June 2017 Plan Update

June 2017 Plan Update

June was awesome and a great leap into summer. It kicked off with our first vacation. We headed to Portland for a few days and dropped the kids off with my parents while Tom and I headed to Utah for a business trip. Though we both spent most of the trip working, we were able to see some sites and enjoy ourselves. As soon as we returned, I helped run a 4-day camp-out for 16 teenage girls from church. We camped by the bay, saw whales, fished all night, hiked to old World War II sites, cooked delicious food in dutch ovens, ate a million S’mores, found some awesome shells, avoided bears, and had absolutely perfect weather. Overall successful.

The second half of the month, we just enjoyed summer. I delivered lunch to the kiddos outside nearly every day it wasn’t raining. Mr. T finished planting a few more things in the garden (zucchini and pumpkins) and started replacing the countertop and backsplash in the master bathroom. Lui is working on figuring out his new balance bike (a free hand-me-down from a friend). It’s been a tremendous month.

The blog break has been good and while I’m super excited to return twice a week, I’m forcing myself to continue the break as promised through August, but will be back full-force in September. I’m using the time to catch up on some other projects including my totally awesome survey. If you haven’t taken it yet, go do it now! We have over 600 responses now. (Also, I would LOVE to get another 500+ responses from a non-PF-geek population. If you have any great ideas on how to do that, PLEASE SHARE! – and thanks to those of you that shared it on your personal Facebook pages!).

You may miss me weekly here on the blog, but my Saturday e-mails are heating up. I still send those out weekly and LOVE to interact off-blog.



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The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

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May 2017 plan update

May 2017 Plan Update

Man, 2017 isn’t even half over and it’s been a crazy year. There’s been so much happening. With this in mind, I’ve decided that I will only be doing monthly plan updates on the blog until the beginning of September and then I’ll be back full force. I will, however, be sharing exclusive content in my weekly email newsletter all summer long, so sign up to find out all the happenings!



I’m also working on some stuff related to my totally awesome survey. If you haven’t taken it yet, go do it now! We have over 600 responses now. (Also, I would LOVE to get another 500+ responses from a non-PF-geek population. If you have any great ideas on how to do that, PLEASE SHARE!).

May was a great month for our family. School got out. We started our annual family bike rides (bike-to-work day and bike-to-school day are both very important holidays in our house!). Summer is glorious in Alaska and we’re definitely experiencing days where we are pretty sure we live in the greatest place in the world!

As for the numbers… it was pretty good. Not bad. See what you think:

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Every few months, I get so frustrated with our mortgage, I just want it to DIE. I realize we’re doing really well. We have made incredible progress. Right now, it sits at $45,450. Being so close to $45,000 is amazing, but it also seems like we’re SO CLOSE! In our current plan, we pay it off at the end of 2018, so we’re on track for that… but if we could kill it sooner, I would be very happy about that!

Our investments continue in an uphill climb. I keep expecting a giant tumble (which is why I ran some calculations this month based on our current savings rates and looking at a smaller savings rate to see how market returns impact totals), but I won’t complain as things go up! We had a minor dip mid-month, but we’re ending on a high again. Our investments currently sit at $154,000 which also means we’ve surpassed $500/month in investment income assuming a 4% withdrawal.

For our savings percentage, we track the percentage of our pre-tax (or gross) income and the extra payments put toward the mortgage are included in the amount saved. Savings percentage for May – 50%. Anytime we break 50%, I’m thrilled! Yay us!

2017 Financial Goal Update:

  • Earn $25,000 – ($11,329/$25,000) – I picked up a one-time freelance research project that helped this month. I’m really enjoying the variety of work I’ve been doing this year (thanks, in part, to the pep talk I got from Revanche)!
  • Mortgage Balance below $30,000 – (Currently at $45,450! $14,450 to go! On track… and ready for this mortgage to be DEAD!)
  • Max out Mr. T’s 401k – This is set up already and if nothing changes, he should automatically max it out this year for the first time! Yay for automatic payments!
  • Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – $0 progress so far.
  • $2500 in other investments – $0 progress so far.
  • $200,000 Investment Balance by the end of the year – This is looking possible. I’m not super committed to this goal because it’s market-based, but with these bonkers markets, maybe we’ll successfully get $50k by the end of the year!

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook:

  • FREE – Penny had two teeth extracted this month, so I took her for frosties as Wendys after the procedure. They made us wait at the counter for five minutes, so they just gave them to us for free.
  • $135.25 – The dental cost of the extractions.
  • $74 – A new bra at Nordstrom. Ladies, if you haven’t gone in to Nordstrom to be bra fitted, DO IT. I’ve never done this and I can tell you I’ve been wearing the total wrong size my entire life. $74 is a crazy expensive price for a bra, but the entire experience took TEN MINUTES. Worth it. Now I know my size and can shop much faster for other bras in the future.
  • $11.77 – Frozen Yogurt for myself and one of the teenage girls at Church that just broke up with her boyfriend.
  • $164 – CLOTHES! That’s right, after a HARROWING month of searching far and wide for some new clothes I like, I actually found some!
  • $42.21 – Edible Arrangement for Mr.T’s mom who just retired!
  • $48.99 – Date Night! We tried out Hard Rock Cafe downtown, saw a play (tickets purchased previously), and the finished splitting the Reese’s extreme blizzard at DQ (life-changing. That thing is amazing!).
  • $21.93 – Sharpies for an art project Mr. T is working on. (I can be talked into office supplies because that’s my Gazingus Pin. I love Sharpies.)

EXTRA INCOME (anything that doesn’t come from our jobs/my freelance work):

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “I took tomorrow off work so I could go up and start building my cabin. I rented a backhoe so I’ll be playing in the mud all weekend. The next four hours of work cannot go fast enough.”
  • From someone about to move to California: “Every time we sell something, I put the money in our Family DisneyLand tickets fund. Sold the couch. That’s one annual pass right there!”
How I use Evernote for Everything

How I Use Evernote to Organize Everything

Evernote is another free tool that I use extensively every single day. While Evernote is free (in the basic versions), I do recommend purchasing the basic version of Evernote Essentials. I paid full price for this guide to Evernote and it was totally worth every penny.

An Introduction to Evernote

Evernote is a note-taking service that is SO. MUCH. MORE. When you open an account, you start with just a blank slate and the ability to write notes and create notebooks (notes in notebooks and notebooks in notebook stacks is the filing system of Evernote). It’s basic. It’s easy. Maybe TOO basic and easy. This is where Evernote Essentials comes in. Brett Kelly tells you all the ins and outs and cool things you can do and how to get started so you don’t regret your notebook structure later. (Evernote actually hired him to work for them after his first version of the book!) Evernote allows you to write notes, lock notes, make checklists, clip websites directly, link with Google Drive, and a whole bunch of other cool stuff!

My Recipe Book on Evernote

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How I use Google Calendar

How I Use Google Calendar To Stay Organized

Google calendar is a free tool available through your Google account. Maybe your Apple calendaring system can do the same things, but we’re a heavily Google-integrated family (our budget is on Google drive) and here’s how we use Google calendar to stay organized.

Keeping Two Adults in Sync

Mr. T and I have totally different things going on. He goes to work, I juggle all sorts of things during the daytime and we each have different responsibilities with work, etc. We keep it all in line by having synced Google calendars. I keep mine updated and so does Mr. T. As soon as I make an appointment, it’s in the calendar. This means that we both know what the other is doing. When Mr. T sees that I’ll be at a Church youth activity, he knows he has to be home during that time. When I see Mr. T is helping someone move on Saturday, I know that I’m home. It’s implied with 3 kids that we’re going to work together on taking care of them. If there’s a scheduling conflict, that’s when we have an actual face-to-face conversation about the calendar. “I just found out I have a work meeting the morning you scheduled to ride your bike to work. Is it possible to switch bike-commuting to the next day to help get the kids to school during my meeting?” Because we’re both awesome, these conversations are quick and solutions reached easily.

Keeping the Kids Organized

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You Are Your Own Agent: A Pep Talk

You Are Your Own Agent: A Pep Talk

At the beginning of the year, I was about to attempt a new freelance opportunity that I hadn’t done before. I was struggling with selling myself and setting prices that I would be happy with later (especially because the project was unlike any I had yet done). Do you know who gave me the greatest pep talk of all time? Revanche over at A Gai Shan Life.

The Original Pep Talk:

If you were negotiating on my behalf like my agent, what would you be proud of telling me that you’d gotten as a rate? Don’t think of it as selling yourself, think of it as letting them know the circumstances under which you can work together. They’re not doing you a favor, you’re providing an excellent service they want and they need to compensate you fairly or it’s not a relationship worth your time. Puff up that chest with a huge breath, let it out and calmly imagine them being THRILLED to be working with you. That’s the feeling you want to have going in and coming out, and quote them from that mindspace.

So good, right?

You Are Your Own Agent

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Why is Personal Capital Free? The Catch!

Why is Personal Capital Free? The Catch!

I’m sure you’ve seen a number of these already, but here’s my Personal Capital Review. If you’re interested, you can sign up for Personal Capital here.

Why is Personal Capital Free?

Let’s start with the bad. Personal Capital is free because they want to actively manage your money (don’t let them!). When I signed up for Personal Capital over a year ago, the sidebar showed me a picture of a banker under the caption “Your Advisor.” Since then, they’ve heated up the hard-sell a bit more. I now get emails that say things like: “You’re not on track for retirement! Call your advisor today!” When I log in, I often have to click out of a pop-up showing me my advisor and asking me to give him a call. This is all annoying. And things may get worse (who knows?).

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Calculation Financial Scenarios: Roth IRA Edition

Calculation Financial Scenarios: Roth IRA Edition

On Monday, we we used our portfolio balance and our current savings rate to calculate the impact of different market conditions on our future portfolio. Today, we’re going to mix it up just a little bit. Same market scenarios. Different savings rate. Since Alaska is solidly in its own recession, we’re going to assume that Mr. T loses his job by the end of the year (Debbie Downer? I don’t actually think this will happen, but again, I love a good calculation scenario!), so instead of considering our current savings rate, we’re going to assume that we can only max out our Roth IRAs at a total of $11,000/year (or $916/month).

This scenario is more broadly applicable. You have $150,000 portfolio? You max out 2 Roth IRAs? This is the post for you! Again, to make these calculations, I use my very favorite compound interest calculator to plug in the numbers. We’re looking at 4 scenarios: from major recession to bonkers markets to see how long it would take to reach $1,000,000 and $2,000,000. Here we go:

The Recession Starts Tomorrow!

In this scenario, our entire portfolio takes a 25% hit before the end of the year and then grows at 3% forevermore. Let’s look at the numbers:

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Calculating Good and Bad Financial Scenarios

Calculating Good and Bad Financial Scenarios

I haven’t done many calculations around here lately and since we both know I am number-crunching incessently, I thought it was about time to do a number crunching exercise here on the blog with our numbers. Today, we’re going to look at 3 scenarios into the future: a terrible one, a low-return one, and a good return one. Let’s see how the numbers play out:

Where we Stand

These calculations are based on our portfolio’s current $150,000 value (a nice even number to work with, which is part of why we’re running the simulations now!). The monthly savings for the first year assume $2500 – the $1500 to max out Mr. T’s 401k (automatic) and a mix of employer contributions and my savings for another $1000/month. This is our current savings rate. Then, after the first year, those monthly savings amount skyrocket to $4500 because in 2019, we will start the year with a paid off house and we can throw our mortgage payment directly into savings! To make these calculations, I use my very favorite compound interest calculator to plug in the numbers.

The Recession Starts Tomorrow!

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A Financial Plan is Like a Sneeze While Driving

A Financial Plan is Like a Sneeze While Driving

Have you ever had to sneeze while driving? It’s terrifying! You’ll have to close your eyes and convulse your body* all while maintaining safety on the road. Having a financial plan is very similar to preparing for this unexpected, horrifying sneeze.

Preparing to Sneeze While Driving

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Your Spring Will Come

Your Spring Will Come

Sometimes in the thick of winter, it is hard to remember spring will come. I did not truly understand the redemption spring symbolized until moving to Alaska. In this state, winter means darkness and hibernation. The plants feel winter approaching and shed their leaves and turn brown. All signs of plant life recede and the ground looks dead. As the sunlight returns and the snow melts, the earth looks hopeless. The ground is flooded, littered, and barren. How can life possibly emerge from this? Then, it does. From the barren ground, the sprouts emerge. Over just a few weeks, the world that looked so brown and dead is brought to life. The plants that looked hopeless burst into life all at once.

Your Spring Will Come

The symbolism of spring is a poignant reminder that life is not made of just winters. It is also made of springs, summers, and autumns. Maybe you’re in the midst of a winter. Health, family, or financial setbacks take their toll. They dim the sun and plunge us into a season of winter. Some winters are darker than others. Sometimes, in the midst of the darkness, we feel like spring couldn’t possibly be the next season. Life can’t emerge from such darkness, we think.

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