thousand dollars on our taxes if I reach my contribution goal for the year.

2. Fulfill our outstanding financial obligations

We’ve got a few outstanding financial obligations, including completing our yearly pledge with our church. We usually wait and pay the majority of our pledge in the fourth quarter of the year, when our cash flow’s better (as a teacher, I don’t get paid in the summer and it takes a month or so after school starts to begin getting paid, so our income rises in October, November, and December).

I also have to pay my fourth quarter taxes for income earned from September through December. I have until January 16th, 2018, to file the taxes, but I’ll probably go ahead and pay what I estimate I’ll owe before the end of the year. I set aside 20% of my income as it comes in, in my business account, so that money is ready to send in anytime I decide to pay the bill. Continue reading “5 Money Moves We’re Making Before the End of the Year”

Does It Make More Sense to Go to College or Open a Nail Salon?

Last week, I decided to talk to one of my English Language Learner students about his job prospects. He’s in ninth grade, and just arrived from Vietnam last December. He’s made great progress on his English, although he is still reticent about speaking in his general classes. But he’s a jokester at heart (he likes that word) and we always have lots of fun in our classes.

Does it Make More Sense to Go to College or Open a Nail Salon?--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

His mother, like many Vietnamese immigrants to the US, works in a nail salon. I have talked to my student about this many times, but I, being his well-educated teacher, wanted to officially broach the topic of his prospects after high school. Several teachers and I had discussed how we wanted him to have more lofty goals than working in a nail salon his whole life. I wanted to expand his horizons.

Turns out, he had some things to teach me.

First off, a peak inside my head: “successful,” according to me, means having my kids go to a four-year university. If it’s Ivy League, that would be amazing. Mr. ThreeYear and I plan to pay for the majority of our kids’ college, so we’re looking at the majority of $45,000+ a year (currently!) for four years, the average total cost (tuition, fees, and room & board) for a private college, times two.

Then, they’ll graduate, study medicine, law, architecture, or engineering, get a great job, and change the world!

I wanted my student to know that he could and should! expect more from life than working in a nail salon. “I don’t want to work in a nail salon,” he said. “But… you can make a lot of money there. My mom,” he told me, “can make $1800 a week in the nail salon.”

Wow. I was impressed. That was a pretty good salary. “But the owner of the nail salon,” he said, “makes $30,000 a month.” Continue reading “Does It Make More Sense to Go to College or Open a Nail Salon?”