August Net Worth Update

Happy September! Labor Day has officially passed. School has begun for the kids and me, Mr. ThreeYear is off on his first travel trip of the school year. FinCon, the eponymous financial conference, has started, although I’m not there this year.

A new season has started for many families in the US and it definitely has for ours; I’m now working full time and life is very different in our household.

Last week was my first full week teaching at my new school. I loved it; the kids are great, in general, and it was fun to have such a challenge in front of me. I also got home completely depleted every evening. I know that in time, I will feel stronger and less exhausted. I know this is a period of transition, but it feels hard.

That said, I’ve tried to put into place things that will help me make good choices. I’ve given myself a week to sleep in a bit, but this week I’m getting up earlier. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I’m going to my office to write, and on Wednesdays and Fridays I’m going to a fitness class. My neighbor, who works at our club gym, started it because I asked her to, so I feel locked in to going each Wednesday and Friday. That’s exactly how I want to feel, so that I will go regularly and not miss a workout.

I’ve started new habits of making lunches and getting clothes out the night before, something I’ve never mastered, so that mornings won’t be as rushed. Seems to be working for now.

Our Progress

While July showed an uptick in the net worth category (68.9%), August brought us back down (66.9%). I’ve now had one full month of contributing the max to my 403b, but that did little to my overall balance, combined with a market downturn. That means I bought low, though, so I’m glad.

Continue reading “August Net Worth Update”

Broke to Financially Woke: Guest Post on Peerless Money Mentor

Do you remember a time when you were broke? Not just a temporary “I can’t afford X today,” but a period where you couldn’t afford anything?

It’s hard for me to remember those days, honestly, but I think it’s good to try and remember what it felt like to sweat every purchase.

When I was in my twenties and we were just starting out I remember playing the gas game. I’d drive up to the pump and put in $20 because there was no way I could spare $60 to fill up the tank of my BMW X5. Ironic, right?

I remember having $10 or less in my checking account in college. That happened a lot. I drove to the ATM, would check my balance, then if I had enough ($10 or more!), I’d go join my friends at Checker’s or wherever else we were eating/drinking that night.

While I’m really glad to be on the other side of that now, I think it’s important to remember the Russian Roulette money days, when we had to decide what bills to pay and what bills had to wait and couldn’t imagine ever getting out from our mountain of consumer debt.

Jerry from Peerless Money Mentor has a series on his blog about people who’ve gone from “digging in the couch cushions to go to McDonalds” to “on the way to FI.” So I reached out to him to see if I could share our story in his series, From Broke to Financially Woke.

Jerry is a millennial from Baton Rouge who graduated with degrees in Business Management and IT. Despite his supposed business acumen, he still made the typical financial mistakes and ended up broke. He wised up, started some side hustles like driving for Uber, and began to make better money decisions. He started his blog to document his journey toward FI and help others make better money decisions.

Jerry’s series details the stories of people like him (and me) who went from major debt to financially literate.

Here’s an excerpt from the post:

Continue reading “Broke to Financially Woke: Guest Post on Peerless Money Mentor”

One Year of Pet Expenses

Thank you for your patience with me, readers of this blog. In part because of my new job, in part because of my 40th birthday, in part because of my family from Chile visiting, I have taken a sabbatical of sorts this summer, and have not been posting as often. I hope to get back to a more regular writing schedule soon. I appreciate you reading!

Just about one year ago, on August 6th, 2018, we brought Lucy the dog home from the Amish farm.

Lucy is our labradoodle who we bought from an Amish breeder at a farm just an hour away from our house in Davidson, North Carolina.

I resisted getting a dog for years, and with good reason: a dog is a ton of work. Taking care of Lucy has felt like taking care of another child, in a lot of ways. We had to potty train her (housebreak her), sleep train her (crate train her), set up playdates (dog park outings), and find babysitters when we go out of town (pet sitters).

There has been no small amount of expense related to my furry white daughter, as Mr. ThreeYear calls her (as opposed to my hairless Latino sons, I suppose?).

And although I am very firm in my decision that she is the last family pet that we shall have (stating it on the internet makes it official), she has brought a lot of joy to our lives.

In this post, I’m going to outline allll the costs involved in taking care of Lucy for the last year. I will include all the direct costs, like vet visits, food, and toys. I won’t include all the indirect costs, like the cost of replacing my favorite pen that she chewed up, or replacing my sister-in-law’s slippers, etc. We’ll just call those bonus expenses.

Continue reading “One Year of Pet Expenses”

Four Money Lessons from Four Decades

On Wednesday I turned 40. I started this blog with that birthday in the forefront of my mind. The three year experiment was an exercise in using the last three years of my 30s well, in reaching a financial and lifestyle goal before I hit the big 4-0.

To celebrate this auspicious occasion, I went with a group of friends to a Korean restaurant where we rented a private karaoke room. Several friends drove or flew in to Davidson to help me celebrate. I had that perfect, happy feeling of being well celebrated and surrounded by people I loved all night.

Time is a funny thing. The memory of my 30th birthday is so clear, and yet it happened a decade ago now. Junior ThreeYear was two then and now he’s twelve.

Celebrating Junior ThreeYear’s second birthday at our house in Atlanta. I turned 30 a few days later.

I’ve done a lot of living in those ten years. Just ten months after my 30th birthday, we moved from Atlanta to New Hampshire, and then eight years later, on to North Carolina. We had a second child. We sold two and bought two houses in that decade. I’ve run over ten half- and full-marathons. I’ve had half a dozen jobs. We lived through eight New Hampshire winters. We’ve gone on countless trips. I’ve made lifelong friends.

We’ve done a lot with our money in that time–we’ve grown our net worth substantially. We’ve paid off our apartment in Chile as well as many cars and large chunks of mortgage debt. We’ve built a college fund for the kids. We’ve gotten a month ahead with our budgeting. We’ve learned to be a bit more frugal, to spend according to our values.

Continue reading “Four Money Lessons from Four Decades”

Mid-Year Goals Update

In January, I made the decision to set my goals a little differently for 2019. I decided on the top three values for our family for this year, which have changed a bit since we’ve moved, and made a list of daily behaviors I wanted to work on in order to live those values.

Now that six months of the year have passed, I thought I’d report on how I’ve done.

Our Top Values

In New Hampshire, we became very focused on our financial goals. Part of the reason for that was because we didn’t have our family or long-time friends around, so pursuing financial goals gave us something to focus on.

Now that we live in North Carolina and enjoy something like location independence, although I have a full-time location-dependent job starting next month (but not summers!), our values have, admittedly, changed.

Continue reading “Mid-Year Goals Update”

June Net Worth Update

The first month of summer has now passed. For the ThreeYears, it was a whirlwind of swim practices, swim meets, and a job acceptance. That’s right; as of August 1st I’ll officially be gainfully employed (although I don’t actually start teaching until the end of the month).

I also took a bit of a break from blogging. I had been blogging three times per week; that’s a lot of writing. I took a rest from getting up early in the mornings and blogged once or twice per week instead.

While the boys had a great experience in swim team, it reminded all of us that we don’t like to have lots of activities in the evenings. For the first two weeks of June, we didn’t eat dinner as a family once (and we almost always do!).

Our Progress

In June, our net worth came back up to 65.6% of our goal, having gone down by several percentage points last month. Our goal was to reach 100% of our December 2016 net worth by December 2019, that is, to have doubled our December 2016 net worth in three years. While we’re still a long way from our goal and I don’t think we’re going to get there, I’ll start getting paychecks in August, so my 403b contributions will start then. I’m looking forward to making more progress than we would have otherwise for the last five months of the year.

Continue reading “June Net Worth Update”

I’m 21. What Do I Do with My Money?

I was at a party last year, and there were several college students there who knew about my blog. They were in the final years of college, and thinking about the next stages of life. One earnestly asked me, “What do I do with my money when I get a job?”

Do you know how to shut down a party? Ask me that question. I can talk about money all night long. Poor kids. But I tried my best to refrain from throwing up money advice all over them, and focused on giving them a few key pieces of advice they could maybe remember. Then I hightailed it out of the kitchen and found some other people to bore.

After our conversation, though, I started thinking about the implications of the question. It’s a well-known fact that we offer little to no personal finance education for high school or even college students. That’s changing, slowly, but as I think about teaching high schoolers, I want to have some actionable advice to give them.

Here’s what I told the guy in the kitchen.

Continue reading “I’m 21. What Do I Do with My Money?”

A Year of Good Money: Make Repairs

Six months into the year already! Time for another money challenge, the monthly challenges I give myself or my household to improve our spending habits or make us better stewards of the planet’s resources.

Last month, I read that the third top way to mitigate global warming is to reduce food waste.

And the fourth top way is eating a plant rich diet.

So during the month of May, I paid attention to how much food we wasted, and worked to decrease what we threw away.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Money: Make Repairs”

May Net Worth Update

The final countdown… yes, we have one more week of school left. The kids are remarkably sanguine. I am excited for the days where we won’t have the mad morning rush for a few blessed months.

We had another extremely full month in May. Since the weather has warmed up, there has been almost more to do than I can keep up with, leading to this post on how it’s a lot harder to be frugal when you’re busy.

We’ve also been spending a lot and not saving as much as I’d like, which has reminded me why I like having a job so much… extra income. While I’ve been on several interviews, I still don’t have anything lined up for fall. However, I have two promising meetings this coming week, and I’m continuing to apply to many different schools (and universities!).

Our Progress

This month our net worth dropped, because the stock market dropped. So, sadly, we ‘re one step back. We usually have less net worth progress in the summer months, so I’m prepared for several months of disappointing net worth reports.

Continue reading “May Net Worth Update”

Which College Major is the Best Return on Investment?

What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m guilty of asking this question to my kids. But the truth is, it’s hard to figure out what you want to be as a kid. As an eighteen-year-old entering college, it’s still pretty difficult. We share words of wisdom with freshmen in college like “follow your passion” but that is terrible advice, according to Cal Newport, author of How to Be a High School Superstar.

First of all, how many of us have passions? If we do, it’s obvious what we’ll major in. If we don’t, how are we supposed to develop said passions?

When we send our kids to college, we’re often making a huge financial investment in their futures, or asking them to take on massive amounts of debt. Yet we do so with very little forethought or planning into what, specifically, they’ll get out of the process.

Sure, we know that four years at a liberal arts university will teach the next generation higher thinking skills, give them writing skills, and generally expose them to thinking that will help them in the workplace (and maybe help them learn to hold their own at parties), but do we give enough thought and planning to how they’ll produce a return, in the form of a salary, on the investment of college?

The Chilean model

When I lived in Chile, where I moved shortly after I finished my own university education, I was surprised by how pragmatic Chileans were about their educations.

With average student debt rates climbing ever higher, it's time to pay attention to our return on the college investment. #highered #college #university #careers #collegemajor
Continue reading “Which College Major is the Best Return on Investment?”