At the beginning of 2017, our family of four started a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Doubling our net worth in just three years is our family’s big, hairy, audacious goal, and becoming location independent is a work in progress. We’ve still got to figure out where to move, what jobs we’ll have, how our kids will go to school, and lots of other decisions. We have many ideas that we’re working on, but we don’t have one clear decision made about what we’ll do at the end of 2019. But big, life-changing goals are like that sometimes. We muddle through and take each step on faith, hoping that we’ll eventually see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
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.
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.
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.
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”
After an unusually warm spell, we’re finally getting the insanely gorgeous leaves New England is known for. As I drive to and from work, I’m privy to the most amazing shows of reds on the trees.
We’re well into the school year. The Junior ThreeYears are adapting to their new classes and homework. I keep adding more students that I need to work with to my schedule, so I’m less and less part-time. I’ve literally used up all my hours in the school day and will now be eating lunch while working with a student. At least I’m paid hourly!
One of the highlights of the month was my first solo girls’ trip in something like ten years. I met my best college friend at my sister’s house in Charlotte and we spent the weekend perusing a local farmers’ market, checking out local dining and brunch options, and catching up. I had such a great time that I vowed to take more of these trips. The best part was, Mr. ThreeYear and the boys had a wonderful time together at home. They went to the movies, went out to lunch at their favorite Mexican restaurant, and had a great time bonding while I was away.
We spent gobs of money in September. Our biggest purchase was our tickets to Chile. Our plan was to buy them with airline miles, but in the end, we decided against that. Mr. ThreeYear wanted to go during Christmas and New Year’s, so it would have taken an insane number of miles for each ticket (something like 120,000 each). We didn’t have enough for four tickets and we thought it made sense to save them. Our second biggest purchase was my master’s course. I have three more to go after this. And I had to pay quarterly taxes as well, although those numbers don’t show up in our spending report. Since I’m working so much this year, I’m setting aside 20% of my paychecks for taxes. I may start setting aside 25%, just to be safe. It’s hard to know exactly what I’ll owe since the amount of money I make varies so much, so it’s better to play it safe.
The stock market is still bullish, and we’ve seen our net worth rise again, despite our massive spend this month. It is nice to be earning a paycheck again, so we can reach our end-of-the-year-goals faster. I’m also so ready to be done paying off our apartment in Chile and our car that I’m wishing December was already here. Wait, didn’t I just write a post about staying in the present?
We are now in September. School has started, my work has started, and we have weathered the transition pretty well, for being a week and a half in. I’ve focused on making our morning routine for school better, and so far it’s been great. Both our boys have focus medication they take, so I’ve started giving it to them right as they wake up. Then, it has time to kick in and they can actually get their clothes on, come down to eat breakfast, and get their teeth brushed without a zillion reminders, getting distracted with Legos, or staring off into space for half an hour. Better yet, I’m not yelling at them all morning.
That may sound like crazy talk to people who don’t have kids with attention problems, but it’s our reality. I was talking to a teacher this morning, and she (who also has ADHD) said she noticed the kids in her class whose parents yelled in the morning. “Anytime I raise my voice in the slightest,” she said, “they’ll reflectively wince, like they’re hyper-attuned to yelling.” I gulped. I’ve seen my kids do that in the past. Hurts my heart that I was yelling that much. But I’m so grateful that we’ve changed things up, and they’re taking their medicine earlier. They’re able to get dressed, get their breakfast, brush their teeth, and pack their bags, with minimal reminders. And they’re so proud of themselves. With zero yells and lots of “great job this morning!” It feels so awesome. So my fingers are crossed that our mornings keep going so well.
Summer flew by. August was a relaxed month. Each kid had one week of camp, and we spent our days outside, enjoying the summer, inside, putzing around the house, and visiting friends and family. I never wanted the summer to end, but it did, and everyone has reluctantly returned to a steady routine.
Each time summer ends, I’m reminded why location independence is so appealing. While we love routines, and I think we’d enjoy a routine in a new place, having the freedom to explore, visit with family, and plan our days in the moment is a beautiful way to live. Routine weighs us down. Summer lightens us up, gives us travel wings.
Speaking of wings, we booked our flights to Santiago this weekend. So we’re officially booked for South America during Christmas and New Year’s. We’re debating whether to AirBnB our house while we’re gone, as a way to earn some extra spending money for the trip.
August brought us a small up-tick in our net worth. Our Personal Capital Net Worth is actually showing higher than our own Excel spreadsheet, since Zillow has decided to increase the value of our house significantly in the last few weeks. I don’t know if it’s the new roof we put on or an increase in the local market (I suspect it’s the latter) but they’ve upped the Zestimate of our house by about 5%. I’m ignoring it, though, as I only update our house and car estimates at the beginning of each year.
Einstein said there are five ascending levels of intellect:
So many times, we think that complicated strategies are inherently better. But have you seen Einstein’s theory of general relativity? The one where he challenges all conventional notions of matter moving in space and time? That puppy is simple. Continue reading “Our Simple Financial Management Plan”
The i401k (also known as the Individual 401K or Solo 401K) is the 401K plan for Independent Contractors. Just as a traditional 401K offers myriad benefits for employees like tax deferred retirement savings and the benefit of lowering your tax bill, the i401K plan was set up to offer the same benefits for independent contractors.